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Vatican withholds abuse info

December 4, 2013

The Vatican has refused to provide information to a UN panel about its investigation into sexual abuse of children by the clergy. The Church said it couldn't be held responsible for the behavior of Catholics worldwide.

Symbolic picture of a sex abuse investigation in the Vatican
Image: picture alliance/dpa

The Holy See on Tuesday said it wouldn't release the details of its internal investigations into abuse cases unless required to do so by the request of a state or government in order to cooperate with legal proceedings. The Church's refusal came in response to a series of questions posed by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, the main UN treaty that guarantees human rights for children.

The Vatican ratified the convention in 1990 and submitted its first implementation report in 1994, but then proceeded to not provide progress reports for nearly a decade. The Church finally provided one last year after coming under renewed pressure following an increase in child sex abuse cases in Europe in 2010.

The UN had asked the questions in response to the latest progress report, and a Vatican delegation is set to appear before the panel in person at a committee hearing in Geneva on January 16.

In its response to the panel on Tuesday, the Holy See said the details of its internal disciplinary proceedings were "not open to the public" in order to protect "witnesses, the accused and the integrity of the Church process." It added that it cannot ratify international treaties on behalf of all the world's Catholics, and that they can only be implemented in the territory it controls – the Vatican City State.

"The Holy See does not exercise effective control over the local activities of Catholic institutions around the world," the Vatican said. "Every person must comply with the laws in the state in which they live."

The Vatican stressed it had changed the requirements for candidates for priesthood, updated canon law, and asked bishops' conferences to outline plans to curb abuse, but said the responsibility to protect children around the world fell to local bishops.

dr/jm (Reuters, AP)