International News

Vatican Says UN Committee Unfairly Attacked Church

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – The Vatican said that a report issued by the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child is unfair to the Church.

The committee continues 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 Vatican says it will give an attentive response to the U.N. committee, despite what it views as unfair criticism and suggestions from the committee that would violate Church teaching.

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.

Father Federico Lombardi issued a statement Feb. 7, two days after the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child insisted the Vatican was not doing enough to prevent clerical sexual abuse of children and even suggested that, for the good of children, the Catholic Church change its teaching on abortion, contraception and homosexuality.

Committee members went “beyond their competence and interfered in the doctrinal and moral positions of the Catholic Church,” the spokesman said, adding that the committee’s suggestions reveal an “ideological vision of sexuality.”

Unjustly Pernicious

“Certainly, while the Holy See was the object of an initiative and media attention that, in our view, was unjustly pernicious, it must be recognized that the committee itself has attracted serious and well-founded criticisms” for its Feb. 5 report, Father Lombardi said. Many Catholic commentators encouraged the Vatican to withdraw its adherence to the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

In 1990, the Vatican became one of the first countries to ratify the children’s rights treaty because of the Church’s historic commitment to the good of children, Father Lombardi said. Not recognizing all the Church has done for centuries through its schools, hospitals and charitable agencies is to ignore reality.

While the Vatican “will continue its commitment” to fulfilling the requirements of the treaty, he said, it cannot pretend that the committee’s observations did not present “serious limits.”

The committee “did not adequately take into account the responses – both written and oral – given by representatives of the Holy See” before and during a Jan. 16 hearing in Geneva, he said.

The recommendations, he said, demonstrated a lack of understanding about how the Holy See is different from other states that signed the convention.

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 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.”

Father Lombardi said the tone of the criticism and the mention of specific cases, including the treatment of young Irish women in the so-called Magdalen laundries and of young men by the Legionaries of Christ, seems to indicate the committee “gave much greater attention to well-known organizations” representing victims than to the testimony of Vatican representatives.

“These organizations typically do not want to recognize how much the Holy See and the church have done in recent years to recognize errors, renew norms and develop measures for formation and prevention,” Father Lombardi said.

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