UN committee blasts Vatican on sex abuse, abortion

By Nicole Winfield

The Vatican “systematically” adopted policies that allowed priests to rape and molest tens of thousands of children over decades, a U.N. human rights committee said Wednesday, urging it to open its files on pedophiles and bishops who concealed their crimes.

st petersIn a devastating report hailed by victims, the U.N. committee severely criticized the Holy See for its attitudes toward homosexuality, contraception and abortion and said it should change its own canon law to ensure children’s rights and their access to health care are guaranteed. The Vatican promptly objected.

The report puts renewed pressure on Pope Francis to move decisively on the abuse front and make good on pledges to create a Vatican commission to study sex abuse and recommend best practices to fight it. The commission was announced at the spur of the moment in December, but few details have been released since then.

The committee issued its recommendations after subjecting the Holy See to a daylong interrogation last month on its implementation of the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child, the key U.N. treaty on child protection, which the Holy See ratified in 1990.

Critically, the committee rejected the Vatican’s longstanding argument that it doesn’t control bishops or their abusive priests, saying the Holy See was responsible for implementing the treaty not just in the Vatican City State but around the world “as the supreme power of the Catholic Church through individuals and institutions placed under its authority.”

In its report, the committee blasted the “code of silence” that has long been used to keep victims quiet, saying the Holy See had “systematically placed preservation of the reputation of the church and the alleged offender over the protection of child victims.” It called on the Holy See to provide compensation to victims and hold accountable not just the abusers but also those who covered up their crimes.

“The committee is gravely concerned that the Holy See has not acknowledged the extent of the crimes committed, has not taken the necessary measures to address cases of child sexual abuse and to protect children, and has adopted policies and practices which have led to the continuation of the abuse by, and the impunity of, the perpetrators,” the report said.

It called for Francis’ nascent abuse commission to conduct an independent investigation of all cases of priestly abuse and the way the Catholic hierarchy has responded over time, and urged the Holy See to establish clear rules for the mandatory reporting of abuse to police and to support laws that allow victims to report crimes even after the statute of limitations has expired.

No Catholic bishop has ever been sanctioned by the Vatican for sheltering an abusive priest, and only in 2010 did the Holy See direct bishops to report abusers to police where law enforcement requires it. Vatican officials have acknowledged that bishop accountability remains a major problem and have suggested that under Francis, things might begin to change.

The committee’s recommendations are non-binding and there is no enforcement mechanism. Rather, the U.N. asked the Vatican to implement the recommendations and report back by 2017. The Vatican was 14 years late submitting its most recent report.

While most attention has focused on child sex abuse, the committee’s recommendations extended far beyond, into issues about discrimination against children and their rights to adequate health care, issues that touch on core church teaching about life and sexual morals.

The committee, for example, urged the Vatican to amend its canon law to identify circumstances where access to abortion can be permitted for children, such as to save the life of a young mother. It urged the Holy See to ensure that sex education, including access to information about contraception and preventing HIV, is mandatory in Catholic schools. It called for the Holy See to use its moral authority to condemn discrimination against homosexual children or children raised by same-sex couples.

The Vatican said it would study the report and in a statement reiterated its commitment to defending and protecting children’s rights that are enshrined in the treaty. But it took issue with the committee’s recommendations to change core church teaching on life.

“The Holy See does, however, regret to see in some points of the concluding observations an attempt to interfere with Catholic Church teaching on the dignity of human person and in the exercise of religious freedom,” the Vatican said.

Church teaching holds that life begins at conception; the Vatican therefore opposes abortion and artificial contraception. The Vatican has a history of diplomatic confrontation with the United Nations over such issues.

Austen Ivereigh, coordinator of Catholic Voices, a church advocacy group, said the report was a “shocking display of ignorance and high-handedness.”

He said it failed to acknowledge the progress that has been made in recent years and that the Catholic Church in many places is now considered a leader in safeguarding children. And he noted that the committee seemed unable to grasp the distinction between the responsibilities and jurisdiction of the Holy See, and local churches on the ground.

“It takes no account of the particularities of the Holy See, treating it as if it were the HQ of a multinational corporation,” he said in an email.

But victims groups hailed the report as a wake-up call to secular law enforcement officials to investigate the abuse and cover-up and prosecute church officials who are still protecting predator priests.

“This report gives hope to the hundreds of thousands of deeply wounded and still suffering clergy sex abuse victims across the world,” said Barbara Blaine, president of the main U.S. victim’s group SNAP. “Now it’s up to secular officials to follow the U.N.’s lead and step in to safeguard the vulnerable because Catholic officials are either incapable or unwilling to do so.”

