Pope’s Promo for UN Child Rights Convention Must be Read in Context of Vatican Reservations: Vatican

Paper on CRC: 'How U.N. Conventions on Women's and Children's Rights Undermine Family, Religion and Sovereignty.'"
Fri Jun 12, 2009 - 12:15 pm EST

By John-Henry Westen

NEW YORK, June 11, 2009 ( – Last week, Pope Benedict XVI issued a telegram, signed by Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone, saying there was an “urgent need” for the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC)“to be implemented to the full.” The telegram raised eyebrows among family activists, especially in the United States, since they have battled against the ratification of the document in their country. Reports on the telegram to date have failed to specify Vatican reservations on the document, which the Vatican’s representative at the UN told LifeSiteNews (LSN) are key to understanding the Pope’s statement.

Pro-family concern about the CRC stems from the fact that the UN committee that oversees implementation of the CRC has attempted to undermine parental rights in various nations that have signed on to the convention. 

Patrick Fagan a Senior Fellow at the Family Research Council told LSN that he recently completed a paper on CRC and the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women. “There is much going on with CRC that is directly opposed to the Church’s teaching on the rights of parents, on sexuality, on education and on life issues,” he said. “So much so that we titled the paper: ‘How U.N. Conventions on Women’s and Children’s Rights Undermine Family, Religion and Sovereignty.’”

Citing CRC documentation, Fagan’s paper notes that in 1995, “the CRC committee rebuked the United Kingdom for permitting parents to withdraw their children from sex-education classes if they disagreed with the content.” Furthermore, “the CRC committee frequently issues interpretative frameworks for the treaty that insist upon the rights of children to sex education and so-called ‘reproductive health services’ with or without the consent of their parents.”

The difficulties with the CRC are more those of interpretation rather than anything explicit in the text. In fact, the preamble of the CRC even calls for legal protection for the unborn, a fact which is conveniently overlooked by the UN committee which enforces the convention.

Archbishop Celestino Migliore, the Vatican’s representative (or Permanent Observer) at the UN, told LSN, “As a party to the Convention on the Rights of the Child the Holy See remains committed to the Convention's requirements to protect the rights of children and ‘provide legal protection before as well as after birth.’”

“The devastating number of children who die each and every day to abortion, famine, disease, poverty, war, and violence illustrates the need for all countries to live up to the Convention's requirements to ‘respect(ing) the inviolable dignity and rights of children, ... recognize(ing) the fundamental educational mission of the family…’ and the ‘stable social environment capable of favouring the physical, cultural and moral development of all children,’" said the Archbishop.

In addition to contradicting the language of the Convention by undermining parental rights, the CRC has been used to threaten legal protection for the right to life of unborn children. The UN Children’s Agency (UNICEF) has argued from the CRC that nations should permit abortion without parental consent or even letting parents know.

The Holy See recognizes this lack of congruence between the text and its interpretation. Archbishop Migliori emphasized that the Pope, in his telegram “calls for a ... ‘correct application of the Convention.’”

When the Vatican ratified the document nearly twenty years ago, it did so with a declaration and reservations, specifying its interpretation. Apart from specifying the right to life for the unborn, the Vatican said it “interprets the articles of the Convention in a way which safeguards the primary and inalienable rights of parents.” It also interprets the CRC call for children to receive “family planning education and services" in article 24.2, “to mean only those methods of family planning which it considers morally acceptable, that is, the natural methods of family planning.”

In closing his telegram, the Pope encouraged Catholic and other organizations to continue “to work generously for a correct application of the Convention, and for the construction of a future of hope, security and happiness for the children of our world.”

Jim Hughes, Vice President of International Right to Life Federation, told LSN that the Pope’s call for organizations to work for a “correct application” of the Convention, “can be seen as a rebuke to the UN committees and agencies which have undermined parental rights and those of the unborn in the name of the Convention.”

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