The Holy See’s envoy to the United Nations in Geneva has no doubt that the body is useful in the pursuit of the common good, but he also says it is important that law prevail over ideologies. The U.N. system “is very complex and sometimes muddled,” Archbishop Silvano Tomasi said in a May 30 interview with CNA. This character, he added, “may present the risk of a deficit of democracy if experts replace states in making decisions.” Archbishop Tomasi was responding to a question about the tendency of the U.N. Committee on the Convention Against Torture to highlight themes “which might strike some as only tenuously connected to the actual text and the intent of the Convention Against Torture,” as the permanent observer stressed in a May 4 press release. As the Holy See’s permanent observer to the U.N.’s Geneva office, Archbishop Tomasi spoke at a May 6-7 hearing concerning the Holy See’s implementation of the Convention Against Torture. The final observations were issued May 24 by the panel of 10 committee members. The observations emphasized that the Holy See had not violated the convention at any time. But at the same time, the committee strongly criticized the Vatican’s response to sex abuse of minors by members of the clergy. The committee also praised the Church for steps taken over the last decade to combat sex abuse, including recent establishment of a Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors. The committee’s recommendations also included a request to modify agreements with states; they asked for the extradition of Archbishop Jozef Wesolowski, who was apostolic nuncio to the Dominican Republic until his August resignation, when accusations of his sexual misconduct against a minor came to light. Archbishop Wesolowski is under investigation by both the Vatican the Dominican Republic, and the Vatican has already stated its willingness to hand him over to Dominican civil authorities if requested to do so. Furthermore, the committee asked that the Holy See provide data on the collaboration of priests worldwide with civil authorities. The requests show that the committee deems the Holy See to be directly responsible for any crime perpetrated by priests throughout the world, and that it tends to treat the Holy See not as a sovereign state, but rather as a non-governmental organization. According to Archbishop Tomasi, “experts often do not distinguish the way the Holy See fulfills its responsibilities.” “For what concerns the Convention against Torture, the Holy See ratified it in 2002 solely for Vatican City State, and no state made an objection to this.” The nuncio explained that “on the other hand, the Holy See carries on a universal pastoral mission which shares the Convention Against Torture’s principle and goals,” and fosters them “with its teaching in the vast network of schools it manages in the world.” The Holy See “does not in any way interfere with the sovereignty of states,” he clarified. “These latter — according to international law — should judge people living in their territory when they commit a crime.” In juridical and legal terms “the Holy See has an effective control” within the territory of Vatican City, while it does not have “a legal, effective control” on clergy living outside the Vatican; merely “a spiritual control exercised through canon law.” “This important distinction is not understood, or there is a will not to understand it,” Archbishop Tomasi underscored. Archbishop Tomasi stressed that “the Church unequivocally condemns every form of sexual abuse and every violation of human dignity.” According to Archbishop Tomasi, focusing solely on the Church when considering the sexual abuse of minors “risks being a poor service to the protection of minors. Consider that the World Health Organization data registers at least 40 million cases of sex abuse of minors every year.” “We should rather converge all our efforts on protection of minors. The Holy See and the local Churches have taken effective measures and introduced a new culture of zero tolerance toward these crimes, and tangible attention to victims.”
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