A blog by the magazine's editors and contributors


Vatican responds to UN report on sexual abuse.

On Wednesday, the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child published a report strongly criticizing the Vatican for its handling of the sexual-abuse crisis. It hasn't gone over very well. John Allen argued that it might actually hurt the reform movement within the Catholic Church. Austen Ivereigh called the committee a "kangaroo court." (While I don't agree with everything Ivereigh has to say about the report--for example, he claims the Holy See has been a "catalyst" on abuse reform "at least since 2001"--he's catalogued its many mistakes.) Michael Sean Winters declared, "To hell with the UN." Mark Silk criticized the report for treating the Holy See as it would any other state, calling it "worse than idiotic. It's counterproductive."

Apart from that significant error, the report foolishly wades into doctrinal waters, suggesting the Vatican revise its teachings on abortion and contraception. The committee urges the Holy See to provide "family planning, reproductive health, as well as adequate counselling and social support, to prevent unplanned pregnancies." At one point the UN committee asks Rome to remove from Catholic-school textbooks "all gender stereotyping which may limit the development of the talents and abilities of boys and girls and undermine their educational and life opportunities." At another it complains that the Code of Canon Law refers to children born out of wedlock as "illegitimate." The report says that in canon law instances of sexual abuse ought to be "considered as crimes and not as 'delicts,'" seemingly ignorant of the fact that "delict" means crime. (The committee's work is so sloppy that it doesn't even seem to know where to cut off a quote: That part of the report reads, "Child sexual abuse, when addressed, has been dealt with as 'grave delicts against the moral' through confidential proceedings...")

Even when the committee bumps up against a good idea, it seems uninterested in context. For example, it asks Rome to establish "clear rules, mechanisms and procedures for the mandatory reporting of all suspected cases of child sexual abuse and exploitation to law enforcement authorities," but fails to note that the world's law-enforcement authorities are not all made in the image and likeness of North America's and Europe's. That's why some diocese--in Africa, for example--haven't implemented mandatory-reporting rules. Shouldn't a UN committee show some awareness of that?

Some of their confusions could have been cleared up with a few clicks of a mouse, or by speaking to someone who knows something about the inner workings of the church. Apparently that didn't occur to the them.

Today Vatican spokesman Frederico Lombardi, SJ, responded to the UN report, claiming that its missteps prove that the committee gave "much greater certain NGOs, the prejudices of which against the Catholic Church and the Holy See are well known." Not the most helpful formulation, especially given that some Vatican officials have dismissed the sexual-abuse scandal as a creation of an anti-Catholic press.

Still, the rest of the statement is relatively measured. Lombardi explains that the report fails to highlight several of the Vatican's recent efforts to come to terms with the scandal. It does, in fact, "welcome" some of those changes, including the creation of the Commission for the Protection of Minors and changes to Vatican City State law regarding the abuse of minors, but it has little to say about them. "Few other organizations or institutions, if any, have done as much," Lombardi claims. Maybe, but it isn't as though Rome led the charge. Bishops were shamed into action by victims and sustained media coverage of the abuse they suffered.

Lombardi also laments the committee's comments on church teaching, which "seem to go beyond its powers and to interfere in the very moral and doctrinal positions of the Catholic Church, giving indications involving moral evaluations of contraception, or abortion, or education in families, or the vision of human sexuality, in light of [the committee’s] own ideological vision of sexuality itself." Of course, he's right. And he doesn't even get into the report's errors of fact, like its assertion that because of "a code of silence imposed on all members of the clergy under penalty of excommunication, cases of child sexual abuse have hardly ever been reported to the law enforcement authorities."

The document is a mess, which is a shame because it contains legitimate criticisms that Rome needs to hear, and it could end up giving aid and comfort to curialists who still believe that the sexual-abuse crisis has been overblown by enemies of the church. 




Commenting Guidelines

Political conservatives in the US already barely conceal their contempt for the UN.  This dunderheaded report will be taken in those quarters as yet one more example of the drivel that comes out of that collection of diplomatically immune wheel-spinners, time-wasters and useful idiots for the worst people in the world (as conservatives already  view of the UN), and only what should have been expected.  

