(Vatican Radio) Vatican officials are appearing Thursday before the UN committee in
Geneva that is responsible for overseeing the implementation of the Convention on
the Rights of the Child, to which the Holy See is a party. The Director of the Press
Office of the Holy See, Fr. Federico Lombardi, SJ, issued a Note detailing the history
of the Holy See’s adherence to the Convention and its response to a series of questions
posed by the committee subsequent to the Holy See’s 2nd Report on implementation
of the Convention, submitted in 2011.
The three-page Note, written in Italian, stresses that, “The Holy See is deeply saddened by the scourge of sexual abuse of minors, which harms millions of children throughout the world,” and “laments that, sadly, certain members of the clergy have been involved in such abuse.” The Note goes on to say that the dramatic problem of child sex abuse, lived with unspeakable suffering in the community of the Church, has posed a direct challenge to the credibility of the Church’s commitment to the welfare of children – “[A challenge],” writes Fr. Lombardi, “that has led to the development, in the spirit of the Convention [and] under the Holy See’s guidance, of a series of initiatives and directives [that have proven] extremely helpful also outside the Church community.”
The Note also explains the nature of the Holy See as a sovereign subject of international law, and the limits of the Holy See’s rights and responsibilities vis à vis the conduct of clergy and religious throughout the world. “In fact,” explains Fr. Lombardi, “it is not rare to find that the questions posed [by the committee] – above all where they refer to the sexual abuse of minors – seem to presuppose that bishops or religious superiors act as representatives or delegates of the Pope – [though this is] utterly without foundation.” Fr. Lombardi goes on to clarify that civil authorities in countries that are party to the Convention are directly responsible for the Convention’s implementation and for enforcement of laws for the protection of minors.
The Note from the Director of the Holy See’s Press Office goes on to say that the principles of the Catholic vision of respect for the dignity of the human person are readily visible in the Holy See’s reports to the committee and in the answers the Holy See has provided to the committee’s further questions. The Catholic Church proclaims and promotes the dignity of the human person from conception, to childhood, to the different stages of growth and life. The Church rejects discrimination on the basis of sex, starting from pregnancy and childhood. The Church stands for the dignity and duties of the family founded on marriage between a man and a woman, and for the close relationship between the rights of children and the rights and duties of parents, as well as for the deep and integral vision of education for love, much wider than a limited “sex education”. The Church also rejects a “gender ideology” that would deny the objective basis of the difference and complementarity of the sexes and become a source of confusion even in the legal field and the interpretation of the Convention.
“In sum,” writes Fr. Lombardi, “the early and whole-hearted adhesion of the Holy See to the Convention on the Rights of the Child is in keeping with the teaching and constant stance of the Church. One may quite rightly say, therefore, that the Holy See is an active promoter of an immense current of caring service to the good of children throughout the world – and the inspiring guidance and leadership of Pope Francis gives a new and evident energy to this commitment.”