Submission to the U.N. Committee Against Torture
I am submitting these further details to the Committee to highlight the breaches of Human Rights and to evidence that Childhood Clergy sexual abuse is indeed well within the committees definition of torture.
I would like to refer to our previous submissions to the committee for the rights of the child which was submitted last year and which formed part of the evidence condemning the Holy See for their handling of clergy abuse crimes.
The appalling effects of child abuse are self evident, and there can be no doubt in any mind that they are a grave crime and one which the church has hidden and denied for centuries.
But I would go further and say that the indoctrination of children is itself very much against the principles and articles of the Committee against Torture.
The Jesuits boast to “give me a child before he is seven and I will show you the man” is sinister in it’s accuracy.
It is impossible to talk about abuse experiences without first discussing the environment in which they occurred.
The catholic environment was (and still is) very much part of the problem, and provided (and still provides) a breeding ground for abuse. It is impossible to talk about abuse without also talking about the catholic indoctrination of children, the church’s distorted view of sexual matters, the deification of the clergy, and the narcissism of the church itself.
We do not attach any blame to individuals since they were a product of their own upbringing and ruled over by a religion based on fear and retribution.
It is cruel and inhuman to fill a child’s malleable brain with fear of death and eternal damnation in hell, and is particularly reprehensible that a child can feel the real threat of exclusion from family and community if they do not adhere to that which the church has dictated.
To most children that is too unbearable a prospect. Even after being abused by a priest, the fear of exclusion often means that a child will stay silent, live with their shame often for half a century.
I would postulate that this is tantamount to torture.
As human beings, we are a social species: we adapted very early on to the safety and security that necessitated the formation of groups. We were safer as groups, in tribes, villages or families. It was, and still is, essential for our survival.
The security we have in belonging to one of these groups is a vital part of how we flourish and thrive.
It is almost as fundamental as breathing; it is part of what it means to be human.
Along with the appalling physical acts of betrayal when a child is sexually abused by a priest, that isolation and alienation is further abuse. especially from a revered priest of the church which probably was the only “group” it has ever known. In this way, the church has taken away part of our humanity.
With the isolation caused by being singled out and violated, the catholic church, in their behaviour towards abused people like us, have committed crimes against humanity and have created a sort of “sub culture” of human beings, who no longer feel they belong anywhere.
We might still be breathing, putting one foot in front of the other, functioning after a fashion, and we may even have some outward signs of success.
We are, after all, a part of nature, and in nature survival is instinctive – we have honed our survivor skills out of sheer necessity, BUT that evolutionary imperative to be whole and to thrive as part of a group is no longer ours.
Our “trust barometers” are destroyed, and we spend a lifetime desperately trying to fit into a World that we no longer feel a part of.
I would postulate that this is tantamount to torture.
Children are told from birth that they are “sinful” and unworthy.This fear is further instilled in them with the requirement of regular “confession” where they are subjected to more stripping of self worth and value.
They will tell you their job is to “save souls” and would not even deny that this life for people is only in preparation for the next.
Greater importance is always placed on the good of the church, with the individual being of little consequence.
Abuse survivors are simply seen as collateral damage.
When I was a child of five, I was told to kneel and pray for a cousin of mine to die. He was about to embark upon marriage to a divorcee, and his Mother, my Aunt, was told by her priest that he would be better dead than “living in sin”
and that we should all pray that he had a “happy death”
So from the age of five I believed that every time I transgressed, someone would be praying for me to die. My experience is by no means untypical.
That I would postulate is tantamount to torture.
Being sexually abused by a priest is not something that should ever be trivialized, but being abused by a priest was not seen as of the importance as the image of the church.
I was made to feel “sacrificial”, of no consequence.
This is a typical feeling of clergy abuse victims, and
I would postulate is tantamount to torture.
Rape is not just about sex, it is about power, and the catholic church has used it’s vast power to subjugate human beings in many ways throughout history.
We daily hear stories of appalling abuses, sexual abuse and physical violence.
Babies being removed from vulnerable women who have often been raped.
Older people who, in their sixties want to know who they are, after being shipped off to other countries as babies by catholic agencies.
Children of priests who are not recognised.
These are real human tragedies which we receive daily from all over the World.
There has as yet been no real investigation into the terror caused by sadistic catholic nuns, the violence and humiliation.
