Statements by the Holy See 

 

Message for World Tourism Day

VATICAN CITY, July 12, 2013  - Here is the message published by the Pontifical Council for Migrants and Itinerant People on World Tourism Day which will be celebrated on September 27th, 2013.

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On September 27, we will celebrate World Tourism Day, following the theme suggested for this year by the World Tourism Organization: "Tourism and water: protecting our common future". This is in line with the "International Year of Cooperation for Water", that was proclaimed by the General Assembly of the United Nations, during the International Decade for Action "Water, source of life" (2005-2015), in order to highlight "that water is critical for sustainable development, especially for environmental integrity and eradication of poverty and hunger, it is essential for the health and well-being of human beings, and is fundamental to achieve the Millennium Development Goals".1

The Holy See also wishes to join in this commemoration, bringing its contribution from its own perspective, aware of the importance of the phenomenon of tourism at the present time and the challenges and opportunities it provides to our mission of evangelization. This is one of the economic sectors with the largest and fastest growth in the world. We must not forget that last year it was exceeded the milestone of one billion international tourists, to which we must add the even higher figures of local tourism.

In the tourism sector, water is of crucial importance, an asset and a resource. It is an asset because people feel naturally drawn to it, and there are millions of tourists seeking to enjoy this natural element during their days off, by choosing as their holiday destination some ecosystems where water is the most specific element (wetlands, beaches, rivers, lakes, waterfalls, islands, glaciers or snowfields, just to name a few), or trying to grasp its many benefits (especially in seaside resorts or spas). At the same time, water is also a resource for the tourism industry and it is essential, among other things, to hotels, restaurants and leisure activities.

Looking at the future, tourism will be a real benefit if it will be able to manage these resources according to the criteria of the "green economy", an economy whose environmental impact is kept within acceptable limits. We are invited, therefore, to promote ecotourism, environmentally friendly and sustainable, that can surely promote the creation of new jobs, support the local economy and reduce poverty.

There is no doubt that tourism plays a fundamental role in preserving the environment, by being one of its great ally, but also a fierce enemy. If, for instance, in order to achieve a quick and easy economic profit, the tourism industry is allowed to pollute a place, this location will cease to be a popular destination for tourists.

We know that water, key to sustainable development, is an essential element for life. Without water there is no life. "However, year after year the pressure on this resource increases. One out of three people live in a country with moderate to high-water shortages, and it is possible that by 2030 the shortage will affect almost half of the world’s population, since its demand may exceed the supply by 40%"2. According to UN data, about one billion people have no access to drinking water. And the challenges related to this issue will increase significantly in the coming years, mainly because it is poorly distributed, polluted and wasted, or priority is given to certain incorrect or unjust uses, in addition to the consequences of climate change. Tourism also is often times in competition with other sectors for the usage of water, and not infrequently it is noted that water is abundant and is wasted in tourism structures, while for the surrounding populations it is scarce.

The sustainable management of this natural resource is a challenge for the social, economic and environmental order, but especially because of the ethical nature, starting from the principle of the universal destination of the goods of the earth, which is a natural and original right, to which it must be submitted all the legislation relating to those goods. The Social Doctrine of the Church highlights the validity and application of this principle, with explicit references to water.3

Indeed, our commitment to preserving creation stems from recognizing it as God’s gift to the whole human family, and from hearing the Creator’s calling, who invites us to preserve it, aware of being the stewards, not owners, of the gift He gives us.

