Scathing UN Report Overreaches But Puts Holy See on the Defensive

Bureaucratic overreach, a fundamental misunderstanding of the interplay of canon law with secular authority, a headline-grabbing “food fight”: these are just some of the criticisms of a recent broadside from a United Nations committee reviewing the Vatican’s global record on the protection of children. A crucial error in a scathing report from the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child was its presumption that the Holy See maintains something akin to a secular government’s control over its “territory,” which according to this interpretation is not confined to the borders of Vatican City but encompasses the worldwide Catholic Church itself.

Revisiting several well-publicized instances of clerical or religious wrongdoing—some dating back decades—the committee, which tracks compliance with the U.N.’s Convention on the Rights of the Child, charged that the Vatican, a signatory state, was not doing enough to prevent clerical sexual abuse of children. It even suggested that, for the good of children, the Catholic Church should change its teaching on abortion and contraception. Among a laundry list of sometimes oddly explicit recommendations, the committee requested that the Vatican prohibit interpretations of Scripture that might be used to justify corporal punishment and urged a review of textbooks in Catholic schools to rid them of gender stereotyping.

Advertisement

An international law specialist and a keen observer of the proceedings in Europe called the outcome of the sometimes contentious process a missed opportunity for the United Nations to put real pressure on the Holy See regarding its policies on the protection of children. “They got their hits in for the news cycle,” the attorney said, “but they didn’t make progress along the lines of the [convention itself], and the Holy See wasn’t put in a position where it could respond in a constructive way” to criticism. That crucial opening would have set the foundation for future dialogue and progress. Now the tension engendered by the report could impede the diplomatic engagement necessary to maintain momentum toward the child protection and rights goals of the convention.

The attorney, who wished to remain anonymous, said because the U.N. report drifted so far afield of the parameters of the convention itself, it will be easy for Vatican authorities to dismiss its findings if they wish to do so. “They thought that they were going to shame the Holy See before the entire world,” the attorney told America. And in so doing, “they overstepped their mandate.”

Had the committee instead focused on pushing for compliance with international norms on child protection within the Holy See’s actual territorial confines—through which thousands of children pass each day—the attorney argued it could have had a meaningful impact on the global church. Imagine, for example, if officials at the Holy See adopted the same kinds of training and protection policies now commonly enforced in dioceses, seminaries and schools across the United States? That powerful example of attentiveness to child safety and preventative interventions against child abuse would be difficult for bishops’ conferences around the world to ignore.

The Vatican will follow the procedures foreseen by the treaty “with openness to criticisms that are justified, but it will do so with courage and determination, without timidity,” said Federico Lombardi, S.J., the Vatican spokesperson, on Feb. 7, two days after the U.N. report made global headlines. Committee members went “beyond their competence and interfered in the doctrinal and moral positions of the Catholic Church,” Father Lombardi said, adding that its suggestions reveal an “ideological vision of sexuality.”

The Vatican, Father Lombardi said, has repeatedly explained in detail to the committee and to other U.N. agencies that it has direct legal jurisdiction only over those who live and work in the small territory of Vatican City State. While it has canonical and spiritual jurisdiction over Catholics around the world, priests and bishops are subject to the laws of their own nations.

“Is this impossible to understand, or do they not want to understand it,” he asked. “In both cases, one has a right to be surprised.”

