A United Nations committee today, in a 15-page report, denounced the Vatican’s record in allegedly not protecting children from priestly sexual abuse, then went on to question the freedom of the Catholic Church to create and live by her own canon law, asking the Church to change her laws and adopt a secular sexual morality on matters ranging from homosexuality to abortion.
It was a striking attempt to make the case for the imposition of limits by the UN on the freedom of the Church, and on the sovereignty of the Vatican.
The Vatican immediately responded with a vigorous defense of the Church’s right to be free, to be sovereign, to decide her own internal laws and structures.
A shot has been fired — and there has been a response.
But this promises to be only the opening exchange of fire in a long and critically important contest in which global secular authorities will seek to “merge” or “conform” the Church into the UN’s vision of a new global society, while the Church seeks to remain free — as is her right, and duty.
In the long history of the Church, the relations between “secular” and “sacred” authority have never been without tensions.
There is considerable ambiguity in this relationship.
Peter (and, it says, “the other apostles” as well) taught that “we must obey God rather than men.” (Acts 5:29) This became a “proof-text” for Christian civil disobedience against laws Christians believe are unjust down through the ages — for not accepting the command of a government which asks Christians to do something they believe is immoral.
However, Paul taught that the Church and believers are to be “subject” to worldly (secular) authorities. “Let every person be submissive to the governing authorities,” he wrote in the Letter to the Romans. “For there is no authority except that given by God and those who are appointed by God.”
This request to “be submissive” could seem to be in conflict with the instruction of St. Peter; it has been used by Christians down through the centuries to justify “going along” with certain government decrees, even if they seem unwise, or seem to lead toward evil results. [Note: These lines just cited are the beginning of the famous passage on relations between Christians and governing authorities in Romans 13:1-17. Some scripture scholars, notably James Kallas in a 1965 essay, go so far as to argue that this precise section, Roman 13:1-7, could be an interpolation, that is, a later addition, words not written by Paul himself. Why? Because this is the only place in all of his letters where Paul speaks about being subject to secular authorities, and because the textual tradition — that is, the text handed down by the earliest manuscripts — in the last chapters of the Letter to the Romans is confusing and hotly debated. Still, most scholars do accept that these lines are actually by St. Paul.]
So there is a clear instruction to “disobey” immoral laws, and a possibly contradictory instruction to “be submissive” to secular authorities — and there have over the centuries been varying positions along the spectrum between obedience and disobedience.
But even if Christians may disagree about what precise attitude to take toward certain laws, all would agree that a Christian has the right to judge those laws.
And all the more so does the Church have that right.
And this right, the right of the Church, under the Holy See, under Pope Francis, successor of Peter, Vicar of Christ, to be free, is not negotiable.
Here follow three reports which should help give the context of this remarkable “power grab”:
The AP report on the UN document:
UN committee blasts Vatican on sexual abuse, abortion
AP 2/5/2014 3:09:03 PM
VATICAN CITY (AP) — The Vatican “systematically” adopted policies that allowed priests to rape and molest tens of thousands of children over decades, a U.N. human rights committee said Wednesday, urging the Holy See to open its files on pedophiles and bishops who concealed their crimes.
In a devastating report hailed by abuse victims, the U.N. committee severely criticized the Holy See for its attitudes toward homosexuality, contraception and abortion and said it should change its own canon law to ensure children’s rights and their access to health care are guaranteed.
The Vatican promptly objected and its U.N. ambassador accused the committee of having betrayed the international body’s own objectives by allowing itself to be swayed by pro-gay ideologues.
He said it appeared the committee simply hadn’t listened when the Holy See outlined all the measures it has taken to protect children.
The committee issued its recommendations after subjecting the Holy See to a daylong interrogation last month on its implementation of the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child, the key U.N. treaty on child protection, which the Holy See ratified in 1990.
Critically, the committee rejected the Vatican’s longstanding argument that it doesn’t control bishops or their abusive priests, saying the Holy See was responsible for implementing the treaty not just in the Vatican City State but around the world “as the supreme power of the Catholic Church through individuals and institutions placed under its authority.”