Concern for the environment is an important topic for Pope Francis, who has already made many references to it. In the very mass of the inauguration of his Petrine ministry he invited us to be "

stewards of creation, of God’s plan written in nature, the guardians of the other, of the environment; let us not allow- he said - that signs of destruction and death accompany our journey in this world", reminding that "everything is entrusted to the custody of man, and it is everyone’s responsibility".4

Stressing even more this calling, the Holy Father stated during a General Audience: "

Cultivating and preserving creation is a directive of God given not only at the beginning of history, but to each one of us; it is part of his plan; it means allowing the world to grow responsibly, transforming it to be a garden, a living place for all [...]. Instead we are often driven by pride of domination, of possession, manipulation, exploitation; we do not "preserve" it, do not respect it, do not consider it as a free gift to care for. We are losing the attitude of wonder, contemplation, listening to creation".5

If we foster this attitude of listening, we can discover how water speaks to us also of his Creator and reminds us of his story of love for humanity. Regarding this, it is eloquent the prayer for the blessing of water, that the Roman liturgy uses both at the Easter Vigil and in the Ritual of baptism, where it is recalled that the Lord used this gift as a sign and remembrance of his goodness: Creation, the flood that puts an end to sin, the crossing of the Red Sea that delivers from slavery, the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan, the washing of the feet that turns into the precept of love, the water pouring out of the side of Christ Crucified, the command of the Risen Lord to make disciples and baptize them ... are milestones in the history of Salvation, in which water takes on a high symbolic value.

Water speaks of life, purification, regeneration and transcendence. In the liturgy, water manifests the life of God shared with us in Christ. Jesus himself presents himself as the one who quenches our thirst, from whose breast rivers of living water shall flow (cfr. Jn 7:38), and in his dialogue with the Samaritan woman he says: "whoever drinks of the water that I will give will never thirst" (Jn 4:14). Thirst evokes the deepest yearnings of the human heart, his failures and his quest for authentic happiness beyond himself. And Christ is the one who gives the water that quenches the thirst within, he is the source of rebirth, the bath that purifies. He is the source of living water.

For this reason, it is necessary to reiterate that all those involved in the phenomenon of tourism have a big responsibility for water management, in order for this sector to be effectively a source of wealth at a social, ecological, cultural and economic level. While we must work to fix the damage already done, we should also encourage its rational use and minimize the impact by promoting appropriate policies and providing effective ways, aiming at protecting our common future. Our attitude towards nature and the mismanagement of its resources cannot burden others as well as future generations.

Therefore more determination from politicians and entrepreneurs is necessary, because, although all are aware of the challenges made by the issue of water, we are conscious that this willingness should be put into practice with binding, specific and verifiable commitments.

This situation requires above all a change of mentality leading to adopt a different lifestyle marked by sobriety and self-discipline6. We must ensure that tourists are aware and reflect on their responsibilities and the impact of their trip. They must be convinced that not everything is allowed, although they personally carry the economic burden. We need to educate and encourage the small gestures allowing us not to waste or pollute the water and, at the same time, help us appreciate even more its importance.

We share the Holy Father’s concern to take "all the serious commitment to respect and preserve creation, to be responsible for every person, to oppose the culture of waste, to promote a culture of solidarity and encounter".7

With St. Francis, the "Little Poor" of Assisi, we raise our hymn to God, praising him for his creatures: "Praised be to you, my Lord, for sister Water, which is very useful and humble and precious and pure".

Vatican City, 24 June 2013

Antonio Maria Card. Vegliò

President

Joseph Kalathiparambil

Secretary

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1 ORGANIZATION OF THE UNITED NATIONS, Resolution A/RES/65/154 approved by the General Assembly, 20 December 2010.

2 SECRETARY GENERAL OF THE UNITED NATIONS, Message on the occasion of the World Day of Water, 22 March 2013.

3 Cfr. PONTIFICAL COUNCIL OF JUSTICE AND PEACE, Compendio della Dottrina Sociale della Chiesa, 2 April 2004, nn. 171-175, 484-485.

4 POPE FRANCIS, Holy Mass at the beginning of his Pontificate, 19 March 2013.

5 POPE FRANCIS, General Audience, 5 June 2013,

6 Cfr. PONTIFICAL COUNCIL OF JUSTICE AND PEACE, Compendio della Dottrina Sociale della Chiesa, 2 April 2004, nn. 486.

7 5 POPE FRANCIS, General Audience, 5 June 2013.

