A United Nations committee’s decision to include recommendations regarding LGBT matters and other social issues in a report on how the Vatican has handled child sexual abuse has caused controversy in Catholic circles, most of which has been negative, even as the reasons differ.
The report was released by the Committee on the Convention of the Rights of a Child, which monitors protections for children globally according to the 1989 Convention. You can read Bondings 2.0’s earlier post with details about what was specifically included in the report’s recommendation by clicking here.
Fr. Thomas Reese, who is positive on matters of LGBT justice, is concerned that the inclusion of tangential issues places the report’s credibility in question on the pressing issue of child abuse by clergy. He writes at the National Catholic Reporter
“The U.N. committee report on the Vatican’s role in sexual abuse was a missed opportunity. It could have played an important role in improving the church’s handling of sexual abuse; instead, it was an editorial screed…
“The U.N. committee’s 16-page report is too easy to dismiss because it was poorly done. It even told the church it should use its power to stop Catholic parents from spanking their children or from not listening to them. By getting into issues like abortion, birth control and homosexuality, the report only helps those in the church who oppose dealing with this crisis…
“Acknowledging improvements does not excuse the past, nor does it mean that continued vigilance is no longer necessary. I was fooled too many times in the past by assurances that the church had this under control. But to move forward now requires better analysis and better recommendations than were in the U.N. committee report.”
John Allen, now writing for the Boston Globe, agreed with this assessment:
“There’s a strong possibility the fusillade from the UN panel may backfire, however, by blurring the cause of child protection with the culture wars over sexual mores…
“The danger is that when Catholic leaders such as [Bishop Nunzio] Galantino read the UN report and stumble over the parts on the culture wars, they may be tempted to file the whole thing under the usual secular axe-grinding. That drumbeat has already started, as the Vatican’s envoy to Geneva today suggested in an interview with Vatican Radio that liberal NGOs in the UN system ‘reinforced an ideological line’ in the drafting of the report.”
Elsewhere, Mark Silk of Religion News Service called the report a “lost opportunity” as well. Noting problems with the report’s understanding of the Catholic Church’s structure and the nature of the Holy See as an international body, Silk offers insight for what should have happened instead:
“Rather than try to get the Vatican to adapt longstanding and deeply held doctrines to the secular norms of the Convention, the Committee should have focused exclusively on the need for church institutions to treat accusations of sexual abuse in precisely the same way as secular institutions are required to treat them.”
However, an article at Slate offers a defense of the report for prioritizing the human rights of all, especially children, and sets the social issue recommendations within context:
“While it’s true that the report did take a (welcome) wide view of the sex-abuse scandal, the problem, if you want to call it a ‘problem,’ is not that it’s biased against the church. It’s that it’s biased in favor of human rights and the well-being of adolescents and children. This is a human rights committee. When Catholic doctrine comes into conflict with human rights, it is the U.N.’s job to prioritize human rights…
“While it may not be initially obvious why the U.N. recommended things like sex education, ending corporal punishment, or destigmatizing homosexuality, reading the entire report definitely helps clear things up. The point is to build a culture of respect for children that allows children to report sex abuse without fear of being punished or having their abusers protected. Beyond just a general cultural thing, there are direct pragmatic issues at stake. When gay kids, children of gay parents, and children of single mothers are considered less worthy than other children, you might as well paint a target on their back that says, ‘Child abusers, pick this one.’ Gay kids may be in particular danger of same-sex child abuse, as some researchers have hypothesized that the social isolation of being gay in a homophobic environment may make kids more vulnerable to the manipulations of an abuser.’ “
What do you think of the UN report and the response of various voices in the Catholic Church? Is it a positive step for LGBT justice? Does including justice issues, which are important in their own right, detract from the childhood sexual abuse at the center of the report?
—Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry
“UN Report on Vatican Draws Fire in Turn,” America Magazine