Holy See will consider UN observations on child abuse by clergy but will not take on board abortion criticism
The United Nations has accused the Vatican of failing to sufficiently protect children from paedophile clergy, claiming that it has “adopted policies and practices which have led to the continuation of abuse”. There is also concern that many children are still at risk of abuse today and has requested swift action be taken to identify perpetrators and deal with them accordingly.
While recent moves by Pope Francis have suggested a more robust approach to child abuse by clergy, there is clearly a lot of work still to be done and the Church must ensure it does as much as it can to combat these horrific crimes. These crimes simply have no place in the Church and, while the Church is full of sinners, it does not mean that the Church should sit back and do nothing about it.
While the full extent of the Church’s work to eradicate such behaviour is still not known and is, I suspect, more widespread than many in the mainstream media believe, this is an opportunity for the Vatican to set out its stall to deal with the matter once and for all. Thankfully the Vatican has already put in place new procedures to combat these crimes and, further, Bishops across the world, including the Bishops of Scotland, are starting to look at their own processes and put in place new protections. In Scotland, the Bishops Conference sent a letter to all parishes across the country in November 2013 detailing its plans to tackle child abuse (click here to access the letter). Among the plans was the publication of a safeguarding audit between 2006 and 2012, giving details of any safeguarding incidents in that time. There will also be an external review of safeguarding protocols and procedures undertaken by the Very Rev Dr Andrew McLellan, former Moderator of the Church of Scotland, and a statistical review of abuse cases between 1947 and 2005. Details of the Bishops’ safeguarding service can be accessed by clicking here. For many, these reviews and new processes will not be enough but there is no doubt that it is a significant step in the right direction for the Church.
Sadly, however, in delivering its recommendations, the UN felt the need to criticise the Church for its stance on abortion and contraception. The Vatican, in response, stated: "The Holy See does, however, regret to see in some points of the Concluding Observations [by the UN] an attempt to interfere with Catholic Church teaching on the dignity of human person and in the exercise of religious freedom. The Holy See reiterates its commitment to defending and protecting the rights of the child, in line with the principles promoted by the Convention on the Rights of the Child and according to the moral and religious values offered by Catholic doctrine."
The Holy See quite rightly refers to the UN’s very own Convention on the Rights of the Child in making its point. The UN, through the Convention, claims that ‘all human beings, rich and poor, strong and weak, male and female, of all races and religions, are to be treated equally and with respect for their natural worth as human beings’. All human beings except the very weakest it would seem; those who cannot speak for themselves.
While the UN is correct to urge the Church to correct past mistakes and do its utmost to ensure they are not repeated, the UN must look at its own human rights failings, particularly those relating to the unborn.