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VATICAN CITY, July 12, 2013  - Here is the message published by the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People on the occasion for Sea Sunday on July 14th, 2013. The letter was signed by Cardinal Antonio Maria Veglio, president of the Pontifical Council.

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Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care

of Migrants and Itinerant People

Message for Sea Sunday 2013

(14th July 2013)

“This world of the sea, with the continuous migration of people today, must take into account the complex effects of globalization and, unfortunately, must come to grips with situations of injustice, especially when the freedom of a ship’s crew to go ashore is restricted, when they are abandoned altogether along with the vessels on which they work, when they risk piracy at sea and the damage of illegal fishing. The vulnerability of seafarers, fishermen and sailors calls for an even more attentive solicitude on the Church’s part and should stimulate the motherly care that, through you, she expresses to all those whom you meet in ports and on ships or whom you help on board during those long months at sea”.

These words were addressed by Pope Benedict XVI to the participants of the XXIII AOS Congress held in the Vatican City, November 19-23, 2012. As a matter of fact, for more than 90 years the Catholic Church, through the Work of the Apostleship of the Sea with its network of chaplains and volunteers in more than 260 ports of the world, has shown her motherly care by providing spiritual and material welfare to seafarers, fishers and their families.

As we celebrate Sea Sunday, we would like to invite every member of our Christian communities to become aware and recognize the work of an estimated 1.2 to 1.5 million seafarers who at anytime are sailing in a globalized worldwide fleet of 100,000 ships carrying 90 per cent of the manufactured goods. Very often, we do not realize that the majority of the objects we use in our daily life are transported by ships crisscrossing the oceans. Multinational crews experience complex living and working conditions on board, months away from their loved ones, abandonment in foreign ports without salaries, criminalization and natural (storms, typhoons, etc.) and human (pirates, shipwreck, etc.) calamities.

Now a beacon of hope is beaming in the dark night of these problems and difficulties encountered by the seafarers.

The ILO Maritime Labor Convention 2006 (MLC 2006), after being ratified by 30 Member countries of the International Labor Office, representing almost 60 per cent of the world’s gross shipping tonnage, is set to enter into force in August 2013. This Convention is the result of several years of relentless tripartite (governments, employers and workers) discussions to consolidate and update a great number of maritime labor Conventions and Recommendations adopted since 1920.

The MLC 2006 establishes the minimum international requirements for almost every aspect of seafarers’ working and living conditions, including fair terms of employment, medical care, social security protection and access to shore-based welfare facilities.

While, as AOS, we are welcoming the entering into force of the Convention and confidently hope to see improvements on the life of the seafarers, we remain vigilant and express our attentive solicitude by focusing our consideration on the Regulation 4.4 of the Convention, the purpose of which is to: ensure that seafarers working on board a ship have access to shore-based facilities and services to secure their health and well-being.

We should cooperate with the proper authorities in our respective ports so that to all seafarers shore leave be granted as soon as possible after a ship’s arrival in port, for the benefit of their health and well-being (cf. B4.4.6§5)

We should remind to port states that they shall promote the development of shore-based welfare facilities easily accessible to seafarers, irrespective of nationality, race, color, sex, religion, political opinion, or social origin and of the flag state on which they are employed (cf. A4.4§1.).

We should assist the proper authorities to establish national and local welfare boards that would serve as a channel for improving seafarer’s welfare at ports, bringing together people from different types of organization under one identity (cf. B4.4.3).

We should also encourage the port authorities to introduce, aside from other forms of financing, a port levy system to provide a reliable mechanism to support sustainable welfare services in the port (cf. B4.4.4 §1(b)).

Our final responsibility is towards the seafarers. We should provide them information and education about theirs rights and the protection offered by this Convention, which is also considered the fourth and final pillar of the international maritime legislation, the other three being the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL) 1973, the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS), 1974, the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW) 1978. An effective implementation will be possible and real changes will happen only if the people of the sea will know the content of the MLC 2006.

