UN Urges Changes in Vatican Policies: U.N. committee presses on child abuse, church teaching

The U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child continued to insist that the Vatican compile and publish detailed statistics on clerical sexual abuse of minors and that the pope, as head of the church, can and should order Catholic dioceses and religious orders around the world to implement all the policies of the U.N. Convention of the Rights of the Child.

The committee's "concluding observations" said the church's procedures for dealing with suspected cases of abuse are so hostile to children and their parents that some have reported being "re-victimized by the church authorities."

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The committee's report also objected to confidentiality being "imposed as a condition of financial compensation," although Bishop Scicluna had told committee members that in the vast majority of cases, the compensation is awarded by a court, which sets the terms.

Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Vatican representative to U.N. agencies in Geneva, told Vatican Radio Feb. 5 that his first reaction to the report was "surprise because the negative aspect of the document they produced makes it seem that it was prepared before" he and Bishop Scicluna testified in January. "In fact, the document doesn't seem to have been updated to take into account what has been done in the past few years" by the Vatican and by individual bishops' conferences.

"The church has responded and reacted and will continue to do so" to protect children and end the scandal of clerical sexual abuse, the archbishop said. "We must insist on a policy of transparency and zero tolerance for abuse because even one case of the abuse of a child is a case too many."

The committee, which spent an entire day Jan. 16 questioning two Vatican representatives, also urged the Catholic Church to revise the Code of Canon Law to make it mandatory that bishops and religious superiors report suspected cases of sexual abuse to civil authorities, even in countries where civil law does not require such reporting.

The Vatican always has insisted that church law requires bishops and religious superiors to obey local laws on reporting suspected crimes; however, it also has said that where reporting is not mandatory and the victim does not want to go to the police, the victim's wishes must be respected.

The "concluding observations" of the committee, which monitors compliance with the Convention on the Rights of the Child, ratified by the Holy See in 1990, were published Feb. 5.

A statement published by the Vatican press office the same day said, "The Holy See reiterates its commitment 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."

The Vatican press office said the Holy See would give the U.N. committee's report, which is not binding, a "thorough study and examination."

"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 statement said.

The committee urged the Vatican to release all its files on clerical sexual abuse cases in order to allow public scrutiny of how cases of alleged abuse were investigated and judged, how offenders were punished and how victims were treated.

"The committee is gravely concerned that the Holy See has not acknowledged the extent of the crimes committed, has not taken the necessary measures to address cases of child sexual abuse and to protect children, and has adopted policies and practices which have led to the continuation of the abuse by and the impunity of the perpetrators," the U.N. report said.

Throughout the report, the committee condemned what its members viewed as a "code of silence" surrounding the cases and claimed "the Holy See has given precedence to the preservation of the reputation of the church over children's rights to have their best interests taken as a primary consideration."

Testifying before the committee in January, Auxiliary Bishop Charles Scicluna of Malta, the former investigator of alleged abuse cases in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, said the Vatican knows "there are things that need to be done differently," particularly to address concerns about whether a local bishop or religious superior has covered up cases of alleged abuse.

"Only the truth will help us move on," he told the committee.

Archbishop Tomasi also testified and told the committee that new rules and guidelines adopted under Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis, "when properly applied, will help eliminate the occurrence of child sexual abuse by clergy and other church personnel."

In other areas concerning the rights of children as set forth in the U.N. convention, the committee:

-- Praised a pledge to consider "withdrawing the discriminatory expression 'illegitimate children' which can still be found in canon law."

-- Insisted the church and its teaching on sexuality "contribute to the social stigmatization of and violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender adolescents and children raised by same sex couples."

-- Said the rights of children to know their biological parents have, in some cases, been violated by Catholic adoption agencies and in cases where the biological father is a priest. The policy of some Catholic convents and hospitals to let mothers know they can anonymously leave unwanted babies and any other practice that gives parents anonymity should be only a last resort, it said.

-- Expressed concern about adolescents "separated from their families and isolated from the outside world" when they enter minor seminaries run by some religious orders.

-- Suggested the church needs to "overcome all the barriers and taboos surrounding adolescent sexuality that hinder their access to sexual and reproductive information, including on family planning and contraceptives."

-- Asked the church "to review its position on abortion, which places obvious risks on the life and health of pregnant girls" and to amend church law to identity "circumstances under which access to abortion services can be permitted."

Archbishop Tomasi commented that the preamble of the Convention on the Rights of the Child "speaks of the defense of the life and of the protection of children before and after their birth," yet "the recommendations that are made to the Holy See include changing its position on abortion," which "seems to be a real contradiction."

