A UN committee has told the Catholic Church to get over its opposition to adolescents having sex and that it needs to change its teachings on abortion and homosexuality.
These explosive directives came in an official report issued by the Committee on the Rights of the Child, a committee that grilled Vatican officials for eight hours last month.
The Committee–consisting of independent experts from 18 countries including Saudi Arabia, Norway, Italy, and Spain–is charged by the UN with overseeing implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, a hard-law treaty the Church ratified in 1990 and that has been ratified by every country in the world except the United States and Somalia. Every signatory country must appear before the committee to report on implementation.
The Committee specifically told the Church “to review its position on abortion which places obvious risks on the life and health of pregnant girls and to amend Canon 1398 relating to abortion with a view to identifying circumstances under which access to abortion services can be permitted.”
The Committee lamented “the negative consequences of the Holy See’s position and practices of denying access to contraception, as well as to sexual and reproductive health and information.” The Committee directed the Church “to access the serious implications of its position on adolescents’ enjoyment of highest attainable standard of health and overcome all the barriers and taboos surrounding adolescent sexuality…”
The Committee is also displeased with the Church for not recognizing same-sex families: “The Committee recommends that the Holy See ensure that Canon Law provisions recognize the diversity of family settings and do not discriminate children (sic) based on the type of family they live in.”
The Committee also charged the Church with contributing to violence against homosexuals: “The Holy See’s past statements and declarations on homosexuality which contribute to the social stigmatization of and violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender adolescents and children raised by same-sex couples.”
The Committee has no authority to enforce any of its recommendations. The Church is free simply to ignore the report as many countries do that receive negative reports. However, critics of the Church, including those in the realm of public policy and law, will likely use the report against the Church.
Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Holy See Nuncio to the UN in Geneva, said in response to the report:
…there is a difficultly apparent in understanding the position of the Holy See that cannot certainly give up certain teachings that are part of their deep convictions and also an expression of freedom of religion and these are the values that in the tradition of the Catholic Church sustain the common good of society and therefore cannot be renounced, for example the committee asked for acceptance of abortion and this is a contradiction with the principle of life that the convention itself should support recommending that children be protected before and after birth.
If a child is eliminated or killed we can no longer talk about rights for this person, so there is a need to calmly and in detail analyzing the recommendations proposed by the committee and provide an accurate response to the committee itself, so that there will be no misunderstanding on where we stand and the reason why we take certain positions…
Many governments believe the UN treaty monitoring system is broken, as committee members do not represent governments but serve as private citizens and therefore are not constrained by government instructions. Member-states of the UN are in a multi-year process to reform this practice, and the overreaching of these committees is on the table for reform.