A Swiss Guard stands prior to a private audience between Pope Francis and President of Bolivia Evo Morales at the Vatican Saturday, June 30, 2018. (Alessandro Bianchi/Pool photo via AP)

Vatican City still has no policy to fight clergy sex abuse

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis has taken measures to address a spiraling sex abuse scandal in Chile, but he hasn’t moved on a problem closer to home: Vatican City itself does not have policies to protect children from pedophile priests or require suspected abuse to be reported to police.

Seven years after the Vatican ordered all bishops conferences around the world to develop written guidelines to prevent abuse, tend to victims, punish offenders and keep pedophiles out of the priesthood, the headquarters of the Catholic Church has no such policy.

The gap in Francis’ oft-pledged “zero tolerance” for abuse is surprising, given that the Holy See told the United Nations five years ago that it was developing a “safe environment program” for children inside the 44-acre Vatican City.

Asked about the promised child protection guidelines, the secretary general of the Vatican City State administration, Monsignor Fernando Vergez, told The Associated Press he couldn’t respond “since the study and verification of the project are still underway.”

Yes, Francis in 2013 updated Vatican City’s legal code to criminalize sexual violence against children and just last month the Vatican tribunal convicted a former diplomat of possession and distribution of child pornography.

And one could argue that, beyond the new law, a written policy and safe environment program is unnecessary in a city state where only a handful of children live full time.

But thousands of children pass through the Vatican walls every day, touring the Vatican Museums, attending papal audiences and Masses and visiting St. Peter’s Square and basilica.

And Vatican City authorities wouldn’t have to look far for help in crafting such a policy. The pope’s own Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors — his hand-picked sex abuse advisory board — has a template for such guidelines on its Vatican website.

The absence of clear-cut policy became evident late last year following revelations that a teenage seminarian in the Vatican’s youth seminary had, in 2012, accused one of the older boys of sexually molesting his roommate.

Nothing came of it. Vatican police, who have jurisdiction over the territory, weren’t called in to investigate. A series of bishops — including Cardinal Angelo Comastri, Francis’ vicar for Rome and the archpriest of St. Peter’s Basilica — said they investigated, but no one ever interviewed the alleged victim.

The student who lodged the complaint, Kamil Jarzembowski, was promptly kicked out of the seminary while the accused seminarian was ordained a priest last year.

The Associated Press has learned that the victim has since filed a formal complaint with the Vatican’s criminal tribunal and Italian church authorities launched a canonical investigation into the newly ordained priest.

Those developments occurred after Italian journalists Gaetano Pecoraro and Gianluigi Nuzzi exposed the scandal last year, prompting the Vatican to reopen the investigation. In their reports, Jarzembowski’s story — including all the letters he sent to church authorities, Vatican officials and the pope over the years — came to light.

“In those years when I was sending letters, there was never any response,” Jarzembowski told the AP. “I was really hurting, because silence can be a real weapon that hurts you when you suffer. You make a denunciation and no one will deal with it.”

Church officials had discounted Jarzembowski’s complaint, claiming that he only went public with it because he was bitter at having been kicked out of the seminary. Jarzembowski is indeed bitter — the Polish student had to scramble to find a place to live and a new school for his senior year of high school.

The seminary in question, located inside a palazzo just a few steps from the Vatican hotel where Francis lives, serves as a residence for about a dozen boys, aged 12 to 18, who serve as altar boys at papal Masses.

Jarzembowski says his roommate was first molested by the older seminarian when both were minors, but that the molestation continued after the older seminarian turned 18.

The status of the investigation is unclear. Calls and emails to the Diocese of Como, which is in charge of the seminary and is conducting the canonical investigation, were not returned. The Vatican spokesman declined several requests for comment.

But the lack of a full-fledged investigation into Jarzembowski’s original claims exposed how the absence of a policy on handling abuse complaints can have repercussions.

