By FR. JOHN TRIGILIO
(Editor’s Note: Fr. John Trigilio is a pastor in the Diocese of Harrisburg, Pa. This commentary is reprinted with permission from his blog, The Black Biretta [black
biretta.blogspot.com]. All rights reserved.)
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The United Nations Committee on the Rights of Children issued a 16-page, 67-paragraph report on the Holy See on January 31, 2014. It exposes the utter obliviousness of the UN to the distinction between the Catholic religion and the sovereign independent nation of Vatican City. Likewise, it exposes the real agenda at the UN to deify political correctness and to usurp authority to make itself the supreme arbiter of human activity.
First of all, Vatican City is a country. Catholicism is a religion. Yes, the sovereign ruler of the smallest nation in the world is also, simultaneously, the supreme head of the Catholic Church. Nevertheless, the United Nations is a political entity that concerns itself with the interaction and interplay between autonomous states. It has no jurisdiction, no competence, and no business interfering with any religion.
Has this august body made any criticisms or critiques to the religious and spiritual leaders of Islam, Judaism, Protestant Christianity, or Eastern Orthodoxy? No and nor should it.
Vatican City is a political entity, which comprises 110 acres and has a population of approximately 840 persons. It is literally the smallest autonomous sovereign nation in the world, in both geographical and demographical size.
The Holy See, on the other hand, is the official ecclesiastical jurisdiction of the Catholic Church. The Pope (Bishop of Rome) is both the supreme head of the Catholic religion and the sovereign of Vatican City. Nations around the world have diplomatic relations with Vatican City and exchange ambassadors just as the United States does with Canada, Mexico, Great Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, et al. The papal ambassador or apostolic nuncio represents the Pope as head of Vatican City when he presents his credentials to the White House, 10 Downing Street, etc.
The UN knows this, but insists on issuing a report as if Catholicism itself were a political and not just a religious entity. Catholics around the world, be they clergy or laity, retain their respective autonomous citizenship in their respective nation. It was presumed that the presidential campaign of John F. Kennedy in 1960 dispelled once and for all the prejudiced notion that Catholics cannot be patriotic citizens. We have no dual allegiance or loyalty. The Pope is our spiritual head. He leads in matters of faith and morals while our individual civil leaders (whether presidents or prime ministers, kings or queens) retain their legitimate secular authority over their citizenry.
What is most irksome is that the report ignores the progress made by the late Pope John Paul II and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI in response to the sexual abuse of children by Catholic clergy. Any act of child abuse is reprehensible and inexcusable. All crimes against innocent children should be vigorously prosecuted and justly punished.
That applies to all perpetrators, however. While the press gives front-page coverage to every priest who sexually abuses a child, they do not give equal publicity to ministers of other religions, to scoutmasters, coaches, teachers, and family members, especially parents and siblings, who commit the same disgusting acts. Pedophilia is not limited to celibate Catholic clergy.
In fact, more 75 percent (78.5 percent) of child abuse in America is identified as neglect. More than 15 percent (17.6 percent) is physical abuse and less than 10 percent (9.1 percent) is sexual abuse. Even one act of abuse, physical or sexual, is repugnant and intolerable.
Government (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services) reports show that 81.5 percent of child abuse is perpetrated by one or both parents. Twelve percent is done by persons not biologically or legally related to the victims.
Jerry Sandusky was not a celibate Catholic priest. He was a married man, a football coach, who was indicted on 52 counts of molestation. Is the UN going to investigate and dictate to colleges and sports programs what should be done to prevent abuse? Billy Graham’s grandson, Boz Tchividjian, recently (September 2013) said that the evangelical sex abuse record is worse than the Catholic. Clergy of all denominations have committed abuse against minors, as have other public figures, like teachers, coaches, scoutmasters, etc.
It is not a Catholic phenomenon nor is it even primarily limited to one religion, career, or vocation. Protestant ministers and Jewish rabbis as well as Catholic priests have been found among those who abused children. Every religion, sadly, has had some bad pastors.
Yet, the UN acts as if this were a primarily Catholic issue. Statistically, a much more overwhelming number of schoolteachers have abused children in comparison to members of the clergy. Will the UN now speak to our neighborhood schools and educational facilities? What about sexual misconduct in the military? Among politicians?
The second egregious part of this report, next to the unjust presumption that sexual abuse of children is mostly a Catholic crime, is that it seeks to redefine and remake the Catholic religion in its own politically correct image and likeness. Suggestions (exhortations at times) proliferate in the document, like changing Catholic doctrine and canon law to allow abortion, contraception, and same-sex marriage. Yes, as unbelievable as it sounds, this UN committee recommends that children be taught and be given access to the opportunity to use reproductive health measures like abortion and birth control with the insinuation that to deny access is a form of abuse.
