Vatican City, Feb 5, 2014 / 11:14 am
In wake of the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child criticizing Vatican policies and calling for the Church to change its doctrine, a leading archbishop countered that the committee's analysis fails to be objective.
"The concluding recommendations…point out a rather negative approach to what the Holy See has been doing and has already achieved in the area of the protection of children," Archbishop Silvano Tomasi told Vatican Radio on Feb. 5.
Archbishop Tomasi, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations in Geneva, made his comments in response to Wednesday's U.N. committee's Rights of Children report claiming that the Vatican "systematically" adopted policies allowing priests to rape and molest children. The document was issued following a Jan. 16 committee hearing in Geneva on global children's rights.
Charging the Church to open its files on previous cases of abuse and criticizing their stance on homosexuality, contraception and abortion, the report suggested the Church change its canon law to ensure that what it called children's rights, including access to health care, are guaranteed.
Archbishop Tomasi responded that the analysis first "in some ways is not up to date" because it does not take "into account some of the clear and precise explanations that were given to the committee in the encounter that the delegation of the Holy See had with the committee three or four weeks ago."
The archbishop also pointed out an apparent "difficulty" in the committee understanding "the position of the Holy See," which cannot compromise teachings which are "part of their deep convictions and also an expression of freedom of religion."
The committee's call for the Church to shift her stance on abortion would be a "contradiction" of the work that they do, which is to ensure that "that children be protected before and after birth."
Drawing attention to the rigorous efforts to protect minors that the Church has made – particularly in the formation of priests and in the decisions of various episcopal conferences – Archbishop Tomasi said it "is very difficult, I think, to find other institutions or even other states that have done so much specifically for the protection of children."
In their report to the U.N. commission, Archbishop Tomasi explained how the Holy See emphasized that "priests are not employees of the Pope but they are responsible citizens of the countries," and as such are "accountable to the judicial system of those countries."
Highlighting how the Church has made great efforts to "give an objective picture of the remedies undertaken" to protect minors, as well as those yet to come with the new Vatican commission, the archbishop stressed that there is actually "a small percentage of Church personnel that have committed abuse."
But due to the tone of the U.N.'s report earlier today, he observed that perhaps "not all the observations in the facts have been adequately taken into account in the conclusions."
"We need time to reflect carefully on the conclusions and recommendations of the committee," the archbishop explained, "and to prepare an adequate response, so that the objective may really be pursued."
Noting that the Holy See is a "state party to the Convention of the Child," Archbishop Tomasi affirmed that they intend to "faithfully" carry out the elements of the commission that they are able to for the sake of "the protection of children."
"This is the way toward the future," he said, "and I don't think that there will be fundamental changes in this task ahead."
The U.N.'s conclusions announced earlier this morning came at the end of their 65th session, in which reports were of Germany, the Holy See, Congo, Portugal, Russian Federation and Yemen were examined.