Triple Jeopardy

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)].

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11 Responses to Triple Jeopardy

  1. mkenny114 says:

    I couldn’t believe it when I saw the summaries of this report in the news yesterday. What the Church’s teaching on abortion, contraception and homosexuality have to do with the sex-abuse scandal, I have no idea. Nor do I see the point in going over cases that are decades old, and pointing out that the Church needs to put stricter regulations in place, when Pope Benedict XVI has already done an enormous amount in this area, as well as Pope Francis continuing to do the same.

    It seems to me that the UN report is designed, as you’ve suggested in your post, to back the Vatican into a corner – either they come over all apologetic, and effectively endorse the accusations contained in the report, or go on the defensive, for which they will be criticised. It just beggars belief that this sort of mud-throwing, point-scoring nonsense could have come from an organisation as large, influential, and supposedly neutral as the UN.


  2. Tomasz says:

    “the UN committee seeming to rank normal corporal punishment equally with sexual abuse” – normal parent is considered as deviant for UN.
    UN Masonic hypocrites corrupts young children by “sex-education-deprivation” – it is gang of pedophiles and pederasts!


  3. johnhenrycn says:

    “What does Raven or anyone think of the UN’s recommendations? Are they reasonable or unreasonable?”

    Life isn’t long enough to spend time on a report by political hatchet men and women. To the extent I pay any attention to them, I prefer reading second hand summaries of UN scribblings from sources I trust; and those sources tell me this latest report is more of the same old drivel from the same old dysfunctional, corrupt, anti-western talk shop we’ve been shelling out billions of dollars for these past 70 years. Diplomacy (a necessary exercise, I admit) dictates that the Vatican must take this report ‘seriously’ and must treat the Committee ‘respectfully’, but the most honest thing one can say about them (sotto voce, of course) is that they are a bunch of charlatans.


  4. GC says:

    Fr Z said What I wouldn’t give to see the Holy See stop panting with its tongue lolling out after the UN as the world’s forum for “justice and peace”. Will the Holy See ever wake up and see that the UN is Planned Parenthood on a global scale?


  5. johnhenrycn says:

    “The first thing we do is kill all the lawyers”.

    I’m not sure The Raven will endorse that sentiment. I know I don’t. Anyway, Shakespeare is a fine one to talk. One of the last things he did on this earth was to summon his lawyer, Francis Collins, to assist in drafting and executing his Last Will and Testament:

    “I gyve unto my wief my second best bed with the furniture…”


  6. The Raven says:

    You need to read the comments under the Guardian article to really get a sense of the “two minutes hate”.

    I’m in whole-hearted agreement with mkenny, I can’t see that we are “clashing”.

    And as any lawyer will tell you, you have to read legislation in its context, the code of canon law is no different: canon 590 doesn’t contradict 591, it has to be read in the light of 591.

    As to the specific recommendations:

    Part IV Section A: General measures. These recommendations fall into two camps: they are either wholly “vanilla” and unobjectionable or impractical, being based on an entirely unrealistic understanding of the influence and power of the Holy See and canon law.

    Section B: General principles. These recommendations lare generally driven by a specific ideology of rights and are generally objectionable. There is little in these recommendations that deals with the crux issue of abuse and the little that is in there represents a grievous misrepresentation of the findings of the various governmental reports into abuse in Catholic institutions.

    Section C: Civil rights and freedoms. The recommendation on the illegitimate children of priests represents a fundamental misunderstanding of the relationship between the Holy See and the rest of the Church. The recommendation dealing with “baby boxes” is simply wrong-headed and stupid.

    Section D: Violence. The recommendations touching on the Magdalene Laundries are simply ultra vires and should be addressed to the Republic of Ireland, not the Holy See. I strongly disagree with their recommendations on outlawing corporal punishment and resent the fact that they drag up the long interred spectre of the Irish industrial schools to support their recommendation. The recommendation on domestic abuse is laudable, but should be directed at the secular jurisdictions in which people live. The recommendations in para 44 on sexual abuse range from the obviously correct (remove abusers from positions of authority) to the fatuous (open the Archives – these just carry copies of what is in the diocesan archives; no prosecuting authority has actually asked for access to the records held by the Holy See).

