Wednesday’s report from the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child regarding the handling of sexual abuse cases in the Church brought the attention of the international community.
The UN report launched a series of sharp criticisms of the Vatican but ignored the many steps the Holy See has taken to adhere to the Conventions of the Rights of the Child.
That wasn’t the only failure of the report. The UN Committee recommended that the Vatican change its position on abortion and homosexuality, exceeding its remit and moving from policy to ideology. Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Holy See’s Permanent Observer to the UN in Geneva, said he believes non-governmental organizations are influencing the committee and inserting ideological beliefs into the report.
Some may dismiss Archbishop Tomasi’s suggestion of interference by lobby groups, but Stefano Gennarini has no doubt it’s true. Gennarini is director of the Center of Legal Studies at C-FAM, the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute. Located in New York and Washington, the organisation “was founded in 1990 in response to Blessed John Paul II’s call for Catholics to be involved in the public square.”
Gennarini spoke with ZENIT on Feb. 5 on the recommendations by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child and the influence of ideological groups within the UN.
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ZENIT: Tell us a little bit about C-FAM and its role in the United Nations.
Gennarini: C-FAM engages in research to inform UN debates about family and life issues. We also report on what happens at the UN and other international institutions through our weekly Friday Fax. We have participated in every major UN negotiation on social policy since the Cairo Conference in 1994, and have just recently been recommended for special consultative status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations.
ZENIT: What are your thoughts on the observations and recommendations released today by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child?
Gennarini: Although I am used to seeing UN experts and bureaucrats do some pretty wacky things, I am as concerned as anyone else who read these observations. It is unfortunate that the Committee on the Rights of the Child has chosen to take this path. By doing so, they undermine the work of the United Nations in promoting and protecting human rights. No country will take the observations of the committee seriously now because it will be perceived to be politically and ideologically biased.
ZENIT: Do you find what was given by the UN at all surprising?
Gennarini: Not really. We have been fighting pro-abortion and pro-homosexual groups that have captured UN treaty bodies for years. These bodies have become a playing ground for them thanks to generous donations from Nordic and European countries. What the treaty bodies are doing is interpreting the treaties they monitor so vaguely and broadly that they can read anything they want into them. So even though no treaty mentions abortion or sexual orientation and similar controversial issues, the experts on the bodies have read them into several treaty body provisions. This is clearly a bad legal interpretation.
It is unfortunate because these monitoring committees could play an important role in helping countries fulfill fundamental human rights obligations. Instead their work is mostly ignored because they keep insisting on promoting abortion and homosexuality and other politically charged issues as if they were human rights. This only feeds the skeptics about UN bodies and the Human Rights Project.
It was only a matter of time before they came up with extravagant recommendations for the Holy See in particular. The Church’s enemies will go to any length to sully the public image of the Holy See. The Holy See is public enemy number one for abortion groups and homosexual groups because it is a resounding moral voice within the United Nations that keeps reminding countries of the truth about human dignity. Were it not for the Holy See’s work at the UN and through the Vatican’s Secretariat of State, abortion and sodomy might have already been declared as universal human rights by now. The Holy See is the only UN delegation that does not accept any ambiguity on the issue of abortion. Most countries are happy to let other countries do what they like with their unborn children. The Holy See is the only UN delegation that does not stand by and accept that.
ZENIT: Archbishop Tomasi, the Vatican Observer to the UN Offices in Geneva, said in an interview that it seemed that the report was “already written” before the Holy See made its presentation to the committee. Do you think that is a possibility?
Gennarini: It is a fact. He is simply stating what many UN insiders already knew. The truth is only a few experts that make up treaty monitoring bodies, like the Committee on the Rights of the Child, control what these observations ultimately say. The experts are not compensated for the work they do and only work on these issues a few weeks out of the year. Who is really in control of these proceedings is the UN staff of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights who work full time in Geneva on preparing reports, observations and recommendations. So when the experts met with the Holy See in January and spoke with Archbishop Tomasi, and even commended the Holy See’s work to protect children, it is was all for naught because UN bureaucrats had already decided what the observations were going to be.
ZENIT: In the same interview, he suggested that most likely non-governmental organizations in favor of gay marriage and abortion were behind the committees observations. What are your thoughts on that?
Gennarini: Without a doubt. Countries at the United Nations have complained repeatedly about a lack of transparency in the way the monitoring committees interact with non-governmental organizations. Oftentimes the information provided by countries is ignored and the committees rely almost entirely on information from these groups. The same committee that has accused the Holy See of causing stigma and violence against homosexuals has condemned Russia for enacting a law that protects children from information that could adversely impact their health by deluding them that homosexual acts are the same as sexual intercourse between a man and a woman. Homosexual groups want their sexual choices to be embraced by the whole of society and for them the UN is another tool to achieve that.
It is unfortunate that a host of organizations that promote abortion and homosexual marriage, sexual rights for children and such things have gained such traction within UN treaty bodies. We are talking about influential and once universally respected organizations like Amnesty International and the International Commission of Jurists and other more recently formed groups like the Center for Reproductive Rights and Human Rights Watch. What has happened over the past 30 years is that many human rights organizations whose focus was civil and political rights during the Cold War found themselves without a cause once the Berlin Wall came down. As a result, they have re-tooled their focus on sexual rights. What they want is to turn unrestrained sexual autonomy into an essential human rights norm. Abortion and homosexuality are simply the most extreme manifestations of unrestrained sexual autonomy. Western countries, where this sexual autonomy norm has gained traction, have been funding these organizations for over 20 years and they have at their disposition billions of dollars to fund litigation, education, lobbying and other projects to promote their causes.
ZENIT: What should C-FAM, as an institute focused on the family and human rights, do? How are you going to react to this UN report?
Gennarini: C-FAM has launched a petition drive in support of the Holy See at www.defendthevatican.org. We will also point it out to our friends at the United Nations as a further instance of abuse by UN monitoring committees. Over the past three years, we have been working with diplomats at the UN General Assembly to reform the treaty bodies and strengthen them so that they will function properly in the future. It is important that these experts are held accountable for their work. It is the only way of ensuring that this kind of extravagant opinion is avoided. So long as experts can interpret the treaties however they wish, this will continue. And of course, we will keep reporting on these issues at www.c-fam.org.