Vatican grilled over scale of child sex abuse

Thu Jan 16, 2014 5:31pm EST
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By Stephanie Nebehay

GENEVA (Reuters) - United Nations child protection experts pushed Vatican delegates on Thursday to reveal the scope of the decades-long sexual abuse of minors by Roman Catholic priests that Pope Francis called "the shame of the Church".

The delegates, answering questions from an international rights panel for the first time since the scandals broke more than two decades ago, denied allegations of a Vatican cover-up and said it had set clear guidelines to protect children from predator priests.

But members of the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child, and abuse victims attending the session in Geneva, demanded far more transparency on crimes that have rocked the Church, from the United States to Europe and Australia.

"The best way to prevent abuses is to reveal old ones - openness instead of sweeping offences under the carpet," Kirsten Sandberg, chairwoman of the 18-strong U.N. committee, told the Vatican delegation.

"It seems to date your procedures are not very transparent."

Sandberg repeatedly pressed the officials to open up Vatican archives on cases of sexual abuse and pay compensation to young people raped or sodomised by priests.

"We will take your questions seriously but we are not in a position to answer now," Vatican delegation head Archbishop Silvano Tomasi told her at the end of the day-long session.

The Vatican angered victim support groups last month by refusing to answer the committee's written questions in advance, saying its inquiries were confidential and that responsibility for dealing with abusers lay with local bishops.   Continued...

Saint Peter's Basilica at the Vatican is silhouetted during sunset in Rome, March 11, 2013. REUTERS/Paul Hanna