marchcover2014On January 31, the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child released a report castigating the Vatican for its moral teachings. The committee, which provides oversight to the 1990 Convention on the Rights of the Child, focused on the Catholic Church’s handling of cases of abuse of children by priests, but in its 16-page report it also took the liberty of calling upon the Vatican to reconsider its moral teachings on abortion, contraception, family, and homosexuality.

Noting the 2009 case in which the bishops in Brazil condemned the doctors who carried out an abortion on a nine-year-old rape victim, the committee urged the Catholic Church to “review its position on abortion” because it “places obvious risks” to the lives and health of “pregnant girls” and requested the Vatican to “amend Canon 1398 relating to abortion with a view to identifying circumstances under which access to abortion can be permitted.” Canon 1398 declares that anyone involved in procuring an abortion is automatically self-excommunicated from the Catholic Church.

The report further stated that restrictions on abortion endanger women, implicitly suggesting that Catholic teaching is a mortal risk to pregnant girls.

The committee was also “seriously concerned” with the “negative consequences” of the denial of adolescent “access to contraception, as well as to sexual and reproductive health and information” in Catholic teaching and practice. It called upon the Vatican to address the “barriers and taboos surrounding adolescent sexuality” that prevents teens and pre-teens from accessing “sexual and reproductive information, including on family planning and contraception.”

The committee also noted that the Catholic Church and its institutions, such as schools, “do not recognize the existence of diverse forms of families and often discriminate children (sic) on the basis of their family situation.” Long-time pro-life UN observers say that is code for promoting homosexual behaviour and anti-discrimination laws.

The report also expressed “concern that the Holy See restrictively interprets children’s rights to express their views in all matters affecting them, as well as their rights to freedom of expression, association, and religion.” It also objected to the Vatican’s repeated worries that the Convention undermines the rights of parents and called upon the Catholic Church to support programs to educate parents to respect the rights. It also suggested the Catholic Church “explicitly oppose all corporal punishment in childrearing” and “amend both Canon Law and Vatican City state laws” to ban the practice within the family.

Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, permanent observer of the Holy See to the UN, said the Catholic Church is not going to change its teachings.

Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, permanent observer of the Holy See to the UN, said the Catholic Church is not going to change its teachings.

Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, permanent observer of the Holy See to the UN in Geneva, said the moral teachings of the Catholic Church are not mere opinions and that the Vatican is not going to simply change its position on abortion, contraception, and homosexuality, to accommodate the criticisms of the UN. Fr. Federico Lombardi, director of the Vatican press office, said in demanding that the Church drop all opposition to abortion, homosexual behaviour, sex for unmarried teenagers, the committee has attempted to “interfere in the very moral and doctrinal positions of the Catholic Church.”

Austin Ruse, president of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute, which monitors life, family, and faith matters at the UN, said the report was written before the Holy See’s testimony in mid-January.

Pro-life leaders criticized the UN report.

Jim Hughes, national president of Campaign Life Coalition and vice president of the International Right to Life Federation called the UN “arrogant, telling The Interimt hat “it has no business whatsoever dictating the moral teachings of any church or religious tradition.”

But that said, Hughes was not surprised by the report’s chastising of the Vatican. “The UN is full of pro-abortion advocates and most of their committees and agencies work closely with pro-abortion and feminist NGOs (non-governmental organizations.” Hughes said “the UN’s mission to foster global peace has been usurped by special interest groups who seek to impose a social agenda on all member states, including the Holy See.”

John Smeaton, executive director of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, also condemned the report, noting its hypocrisy: “Under the cover of seeking to protect children against sexual abuse, the report promotes damage to children – the destruction of unborn children through abortion and the destruction of born children’s innocence through the promotion of contraception and homosexuality.” He also said it is nothing new considering the Catholic Church is “under constant attack” at the UN.

Human Life International President Fr. Shenan Boquet said the committee’s report is “using the priest abuse issue to delegitimize the moral teachings of the Church.” He elaborated: “The audacity of the people who wrote this report is simply amazing in dictating to the Catholic Church what her moral teachings should be in order to advance false and dangerous notions of ‘tolerance’ and ‘rights’ so often pushed by those with an anti-life, anti-family agenda.”

Claudia Rossett says the United Nations should address its own abuse and sexual assault problems before criticizing the Vatican.

Claudia Rossett says the United Nations should address its own abuse and sexual assault problems before criticizing the Vatican.

The UN came in for criticism beyond pro-life circles, too. Claudia Rossett of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies said the UN was wrong to call for the Vatican to use its “authority” and “influence” to “disseminate world-wide a roster of UN views and policies that run counter to those of the Catholic Church,” because the United Nations “is supremely ill-qualified to serve as a guide.”

She also called it “rich” that the UN would call for the Vatican to “ensure a transparent sharing of all archives which can be used to hold the abusers accountable” considering that the United Nations has “not solved its own festering problems of peacekeeper sex abuse.” She noted that since 2007 there have been more than 600 allegations of sexual abuse by UN peacekeepers, including of minors, and that while the Catholic Church has been addressing its own scandal in recent years, the UN sweeps theirs under the carpet.

Online resources: has a paragraph-by-paragraph debunking of the 16-page report at