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
William Atkinson
3 years 10 months ago
It's a long long time coming, freedom for everyone at every stage within the church, Jesus taught that Moses gave us the Law for his time, and Jesus changed His teaching concerning life, liberty and the pursuit of the Kingdom (happiness). Its time for the church to move beyond Roman times and follow the teaching of Jesus as far as the actions of His church, follow in His footsteps and open the church to all. I'm sure if He was here there definitely would be women in all levels of the hierarchy, religious orders, Bishopry authority, and even Papacy. Hanging on to the traditions of year 1 is unjustified and in itself a serious wrong that must be righted it is an evil that must come about. Additionally Jesus came for everyone and the sacraments should (must) be available to all, from Baptism to Eucharist (Jesus Himself), Forgiveness and Orders. The withholding of sacraments for political and religious reasons is so unlike Christ He came for all, not the privileged, All are called to the priesthood and these leaders must be sought from all peoples in all walks of life, not just a few selected males who tend to be self serving and self centered..
Paul Ferris
3 years 10 months ago
"The Vatican, Father Lombardi said, has repeatedly explained in detail to the committee and to other U.N. agencies that it has direct legal jurisdiction only over those who live and work in the small territory of Vatican City State." How disingenuous can Father Lombardi be ? I think Kevin Clarke gives too much support for this red herring in his article. The Vatican sets policy for the whole Catholic world. Hiding behind the notion its legal jurisdiction is only within the confines of Vatican City is preposterous. The leaders of the Church keep saying they are the only ones who can teach Catholic Doctrine on "matters of sexuality." It is the church that maintains an "ideological vision of sexuality." By an absolute prohibition in all cases of contraception, abortion, and same sex marriage it has forfeited the moral power it might have had concerning these and so many subjects. The perfect example of this ideology exists right here in the United States. American Bishops claim to speak for all Catholics when it opposes providing insurance for contraceptives under new health care laws ignoring the fact that the overwhelming majority of Catholics have at one time or another chosen to use some form of birth control not approved by the magisterium. The UN commission only questioned things that most of the laity would question such as: Why would you not allow a child of gay couples to attend a Catholic school ? Why would you not allow the termination of a pregnancy when neither the child nor the mother can be saved without a termination of pregnancy? Why would you not allow a victim of rape or incest to decide whether to carry a pregnancy to term? Why would you oppose condoms for carriers of HIV ? The list could go on and on including women's ordination and female altar girls. No wonder when Pope Francis came out for the first time to bless the people in St. Peter's Square he asked for silence to pray for him. Our leaders need the prayers of the entire people of God. And so we pray to our Father, His Son, and the Holy Spirit to guide us to become better guardians of all God's children.
Paul Ferris
3 years 10 months ago
Hey Kevin (if I may)...it is not called the ROMAN Catholic Church for nothing !!!
Paul Ferris
3 years 10 months ago
What is really disturbing as a "sign of the times" is that the religion that should have the highest ideal of humanity and human rights based on the dogma of the Incarnation....(God created and became human in Jesus Christ) should be judged deficient by a Human Rights Committee based on no agreed concept of the human. By assuming our humanity, Jesus Christ elevated and restored our humanity to a graced divinity. This is what Catholicism teaches and should stand for. Catholicism should be second to none in protecting the children of the world. To argue the legal point of whether the Vatican is just a country the size of a breadbox or the command center of the largest religion in the world shows how badly it has failed.
Marie Rehbein
3 years 10 months ago
“They thought that they were going to shame the Holy See before the entire world,” the attorney told America. And in so doing, “they overstepped their mandate.” The teaching of the Catholic Church regarding morals has become so absolute that it can be considered abusive in such cases where girl children who have been raped are forced to carry fetuses to delivery despite risks to their future fertility or immediate health, where women who are miscarrying are refused help to move the process along lest it be construed as abortion, where the death of a mother of many is considered saintly as compared to aborting the fetus she carries so that she can continue to mother those children she has already born, where children are orphaned because it is immoral for people to protect themselves from deadly disease with condoms. Is it any wonder why the UN would call for a reexamination of Catholic teaching? The Church doesn't need the UN to shame it.
Tim O'Leary
3 years 10 months ago
Marie - You seem to hold the UN as a superior moral teacher than the Catholic Church (as you think the UN is correct in calling for a change in Church teaching). To believe that is to hold to a very different religion - a very different God. Not only must the Church abandon its claim to teaching on faith and morals but it must bow to Mammon. Catholic teaching is that abortion is the killing of an innocent human being and that abortion is therefore the ultimate child abuse. They would be hypocritical if they supported abortion. You think killing an unborn child can be a good thing. Shame on you for that. The UN believes that anal sex is a good alternative for those who prefer it. The Church teaches that that is a perversion of the body. They would be hypocritical if they supported abortion or countenanced sodomy or even promoted it, as the UN wants them to, in their schools and elsewhere.
