The United Nations Committee for the Rights of the Child has declared that the Holy See “is in breach of the Convention of the Rights of the Child”.
It said so when it presented its
conclusions and recommendations at a press conference in Geneva on
February 5, 2014, after studying the Holy See’s report and questioning
its delegation on January 16.
The Holy See, in a statement issued afterwards and
in a Vatican Radio interview by its UN representative Archbishop
Silvano Tomasi, promised to seriously study and examine the
At the same time it challenged the UN Committee for
exceeding its mandate by recommending that the Catholic Church change
its teaching on such questions as abortion, contraception, homosexuality
and the family.
The hard-hitting UN report claimed the Holy See
had put the reputation of the institution before the welfare of children
when it came to questions of abuse by clergy. Its report
contains not only incisive observations but also specific
recommendations aimed at the protection of the rights of the child
throughout the Catholic Church and its institutions.
At the press
conference, the Committee members acknowledged that there have been
notable changes in the Holy See’s approach to the whole abuse question
over the past decade, but it l insisted that much more needs to be done
by the Holy See to comply with the UN Convention.
One of its more significant conclusions comes in
Number 44 where, responding to the abuse of “tens of thousands” of
children and minors by priests and religious; it articulates nine very
specific recommendations, including the following:
It “strongly urges” the Commission for the
Protection of Children set up by Pope Francis in December 2013 to
“investigate independently all cases of child sexual abuse as well as
the conduct of the Catholic hierarchy in dealing with them”.
It calls on the Holy See to “immediately remove
all known and suspected child abusers from assignment and refer the
matter to the relevant law enforcement authorities for investigation and
It asks the Holy See “to ensure a transparent
sharing of all archives which can be used to hold the abusers
accountable as well as those who concealed their crimes and knowingly
placed offenders in contact with children”.
It urges the Holy See to “amend Canon Law in order
for child sexual abuse to be considered as crimes and not as “delicts
against the moral”, and repeal all provisions which may impose and
obligation of silence on the victims and on all those who become aware
of such crimes”.
It recommends that the Holy See “establish clear
rules, mechanisms and procedures for the mandatory reporting of all
suspected cases of child sexual abuse and exploitation to law
It requests that the Holy See “ensure that all
priests, religious personnel and individuals working under the authority
of the Holy See are made aware of their reporting obligations and of
the fact that in case of conflict, these obligations prevail over Canon
It proposes that the Holy See “Develop programs
and policies for the prevention of such crimes and for the recovery and
social integration of child victims, in accordance with the outcome
documents adopted in 1996, 2001 and 2008 World Congresses against Sexual Exploitation of Children...”
Other recommendations deal with compensation for victims, education in families and schools and the question of discrimination.
Less than two hours after the UN Committee released its report, the Holy See responded with a low key diplomatic statement. It
said it “takes note of the Concluding Observations on its Reports” in
accordance with the procedures that apply to state parties to the
Convention on the Rights of the Child.
It promised that these
observations “will be submitted to a thorough study and examination, in
full respect of the Convention in the different areas presented by the
Committee according to international law and practice, as well as taking
into consideration the public interactive debate with the Committee,
held on 16 January 2014”.
At the same time, it took the UN Committee to task
for overstepping its mandate and said, “The Holy See does 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.”
This refers to some of the UN Committee’s
recommendations that the Church should change its teaching regarding
abortion, contraception, homosexuality, and the family, which the UN
body considers detrimental to the protection of the rights of the
child. Clearly the Vatican considers that these particular
recommendations from a more politically driven agenda than was envisaged
when it ratified the UN Convention and its relative protocols.
The Holy See concluded by re-affirming “ 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 UN report on the Holy See