Let ask Mary, the Star of the Sea, to enlighten and accompany our mission to support the work of the faithful who are called to witness to their Christian life in the maritime world (cf. Motu Proprio Stella Maris Sec. 1, Art. I).

Antonio Maria Cardinal Vegliò

President

Joseph Kalathiparambil

Secretary

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COMUNICATO DELLA SALA STAMPA DELLA SANTA SEDE, 05.02.2014


COMUNICATO DELLA SALA STAMPA DELLA SANTA SEDE

TESTO IN LINGUA ITALIANA

Al termine della sua 65.ma sessione, il Comitato per i Diritti del Fanciullo ha pubblicato le sue Osservazioni Conclusive sugli esaminati Rapporti della Santa Sede e di cinque Stati Parte alla Convenzione sui Diritti del Fanciullo (Congo, Germania, Portogallo, Federazione Russa e Yemen).

Secondo le particolari procedure previste per le parti della Convenzione, la Santa Sede prende atto delle Osservazioni Conclusive sui propri Rapporti, le quali saranno sottoposte a minuziosi studi ed esami nel pieno rispetto della Convenzione nei differenti ambiti presentati dal Comitato secondo il diritto e la pratica internazionale come pure tenendo conto del pubblico dibattito interattivo con il Comitato svoltosi il 16 gennaio 2014.

Alla Santa Sede rincresce, tuttavia, di vedere in alcuni punti delle Osservazioni Conclusive un tentativo di interferire nell’insegnamento della Chiesa Cattolica sulla dignità della persona umana e nell’esercizio della libertà religiosa.

La Santa Sede reitera il suo impegno a difesa e protezione dei diritti del fanciullo, in linea con i principi promossi dalla Convenzione sui Diritti del Fanciullo e secondo i valori morali e religiosi offerti dalla dottrina cattolica.

[00183-01.01] [Testo originale: Italiano]

 

TESTO IN LINGUA INGLESE

The end of its 65th session, the Committee on the Rights of the Child has published its Concluding Observations on the reviewed Reports of the Holy See and five States Parties to the Convention on the Rights of the Child (Congo, Germany, Portugal, Russian Federation and Yemen).

According to the proper procedures forseen for the parties to the Convention, the Holy See takes note of the Concluding Observations on its Reports, which will be submitted to a thorough study and examination, in full respect of the Convention in the different areas presented by the Committee according to international law and practice, as well as taking into consideration the public interactive debate with the Committee, held on 16 January 2014.

The Holy See does, however, regret to see in some points of the Concluding Observations an attempt to interfere with Catholic Church teaching on the dignity of human person and in the exercise of religious freedom.

The Holy See reiterates its commitment to defending and protecting the rights of the child, in line with the principles promoted by the Convention on the Rights of the Child and according to the moral and religious values offered by Catholic doctrine.

[00183-02.01] [Original text: English]

[B0087-XX.01]

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Holy See's Presentation of Report to UN Committee on the Convention Against Torture

GENEVA, May 05, 2014 (Zenit.org) - Here is the address given by Archbishop Silvano M. Tomasi, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations in Geneva during the presentation of the Initial Periodic Report to the UN Committee on the Convention Against Torture. 

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Mr. Chairperson, Members of the Committee,

Allow me, first of all, to extend cordial greetings to all the members of the Committee on the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. In the presentation of the Initial Report of the Holy See, I wish to introduce the members of our Delegation present for this interactive dialogue. With me this morning are Monsignor Christophe El-Kassis and Professor Vincenzo Buonomo, of the Secretariat of State of the Holy See, and Monsignor Richard Gyhra, Secretary of the Holy See Mission.

