Vatican City, 6 February 2014 (VIS) – Yesterday afternoon Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, permanent observer for the Holy See at the United Nations in Geneva, commented on the concluding observations of the United Nations Committee for the Rights of the Child, which were very critical regarding the issue of the abuse of minors by members of the clergy and the actions taken by the Vatican and the Holy See on the matter, and urges revision of the Church's teaching on certain themes such as contraception and abortion.
“My first impression: we need to wait, read attentively and analyse in detail what the members of this Commission have written”, commented the nuncio. “But my first reaction is of surprise, because of the negative aspects of the document they have produced and that it looks almost as if it were already prepared before the meeting of the Committee with the delegation of the Holy See, which had given in detail precise responses on various points, which have not been reported in this conclusive document or at least have not seemed to be taken into serious consideration. In fact, the document does not seem to be updated, taking into account what, over the last few years, has been done by the Holy See, with the measures taken directly from the authority of Vatican City State and then in various countries by the individual Episcopal Conferences. It therefore lacks a correct and updated perspective, which in reality has seen a series of changes for the protection of children that, it seems to me, are difficult to find, at the same level of commitment, in other institutions or even in other States. This is simply a question of facts, of evidence, which cannot be distorted!”.
With regard to the Holy See's reaction to the document, the archbishop affirmed that “the Holy See will respond, because it is a member, a State that is part of the Convention: it has ratified it and intends to observe it in the spirit and letter of this Convention, without added ideologies or impositions that lie outside of the Convention itself. For instance: in its Preamble, the Convention on the Protection of Children talks about the defence of life and the protection of children before and after birth; whereas the recommendation made to the Holy See is that of changing its position on the question of abortion! Of course, when a child is killed it no longer has rights! Hence this seems to me to be a real contradiction of the fundamental objective of the Convention, which is the protection of children. This Committee has not done a good service to the United Nations, seeking to introduce and request the Holy See to change its non-negotiable teaching! So, it is somewhat sad to see that the Committee has not grasped in depth the nature and functions of the Holy See that, however, has expressed clearly to the Committee its decision to carry forward the Convention's requests on the rights of the child, but defining precisely and protecting first of all those fundamental values that give real and effective protection to the child”.
The observer for the Holy See also commented on the fact that the United Nations had said at one time that the Vatican had responded better than other countries to the protection of minors, and with regard to the change of opinion expressed in the document published yesterday, he said, “the introduction to the final report recognised the clarity of the answers that were given; there was no attempt to avoid any request made by the Committee, on the basis of the evidence available, and where there was no immediate information, we had promised to provide it in the future, according to the directives of the Holy See, as all countries do. So it seemed to be a constructive dialogue and I think it should remain as such. Therefore, given the impression received through direct dialogue by the delegation of the Holy See with the Committee and the text of the conclusions and recommendations, it is tempting to say that probably that text had already been written, and does not reflect the input and clarity, other than by some hasty addition, to that which had already been offered. So we must, with serenity and on the basis of the evidence - because we have nothing to hide! - bring forth the explanation of the position of the Holy See, respond to the questions that remain, so that the fundamental objective that is to be pursued - the protection of children - can be achieved. We are talking about 40 million cases of child abuse in the world: unfortunately some of these cases - even though in small proportions in comparison to all those that are happening in the world - affect people in the Church. And the Church has responded and reacted and continues to do so! We must insist on this policy of transparency, of no tolerance of abuse, because even one single case of child abuse is one case too many!”