The Vatican said it would continue to adhere to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and give an attentive response to the U.N. committee monitoring adherence to the treaty, despite what it views as unfair criticism and suggestions from the committee that would violate church teaching.
The Vatican will follow the procedures foreseen by the treaty "with
openness to criticisms that are justified, but it will do so with
courage and determination, without timidity," said Jesuit Father
Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman.
Father 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."
"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
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
"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