Not only is it this a missed opportunity in regard to the reform of the church's handling of sexual abuse, it further undermines the UN's already tenuous credibility (in the eyes of political conservatives) in any number of other areas in which the UN operates, including climate change, weapons inspection, disaster relief, etc. etc. etc.


Mr. Jenkins - excellent commentary and analysis.  Yep, appears that we have an institution running headlong into criticism and reacting according to script.

From community organizational theory:

Church as Institution demands *unilateral power* marked as Top Down; unaccountable; power over; subject to object; zero sum.

It demands *consent* using:  threat of force (sin, damnation); controlled or slanted information; habit of apathy; mystery/magic/ritual/custom understood as the *tyranny of experts*

Can you imagine Father why we might not believe you? Can you imagine how some of us hear your charges against the NGOs with some degree of skepticism? Do you grasp the irony for some of us in your trying to make yourselves the victims in this situation? Can you understand that many of us love the "church" and the tradition but feel that it has be co-opted in large part by a clerical establishment that in spite of many saints is marked deeply by dishonesty, corruption, arrogance and crime. Can you see the necessity for complete truth telling and profound repentance?

It looks to me like a sloppy, under-researched report, which is likely to be counter-productive. The paragraph on the Magdalene Laundries, for example, owes more to movies than to any serious examination of the McAleese Report, which provides the only major documentation on them. One factual error is the claim that women gave birth in the Laundries.

Joseph O'Leary - I agree, Reese nails it.  The UN should just paste its logo over Reese's column.

Cardinal O'Malley's take on the report:

It's now the second item on the blog, but you don't have to scroll very far to hit it. The takeaway:

I do not think the commission’s report has been either fair or particularly helpful.

On the other hand, the cardinal doesn't throw out the good parts with the unfair and uhelpful parts.

P.S. Jim P, Considering the right wing's past history with the United Nations, I don't think we have to devote an iota of attention to what they think of this report in particular. We can put them aside with the Illuminati.


James Carroll takes on claims that the Holy See only has control over child abuse that happens within the Vatican City state. 

ON THE QUESTION of how far papal authority extends, the canon law of the Catholic Church could not be clearer: “The vicar of Christ. . . possesses full, immediate, and universal ordinary power in the Church, which he is always able to exercise freely.” (Can. 331) Note that canon law does not say, “except in cases of priestly sex abuse of children.” Canon law does not say that priests and bishops are independent contractors. Canon law does not say that what happens in Catholic parishes and dioceses around the world has nothing to do with Rome. In fact, another canon reads, “By virtue of his office, the Roman pontiff not only possesses power over the universal church, but also obtains the primacy of ordinary power over all particular churches and groups of them.” (Can. 333)


How to square that sweeping papal power with the shameless dodge put forward by the Holy See in this era of church disgrace — the claim that, when it comes to protecting children from abuse, the Roman Catholic Church is legally responsible only to safeguard those living in the confines of Vatican City, a tiny city-state that would fit inside New York’s Central Park eight times? Washing the Vatican’s hands of broader responsibility for the staggering transnational accumulation of rapes by priests, and systematic enabling of those rapes by bishops, a Vatican spokesman said, “When individual institutions of national churches are implicated, that does not regard the competence of the Holy See . . . The competence of the Holy See is at the level of the Holy See....”


The pope’s men, including squads of lawyers who deny that offending priests and bishops are “employees” and insist that the pope as a sovereign head of state is immune from lawsuits, are obviously seeking to fend off the threat of multinational litigation that could saddle the Vatican with billions of dollars in liabilities. So far, courts have mostly sided with the Holy See.


But the Vatican strategy has come at a terrible moral cost. Once again, protection of church power and possessions is trumping the profound moral obligation to reckon with the truth of what is still happening in the Catholic Church. And now comes this next lie — the ridiculous assertion that the pope does not exercise full and complete authority over priests and bishops. When parishioners fight the closure of beloved churches, they appeal to Rome. When English-speaking Catholics are directed to say at Mass that Jesus died for “many” instead of for “all,” the fiat comes from Rome. “The competence of the Holy See” is exercised at every level of church life everywhere.


