Head of state and government
Pope Benedict XVI
Death penalty
abolitionist for all crimes

The Holy See did not sufficiently comply with its international obligations relating to the protection of children.

International scrutiny

In May, the Holy See submitted its initial reports on the optional protocols to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child which at the end of the year had yet to be considered by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child.

However, by the year’s end the Holy See had again failed to submit its second periodic report on the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, due in 1997, and the initial report on the UN Convention against Torture, due in 2003.

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Children’s rights – response to child abuse

Increasing evidence of widespread child sexual abuse committed by members of the clergy over the past decades, and of the enduring failure of the Catholic Church to address these crimes properly, continued to emerge in various countries. Such failures included not removing alleged perpetrators from their posts pending proper investigations, not co-operating with judicial authorities to bring them to justice and not ensuring proper reparation to victims.

The Pope acknowledged the abuses during visits to countries where they had been reported, such as Ireland, Malta and the UK, and expressed regret. He affirmed that “just penalties” should be imposed to exclude perpetrators from access to young people and stressed that to prevent abuses education and selection of candidates for priesthood should be improved.

In March, in a letter to the Catholics of Ireland, the Pope admitted that “a misplaced concern for the reputation of the Church and the avoidance of scandals” had resulted in the “failure to apply existing canonical penalties and to safeguard the dignity of every person”. He exhorted bishops to fully implement the norms of canon law when addressing child abuse and “to continue to cooperate with the civil authorities in their area of competence”.

Amendments to the canon law promulgated in May introduced the “delicts” of paedophile pornography and abuse of mentally disabled people; the maximum punishment for these “delicts” is dismissal or deposition. Canon law does not include an obligation for Church authorities to report cases to civil authorities for criminal investigation. Secrecy is mandatory throughout the proceedings.

In November, Holy See representatives conducted an “apostolic visitation” to Ireland, to verify “the effectiveness of processes used in responding to cases of abuse and of forms of assistance provided to the victims”. Results of the visit were due to be announced in 2011.

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Human rights by region

World regions Midde East and North Africa Asia Pacific Europe and Central Asia Africa Americas


A number of countries in Africa celebrated the 50th anniversary of their independence during the year while others prep ...


In the Americas many human rights have been recognized in law, if not always in practice, over the past 50 years. Whi ...

Asia Pacific

In a region with almost two thirds of the world’s population, stretching a third of the way around the planet, ...

Europe & Central Asia

The right to truth and justice, and the determination of victims and their relatives to achieve this how ...

Middle East and North Africa

2010 dawned with Yemen an unusual focus of international attention following an alleged terrorist ...

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