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Vatican willingly appearing before UN committee, spokesman says

By on Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Fr Lombardi said the Vatican would file reports on its anti-torture efforts (CNS)

Fr Lombardi said the Vatican would file reports on its anti-torture efforts (CNS)

The Vatican’s scheduled May appearance before a United Nations committee monitoring adherence to an anti-torture treaty is being done willingly and not because Church officials were ordered to appear for questioning, a Vatican spokesman has said.

Jesuit Fr Federico Lombardi told reporters yesterday that as a signatory of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, the Vatican promised to file periodic reports about its laws and efforts to fight torture.

Along with representatives of seven other states, Vatican representatives are scheduled to review the periodic report with committee members from May 5-6 in Geneva.

“This is part of the ordinary procedures to which all state parties to the convention adhere,” Fr Lombardi said. “It is not that the Holy See was convoked in a way outside the normal procedures.”

In addition, he said, the treaty was signed in 2002 “in the name of Vatican City State – not for the universal Church – because the convention has juridical characteristics” that apply to a geographical nation-state.

The UN committee’s questions to the Vatican representatives “must take into account the nature of the convention, its text and the fact that it regards Vatican City State,” and not the worldwide church, he said.

The UN committee tentatively scheduled a May 2 session for nongovernmental organizations wanting to discuss the Holy See’s position. The New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights, representing SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, filed a report with the committee stating that “rape and other forms of sexual violence are recognized as torture and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment, and the Vatican has fallen woefully short of its obligation to prevent and protect against these crimes” in the way it has handled the clerical sex abuse scandal.

In a statement April 14, SNAP said it hoped the UN committee would “call out Catholic officials for saying one thing and doing another, and for putting children in harm’s way time and time and time again, not just in years past, but today as well.”

SNAP said it hoped the committee would be as tough on the Vatican as the UN committee monitoring adherence to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child was after Vatican representatives took part in the normal review process in mid-January. The committee said the Vatican was not doing enough to prevent clerical sexual abuse of children and even suggested that, for the good of children, the Catholic Church change its teaching on abortion, contraception and homosexuality.

The Vatican’s report to the committee against torture focused on the laws and policies of Vatican City State regarding crime and punishment, but also mentioned the work of Vatican representatives and the Vatican media to educate people around the world about the sacredness of human life and the immorality of torture.

“The Holy See notes that ‘in times past, cruel practices were commonly used by legitimate governments to maintain law and order, often without protest from the pastors of the Church, who themselves adopted in their own tribunals the prescriptions of Roman law concerning torture,'” the report said, quoting from the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

Continuing to quote from the catechism, the report said, “Regrettable as these facts are, the church always taught the duty of clemency and mercy. She forbade clerics to shed blood. In recent times it has become evident that these cruel practices were neither necessary for public order, nor in conformity with the legitimate rights of the human person.”

The Holy See condemns torture and “other acts of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, which may not amount to torture but are equally contrary to the inherent dignity of the human person and his or her integrity and identity. They include the death penalty, in cases where bloodless means are available to protect public order and the safety of persons; subhuman living conditions in prisons… arbitrary imprisonment, detention or deportation,” the report added

  • la catholic state

    The Catholic Church should be leading people to Jesus Christ and His Church…..not supporting various secular campaigns. The Church is a leader, not a secular sidekick.

  • Sceptic

    If the Catholic Church has nothing to hide then it has nothing to fear from such co-operation. Anything done by anybody which reduces torture, or even draws attention to it, can only be for the good. Indeed by co-operating it can be shown as leading and not following, if other faiths are led to reciprocate.

  • la catholic state

    Sure….but they risk looking like they are taking orders and their cue from secular Christ-free organisations looking like another humanist NGO. Any good they do should be done in the name of Jesus Christ and secular organisations should sign up to Church initiatives instead of ALWAYS visa versa. It’s putting the Church at the service of something other than Jesus Christ.

  • Sceptic

    How do you think that would look to those outside the Church? What effect would it have on spreading your message if it appeared, rightly or wrongly, that the Church was refusing to co-operate?