Read more:

You see htis so often when some committe or other is going to conduct a review.  They overreach and thus give the group being reviewed and its supporters grounds for  dismissing the whole of the findings.  In this instance the UN did exactly that.  Had they stuck to the basic question, defense of children, and avoided what were clearly extraneous factors and things that were not going to change, like the Church's position on abortion, they'd have been far more effective and there would be far less of the "this is just a bunch of guys out to hurth the Church" type of response.  As ti si, the Vatican was far less indignant in its response than it could have been, certainly far less than many commentators and defenders have been (I'm looking at you, Michael Sean Winters).  The bottom line is that the Church has a horrible record of performance on this matter.  For decades and decades they made every effort to protect the people who assaulted children, and not a single bishop has been removed from office, even those who have peaded guilty to coverups.  And frankly, outside of a couple of diocese, nobody is completely certain that it is being dealt with fully yet.

Jim McCrea, may I suggest that you re-read the Wikipedia entry on "sovereign states" that you referred to in your comments about the "Holy See." Note the opening paragraph of that entry. It says that a sovereign state has a well defined citizenry as wewll as a well defined trritory. The fact that the Vatican State as it presently exists has come into existence only rather recently changes nothing about the criteeria for being a sovereign state.

@ John Hayes:  Thanks for posting this Boston Globe op-ed from James Carroll.  Only thing is:  You left off his concluding paragraph which is the most operative and salient point at issue:

Pope Francis has appointed a Commission for the Protection of Minors, and the UN urges that it be independently empowered and fully transparent. Francis has generated enormous hope for a new day in the Catholic Church, but on the abuse question he has miles to go. The message from the United Nations is that the world is more appalled by Catholic crimes than defensive church officials are. If the church does not address those crimes, others will.

BD:   “The Vatican” is reported as having said that it "regrets to see in some points of the concluding observations an attempt to interfere with Catholic Church teaching on the dignity of human person and in the exercise of religious freedom" and "reiterates its commitment to defending and protecting the rights of the child... according to the moral and religious values offered by Catholic doctrine".  Abp Tomasi added that the UN could not ask the Church to change its "non-negotiable" moral teachings.

But “the church” is not a signatory of the UN Charter on the Rights of the Child (CRC):  the political entity called the “Holy See” or the “Vatican City State” is.  This political entity, with a defined territory and citizenry, agreed to abide by the features of the Charter.  Those are the moral teachings (if you will) that the UN is accusing The Holy See/Vatican City State of failing to uphold.

Or is it being held that “The Vatican” is the religious organization when that is most beneficial and it is a political entity when that is most beneficial?  The pope as, what:  CEO of the political entity (the Holy See) or Supreme Pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church, appoints bishops at his sole discretion and they are, what:  Regional Managers of the political entity or Successors of the Apostles of the Roman Catholic Church?

It appears that this is a case of wanting to have one’s cake and eat it too as a matter or particular convenience.

I will admit that the UN committee seemed to use this report to grind a few axes that were better left un-ground, but the righteous indignation of (the Holy See?) (The Roman Catholic Church?) appears to be a feint away from the damning charges about the patent failure to act as one would expect from the top-most leadership of One True Church Established by Christ over many years and pontificates.

Claudia Rosett on the UN report: 

the U.N ... has still not solved its own festering problems of peacekeeper sex abuse, including the rape of minors. Exposing abusers and holding them to account is a great idea. The Vatican has spent years addressing the scandal of its own past handling of such cases. But the U.N. hardly engages in the transparency it is now promoting.

The U.N. releases only generic statistics on violations committed by personnel working under its flag. The U.N. doesn't share with the public such basic information as the names of the accused or the details of what they did to people the U.N. dispatched them to protect. Blue berets accused of sex crimes are simply sent back to their home countries, where in the majority of cases they drop off the radar.


