By Amanda Marcotte
February 7, 2014
On Wednesday, a U.N. human rights panel released its assessment of the Holy See's responsibilities in the decades long child sex-abuse scandal and offered its recommendations to the Vatican on both how to prevent sex abuse in the future and how to deal responsibly with victims when it happens. The report is scathing in its judgment of the church's past actions, but what is most startling is how aggressive the panel is in recommending that the church radically change its teachings and culture to prevent more child abuse.
Among the recommendations: "Abolish the discriminatory classification of children born out of wedlock as illegitimate children," "support efforts at international level for the decriminalization of homosexuality," "explicitly oppose all corporal punishment in child-rearing," "overcome all the barriers and taboos surrounding adolescent sexuality that hinder their access to sexual and reproductive information," and "review its position on abortion which places obvious risks on the life and health of pregnant girls." On that last one, the report mentioned the horrific story of that time the church excommunicated a woman for getting her 9-year-old daughter an abortion after the girl was raped by her stepfather.
The Vatican is not happy about this. On Friday, spokesman Federico Lombardi shot back, accusing the U.N. of being biased against the church. "More attention was devoted to well-known non-governmental organizations that are prejudiced against the Catholic Church and the Holy See than to the positions of the Holy See," he complained, adding that the panel appears "to go beyond its competences and interfere in the doctrinal and moral positions of the Catholic Church."
While it's true that the report did take a (welcome) wide view of the sex-abuse scandal, the problem, if you want to call it a "problem," is not that it's biased against the church. It's that it's biased in favor of human rights and the well-being of adolescents and children. This is a human rights committee. When Catholic doctrine comes into conflict with human rights, it is the U.N.'s job to prioritize human rights. Since this is children we're talking about here, it's especially important that the U.N. not hold back on their support for human rights to protect the sensitivities of the Vatican.