A recent United Nations report criticizing the Catholic Church on sex abuse and its moral teachings should be understood in the context of efforts to diminish the Vatican’s pro-life influence at the U.N., a scholar has said.
Anne Hendershott, a Franciscan University of Steubenville sociology professor, said Feb. 10 in Crisis Magazine that the U.N. will likely continue its abortion advocacy, efforts to expand contraception access, and efforts to normalize homosexuality.
“The Catholic Church is one of the few remaining barriers to this expansion,” she said. “There will be continued attacks and the Church needs to prepare for them as the United Nations will continue to attempt to diminish the authority of the Church by resurrecting old clergy abuse cases and inflating statistics on past misdeeds by priests.”
She said the Holy See has been “the major barrier” to U.N. advocacy of worldwide abortion and contraception distribution and there are efforts to “diminish the influence of the Church on life issues.”
In a Feb. 5 report, the United Nations’ Committee on the Rights of the Child 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 abortion, contraception and homosexuality. The report also advocated changes in Catholic doctrine on life and sexuality.
The report drew significant media coverage and critical responses from the Holy See’s representatives.
Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, who heads the Holy See’s permanent observer mission to the United Nations in Geneva, said that the report was in some ways outdated and ignored recent efforts to prevent abuse. Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said the committee appeared to exceed its boundaries and gave disproportional attention to organizations with “well-known” anti-Catholic prejudices.
Hendershott, who has written extensively on the politics of abortion, said it was likely that the report was “payback” for Catholic opposition to abortion and contraception.
Citing Austin Ruse of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute, she said the Catholic Church’s successful work to block a “right to abortion” at the 1994 U.N. Population Fund Cairo conference has thwarted the work of the Population Fund, the Norwegian government, and other abortion advocates like Catholics for Choice.
The Population Fund works with governments to expand abortion and contraception access. It has drawn significant support from wealthy sources like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Catholics for Choice, a group backed by the Ford and Rockefeller Foundations, in 1999 led an effort to remove the Holy See as a permanent observer at the U.N. That effort drew significant resistance and had no support from any U.N. member states, though the group has recently re-launched the effort.
Hendershott suggested it is time for the Catholic Church and the Catholic laity to “stand up to the bullying by the various committees of the United Nations” and expose the U.N.’s “real agenda” of abortion and contraception expansion while defending the Church as the “true protector of children.”
“While the Church was unable to convince all countries – including the United States – of the evils of abortion, the Vatican, as a sovereign state, continues to play an important role at the negotiating table in areas in which the Church has a stake in helping to ensure the right to life and the dignity of the person,” she said.