The UN Committee on Rights of the Child
and the Holy See: UN-Holy
This is a summary of the “Main areas of concern” in the
“Concluding observations on the second periodic report of the Holy See” that the UN Committee on Rights of the Child issued at its 65th session on the 31st of January 2014. It is published here as part of The Atheist Bible.
The reply of the Holy See is summarized at the end of this document.
Children’s Rights and the Holy See
In its report, the UN Committee on Rights of the Child regrets / reiterates its concern / is concerned / expresses its deepest concern / is gravely concerned / is particularly concerned
- that most of the recommendations [from] 1995 have not been fully addressed.
- that some of the rules of Canon Law are not in conformity with [the Convention of Children’s rights], in particular those relating to children’s rights to be protected against discrimination, violence and all forms of sexual exploitation and sexual abuse.
- that the Holy
See has not established a mechanism to monitor respect for and compliance with children’s
rights by individuals and institutions of a religious nature under the authority of the Holy
See, including all Catholic schools, as well as in the Vatican City State.
- about 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.
- that the Holy See continues to place
emphasis on the promotion of complementarity [of genders], which
differ[s] from equality in law and practice provided for in article 2 of the Convention and are
often used to justify discriminatory legislation and policies.
the Holy See did not provide precise information on the measures taken to promote equality
between girls and boys and to remove gender stereotypes from Catholic schools textbooks
as requested by the Committee in 1995.
- that in dealing with allegations of child sexual abuse, the Holy See
has consistently placed the preservation of the reputation of the Church and the protection
of the perpetrators above children’s best interests, as observed by several national
commissions of inquiry.
- that the Holy See restrictively interprets children’s
right to express their views in all matters affecting them, as well as their rights to freedom
of expression, association and religion.
- about the situation of children born of Catholic priests,
who, in many cases, are not aware of the identity of their fathers.
- that the mothers [of children conceived with priests] obtain [...] regular payment from the Church [...] only if they sign a confidentiality agreement not to disclose any information.
- that girls placed in [the Magdalene laundries of Ireland] were forced to work in slavery like
conditions and were often subject to inhuman, cruel and degrading treatment as well as to
physical and sexual abuse
- that girls [in the Magdalene laundries of Ireland] were deprived of their identity, of education and often of food and
essential medicines and were imposed with an obligation of silence and prohibited from having any contact with the outside world.
- that unmarried girls [in the Magdalene laundries of Ireland] who gave birth before entering or while incarcerated in the
laundries had their babies forcibly removed from them.
- that no action has been taken to investigate the conduct of the sisters
who ran [the Magdalene laundries of Ireland] and to cooperate with law enforcement authorities.
- that [...] corporal punishment, including ritual beatings of children, has been and remains
widespread in some Catholic institutions and reached endemic levels in certain countries.
- [that] the Holy See still does not consider
corporal punishment as being prohibited by the Convention and has therefore not enacted
guidelines and rules clearly banning corporal punishment of children in Catholic schools, in
all Catholic institutions working with and for children, as well as in the home.
- that in spite of its considerable influence on Catholic families,
the Holy See has still not adopted a comprehensive strategy to prevent abuse and neglect [of children] in the home.
- about child sexual abuse committed by members
of the Catholic churches [...] of tens of thousands of children worldwide.
- that the Holy See has not acknowledged the extent of the
[sexual abuse] crimes committed.
- [that the Holy See] has not taken the necessary measures to address cases of child sexual abuse and to protect children.
- [that the Holy See] has adopted policies and practices which have led to the
continuation of the abuse by and the impunity of the perpetrators.
- that well-known child sexual abusers have been transferred from parish to parish or to other countries in an attempt to cover-up such crimes.
- [that the Holy See] has declined to provide the Committee
with data on all cases of child sexual abuse.
- that child sexual abuse, when addressed, has been dealt with [...] through confidential proceedings [...],
which have allowed the vast majority of abusers and almost all those who concealed child sexual abuse to escape judicial proceedings.
- that, due to 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
- [that there are cases where] of nuns and priests [have been] ostracized, demoted and fired for not having respected the obligation of silence, [and where] priests have been congratulated for refusing to denounce child abusers.
- [that] reporting to national law enforcement authorities has never been made compulsory and was explicitly rejected in an official letter.
- [that] in many cases,
Church authorities, including at the highest levels of the Holy See, have shown reluctance
and in some instances, refused to cooperate with judicial authorities and national
commissions of inquiry.
- [that] the Holy See objected to a draft final text proposing that religion,
custom or tradition should not serve as an excuse for States to evade their obligations to
protect women and girls from violence.
- that the Holy See and Church run institutions do not recognize
the existence of diverse forms of families and often discriminate children on the basis of
their family situation.
- about the situation of
adolescents recruited by the Legion of Christ and other Catholic institutions who are
progressively separated from their families and isolated from the outside world.
- that in the case of a nine-year old girl
in Brazil who underwent an emergency life-saving abortion in 2009 after having been raped
by her stepfather, an Archbishop of Pernambuco sanctioned the mother of the girl as well as
the doctor who performed the abortion, a sanction which was later approved by the head of
the Roman Catholic Church's Congregation of Bishops.
- 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.
- that thousands of babies have been forcibly
withdrawn from their mothers by members of Catholic congregations in a number of
- [that] the Holy See did not conduct an internal investigation into these cases and failed
to take action against those responsible.
- [that] the Holy See has systematically placed preservation of the
reputation of the Church and the alleged offender over the protection of child victims
- that child victims and their families have often been blamed by religious
authorities, discredited and discouraged from pursuing their complaints and in some
- that confidentiality has been imposed on child victims and their families as a
precondition of financial compensation.
- that the Holy See has in
some instances obstructed efforts in certain countries to extend the statute of limitation for
child sexual abuse
Response of the Holy See
On its Web site, the Holy See responded as follows:
- The Holy See takes note of the Concluding Observations on its Reports.
- The Holy see regrets to see [...] an attempt to interfere with Catholic Church teaching [...].
- The Holy See reiterates its commitment to defending and protecting the rights of the child.