The real issue here is that whatever changes the Vatican and the world's 1.2 billion Catholics might consider, the U.N. is supremely ill-qualified to serve as a guide. ...The Committee on the Rights of the Child consists of 18 panelists advertised as "independent experts," serviced by a secretariat housed in Geneva under the umbrella of the U.N.'s dubiously named Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. The committee members are nominated for their posts by the governments of their home countries and elected by an assembly of treaty members that reflects the despot-heavy tilt of the U.N.

From 2009-13 the committee included a member put forward by the government of Syria, where in 2011 the Assad regime began making world headlines for torturing and murdering children. Currently, the committee includes members from such human-rights-challenged countries as Saudi Arabia, Russia, Ecuador, Ethiopia, Sri Lanka, Tunisia, Bahrain and Egypt. This panel issues reports via a process that in practice entails neither uniform standards of judgment nor urgent attention to some of the world's most horrifying abuses of children


Jim Jenkins, i usually try to avoid quoting the whole text of someone else's article. In this case, I omitted the paragraph you quoted and one other - and gave a link so people could read the whole article on the Globe website. 

The other paragraph mentioned that the UN committee

reminded the Holy See that “by ratifying the convention it has committed itself to implementing the convention not only on the territory of the Vatican City state, but also as the supreme power of the Catholic Church through individuals and institutions placed under its authority.”

I wonder if that's legally so but, regardless of what the Holy See (the Vatican city state) is legally required to do, I think the Vatican, as the Catholic Church,  needs to require bishops to deal adequately with child abuse and hold them accountable if they don't

in an interview yesterday, Cardinal O'Malley said

he thought the committee’s report would put new pressure on the Vatican to take stronger steps to prevent abuse. He agreed with the UN panel that the church must develop methods of holding bishops accountable when they fail to abide by a “zero tolerance” policy.

In December, O’Malley announced on Francis’ behalf that the pope was creating a new Vatican commission to lead the anti-abuse charge. In the Globe interview, O’Malley said that developing ways of holding bishops’ feet to the fire should be part of its mandate, but he did not indicate how long that would take.


“The first order of business is getting national policies in place, to have some clarity about what the expectations are throughout the world,” he said. “Once the policies are in place, what the [Vatican] might do to intervene where bishops are not following those policies has to be part of a future plan.”



I see the terms "Vatican City" and "Holy See" used interchangeably under this topic.  In my view, they're not exactly the same.  Vatican City is the political entity - an independent nation surrounded by the city of Rome, the rump that remains from what historically was the Papal States.  I assume it is Vatican City that is a signatory to the treaty in question and is affiliated with (a full member of?) the UN.  As a legal matter, I'd think that its compliance with any international laws would apply only to the residents of that political entity - fewer than a thousand people, mostly priests and bishops, I understand.

The Holy See is a 'construct' of the church's internal governance.  To be sure, it's virtually unthinkable to many people that the Holy See could ever exist apart from the political entity known as Vatican City, and there are theological reasons that it is fitting that the Chair of Peter be there, but it's not inconceivable.  Nations come and go.  Most of the land and peoples that were at one time ruled by the pope as a temporal ruler are no longer governed by him.  And the church existed for some time after Pentecost before a local church was planted in Rome and (we believe) Peter went there.  

The political (Vatican City) and the internal governance of the spiritual (the Holy See) are united in the person of the Pope.  The pope as spiritual vicar is critical to our understanding of the church.  But is the pope as temporal ruler critical?  It's not impossible that some day the Holy Father could continue to be the spiritual father of the church, with all that entails, without being the monarch of a political entity.  Should that happen - should Vatican City cease to exist as an independent entity - then whatever UN treaties it signed would no longer be applicable.  But the church would continue to exist in the same way that virtually all other Christian denominations exist.

Canon law is the church's internal code of governance, analogous to the rules or bylaws or a club or association.  It "belongs" to the Holy See, not to Vatican City.  If an independent Vatican City goes away tomorrow, canon law would continue to exist and apply to the church.