The Committee on the Rights of the Child is one of 10 U.N. bodies that monitor implementation of the core U.N. human rights treaties, and its 18 members include academics, sociologists and child development specialists from around the globe.
Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, who headed the Vatican delegation at the Jan. 16 session in Geneva, was clearly taken aback by the scathing tone of the report.
“It seems as if the document was prepared before the committee meeting, where the Vatican gave detailed responses on various points that weren’t reported in this concluding document or seem to not have been taken into consideration,” he told Vatican Radio.
While most attention has focused on child sexual abuse, the committee’s recommendations extended far beyond, into issues about discrimination against children and their rights to adequate health care, matters that touch on core Church teaching about life and sexual morals.
The committee, for example, urged the Vatican to amend its canon law to identify circumstances where access to abortion can be permitted for children, such as to save the life of a young mother.
It urged the Holy See to ensure that sexual education, including access to information about contraception and preventing HIV, is mandatory in Catholic schools.
It called for the Holy See to use its moral authority to condemn discrimination against homosexual children, or children raised by homosexual couples.
Tomasi said the call to reconsider abortion ran against the U.N. treaty’s own objectives to protect the life of children before and after birth, and he accused pro-gay rights and gay marriage advocacy groups of having “reinforced an ideological line” with the committee.
Austen Ivereigh, coordinator of Catholic Voices, a Church advocacy group, said the report was a “shocking display of ignorance and high-handedness.”
The Fox News report
VATICAN CITY, February 5 — The Vatican blasted back at a UN-authored Rights of Children report, saying its criticism of the Church’s stand on homosexuality is driven by critics of the Church’s “non-negotiable” teachings.
The U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child, whose members have included
such nations as Saudi Arabia, Syria, Uganda and Thailand, accused the Vatican
Wednesday of “systematically” adopting policies that allowed priests to rape
and molest tens of thousands of children over decades, and urged it to open
its files on pedophiles and bishops who concealed their crimes.
Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the head of the Holy See’s delegation to the
United Nations in Geneva, told Vatican Radio that non-governmental
organizations which favor gay marriage probably influenced the committee to
reinforce an “ideological line” in the report.
He did not note the irony of nations like Syria, which has used poison gas on children, Uganda, where kids have been forced to fight, kill and die in wars, and Thailand, which has long been accused of tolerating a child slave trade, having served on the committee, which currently consists of representatives from 18 nations.
The UN report also severely criticized the Holy See for its attitudes toward
homosexuality, contraception and abortion, and said it should change its own
canon law to ensure children’s rights and their access to health care are
The report called for Francis’ nascent abuse commission to conduct an
independent investigation of all cases of priestly abuse and the way the
Catholic hierarchy has responded over time, and urged the Holy See to
establish clear rules for the mandatory reporting of abuse to police and to
support laws that allow victims to report crimes even after the statute of
limitations has expired.
The committee also urged the Vatican to amend its canon law to identify
circumstances where access to abortion can be permitted for children, such
as to save the life of a young mother. It urged the Holy See to ensure that
sexual education, including access to information about contraception and
preventing HIV, is mandatory in Catholic schools. It called for the Holy See
to use its moral authority to condemn discrimination against homosexual
children or children raised by homosexual couples.
The Vatican said it would study the report and in a statement reiterated its
commitment to defending and protecting children’s rights that are enshrined
in the treaty. But it took issue with the committee’s recommendations to
change core Church teaching on life.
“The Holy See does, however, regret to see in some points of the concluding
observations an attempt to interfere with Catholic Church teaching on the
dignity of human person and in the exercise of religious freedom,” the
Here is Bill Donahue’s comment:
DEMAGOGIC U.N. REPORT ON VATICAN
The United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child has just released a report on the way the Vatican has responded to the sexual abuse of minors by priests.
The 15-page report contains not a single footnote, endnote, or any other mode of attribution.
But it does provide plenty of evidence as to its real agenda.
The U.N. panel is using the sexual abuse of minors as a pretext for its true objective: it wants the Vatican to submit to its authority, and not just in instances involving international law—it wants the Catholic Church to change Canon Law and to adopt a secular sexual ethics.