Marie Rehbein
3 years 10 months ago
Shame on you Tim for equating moral guidance with doctrine.
Tim O'Leary
3 years 10 months ago
Marie - you feel you have the authority to declare the Church's teaching as shameful and their moral teaching as just guidance. Moral teaching is doctrine, not guidance. The ten commandments were not just suggestions or guidance. They were clear moral teaching. Moral truth is no less true than doctrinal truth.
Marie Rehbein
3 years 10 months ago
Tim, you believe that you can earn your way to eternal life by following moral guidance to the letter. This is why you equate guidance with doctrine. The Ten Commandments are completely in accord with human nature. They are an affirmation for those who live in a way that is pleasing to God. Living that way is healthy in this life, but eternal life comes as a gift from God. Mt 22: 36-40: “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” He said to him, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.”The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments. If you love your neighbor as yourself, Tim, do you impose hardships on her that you do not bear yourself? Do you sacrifice her in order to bring another child into this world? The UN rightly recognizes the way guidance treated as doctrine distorts the teaching of Jesus. It does not have to be perfect itself to serve as prophet in this regard.
Tim O'Leary
3 years 10 months ago
Marie - you seems to think the UN is the superior interpreter of the teaching of Jesus over the Church ("The UN recognizes the way guidance treated as doctrine distorts the teaching of Jesus"). They are even prophetic? Pretty clear. I guess we recognize different authorities on the Gospel.
Marie Rehbein
3 years 10 months ago
I notice you do not answer my question. Your loyal defense of the institution is completely in character with the type of person who imposes the teaching of the Church upon others in a way that makes it rightfully subject to criticism from outside institutions.
Paul Ferris
3 years 10 months ago
Tim, I did not read anything about anal sex in the documents you provided. I did not see any advocacy of abortion in the link you provided. No one says the UN is a superior moral teacher than the Catholic Church. I did not read that in the text you provided. What church teaching did the UN call into question ? Could you be more specific ?
Tim O'Leary
3 years 10 months ago
Relating to the attorney mentioned above who thinks the Holy See should adopt the US solution to child protection, is there any evidence there is a problem in the Vatican terrotory. Have there been any substantiated report of child abuse in the Vatican territory? I haven't heard of one. On the other hand, shouldn't all religious and all secular institutions, like the UN and the US public schools, be held to the same optimal standard on child policies? What moral authority does the UN have in protecting children, when their "peacekeepers" bring sexploitation with them on every mission they are involved in, when they promote premarital sex, abortion, deviant sex and lowering the age of consent for sexual activity (making it easier for predators)? They also turn a blind eye (fail to denounce) to the massive industry of teen and young adult pornography or the euthanasia of children (just approved in Belgium).
Paul Ferris
3 years 10 months ago
duplicate comment
Paul Ferris
3 years 10 months ago
I have been unable to read the whole report of the UN Commission but from newspapers reports I believe that negative comments here and in the article above give the wrong impression. The report is not advocating abortion or contraception. It is asking for some nuance in taking moral positions on exceptional cases and it raises further questions about Catholic teaching on gays, etc. . The article above does not deny the widespread abuse of children in all countries by Catholic priests. Father Lombardi denies that the Vatican as a country is -responsible for the widespread cover-up which everyone knows is not true. It is not about Catholic teaching which calls child abuse a sin. It is the Catholic "ideological vision of sexuality" which refuses to call it a crime. It is also a well known fact that the Vatican refused to turn over documents to lawyers in Milwaukee claiming that as a country it had diplomatic immunity from doing so. Last time I checked Milwaukee was in the United States not in the Vatican. The Church has used its status as a worldwide organization to transfer priests from country to country to avoid prosecution of abusive priests who give a bad name to the vast majority of good priests out there. As a country the Vatican is no bigger than a breadbox. As a religion it is the command center, the cerebral cortex of the world's largest organized religion.
Tim O'Leary
3 years 10 months ago
Paul - you can't whitewash what the UN said or claimed, or its bigoted anti-Catholic attitude. See another article on this website and the comments for more information and discussion http://www.americamagazine.org/issue/un-urges-changes-vatican-policies. And here is a link to the 16-page report. http://catholicvoicesmedia.files.wordpress.com/2014/02/un-report.pdf. And a detailed review of their conclusions (http://cvcomment.org/2014/01/16/the-vatican-before-the-un-nailing-the-myths/) . The Committee showed a willful denial of the reforms instituted since 2002 and accepted every bad faith charge and bigoted rumor peddled by anti-Catholic organizations and failed to investigate these charges. You and the Committee misunderstand the resources or powers of the Holy See with respect to the Governments where the crimes were committed (how many cases are reported to have occurred in Vatican City itself!!!). If an abuse occurred in any state involving Catholics, they default the responsibility to the Church and not to the local authorities who alone have the power to prosecute and imprison. In addition to removing their absolute objection to killing the unborn and to homosexuality, the committee