When Did The United Nations Become A Theology School?
Religion & Liberty Online

When Did The United Nations Become A Theology School?

From the Charter of the United Nations:

The Purposes of the United Nations are:

  1. To maintain international peace and security, and to that end: to take effective collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to the peace, and for the suppression of acts of aggression or other breaches of the peace, and to bring about by peaceful means, and in conformity with the principles of justice and international law, adjustment or settlement of international disputes or situations which might lead to a breach of the peace;
  2. To develop friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples, and to take other appropriate measures to strengthen universal peace;
  3. To achieve international co-operation in solving international problems of an economic, social, cultural, or humanitarian character, and in promoting and encouraging respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language, or religion; and
  4. To be a centre for harmonizing the actions of nations in the attainment of these common ends.

It seems that the U.N. has lost touch with its own purpose for existence. A much-publicized U.N. report told the Catholic Church they needed to change their teaching. The report was written under the guise of caring about children and the sex abuse scandal the Church continues to deal with. However, Claudia Rosett of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies takes the U.N. to task in a Wall Street Journal opinion piece:

The committee strongly urged the Vatican: “Ensure a transparent sharing of all archives which can be used to hold the abusers accountable as well as those who concealed their crimes and knowingly placed offenders in contact with children.”

That’s rich coming from the U.N., which has still not solved its own festering problems of peacekeeper sex abuse, including the rape of minors. Exposing abusers and holding them to account is a great idea. The Vatican has spent years addressing the scandal of its own past handling of such cases. But the U.N. hardly engages in the transparency it is now promoting.

Rosett goes on to say:

The real issue here is that whatever changes the Vatican and the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics might consider, the U.N. is supremely ill-qualified to serve as a guide. The body that produced this report is the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child. Its job is to monitor compliance with the U.N.-engendered Convention on the Rights of the Child, a lengthy and intrusive treaty that went into effect in 1990.

When the Holy See became one of the early parties to this treaty, it did so with explicit reservations meant to safeguard its own authority and religious character. Now the committee, in its report on Wednesday, is pressing the Vatican to “withdraw all its reservations and to ensure the Convention’s precedence over internal laws and regulations.” The committee’s recommendations are nonbinding but can influence public opinion. In this report the Vatican is publicly shamed—and then urged to redeem itself by bowing before the altar of the U.N.

The Vatican is not taking any of this lightly (see here for an analysis of the Vatican response), and it should not. The United Nations is not in the business of religion or theology. Their mission is to promote religious freedom, not dictate beliefs to people of faith. Clearly, the Vatican is being targeted and told what to teach,while others get a “pass.” A U.N. assessment of North Korea in 2009

…expressed concern about”severe ill-treatment” of children and noted with “deep concern” that “the overall standard of living of children remains very low.” But there was none of the fervor with which the committee has denounced the Vatican for failing to explicitly forbid corporal punishment.

Ms. Rosett calls the U.N. move against the Vatican a “gross intrusion.” It is.

Read “The U.N. Assault on the Catholic Church” at The Wall Street Journal.


Elise Hilton

Communications Specialist at Acton Institute. M.A. in World Religions.