The Holy See acceded to the Convention against Torture (CAT) on June 22, 2002. It did so with the very clear and direct intention that this Convention applied to Vatican City State (VCS). In its capacity as the sovereign of Vatican City State, the Holy See provided an important "Interpretative Declaration" that shows its approach to the CAT.1 Such Declaration underlines the motives for accession to the Convention and expresses the moral support given to it, namely the defense of the human person as already indicated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

For the Holy See, the Interpretative Declaration provides a necessary hermeneutic to understand the motives for acceding to the Convention and also for considering the implementation of the Convention by the legal order of Vatican City State which is the very exercise we are engaging in at this moment in the consideration of the Initial Report of the Holy See to the CAT.

In this sense, my Delegation deems it worthwhile to reiterate several of the more salient points of the Interpretative Declaration so as to properly frame the consideration and discussions of the Initial Report of the Holy See.

In the first place, the Interpretative Declaration lauds the Convention as a worthy instrument for the defense against acts of torture when it says: "The Holy See considers the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment a valid and suitable instrument for fighting against acts that constitute a serious offence against the dignity of the human person." In this sense indeed, the Holy See wished to express the harmony of its own principles and vision of the human person with those ideals and practices set forth in the Convention against Torture.

Second, the Declaration elaborates more precisely the Holy See’s position, in which the teaching of the Catholic Church clearly articulates its opposition to acts of violence and torture.2 Third, although the Convention applies to Vatican City State, the Holy See adds a crucial moral voice in its support through its teaching3 and through the following statement: "In this spirit the Holy See wishes to lend its moral support and collaboration to the international community, so as to contribute to the elimination of recourse to torture, which is inadmissible and inhuman."4 Finally, and not of least importance, the Interpretative Declaration insists that "The Holy See, in becoming a party to the Convention on behalf of the Vatican City State, undertakes to apply it insofar as it is compatible, in practice, with the peculiar nature of that State."5 As such, in regard to the application of the Convention and any examination, questions or criticisms, or implementation thereof, the Holy See intends to focus exclusively on Vatican City State, respecting the international sovereignty of this State and the legitimate and specific authority of the Convention and of the Committee competent to examine State reports. Hence, my Delegation judges it useful to present, briefly yet clearly, the essential distinctions between Vatican City State and Holy See, as described in the Initial Report.6

The Holy See, as member of the international Community, is related but separate and distinct from the territory of Vatican City State, over which it exercises sovereignty. Its international personality has never been confused with the territories over which it has exercised State sovereignty. In its present form, Vatican City State was established in 1929 to more effectively guarantee the spiritual and moral mission of the Holy See. Therefore, colloquial references to the Holy See as the "Vatican" can be misleading. In this sense, the Holy See, as mentioned, globally encourages basic principles and authentic human rights recognized in the CAT, while implementing it within the territory of Vatican City State in harmony with the Interpretative Declaration.

Having presented some of the essential points that should guide and assist our discussion, I now wish to give an overview of the Holy See’s Initial Report.

The Initial Report of the Holy See, submitted to this Committee in December 2012, is divided into four parts: 1) Introduction, 2) General Information, 3) The Convention against Torture, and 4) Affirmation of the prohibition against torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment in the teachings and activities of the Holy See. Since much of the content of the Introduction has been already mentioned, as this provides a necessary guide to understanding the approach and perspective of the Holy See regarding the Convention, I shall proceed to the second part on "General Information".

Apart from presenting the essential distinctions and relations between the Holy See, Vatican City State and the Catholic Church, I wish to highlight several important elements presented within the section of "General Information". In particular, the first point of reference is the legal system of Vatican City State, that is autonomous in respect to the legal system of the Catholic Church. In fact, not all canonical norms are relevant for the governance of this territory. In relation to the topic of crime and punishment there are specific laws that criminalize illicit activities and provide for proportionate penalties in Vatican City State. The necessity of a penitentiary system, in this small territory, is minimal, especially considering certain aspects of the Lateran Treaty (Article 22) which afford this territory the option of utilizing the judicial assistance of the Italian State if deemed necessary.

