Sexual abuse of children is a "plague and a scourge" that the Catholic Church has been fighting effectively over the last 10 years, the Vatican's ambassador to Geneva told the United Nations Committee on Torture yesterday. Archbishop Silvano Tomasi told the committee that 848 priests who abused children have been defrocked over the last decade and another 2,572 have received lesser punishments like a lifetime of penance and prayers, reports the Wall Street Journal. He said around 3,400 credible cases of abuse have been referred to the Vatican since 2004.
After the committee grilled him on the Vatican's record, the archbishop insisted that there is no "climate of impunity" in the church and the Vatican is working hard to prevent further abuse, Voice of America reports. He said the Vatican's fight against sexual abuse over the last decade could even be "something worth probably looking at for good practices other institutions and states could copy." The UN committee is monitoring implementation of the UN treaty against torture and while Tomasi said the Vatican was only obliged to abide by the treaty inside its own tiny territory, he acknowledged that sexual abuse could be considered torture, the AP notes. That could open the Church up to a slew of lawsuits, as most torture cases don't have a statute of limitations. Another UN panel slammed the Vatican earlier this year for failing to take the necessary measures to deal with child abuse. (Read more Vatican stories.)