GENEVA (AP) — The Vatican came under blistering criticism from a U.N. committee Thursday for its handling of the global priest sex abuse scandal, facing its most intense public grilling to date over allegations that it protected pedophile priests at the expense of victims.
Monsignor Charles Scicluna
The Vatican insisted it had little jurisdiction to sanction pedophile priests around the globe, saying it was for local law enforcement to do so. But officials conceded that more needs to be done and promised to build on progress already made to become a model for others, given the scale of the problem and the role the Holy See plays in the international community.
“The Holy See gets it,” Monsignor Charles Scicluna, the Vatican’s former sex crimes prosecutor, told the committee. “Let’s not say too late or not. But there are certain things that need to be done differently.”
He was responding to a grilling by the U.N. committee over the Holy See’s failure to abide by terms of the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child which, among other things, calls for signatories to take all appropriate measures to keep children from harm. Critics allege the church enabled the rape of thousands of children by encouraging a culture of cover-up to defend its reputation.
Groups representing victims of clerical abuse, who have been active in civil litigation against the church, gave the U.N. committee hundreds of pages of documents that informed the questioning. The groups have welcomed the hearing as the first time the Vatican has had to publicly defend its record in what amounted to a courtroom cross-examination where no limits were placed on the questioning.