Vatican City, Sep 29, 2014 / 09:43 am
A former Vatican spokesman has written, against the backdrop of the house arrest of a former nuncio being investigated for abuse of minors, that the Church is the only international body acting effectively against pedophilia.
In an op-ed published in the Italian daily "La Repubblica" Sept. 25, Joaquin Navarro-Valls commented on the house arrest in Vatican City of Jozef Wesolowski, the former apostolic nuncio to the Dominican Republic who was laicized earlier this year. He faces criminal charges under Vatican City's civil laws.
The house arrest of Wesolowski "is a very important penal action," stressed Navarro-Valls, who was head of the Holy See press office from 1984-2006.
Navarro-Valls emphasized that "the Holy See was legally fit and morally ready" to handle such an "extreme and shameful crime" thanks to a "legal rigor the Church has been maintaining against pedophilia for 20 years, ever since abuses first came to light."
Navarro-Valls praised the norms put into effect by St. John Paul II, and stressed that the zero tolerance line against clerical sex abuses was carried forward by Benedict XVI, though "not everyone remembers this."
"Pope Francis' decision must be rightly appreciated, but it is noteworthy that it is the logical and coherent consequence" of a modus operandi that stretches back to the time of his two immediate predecessors.
Navarro-Valls then emphasized that "the Church is the only communitarian and institutional body" that is "effectively acting" in order to eradicate pedophilia "both in canonical and penal law terms" as well as "in cultural terms."
The former Vatican spokesman said that "the framework given by the data on pedophilia is not reassuring."
Navarro-Valls stressed that the FBI Law and Enforcement Bulletin showed that the sexual abuse of minors is one of the lesser-reported crimes – only between one and 10 percent of cases are brought into the light; and quoted CNN data affirming that five percent of the average population were sexually harassed as children.
Navarro-Valls also noticed that "according to Diana Russell, 90 percent of sexual abuse is committed within the family, and is hidden by a conspiracy of silence," and that "according to the US Department of Justice, the boy or the girl was son/daughter or close relative of the abuser in almost half the cases of sexual abuse of minors."
The issue of pedophilia, he said, is one of "asking who really faces this abuse, and with which cultural, legal, and penal tools it is possible to ascertain and punish the perpetrators."
In the end, he concluded, "the Church is the only communitarian and institutional body that is effectively acting to eradicate pedophilia."