Vatican accuses UN panel of sowing confusion

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VATICAN CITY (AP) — The Vatican accused a U.N. human rights committee on Friday of sowing confusion and violating its own norms and the church's religious freedom with a report into the Holy See's record on child sexual abuse.

The Vatican released its formal response to a February report by the U.N. committee on the rights of the child. The committee monitors implementation of the key U.N. child rights treaty.

After publicly grilling the Holy See in a daylong hearing, the committee concluded that the Vatican maintained a "code of silence" that enabled priests to sexually abuse tens of thousands of children worldwide over decades with impunity.

In its response, the Vatican complained that the committee "dismissed or ignored" the measures it had taken to combat abuse.

At the same time though, the Holy See insisted that it is only responsible for implementing the treaty in Vatican City, a tiny city state in the center of Rome.

Suggestions by the committee that it was responsible for implementing it in Catholic institutions around the world violates the concept of non-interference in the internal affairs of states and "offers a controversial new approach to 'jurisdiction' which clearly contradicts the general understanding of this concept in international law," the Vatican said.

The "profundity of confusion" sown by the committee over jurisdiction "has led to a grave misunderstanding of the Holy See's legal obligations under the convention," the Vatican said.

It accused the committee of having made "fundamentally flawed" interpretations of the church's legal system and of making a "completely unacceptable" recommendation that the Holy See change its law on abortion. The committee had urged the Vatican to identify circumstances when abortion services could be permitted, such as to save the life of a pregnant young girl.

Such a recommendation, the Vatican said, "is incompatible with the fundamental purpose and function of the international legal order."

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