Vatican Rejects UN Child Committee’s Call for Canon Law Changes

by Laura McLaughlin


The Vatican has once again rejected the UN’s call for a change in Church dogma on issues such as abortion, contraception and homosexuality in regards to the child sex abuse scandal that has plagued the Church for decades. The Committee on the Rights of the Child finds fault with the Church’s absolute stance on abortion, gender roles, and homosexuality, claiming that they violate the individual’s rights, promote gender inequality, and encourage discrimination against non-heterosexuals, respectively. On September 26, the Church issued a response to the Concluding Observations of the Committee of the Rights of the Child. The Vatican maintained that the obligations it has in regards to the Conventions on the Rights of the Child relate only to the Vatican City State and do not give the UN authority to discuss or demand change in the Church’s practice.

The Holy See has refused to change Canon Law, arguing that the Committee is speaking from a biased perspective that does not understand Church teaching, and does not respecting religious freedom. Although the Church has a long way to go in terms of reforming how child sex abuse crimes are handled and prevented, Canon Law contains fixed precepts of the Church that are not up for debate within the UN. The September 26 response underscored that many of the recommendations “may also be viewed through the prism of religious freedom, in particular regard to the autonomy of religious communities to express their doctrine, manifest their faith and worship.” The UN has an important place in world affairs and has the potential to enact significant change, thus it is unfortunate that their Committee on the Rights of the Child’s statements to the Church seem to advocate for abortion and the break down of the traditional family instead of focusing on the rights of children and on how future sexual abuse problems can be avoided. This is the biggest controversy between the UN and the Vatican since in 1994 when the Church disagreed with the UN’s proposition to using abortion as a means of birth control in the over populated city of Cairo.


Originally the UN had accused the Holy See of transferring guilty priests to different parishes and ignoring their crimes. The Vatican argued that this statement ignored the reforms the Church has been making. More recently, however, the UN seems to have taken more issue with the Church teachings that precede the UN’s own existence rather than the real issue at hand. Thus the Holy See largely ignored the issues brought up about child protection and focused on rejecting the calls for change in Canon Law, while maintaining that they are focused on protecting children, the most vulnerable members of the community.


Pope Francis has said that sex abuse scandals continue to be shame of Church, demonstrating the Church’s renewed commitment to reform the course of action in dealing with these cases, not Canon Law. Perhaps more progress on the important issue at hand will be discussed again in the future as a singular issue and not as one bundled with other unrelated issues and thus implicitly say that dogma is somehow to blame for it.


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