“The committee is concerned 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,” said the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child in a report it released on Wednesday.
The committee described Pope Francis’ statement last July that gay men and lesbians should not be judged or marginalized as “progressive” and “positive.” The U.N. body nevertheless urged the Catholic Church to address discrimination against gay and lesbian children and those born to unmarried parents.
“The committee also urges the Holy See to make full use of its moral authority to condemn all forms of harassment, discrimination or violence against children based on their sexual orientation or the sexual orientation of their parents and to support efforts at international level for the decriminalization of homosexuality,” reads the report.
The report also criticized the Vatican over its response to the sex abuse crisis within the Catholic Church.
“The committee is gravely concerned that the Holy See has not acknowledged the extent of the crimes committed, has not taken the necessary measures to address cases of child sexual abuse and to protect children, and has adopted policies and practices which have led to the continuation of the abuse by and the impunity of the perpetrators,” it said.
The committee also criticized the Holy See over its ongoing opposition to abortion, access to contraception and information about sexual and reproductive health.
The Associated Press reported that Archbishop Silvano Tomasi on Wednesday said LGBT advocacy groups and those who back marriage rights for same-sex couples “reinforced an ideological line” with the committee.
The report’s release comes against the backdrop of Francis’ ongoing efforts to temper the Vatican’s rhetoric against homosexuality, marriage rights for same-sex couples and other social issues since he succeeded Pope Benedict XVI last March.
“We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods,” said Francis during an extensive interview that La Civiltà Cattolica, an Italian Jesuit magazine, published last September. “When we speak about these issues, we have to talk about them in a context. The teaching of the church, for that matter, is clear and I am a son of the church, but it is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time.”
Francis, who is the former archbishop of Buenos Aires, in 2001 kissed and washed the feet of 12 people with AIDS during a visit to a local hospice. He also spearheaded opposition to Argentina’s same-sex marriage law that President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner signed in 2010.
Fernández sharply criticized then-Buenos Aires Archbishop Jorge Bergoglio after he categorized the gay nuptials measure as a “demonic plan” and called for a “holy war” against it.
Esteban Paulón, president of the LGBT Federation of Argentina, on Twitter questioned what the Advocate — which named Francis as their 2013 person of the year — and Rolling Stone — which placed him on the cover of the magazine’s Jan. 29 issue — would say “about their idol the pope after the U.N.’s definitive report about sexual abuse and cover-up”
“Beyond the nice declarations about sexual diversity, Francis and the Vatican cannot continue turning their backs to the reality that it has affected the lives of millions of boys and girls around the world,” Paulón told the Washington Blade from New York where he and six other Latin American LGBT rights advocates are on a U.S. State Department-sponsored trip. “They clearly demonstrate a network of guaranteed impunity from senior Vatican officials (including the pope) for those criminals.”
Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry in Mount Rainier, Md., also welcomed the U.N. report.
“Many government leaders around the world and many Catholics in the pews have expressed the opinions that report articulated so clearly that the Vatican’s negative messages against LGBT people cause violence, harm and in some cases death,” he said.
DeBernardo added he expects Francis will respond to the report because “a prestigious organization like the U.N. puts weight behind that message.”