James Carroll is an eminent Catholic journalist and historian, but to my knowledge he is not an expert on canon law.  That's not to say that he shouldn't offer an opinion on the meaning of canon law.  Nor does it mean that his 'take' on those canons is wrong.  But unless he cites an authority, I don't think we're obligated to accept his opinion as authoritative.  And arguing from canon law that a UN treaty signed by Vatican City is therefore applicable to Catholics in Dubuque or Durban or Manila seems questionable, to say the least.


Jim Pauwels, initially I thought it was the Vatican City State which had signed the treaty, but Wikipedia says it is the Holy See which is recognized by the UN and signs treaties. 

Since the Holy See is legally capable of ratifying international treaties, and does ratify them, it is invited to participate - on equal footing with States - in the negotiation of most universal International law-making treaties held under the auspices of the United Nations.[22] Being a negotiating party, it is able to make substantive proposals, reject the proposals of other negotiating parties, request a vote, and even vote. The Holy See has participated actively in the negotiation of the 1998 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, the 1997 Terrorist Bombing Convention, and the 2006 Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, among others.


i haven't gone further than that, so far.

Could not have said it better.

Dear God, they hid the abuse of children.

Everybody should be outraged.

John H - I stand corrected.   This passage from a related Wikipedia article both supports and refutes my view :-)

 Although the Holy See, as distinct from the Vatican City State, does not fulfill the long-established criteria in international law of statehood—having a permanent population, a defined territory, a stable government and the capacity to enter into relations with other states[11]—its possession of full legal personality in international law is shown by the fact that it maintains diplomatic relations with 180[12] states, that it is a member-state[13] in various intergovernmental international organizations, and that it is: "respected by the international community of sovereign States and treated as a subject of international law having the capacity to engage in diplomatic relations and to enter into binding agreements with one, several, or many states under international law that are largely geared to establish and preserving peace in the world."[14]

In short - it's treated as if it were a state because other state actors choose to treat it as if it were a state.

I think it's problematic.  It's not the sort of dual citizenship I've signed up for.


Jim - one more Wikipedia article:

But, I think it's a mistake to get drawn into the legal issues - and that's what disappointed me about what appears to be the standard talking point put out by Fr. Lombardi, Cardinal O'Malley and others - that the Pope's responsibility is limited to what happens with the Vatican city State and, everywhere else, the buck stops with individual bishops.

I don't think that is going to convince many people.

I think they are caught in a trap, in that they don't want to have victims of abuse sue the Pope for his vicarious liability for bishops, and pastors and priests as if he were their employer. From a money standpoint, it's better for the Church to have a diocese go into bankruptcy and have the losses end there. In the two lawsuits I know of in the US in which people tried to bring in the Pope, the Vatican's lawyer argued that bishops have offices, not jobs and that once the Pope appoints a bishop, he has no further control over what the bishop does and there is no employer-employee relationship that would make the Pope (or the Church beyond the diocese) liable. The Vatican lawyer also put forth that Pastors have offices, not jobs and once a bishop appoints a pastor, he has no vicarious liability for what the pastor does. 

That doesn't match up with my impression of the reality of the control the Vatican imposes on bishops and bishops impose on pastors, but the courts in both cases accepted that argument. I suppose that the Vatican lawyers will advise against doing anything that will endanger the protection the Pope now has. 

That's why I was happy to see Cardinal O'Malley talk about holding bishops responsible. I imagine they are going to have some complicated discussions about how to do that without exposing the Pope (and the church as a whole) to claims by abuse victims. The more control that the pope exercises, the more financial risk he takes. 

Apart from the legal issues, I agree with James Carrol that "the Vatican strategy has come at a terrible moral cost"

​I hope we can change that soon, because that is what is important.  


Wow, then the Holy See is a state like Exxon is a person.

"Holy See," by the way, is the site I Google when I want to read a papal document that isn't at hand. Most papal documents are not about government.

that's what disappointed me about what appears to be the standard talking point put out by Fr. Lombardi, Cardinal O'Malley and others - that the Pope's responsibility is limited to what happens with the Vatican city State and, everywhere else, the buck stops with individual bishops.

