Updated: October 13, 2021 04:28 AM GMT
Pope Francis celebrates a Mass for the opening of the Synod of Bishops on Oct. 10 at the Vatican. (Photo: AFP)
The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that 24 Belgian, French and Dutch nationals, who were victims of clerical sexual abuse as children, were not denied their rights when a Belgian court refused to allow them to sue the Vatican.
The 6-1 vote leading to the "chamber judgment" of the European Court of Human Rights was published Oct. 12. Parties have three months to request the court to examine the case further.
The abuse survivors filed a class action suit in July 2011 with a court in Ghent, Belgium, seeking to sue several Belgian bishops and two associations of religious orders, but also the Holy See for "the structurally deficient way in which the Church had dealt with the known problem of sexual abuse within it."
The Ghent court, and later a Belgian appeals court, ruled the Belgian courts had no jurisdiction over the Holy See as a sovereign state.
The court of appeal also took exception to the case because "the misconduct of which the Belgian bishops were accused could not be attributed to the Holy See, as the pope was not the principal in relation to the bishops; that the misconduct attributed directly to the Holy See had not been committed on Belgian territory but in Rome; and that neither the pope nor the Holy See had been present on Belgian territory when the misconduct attributed to the leaders of the Church in Belgium had been committed."
The dissenting judge disagreed, arguing that since the pope appoints bishops, he bears some responsibility for their actions.
After being informed that a further appeal to a higher court had little chance of success, "all but four claimants, who did not apply, were able to obtain compensation through the arbitration center for sexual abuse claims set up within the Catholic Church," said the statement from the European Court.
….as we enter the last months of 2021, we are asking readers like you to help us keep UCA News free.
For the last 40 years, UCA News has remained the most trusted and independent Catholic news and information service from Asia. Every week, we publish nearly 100 news reports, feature stories, commentaries, podcasts and video broadcasts that are exclusive and in-depth, and developed from a view of the world and the Church through informed Catholic eyes.
Our journalistic standards are as high as any in the quality press; our focus is particularly on a fast-growing part of the world - Asia - where, in some countries the Church is growing faster than pastoral resources can respond to – South Korea, Vietnam and India to name just three.
And UCA News has the advantage of having in its ranks local reporters who cover 23 countries in south, southeast, and east Asia. We report the stories of local people and their experiences in a way that Western news outlets simply don’t have the resources to reach. And we report on the emerging life of new Churches in old lands where being a Catholic can at times be very dangerous.
With dwindling support from funding partners in Europe and the USA, we need to call on the support of those who benefit from our work.