Australia vs. Vatican on UN Torture Treaty: Is UK Next? Is Pope Francis Fearful?

Christian Catholicism

Jerry Slevin

On Tuesday (11/25), Pope Francis rebuked legislators in an address to the European Parliament in Strasbourg as follows: “As the European Union has expanded, there has been growing mistrust on the part of citizens towards institutions considered to be aloof, engaged in laying down rules perceived as insensitive to individual peoples, if not downright harmful …” Ironically, his remarks reminded some of criticisms of the Vatican.

On the papal return flight from France, Francis responded as follows to a reporter’s question about a newly reported ongoing priest abuse scandal in Grenada, Spain:

“I received this news with great pain, very great pain, but the truth is the truth and we should not hide it.”

But, of course, unless Pope Francis is committed to an independent and transparent abuse investigation process, which he does not appear to be yet, he and his Vatican staff are, in effect, “hiding it”, at least in some respects, no?

Three days after the pope’s nice sounding “no hiding” remark, in a report issued in Geneva on Friday (11/28), the United Nations Committee Against Torture reportedly directed that the Australian national government under Prime Minister Tony Abbott should take on the Vatican over documents, requested by the Australian Royal Commission into institutional child abuse, that the Vatican has refused to produce.

The documents relate to, among other matters, the cases of several priests who allegedly abused over 100 Australian children. The UN Committee, acting under the so-called Torture Treaty that both the Vatican and Australia have agreed to follow, indicated that the Australian government should take “all appropriate measures” to get “all evidence” from the Vatican to ensure meaningful investigations can be carried out.

Australian Cardinal George Pell, now Pope Francis’ economic czar, had told the Royal Commission that such a request is unreasonable because some documents are private and internal to a sovereign state – the Vatican. The Vatican’s local ambassador, UK Archbishop Paul Gallagher, had refused to produce these documents when requested to do so by the Royal Commission. Gallagher was just promoted to be the Vatican’s new foreign minister. Coincidences? Perhaps.

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