wants the Holy See to remove their objection to providing contraception to adolescents (56) and remove all barriers and taboos surrounding adolescent sexuality (57a). It is clear they are talking about premarital and underage sex as they also want the Vatican to warn adolescents against early marriage (57e). Here is a direct quote: “The Committee is seriously concerned about the negative consequences of the Holy See’s position and practices of denying adolescents’ access to contraception” (56). They also want the Holy See to change the definition of the family in Canon Law (49). By its negligent mischaracterization of the word delict, the Committee pretends the Holy See does not see child abuse as a crime. They (in 43c & 44d) want the word delict changed to crime only when referring to child abuse. But, Canon law uses delict 74 times, for all sorts of crimes. As even wikipedia would have told them, a delict is any breach of criminal law. Were they so incompetent to not see this or are they intentionally misleading the reader who is not familiar with Canon law. By your statement above, it looks like you fell for this ruse. You are also baring false witness with the charge that abuse of children by priests is "widespread" in "all countries." Do you have statistics by country of substantiated cases since 2002? You say the Church transfers priests from country to country to avoid prosecution of abusive priests." Please provide country by country statistics of these many transfers (again since 2002) or stop bearing false witness.
Paul Ferris
3 years 10 months ago
Tim, The Vatican appoints the Bishops who heads the dioceses. They can replace Bishops if they do not conform to Vatican doctrine. Priests who are laicized may appeal to the Vatican. What the Vatican is doing is using casuistry to avoid embarrassment. "We are just a poor country no bigger than the size of a breadbasket. We have no authority outside of the territory of the Vatican where we are museum curators of the world's most valuable art. Only 29 children live here. Tim did you know that in the 1800's Vatican choir boys were castrated so that their voices wouldn't change. The Vatican might apply their casuistry to some of the sexual problems worldwide with justice for gays, children, and married couples. Finally I love the Catholic Church. I believe with St. Pope John XXIII who said: ones friends are not the ones who flatter you but ones who tell you the truth about yourselves. Pope Francis is on track to do that which is why he is getting praise from every quarter.
Tim O'Leary
3 years 10 months ago
Paul - if you truly love the Church and recognize its Christ-appointed duty to teach faith and morals, then listen to its teachings and live the Christian life as interpreted by the Church, including our great Pope Francis, who fully teaches the moral law in continuity with the previous popes (including John XXIII). Even if his emphasis and approach is different, the teaching has not changed. That is the sure way to your own salvation.
Paul Ferris
3 years 10 months ago
Tim, Thank you for providing the link to the UN report. I missed it the first time. I did not find much that was new or not already known in the report. I did not see any reference to advocating abortion or contraception or changing church doctrine. There were some strong suggestions. If the Vatican does not like it then it can withdraw from the convention. I actually could not find much to disagree with in the Commissions recommendations. What were objections beside the fact that you do not like this Commission calling out the Vatican ? You asked for statistics. Well here is one. When I was ten, a priest used me for his sexual gratification. He was latter convicted in another case and sent to prison for a short time. Finally the church sent him to a monastery in an Eastern European country to avoid further embarrassment to the local diocese. He is now deceased. I forgive him and pray that God will have mercy on his sou. I cannot judge how much he struggled with his problem.
Tim O'Leary
3 years 10 months ago
Paul - re your second paragraph, A single experience is not a statistic, although I am glad you were able to forgive your abuser and pray for his salvation. But, as you describe the case, the priest was convicted and imprisoned by the state and released by the state, as is their responsibility. Once he served his time, I think the monastery was the best place for him, far away from children, as seems to have happened. What else can one do, from a Christian perspective? Throw them to the lions? Abandon them to their demons? I do not think society would be served by giving the power to imprison to clerics, but therefore I can't hold them responsible for the release of the perp once the time is done. The Catholic Church in recent years has a zero tolerance policy for any priest accused of abuse. They have to immediately notify the police. Then, it is the state's responsibility to convict or acquit. The role of the cleric is to just cooperate in the investigation. Only after the state is finished its work can the Church decide if it should act even beyond the state (as in defrocking or returning the innocent to service). The Vatican should not act until after the state has acted. They too should not have the power to imprison. The greatest problem with the UN report is that it negligently didn't recognize this correct process that the Church follows, even though they were told how it works. They went back in time and attacked the Church for past sins and failed to recognize the remedies. Then they went way beyond their remit and preached a secular religion to the Church, including promotion of extramarital sex and contraception. By the way, the UN should state that they will follow this same method as the Church in dealing with accusations against their peacekeepers. And schools and sports teams should follow the same rules.
Paul Ferris
3 years 10 months ago
