Vienna/Austria (pts008/26.05.2014/10:00) - Information of Committee Against Torture (Report on Holy See)
Statement by David d'Bonnabel: Victims in Austria are grateful that the Committee expressed concern about Concordats and other agreements negotiated by the Holy See that "may prevent prosecution of alleged perpetrators by limiting the ability of civil authorities to question, compel the production of documentation by, or prosecute individuals associated with the Catholic Church. The Committee Against Torture Report on Holy See (Vatican) (CAT) urges that the agreement should not be used to shield criminals. It is time for Austrian officials to ensure that Austrian children are protected and that those who are sexually violated by priests or others in the church have redress and justice. These unhealthy, archaic concordats endanger kids and protect criminals. For the safety of children, they should be abolished.
Here are facts from the UN CAT report (attached) as well as the actual Concordat in force today between Austria and the Vatican:
Section 15 of the report makes clear: The Committee is concerned at allegations that concordats and other agreements negotiated by the Holy See with other States may effectively prevent prosecution of alleged perpetrators by limiting the ability of civil authorities to question, compel the production of documentation by, or prosecute individuals associated with the Catholic Church (arts. 2, 12, 13 and 16).
The State party should consider reviewing its bilateral agreements concluded with other States, such as concordats, with a view to fulfilling its obligations under the Convention and preventing the agreements from serving to provide individuals alleged to have violated the Convention or believed to possess information concerning violations of the Convention with protection from investigation or prosecution by civil authorities as a result of their status or affiliation with the Catholic Church.
"The Dollfuss Concordat with Secret Supplement (1933): Dollfuss was assassinated shortly after ratifying the concordat, but it remained in force until the Germans invaded in 1938. Like the concordat concluded the same month with Hitler, it contains a secret supplement. The concordat was revived in 1958 ..."
Clerics cannot be asked by courts or other authorities to reveal information about people or things which they have received under the seal of official clerical secrecy.
In the case of the criminal conviction of a cleric or member of an order the State court must immediately inform the diocesan ordinary responsible for the convicted person and as soon as possible impart the result of the preliminary hearing and, if applicable, the court's final judgment in both the first instance and the court of appeal.
In the case of arrest and retention in custody the cleric (order member) shall be treated with the consideration befitting his profession and his rank in the hierarchy.
In the case of an unconditionally legally binding judgment against a cleric due to a crime, without prejudice to sundry legal consequences resulting from the criminal code, if the diocesan ordinary doesn't remove him from his office, the Federal Government will act to suspend the donation (congrua supplement) coming to him.
These two Articles have been used in Austria as a shield by the Clerics to remain immune from Criminal prosecution by the Civil authorities. In 2010 the Klasnic Commission of the Austrian Catholic Church paid symbolic compensation and offered a letter of apology to ca. 1800 Victims of sexual abuse by Clerics. How many of the perpetrators are in prison?
The UN CAT report on their investigation on the Holy See (Vatican) recommending a review of the Concordats and other agreements. We, the Austrian Survivors of Sexual Abuse by Priests, do salute the UN report recommending the Holy See a review of the Concordats, as Child Protection is our main Priority.
(Director SNAP Austria and Victims Mission)