As a matter of ecclesiology, two false statements would be:

  • "The pope has no responsibility whatever in what goes on in individual dioceses or with individual bishops"
  • "The pope has complete responsibility for what goes on in individual dioceses or with individual bishops"

The truth is more complex.  The church's organization is a communion, and that communion is expressed via the principle of subsidiarity.  Federalism, with which we are familiar in the US, is another, different expression of subsidiarity.  

My view is that this church organization is not dependent on the Holy See being based in Vatican City, and does not depend on legal or diplomatic recognition by other nations. That the church happens also to have these particular characteristics, in my opinion, gives the church some benefits - and as you note, potentially may bring some very real liabilities.  But I don't think it is constitutive of the church that it have this sort of unique quasi-state status.

Btw, I am cynical enough to agree with you that Fr. Lombardi, Cardinal O'Malley et al seek to sheild the church from liability - and that the UN report was motivated in part by a desire to expose the church to liability.  But I don't usually suppose that the UN operates from pristine motives, anymore than Congress or Exxon does.



Found this response in the Dallas Morning News to be very balanced:

CYNTHIA RIGBY, W.C. Brown Professor of Theology, Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary
My initial, gut reaction on this was to say that the UN should have stuck with addressing child abuse and should have avoided commenting on social issues such as abortion, contraception, homosexuality, and gender roles. After all, it is important that we protect the right of religious institutions to say, teach, uphold, and defend what they believe.

Until I got to thinking, which led me to delve a little deeper. I starting thinking through how it is that we can cut to the core of this heinous human rights violation that went mainly unchecked for decades, and remains yet to be resolved. In order to protect our children from the “worst” of abuses, don’t we have to think more organically about how our “positions” (civil, religious, and otherwise) affect them, the most vulnerable members of our global community? How do the “positions” we hold fail to keep our children safe?

I read through the UN report and found that it actually does not criticize directly the Vatican’s position on abortion, contraception, homosexuality, and gender roles. What it does do is insist the church promote such positions in ways that do not fund the abuse of children in any way. Any such abuses, the document rightly insists, are criminal acts that must be condemned by the global society. The report further points out that the Vatican signed, alongside 139 other sovereign entities, the UN’s “Convention on the Rights of the Child” in 1989 (linked at, therefore covenanting to take these matters seriously and to be guided by way of conversation with other signing members of the global community.

As I study this matter I am increasingly impressed by how careful the UN was about NOT criticizing religious convictions as such, but insisting that these religious convictions not be invoked as a justification for overlooking ANY form of child abuse, discrimination, or neglect.

Here are four examples, drawn straight from the report.

“The Committee urges the Holy See to review its position on abortion which places obvious risks on the life and health of pregnant girls . . .” [Note that the aim here is not to criticize the church’s position on abortion per se, but to highlight the real implications of this position for pregnant children, particularly those who have been raped and/or whose lives are endangered by pregnancy.]

“The Committee is seriously concerned about the negative consequences of the Holy See’s position and practices of denying adolescents’ access to contraception, as well as to sexual and reproductive health and information.” [Note that the concern here is not directly to criticize the church’s position on contraception, but to advocate for the sexual and reproductive health of children.]

“The Committee also urges the Holy See to make full use of its moral authority to condemn all forms of harassment, discrimination or violence against children based on their sexual orientation or the sexual orientation of their parents and to support efforts at international level for the decriminalisation of homosexuality.” [Note that the concern here is not to counter the church’s position that homosexuality is a sin, but to condemn criminal violence directed against children who are homosexual in orientation and/or children of homosexual parents.]

“The Committee also urges the Holy See to take active measures to remove from Catholic schools textbooks all gender stereotyping which may limit the development of the talents and abilities of boys and girls and undermine their educational and life opportunities.” [Note that the concern here is not to condemn the church’s teaching that the roles of men and women differ, but to call the church to promote the flourishing of all children, regardless of their sex.]

In my view, the Holy See has too frequently sat back into its “convictions” and ignored the real and concrete ways its positions on abortion, contraception, homosexuality, and gender roles have funded the widespread abuse of children. The UN is calling the church not necessarily to change their positions, but to sit up, take responsibility, and address these criminal and moral abuses associated with these positions. I, along with so many others in this world, have great hope that the church is moving in the right direction in these matters under the leadership of Pope Francis.