Tim, The visible Catholic Church meaning the hierarchy and the Vatican play a very clever game. It is highly centralized when it wants to be and highly decentralized when it wants to be. To quote the former Church Lady on Saturday Night Live: "how special, how convenient." This is why statistics and the truth are very hard to get at. It took countless law suits and billions of dollars in penalties before the Vatican and Dioceses even admitted there was a problem. You are an intelligent person Tim so you have to acknowledge what I am saying. It was the stonewalling, deflection, diversion, and denial that may have led to parts of the UN Commission's report. I was not impressed by parts of the UN report but overall I think it was on the right track. I agree with Michael Barberi about that the defensive reaction is the real problem. The report is not long and the Vatican can respond article by article. Another problem I see is that whenever criticism of the Church is made, some of the laity circle the wagons and say you have no right to question a Church which teaches the truth about everything even though sometime we don't follow it. My love for the Church includes the visible Church but my faith goes much deeper to Christ and the Mystery of the Trinity which is part of the Mystical reality of the Church. I studied ecclesiology at Catholic University. My professor was a Jesuit, Avery Dulles who wrote many books. One of them is a classic called Models of the Church. If you are not familiar with it I suggest you read it. I think a lot of people's faith is threatened when they hear anything negative about the Roman Catholic Church because they do not realize the word Church is not a univocal concept or reality. Again thanks for providing me with the link. I think you make great points in some of your response. I think my salvation is in the hands of a merciful God who sent His Son into the world to save us all including members of the UN Commission on the Child and the officials of the Vatican.
Paul Ferris
3 years 10 months ago
I do not want to go into detail of my one statistic I provided but sending the priest to the monastery in an Eastern European country did not end the affair. I googled his name and there he was in a picture in a monastery surrounded by boys. Predators don't think like you and me. This priest was a magnet for boys.
Michael Barberi
3 years 10 months ago
It is truly disingenuous and irresponsible to exaggerate the real meaning of what people say, be it a U.N. report or a fellow Catholics who argue both sides of an issue. I do not profess to have read the U.N. report but if there is any redeeming value in it, then the Vatican should not be taking a obstinate and defensive position or an absurd one in condemning the whole of it. It is clear that: 1. The sexual abuse of children by clergy and the cover-up by bishops were tolerated by hierarchy based on the distorted belief that they were protecting the reputation of the Church from scandal. The Maciel case is particularly offensive and both JP II and Ratzinger/Benedict XVI knew of the overwhelming evidence of his horrific crimes long before Maciel was asked to step down and spend the rest of his life in penance. This was a far cry from justice. If the Church is saying that the Holy See/Roman Curia/Vatican Hierarchy inclusive of the Pope is only responsible for heinous crimes committed by people within Vatican City walls, then this is both absurd and misleading. The Vatican dictates Catholic doctrine as well as clergy practices to all bishops and priests throughout the world. It may be argued that practices are flexible are implemented by bishops. Nevertheless, Rome does what Rome wants and this means being lenient or rigid when it comes to what diocese can and cannot do. Clearly, the Church has implemented reforms and guidelines since the sex abuse scandal surfaced. However, many reports attest that some diocese continue to act in secrecy, with limited transparency, and do not hand over all documents pertaining to any type of investigation of child sex abuse by clergy. Many clergy have been brought to justice, but not one bishop. 2. Apologist define any call for abortion reform as merely a call for abortion at any time for any reason. What is missing is what most Catholics are calling for: that the Church's teaching should morally permit the termination of a pregnancy if the fetus is threatening the life of the mother and both the mother and the fetus will die with certainty unless the pregnancy is terminated…thus saving one life instead of allowing two to die. Somehow, this is never acknowledged by apologists. They only talk about abortion on demand. 3. When contraception is discussed, apologist only see contraception as intrinsically evil under all circumstances, ends and intentions. They fail to acknowledge any truth to the argument that under certain circumstances contraception is not only reasonable and responsible but a moral obligation…..e.g., for a mother with children who is threatened by another pregnancy….or a woman who had an horrific miscarriage and will either likely have another miscarriage if pregnancy occurs or cannot become pregnant again because of emotional and physical hardship. Apart from legitimate philosophical and theological arguments that strongly call for a responsible reform of Humanae Vitae, there are many other case examples in existential reality that argue for such reform as well. However, apologists will always repeat the narrative from authority and deflect from any reasoned argument for a call for responsible reform. The U.N. report may be an irresponsible over-reach as some claim. However, instead of trashing the report because the Church and its policies are being criticized, it might be a better strategy to find a middle ground or some element of truth in the U.N. report and offer a responsible solution. If this cannot be done, then a repeat of what is being done is better than deflection, denial and calling the report writers incompetent.
Paul Ferris
3 years 10 months ago