Unbelievable. Preposterous. Marriage should no longer be limited to just one man and one woman in a sacred, permanent, and faithful covenant, according to the UN. Having children out of wedlock should be completely acceptable, according to this report. Sexual orientation and inclination of parents and children is inconsequential. The report betrays a modern myth that sexual activity is a civil right that anyone and everyone has, rather than being a sacred gift from God entrusted to those united in Matrimony for the exclusive purpose of unity (love) and procreation (life).
If sex is a right, then any and all forms of sex are also guaranteed, if you follow this logic. The Sixth Commandment applies equally to those of a homosexual orientation as to those with a heterosexual orientation. There is just one set of Commandments, one natural moral law, and one human nature. There is not a separate “straight” morality and a separate “gay or lesbian” morality. The UN report, however, sees things differently.
Gender equality seems to eclipse person equality. Catholic morality teaches that all human persons have equal dignity and worth. Gender equality, however, attempts to convince people, mostly children, that there are no significant differences between men and women. The Church never said one gender was better than the other. She does say that men and women are different and that difference complements the human species. That is why marriage is restricted to a man and woman because the complementariness is signified with the two becoming one flesh.
The UN report, however, wants the Catholic Church to instruct our children that gender means nothing, especially since one can change or redefine your sex at will. You can also smell the odor and aroma of bias against Church doctrine restricting Ordination to males alone. Ironically, the UN does not go after the Eastern Orthodox Church or Islam, both of which have an exclusively male clergy.
The document scorns the practice of rescuing abandoned babies, as adopted children may never know their biological parents. In an obscene inference, the report seems to prefer to offer unwanted or unplanned pregnant mothers the option of abortion to save their unborn child the possible inconvenience of not knowing their blood relatives. How diabolical.
Finally, the document condemns any and all forms of corporal punishment, be it by parents or teachers. Physical discipline is forbidden and considered a form of child abuse. While common sense and reason should discern the distinction and difference between legitimate corporal punishment and authentic physical abuse, it is the parent who decides what kind of legitimate discipline, not the state and not the United Nations.
We’ve already seen a few places in the U.S. where hospitals discriminated against Jewish parents who sought to have their infant sons circumcised according to the Hebrew religion. Political correctness sees religion as superstition and as having no rights whatsoever. Church and state are both natural institutions which depend and rely on the first institution, the family (which is built on marriage), which is the cornerstone of the other two.
The UN wants canon law amended to give women, even girls, abortion as a reproductive health right. The right to life of the unborn totally escapes the minds of those who wrote this idiotic document. Does the UN condemn the state-enforced abortions of female babies in Communist China? What about the denial of school education to girls in countries run by radical Islamic fundamentalists? No, the UN prefers to attack the Catholic Church.
Adolescents should be given contraceptives rather than be taught the value of abstinence and chastity. That is the thinking of the UN Committee on the Rights of Children (n. 57). Sexual promiscuity is perceived as a right and avoidance of STDs and HIV/AIDS requires “protected sex” instead of “no sex” before marriage. Take the same logic and distribute cigarettes, alcohol, and drugs to teenagers to prevent them from getting them from notorious and seedy sources. Let them experiment. Let’s go back to the hippie era.
One must ask if the writers of this document have children of their own and, if so, how did they raise them?
A Real Task For The UN
It would be laughable were it not so pathetic when the document requires that accusations and allegations be treated the same as convictions and confessed crimes. Our American jurisprudence prides itself on the primary principle that everyone is innocent until proven guilty. That applies to every man or woman who has ever been charged with a crime. We use the term “accused” and “alleged” on purpose.
If someone is proven guilty, then justice demands just punishment. Justice also demands that everyone be treated equally under the law. If the state wants to dissolve the statute of limitations on sexual abuse of children, it should apply to all cases, be the accused a member of the clergy or a teacher, coach, scoutmaster, parent, neighbor, etc.
Bishops were not the only ones guilty of cover-ups. Principals, administrators, and others in all lines of business and enterprise have had their share of criminal silence.
The sad reality is that the initial intention is good, i.e., child welfare. Protecting youth is not an option, but an obligation society and culture share with the family as the youth are our future. Prosecuting all perpetrators is a necessary component, but persecuting a religion is just another injustice.
Pope Benedict XVI was accused of being lax on the issue, yet just recently it was disclosed that he defrocked (technically, laicized) nearly 400 priests convicted or confessed to have abused minors. As the majority of abuse took place during the late 1960s, 1970s, and early 1980s, you see the parallel with the so-called sexual revolution when Humanae Vitae was being trashed by dissenters and when the sex and drugs of the counterculture reached an all-time high.
It is no excuse for this heinous and reprehensible behavior, but it does give it context. Bad people (clergy and laity alike) used bad theology to justify their bad behavior.
What the UN could and ought to do is work for the end of the abuse and persecution of Christians in the Middle East. Many of these communities lived in those places 300 years or more before Mohammed ever established Islam. The Gospels of Jesus Christ were read and proclaimed long before the Koran, yet instead of peaceful coexistence, we see bombings, murders, and terrorism against men, women, and children whose only crime is their faith and religion.
There’s a job this committee could spend its time and effort on.