It is well evidenced that being subjected to violence , or to even witness violence to others will cause lasting brain damage to a human being.
The sheer volume of these experiences is no doubt tantamount to torture.
The church will tell you that they are being persecuted, they will also tell you of their worldwide good works, making victims of their abuses appear guilty of damaging their “charitable mission”.
They will say our evidence is “anecdotal” , they will not tell you that the figures they use are of priests prosecuted knowing full well that the majority get away with their crimes either because of their constant use of legal loopholes and delaying tactics, or because victims have been silenced or are too damaged to continue.
The church will fail to tell you how they continue to defend their crimes regardless of the UN CRC report, often aggressively, even attacking and smearing victim groups.
They continue to behave in exactly the same way as the Committee for the Rights of the Child has accused them of in their report in January 2014.by placing the face of the church above the needs of victims.
The hundreds of thousands of abused people worldwide having to witness these tactics, feel further abandoned and disenfranchised
I would postulate that this is tantamount to torture.
Scientific research proves that childhood clergy sexual abuse causes physical and permanent brain damage, it also proves damage to the person’s metabolic and immune systems and shortens life spans.It shows that damage can be passed on even to future generations.
If that were not bad enough, then the hundreds of thousands of damaged human beings living with that knowledge and seeing it trivialised and dismissed is, I would postulate, tantamount to torture.
Sue Cox Survivors Voice Europe.
Survivors Voice Europe have taken reports of sexual abuse from survivors around the world. We gave evidence to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child in relation the Holy See. Our evidence and requests for action have thankfully been acknowledged and supported by the committee in its report (Concluding observations on the second periodic report of the Holy See (CRC/C/VAT/CO/2) 31st January 2014.
Rape and sexual offenses against children have been recognised as torture and we ask the committee to accept that the submissions we made to the UNCRC are relevant to the committee considering the Holy See’s position on torture. These issues will be highlighted below.
We also ask the committee to take into consideration two further issues upon which we consider the Holy See should be taken to task.
First the Holy See exposes its followers to psychological harm. Its followers are locked in to feelings of chronic fear of sin, guilt and worry by church teaching. The church requires its congregation to confess their sins to priests and to seek forgiveness under fear of being barred from entering heaven and being instead cast into eternal damnation. This is a regime of coercion. Whilst we acknowledge that there will be many of its congregation who are not psychologically affected by these psychological and idealogical threats we have certainly met many who truly live in fear of being judged a sinner by their priest. Indeed we have met those who even fear reporting sexual abuse for fear of reprisals in this life or the next from the church.
Second 30 million Africans have died from HIV AIDS in the last twenty years. Millions of Catholics live in areas affected. Rather than protecting its congregation the church has opted to pursue a narrow doctrine of eschewing contraception and the use of condoms. Successive Popes since the 1980’s have ignored the obvious capacity it has to change its view and to save lives. We urge the committee to consider this failure to even attempt to save lives as constituting a wrongdoing comes within the convention and to urge the Holy See to take positive action to alter its teaching on the issue. A change in its behaviour on this issue would undoubtedly save significant numbers of lives.
We would like members of the committee to know that during the CRC process we were inundated with letters and messages from desperate survivors of clergy abuse from all over the world who, on hearing of the UNCRC saw a glimmer of hope in their struggle against their abusers in the church.
Survivors Voice Europe represents hundreds of courageous survivors of child sexual abuse. It has become clear throughout our research of the response of the Holy See (“HS”) to various allegations in many countries that the Holy See’s position has been diametrically opposed to accepted safeguarding practice.
At no point has the Holy See been willing to be open and honest about the extent of the abuse they have discovered within their organisation. They have hidden the statistics from us, from lawyers around the world, from police and civil authorities and the UNCRC recognised that figures were being hidden from them in January 2014.
The tactic of the Holy See appears to have been :-
1) To enforce secrecy via the 1962 Crimen document and subsequent reassertions by 3 separate Popes of the necessity for secrecy (2001, 2010, and 2013);
2) To impose ludicrously feeble penalties on offending priests;
3) To fail to report pedophiles to the police and civil authorities;
4) To challenge law suits vigorously;
5) To protect priests against whom allegations are made (and thereby expose future children to the risk of sexual abuse from priests who in the civil legal system be imprisoned);
6) To refuse to disclose the details of the size of the problem or how the Holy See has tackled it since 1990.
