By PAUL LIKOUDIS
The United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child issued a report January 31 slamming the Holy See for not doing enough to protect children from sexually abusive priests and charging that the Holy See has still not disclosed the extent of child abuse in the Church and is not cooperating with civil authorities in turning over abusive priests and religious.
But the main thrust of the document is a call for the Church to do more to advance children’s rights, and change its doctrines concerning parental rights, birth control, abortion, homosexuality, and “gender equality.”
The report advises the Holy See to invite civil authorities and victims’ organizations to join the international commission investigating child abuse in the Church; open up all its archives containing information on the sexual abuse of minors; amend canon law so that no silences are imposed on either victims or reporters of sexual abuse; develop programs for the prevention of sex abuse and teach children in Church institutions the skills to protect themselves from predators.
The report also calls for “full compensation” to be provided to victims of sexual, physical, or psychological abuse; for the Church to formally condemn and prohibit all forms of corporal punishment of children, even in the family; for the Church do more to prevent the abuse and neglect of children in the home; and for it to encourage community-based programs designed to prevent domestic violence.
Under the heading in section VI, “Disability, Basic Health & Welfare,” the commission report calls on the Holy See to change canon law S. 1398 to permit abortion and to change its teaching on sex education, family planning, and contraception.
The report also calls on the Holy See to fully disclose the number of children fathered by priests, and to give all children in Church institutions who do not know who their parents are the information necessary so they can be reunited with their parents.
The committee also calls upon the Holy See “to adopt a rights-based approach to address discrimination between girls and boys and refrain from using terminology that could challenge equality between girls and boys. The Committee also urges the Holy See to take active measures to remove from Catholic schools textbooks all gender stereotyping which may limit the development of the talents and abilities of boys and girls and undermine their educational and life opportunities.”
The report also insists the Holy See “make full use of its moral authority to condemn all forms of harassment, discrimination, or violence against children based on their sexual orientation or the sexual orientation of their parents and to support efforts at international level for the decriminalization of homosexuality.”
Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, permanent observer of the Holy See to the United Nations in Geneva, responded to the report in a February 5 interview with Vatican Radio, describing it as “a rather negative approach to what the Holy See has been doing and has already achieved in the area of the protection of children.”
“The first impression,” he added, “is that the report in some ways is not up to date, not taking into account some of the clear and precise explanations that were given to the committee in the encounter that the delegation of the Holy See had with the committee three or four weeks ago.
“Second, I would say that there is a difficulty apparent in understanding the position of the Holy See that certainly cannot give up certain teachings that are part of their deep convictions and also an expression of freedom of religion, and these are the values that in the tradition of the Catholic Church sustain the common good of society and therefore cannot be renounced. For example, the committee asked for acceptance of abortion and this is a contradiction with the principle of life that the convention itself should support, recommending that children be protected before and after birth.
“If a child is eliminated or killed, we can no longer talk about rights for this person, so there is a need to calmly and in detail analyzing the recommendations proposed by the committee and provide an accurate response to the committee itself, so that there will be no misunderstanding on where we stand and the reason why we take certain positions.
“And I would add that the practical remedies for preventing cases of abuse of children — in forms of laws or decisions of episcopal conferences or directives for the formation of seminarians — constitute a package of measures that is very difficult, I think, to find other institutions or even other states that have done so much specifically for the protection of children.”
Archbishop Tomasi affirmed near the end of the interview (ZENIT News Agency provided this part of the translation):
“We are talking about 40 million cases of child abuse in the world: Unfortunately some of these cases — even though in small proportions in comparison to all those that are happening in the world — affect people in the Church. And the Church has responded and reacted and continues to do so! We must insist on this policy of transparency, of no tolerance of abuse, because even one single case of child abuse is one case too much!”