In a statement released by the Vatican, Fr. Federico Lombardi criticized the U.N. child protection committee for its tone and “lack of desire” to recognize the Holy See’s efforts in protecting children.
“(T)he Committee’s comments in several directions seem to go beyond its powers and to interfere in the very moral and doctrinal positions of the Catholic Church,” the Vatican spokesman observed in his Feb. 7 statement.
Released on Vatican Radio, the statement comes in wake of a Feb. 6 U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child report criticizing Vatican policies and calling for the Church to change its doctrine.
In its report, the U.N. committee claimed that the Vatican had “systematically” adopted policies allowing priests to rape and molest children. The report charged the Church to open its files on previous cases of abuse and criticized Catholic teaching on homosexuality, contraception and abortion.
The report is based on the consideration of various documents regarding the implementation of the U.N. Convention of the Rights of the Child, to which the Vatican is a signatory.
Fr. Lombardi acknowledged that the publication of the committee’s findings “has aroused extensive reaction and response.”
He observed that “the Holy See’s adherence to the Convention was motivated by a historical commitment of the universal Church and the Holy See for the sake of the children.”
“Anyone who does not realize what this (commitment) represents for the sake of the children in the world today, is simply unfamiliar with this dimension of reality,” he explained.
Despite the fact that the Holy See seeks to “implement the Convention” and maintain an “open, constructive and engaged dialogue,” Fr. Lombardi noted, “one cannot fail to see that the latest recommendations issued by the Committee appear to present – in the opinion of those who have followed well the process that preceded them – grave limitations.”
Charging that the committee has failed to take an “adequate” account of the Holy See’s response to their requests in the past, the spokesman stated that the “lack of understanding of the specific nature of the Holy See seem serious.”
Although “it is true that the Holy See is a reality different from other countries, and that this makes it less easy to understand the Holy See’s role and responsibilities,” Fr. Lombardi recalled that these differences have been explained “in detail many times” in the past 20 years of adherence to the convention.
“(Are we dealing with) an inability to understand, or an unwillingness to understand? In either case, one is entitled to amazement,” he expressed.
From the way in which the objections in the committee’s concluding observations were presented, Fr. Lombardi said, it seems “to suggest that a much greater attention was given to certain NGOs, the prejudices of which against the Catholic Church and the Holy See are well-known, rather than to the positions of the Holy See itself.”
“A lack of desire to recognize all the Holy See and the Church have done in recent years,” particularly in voicing her errors and developing preventative measures, “is in fact typical of such organizations,” the spokesman continued.
“Few, other organizations or institutions, if any, have done as much. This, however, is definitely not what one understands by reading the document in question.”
He then highlighted that the U.N. group goes “beyond its power” in asking the Church to change its doctrine on contraception, abortion, education in families, and the vision of human sexuality, “in light of (the Committee’s) own ideological vision of sexuality itself.”
It is for this reason, the spokesman explained, that the Vatican’s Wednesday communique on the report spoke of “an attempt to interfere in the teaching of the Catholic Church on the dignity of the human person and in the exercise of religious freedom.”
In his final point, Fr. Lombardi verbalized that “one cannot but observe that the tone, development, and the publicity given by the Committee in its document are absolutely anomalous when compared to its normal progress in relations with other States that are party to the Convention.”
Concluding, the spokesman affirmed that if the Holy See was the subject of “an initiative and media attention (that were) in our view unfairly harmful, one needs to recognize” that the committee “has itself attracted much serious and well-founded criticism.”
“Without desiring to place (responsibility for) what has transpired” onto the United Nations, Fr. Lombardi said, “the U.N. carries the brunt of the negative consequences in public opinion, for the actions of a Committee that calls itself (by the U.N. name).”
“Let us try to find the correct plan of commitment for the good of the children,” he said, “even through the instrument of the Convention.”
While the document has created tension, Fr. Lombardi also emphasized that “it is not appropriate” to imply that there is a confrontation “between the U.N. and the Vatican,” as some have reported.
“The United Nations is a reality that is very important to humanity today,” he said, recalling how both Bl. John Paul II and Benedict XVI visited the organization and spoke to its General Assembly. Although there are naturally points of “collision” due to the vast expanse of the U.N.’s diversity, he said, the Vatican hopes to maintain fruitful dialogue.