The UN report on the Vatican and 'clerical sex abuse' overstepped the mark by criticising Catholic teaching on contraception and abortion, writes Fr Alexander Lucie-Smith.
- The Catholic Herald
First a bit of background. This matter is not primarily about 'clerical sexual abuse' per se. The Holy See is a signatory to the UN Declaration on the Rights of the Child, and thus the UN has the right to monitor the way the Holy See implements this charter of rights. The committee’s remit is thus a broad one, enabling it to look at child welfare in toto, not just part of it. Of course it has chosen to focus on sexual abuse, and this is hardly surprising, as sexual abuse is a serious issue in child welfare, indeed the most serious issue.
That the Catholic Church has failed spectacularly in protecting children from abuse is well known; we are living with the results of this, and we will be living with the results of this for at least a generation. We failed.
And having failed, we do not wish to deny we failed. Indeed, we are the sort of people who every day admit our failures before God and before the human community, as we say ‘mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.’ Because acknowledging truth is a Christian virtue, as is humility, it should not be a problem to admit our failures before anyone, or before the United Nations.
So, if the UN is criticising the past behaviour of the Church, and the Church has sinned, this is not the problem here. The real problem is that the UN in its report seems to be aiding the propagation of certain myths.
The first myth that needs nailing is as follows: if a priest abuses, his superiors will simply move him on, whereupon he will abuse again. This did once happen, as we all know; but it is certainly not happening in Britain today. If you abuse, you will be caught and punished. Other countries may be different. But in Britain we have robust structures in place to ensure that children are protected.
The Church has failed to protect children but the UN report is seriously flawed (The Catholic Herald)