As noted in the section on Statistics, the small population of Vatican City State, while receiving roughly 18 million pilgrims and tourists annually, has a relatively tiny number of criminal and penal matters registered. It is also worth mentioning that the message of the various media services of the Holy See, disseminated in the major languages, reaches a truly international audience that makes it arguably one of the most effective moral voices in the world for human rights, including the position against torture and other cruel and inhuman punishments.

Turning now to the third part of the Initial Report, which addresses systematically each of the sixteen substantive articles of the CAT, my Delegation wishes to highlight several significant steps and improvements in Vatican City State to comply with the Convention, even since the consigning of the Initial Report in December 2012. In the first place, there is the modification of Vatican City State legislation with the promulgation of Pope Francis’ Apostolic Letter on July 11, 2013, "On the Jurisdiction of Judicial Authorities of Vatican City State in Criminal Matters", particularly article 3, of Law N. VIII, which deals specifically with the Crime of Torture.7 While the implementation of this basic law into the criminal and penal law of Vatican City State in some fashion touches upon different articles of the Convention, it is worth mentioning a few directly. In relation to Article 1 of the Convention, the new Vatican City State legislation integrates, practically verbatim, the definition of torture and cruel and inhuman punishment as supplied therein and, therefore, de facto, fulfills Article 4 of the Convention by its integration into the penal code and the establishment of appropriate penalties for such offences. Paragraph 6 of the same article 3 of the amended Law VIII effectively restates article 15 of the Convention, prohibiting the use of any statement made as a result of torture to be considered as evidence.

Also modified in July 2013, the amendments of Law IX address with greater specificity and clarity the questions of crimes, whether within or outside the territory of the State, of jurisdiction, of extradition, and of terms of sentencing.8 The procedural and legislative changes seek to implement the principles contained in the Convention against Torture under articles 3, 5, and 8. In particular, one should note the development on the question of extradition and also the denial thereof on the part of the Holy See if the requesting State practices torture or uses capital punishment.9

To summarize, the third part of the Holy See Report must be viewed through the updates offered by the recent modifications to the procedures and legislation of Vatican City State which are a significant improvement from previous legislation and enhance positively the contents of the Initial Report. In fact, my Delegation views this new legislation as a direct result of the Holy See’s adhesion to the CAT. Therefore, I am sure the Committee will consider these new laws in the ensuing discussion and the eventual Concluding Observations.

The fourth part of the Initial Report, regarding the "Affirmation of the prohibition against torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment in the teachings and activities of the Holy See", references the wide-array of documents, proclamations, publications, radio and television programs by which the Holy See actively addresses not only followers of the Catholic Faith, but also the international Community and all people of good will.10

In this way, the moral voice of the Holy See, while promoting and defending all authentic human rights, reaches the members of the Catholic Church in an attempt to foster an interior conversion of hearts to love God and one’s neighbor. This love, in turn, should overflow into good practices at the local level in accordance with the laws of States. It should be stressed, particularly in light of much confusion, that the Holy See has no jurisdiction - as that term is understood also under article 2.1 of the Convention - over every member of the Catholic Church. The Holy See wishes to reiterate that the persons who live in a particular country are under the jurisdiction of the legitimate authorities of that country and are thus subject to the domestic law and the consequences contained therein. State authorities are obligated to protect, and when necessary, prosecute persons under their jurisdiction. The Holy See exercises the same authority upon those who live in Vatican City State in accordance with its laws. Hence, the Holy See, in respecting the principles of autonomy and sovereignty of States, insists that the State authority, which has legitimate competency, act as the responsible agent of justice in regard to crimes and abuses committed by persons under their jurisdiction. My Delegation wishes to emphasize that this includes not only acts of torture and other acts of cruel and inhuman punishments, but also all other acts considered as crimes committed by any individual who, notwithstanding affiliation with a Catholic institution, is subject to a particular State authority. The obligation and responsibility of promoting justice in these cases resides with the competent domestic jurisdiction.