I would go on to suggest, however, that if the church cannot actively and directly address these abuses of children without changing its “positions” on said social issues, its positions on these issues must be changed.

Jesus took little stock in religious convictions as such, pointing out that the purpose of God’s laws – the purpose of the faith stands we take – is never for their own sake. They are for the purpose of promoting the “abundant life” Jesus wills and promises. Responding to those who accused him of breaking his convictions about the Sabbath to feed and to heal, Jesus stated the truth very directly: “Humanity is made for the Sabbath, not Sabbath for humanity.”

If the lives of our children are being harmed by our religious convictions, these convictions are not of God; they have become idols of our own making.

Jesus stated the truth very directly: “Humanity is made for the Sabbath, not Sabbath for humanity.”

Or did he say just the opposite? I'm weak in Aramaic.

Jim Pauwewls has filled out nicely the distinction I attemppted to draw between the Church as the world -wide community of faithand the Vatican City, a relatively recent creation to bring to conclusion an international political conflict. The basic question I have is:  Can a committee or comission of the United Nations rightly issue an explicit criticism of the practices and policies at work in the community that is Catholicism? If so, I take it that it could also issue explicit criticism of pracitices in Judaism, Buddhism, etc. If it is rightly to do so, why does this committee not have to seek approbation for its criticisms from either the Un General Assembly or its Security Council? The criticism is at bottom a political criticism, perhaps also a legal criticism. At most, it is compaarable to a charge of political or legal malfeasance.

Given the status of contemporary meda coverage, the pope and Fr. Lombardi etc. had no forum in which to respond effectively to these complaints. I'd say: Unfair.

That there is the terrible prob lem of pedophelia and the defective response of so many bishops and priiests is undeniable. But it does not follow that the Church as a whole, including me, my pastor, my bishop, my pope can rightly be hauled into the court of public opinion to asnwer the charge that they should have somehow prevented all these crimes and that they are the ones who are negligent if they do not address them as the UN Committee thinks they should.

Here is a classic example of a rush to judgment on the part of people who easily presune that they occupy the moral high ground just because they are against the sins. Human justice never comes about without careful attention to the kinds of procedural issues and issues of standing, that we take to be hallmarks of the judicial system we Americans cherish.

Bernie Madoff has gotten a fairer shake than the UN Committee is giving to the church!

Bernard D, the UN Committee is responding to a report which the Holy See submitted to it. Each entity that ratified the convention is required to submit a report to the Committee every five years reporting on its progress in carrying out the obligations it undertook when it ratified the Convention - and explaining what it has done in response to the comments the Committee made after it reviewed the prior report.


In this case, the Holy See skipped submitting reports in 2007, 2102, and 2007 and submitted one consolidated report before the 2012 report was due. 

6.​The Holy See submits its second, third and fourth periodic reports due in 1997, 2002, 2007 respectively – including information from 1994 to early 2010 – as a consolidated document to be considered under art. 44 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).

As I understand it, that is the document the Committee is commenting on. Its response goes through all of the issues covered by the Convention, not just clergy child abuse.


It can comment on the Catholic Church because the Holy See ratified the Convention. The other groups you mentioned didn't. As the consolidated report says:

 2.​The internal law of the Catholic Church defines the Holy See as the government of the universal Church composed of the Pope and of the institutions which proceed from him (cf. Code of Canon Law (CIC) 361; cf. Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches (CCEO) 48).


4.​The international personality of the Holy See has never been confused with that of the territories over which it has exercised State sovereignty (e.g. the Papal States from 754 AD to 1870 and VCS since 1929). Indeed, following the end of the traditional Papal States in 1870 until the establishment of VCS in 1929, the Holy See continued to act as a subject of international law by concluding concordats and international treaties of States, participating in international conferences, conducting mediation and arbitration missions, and maintaining both active and passive diplomatic relations.

"2007, 2102, and 2007" should have been 1997, 2002, and 2007

John Hayes, I stand corrected. Thak you.