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Monseigneur Silvano Maria Tomasi, the permanent observer of the Holy See to the United Nations Office in Geneva, speaks during peace talks in the conflict in Syria. He lashed out at the United Nations for a committee report on sexual abuse. / JEAN-MARC FERRE, AFP/Getty Images

VATICAN CITY - The Vatican lashed out Wednesday at a United Nations panel on child rights that accused the church of failing to address past sex abuse and for its stands against abortion, contraception and gay marriage.

Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Holy See representative to the U.N. in Geneva, decried the report for failing to acknowledge the steps taken by Catholic churches to prevent abuse. And he assailed the panel for demanding the church take liberal stands on moral issues.

Tomasi said it's hard to find "other institutions or even other states" that have done as much for child protection as the "package of measures" taken by the Vatican and local bishops conferences.

Tomasi told Vatican Radio that the church "reiterates its commitment to defending and protecting the rights of the child," but he complained that the report was written before the committee heard the Vatican's detailed responses to committee questions.

The report of the U.N. Committee on the Rights of a Child accused the Vatican of "systematically" adopting policies that allowed priests in parishes worldwide to rape and molest tens of thousands of children over decades. It urged it to open its files on pedophiles and bishops who concealed their crimes.

The committee is not made up of member states but of academics, child psychologists and other child professionals from various countries.

The committee issued its recommendations after questioning the Vatican last month on its implementation of the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child, a U.N. treaty on child protection ratified by the Vatican in 1990.

"The committee is gravely concerned that the Holy See has not acknowledged the extent of the crimes committed, has not taken the necessary measures to address cases of child sexual abuse and to protect children, and has adopted policies and practices which have led to the continuation of the abuse by, and the impunity of, the perpetrators," the report said.

The Vatican provided the committee with detailed information on its new protocols in cases of clergy sexual abuse, saying that it calls on bishops worldwide to report suspected cases of sexual abuse to authorities for investigation.

Austen Ivereigh, coordinator of Catholic Voices, a church advocacy group, said the report was a "shocking display of ignorance and high-handedness."

He said the committee did not seem to know that the Vatican does not run individual Catholic parishes or oversee their finances or legal matters. Worse, it failed to report the progress that has been made in recent years, he said.

"All institutions failed back then and the church was among them, but what the church has become in the last two decades is the leading proponent of safeguarding (of children) in the world, and now among the best in the world," he told the BBC.

Ivereigh said the Vatican has told bishops they have a "clear obligation" to report abuse to civil authorities.

"It's quite false to say anything the Vatican says has resulted in action failed to be taken," he said.

Pope Francis has earned accolades worldwide since becoming pope, but has still drawn fire from critics who say he's done too little to confront abuse. Advocates for victims of child abuse praised the U.N. committee for its report.

"From now on, there must be zero tolerance" for sex abuse in the church and those who help cover it up," said Jon O'Brien of the group Catholics for Choice, which supports abortion on demand. "From now on, there must be zero tolerance" for sex abuse in the church and those who help cover it up.

But the report's criticisms of the Vatican for its beliefs showed that the committee was biased against Catholics, said the church. Committee members said the church should change Catholic canon law to ensure children's rights and health care.

Among the beliefs it said must be rethought for the sake of children is the church's stand that gay sex is a sin, abortion is the taking of a life, and contraception is a wrongful interference with God's plan for married couples.

The Vatican called the demand "an attempt to interfere with Catholic Church teaching on the dignity of human person and in the exercise of religious freedom." Tomasi said the Vatican remained committed to defending and promoting the rights of children.

Committee members said the Vatican should remove "sex stereotyping" from textbooks used in Catholic schools.

"This is a contradiction with the principle of life that the convention itself should support recommending that children be protected before and after birth," said the Vatican. "If a child is eliminated or killed we can no longer talk about rights for this person."

Tomasi said the committee appeared more interested in enforcing the "ideological line" of liberal groups in favor of gay marriage and sexual education in the schools. The church, he said, "cannot certainly give up certain teachings that are part of their deep convictions and also an expression of freedom of religion.

"These are the values that in the tradition of the Catholic Church sustain the common good of society and therefore cannot be renounced."



Copyright 2014 USATODAY.com

Read the original story: Vatican blasts U.N. report on clergy sex abuse

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