A United Nations human rights committee has made an unprecedented demand that the Vatican "immediately remove" all clergy accused of child abuse and turn them over to civil authorities.
The U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child on Wednesday called on the Holy See to acknowledge sexual abuse of tens of thousands of children and hand over its archives on the subject.
The committee said it is "gravely concerned" that the church has not acknowledged the extent of the crimes committed, has not taken necessary measures to address such cases, and has adopted policies that permit the continuation of such practices with no consequences.
This is the most blunt message yet to come from the committee to the Vatican about child sexual abuse by clergy. Last month, Vatican officials faced a daylong questioning by Committee members.
The Vatican responded Wednesday, issuing a statement saying the U.N. report would be "submitted to a thorough study and examination."
It added, however, that it views parts of the report as "an attempt to interfere with Catholic Church teaching on the dignity of human person and in the exercise of religious freedom."
The Vatican said it remains committed to "defending and protecting the rights of the child, in line with the principles promoted by the Convention on the Rights of the Child and according to the moral and religious values offered by Catholic doctrine."
Pope Francis created a commission in December to investigate all reported cases of such abuse.