Abuse statistics found buried on Vatican’s website
Vatican City: In the thick packet of materials the Vatican released leading up to its high-profile sex abuse summit, one kind of information was missing: statistics about abuse cases.
The Vatican does not publicise the new cases that it handles, though some experts say it might have among the most comprehensive abuse-related data sets in the world.
Pope Francis prays during the opening of the second day of a Vatican’s conference on church sex abuse.Credit:AP
In only one annual report did the Vatican discuss punishments, mentioning that the pope had defrocked or removed 16 clerics in 2016. No names of clerics were mentioned in the reports.
The cases reported to the CDF represent only a fraction of clerical sex abuse, because many dioceses do not report cases to the Holy See. Scores of other victims never disclose their experiences to criminal or church authorities.
A Vatican spokesman, Alessandro Gisotti, said the CDF information is "published every year" and that it is "no news."
But several people who closely follow the Vatican's handling of abuse cases said they had not previously seen the data.
Survivors of sex abuse hold a cross on Via della Conciliazione, the road leading to St Peter’s Square, during a twilight vigil for victims of sex abuse.Credit:AP
Anne Barrett Doyle, who runs BishopAccountability.org, a clearinghouse that tracks abuse cases, said the information was new to her. She said the last major public disclosure of Vatican abuse data came in 2014, when the Holy See's ambassador to the United Nations reported to the committee on human rights that more than 3420 credible abuse accusations against minors had been reported to the CDF over the previous 10 years. The Vatican defrocked 848 priests as a result of those cases.
"Numbers and names are better than just numbers," Barrett Doyle said. "But when you even get just numbers, accountability begins. This all along has been a crisis about who controls the information about the crimes. It went from the church withholding it from everybody to now, where it's a little less asymmetrical than it was. But still, the CDF is pretty much a black hole."
The data, described in an article published Friday by L'Espresso, gives a partial glimpse of the volume of abuse cases being handled under Pope Francis – while also providing a pointed reminder about the church's slow road to transparency. The church is devoting Saturday, the third day of the summit, to improving its openness, and survivors of clerical abuse have long asked the Vatican to release the names and case files of priests convicted of clerical abuse.
The obscure Vatican web pages show year-by-year data on the number of new cases sent to the Holy See for clerics accused of "serious offences," including abuse of minors but also possession of child pornography and spiritual offences. The information is contained in a series of annual summaries, from 2012 until 2017, about the activities of the CDF. Although there is no specific data about how many clerics faced accusations of abusing minors, but the 2017 report said the "majority" of serious offence cases involved such accusations.
This week, Vatican officials have been asked several times about their willingness to release statistics. Doing so could provide a clearer sense of where crimes are occurring, the ages of victims, and the punishments for those found guilty in church proceedings.
Archbishop Charles Scicluna, of Malta, said Friday that the CDF has "wider information" and is willing to consider releasing more.
"This is a legitimate question," said Scicluna, a Vatican sex crimes investigator. "Where are the stats?"
The day before the summit began, Phil Saviano, who helped expose widespread church abuses in the United States, was among the victims who met with Scicluna and other organisers of the event.
Saviano provided the Vatican investigator with a letter urging the church to release the names and files of priests reported to the Holy See for abuse. Such a step would require the church to reconsider its use of pontifical secrecy codes.
Saviano said that before the meeting was over, Scicluna took him aside and said he would be in favour of that.
Saviano remembered Scicluna saying: "We should release that information."
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