To recapitulate this fourth part of the Report, it might be said that the measures employed by the Holy See to take effective legislative, administrative, judicial or other measures to prevent and to prohibit torture and to address its root causes to avoid future acts in this area are abundant. This manifests the Holy See’s desire "to lend its moral support and collaboration to the international Community, so as to contribute to the elimination of recourse to torture, which is inadmissible and inhuman."11

In line with above considerations, the Holy See assures this Committee of its continued implementation and promotion of the Convention against Torture. An analysis of the Concluding Observations offered in the reviews of other Member States suggests that an evolution in the interpretation of this document may raise some questions on the part of the States Parties. As Party to the CAT, the Holy See wishes, that in the application of the Convention to all appropriate new situations, all should remain within its specific area of concern that the CAT outlines.12

My Delegation believes that the Holy See has fulfilled in good faith the obligations assumed under CAT, since it has integrated its values and principles into the legislation of Vatican City State according to the particular and unique nature of this State. In conclusion, allow me to underscore the singular role the Holy See has played, and will continue to play, in advocating on a global level the values and all human rights that safeguard the dignity of every person and which are a necessary component for friendly relations among peoples and peace in the world.

___________________

1 In this sense, the Holy See acted in accord with the provisions of international law of treaties, in full compliance of those norms, as accepted by the other contracting Parties.

2 Already in 1953, Pope Pius XII gave a clear condemnation of torture saying: "Preliminary juridical proceeding must exclude physical and psychological torture and the use of drugs; first of all because they violate a natural right, even if the accused is indeed guilty, and secondly because all too often they give rise to erroneous results." (Address to the Sixth International Congress on Criminal Law, 3 October 1953.) "In recent times the Catholic Church has consistently pronounced itself in favor of unconditional respect for life itself and unequivocally condemned "whatever violates the integrity of the human person, such as mutilation, torments inflicted on body or mind, attempts to coerce the will itself". (Second Vatican Council, Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et spes, n. 27. Cfr. John Paul II, Veritatis Splendor, n. 80 and Evangelium Vitae, n. 3). The Declaration also refers to the Code of Canon Law (1983), cc. 1397-1398, and the Catechism of the Catholic Church (1995), nns. 2297-2298, which "enumerate and clearly identify forms of behavior that can harm the bodily or mental integrity of the individual, condemn their perpetrators and call for the abolition of such acts." Following, and building upon, the teaching found these fundamental documents of the Holy See, one should include the articulation found in the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Catholic Church, published in 2004, which in treating the question of criminal interrogation states: "the regulation against the use of torture, even in the case of serious crimes, must be strictly observed: ‘Christ's disciple refuses every recourse to such methods, which nothing could justify and in which the dignity of man is as much debased in his torturer as in the torturer's victim.’ International juridical instruments concerning human rights correctly indicate a prohibition against torture as a principle which cannot be contravened under any circumstances" (Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Catholic Church, n. 404).

3 The Interpretative Declaration provides evidence of this unique contribution by offering examples from papal addresses and publications. On 14 January 1978, Pope Paul VI, in his last address to the diplomatic corps, after referring to the torture and mistreatment practised in various countries against individuals, concluded as follows: "How could the Church fail to take up a stern stand ... with regard to torture and to similar acts of violence inflicted on the human person?" Pope John Paul II, for his part, did not fail to affirm that "torture must be called by its proper name" (Cfr. Pope John Paul II. Message for the Celebration of the World Day of Peace, 1 January 1980). He also expressed his deep compassion for the victims of torture and in particular for tortured women, (see respectively, Pope John Paul II. World Congress on Pastoral Ministry for Human Rights, Rome, 4 July 1998; and Pope John Paul II, Message to the Secretary-General of the United Nations, 1 March 1993). To these could be added numerous other examples from the pontificates of Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis. For example, Benedict XVI, in speaking of the purpose of punitive institutions, declared: "By their very nature, therefore, these institutions must contribute to the rehabilitation of offenders, facilitating their transition from despair to hope and from unreliability to dependability. When conditions within jails and prisons are not conducive to the process of regaining a sense of a worth and accepting its related duties, these institutions fail to achieve one of their essential ends. Public authorities must be ever vigilant in this task, eschewing any means of punishment or correction that either undermine or debase the human dignity of prisoners. In this regard, I reiterate that the prohibition against torture ‘cannot be contravened under any circumstances’" (Benedict XVI, Address to the Participants in the Twelfth World Congress of the International Commission of Catholic of Catholic Prison Pastoral Care, 6 September 2007).

