The Holy See has once again been subjected to a public scolding by a United Nations committee for the way that the Church has handled the problem of child sexual abuse. The last time, it was committee overseeing the rights of children (for my comments on that event, see here).
This time, it was the UN committee tasked with overseeing the implementation of the Convention Against Torture.
Let me put this very bluntly — this latest harassment of the Church is a travesty, a phony show trial, an anti-Catholic “auto da fe”.
Anyone with even the most rudimentary skills in reading comprehension will immediately see that there is no basis whatsoever that any reasonable, fair-minded person could ever consider clerical sexual abuse to be “torture”, just by reading the actual Convention on Torture itself.
The Convention (Article 1) states:
“For the purposes of this Convention, the term “torture” means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity.”
Sexual abuse of minors is many, many things — all of them evil — but it is clearly not that.
One would hope that when “international law” is invoked, that we actually pay attention to what the international law really is. When the Holy See signed the Convention, it made clear that it would only apply to the Vatican City State, not to the religious activities of the Catholic Church. Agreeing to a treaty with limitations is common practice (for example, the United States filed a lengthy list of reservations and objections to the Torture Convention). It’s International Law 101 that nations are only bound by international treaties to the extent that they agree to them, and no more. How can anyone take the Committee on the Convention seriously if they don’t understand that basic principle?
The Holy See made clear in its statement to the committee that it is unalterably opposed to torture or degrading treatment of any kind, and that it has taken many significant concrete steps against sexual abuse of minors. They also warned that the committee’s work should not be hijacked by those with an agenda that is hostile to the Church.
But no corrective steps will ever satisfy the ideological groups that are behind this tragic farce. For once, they actually gave the real agenda away, in the words of the attorney from the Center for Constitutional Rights (the main instigator): “such a finding could open the floodgates to abuse lawsuits dating back decades because there are no statutes of limitations on torture cases.”
Remember that CCR and their allies are radically left-wing organizations that have deep-seated enmity towards the Catholic Church based on our teachings on sexuality and abortion. CCR has been involved deeply in harassing the Holy See in front of international tribunals. They even filed a complaint in the International Criminal Court charging the Holy See with “crimes against humanity” (it was dismissed). The UN is also filled with nations and with functionaries who share that hostility to the Church and our teachings.
The Holy See has consistently supported international authorities as a way to work for world peace. But the UN itself undermined that lofty goal, once again.
This kind of hearing is a sham, an injustice, and an act of anti-Catholic bigotry on an international stage, motivated by ideology and money. It is a disgrace.