“If the Holy See can’t be bothered to safeguard the handful of kids in its own backyard, how can it possibly protect the millions of children in its care worldwide?” asked Anne Barrett Doyle of the online research database BishopAccountability.org. “It’s a small but telling measure of the Catholic Church’s disconnect when it comes to its abuse problem. It makes promises that it abandons or forgets once the world’s attention fades.”

The promises were made five years ago, when the Vatican went before the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child to defend its efforts to combat the global sex abuse scandal.

The Holy See argued that the U.N. child rights convention was “territorial” in nature, and that the Holy See can’t possibly be responsible for implementing it outside the confines of Vatican City. Within the city state, however, it told the U.N. it was taking extensive measures to protect children.

Not surprisingly, the U.N. committee dismissed the Vatican’s argument and urged the Vatican to not only make good on protecting children inside Vatican territory but globally.

“We did not agree with the narrow understanding of implementation ... as confined to the Vatican City state,” said Kirsten Sandberg, president of the U.N. committee at the time.

The Vatican was supposed to report back to the committee last September about progress it has made since its 2013 submission. Sandberg said countries are often late on those deadlines — the Holy See was 14 years late when it finally submitted its responses in 2013.

She said she hoped the Holy See in its next report would follow up on a core recommendation to require cooperation with police rather than keeping investigations exclusively in-house.

“They should leave the cases to the judicial authorities,” she said.


Jamey Keaten contributed from Geneva.


  1. “Holy See”

    Funny they are called that and then do the opposite of seeing what’s going on.

  2. Vatican City operates on the clerical side by the Code of Canon Law.

    Not a single diocese which has operated that way has ever been sued and lost.

    On the civil/criminal law side, the Vatican City operates under its own code of laws which are similar to Italy’s in the main on the abuse of minors.

    And, of course, it operates as a religious organization whose teaching considers child abuse as serious as murder and abortion.

    Asking Anne Barrett Doyle of BishopAccountability.org for her opinion on the matter is like asking twelve men wearing white sheets, hoods, and burning a cross for their opinion of Jesse Jackson.

    The mentioned event of five years ago with the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child involved the Committee, stacked with anti-Catholics and anti-religionists, demanding that the Vatican act as a shill for its policies and in general exceeding its authority in examining a religious body:


    Jamey Keaten walked into a setup by the hangers on at the UN and BishopAccountability.org.

  3. For decades, the boys scouts had a “no gays” policy. For decades, they preferred their scoutmasters to be heterosexually married. (I know, because I worked for them, but left because of the lies they told themselves about the “dangers” of gay men). For decades, despite these two policies, they had a sexual abuse problem. It was widely reported. For decades, they covered up the problem, in True Roman Catholic style, preferring to blame THE GAY MEN WHO WERENT ALLOWED TO BE SCOUTMASTERS for the depredations of their certifiably heterosexual scoutmasters. Like certifiably heterosexual Jerry Sandusky, to name just KNE certifiable heterosexual who preyed on little boys.

    And it has been known for decades that the majority of sexual abuse, homosexual IN NATURE or heterosexual IN NATURE, occurs within the Holy Heterosexual Family. And fully half the time, the perpetrator is the certifiably heterosexual father.

    The problem of sexual abuse is far more complicated than simple black and white, get the gays fearmongering. And that is why the problem persists, and will continue to persist, especially in the Roman Church, until such time as people like you stop blaming gay men, as horrified of the abuse perpetrated on children as any normal person would be, and start actually addressing the problem it’s all of the nuance required.

    But of course, that will not enable you to promulgate bigotry in the name of faith.

  4. BTW, I did read a portion sexual abuse report you referred me to. I was just too busy to respond, and then lost track of it. As you noted, there were problematic aspects of it. And as I noted as I was reading it, it made the same assumptions you do, and ignored the reality of the sexual abuse problem, in favor of easy answers that basically screamed IT’S THE FAULT OF THE GEYS.

  5. The Boy Scouts are neither a religious organization nor a sovereign state.

    But any chance to attack a religion, eh?