Michael, an awesome post. I purchased Contraception by Noonan and understand it much better because of my experience of marriage. Thank you again for your posts. Please see my replies to Tim posted this morning. One of the links he provided was to the Commission report. I think the report is a stretch in many places but as I mention to Tim it is very hard to get to facts when dealing with the Vatican. The reason is that the Vatican can claim to be the center of the church with total authority and then claim it is a decentralized organization not responsible for what dioceses do. As the Church Lady on Saturday Night Live used to say, "how special, how convenient."
Tim O'Leary
3 years 10 months ago
It is really unfortunate that some of the respondents below feel free to give an opinion about these matters without first reading the UN’s short report (it is only 16 pages) or the critiques from Catholics who have done so (http://cvcomment.org/2014/02/08/the-un-and-the-vatican-understanding-what-went-wrong/. Why is it just to default to support any criticism of the Church and then refuse to listen with an open mind to the response of the Magisterium, while then complaining that the Magisterium is the one not listening? Keep in mind that the only way the Vatican could satisfy the UN would be to become much more centralized than presently, taking control of all governance away from Bishops and national congregations, and even from schools and religious institutions. They would have to directly control funds and increase global financial control. But, even if one leaves aside the committee's outdated and unjust criticism of the Church’s handling of child abuse, and their presumption to burden the Church with massively expensive and ineffective bureaucratic obligations, the much greater concern going forward is their claim to superiority over the Gospel. In section 14, the UN Committee explicitly demands that Canon Law be subordinated to the ideology of the UN and they give many examples of what this means throughout the report. Yet the UN is just the conventional wisdom of the secular committee members, ever changeable and with no more authority than any academic debating club, or you and I. Even less so, since it's membership includes representatives of dictators and oppressive regimes. The Church should clearly state in their response they will not subordinate the Gospel to the UN. They may need to leave the Convention over this, for the good of the Lord’s Evangelical mission. They refused to bow down to the Roman Emperor and they should refuse to bow down now, even to the point of martyrdom.
Paul Ferris
3 years 10 months ago
Tim, a good response and great link. Austen Ivereigh, the author is a strong voice as a defender of the Roman Catholic Church. This whole debate is being carried on more like a trial with attorneys on both sides trying to crush the other side. Not a good way to find the truth. It is more about winning than about truth.
Michael Barberi
3 years 10 months ago
Frankly, I have no real interest in defending or criticizing the U.N. report. From critics on both sides of the sex abuse scandal, much of the report appears to be irresponsible in that not all the evidence was positioned in a balanced, thoughtful and accurate manner. My specific comments were focused on the larger issue about justice, meaning that while many priests were appropriately dealt with, not one bishop faced true justice by the Church. As for the other issues on abortion, et al, I was not defending the U.N. report in what appeared to be a calling for a change in doctrine based on the report's secular reasoning, but merely to point out that legitimate reasoning for responsible reform of certain teachings often go nowhere because the issues are never truly dealt with in a balanced way. I agree that the focus of the criticisms of the U.N. report were on the irresponsible shortcomings and unsubstantiated assertions in the report. Unfortunately, whatever legitimate concerns about the truth there may have been in the report, were understandably ignored. Nevertheless, this does not in any way bridge the loss of credibility that the sex abuse scandal has inflicted on the hierarchy. Only time and the leadership of Pope Francis will help bridge this gap.
Paul Ferris
3 years 10 months ago
No matter what one thinks of the UN Commission on the Rights of Children report, it is not as bad as what Jesus says about causing scandal to children. He said perpetrators who cause scandal should have a millstone tied around their necks and dropped into the bottom of the sea. We get comfortable with language sometime and forget that what child abuse often means is child rape. I think it is safe to say that rape of a child is the worst form of scandal. Covering it up is also an offense punishable by dropping one to the bottom of the sea with a millstone tied from ones neck. It may be fortunate for some in the Vatican that Jesus was not on the UN Commission.
Tim O'Leary
3 years 10 months ago
But Paul - it was concern for scandal that got us into this mess in the first place, where bishops were concerned that charges of abuse committed years ago would cause scandal to the faithful now, even if the past event was difficult or impossible to verify? They now realize that the concern about scandal should be subordinated to the rights of the abused, which is a good step, in my mind. In any case, your reference to Luke 17:2 "It would be better for them to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around their neck than to cause one of these little ones to stumble" is well taken. We should be very careful doing anything that promotes sins or hurts our children. This is why the Church is so against liberal pornography laws or liberal how-to & "condoms-for-everyone" sex ed in schools, which only sow the seeds for seduction.
Paul Ferris
3 years 9 months ago
