Little news from Rome – kath.ch
November 20th is International Children’s Rights Day or Universal Children’s Day. An occasion to discuss the rights of children all over the world. That’s what former British President Mary McAleese did recently in Lucerne – with a view to the Catholic Church. Your accusation: In view of its possibilities, the Vatican is not doing enough.
On the occasion of the award of an honorary doctorate by the University of Lucerne, Ireland’s former President Mary McAleese presented a complete summary of the Catholic commitment to the rights of children and young people in early November.
Holy See is “largely inactive”
It field meager. The Holy See, according to McAleese, “is still largely inactive when it comes to building, adopting and enshrining a credible children’s rights ethos throughout the universal Church.”
The Catholic Church has unique opportunities to do this. They are “the world’s largest non-governmental provider of child-related educational and welfare services”. McAleese cited figures from 2015, according to which around 60 million children attended 200,000 Catholic schools on five continents.
Abuse processing is “sluggish”
The lawyer, who received her doctorate in canon law from the Pontifical Gregorian University in 2018, also criticized the slow processing of abuse in the church. (The topic of her doctoral thesis is: “Children’s rights and duties in canon law”.)
Her main focus in Lucerne, however, was corporal punishment for children. They are condemned in the UN Child Protection Convention of 1989: “The contracting states shall take all permissible legislative, administrative, social and educational measures to protect the child from any form of physical or mental violence, harm or abuse (…)” means is in Article 19.
Corporal punishment not in view
McAleese accuses that so far neither Catholic theologians, canon law experts, anthropologists nor Vatican authorities such as the Dicastery for Family, Laity and Life, nor the former Congregation for Catholic Education or the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Children have taken part in the topic.
Pope slip for a slap on the butt
Pope Francis himself only made an “imprudent remark in favor of parental use of corporal punishment”. In a general audience a few years ago, Francis said that if a father slaps his child in the face, he robs him of his dignity. A slap on the butt is okay.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church does not mention the word corporal punishment. But in the section on the parent’s duty of education, he quotes a sentence from the book of Jesus Sirach (30:1-2): “He who loves his son holds the staff for him, so that he may experience joy later. He who disciplines his son will take pleasure in him.”
Against the Convention on the Rights of the Child
The unequivocal notion that “parents corporal punishment of a child is an expression of love” needs to change, McAleese said. In doing so, the Holy See is violating the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which it has signed itself. (They failed to mention that the catechism states that the first parental duty is “to create a home where tenderness, forgiveness, mutual respect, fidelity and selfless service reign” (CCC 2223).)
Church takes the lead in fighting child poverty
On the other hand, the Catholic Church has a “worldwide leading role in the fight against child poverty and a lack of education,” McAleese conceded. They support international measures to prevent child trafficking and child pornography and to protect children in armed conflicts, child laborers and migrant children.
With regard to the entire UN Child Protection Convention, McAleese criticized its implementation by the Vatican and the Catholic Church. After all, the document was created in the 1980s with the support of Vatican representatives. And the Holy See was one of the first to ratify the convention.
Ban on corporal punishment in the Vatican since 2019
Since then, UN and Vatican representatives have been arguing about, among other things, whether and to what extent the convention only applies to the territory of the Vatican State or to the entire Catholic Church. The first seems clear now. Corporal punishment of children by Vatican employees has been banned in Vatican City since 2019.
According to McAleese, however, the obligation to observe and implement a comprehensive ban on the use of violence against children applies “not only to implementation on the territory of the Vatican State, but also in its capacity as the supreme authority of the Catholic Church” – by means of the required and institutions that are available to it subordinate
She quoted the Children’s Rights Committee in Geneva, which has also seen it this way in recent years. One misjudges the character of the Holy See and the Church; they are not a state like any other, Vatican officials have countered before. As the governing body of the Catholic Church and the global moral authority, the Vatican can promote the principles of the Convention. However, he is not obliged to change doctrine or canon law.
Little heard of the Vatican initiative
The “Global Compact on Education” would offer an opportunity to say something about corporal punishment, which is prohibited by law but varies in many cultures. The Vatican initiative, launched in 2020, aims to bring together as many people responsible for education and training internationally as possible – from parents to scientists to education politicians – in order to initiate projects for more sustainable and holistic education and training. But so far, little has been heard from there.
Harmless implementation reports
The states party to the Convention on the Rights of the Child should report every five years on their implementation. The Holy See has only done so in 1994 and 2011. The first round of reporting, assessment and discussion between Geneva and the Vatican was rather benign.
The second in 2011 was clearly influenced by the abuse scandal. A series of disputes ensued up until 2014, in which the then Vatican representative in Geneva, Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, as well as the child protection expert Hans Zollner, described the evaluation report from Geneva as ideologically colored and partly “unfair” and “confusing”.
Another long overdue report from the Vatican is currently not foreseeable. The formally responsible state secretariat seems to be overburdened, the thematically responsible authorities for education and family have not yet commented on this. The child protection commission is well occupied with the support of the local churches in matters of abuse prevention and intervention, in addition to a certain leadership weakness.
The “Stick” in the Catechism
It seems doubtful whether Francis will have the sentence with the “stick” removed from the catechism in the foreseeable future. The outlawing of the death penalty in 2019 with the corresponding change in the catechism seems more important to him.
Other content and efforts, such as those contained in the children’s rights and other UN conventions, are critically observed from Rome: An increasing restriction of the primary parental right to bring up children in favor of an excessive right of self-determination for minors as well as state and other institutions. A development, according to Vatican representatives, from an anthropological view of man, contradicts the Christian image of man. (kna)
© Catholic Media Center, 11/18/2022
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