'Truth spoken without moderation reverses itself'
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Saturday, May 24, 2014
UN Committee Against Torture criticises Vatican handling of sex abuse
The United Nations Committee Against Torture (CAT) has criticised theVatican's handling of the clerical sex abuse scandal, urging the Catholic church to do more to punish perpetrators, help victims and place "meaningful sanctions" on clerics who fail to deal properly with credible allegations.
In observations published on Friday following a two-day hearing this month, the panel's 10 experts rejected the Holy See's argument that it only exercises control over the tiny Vatican City State and cannot be held accountable for the actions of Catholic priests and bishops throughout the world. They called on the Holy See to "take effective measures" to monitor individuals under its "effective control" and to "stop and sanction" conduct that would constitute "credible allegations of violations of the [UN] Convention [against Torture]".
Before the report had even been released, the Vatican issued a statement declaring that it had not been found to be "in violation" of the convention. But advocates of abuse victims rejected this outright, labelling the report "a historic document" that they said recognised clerical sexual abuse as a form of torture and other cruel, inhuman, degrading treatment or punishment.
"They're clearly wrong," said Pam Spees of the US-based Center for Constitutional Rights, regarding the Vatican's assertion. "This is an important recognition of the gravity of these offences that have been minimised by the church, places responsibility where it belongs – with the hierarchy in the church, not the victims – and could help open new avenues for redress."
Felice D Gaer, the CAT's American vice-chair, told the Guardian: "Legal scholars will tell you that when we write about a concern and make a recommendation we are identifying something that is not in conformity with the requirements of the convention. We don't use the word 'violation'; others do. But it's quite clear it's not in conformity with the requirements of the convention."