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At UN, Vatican sex abuse compared with torture

GENEVA (AP) - A U.N. committee is comparing the Vatican's handling of the global priest sex abuse scandal with torture. And that raises the possibility that the failure to investigate clergy and their superiors could have broader legal implications.

But the Vatican's top envoy in Geneva today insisted that the Holy See is getting its house in order after a decade-long effort to deal with the sex abuse scandal. Archbishop Silvano Tomasi said in several areas, the church is seeing a "stabilization and even a decline in cases of pedophilila."

He spoke to a panel of experts in charge of a U.N. treaty against torture. The Vatican ratified the treaty 12 years ago. This was the church's first appearance before the committee.

Experts peppered the Vatican with tough questions to be answered tomorrow. They asked why the Vatican believes its responsibility for protecting against torture only applies within tiny Vatican City. And they asked why its report on implementation of the treaty was almost a decade late.

A human rights attorney says a finding by the committee that the systematic abuse amounts to torture could open the floodgates to abuse lawsuits dating back decades -- because there are no statutes of limitations on torture cases.