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Vatican: Important clarifications to UN Committee on the Convention Against Torture

(Vatican Radio/CNS) The Holy See representative to Geneva, Archbishop Silvano Tomasi has told the UN Committee on the Convention Against Torture (CAT) that the Holy See is making “every effort” to combat the “plague and scourge” of child sexual abuse and “condemns torture, including for those who are tortured and killed before they are born”.

The Archbishop was speaking Tuesday, in a second day of hearings before the Committee which monitors the application of the U.N. Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment, among signatory states. The Holy See signed the international treaty in 2002 and submitted its first report on adherence to the treaty in 2012.

Listen to excerpts from Arcbishiop Tomasi's intervention: RealAudioMP3

Speaking to Vatican Radio at the concluding of the hearing Abp. Tomasi described the experience as “constructive” and added that it allowed the Holy See to make “important clarifications”. During the hearing – which was streamed live on the internet – the Archbishop responded to the Committees’ queries from their reading of the Holy See report, regarding the handling of the scandal of child sexual abuse by clergy and the issue of the Holy See jurisdiction.

He noted: “While the Holy See does not have the competency or the ability to initiate criminal proceedings against crimes that are committed in territories outside Vatican City State, it makes every effort to conduct ecclesiastical proceedings against clerics against whom credible accusations of sexual abuse of minors have been presented. This is done without substitution for or prejudices of other processes that are to be applied by the competent judiciary system in the state in which the accused person resides. Civil law regarding the reporting of the crime to the authorities should always be followed”.

The Archbishop went on to outline the process and procedures in ecclesiastical proceedings and pointed to Pope Francis establishment of a Commission for the Protection of Children as a further effort to safeguard minors in the Church.Responding to a specific request by the Committee, Archbishop Tomasi also provided statistics about cases of clerical sexual abuse reported to the Vatican and the outcome of those cases.

Between 2004 and 2013, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith -- which is charged with investigating abuse claims against clergy -- received "credible accusations" against 3,420 priests. In the majority of cases, he said, the abuse was alleged to have occurred between 1950 and 1989. Many of those priests are or have been jailed by civil courts for their crimes, he said.

Between 2004 and 2013, he said, the Holy See dismissed 848 priests from the priesthood as a result of the allegations being found to be true. In another 2,572 cases -- mainly involving priests of an advanced age -- the men were ordered to have no contact with children and were ordered to retreat to a life of prayer and penance.