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Marie Rehbein
3 years 9 months ago
If a farmer has a chicken, he doesn't sacrifice the chicken to protect the egg she is sitting on. Sorry for equating women to chickens, but the Church's position regarding women's reproductive well-being is worse than the treatment of chickens. Saying little girls who are raped should carry the baby until it is either born or dies naturally, making saints of women who die from pregnancy and leave a brood of motherless children, excommunicating people who authorize an abortion to save the life of the mother, insisting that women who are miscarrying not be helped along medically are all examples of how the teaching of the Catholic Church leads to the mistreatment of women.
Tom Wilson
3 years 9 months ago
The Church teaches ideals always with the understanding that we are all subject to temptation and we are all sinners. As Catholics we strive to resist temptation but are consoled by the fact that our moments of weakness shall be forgiven, even the committing of a murder. I understand if you have a problem with those who believe that what the Church teaches should be enforced in civil law, but to insist that the Church change its teaching just shatters ideals and encourages sinful activity without the self-regulating need to ask for forgiveness.
Marie Rehbein
3 years 9 months ago
I don't see how forcing a raped female child to carry a baby to term is not a sin worthy of excommunication. If it were acknowledged that there are no win situations, I would have no complaint with the idealized teaching, but when the only teaching that stands as ideal is the one that sacrifices the born female in favor of the unborn, there is something that needs to be reconsidered.
Tom Wilson
3 years 9 months ago
I'm pretty sure that one who has an abortion just needs to confess the sin in order to have the excommunication lifted, the reduced "penalty" (as opposed to requiring, e.g. a Papal redemption) acknowledging that this is a no-win situation caused by another sinner.
Marie Rehbein
3 years 9 months ago
Hello? The child is not on her own to go to have an abortion. Therefore, the mother takes the child to a doctor and the doctor, say, refuses to do it, because he would be committing a sin and would be excommunicated. If you understand Catholic teaching correctly, you will understand that knowingly committing a sin on the assumption that you will ask forgiveness later is not considered OK. You want everything to be OK the way it is now, but it's not. The understanding has to be that helping the pregnant child by terminating the pregnancy is OK. The understanding has to be that helping a miscarriage along is OK. The understanding has to be that there are cases where it is appropriate to willfully end the development of a fetus.
Molly Roach
3 years 9 months ago
Apparently Archbishop Tomasi wasn't briefed about the 9 year old Brazilian child impregnated by her mother's lover who was carrying twins. This was in 2009. It was a life threatening situation for this little girl and her doctor performed an abortion. The outcome? The doctor and the girl's mother were excommunicated by the local bishop for facilitating an abortion . This was later praised by a Vatican official. Pastoral care for the child? Not a thought was given to that. This is the kind of situation that attracts attention and concern for the reproductive rights of girls. Archbishop Tomasi would be foolish to neglect the source of the concern regarding this issue. It is no longer possible for the hierarchs to claim innocence about such matters---they are all too well documented. I think that this UN document is earth shaking and will be impossible to ignore no matter how strong the objections may be.
Greta Green
3 years 9 months ago
The UN is a joke. They produce this report without anything the Church testified to and then go beyond the scope getting into Church teaching. The Church has made massive changes, many of which were required after the same so called rights groups forced them to start accepting gays into the priesthood which resulted in a huge number of the so called abuses. Remember that this was most of the abuse discovered in that it was gay priests going after what they saw as twinks, common in the perverted gay lifestyle the church calls gravely disordered. The very UN report talking about abuse also discusses the need to liberalize Church teaching on gays, which will lead to even more abuse. What is it that does not allow us to identify the cause of a problem. Until the gay lifestyle eliminates the entire man boy love element, abuse of children by them will continue.
Marie Rehbein
3 years 9 months ago
I do not remember that most of the abuse was gay priests going after "twinks". I remember that when abuse was reported to bishops, they moved the abusers to new parishes without telling parishioners about the abusers' history. I remember that the bishops who did this have never been disciplined by the Church; in fact, some of them have been rewarded with even better positions. It also seems that you have a distorted view of homosexuality and are uninformed about pedophilia.
Tom Wilson
3 years 9 months ago
Let's not throw the word "pedophilia" out there when the issue is sexual abuse of minors, the acts of some of which may have been pedophilia, but the vast majority of which were adolescent or near-adolescent young men. That is, most of them were homosexual acts, even, arguably, some of the acts committed against prepubescent boys.
Marie Rehbein
3 years 9 months ago
