A United Nations committee in Geneva is set to question the Vatican about allegations that it protected pedophile members of the church, and thus permitted the sexual abuse of scores of children, the Associated Press reported.
The Holy See, the government of the Catholic Church, is preparing to defend itself during the gritty interrogation, which is scheduled for Thursday. The probe will focus on the Vatican's enforcement of the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child, which requires those who have signed the treaty to protect at all costs the safety and interests of children, the AP reported.
The U.N. committee was able to collect tons of testimonies, government records and case studies that show the Vatican intentionally did not turn in priests who were accused of sexually abusing a child. A main reason for the cover-ups is the Vatican's tradition of keeping things secret out of fear of being disgraced, the AP reported.
"For too many years, survivors were the only ones speaking out about this and bearing the brunt of a lot of criticism," Pam Spees, an attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights, told the AP. "And so this is a very important moment for many, many people who are here in Geneva and around the world who will be watching as the Holy See is called for the first time ever to actually answer questions."
The Holy See accepted the terms of the U.N. treaty in 1990, the AP reported. The church provided an initial report on the treaty's implementation four years later. But it was another eight years until the next report was turned in, after news broke of international sex abuse cases in 2010.
The committee was able to collect evidence of child rapes in Mexico, Great Britain, Canada and the U.S. They also found Vatican documents that state church officials knew about ongoing sexual abuse, in one case for more than a decade, before doing something about it, the AP reported.
A Vatican spokesman, Reverend Federico Lombardi, told the AP there's a difference between the Holy See's responsibility and the responsibility of local police.
"The Holy See is not an organization in which all the priests or Catholics of the world are employees. It's a big religious community," Lombardi told the AP. "Every member of this community has responsibilities as citizens of the country where he or she lives and with the authorities of the country."