The Vatican has reiterated condemnation of sexual abuse following allegations against deceased British TV star Jimmy Savile, who during his life was given a papal knighthood for his charity work.
“The Holy See condemns in the strongest terms the heinous crimes of sexual abuse of children, takes very seriously what has come to light about Jimmy Savile,” said Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi on Oct. 27.
“It is deeply saddened that a person who is stained in this way could in his lifetime be proposed for an honor by the Holy See, which, in the light of what has been learned recently, certainly should not have been given.”
Savile died October 2011 and was a popular media personality in Britain starting in the 1960s. However, some 300 cases of sexual abuse of minors, both male and female, have come to light since his death.
For his charity work he received a papal knighthood, one of the highest honors bestowed by the Pope, and reserved for members of the military and other laypersons. Pope Bl. John Paul II made Savile a Knight Commander of St. Gregory the Great in 1990.
The same year, Savile was knighted as a Knight Bachelor “for charitable services” by Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom.
Following the sex-abuse allegations, the head of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, Archbishop of Westminster Vincent Nichols, wrote the Vatican asking if it were possible to revoke Savile’s papal knighthood.
Fr. Lombardi said in his statement that the honor “perishes with the death of the individual,” and so there is no process for removing the knighthood posthumously.
“Since there is no permanent register of persons who have received such recognition, it is not possible to expel a dead person from a register that does not exist. Decorated names do not appear at any time in the pontifical yearbook.”
“What is most important is therefore to reiterate the strongest condemnation of all sexual abuse, particularly against children, as serious crimes. On this the Holy See is steadfast.”
The BBC, for whom Savile worked as a TV and radio presenter, is under review for its child protection and sexual harassment policies.
This comes amidst suspicion that Savile’s proclivities were known and covered-up by members of the corporation.
It has been criticized for failing to stop the abuse, which allegedly happened at times on BBC property.
The BBC is also being scrutinized for its shelving of a 2011 report on claims against Savile which was being prepared for the TV program Newsnight.