A United Nations (UN) committee is to begin questioning the Vatican for the second time this year over the global child sex abuse scandal involving priests.
Prior to the meeting, the Center for Constitutional Rights, a nonprofit legal group based in New York, submitted reports on behalf of victims to the committee.
The UN committee is to examine whether the Vatican’s record on child protection breaches the body’s Convention Against Torture and plans to present its final observations and recommendations on May 23.
Katherine Gallagher, a human rights attorney for the group, said that if the UN committee finds that the abuse amounts to torture and inhuman treatment, it could trigger a large number of abuse lawsuits dating back decades since there are no statute of limitations on torture cases.
The Vatican, however, argues that it is only responsible for enforcing the UN treaty against torture within the confines of the Vatican City, a country that has fewer than 1,000 inhabitants.
Gallagher says it is a “disingenuous argument” for the Vatican to assert that its responsibility for the anti-torture treaty lies within the tiny country.
In January, when the first questioning was held, a UN human rights committee rejected a similar argument the Vatican made in an attempt to limit its responsibility.
During the January meeting, the committee slammed the Vatican for adopting policies that allowed priests to rape and molest tens of thousands of children.
The committee also blasted the Vatican’s practice of transferring the abusing clergymen from parish to parish in a bid to cover up their crimes.
Meanwhile, Pope Francis has said the church must be bolder in efforts to protect children.
On May 3, the Pope’s newly formed sexual abuse advisory board said it is to develop “clear and effective” protocols to hold bishops and other church authorities accountable if they fail to report suspected abuse or protect children from pedophile priests.