The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child has pronounced, their findings can be found here.
The Holy See, as a signatory to the convention on the rights of the child is within the jurisdiction of this committee in relation to the children within the scope of its legal reach. In practice, this means the children resident in the Vatican City state.
In a stunning piece of legalism, the committee has used the code of canon law, specifically canons 331 and 590, to allow it to comment more widely on the behaviour of the Church:
Can. 331 The bishop of the Roman Church, in whom continues the office given by the Lord uniquely to Peter, the first of the Apostles, and to be transmitted to his successors, is the head of the college of bishops, the Vicar of Christ, and the pastor of the universal Church on earth. By virtue of his office he possesses supreme, full, immediate, and universal ordinary power in the Church, which he is always able to exercise freely.
Can. 590 §1. Inasmuch as institutes of consecrated life are dedicated in a special way to the service of God and of the whole Church, they are subject to the supreme authority of the Church in a special way.
§2. Individual members are also bound to obey the Supreme Pontiff as their highest superior by reason of the sacred bond of obedience.
Ignoring, of course, canon 591, which subordinates religious to their local bishop unless there is a direct act of the Pontiff.
This wizard wheeze allows the committee to discuss things done by clerics within jurisdictions outside of the control of Rome and to reheat and rehash the Magdalene Laundries, the Industrial Schools and the other monstrous acts committed in the name of the Church and raked over a hundred times already.
The biggest thing in this report is the claim that abuse is ongoing. No evidence for this offered (and there is a fabulous conflation between forms of “abuse” in the numbers being bandied around; the UN committee seeming to rank normal corporal punishment equally with sexual abuse).
This report rehashes cases that are more than a generation old (and which have been picked over to the bone by government enquiries) and then uses them to attack the current administration of the Church.
Still, it’s allowed the Guardian readers to have their “two minutes hate” for the day.
The fact that these are the same old accusations being cantered around the ring won’t change anyone’s views, they will all be glad to cling onto the idea that this is a unique crime of the Church; they don’t want the evidence to upset their cosy sense of outrage.
The upshot of the report is that it demonstrates that, as Catholics, we should give up any expectation that the Church will be given any credit for the advances in child protection under the last pontificate (or even in this one and, probably, in the next pontificate too).
And we can also expect that the abuse allegations will be brought out of the stables for exercise whenever someone wishes to argue against the Church’s position on abortion, contraception and homosexuality (which all made a significant and incongruous appearance in the report).
I think that there is a danger that Catholics and the Church will retreat into a fortress mentality on this; that such a mentality underlies the initial response published by the Vatican, which focused on the Committee’s emphasis on doctrinal points, but did so in a way that has allowed the secular media to paint the Church as caring more about doctrine than about children.
Instead, let’s acknowledge the crimes and errors of the past, but demonstrate, through our actions, that we are committed to rooting out criminals and supporting victims. And let’s do what we have been sent to do: to bring the message of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ to a suffering world.
[An apology to readers: a truncated version of this post appeared in the small hours. I am afraid that it was a case of “PICNIC” (Problem In Chair, Not In Computer)].