    Section E: Family setting. The first recommendation here is, in veiled terms, to accept same-sex relationships. The later recommendations see to assume that the Church is operating in first world countries and ignores the fact that Church orphanages often operate in places where the only way to guarantee children access to nutrition, medicine and education is to place them in orphanages.

    Section F: Disability. The recommendation to change our line on abortion is frankly despicable as is the trash about access to contraception.

    Section G: Special protection measures. The recommendations here on the niños robados and similar cases are not problematic, I hope that they are adopted. The recommendations on supporting child victims of sexual abuse should be addressed to the state in which the children live; the call to provide compensation without gagging clauses and to establish a fund for compensation should be addressed to local churches, but I agree with the point in principle; I would like this to be promoted by the Holy See.


  7. GC says:

    The Raven, it may well be time for the Holy See to withdraw its accession to this United Nations Convention if this is to be typical of the committee’s approach in the future. But of course in a principled way.

    The Holy See registered its reservations to offensive parts of the Convention from the very beginning (as did many nation members) and certainly nothing has happened since then to justify changing those reservations. Actually it would be good to see changes in certain articles of the convention rather then the other way round.

    It is very shabby of this committee to behave in this way.


  8. mkenny114 says:

    Dear Big Dave,

    For future reference, I would like to confirm what Kathleen has already stated on another comment thread, namely that I am a ‘he’ not a ‘her’.

    Also, I wholeheartedly agree with The Raven that we wholeheartedly agree! I do not know where you have seen a clash – I was simply focusing on the fact that the UN report seems more concerned with dragging up old cases that a huge amount of work has already gone into, and providing recommendations that have more to do with undermining Church teaching on sexual morality than with solving the problem of abuse (though of course there are some useful protection measures suggested as well).

    I certainly was not suggesting that nothing more needs to be done, or that there is nothing of worth in the UN report – only that much of it is superfluous, irrelevant, or just plain opportunistic mudslinging. Apologies if the way I’d presented my argument caused any confusion.


  9. mkenny114 says:

    No problem.

    My point re ‘going over cases that are decades old’ was that the UN are drawing attention to things that are already well known and either have been or are still being addressed by the Church, which doesn’t really help anyone. In saying this, I was drawing attention to what I feel to be ulterior motives in the report – a feeling which seems to be corroborated by the unnecessary and irrelevant criticisms of the Church’s position on abortion, contraception and homosexuality.

    As I said in my last comment, I don’t think that pointing out the UN’s bias in this respect is any way contradictory to the view (which I share) that the work initiated by Pope Benedict XVI and continued by Pope Francis needs to be continued and reinforced. I was simply taken aback at the temerity of some of the UN reports statements, and felt that they were bringing things known by everyone just to detract from the work already being done by the Vatican on this. I was certainly not suggesting that we should ‘let sleeping dogs lie’, and am actually a bit offended by that implication.


  10. kathleen says:

    Without even trying to pretend that I hold such an insightful understanding of this subject as Raven, Mike Kenny and johnhenry clearly do – and many thanks for your informative comments by the way – I can nonetheless comprehend enough to feel really annoyed at the affront of the UN telling the Catholic Church what She should teach!!

    I believe many Catholics have come to realise that the EU and the UN are two evil organisations. They are following a secular, godless criteria that leaves no room for true Christian values.

    Following GC’s link above to Fr. Z’s blog on the topic, I found this excellent comment by someone called Johnno:

    “The same U.N. whose soldiers are involved in their own sex abuse scandals, and who daily get lobbying to make pedophilia an internationally recognized sexual right and freedom from Planned Parenthood and other LGBT organizations who they do not condemn but freely allow to flourish?
    What the Vatican should’ve done is demand they owe up to their crimes. Demand the U.N. get their rules about pedophilia abuse in line using the Vatican’s own model. And demanded that the U.N. change their laws to be in line with the law of God who is their sovereign King.
    Until the Church learns to grow a pair we will be ill-equipped to deal with the crows and seagulls that are now circling overhead waiting for the opportunity to strike.”


  11. The Raven says:

    The plain objection is that the Holy See, like most parties to the convention, has signed up with reservations; they are not subject to the whole of the convention.

    The Holy See is also only legally responsible for those within its legal authority (ie residents of the Vatican City state).

    And the committee’s comments on abortion, homosexuality and contraception fall wholly outside its remit.

    The disagreeable fact here is that the committee is claiming powers to itself that it does not have.


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