Please note that the recent announcement by the Pope in December 2013 of an inquiry is a cynical attempt to persuade the UNCRC that it will now finally take action. The contrary is the case. Rather than acknowledge and engage with the detailed work done by the UNCRC when preparing its report and recommendations, the Holy See has sought to avoid taking any positive action in response.
In an interview on 5th March 2014, the Pope said the following on clerical child abuse:
“Abuse cases are horrific because they leave the deepest wounds. Benedict XVI has been very courageous and opened a path. The [Catholic] Church has moved very far along this path. Possibly more than most. Statistics on the phenomenon of child abuse are astonishing, but they also show clearly that the great majority of abuse takes place within the family and amongst neighbors. The Catholic Church is probably the only public institution that has acted with transparency and a sense of responsibility. No-one else has done more. And yet the [Catholic] Church is the only institution to have been attacked.”
This short passage is remarkable for its aloofness, its shameless attempt to downplay the seriousness of the abuse by drawing invalid comparison with the family (who of course have not signed up to the UN Treaty). The Holy See’s leader has failed to acknowledge the worldwide clerical child rape of children on an almost industrial scale for decades. His comments are hardly a display of the transparency demanded by the UNCRC in its report. Rather than announcing constructive action he seeks to defend his organisation and maintains his organisation’s uncompromising position.
One would have expected any other organisation or government to engage a task force to take action to implement the recommendations of such a distinguished committee yet the Holy See have shown no signs of changing course. This response may prove portentous of its approach to the present committee.
We recommend the committee to require the Holy See to take the following action :-
1) To issue a decree to bishops and all orders to ensure that the UNCRC takes precedence over canon law and that canon law is amended accordingly and to issue a decree to reverse the incompatible elements of the 1962 crimen decree, the 2001 apostolic letter and the 2010 gravioribus decree.
2) To instruct the HS to publicly instruct all dioceses and orders :
a) to instigate child protection measures that require without exception that credible allegations of abuse are immediately reported to secular enforcement agencies, and to post notices in all establishments giving contact details of external child support agencies, and to undertake this process using independent staff
b) to make the failure to report to secular enforcement authorities reasonable suspicion of abuse by other priests or religious a disciplinary offence which, without exception, leads to dismissal.
3) to forbid the HS from destroying any files or records relating to suspected abuse (including those relating to canonical trial).
4) To require the HS to produce an accurate list of priests and religious moved to different countries or dioceses as a result of concerns about abuse of minors since it’s accession to the convention, showing names, dates, countries, and in each case the measures taken (if any) to ensure they were prohibited from having access to minors.
5) To require the HS to submit a report on all dioceses and orders declaring bankruptcy or creditor protection, quantifying the extent to which abuse victim compensation has been reduced by this and whether the HS will make up this shortfall and if not why not.
6) To require the HS to initiate a program for educating children about their rights under the Convention and optional protocols.
7) To require background checks and psychological assessments by independent specialists before admitting clergy to positions of contact with children and vulnerable adults.
8) We strongly recommend the UNCRC to appoint a permanent special investigation panel and team to investigate breaches of the UNCRC by the HS on this subject. This panel is to have power to require the production of evidence whether written or oral from any priest or religious controlled by the HS. The panel is to report it’s findings to the committee every 6 months for the committee to assess appropriate action. This panel is also to make recommendations to the committee on how the HS should deal with compensating and assisting survivors of priest and religious abuse.
9) that the Holy See amend its canon laws and internal rules to ensure compliance with the convention.
10) that the Holy See adopts the recommendations made by the UNCRC in its second periodical report (CRC/C/VAT/CO/2) 31st January 2014.
11) that the Holy See takes action to alleviate the psychological distress that can be caused by its policies of indoctrination in relation to the concept of sin, confession, absolution and hell.
12) that the Holy See takes appropriate action to alter its teaching on the use of condoms.
It may be worth adding that the committee may now understand and be willing to assist with the referral of Joseph Ratzinger (and others working in the Vatican’s Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith) to the international criminal court in respect of complicity with cover ups which have allowed priests and religious to continue abusing unchallenged by their own organisation.
Lawyer For Survivors Voice Europe