As the Holy See braces itself for another grilling from another United Nations committee, some prominent pro-life leaders are arguing the Church should withdraw from relevant conventions until it receives a fair hearing.
Vatican officials are to appear before the U.N.’s Committee Against Torture Monday and Tuesday this week, during which they are expected to be quizzed over clerical sex abuse from the perspective of torture and inhuman treatment.
It follows harsh criticisms in January by the U.N. committee that monitors children’s rights.
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In its concluding report, the Committee on the Rights of the Child accused the Holy See of systematically placing its own interests over those of victims, but it ignored stringent measures put in place by the Church in recent years to eradicate such crimes. The U.N. body also exceeded its remit by calling on the Church to change its teaching on homosexuality, contraception, and abortion.
The Vatican became signatory to the convention against torture in 2002, and as such, it must routinely appear before the convention’s monitoring committee. But in a long statement issued Friday, Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi disputed placing clerical sex abuse of minors in the context of torture, saying it comes under the rights of the child instead.
He pointed out that “not infrequently” such U.N. committees pose questions “deriving from issues not strictly linked to the text of the convention, but rather connected to it indirectly or based on an extensive interpretation.”
Lombardi partly blamed pressure from NGOs “with a strong ideological character and orientation,” saying their abuse of these committees “is clear to any unbiased observer.” He said he hoped for “a serene and objective dialogue,” otherwise these conventions “may be distorted” and the committees “risk losing authority.”
These committees, he warned, are in danger of being “reduced to tools of ideological pressure rather than a necessary stimulus toward the desired progress in promoting respect for human rights.”
In "shadow reports" submitted to the committee ahead of this week’s hearing, various NGOs with strong ideological positions against Church teaching have made their prejudices known in a bid to try and influence the committee’s conclusions.
The Center for Reproductive Rights, for instance, equates the Church’s treatment of women who have had abortions to torture, but ignores the many Church groups that help women cope with the trauma of terminating a pregnancy. Nor does it seek to understand the Church’s teaching on the sanctity of life.
Vatican officials argue that organizations are playing “ideological hardball” with such arguments which, they say, far exceed the purposes of the convention. “This is a total contradiction,” one official told Newsmax on condition of anonymity. “Are they now interpreting the convention for us?”
Unusually for such hearings, some shadow reports have been submitted in support of the Church. The group ‘Catholic Voices’ has issued a strong counteroffensive against ideological attacks, saying “the age-old desire to marginalize and discredit the Church has lately taken a new and vitriolic form.”
It singles out a “new intolerance,” characterized by “ideological insatiability,” which “insidiously” tells the young that “religious faith is on the wrong side of history.” And it argues that the U.N. charter wouldn’t exist “without the universalist ideas about human rights bequeathed to humanity by Christianity itself.”
Austin Ruse, president and founder of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute (C-FAM), said these reports are “important” but will have “absolutely no effect whatsoever on the outcome of the coming report.”
“The treaty monitoring bodies are made up of radicals and they will do exactly what they want to do, which in this case is to beat up the Church,” he said. The Holy See “will not get a fair hearing” at this committee “no matter what they do” and he urged the Vatican to have “a PR strategy worked out” ready to defend the Church around the world.
Israel is one country that refuses to attend such hearings even though it is a signatory to the convention, and some argue the Holy See should do the same.
“The Catholic Church follows a master who overturned the merchants’ and money-changers’ tables in the Temple of Jerusalem because he was offended by the blasphemous stench of their hypocrisy,” said Benjamin Harnwell, founder of the Dignitatis Humanae Institute, a pro-life think tank. “If Our Blessed Lord is to be our model in all things, we should not be afraid to 'overturn the tables’ when confronted by hypocrisy in our own time.”
He suggested to Newsmax that the Pope could consider using the opportunity this week to announce that the Holy See is “temporarily withdrawing” from the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child “until such time as it returns to its original responsibility: promoting the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and not the extreme extraneous interests that have hijacked it.
“Frankly, children deserve better than to be used as pawns in an external ideological battle,” he said.
Ruse believes withdrawal also might be necessary but over a longer period.
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“My advice would be to weather this inevitable attack on the Church and, sometime in the next few years, withdraw from these U.N. treaties,” he said. “In doing so, they should make the case they are withdrawing because the treaty monitoring bodies are going far beyond their warrant, far beyond the four walls of the treaties, and in the process harming authentic human rights.”
The Committee Against Torture will publish its concluding observations on May 23.
Edward Pentin began reporting on the Vatican as a correspondent with Vatican Radio in 2002. He has covered the Pope and the Holy See for a number of publications, including Newsweek and The Sunday Times. Read more reports from Edward Pentin — Click Here Now.
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