Vatican seeks to defuse row with U.N. over child abuse report

Fri Feb 7, 2014 9:29am EST
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ROME (Reuters) - The Vatican sought to defuse tensions with the United Nations on Friday after a damning report which accused the church of covering up child sex abuse by priests.

Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi adopted a markedly softer tone to Wednesday's sharp criticism of a report by the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child.

The paper accused the Church of valuing its reputation above the protection of children and demanded the Vatican turn over suspected offenders to civil justice.

The Vatican had originally planned a muted response, according to a person familiar with the matter, but attacked the report's demands that the church scale back its opposition to abortion, artificial contraception and homosexuality.

The exchange appeared to leave the church and the United Nations heading for their biggest clash in decades but Lombardi said there was no rift with the world body.

"It is not the case that there has been a confrontation between the UN and the Vatican," he said in a statement. "The Holy See has always given a strong moral support to the United Nations."

Lombardi nevertheless repeated the Vatican's initial criticism of the report, saying it was unfair and biased.

He said that the inclusion of comments on abortion, contraception and homosexuality went beyond the committee's remit and amounted to an attempt to interfere in Church teaching and religious freedom, and accused the committee of pre-writing the report before the Vatican had addressed it.

The last major clash between the two institutions was in 1994, when the Vatican forced the United Nations to back down on a proposal to approve abortion as a means of birth control at a population conference in Cairo.   Continued...

Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi arrives to present Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel) from Pope Francis, during a news conference in Vatican November 26, 2013. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi