Below is the translation of Vatican Radio’s interview with Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Vatican’s Permanent Observer to the UN Offices in Geneva, on the observations and recommendations made by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child.
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The Holy See was surprised with the conclusive observations of the UN Committee on the Rights of Child presented today in Geneva, which levelled harsh accusations against the Vatican on the issue of child sexual abuse committed by members of the clergy. The UN agency said that the Holy See continues to violate the Conventions on the Rights of the Child. The Committee also criticized the Vatican for its position on homosexuality, contraception and abortion. To find out the Holy See’s reaction on these accusations, Sergio Centofanti interviewed Archbishop Silvano Maria Tomasi, The Vatican’s Permanent Observer to the UN Offices in Geneva:
Archbishop Tomasi: The Committee on the Convention for the Rights of the Child officially released today their conclusions and recommendations for the countries that were examined during the 65th Session, which are Congo, Germany, the Holy See, Portugal, the Russian Federation and Yemen. My first impression: we need to wait, read attentively and analyze in detail what the members of this Commission have written. But my first reaction is of surprise, because of the negative aspects of the document they have produced and that it looks almost as if it were already prepared before the meeting of the Committee with the delegation of the Holy See, which had given in detail precise responses on various points, which have not been reported in this conclusive document or at least have not seemed to be taken into serious consideration. In fact, the document does not seem to be updated, taking into account what, over the last few years, has been done by the Holy See, with the measures taken directly from the authority of Vatican City State and then in various countries by the individual Episcopal Conferences. Lacking, therefore, is a correct and updated perspective, which in reality has seen a series of changes for the protection of children that, it seems to me, are difficult to find, at the same level of commitment, in other institutions or even in other States. This is simply a question of facts, of evidence, which cannot be distorted!
Q. – How can you respond in a precise manner to the individual accusation of the UN Committee?
Archbishop Tomasi: One can certainly not respond in two minutes to all the affirmations made — some very incorrect — in the Committee’s conclusive document. The Holy See will respond, because it is a member, a State that is part of the Convention: it has ratified it and intends to observe it in the spirit and letter of this Convention, without added ideologies or impositions that lie outside of the Convention itself. For instance: in its Preamble, the Convention on the Protection of Children talks about the defense of life and the protection of children before and after birth; whereas the recommendation made to the Holy See is that of changing its position on the question of abortion! Of course, when a child is killed it no longer has rights! Hence this seems to me to be a real contradiction of the fundamental objective of the Convention, which is the protection of children. This Committee has not done a good service to the United Nations, seeking to introduce and request the Holy See to change its non-negotiable teaching! So, it is somewhat sad to see that the Committee has not grasped in depth the nature and functions of the Holy See that, however, has expressed clearly to the Committee its decision to carry forward the Convention’s requests on the rights of the child, but defining precisely and protecting first of all those fundamental values that give real and effective protection to the child.
Q.: The UN said at one time that the Vatican responded better than other countries to the protection of minors. What has changed?
Archbishop Tomasi: The introduction to the final report recognized the clarity of the answers that were given; there was no attempt to avoid any request made by the Committee, on the basis of the evidence available, and where there was no immediate information, we had promised to provide it in the future, according to the directives of the Holy See, and like all countries do. So it seemed to be a constructive dialogue and I think it should remain as such. Therefore, given the impression received through direct dialogue by the delegation of the Holy See with the Committee and the text of the conclusions and recommendations, it is tempting to say that probably that text was already written, and does not reflect the input and clarity, if not in some hasty addition, to that which had gone forward. So we must, with serenity and on the basis of the evidence – because we have nothing to hide! – bring forth the explanation of the position of the Holy See, respond to the questions that still remain, so that the fundamental objectives that are to be pursued – the protection of children – can be achieved. We are talking about 40 million cases of child abuse in the world: unfortunately some of these cases – even though in small proportions in comparison to all those that are happening in the world – affect people in the Church. And the Church has responded and reacted and continues to do so! We must insist on this policy of transparency, of no tolerance of abuse, because even one single case of child abuse, is one case too much!
Q.: So what could have happened then?
Archbishop Tomasi: Probably the non-governmental organizations – who have interests in homosexuality, gay marriage and other issues – have certainly had their observations to present and in some way reinforced an ideological line.[Translation by Junno Arocho Esteves]