#AceNewsServices – ROME – Vatican – May 05 – The Vatican attempted to minimize its culpability over the Catholic Church’s child sexual abuse scandal as a UN committee on torture grilled the institution over it alleged “climate of impunity” which has prevailed for decades.
In a two-hour hearing in Geneva, the Committee Against Torture was unrelenting in its questioning of the Vatican delegation, asking about past policy decisions, the juridical distinction between the Holy See and Vatican City, and information on specific cases, Reuters reports.
The Vatican, which is set to issue a formal answer on Tuesday, said the church has been cleaning house for the past decade and was determined to protect children further with a series of measures, which they say has led to a decline in cases of sexual abuse by priests.
Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Vatican’s UN ambassador in Geneva, maintained that the treaty only applied to the Vatican City, which covers an area of less than half a square kilometre and numbers fewer than 1,000. Tomasi said that although the Holy See can be viewed as a moral force, the “agent of justice” for crimes perpetuated against Catholics were the authorities in the states where those offences occurred.
“It should be stressed, particularly in light of much confusion, that the Holy See has no jurisdiction,” he said in opening remarks.
“The Holy See intends to focus exclusively on the Vatican City state,” he told the committee. “State authorities are obligated to protect and when necessary to prosecute persons under their jurisdiction.”
But committee member, Felice Gaer, asked if the Vatican was in fact being proactive in cleaning house internally, why had the institution’s first report to the committee been filed 9 years late. Gaer, an American human rights expert, further took issue with the church’s “alleged distinction” between the Vatican City and the Holy See, which can roughly be viewed as the central government of the Catholic Church.
The differentiation, she said, “would create important gaps in the coverage” of the treaty and is a “troubling” bit of legalese, AP reports.
“We call for all parties to adhere to the strict meaning of the convention,” Gaer told the Vatican delegation led by Tomasi.
The Vatican delegation’s appearance in Geneva marks the first time that the committee charged with enforcing the UN Convention Against Torture, which the Vatican ratified in 2002, has hauled the Holy See before its members.
REUTERS – RT – GUARDIAN – AP
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