A United Nations commission report on the Vatican’s response to abuse of children was not “fair or particularly helpful,” but took an “ideological” approach, Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston has said.
In a Feb. 7 post on his blog, Cardinal O’Malley said that he was
“surprised” to read accounts of the recent report on the Holy See issued
by the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child.
He said he had thought the commission would “examine the policies and
practices” of the Vatican before making the report. Doing so would have
provided a “valuable contribution” because the Holy See “needs to model
policies for child protection for the rest of the dioceses in the
world,” he reflected.
“Instead they extrapolated to the life of the Church, which is not their
competency, and interjected many of their own ideological preferences.”
In its Feb. 6 report, the U.N. committee claimed that the Vatican had
“systematically” adopted policies allowing priests to rape and molest
children. The report said the Church should open its files on previous
cases of abuse. It criticized Catholic teaching on homosexuality,
contraception and abortion, advocating a change in Catholic doctrine.
The report has attracted critics including Claudia Rosett, a
journalist-in-residence with the Washington, D.C.-based Foundation for
Defense of Democracies, a foreign policy think tank.
“In this report the Vatican is publicly shamed – and then urged to
redeem itself by bowing before the altar of the U.N.,” she said in a
Feb. 9 Wall Street Journal opinion article.
She argued that the report faults the Vatican for “not subordinating
itself wholesale to a much broader U.N. agenda.” It pushes for the
Vatican to use its influence to “disseminate world-wide a roster of U.N.
views and policies that run counter to those of the Catholic Church.”
Rosett also objected to the U.N.’s handling of abuse cases.
“Exposing abusers and holding them to account is a great idea. The
Vatican has spent years addressing the scandal of its own past handling
of such cases. But the U.N. hardly engages in the transparency it is now
Rosett said that the U.N. has not solved “its own festering problems of
peacekeeper sex abuse.” She said that the international organization
does not release the names of accused sex abusers in its peacekeeping
forces and often sends accused individuals back to their home countries
where they usually face no penalties.
From 2007-2013, the U.N. reported more than 600 allegations of rape or
sexual exploitation, with 354 allegations substantiated. Many of the
accusations involve minors.
In addition, Rosett objected to the presence of “human-rights-challenged
countries” on the U.N. children’s rights committee, including Saudi
Arabia, Russia, Ethiopia and Sri Lanka.
She noted that the committee’s last report on Saudi Arabia mentioned a
2002 fire at a girls’ school in Mecca that killed 15 girls. While the
committee voiced concerns about building safety standards, it did not
mention that the country’s morality police drove some students back into
the burning building because they were not dressed according to public
She also contended that the U.N. committee’s report on North Korea –
where children suffer from famines and can be sent to prison labor camps
– lacked “the fervor with which the committee has denounced the Vatican
for failing to explicitly forbid corporal punishment.”
Rosett further said that the United States never ratified the Convention
on the Rights of the Child in order to avoid “gross intrusion by
unaccountable U.N. ‘experts’.”
“This treaty has less to do with children than with political power
plays, and a fitting reform at the Vatican would be to walk away from
The U.N. commission report prompted a swift response from several Catholic leaders.
Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, who heads the Holy See’s permanent observer
mission to the United Nations in Geneva, told Vatican Radio Feb. 5 that
the report was “in some ways not up to date.” He drew attention to the
Church’s recent efforts to protect minors from abuse.
He said it is “very difficult” to find other institutions or states that
have “done so much specifically for the protection of children.”
Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said Feb. 7 that the U.N.
committee’s comments “seem to go beyond its powers and to interfere in
the very moral and doctrinal positions of the Catholic Church.” He said
that the presentation of the committee’s observations suggests it gave
disproportional attention to non-governmental organizations with
“well-known” prejudices against the Catholic Church.