  6. Priesthood isn’t for boys or boy scouts, but tks.

  7. I suppose that that is a nice way of saying that the facts don’t matter to you at all. But I knew that. Your vendetta against gay people is perfectly clear. Have a nice evening.

  8. Many thanks to Winfield for writing this and RNS for posting it.

  9. No, the facts are priesthood is an enormously difficult job, one with many interior and exterior challenges. You show your error by equating it to boy scout troop leaders!

    We’ve lowered our understanding of the priesthood, and also our standards.

    Priesthood is far more demanding than being a boy scout leader; it requires totality and constancy of self gift, denial.


    We don’t need priests who have interior identity issues, including disordered sexual desires.

    McCarrick was flawed from the get go, and got worse.

  10. Your vendetta against religion, and now the Boy Scouts, is perfectly clear.

  11. I have no idea what the priesthood’s difficulty has to do with child molesters in its ranks. But thank you for demonstrating that not only are you ignorant of the facts about child sexual abuse, but your desire to Get the Gays supersedes your desire to know anything about it. This is why the problem exists, that is why it will persist, and hey! If children are molested by Catholic priests, well, its a small price to pay.

    “We don’t need priests who have interior identity issues, including disordered sexual desires.” absolutely. That’s exactly what the Boy Scouts said. Good luck with determining those “interior” issues.

    You people have an illness.

  12. Here’s the connection: 4 in 5 abusing priests are same-sex attracted to post-pubescent boys.

  13. Well, that will never happen because most of the Vatican is gay, gay, gay. The disturbed, self-loathing dysfunctional type, but still. This is your church, Tommy. This is you.

  14. The Roman Catholic Church is the largest sex-trafficking organization in the world, and has been for a very long time.

  15. When institutional loyalty is in conflict with moral principle, institutional loyalty usually wins. The Roman Catholic hierarchy have proved this over and over again for a long, long time. Francis’ happy-talk is just spitting against the wind.

  16. “Most” is not a fact.

    It’s far less.

    It’s drama. Fitting.

  17. Hey! ya know what? The Boy Scouts have the Catholic Church beat! A full 100% of the boys molested by the heterosexually married, certifiably heterosexual and in no way same sex attracted molesters in the Boy Scouts were Post pubescent boys!

    Really! 100%!

    But I do want to thank you for the obvious need to demonize gay men for the depredations of your selected-by-god-and-certified-by-the-church boy molesting priests. Any thinking person can seee that this is all it is about. And All it has ever been about. Especially for you.

    The beauty of it is, the abuse scandal, and the excuses made for it by people like you and the Mouth of Bob, are emptying your pews. even the Mouth of Bob has admitted that the church is declining in our country, as it is even in catholic Ireland.. As I said to you before, it is not gay men that are corrupting your church, but your church that is corrupting itself.

    Good luck. You’re going to need it!

  18. You should wise up and looks at what the public school’s record of abuse is…

  19. Well, if all else fails, change the subject.

    The first rule of holes: if you find yourself in one, stop digging.

  20. If you only hadn’t spent your life in a state of dysfunctional denial and repression, you would see the facts without pretense and denial.

  21. I didn’t introduce boy scouts…

  22. Just a life of keen observation, a witness to people hooked on drugs, counseling, questioning the unquestionable (their nature), growing sadder and angrier by the day, hostile, cut off from others, cut off from the truth, cut off from joy. Gay ain’t so gay.

  23. It isn’t when you demonize yourself. You just described yourself to a “t”. Projecting such self-loathing on others is a lie.

  24. Is this really all that surprising? Just a couple weeks ago all 34 Bishops in Chile offered their resignations to the Pope in the wake of the massive child molestation scandal. This automatically prompted the Vatican to fly them all home to Rome – conveniently out of Chile’s law enforcement jurisdiction. The Pope accepted three of the resignations. The other Bishops have simply…disappeared, likely reassigned to some other nation where they can have a fresh start without any of those pesky “child rapist” allegations hanging over their heads.

