Despite having a membership that includes some of the worst human-rights abusers in the world (or because of it), the UN has spent the last few weeks grilling the Vatican for its track record on child abuse. While there are certainly grounds for lengthy and detailed criticism on that point, the UN hardly has its hands clean in that area — and it turned out to be an excuse for attacking Catholic doctrine on abortion and contraception anyway:
The UN has demanded that the Vatican “immediately remove” all clergy who are known or suspected child abusers, in a report released on Wednesday.
The UN watchdog for children’s rights denounced the Holy See for adopting policies allowing priests to sexually abuse thousands of children.
It heavily criticised the Vatican’s attitudes towards homosexuality, contraception and abortion.
Excuse me, but what exactly was the purview of this UN committee on contraception and abortion? The panel in this case was the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, a committee whose mission in a sane world would include children at all stages of development. Indeed, the convention under which its authority derives actually forbids the death penalty for children — and never mentions abortion, contraception, homosexuality, or any gender-related issues.
The Vatican is a signatory to the convention, though, which gives the UNCRC jurisdiction on the abuse issues, specifically in Article 19, Section 1. And the Vatican’s track record over the long arc of the last several decades leaves plenty of room for criticism and condemnation — as the Vatican belatedly recognized toward the end of John Paul II’s pontificate. As the BBC notes, the Vatican has already created its own commission to deal with the issue, and years ago issued strict rules for dealing with abuse allegations. During Benedict XVI’s pontificate alone, over 400 priests were defrocked after being accused of abuse.
This, however, is little more than political targeting over the doctrines related to sex, not the protection of children. And the UN is uniquely hypocritical here as well, since its own military missions have for years gone on rape and sexual-abuse rampages, especially in Africa, as Instapundit reminds us:
Widespread allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse of Congolese women, boys and girls have been made against U.N. personnel who were sent to help and protect them — despite a so-called zero tolerance policy touted by the United Nations toward such behavior.
The range of sexual abuse includes reported rapes of young Congolese girls by U.N. troops; an Internet pedophile ring run from Congo by Didier Bourguet, a senior U.N. official from France; a colonel from South Africa accused of molesting his teenage male translators; and estimates of hundreds of underage girls having babies fathered by U.N. soldiers who have been able to simply leave their children and their crimes behind.
Ravaged by decades of civil war, and one of the poorest countries in the world, Congo has relied on the United Nations for both military protection and humanitarian aid.
“The U.N. is there for their protection, so when the protectors become violators, this is particularly egregious,” said Anneke Van Woudenberg, a senior researcher with Human Rights Watch who investigated the allegations on behalf of her organization. “This is particularly bad.”
That ABC report came two months after the UN admitted to its own shortcomings. A month after the ABC report, the Washington Post reported that this abuse wasn’t contained to the Congolese mission, either:
The United Nations is facing new allegations of sexual misconduct by U.N. personnel in Burundi, Haiti, Liberia and elsewhere, which is complicating the organization’s efforts to contain a sexual abuse scandal that has tarnished its Nobel Prize-winning peacekeepers in Congo. …
The reports of sexual abuse have come from U.N. officials, internal U.N. documents, and local and international human rights organizations that have tracked the issue. Some U.N. officials and outside observers say there have been cases of abuse in almost every U.N. mission, including operations in Ivory Coast, Sierra Leone and Kosovo.
“This is a problem in every mission around the world,” said Sarah Martin, an expert on the subject at Refugees International who recently conducted investigations into misconduct by U.N. peacekeepers in Haiti and Liberia. “If you don’t have a strict code of discipline, accountability and transparency in the process, then you’re going to continue to have a problem.”
Peacekeepers in several Liberian communities routinely engage in sex with girls, according to an internal U.N. letter obtained by The Washington Post. In the town of Gbarnga, peacekeepers were seen patronizing a club called Little Lagos, “where girls as young as 12 years of age are engaged in prostitution, forced into sex acts and sometimes photographed by U.N. peacekeepers in exchange for $10 or food or other commodities,” according to the letter, which a representative of the U.N. Children’s Fund (UNICEF) wrote Feb. 8 to the mission’s second-ranking official.
The letter also stated that community leaders in the town of Robertsport have accused Namibian peacekeepers there of “using administrative building premises and the surrounding bush to undertake sex acts with girls between the age of 12-17.”
Most of this massive abuse from UN personnel took place after the Vatican acknowledged its own failures and took steps to correct them. The Vatican has a lot of work to do to get its house in order, but this report is clearly a political hit that exploits abuse rather than an attempt to address it — and by people who would be advised to spend more time getting the beam out of their own eye first before using abuse as an excuse to attack others.
The Vatican released its response a few minutes earlier:
“At the end of its 65th session, the Committee on the Rights of the Child has published its Concluding Observations on the reviewed Reports of the Holy See and five States Parties to the Convention on the Rights of the Child (Congo, Germany, Portugal, Russian Federation and Yemen).
According to the proper procedures foreseen for the parties to the Convention, the Holy See takes note of the Concluding Observations on its Reports, which will be submitted to a thorough study and examination, in full respect of the Convention in the different areas presented by the Committee according to international law and practice, as well as taking into consideration the public interactive debate with the Committee, held on 16 January 2014.
The Holy See does, however, regret to see in some points of the Concluding Observations an attempt to interfere with Catholic Church teaching on the dignity of the human person and in the exercise of religious freedom.
The Holy See reiterates its commitment to defending and protecting the rights of the child, in line with the principles promoted by the Convention on the Rights of the Child and according to the moral and religious values offered by Catholic doctrine”.
Update: Catholic Voices offers a point-by-point rebuttal and a conclusion — that the UN process was a “kangaroo court.” Seems that way. Too bad they don’t hold their own organization to anything approaching this level of scrutiny, too.