GENEVA -- A United Nations hearing on the Vatican's compliance with the international anti-torture convention should not be used to review sex abuse scandals, a Vatican envoy made clear Monday at the start of the session.
The Holy See faced the U.N. Committee Against Torture in Geneva as part of that body's regular country review process, in the second such hearing since the Catholic Church clashed with the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child in February.
This week's session on Monday and Tuesday should focus strictly on the convention, which defines torture as state-sponsored violence for such purposes as punishment, coercion or discrimination, said Silvano Tomasi, the Vatican's Geneva envoy.
Introducing other themes would jeopardize "those who are truly being abused, tortured and punished," he said in his presentation.
Non-governmental groups including the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests had criticized in their submissions to the committee that the Vatican's own report did not touch on the cases of clergy molesting children.
"The Holy See has consistently side-stepped real accountability and serious reform," SNAP said.
Early in the hearing, committee member Felice Gaer criticized the Holy See for insisting that the anti-torture convention applies only on the territory of the Vatican, and not for clergy operating elsewhere on behalf of the Church.
Tomasi stressed that the Holy See's laws share the U.N. definition of torture, and that the Catholic Church and its media and officials were active in spreading the message against such inhumane treatment.
The committee is scheduled to publish its conclusions on May 23.
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