Human Rights Experts Lament Vatican's Alleged 'Protection' of Sex Abusers

Four human rights experts working with the United Nations are imploring the Vatican to be more proactive about stopping and preventing violence and sexual abuse of children.

The U.N. Human Rights Office cited "persistent allegations of obstruction and lack of cooperation" from the Catholic Church. The experts said in an April 7 letter made public on Monday that the church demonstrated a pattern of behavior "to protect alleged abusers, cover up crimes, obstruct accountability of alleged abusers, and evade reparations due to victims."

The experts also alleged bids were made by select church members to undermine attempts to prosecute child sex offenders in national legislatures. They noted lobbying attempts to limit how long former child victims can report the crimes after becoming adults.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

VATICAN CITY, VATICAN - JUNE 16: Pope Francis greets faithful as he arrives at the Courtyard of St Damasus for his weekly General Audience on June 16, 2021 in Vatican City, Vatican. At the General Audience on Wednesday, Pope Francis concluded a long series of catechetical lessons on “prayer,” focusing on the priestly prayer of Jesus. Franco Origlia/Getty Images

The experts said the violations had allegedly been committed over decades in many countries with tens of thousands of victims.

"We note with great concern the apparent pervasiveness of child sexual abuse cases and the apparent systematic practice of covering up and obstructing the accountability of alleged abusers belonging to the Catholic Church," the experts said.

The four experts are working under various mandates from the U.N.-backed Human Rights Council. Though they do not work for the United Nations or speak for the world body, they do receive some administration support from the U.N Human Rights Office.

The Vatican didn't immediately make any public comment about the letter. It has been heavily criticized by abuse victims in many countries over failing to discipline or remove bishops or other members of the hierarchy implicated in cover-ups of allegations.

Pope Francis blesses a man showing a face mask as he salutes faithful as he leaves San Damaso Courtyard at the Vatican after his weekly general audience, Wednesday, May 26, 2021. Alessandra Tarantino/AP Photo