February 06, 2014
UN committee attacks Catholic Church
By Elyssa Koren *

By Elyssa Koren *

The United Nations Committee on theRights of the Child just issued a report chastising the Holy See forits failure to comply with the Convention on the Rights of the Childon various grounds. In a clear overreach of its mandate, theCommittee lectures the Catholic Church on its teachings regardinghomosexual behavior and abortion.

The Convention on the Rights of theChild, in force since September 1990, embodies the internationalcommunity’s commitment to the protection of children. As noted inthe Preamble of the Convention, “the child, by reason of hisphysical and mental immaturity, needs special safeguards and care,including appropriate legal protection, before as well as afterbirth.” In an obvious departure from this language, the Committeeseeks now to promote abortion in the name of the Convention, andurges the Holy See “to review its position on abortion…and toamend Canon 1398 relating to abortion with a view to identifyingcircumstances under which access to abortion services can bepermitted.”

As a treaty monitoring body, theCommittee is tasked with monitoring States’ compliance with theConvention on the Rights of the Child, and has no authority to makelaw. Since there is no basis in the Convention, or anywhere ininternational law, to articulate a right to abortion, the Committee’sefforts to persuade a sovereign State, let alone the provisions of aparticular religion, to amend its position to accord with their ownview represents an egregious example of Treaty Bodies oversteppingthe bounds of their mandate. This continues a long tradition of thiscommittee and other treaty monitoring bodies overstepping theirmandates and trying to create new law, which is why States must becircumspect about giving power to international bodies over socialand other issues that should be decided on a national level.

The Committee also pauses to passcomment on the Holy See’s “past statements and declarations onhomosexual behavior” and calls on it to “condemn all forms ofharassment, discrimination or violence against children based ontheir sexual orientation.” The Holy See articulates the teachingsof the Catholic Church found in the Catechism, which in fact condemnsall forms of harassment, discrimination, or violence on the basis ofthe equal dignity of all human persons without exception (includingthe unborn). In pressuring the Holy See to amend the Church’steachings on the practice of homosexual behavior, the Committee yetagain demonstrates remarkable alacrity to act ultra vires, given thatthere is no basis in the Convention itself nor anywhere ininternational law to justify such an assertion. Like any State at theUN, the Holy See has the right to a position on a particular issuearea. In this case, its position on homosexual behavior (as opposedto identity) is shared by a vocal majority of Member States.

As the international body tasked withensuring that the Convention on the Rights of the Child is enforced,the Committee is correct in addressing the tragedy of sexualexploitation and abuse of children in the context of the Churchlocated in many countries. In the report, the Committee welcomes thesteps that the Holy See as a State Member has made to rectify thesegrievous wrongs in other jurisdictions, and notes the need forcontinued action. The Committee’s disingenuous attempt to conflatethis with the Holy See’s positions on unrelated areas not onlyconstitutes a serious breach of authority to urge a sovereign Stateto change its laws without the support of international law, but alsoundermines the Report as a whole – which is a disservice to thereal victims of these heinous crimes.

Elyssa Koren is UN Counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom, an international human rights organization with ECOSOC accreditation at the United Nations.
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