    The Church exists within a world which increasingly does not believe in it. It doesn’t exist alongside that world, so has to co-operate. I don’t see any other realistic choice available.

  • Julie

    …and Catholic philosopher, Jacques Maritain was a contributor to the drafting of the UN Declaration of Human Rights.

  • Hennergogs

    “The Church exists within a world which increasingly does not believe in it. ”
    The evidence doesn’t match this statement I’m afraid.

  • Hennergogs

    Indeed. But I think this is a situation that directly concerns only the Vatican state not the church. That the committee thinks it can award itself the authority to speak outside its competence and jurisdiction on church teaching is revealing.

  • Sceptic

    An even stronger case then for co-operation with the UN. Some people here seem to regard the UN as a worthless body intend on establishing values at odds with all of Catholicism. I think there are many areas of agreement.

  • Sceptic

    It all depends on what evidence you consider and how you evaluate it.

  • Cestius

    There are indeed common areas of concern. But the committee supposedly on the rights of the child clearly contained anti-Catholics and had an anti-Catholic agenda that was little to do with child protection.

  • Hegesippus

    Would that be this SNAP?

    They need to put their own house in order first!

  • Adamson

    Snap calls on the Catholic Church to change its teaching on abortion. Snap obviously does not know of the pain suffered by the child in the womb during the course of an abortion.

  • Sceptic

    Isn’t that a rather prejudiced assertion?

    Who and in what way are they “anti-Catholic”?

    Just because they don’t agree with you does not make them “anti-Catholic! You remind me of Thatcher and her claim that anyone who wasn’t with her, was against her.

  • la catholic state

    The Church is not a humanist charity…..and should not act like one. The Church tackles social problems by spreading the faith, applying Catholic principles and turning men’s hearts to God. Does the UN support this?! Police agencies should deal with the legal implications, and the Church with moral ones…..but beware the EU and it’s rejection of moral norms in solving social problems. It is neither one thing or another.

  • Guest

    It is true that Jacques Maritain was consulted on the formulation of the Declaration of Human Rights but he subsequently wrote that the UN declaration of human rights by the UN were not authoritative or legitimate because the premise was the
    agreement of the parties and not the Natural Law. [The Natural Law Reflections on Theory and Practice. J Maritain page 10 ]

    Human rights are inalienable. They did not start in 1948 with the United Nations.

    The Catechism of the Catholic Church states

    Natural Law.

    The natural law is a participation in God’s wisdom and goodness by man formed in the image of his Creator. It expresses the dignity of the human person and forms the basis of his fundamental rights and duties.

    The natural law is immutable, permanent throughout history. The rules that express it remain substantially valid. It is a necessary
    foundation for the erection of moral rules and civil law.

  • Sceptic

    I don’t disagree but that doesn’t address the issue. If you are to be able to pursue a faith based moral approach to have to carry the people with you. Turn your back on the UN and they will not be sympathetic. In fact they will be hugely suspicious.

  • la catholic state

    It’s not about carrying people with you……they have a choice….and may choose not to. The UN has a ‘moral’ system quite at odds with Christianity…..and is a godless anti-Christian politicised system…..given to its own will to power.

    The Church is not subordinate to the UN either and must never let itself be.

  • Sceptic

    No-one is “subordinate” to the UN. That isn’t it’s purpose. Nor does the UN have any “moral system”, whether at odds with yours or not. It seeks practical solutions to real issues which command the support of the bulk of it’s members. Many of whom are Christian countries.

  • John Fisher

    He should have added the Church condemns other forms of human torture such as abortion, prostitution, IVF, surrogacy,children being raised in toxic homosexual relationships, sex selection of children by parents, on and on. The UN is guilty of many forms of human torture such as troops that don’t protect refugees and inaction by being indecisive most of all through the power of veto in the Security Council. The UN is sometimes an instrument of evil.

  • John Fisher

    The areas of agreement due not excuse the errors of the UN. The vote of many is often the common lowest denominator… Not the truth.

  • Sceptic

    Everyone makes errors but not everyone has to try to carry many different opinions with them to try to make progress, as do the UN.

    What is truth is often a matter of opinion. That you have yours doesn’t mean that the other stakeholders agree with you.