UN human rights experts have expressed grave concern over numerous allegations of child sexual abuse in Catholic Churches around the world, urging the Vatican to put an end to the violence committed by members of these institutions against children.
In a letter released on Monday, the experts called on "the Holy See to take all necessary measures to stop and prevent the recurrence of violence and sexual abuse against children in Catholic institutions, and to ensure those responsible are held to account and reparations are paid to victims."
They also voiced concern about measures adopted by the church to "protect alleged abusers, cover up crimes, obstruct accountability of alleged abusers, and evade reparations due to victims," adding that there had been persistent allegations of obstruction and a lack of cooperation with legal proceedings to prevent accountability and reparations.
The experts further urged the Vatican to cooperate fully with law enforcement in the countries concerned, and to hold off signing agreements in order to evade accountability for church members accused of abuse.
They also said they are concerned about “continued attempts to undermine legislative attempts to prosecute child sex offenders.”
The letter was penned by the special rapporteurs on the sexual exploitation of children; on cruel and degrading treatment; on the promotion of truth, justice and reparation; and on the rights of persons with disabilities.
The four special rapporteurs, who do not speak for the United Nations but report their findings to it, had written to the Vatican in April.
There are widespread accusations that the Catholic Church not only ignored, but even covered up cases of child abuse.
Back in September 2018, a leaked study found that Catholic priests in Germany sexually abused thousands of children over the course of nearly seven decades.
The document, which was compiled by three German universities, showed that evidence, in many cases, was destroyed or manipulated.
According to the study, clerics accused of sexual abuse were often transferred to another location without providing "appropriate information" about them to the new site.
Only one third of those accused were subject to disciplinary hearings by the Church and sanctions imposed were at most minimal, the report said.
Also in August the same year, a devastating US grand jury report was published that decried a systematic cover-up by the US Catholic Church.
A grand jury in the US state of Pennsylvania released the findings of the largest-ever investigation of sex abuse in the US Catholic Church, finding that 301 priests in the state had sexually abused minors over the past 70 years.
More than 1,000 child victims were identifiable, but the "real number" was "in the thousands," the grand jury estimated.
Victims were often traumatized for life, driven to drugs, alcohol and suicide, the grand jury said.
The report was thought to be the most comprehensive to date into abuse in the US church, since The Boston Globe first exposed pedophile priests in the state of Massachusetts in 2002.
Pedophilia in Catholic churches has done enormous damage to its image.
Pope Francis, who was appointed in 2013 with a mandate to overhaul the Vatican, said that there would be a "zero tolerance" approach to clerical sex abuse. He promised to take strong action in response to accusations of cover-up and leniency by the Vatican.
However, Francis has been accused of being too soft on pedophiles. His credibility on the issue has been hit by a series of missteps and victims' organizations maintain that the Church remains reluctant to hand pedophile priests over to criminal justice authorities.