More than an indictment of the Church’s handling of child sex abuse, the report of the U.N. child rights committee on the Holy See seems meant to pressure the Church to change its teaching on human sexuality.
The U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child issues periodic reports on the implementation of the organization's Convention on the Rights of the Child in signatory countries. On Wednesday it made available its Jan. 31 reports on the Republic of the Congo, Yemen, the Holy See, Portugal, Russia, and Germany.
All six states were given recommendations from the panel of 18 “independent experts who are persons of high moral character and recognized competence in the field of human rights.”
The Holy See signed the convention in 1990, as well as two optional protocols on children's involvement in armed conflicts and child trafficking, prostitution, and pornography.
The report followed a Jan. 16 hearing before the committee from the Holy See, documenting its implementation of the convention.
After a state submits its written report to the committee, the committee may submit questions in writing to the state, which also answers them in written form. Among the questions for the Holy See was one about child sex abuse.
The Holy See gave an articulated answer, explaining the differences between the Holy See, the Vatican City State, and the Catholic Church, and discussing canon law and civil law.
The Holy See's responses stressed that the Vatican encouraged each bishops’ conference to establish guidelines to address cases of abuse on the basis of local civil law as well as the commitment of all Popes, from Bl. John Paul II on, to fighting sex abuse.
The topic of sex abuse by clergy was a welcome opportunity for both the committee and the media to attack the Church, yet it is only one of the observations made in the report, which is filled with a secular notion of rights which is divorced from human sexuality and nature.
They wrote, for example, that “the Committee regrets that the Holy See continues to place emphasis on the promotion of complementarity and equality in dignity,” which they claimed “are often used to justify discriminatory legislation and policies.”
The committee asked “the Holy See to review its position on abortion … identifying circumstances under which access to abortion services can be permitted.”
It also took issue with not giving adolescents “access to contraception” and to “reproductive health and information,” saying the Holy See should “assess … its position” regarding adolescents' access to contraception.
The committee also urged the Holy See to “remove gender stereotypes from Catholic school textbooks … which may limit the development of the talents and abilities of boys and girls and undermine their educational and life opportunities.”
“Corporal punishment” was another area of concern for the committee, with its report claiming that “ritual beating(s) of children, has been and remains widespread” in Catholic institutions.
The U.N.'s emphasis on secular ideologies on gender and sexuality is also demonstrated by the committee's “concern about the Holy See's past statements and declarations on homosexuality which contribute to the social stigmatization of and violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender adolescents and children raised by same sex couples.”
No concrete references to such statements and declarations are included, though the report noted “as positive” the “progressive statement” made by Pope Francis in July 2013.
In addition, the committee recommended that the Holy See “support efforts at international level for the decriminalization of homosexuality.”
An associated report, on the involvement of children in armed conflicts, noted that the Holy See has not military body or armed forces, yet also stated that “the Committee is however concerned that the recruitment of children under 18 has not been criminalized by the Holy See.”
As a whole, the release seems meant to push the Church to modify its moral teachings, accepting popular, relativistic ideologies of sexuality and gender.
Yet the Church has always denounced the risks of such a dictatorship of relativism.
Benedict XVI addressed the U.N. in 2008, reminding the organization that “the rights recognized and expounded” by the group “apply to everyone by virtue of the common origin of the person, who remains the high-point of God’s creative design for the world and for history. They are based on the natural law inscribed on human hearts and present in different cultures and civilizations.”
“Removing human rights from this context,” he emphasized, “would mean restricting their range and yielding to a relativistic conception, according to which the meaning and interpretation of rights could vary and their universality would be denied in the name of different cultural, political, social and even religious outlooks.”
He also encouraged the U.N. not to “reinterpret the foundation” of its human rights outlook through “mov(ing) away from the protection of human dignity toward the satisfaction of simple interests, often particular interests.
“When presented purely in terms of legality, rights risk becoming weak propositions divorced from the ethical and rational dimension which is their foundation and their goal.”
And in his last Christmas address to the Roman Curia, given Dec. 21, 2012, Benedict XVI stated that today the very idea of human nature is in crisis, and that this crisis is based on gender “as a new philosophy of sexuality.”
“The very notion of being – of what being human really means – is being called into question,” noting that sexual complementarity, and one's sex as a given, “is what is now disputed.”
He added that in the relativist ideology of gender, “man and woman as created realities, as the nature of the human being, no longer exist. Man calls his nature into question,” which also calls into question the nature of the family.
“Likewise, the child has lost the place he had occupied hitherto and the dignity pertaining to him.”
“Now, perforce, from being a subject of rights, the child has become an object to which people have a right and which they have a right to obtain.”
Benedict said that “the defence of the family is about man himself. And it becomes clear that when God is denied, human dignity also disappears. Whoever defends God is defending man.”
Defending man is the Church’s mission, and integral humanism is the Holy See’s international agenda – the basis of the Holy See's dialogue with states, societies, and religions.