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THE UN COMMITTEE ON THE RIGHTS OF THE CHILD: JUST ANOTHER PR OPPORTUNITY FOR THE CHURCH

By Irwin Zalkin, Esq.

Recent news articles have raised questions about the lack of cooperation of the Vatican with the on-going investigations of the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child. The Vatican has already refused to provide any details to the Committee on its own internal investigations of priests and now the Vatican is scheduled to appear before the committee in mid January.

Why should anyone expect the Vatican and its representatives to suddenly change its stripes and provide truthful and complete cooperation with the United Nations Investigation? The Zalkin Law Firm clergy abuse attorneys have been engaged with the Catholic Church in the United States in a decade long effort to expose the truth of the depth and breadth of the clergy sexual abuse scandal worldwide. Through our efforts, and the efforts of other clergy abuse law firms engaged in this battle, we have forced the public disclosure of the extremes to which the Catholic Church has gone to cover up the truth.

The United Nations Committee on the Rights of Children should put its boxing gloves on. They'll need to win many rounds if they hope to effect a change in Vatican policy.

From the moment the scandal of child sexual abuse by Catholic clergy caught broke in 2002 with the explosive reporting by the Boston Globe, the public relations machine of the Vatican and United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), the political arm of the Catholic Church in the United States, went into full battle mode.

The USSCB held two national conferences of all U.S. Bishops, commissioned the John Jay College of Criminal Justice to conduct an investigation into the scope of the scourge of childhood sexual abuse within the Catholic Church of America, and held numerous press conferences to assure the public they were working on the problem. Ultimately, they passed the Charter for The Protection of Children and Young People with its associated Norms that set up protocols for outreach to victims, and adopted a zero tolerance policy (which the Pope vetoed). A lay commission, the National Review Board, was appointed by the USCCB to investigate and cooperate with the John Jay investigation.

This all looked good on paper, but what really happened? The John Jay study was a farce. It relied completely on the Bishop's voluntary cooperation. Former Oklahoma Governor Frank Keating, a devout Catholic, who chaired the National Review Board resigned shortly thereafter, comparing the leaders of the Catholic Church to the Mafia. Bishops refused to cooperate with clergy abuse lawyers in civil and criminal cases and either denied the truth, concealed the truth, and only produced damaging documents under court order.

To this day, the Church has paid and continues to pay millions of dollars to lobbyists around the country to defeat efforts of the victims of childhood sexual abuse and their advocates to reform state laws to allow them access to justice. Regrettably, the Vatican appearance at the UN will likely be more of the same behavior.

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