As such, it is one of the most ambitious power-grab efforts ever undertaken by a U.N. committee.
The panel is also profoundly ignorant of the data.
On p. 3 of the report, the panel says the Holy See should “undertake the necessary steps to withdraw all its reservations and to ensure the [U.N.] Convention’s precedence over internal laws and regulations.” (Its emphasis.) It is quite explicit: “The Committee recommends that the Holy See undertake a comprehensive review of its normative framework, in particular Canon Law, with a view to ensuring its full compliance with the Convention.”
In other words, the teaching body of the Catholic Church, the Magisterium, i.e., the pope in communion with the bishops, should yield to the U.N.
This would be the equivalent of asking the United States Congress to make sure its laws are in compliance with U.N. strictures.
Hubris is too mild a word to describe this unmitigated arrogance.
On pp. 12-13, the panel says it wants the Catholic Church to change its teachings on abortion and contraception; it also says the Church needs to do more about HIV/AIDS.
It is painfully obvious that these panelists have not thought through this issue. To wit: if everyone followed the Church’s teachings on sexuality, we would not have this problem in the first place. To be exact, those who acquire HIV/AIDS typically do so because they live a reckless life, in sharp contradistinction to the Church’s plea for restraint.
The panel is so intent on policing the Church that it demands a Canon Law change in the use of the term “illegitimate children.”
It also directs the Vatican to order Catholic schools to change its textbooks, getting rid of alleged “gender stereotypes.”
Not only is this another example of its abuse of power, the panel provides not a single piece of evidence to buttress its claim.
Someone should also tell these experts that the Vatican does not tell Catholic schools what textbooks, or curricula, it should adopt. But to control freaks, delegation is a difficult concept to grasp.
The panel lectures the Vatican on the need for “awareness programs,” urging “systematic training” for those who work with minors. Just who do they think started these initiatives?
We’re not the ones who lack mandatory training programs—the guilty parties are found in other religious communities, and in the public schools. This explains why sexual abuse is not a problem in Catholic communities today the way it is elsewhere.
The panel needs to get up to speed, assuming it has any real interest in this issue.
On p. 8, the panel instructs the Vatican to end corporal punishment, saying it must amend “both Canon Law and Vatican City State laws.” Ironically, the U.N. has now detailed how 10,000 Syrian children have been killed and tortured in the last three years.
Syrian kids are being raped and beaten “with metal cabals, whips and wooden and metal batons”; they are also being subjected to “electric shocks, including to the genitals.” Their fingernails and toenails are being ripped out of them, and they are being lacerated with cigarette burns.
Most of these barbaric acts are being conducted by government agents, yet there is no demand that Syrian officials yield to the U.N. It is too busy wondering if Sister Mary Alice is taking a ruler to a miscreant student.
The one attempt at providing evidence is a colossal failure: on p. 7 it cites the Magdalene Laundries as an institution that forced girls “to work in slavery like conditions and were often subject to inhuman, cruel and degrading treatment as well as to physical and sexual abuse.”
This is a bald-face lie: the McAleese Report, an investigation authorized by the Irish government, shows that none of this is true.
To read my analysis, “Myths of the Magdalene Laundries,” see the “Special Reports” section on the Catholic League website.
The panel’s report is libelous.
Finally, the report says the Church needs to end the practice of “baby boxes.” In many countries, there are drop boxes next to orphanages; they are placed there to entice girls who are pregnant out-of-wedlock, and who cannot care for their babies, to allow others to raise their child. It is a humane practice, one that is widely practiced in South Korea.
What is not humane is to kill babies in utero, which is precisely what this U.N. panel recommends.
For sheer demagoguery, this report cannot be beaten. It is as malicious as it is inaccurate.
“You live in a deranged age, more deranged that usual, because, in spite of great scientific and technological advances, man has not the faintest idea of who he is or what he is doing.” —Walker Percy (1916-1990), American Catholic convert and writer, author of The Message in the Bottle and Lost in the Cosmos (Note: I visited Percy in Louisiana in 1977 after writing my college thesis on his work).