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Vatican comes under sharp criticism for sex abuse

GENEVA (AP) - A U.N. committee has been grilling Vatican officials today over their handling of the global priest sex abuse scandal. It was the most intense public questioning to date of Vatican officials over allegations that the church protected pedophile priests at the expense of victims.

The committee in Geneva was armed with hundreds of pages of documents from groups representing victims of clerical abuse. The panel targeted the Holy See's failure to abide by terms of the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child. Among other things, the treaty calls for signatories to take all appropriate measures to keep children from harm.

The Vatican insisted that it doesn't have much authority to sanction pedophile priests around the world, saying it's up to local law enforcement to do so. But officials conceded that more needs to be done.

The Vatican's former sex crimes prosecutor told the committee, "The Holy See gets it." He added that "there are certain things that need to be done differently." The official said there has to be "more transparency and accountability on the local level."

The U.N. committee is made up of independent experts. It will deliver non-binding recommendations next month.