Vatican Official: Church is Only 'Tip of an Iceberg' on Child Abuse

By Carol Glatz
Catholic News Service
November 20, 2006

Vatican City (CNS) -- The sexual abuse of children by priests is only "the tip of an iceberg" of the wider scope of abuse perpetrated against the world's children, a Vatican official said.

U.S. Archbishop John P. Foley, head of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, said there is "a much wider and even more tragic story of child abuse that takes place, first of all, in the family and then, in many ways, throughout society."

Archbishop Foley made the remarks Nov. 20 during a film festival in Bucharest, Romania, dedicated to children. Nov. 20 also marked Universal Children's Day, established by the United Nations to promote the welfare and rights of the world's children.

In his speech, released the same day by the Vatican, the archbishop said "the violation of children's rights is one of the contemporary sins crying out to heaven for vengeance."

Much media attention has been given to the sexual abuse scandals against minors perpetrated by clerics in the United States, Canada and Ireland, but, he said, those "heinous crimes" are "but the tip of an iceberg."

He said children often are subject to abuse within their own family, social sphere or schools.

"The innocence of children should be protected at all costs," he said, adding that "we should all be free to hear their laughter, to watch them at play, and to see them running securely in our streets."

Children need to witness Christ's "loving and saving message" through the living example of the "love and self-sacrifice" of their parents, family, neighbors and teachers, he said.

He urged that children be taught tolerance so that they "never become bullies or baby bigots because of the bad example of their elders or because of the images they have seen in films or on television."

He asked the film and television industries to help protect the world's children, to maintain their innocence, keep them from harm and encourage their creativity.

"We must learn from the media how to prevent children from becoming victims of predators in society and even of the very media which report their plight," he said.


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