  25. So the Church is no different from any other organization. Got it.

  26. Humans sin, surprised?

    Doesn’t mean the Church isn’t the mystical body of Christ.

  27. Mystical Body of Crimes Against Humanity.

  28. Is it really too much for our intellect to understand the difference between using an example to show the fallacy of your “thinking”, and changing the subject?

    What am I saying?

    You have a nice day.

  29. So you changed the subject = ok.
    I had an example = not ok.

    Got it.

  30. Did you work that up all by yourself?

    Maybe add some exclamation points, noisy ones.

  31. “Mystical Body of Christ” was worked up by someone else, for the sheer drama. It’s a term that is essentially without meaning.

  32. Yes, Saint Paul! Become more familiar with Holy Scripture.

    5 minutes a day of the NT isn’t too much for anyone. You can cover the entire NT in less than a year…and then you won’t type such foolish statement….you’ll start to get the fuller picture…Holy Mass will come alive…and the people you live around will benefit from less gloomy Gus.

  33. It doesn’t matter who wrote it. I studied “Holy Scripture” formally for seven years. It’s overrated.

  34. “Just a life of keen observation, a witness to people hooked on drugs, counseling, questioning the unquestionable (their nature), growing sadder and angrier by the day, hostile, cut off from others, cut off from the truth, cut off from joy. Gay ain’t so gay.”

    Keen observation? I doubt it. More like tunnel vision. I understand that you need to believe this garbage you just wrote. Absolutely. How else will you feel superior to us, unless you can put us down to a level so far below you.

    or at least, so your fanatasy goes— misspelling intentional. But your fanatasy is simply that: yours, and fanatasy.

    Are there gay people who live that life? Absolutely. Maybe they wouldn’t, if only they did not receive into their very souls that toxicity you spew with such glee. There are also heterosexuals who live that life, if for different reasons, or even the same reasons. But that is neither here nor there.

    What is actually important is this: I don’t live that life, nor have I ever. Nor does my husband. Nor does anyone in my large circle of friendship and acquaintance. Nor have they ever. Nor have the vast majority of the gay people I have know for nearly 50 years. Again, that is simply YOUR fanatasy, and serves YOUR needs.

    But you will keep repeating that reviling, that slander, and that false witness. But just know that the very same passage in Corinthians that allegedly damns gay people, most clearly and certainly DAMNS YOU.

  35. Yes, and we understand you need to believe this garbage YOU just wrote.

  36. Until recently according to the DSM you people have an illness.

    The cure, of course, was lobbying.

  37. As I pointed out, and he pointed out, you brought the Boy Scouts into it and now complain about changing the subject.

    I will say that I am very thankful you severed contact with the Boy Scouts. They have enough problems of their own to deal with.

  38. You people have a mental illness: you think that a virgin gave birth.

  39. There’s always something that just doesn’t fit, despite volumes of justification to the contrary, with anger to boot.

  40. And here I thought you were a keen observer, but it turns out it’s just something you “feel”.

    As I said, YOUR fanatasy. YOUR need to feel superior. YOUR need to find something wrong with people, YOUR need to put them down and keep them down.

    As for anger, what one earth could people who have been scheissed upon for centuries, who are routinely called by people LIKE YOU child molesters, threats, dangers, perverts, sick….

    with political campaigns directed at them, based upon lies and fear mongering, all supported by PEOPLE LIKE YOU…

    With gay kids killing themselves, and YOUR fanatasy that there is something “wrong” with us that justifies it all…

    Well, GEE WHIZ!!!! What could we possibly have to be angry about?

    Thank you for demonstrating yet one more time that not all bigotry is hate. So much of it, and you’re a perfect example of it, is the always present, self assigned, and wholly unwarranted faith in a totally imaginary superiority

  41. It’s a great story. Too bad these loving bigots cannot see themselves, even if the mirror is the size of Texas.

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