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Vatican officials quizzed by U.N. panel looking into child sex abuse

Jan. 16, 2014 at 8:06 AM   |   Comments

GENEVA, Switzerland, Jan. 16 (UPI) -- Human rights organizations and groups representing victims of clergy abuse said they welcome a U.N. hearing that forces the Vatican to defend its record.

"It's a moment that has given hope and encouragement to victims across the globe," Barbara Blaine, president of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, based in Chicago, said in Geneva, Switzerland, ahead of Thursday's hearing by the U.N's Committee on the Rights of the Child.

Vatican officials such as Monsignor Charles J. Scicluna, who was the Holy See's chief sex crimes prosecutor for 10 years until 2012, appeared before the panel to answer questions on how the Vatican was handling the issue of child sexual abuse by clergy and to show how the Vatican was implementing a legally binding convention promoting child rights, which it signed in 1990, the New York Times reported.

Pope Francis last month announced the creation of a committee to address clerical abuse but so far has said little on the scandal.

In questions posed by the panel prior to the hearing, the Vatican was asked for details of cases of sexual abuse committed by clergy brought to its attention, as well as the measures used to ensure accused clergy had no contact with children, the Times said.

The Vatican also was asked to explain what specific instructions it gave to ensure mandatory reporting of sexual abuse to the proper national authorities, along with cases in which the alleged abuse was ordered not to be reported, the Times said.

In its written answers, the Vatican stressed the distinction between the Holy See and the Catholic Church, saying that while it encouraged adherence to the convention's principles globally, it was responsible for implementing the convention within the confines of Vatican City, the Times said.

"It was quite shocking," Pam Spees, an attorney with the Center for Constitutional Rights, which is seeking to hold Vatican officials responsible for sexual abuse crimes, told the Times. "It was a pretty direct, pretty blunt effort to sidestep the questions."

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