UN Committees Attack the Vatican

Wednesday, 07 May 2014 09:53 AM

By Gregory Erlandson

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You know what torture is? Torture is enduring the mounting attacks against the Catholic Church by United Nations’ committees who are stretching their mandates past the breaking point in the service of Catholicism’s ideological enemies.
 
Last January, the Vatican was bushwhacked by the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child. Ostensibly a hearing on the clergy sexual abuse scandal, it became a broadside against the Church’s teachings on contraception, abortion, and sexuality.
 
The ploy worked, and it won headlines around the world. This despite apologies by an army of churchmen and a profound and wide-ranging series of reforms, particularly in the United States, which has been the epicenter of the scandal. As outraged Vatican spokesman Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi put it, the report reflected the committee’s “own ideological vision of sexuality itself” rather than any sort of fair-minded investigation.
 
Francis:Pope’s Hidden Life Revealed.

No PR fools these, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) and other groups such as the Center for Reproductive Rights are going with a winning strategy until it stops winning for them. They are asking the U.N. committee that monitors the Convention against Torture (CAT) to condemn the Vatican for violating the convention.
 
In order to do this, it is arguing both that sexual abuse is the equivalent of torture as defined by the convention, and that the Vatican is somehow liable for the individual criminal acts of Church members around the world.
 
The maneuver is already working, since it has received extensive coverage, including a page 3 story in The New York Times on May 6 along with an egregious screed on the same day in The Daily Beast by Barbie Latza Nadeau titled “Torture the Children.”
 
To a certain extent, the success of this scheme is already assured. The Vatican has been forced to respond, with Archbishop Silvano Tomasi making a nuanced but accurate case that there is a distinction between the Vatican City State and the Holy See. It is a true point, but not nearly as pithy a sound bite as when SNAP’s Barbara Blaine says that “we are convinced that hundreds of innocent children and vulnerable adults are being sexually violated, tortured, and assaulted — right now, today — by Catholic clerics.”
 
Archbishop Tomasi, who is the Vatican’s Permanent Observer to the United Nations, said that the committee was asking him about specific cases around the world.
 
He said: “The members of the committee raised a series of questions dealing with specific cases that happened in different countries of the world for which they would like to have explanations and accurate information. Mostly, (these are) cases of sexual abuse of minors on the part of personnel working for the Church and the assumption seemingly at work in this situation (is) that the Holy See is directly responsible for the behavior of every priest and of every employee of any Church institution in the world which of course is not the case.”
 
The archbishop declared that Catholics are subject to the laws of the states in which they are citizens or residents.
 
There are multiple ironies to the current campaign against the Church. The first is that the effort to hold the Holy See accountable for the actions of all 1.2 billion of its members is in some ways an extension of the old anti-Catholic slur that said Catholic politicians in this country were secretly taking orders from the Vatican. Fifty-four years after John F. Kennedy denied such control, the United Nations seems intent on forcing the Holy See to assume exactly this responsibility, however irrational and impossible that is.
 
The second is that there is no organization that has gone to such great lengths to address the problem of sexual abuse as has the Catholic Church. While every leader of note from Pope Francis on down has apologized for the abuse cases that were not addressed or that were hushed up, more importantly is that a host of reforms have been instituted in the United States, where the Church still monitors its compliance on an annual basis, and increasingly elsewhere in the world.
 
The fact that Pope Francis recently established a commission to address the issue is clear evidence he is not going to let the subject drop from his agenda.
 
Third, many signatories of the anti-torture convention have themselves been accused of torture, and the idea that abuse by a single priest committing a criminal act is somehow the equivalent of state-sponsored terrorism in a wide variety of countries is outrageous.
 
At some point, we can only hope that the United Nations itself will recognize that the real puppet masters in this ideological propaganda war are non-governmental organizations who fiercely oppose the Catholic Church for its teachings.
 
Unfortunately, both the United Nations and the Convention on Torture have already been subverted. As English journalist Austen Ivereigh has reported, “The NGOs are arguing that the CAT covers abortion, reproductive rights, clerical sex abuse of minors, and corporal punishment, and that the Holy See should be held to account over these, as if it were a rogue nation.
 
The CAT committee has already demonstrated that it agrees with this interpretation of the convention, in the past telling Ireland, Poland, Nicaragua, and Bolivia that prohibitions on abortion for disability, rape, incest, and to save the life of the mother are considered torture under the treaty.”
 
Francis:Pope’s Hidden Life Revealed.

To allow itself to be used in this way brings the United Nations into disrepute and raises questions about its own commitment to freedom of religion and freedom of conscience. Worse, it is creating a template for other ideologues to exploit international conventions for the sake of their own agendas.
 
One lesson for Catholics in the here and now is this: There are people who hate what the Church stands for and will stop at nothing to cripple it. It is likely to get much worse before it gets any better.

Gregory R. Erlandson is the president of  Our Sunday Visitor, one of the largest Catholic publishing companies in the United States. He is co-author of Pope Benedict XVI and the Sexual Abuse Crisis. Erlandson is also an adviser on the U.S. Bishops’ Communications Committee, and has been appointed by Pope Benedict XVI as a consultant to the Pontifical Council for Social Communications. Read more reports from him — Click Here Now.
 
 
 
 

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