European Parliament Assails Vatican Over Abuse Cases

Measure Seen as Attempt to Impede Papal Visit

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STRASBOURG, France, APR. 6, 2001 ( The European Parliament made an unprecedented attack on the Vatican, approving a motion blaming it for the rapes suffered by nuns in Africa in the 1990s. Some observers saw the nonbinding measure as an attempt to impede John Paul II´s visit to this institution.

The parliamentary motion, on the «Responsibility of the Vatican in Regard to the Violation of Human Rights by Catholic Priests,» has no executive character but rather is intended as a «moral judgment.»

It «condemns all the sexual violations against women, particularly against Catholic nuns. Likewise, it requests that the perpetrators of the crimes be arrested and handed over to justice.»

The motion was passed 65-49 on Thursday, with 6 abstentions. Those voting in favor of the Vatican´s condemnation were the European Socialist Party, the Green Group, the European Unitary Left, and the European Liberal Democratic Group (ELDR). The votes against came primarily from the European Popular Party and the Union for a Europe of Nations Group.

The voting proposal was presented by Elly Plooij-van Gorsel, Cecilia Malmstrom and Lousewies van der Laan, militants of the liberal ELDR.

«It is as if the European Parliament pronounced itself against the government of the United States because President Bill Clinton took advantage of his position to have sexual relations with an intern,» Italian Europarliamentarian Mario Mauro told ZENIT. Mauro´s European Popular Party bloc voted against the motion.

The European Parliament requested the Vatican «to seriously examine every indication of sexual abuse committed in the heart of its organizations … [and] to re-establish women in their posts in the religious hierarchy, who were removed from their responsibilities because they called the attention of their superiors to these abuses.»

The parliament´s voting was in reference to the confidential report given to the Vatican Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life by religious Maria O´Donohue, which points out cases of abuse of nuns by priests. The report was published by a U.S. weekly newspaper, the National Catholic Reporter.

A Vatican press statement said that the superiors of the religious congregations and the bishops of the localities where the abuses took place have already taken precautions to make sure these situations don´t occur again.

The motion was presented in the parliament as an «urgent debate,» despite the fact that the matters referred to in the report occurred more than five years ago.

«The Vatican is accused of faults with which some missionaries were stained,» Mario Mauro explained. «However, it is important to distinguish between the Vatican and the different individuals of the Catholic Church.

«The Vatican is not a state in which each Catholic is a citizen. The Vatican serves the universal Catholic community through its own authority, but it cannot be responsible of each and all the actions of Catholics worldwide, be they priests or lay people.»

According to Mauro, the parliamentary motion had two hidden political objectives: to try to discredit the Vatican at international conferences, where it plays a decisive role, and to impede a possible visit of John Paul II to the parliament.

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