GENEVA — In a report that could expose the Catholic Church to new legal arguments by clerical sex abuse victims, a U.N. committee found Friday that the Vatican does exercise worldwide control over its bishops and priests and must comply with the U.N.'s anti-torture treaty.
The U.N. Committee Against Torture concluded that Vatican officials failed to report sex abuse charges properly, had moved priests rather than discipline them, and had failed to pay adequate compensation to victims. Although the panel did not explicitly say that the Holy See had violated any of its obligations under the anti-torture treaty, which it ratified in 2002, panel members said that was implicit in the criticism.
"Legal scholars will tell you that when the committee addresses a problem and makes a recommendation, it sees the state as not meeting the requirements of the convention," the panel vice chairwoman, Felice Gaer, told reporters. "It's absolutely clear what we're saying."
But the Vatican dismissed the 10-member panel's conclusions as "fundamentally flawed" and insisted it didn't exercise direct control over its priests worldwide.
The report's most immediate impact may be to empower victims pressing the Vatican to take more legal responsibility for priests who molested children.