IHEU condemns Holy See for undermining democracy and human rights

  • post Type / Humanists International News
  • Date / 26 September 2011

Speaking at the 18th session of the UN Human Rights Council on 23 September, IHEU representative Cathy Buchs condemned the Vatican for attempting to undermine democracy and human rights by insisting that child abuse cases be judged under the churches’ own rules of canon law rather than the laws of the state.

The full text of the speech is below.

International Humanist and Ethical Union
Agenda Item 4: Matters requiring the attention of the Council
Speaker: IHEU Representative, Catherine Buchs: Friday 23 September 2011

The Holy See, Secrecy and Canon Law

Mr President,

It is a fundamental principle of human rights that there should be equality for all under the law, yet the Holy See has in many states assiduously treated its own internal rules of Canon law[1] as an alternative legal system, superior to the civil law, when dealing with cases of child abuse. As a result, thousands of cases of child abuse have been hidden from view, victims have been silenced and denied compensation, while their abusers have been allowed to escape prosecution and transferred to other parishes, often to offend again.  

This usurping of democratically-defined legal systems and the withholding of co-operation from the civil authorities is an affront to both democracy and human rights and, as the Irish Taoiseachhas noted, amounts to interference in the internal affairs of a sovereign state.[2]

In its response to the Cloyne report[3], the Vatican claims to recognise the supremacy of civil law[4] yet still continues to shield numerous offenders from prosecution. If it is sincere in its commitment to cooperate fully with the civil law, it will now instruct all its dioceses worldwide, including that of Rome, to open their secret archives on child abuse to the civil authorities. We know from cases where they have been disclosed [5] (incidentally never voluntarily) that much has been concealed that must be brought to light.[6]

Mr President, we call on the Human Rights Council to make it clear that Canon law is not, nor should it ever be treated as, an alternative to the civil law in any sovereign state. It is an abuse of human rights, bordering on contempt, that the Holy See continues to act as though it is.

Thank you, Sir

[1]  http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG1104/__P4U.HTM

[2]  http://www.independent.ie/national-news/taoiseach-v-vatican-kenny-accuses-rome-of-interference-2868350.html

[3]  http://press.catholica.va/news_services/bulletin/news/27974.php?index=27974

[4]  ibid

[5]  For example, this report from a Grand Jury in Philadelphia http://www.bishop-accountability.org/reports/2003_09_25_First_Philadelphia_Grand_Jury_Report.pdf


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