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Thursday, 8 May 2014

The U.N can't point fingers when it comes to sexual misconduct: Report by James Varney

Kirsten Sandberg, center, chairperson of the U.N. human rights committee on the rights of the child, gestures as she joins committee members Maria Herczog, right, and Benyam Mezmur, left, for a press conference at the United Nations headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, on Wednesday, Feb. 5. A U.N. human rights committee denounced the Vatican on Wednesday for adopting policies that allowed priests to rape and molest tens of thousands of children over decades, and urged it to open its files on the pedophiles and the churchmen who concealed their crimes. (AP Photo/Anja Niedringhaus)

The widespread sexual abuse of boys by Roman Catholic priests is one of those astounding stories, an injustice so monstrous and rooted in a network so rich and deep it would seem confined to Hollywood screenwriters. It's all too real, though, and horrible.

The light that has been shone on the church in terms of what it knew and tolerated for decades, along with steps it took to bury accusers and escape judgment for its crimes, has been a good thing. Perhaps the only troubling aspect of it is how much the spotlight has been focused on the United States.

This isn't an American problem; this is a Roman Catholic Church problem, and Rome and its officers are a global presence.

Nevertheless, if there were one entity singularly unqualified to investigate the Church's sexual abuse problems it would be the United Nations. Not only because the U.N. is such an intellectually dishonest and government-scrubbing, self-aggrandizing collection of arrogant diplomats, but because when it comes to sex crimes the U.N. itself is a major perpetrator.

Monday in Geneva, the U.N. Committee Against Torture is essentially putting the Vatican in the dock, barely three months after the U.N.'s Committee on the Rights of the Child scored the Roman Catholic Church for its sexual abuse scandal and its handling of the tragic, criminal behavior.

Some writers and Catholic leaders have warned against the U.N.'s political agenda and questioned whether the U.N. can be seen as any sort of impartial judge of the Vatican's actions. Those are valid questions, but surprisingly absent from much of the recent discussion has been any consideration of why the U.N. would have any moral standing at all when it comes to sex crimes.

In Africa, U.N. peacekeeping forces engaged in waves of rape perhaps unequaled since the Red Army swept across Eastern Europe into Berlin in 1945. An internal U.N. report on the matter in 2004 also found widespread problems with forced prostitution and pedophilia, according to The Washington Post.

These followed similar felonious sexual behavior by U.N. police crews in Bosnia and Cambodia, a timeline and pattern that suggests the U.N. has nothing to recommend when it comes to combating something Pope Francis has labeled "evil," namely the sexual exploitation of children.

It should be said that unlike some U.N. committees the one dealing with torture doesn't have a laughable lineup. Italy, Denmark, Mauritius are three with pretty clean modern rap sheets, and although the U.S. has kept open that hideous torture multiplex at Guantanamo and performed some of the same dubious moves on prisoners it forces its own elite forces to undergo in training, I'm at least as comfortable with the American track record as I am with China's or Chile's.

The point is, it's not like having Iran or Zimbabwe or Thailand on a committee discussing the status of women.

Nevertheless, the U.N. is a glassy house when it comes to poking around in the Vatican's inexcusably lax and self-saving attitude toward predatory priests in its mix. The U.N. lacks the moral authority to pull this off. Rather than eye one another warily in Geneva, perhaps both famous institutions would be better off getting their affairs in order back in Rome or Turtle Bay.
 Report by James Varney: on May 05, 2014 at 3:41 PM, updated May 05, 2014 at 3:52 PM at


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