The Holy See has rejected the United Nations' Committee on the Rights of the Child's call for changes to canon law, and has formally criticized the group for a “grave misunderstanding” of the Holy See's sovereignty. In a response released Sept. 26, the Holy See delivered its comments on the Concluding Observations of the Committee on the Rights of Child. In January, the Committee had discussed the written report on the Convention on the Rights of the Child submitted by the Holy See as one of the states that had signed the convention. After a hearing held Jan. 16, the UN committee issued a report to which the Holy See responded in its Sept. 26 statement. The Holy See maintained that its treaty obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child apply to Vatican City State, and that its obligations do not touch on its relation with dioceses and religious orders throughout the world. “The Holy See, in accordance with the rules of international law, is aware that attempting to implement the CRC in the territory of other states could constitute a violation of the principle of noninterference in the internal affairs of States,” the response read. The response also underscored that “the Holy See does not ratify a treaty on behalf of every Catholic in the world, and therefore, does not have obligations to implement the convention within the territories of other states parties on behalf of Catholics.” The Holy See also criticized the fact that “the treaty body has plunged into canon law, which is a juridical system, however, not equivalent to that of States.” The committee's observations were published Feb. 7, and seemed meant to pressure the Church to change its teaching on human sexuality. For instance, the committee wrote with “regret that the Holy See continues to place emphasis on the promotion of complementarity and equality in dignity” of men and women; asked “the Holy See to review its position on abortion … identifying circumstances under which access to abortion services can be permitted;” urged the Holy See to “remove gender stereotypes from Catholic school textbooks … which may limit the development of the talents and abilities of boys and girls and undermine their educational and life opportunities.” The committee also expressed “concern about the Holy See's past statements and declarations on homosexuality which contribute to the social stigmatization of and violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender adolescents and children raised by same sex couples.” The Holy See said that all of these pressures are beyond the text of the convention, and noted that it is “concerned about a lack of respect for the text of a treaty, which has been carefully drafted by States Parties, including the Holy See itself.” According to the Holy See, the committee has put into action “a clear and open violation” of the ordinary meaning of the terms of the convention when the concluding observations “advocate for abortion.” The response also addressed the committee’s promotion of “diverse forms of family” as a matter of principle, while “this expression is not found in the Convention nor it is defined.” Nor is the word “gender” contained in the text of the convention, and it is “apparently employed to incorporate a larger ideological platform,” the Holy See noted. The Holy See finally 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 response delivered Sept. 26 insisted that the understanding and documentation provided by the Holy See had been biased by the committee, and that the “concluding observations include inaccurate statements that have no evidentiary foundation,” while “many materials presented by the Holy See, especially regarding child protection, were dismissed and ignored.”
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