Well if that is what the bishops were worried about they obviously got it wrong. I have a theory that I have not read before. I think the priests and moral theologians were the first ones to believe in the principle: "it is just sex." To many males sex is often just a physical act, still a sin of the flesh if you will. I don't think men realize sometimes how profoundly psychological sex with a minor or anyone for that matter really is. I also think that the way confession is viewed and administered leads at times to minimize the lasting damage and effect that sex abuse has caused. If a priest is sincerely sorry for his sinful action he can simply confess it, say five our Fathers and five hail Marys, and move on with life. Even the bishops had to rely on psychologists, some who said that pedophilia was a disease that with treatment could be cured. Since we are all sinners and in need of God's mercy why shouldn't that be applied to abusive priests who express sincere sorry. In some cases that may have been enough but some of the priests were and are psychopathic predators who just took advantage of their position and access to altar boys. I was taught that the Church always went easy on sins of the flesh because of our weakness but was more severe with sins of pride. In all of this the victims fall outside the process. They suffer the temporal effects of the abuse. Jesus saw deeper and that is why he spoke out so strongly against scandal toward children. I would agree that the Church should be against liberal pornography, condoms for everyone, etc. but when they eliminate the role of conscience and try to be the last word for married couples they weaken their moral authority on other issues. I would have to argue gay marriage, which to you is nothing but anal sex. Did they ever think that one way to reduce the number of abortions is to support safe sex where conceptions never take place. The Church can continue to hold up the value of chastity, abstinence but as Pope Francis has said there is a difference between ideals and realities. I think somewhere in the middle stands virtue.
Tim O'Leary
3 years 9 months ago
Paul - I do not think you (and Michael, and many others) have thought your positions through to the end. If you think gay marriage is a good, you must also believe oral and anal sex is morally good, as it would be strange to bless a sexually inactive gay marriage, and the Episcopalians do not expect celibacy in their blessed marriages. But, if they are a good, then what sexual acts could be wrong among consenting adults, including those same activities with consenting women, and why confine it to just two partners? Any parsing would seem arbitrary and self-serving. The procreative obligation (of any part of the marriage) goes right out the window, and one is left with some sort of unitive alone idea. And then you get to the age of consent, and the power of seduction and recruitment under a "non-discrimination" umbrella, even in our public schools. You may say nothing is wrong, which is the belief of the secular world today. Certainly, masturbation and contraception would be just fine with this logic. Surely, one who accepts these arguments I list above would be much more prone to the "it's just sex" delusion that you agree can only lead to more sexual abuse? But, then, you have to explain away the severe warnings in the Old Testament, Jesus's words about fornication and adultery and Paul's even more explicit words about homosexuality in Romans, the Church Fathers and the whole 2000 year Christian tradition of Catholics and Protestants, at least until a few decades ago. And you do this based not on any authority of the Holy Spirit but on your own reasoning or those of the secular world, using individual conscience as a way not to discover the truth and bind oneself to it, but as a safety net (or "get out of jail" card) in case you find out your were wrong on judgment day. Is that the way to moral truth in your life? Is that the life Jesus is calling us to?
Marie Rehbein
3 years 9 months ago
It's the relationship, not the act, that can be evaluated as moral or immoral. It's really odd to think that God is keeping track of how you perform, but if that keeps things interesting, I guess it's OK.
Tim O'Leary
3 years 9 months ago
Marie - God does not have to keep track of anything. He knows everything past, present and future (and even possibilities) right now all the time. But, you can't mean that a relationship can justify any act? What about pedophilia, sadomasochism, adultery, polyamory, etc. Are you saying no act can be judged bad if it is done with love?
Marie Rehbein
3 years 9 months ago
Pedophilia is not an act, sadomasochism is not an act, adultery is not an act, polyamory is not an act. You always exaggerate and distort what is being written in someone's comments. You wrote "If you think gay marriage is a good, you must also believe oral and anal sex is morally good". You wrote "masturbation and contraception would be just fine". Oral sex, anal sex, masturbation are all actions that can be immoral, but, according to my conscience, only if they objectify someone. Contraception is a practice that can be selfish if it is enabling someone to use someone else in a way that leaves to obvious evidence (pregnancy). However, contraception is also a practice that can be an act of love done out of consideration for another person. In other words, they can be sinful and they can be not sinful. What God keeps track of is your intent. I think your intent in replying to these comments might not meet God's standards.
Tim O'Leary
3 years 9 months ago
Marie - you are avoiding my question, probably because you do not have an answer. Pedophilia, S&M, adultery are all associated with specific acts. You list some acts, certainly declared sinful by the Scriptures and the Church. Yet you declare them, according to your conscience, moral if they do not objectify someone. I wonder what the test for objectify is? Is rape always included in your definition of "objectify"? Can S&M involve rape and still avoid the "objectify" sin? What if someone else's conscience does not see a problem with "objectify"? Would it be OK for them then? In any case, it just goes to show how useless an individual conscience can be in determining objective morality.
Marie Rehbein
3 years 9 months ago
