Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi has issued an explanatory note on the appearance today of Vatican officials at a UN hearing in Geneva on the sexual abuse of minors.
“The Holy See is deeply saddened by the scourge of sexual abuse of minors, which harms millions of children throughout the world,” Fr. Lombardi says, acknowledging that, “sadly, certain members of the clergy have been involved in such abuse.”
Written in Italian, the note offers a history of the Holy See’s adherence to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, as well as its response to questions posed by the committee following the 2011 report on the implementation of the Convention.
Today’s hearing comes a month after Pope Francis announced a Vatican committee would be established to help in the fight against the sexual abuse of minors in the Church.
Lombardi’s note goes on to say that the problem of child sexual abuse, which has caused profound suffering within the Church, challenges the credibility of her commitment to the welfare of children.
This challenge, writes Fr. Lombardi, “has led to the development, in the spirit of the Convention [and] under the Holy See’s guidance, of a series of initiatives and directives [that have proven] extremely helpful also outside the Church community.”
Fr. Lombardi explains that the enforcement of laws pertaining to the protection of minors lies with the civil authorities in countries that are party to the Convention, and are responsible for its implementation.
The note also highlights the Holy See’s position as a sovereign subject of international law, and the limits of the Holy See’s rights and responsibilities regarding the conduct of priests and religious worldwide. Fr. Lombardi says “it is not rare to find that the questions posed [by the committee] – above all where they refer to the sexual abuse of minors – seem to presuppose that bishops or religious superiors act as representatives or delegates of the Pope – [though this is] utterly without foundation.”
The answers provided to the committee by the Holy See, the note continues, clearly demonstrates the Catholic Church’s respect for the dignity of the human person from conception to natural death.
“In sum,” says Fr. Lombardi, “the early and whole-hearted adhesion of the Holy See to the Convention on the Rights of the Child is in keeping with the teaching and constant stance of the Church. One may quite rightly say, therefore, that the Holy See is an active promoter of an immense current of caring service to the good of children throughout the world – and the inspiring guidance and leadership of Pope Francis gives a new and evident energy to this commitment.”
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