Fine, let's not just become upset over the obvious pedophilia, but also about the situations in which young men were misled into engaging in homosexual sex by priests who took advantage of them. If most priests with homosexual inclination engaged in this kind of behavior, then we could blame homosexuality for this, but if this activity occurred primarily because the opportunity was more frequent, perhaps we should be a little more intelligent in our comments.
Tom Wilson
3 years 9 months ago
I don't disagree that access should figure into the analysis; I've not seen any data to suggest that there are more boy than girl altar servers. I do know that there is a correlation of increased reported homosexual acts with an increased number of homosexual priests even while more and more girls were becoming altar servers. Frankly, the Church had this all covered in theory fifty years ago, and before, when there were only boy altar servers and men with same-sex attraction were prohibited from becoming priests. If you want to place blame, blame the forces that led to the Church changing those rules.
Marie Rehbein
3 years 9 months ago
Let's talk about the time before it became widely known that some priests were interacting sexually with minors. At that time, it would have been unusual if a priest invited a girl to attend a baseball game with him, but would have been considered kind or generous if he invited a boy. The rules of the Church did not have this covered fifty years ago, since this was happening then. It's as if you are in some alternate universe in your lack of understanding of the facts of this problem.
Kevin McGrath
3 years 9 months ago
Where a mother's life can only be saved by an operation or other medical treatment which the unborn child cannot survive there is no question of this being against the Church's teachings. It is important to distinguish this from the situation where the direct intention is to kill.
Jack Klompus
3 years 9 months ago
The UN is an irrelevant and useless organization that serves no purpose other than giving the self-important "diplomats" and consultants an opportunity to travel and stay in expensive hotels. Why the United States continues to participate and fund this farce of an organization is a question nobody seems to pose. Listening to these unimportant individuals who carry no weight or legal authority spouting their nonsensical "findings" is maddening when this organization's military wing engages in looting, sexual abuse, and other criminal activity under the guise of peacekeeping. The Vatican should tell the UN to go jump in a lake and then publish a 50-page report that nobody will read on how wet the lake was, and how it's the Vatican and Israel's fault that it's not "wetter."
Michael Barberi
3 years 9 months ago
If the UN report points to legitimate concerns, then the Vatican must give it serious reflection. My biggest issue is that we are still waiting to see if the church will bring bishops to justice for covering up the clergy sex abuse scandal, and moving known sexual abusive priests to other parishes where they continued to molest children. Somehow, I doubt that anything will be done. To date, only a few bishops were replaced by another bishop and some of them got comfortable positions in Italy. Clearly, clergy, bishops or individuals must be considered innocent until proven guilty. Nevertheless, few deny that there is not a code of silence and a limited degree of transparency with respect to this scandal. The tendency to turn a blind eye to the truth and embrace justice is apparent when you consider the Marcial Maciel case. It is only today that the Order condemned him and his acts. JP II and Cardinal Ratzinger/Benedict XVI knew long ago of the overwhelming evidence of his horrific crimes and wrong doings. Only when the the church was forced to deal with this problem did Benedict XVI do something…..like requiring Maciel to retire and spend a long time doing penance and reflection. Maciel was in poor health at that time, but the move to responsible justice was ignored for many years. The church will likely learn from this scandal and try to repair the damage to magisterial authority and relevance. Perhaps they can also learn something from the UN report.
A. Prokecz
3 years 9 months ago
This UN Committee has shown its bias in two ways: by refusing to acknowledge the progress the Church has made regarding protection of children, especially in comparison to other national and international organizations; and by equating the issues of child sexual abuse with Church teaching on issues related to human sexuality and abortion. Such partisan-political activism and interventionism is a serious blow to the credibility of this UN committee, and it makes a mockery of the UN itself. It only serves to support the worst fears in people concerning the reliability of the UN as an honest and even-handed forum and organization. This kind of attempt by a UN committee to regulate free speech and curtail religious freedom is a direct undermining of everything the UN stands for. The inevitable question that has to be asked is: Who is holding accountable the UN and its committees?
Carlos Orozco
3 years 9 months ago
These One World Order bureucrats just could not hold it together! Who can blame them? This U.N. committee found itself in the position of judging the Catholic Church and went overboard. Pathetic. No word on why boys were overwhelming victims of predatory priests. No word on the steps taken by the Church to end such abuse. Promote homosexuality and abortion, say the U.N. demagogues. Who can still take the U.N. seriously?