YES Tim Rape Always Objectifies Someone. If you think it is simply one's sexual passions running away with one, you are completely ignorant of the crime and are using the word incorrectly. If someone else's conscience does not see anything wrong with treating other people like objects, that person is typically called a sociopath or extreme narcissist. You write these things as if without the severe limitations being placed on you, you would like to engage in these behaviors.
Tim O'Leary
3 years 9 months ago
Marie - you might want to reflect on the intent you are showing with your last line. I took an extreme example to show you that your use of conscience as a self-justifier does not at all protect one from being wrong. But, am I to understand that if I and the Church consider homosexual sex to be morally sinful at all times, then we must be sociopaths or extreme narcissists (I note you default to psychiatric rather than moral terms)? You are trying so hard to avoid the idea that there is an objective right and wrong, independent of your conscience. It is that objective truth the Church must teach.
Marie Rehbein
3 years 9 months ago
Tim, I think that the Church and you obsess about sex. I think you should be free to adopt whatever practices you feel are morally correct. I do not think you can be absolutely right on this matter as it pertains to other people. My understanding of the lives of homosexuals is that in large numbers they have found casual sexual encounters unsatisfying and so have put an emphasis on commitment to a partner to the extent that they want that commitment widely recognized and not thought of as peculiar. So, in other words, development of conscience is something that occurs over a lifetime and people are allowed to find their way. I am not trying hard to do anything. The Church is free to teach whatever it believes is true, but it is not OK for that teaching to be used in a way that 1. hurts living people and 2. deprives people of freedom to act according to their consciences in opposition to that teaching.
Paul Ferris
3 years 9 months ago
Tim, I think Marie is saying over and over again: "it's the relationship stupid." That seems closer to me to what Jesus said about loving God and neighbor.
Tim O'Leary
3 years 9 months ago
Back again, Paul? But, you already quoted Jesus warning us about scandal, especially of children. No "relationship" excuse can overcome that. In any case, our disagreement is not about the commandment to love, but how one should love, which is well described in the Scriptures. Our English language fails to distinguish eros from agape. Jesus never ever meant sexual gratification as the form of love of neighbor.
Marie Rehbein
3 years 9 months ago
Thank you, Paul. That is what I am saying, even though not everyone understands. I think it might have been what the UN report was trying to say also.
Tim O'Leary
3 years 9 months ago
The UN was trying to say "It's the relationship, stupid"? Hilarious. Maybe, they were trying to say "It's the stupid relationship." It was after all the unnatural relationships they were attacking.
Tim O'Leary
3 years 9 months ago
Marie - The Church teaches that sex (natural type) should be between a married man and a woman. Your side wants approval for sex of all sorts in any type of relationship, however transient. So, the obsession is assuredly with your side. Regarding your statement "hurts living people," I think you are very selective about who you care about hurting. Abortion, adultery, children raised in dysfunctional homes, STD epidemics, etc. might not qualify. And then, you never get over the problem of conscience being used as an excuse for people to hurt people. it's all so circular.
Marie Rehbein
3 years 9 months ago
If someone cares about others, that person will likely not hurt others. If someone cares about rules, that person hurts people over and over in the attempt to make everything and everyone conform. Abortion, adultery, children raised in dysfunctional homes, STD epidemics, etc. are all the result of people not caring for others. What do we do with the results of people not caring for others, impose more rules so that the victims are punished? Maybe the UN report was not deferential enough to suit the sensibilities of strident Catholics, but it was hardly calling for indifference to others well-being as you make it out to seem, Tim.
Tim O'Leary
3 years 9 months ago
Marie - you think what you call rules but what the Church understands as God's Law is opposed to caring, or love. That is a major distinction in our understanding of the connection between God's Law and His Love. Jesus said "If you love Me, you will keep My commandments" (John 14:15). and John also says in his 1st Epistle: "Whoever says, 'I know him,' but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person." (1 Jn 2)
Marie Rehbein
3 years 9 months ago
Which commandment prohibits artificial contraception but not natural contraception?
Paul Ferris
3 years 9 months ago
duplicate comment
Paul Ferris
3 years 9 months ago
I just read the article on this subject in the latest Commonweal Magazine . I prefer their approach to this subject. They were also somewhat critical of the UN Commission report and the Vatican.

Advertisement

Don't miss the best from America

Sign up for our Newsletter to get the Jesuit perspective on news, faith and culture.

The latest from america

25,000 children and pilgrim sang the pope “Happy Birthday" today in St. Peter’s Square.
Gerard O’ConnellDecember 17, 2017
A reflection for the third Sunday of Advent
Elizabeth Kirkland CahillDecember 16, 2017
Homeless people are seen in Washington June 22. Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Fla., chair of the U.S. bishops' domestic policy committee, released a statement Nov. 17 proclaiming that the House of Representatives "ignored impacts to the poor and families" in passing the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act the previous day. (CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn)
The United States is thwarting the advancement of millions of its citizens, a UN rapporteur says.
Kevin ClarkeDecember 16, 2017
Why not tax individuals for what they take out of society instead of what they contribute?
Paul D. McNelis, S.J.December 15, 2017