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United Nations response to Vatican not useful

HONG KONG (SE) : The United Nations (UN) response to the Vatican report on its institution of safeguards for children against sexual abuse may have been good media feed, but according to Sister Mary Ann Walsh, the director of media relations for the bishops in the United States of America, that is about where its utility may end.

The prior of the Bose Monastic Community, Enzo Bianchi, was even stronger in his criticism, calling the UN response to the Vatican presentation on its implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child incoherent.

He told the Italian daily, La Repubblica, “It does not seem to push towards assuming responsibility or awareness, neither does it recognise how much has been done over past years—not just the last 10 months—by the Catholic Church in order to heal a wound that remains forever open for the victims.”

In addition, Sister Walsh says that the UN report seems unclear about whether it is defending children’s rights or declaring war on culture.

“Unfortunately, the report is weakened by including objections to Catholic teaching on such issues as gay marriage, abortion and contraception. This seems to violate the UN obligation from its earliest days to defend religious freedom,” she told L’Osservatore Romano.

Bianchi said that he found the report not useful because it seems to assimilate the Vatican, local Churches, individual priests and bishops, entire episcopal conferences, the behaviour of religious congregations going back decades, all into one entity.

He adds that in addition, he finds it not useful because it ignores advances that have been made and only points to disasters that have happened.

He questions the logic of jumping from protecting children’s rights to criticising the teaching of the Church on abortion, saying this seems incoherent, as they would seem to be quite separate issues.

He then further asks where the connection may lie between the Church’s pastoral approach to homosexuality and the depravity of paedophilia.

“It does not help anyone to move forward with ideological views regarding similar tragedies: certainly not for the victims and not for the Church, and least of all for society, which in this way avoids asking itself the fundamental questions about shared ethics and the degeneration of a climate that despises the other and offends the weakest,” the prior says.

John Allen, a long time commentator on Church affairs from the Boston Globe, wrote, “The UN committee joins its critique on abuse with blunt advice to Rome to jettison Church teaching on matters such as abortion, same-sex marriage and contraception.”

He adds that in fact, there are many well documented child protection recommendations in the Vatican report that the Church has long championed.

Vatican watcher, Bill Donohue, is even more critical of the report, challenging its accuracy and the authenticity of its claims. “The 15-page report contains not a single footnote, endnote or any other mode of attribution.”

He says he also finds the claim that Catholic schools gender stereotype a bit rich, especially since not one example or reference is given to substantiate the claim.

However, he says that the one example of evidence that is put forward seems to rely more on Hollywood presentations than concrete investigation.

He refers to its page-seven reference to the Magdalene Laundries as being places where “cruel and degrading treatment, as well as physical abuse and sexual abuse” were handed out.

The assumption made by the UN committee is at odds with a government investigation into the laundries, McAleese Report of 2013, which does not substantiate the allegations contained in the report.

Sister Walsh criticises the UN report for mixing the issue of abuse with Church teaching on abortion and contraception. She says that this overlapping of issues is simply not helpful.

“Unfortunately, the report is weakened by including objections to Catholic teaching on such issues as gay marriage, abortion and contraception,” she says.

“In 1948, the organisation adopted its Universal Declaration of Human Rights that declared that everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion,” she continues.

Sister Walsh concludes, “Certainly the UN charge to defend religious freedom includes defending the Church’s right to determine its own teachings.”

She wrote on her blog, “The Catholic Church has certainly done more than any other international organisation to face the problem and it will continue to lead in doing so.”


Donohue concludes by saying that the insidious thing is that while the UN is lecturing the Vatican on changing its teaching, it overlooks the fact that if everyone obeyed it as it currently stands the current report would not be needed in the first place.

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