Tom Wilson
3 years 9 months ago
Don't forget its demand to promote premarital sex to adolescents.
Tim O'Leary
3 years 9 months ago
This report seems to have largely backfired on the UN. It is rare to see a consensus across the Catholic spectrum (Commonweal, NCR, America, Fr. Reese, John Allen, Catholic Voices) join with the Vatican (including esp. Bishop Charles Scicluna and spokesman Fr. Lombardi) in calling out the committee for its shoddy work, which is parochial (no sign they understand the Holy See's jurisdiction) and outdated (no sign they have kept up with the changes since 2002). Not surprising that SNAP came out agreeing with the report, as they seem stuck in the 1990s and can't get out. I note they no longer seem interested in any reform. Their organization seems hell-bent on snapping some bishops' necks. The report describes its latest meeting as the 1875th. I wonder who pays for all that activity (US probably pays the most). Also, they note that 3 countries have failed to ratify their Convention, without noting that one of the three is the United States! Somalia and the newly formed South Sudan are the others. We frequently hear complaints that the Vatican isn't listening. but, it looks like the Committee didn't even listen to the Vatican's witnesses. The greater suspicion is that the report was written before the Vatican testified, in perfect apparatchik style. Even worse, it may have copied from a report by the hard-left anti-religious organization CRINGE (Actually, its official acronym is CRIN for Child Rights International Network, but I bet I know what the extra GE could stand for). Catholic Voices seems to be doing good reporting on this story (http://cvcomment.org). Some reporter should ask the Committee if it had a draft report compiled before the Vatican testified and pressure them to release what notes the authors had compiled before they spoke to the witnesses. They should also check out if they plagiarized from the CRIN report. Anyway, the saddest part of this debacle is that the Vatican could be their strongest ally in the fight against real and ongoing massive child abuse that is being perpetrated by UN member countries - such as child abduction and prostitution, pornography rings and general sexploitation, rape, abortion, sex-selection killing and infanticide. I wonder if this Committee ever came out against the selective killing of pre-born children with Down syndrome?
Karlrod Nick
3 years 9 months ago
Its a very informative blog and getting some knowledge about the child abuse. Sometimes there are some incident happen in which the matter issue a long problem for everybody, here the sexual abuse to the child is a big isuue and how to solve the problem and order the new laws for the victims is most important. http://www.babysteals.com.au/
Robert O'Connell
3 years 9 months ago
As disappointing and painful as the criticism of this UN committee is, we could have easily avoided all of it by doing our jobs better -- as parents, priests, bishops and yes, even as Popes. We live in an imperfect world, perhaps an evil one. So did Jesus: we gain nothing by whining about it and everything by praying to know the will of G-d, to have the courage and fortitude to do our best at cooperating with G-d's will (as opposed to any alternative) and by loving as Jesus taught us to love. Going forward, we need to recognize the fact that we cannot be lukewarm about living our faith. Our Church overflows with good souls, highly competent clergy and lay people -- and true saints. Unified, we could save the world from itself I believe. Even if that seems pushy, we can see what ambivalence, irresponsibility and naivete has done for both our Church and the world at large. It is up to us: each reader, each Catholic, each and every one of has the opportunity to follow Jesus wholeheartedly (or not).
Dan Hannula
3 years 9 months ago
Robert, I respectfully request that you let us all know how we could have easily avoided this if "parents" did a better job. This is the type of callous attitude that leads these children and their parents to justifiably conclude that the church community re-victimized them.
Gerardine Luongo
3 years 9 months ago
@ Carlos Orozco-- what does the issue of boys vs girls have anything to do with any investigation? The UN continues to be a relevant and powerful institution. Clearly you have no idea of what the UN does around the world. The Vatican absolutely influenced the culture of silence in the Church on many issues creating untold damage to human lives. I'm unclear about the above sentence "The Vatican always has insisted that church law requires.... obey local laws on reporting suspected crimes." The Vatican has NOT always insisted and the evidence of that is overwhelming in many situations, the most significant is sexual abuse. If the Vatican had actually been a strong component of obeying local laws, much of the destruction of human life could have been prevented. The report went after the sovereign State, a signatory to the Convention, and as such, the UN has every right to condemn actions that work against the stated Rights. The US refuses to sign the Convention/Rights because it signatories agree to NOT try children as adults nor condemn children to the death penalty...the latter not often but the former every single day.
Tim O'Leary
3 years 9 months ago