Complete Article HERE!


A Key To Understanding Catholic Moral Theology

Don’t miss my five-part series on Catholic Moral Theology.







Study finds most unmarried, college-age Christians sexually active

A study by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy determined 88 percent of unmarried Christians ages 18 to 29 have had sex, despite the general push for abstinence in most Christian denominations.

But while these statistics may seem shocking, some are casting doubt on their accuracy and meaning for Christianity.

The study also found 64 percent of those surveyed have been sexually active in the last year, while 42 percent are in a current sexual relationship. The study was published in RELEVANT Magazine, a Catholic news magazine, which devoted a three-page spread to the findings in their September/October issue.

Marquette students and faculty had various reactions to the statistics and overall concept of the study.

John Haugland, a sophomore in the College of Engineering and practicing Catholic, thought the studies were drastic misconceptions.

“If you look at this campus you would find that the majority of the students will identify as Christian, but how many are actually practicing?” Haugland said. “The study may be more applicable if this was distinguished.”

Haugland said he believes the study generalized the Christian population.

“If you are true to your beliefs and are truly practicing, you will abide by what the faith says,” Haugland said. “People choose to practice their religion either fully or partially – this may be a part that some Christians dismiss.”

The Rev. Thomas Anderson, associate director of Campus Ministry, said he did not find the report surprising.

“I believe most teenagers are at that stage of life when they may begin to move from a nominal adherence to a more personal appropriation,” Anderson said in an email.

Susan Mountin, director for faculty for the Manresa Project and former campus minister at Marquette from 1978 to 2001, was responsible for the marriage preparation program and worked with pregnant students or those who had abortions while attending Marquette.

“Believe me, students were sexually active at Marquette,” Mountin said in an email. “I cannot imagine there are fewer students who are sexually active now ten years later … society has made sexual activity a very casual thing.”

Mountin said she found that students generally engaged in sexual activities for what she called “the wrong reasons.”

“I also hope we can have more free and open conversations about this topic at Marquette,” Mountin said. “Sometimes there is a lot of ‘experimenting’ that goes on with relationships in college.”

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Vatican says mandatory sex ed programs don’t work

When it comes to sex education programs, the Catholic Church is painted as old-fashioned and callous about teen pregnancy and disease. But governments that mandate sex education in the schools are fooling themselves about its effectiveness, the Vatican newspaper said.

Writing on the front page of L’Osservatore Romano Aug. 30, Lucetta Scaraffia looked specifically at New York City, where students in middle school and high school will be required to attend a semester-long course in sex education.

Scaraffia, a professor of contemporary history at Rome’s La Sapienza University and a frequent contributor to the Vatican newspaper, said that “to avoid religious controversy, chastity will be cited among birth control methods and teachers will have to speak about sex with some caution” in the New York courses.

Still, Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan of New York criticized the mandatory program as usurping the rights of parents to educate their children in line with their beliefs and values, she said.

The situation has been repeated several times, Scaraffia wrote: “The state decides to include compulsory sexual education in schools, and the Catholic Church opposes it, earning the image of an obscurantist force, cruel because of its indifference to the consequences its refusal could have among young people, that is, unwanted pregnancies and disease.”

“It is not clear why public institutions in the West continue to have such magical trust in the effectiveness of sex education,” especially when young people in those countries continue to have precocious, unprotected sex, leading to an increase of disease, pregnancy and abortion, she said.

In Italy, where there is no mandatory sex ed in school, there is a low risk of teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease among the young, she said.

“This is thanks to the family, to the loving vigilance of parents over their children, to the fact that kids are not left to themselves with a box of contraceptives as the only defense against their passions and mistakes,” she said.

“It is also thanks to the Catholic Church, which continues to teach that sexual relations are much more than some kind of pleasurable exercise to be practiced in an unbridled and risk-free way,” Scaraffia wrote.

For the Catholic Church, she said, sexual activity is an important part of human and spiritual maturity and properly belongs only to marriage and the formation of a family.

“The church teaches respect for one’s own body, which means giving importance and weight to the acts that are done with it, not just taking into consideration the possibility of enjoyment or narcissistic gratification,” Scaraffia wrote.

Human sexuality is not just another subject to be studied in school, “setting out a few dangers it would be best to avoid,” she said.

The real problem is not that young people do not understand what sex is or how to avoid pregnancy and disease; the real problem is the “breakdown of the first institution of moral education, the family,” she said.