Critics Question Inclusion of LGBT Recommendations in UN Sexual Abuse Report
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?
Leave your thoughts in the ‘Comments’ section below, by commenting on our Facebook page, or by sending us a tweet at @NewWaysMinistry.
—Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry
“UN Report on Vatican Draws Fire in Turn,” America Magazine
If the Vatican will not on its own protect the child, the U.N. must step in, child care experts have said.
In Brazil a young girl was raped and impregnated by her step-father. The child’s mother sought medical attention for her daughter, with the result that twins who were conceived were aborted.
The local archbishop reacted by excommunicating the doctors and the girl’s mother – but not the rapist.
The Vatican reacted by endorsing the orders of excommunication by the local Archbishop.
These events were part of the evidence which the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child received, as it considered whether the Vatican’s internal rules and applications of the rules are adequate for the protection of the child.
In February, 2014, the committee recommended to the Vatican that Roman Catholic internal policies and procedures (Canon Law) be revised so as to better protect a child confronted with abuse at the hands of an adult.
The Committee’s report and recommendations have been subjected to harsh criticism from the Vatican and also from many (most?) commentators in the media.
Paul Vallely, of the Catholic publication, the Tablet, writing in the New York Times on Feb 11, 2014 suggests that the U.N. ‘blundered’ by extending its critique to basic Catholic doctrine.
Each of the commentators or official critics of the Committee on the Rights of the Child (whom I have read) ignore several important facts:
1. The U. N. Committee on the Rights of the Child is composed of well-regarded child-care and child-protection experts from around the world.
None of the vociferous criticisms from official Catholic sources take note of the composition of the committee.
None of the criticisms directed at the committee’s recommendations offer any specific recommendations, which might counter the conclusions the committee reached.
None of the criticisms (I have read) argue that child care experts need not be consulted when internal policies and procedures of a signatory of the Convention on the Rights of the Child are under review or when these rules have been found inadequate for the protection of a child.
2. The Vatican is a signatory to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and therefore, has bound itself to adopt standards for the protection of the child.
It is late in the day for the Vatican to claim, now, that the Vatican’s internal rules are not be subject to change, based on international norms.
If the Vatican was able to flout international child-care standards, it would be possible for any miscreant state to object to UN sanctions on the same grounds – that internal rules are sacrosanct.
If the UN were not to recommend changes in internal policies and procedures, international human rights norms would be empty of meaning and impossible to enforce.
3. A religious group’s internal policies and procedures do not trump international child-care standards.
Consider the impact worldwide if the opposite rule were to apply.
Is anyone prepared to suggest that the internal policies and procedures of every religious community may trump generally accepted, internationally recognized child-care standards?
Ought the committee have deferred to Catholic doctrine and practice (Canon Law) rather than examine the actual impact on the child of these doctrines and practices?
Is the Vatican, the US Conference of Bishops or anyone else, prepared to argue that it’s OK to require silence from a child victim of sexual violence?
The Committee has noted past Catholic practice which commanded silence from child-victims and which quietly relocated abusing priests – and has recommended changes in the rules (Canon Law) which authorized this horrendous misconduct.
Are the committee’s critics prepared to argue that it is in the best interests of a child for schools operated by a religious organization to decree a child be barred from attendance at a religious school because the child’s family is composed of two fathers or two mothers?
In the case of the raped and impregnated child in Brazil, ought the Committee on the Rights of the Child have concluded, since the Catholic Church opposes abortion under all circumstances, the child ought to have been forced by civil authorities in Brazil to have carried the fetuses to term?
Is anyone, outside orthodox religious circles, prepared to make this case?
Neither the Vatican nor the US Catholic Conference, or any of the other critics I have read, identified a single child care expert who thinks it is in the best interest of a raped child to be forced to carry a pregnancy to term.
Nor has anyone argued that a child’s best interests is served when the child’s mother is shunned by her religious circle for seeking to protect a raped child from becomming a mother at the age of twelve.
Nor has anyone argued that it is good public policy, to be endorsed by the U.N., for health care professionals to be shunned by their religious organization, for following legal civil law in aborting an impregnated, raped child.
4. There is no evidence that the U.N. child-care experts were playing politics.
No one has offered evidence that the committee’s recommendations have been unduly influenced by any nation, interested group, or anyone else.
The best next step for everyone: read the committee report (linked below).
UN Experts Committee Report (PDF)
Doctor who performed abortion on 9-year old rape victim excommunicated – Examiner – 3/10/10
Abortion results in excommunication for mother, doctors in Brazil – Catholic News Service, 3/9/09
Vatican Missteps and U.N. Blunders – Paul Vallely Op Ed NY Times 2/11/14
Vatican hits back at U.N. committee for abuse report
The United Nations: Caring for Children or Caring for Culture Warrior – USCCB MEDIA BLOG, 2/5/14s
Q&A: Vatican child abuse scandal – from the BBC – 2/5/14
The U.N. report should be unnecessary and irrelevant. It does not add one jot to the fact that the Magesterium has ignored “natural law” of justice and its own moral theology by not protecting the victims of clerical abuse. It was and is a heinous act to have protected the perpetrators. Once again the Magesterium chooses to ignore and cover up its culpability by drawing attention to and disputing the report of U.N. Commission. The Magesterium, in its usual way, is trying to change the subject from its culpability and omissions. The Vatican’s answer that the Bishops are not under Vatican control but instead answerable to civil authorities in their own country is disingenuous. The Vatican can remove their faculties and the Nuncio can inform the authorities. Francis is not purging and restructuring the Vatican Administration fast enough!
I think that when Father Thomas Reese, Mark Silk, and John Allen are all specifically mentioned by name, it would be highly appropriate to do the same when referring readers to Amanda Marcotte’s article.
And I think that Marcotte’s points are well-taken and very persuasive. I also think it may not be beside the point that Marcotte is a woman, whereas Reese, Silk, and Allen are all men. Questions about gender and sexual orientation are at the heart of this discussion, and cannot usefully be avoided as we sort out why this set of commentators see the issue this way, and that set another way.
David Kiester seems to me to have articulated a very balanced (and compact) assessment of the situation. Pope Francis appears hesitant to fully exercise his supreme authority over the Church hierarchy. We can only speculate about the motivation behind his reluctance.
I agree with Amanda Marcotte (Slate).