Geraldine - why do you think the Committee scolded the Vatican because of its teaching on "the complementarity" of the sexes? How could that relate to the sexual abuse by men of boys? It is pure ideology? The culture of silence the committee is speaking about it the confessional seal. Should priests be permitted to inform the police on crimes they hear about at confession? If child abuse, why not murder, stealing, adultery, drug use and a host of sins. It would have the opposite effect the UN thinks. Presently, the priest can act as an advocate for goodness, persuading a sorry sinner to go to the police. How many people would go to confession if they thought the priest was acting as an informant? This is anti-Catholic bigotry. And hypocrisy too. As reported in the WSJ, they refuse to police their own peace-keeping missions for child abuse. They just send the accused soldiers back to their own countries. And then there is the UN silence on the infanticide and girl targeted abortions in Asian countries. And what about all the child sex abuse (99.999%) that goes on outside the Catholic Church? I would have liked to have seen some statistics in their report about the worldwide incidence of this crime, and it's national distribution. It appears more children have been abused by UN peacekeepers in the last 10 years than by all the priests in the world. In their own 1996 report (http://www.unicef.org/graca/a51-306_en.pdf.), former first lady of Mozambique Graça Machel documented: "In 6 out of 12 country studies on sexual exploitation of children in situations of armed conflict prepared for the present report, the arrival of peacekeeping troops has been associated with a rapid rise in child prostitution." In 2004, Gita Sahgal spoke out with regard to the fact that prostitution and sex abuse crops up wherever humanitarian intervention efforts are set up. She observed: "The issue with the UN is that peacekeeping operations unfortunately seem to be doing the same thing that other militaries do. Even the guardians have to be guarded."
Tim O'Leary
3 years 9 months ago
I think the apologists for the UN are largely missing the point of the UN’s critics. By their report, the Committee showed a willful denial of the reforms instituted since 2002. They have gullibly or negligently accepted every bad faith charge and bigoted rumor peddled by anti-Catholic organizations and failed to investigate these charges; they fundamentally 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. And they demand solutions that are totally unfeasible (e.g. “properly investigate all allegations of children and adolescents being separated from their families by means of psychological manipulation”), as pointed out in the excellent reporting from Catholic Voices. http://cvcomment.org/2014/02/05/how-the-holy-see-was-ambushed-by-a-un-kangaroo-court/. But, beyond this, they were bigoted in their attitude. They showed an obvious disdain for Catholic doctrine. They want the Church to find ways to permit abortion, facilitate pre-marital sex, countenance contraception, bless consensual sodomy and teach a gender-confusing ideology. They even criticize the teaching of complementarity of the sexes – what audacity? What is the UN’s competency in these matters? The hypocrisy is rich. And, as pointed out by Claudia Rosett (WSJ 2/9/14) “U.N. Assault on the Catholic Church,” the UN itself has abjectly failed to manage its own house. “The U.N. releases only generic statistics on violations committed by personnel working under its flag… doesn't share with the public such basic information as the names of the accused or the details of what they did to people the U.N. dispatched them to protect. Blue berets accused of sex crimes are simply sent back to their home countries, where in the majority of cases they drop off the radar…From 2007-13, the U.N. reported more than 600 allegations of rape or sexual exploitation, with 354 substantiated—many of them involving minors.” The Committee lies as it attacks the sacrament of confession in 43(d): “Due to a code of silence imposed on all members of the clergy under penalty of excommunication, cases of child abuse have hardly ever been reported to the law enforcement authorities…” Hardly ever??? For years, priests are being handed over to the civil authorities upon any complaint of child abuse (see the Philadelphia story for example) and hundreds are being defrocked. Maybe they and SNAP & CRIN (and Bruni of the NYT) want the Church to be like the State and have priests read penitents a Miranda rights? So, in confession, after the penitent says “Bless me father as I have sinned” the priest should read him or her a Miranda-like “If you are about to confess anything about child abuse of any type, or anything that could be construed as remotely related, know that you have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be reported to the police.”
Dan Hannula
3 years 9 months ago
One paragraph of this article is quite puzzling; "The committee's report also objected to confidentiality being "imposed as a condition of financial compensation," although Bishop Scicluna had told committee members that in the vast majority of cases, the compensation is awarded by a court, which sets the terms." Does this mean that the vast majority of cases go to court rather than a negotiated settlement? That would mean such civil cases are a most unusual aberration in the law, certainly American law. Also does Bishop Scicluna mean to imply that subsequent to a trial the court, sua sponte, imposes a gag order on the award? That would be such an aberration in American law as to be down right bizarre. Unless there are important missing facts, it appears that the good Bishop (or the Catholic News Service) is engaging in some PR spin.

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