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Vatican undergoes 2nd grilling this year on abuse

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Members of SNAP (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests), David D’Bonnabel from Austria, left, and Nicky Davis from Australia comfort each other prior to the start of a vigil to denounce abuses in Rome, Friday, April 25, 2014, two days ahead of the canonization of late popes John XXIII and John Paul II. (AP Photo/Domenico Stinellis)

Members of SNAP (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests), David D’Bonnabel from Austria, left, and Nicky Davis from Australia comfort each other prior to the start of a vigil to denounce abuses in Rome, Friday, April 25, 2014, two days ahead of the canonization of late popes John XXIII and John Paul II. (AP Photo/Domenico Stinellis)

Cardinal Sean O’Malley, the archbishop of Boston, right, and Marie Collins attend a press conference at the Vatican, Saturday, May 3, 2014. Members of Pope Francis’ sexual abuse advisory board say they will develop specific protocols to hold bishops and other church authorities accountable if they fail to report suspected abuse or protect children from pedophile priests. The eight-member committee met for the first time this week at the pope’s Vatican hotel to discuss the scope of their work and future members. Briefing reporters Saturday, Cardinal Sean O’Malley, the archbishop of Boston, said current church laws could hold bishops accountable if they fail to do their jobs to protect children. But he said those laws hadn’t been sufficiently applied and that “clear and effective protocols” are now necessary.Marie Collins, a committee member and survivor of sexual abuse, said she came away from the inaugural meeting of the commission “hopeful.” (AP Photo/Riccardo De Luca)

Marie Collins, left, and Vatican spokesman father Federico Lombardi leave at the end of a press conference at the Vatican, Saturday, May 3, 2014. Members of Pope Francis’ sexual abuse advisory board say they will develop specific protocols to hold bishops and other church authorities accountable if they fail to report suspected abuse or protect children from pedophile priests. The eight-member committee met for the first time this week at the pope’s Vatican hotel to discuss the scope of their work and future members. Marie Collins, a committee member and survivor of sexual abuse, said she came away from the inaugural meeting of the commission “hopeful.” (AP Photo/Riccardo De Luca)

Members of SNAP (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests), from left, David D’Bonnabel from Austria, President Barbara Blaine from the US, Nicky Davis from Australia, and Miguel Hurtado from Spain read a letter denouncing abuses in Rome, Friday, April 25, 2014, two days ahead of the canonization of late popes John XXIII and John Paul II. In the background St. Pere’s Basilica. (AP Photo/Domenico Stinellis)

Pope John Paul II’s official biographer George Weigel attends a press conference at the Vatican, Friday, April 25, 2014. Pope John Paul II’s biographer and longtime spokesman sought Friday to defend his record on sex abuse against evidence that he didn’t grasp the scale of the scandal until very late in his papacy. John Paul’s record and his support for the founder of the Legion of Christ religious order, a notorious pedophile, have come under fresh scrutiny in the run-up to the pontiff’s canonization Sunday, the fastest in modern times. Spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls and official biographer George Weigel pointed to John Paul’s decision in April 2002, the year the scandal exploded publicly in the U.S. , to summon U.S. cardinals to Rome as evidence he acted decisively. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)

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GENEVA (AP) — In its second grilling at the United Nations this year, the Vatican on Monday sought to limit its responsibility for the global priest sex abuse scandal by undercutting arguments it has violated an international treaty against torture and inhuman treatment.

The Vatican delegation’s appearance in Geneva is the first time that the committee that oversees the U.N. Convention Against Torture, which the Vatican ratified in 2002, has hauled the Holy See before its members.

Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Vatican’s U.N. ambassador in Geneva, lost no time asserting that its responsibility for enforcing the U.N. treaty against torture only applies within the confines of the tiny Vatican City, which has fewer than 1,000 inhabitants in an area less than half a square-kilometer in size, making it the smallest country in the world.

“The Holy See intends to focus exclusively on Vatican City state,” he told the committee. “State authorities are obligated to protect and when necessary to prosecute persons under their jurisdiction.”

Committee member Felice Gaer’s first question was to ask why the Vatican’s first report to the committee — the subject of the hearing this week — came nine years late. Gaer, an American human rights expert, then took aim at the church’s “alleged distinction” between Vatican City and the Holy See.

The differentiation, she said, “would create important gaps in the coverage” of the treaty and is a “troubling” bit of legalese.

“We call for all parties to adhere to the strict meaning of the convention,” Gaer told the Vatican delegation led by Tomasi.

A U.N. committee that monitors a key treaty on children’s rights blasted the Holy See in January, accusing it of systematically placing its own interests over those of victims by enabling priests to rape and molest tens of thousands of children through its own policies and code of silence. And that committee rejected a similar argument the Vatican made trying to limit its responsibility.

If a U.N. committee finds the abuse amounts to torture and inhuman treatment, that could open the floodgates to abuse lawsuits dating back decades because there are no statute of limitations on torture cases, said Katherine Gallagher, a human rights attorney for the Center for Constitutional Rights, a nonprofit legal group based in New York. The group submitted reports on behalf of victims to both committees urging closer U.N. scrutiny of the church record on child abuse.

Gallagher said that rape legally can constitute a form of torture

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