4 Interpretative Declaration. (The Holy See recognizes that its moral voice may assist the International Community in acting as an active agent in the promotion and defense of human rights. It willingly enters into the Convention against Torture with the principal intention of defending the inviolable rights of the human person and encouraging other Member States to do the same through adequate legislation and institutional practices which respect the life and dignity of the human person.)

5 Ibid

6 Holy See, Initial Report, nn. 4-6.

7 Holy See, Supplementary Norms: Law VIII, Chapter I, Crimes Against the Person, Art. 3: Torture. Full text follows:

1. The public official having judicial, judicial police or law enforcement functions, as well as whoever performs in an official capacity a similar or analogous role, and whoever, under their instigation or with their consent or acquiescence, inflicts severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, to a person in order to obtain from him or a third person some information or a confession, or to punishing him for an act that he or a third person has committed, or is suspected of having committed, or to intimidate or coerce him or a third person, or for any other reason based on any kind discrimination, is punished with five to ten years imprisonment.

2. The penalty is increased by one-half if the offence results in serious injury or if it is committed against a minor. The penalty is doubled if the offence results in an injury of the utmost gravity.

3. If, as an unintended consequence of the offence, the victim dies, the penalty shall be of no less than fifteen years imprisonment.

4. The offence does not exist when the pain or suffering arises from, is inherent to, or is caused by legitimate measures or sanctions.

5. The offence is not justified by an order from a superior officer or a public authority, nor by a state of war or a threat of war, nor by internal political instability or any other exceptional circumstances.

6. No statement made under torture may be invoked or used as evidence in any proceedings, except against a person accused of torture, in order to prove that such a statement was made.

8 Holy See, Law IX: Amendments to the Criminal Code and the Code of Criminal Procedure. Of particular relevance vis-à-vis the CAT are articles 1-7 and 32-46.

9 Cfr., Ibid., Chapter I, Article 6 on "Extradition".

10 In particular, the Holy See exercising its voice as a moral authority to the community of believers freely integrated into, and following, Catholic doctrinal and moral teaching, promotes the integral formation of the human person based on an accurate understanding of human dignity. This formation, while guided by Catholic principles, is primarily rooted in the education of the faithful, especially the young, which then also permeates all of society through the dedicated efforts of Catholic inspired institutions, found throughout the world, as they fulfill their mission in the variety of fields from education, health care, penitentiaries, refugee camps, among others.

11 Holy See. Interpretative Declaration.

12 The caveat of the Holy See is twofold. First, for the sake of defending the competency, integrity and duty of the Committee to oversee the implementation of the Convention against Torture, it seems fair and prudent that the focus should remain upon the contents of the Convention. Second, the introduction of other themes, of which the Convention does not speak, effectively diminishes the original focus of the Convention and thus further jeopardizes the situations for those who are truly being abused, tortured and punished. As such the purpose of the Convention, as it is being unfolded in the work of the Committee, runs the risk of not only being ineffective, but even counterproductive, with regard to its original, noble, intention.

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Cardinal Mueller's Address to Presidency of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious
CDF Prefect Chastizes LCWR for Honoring Dissident Theologian, Warns Against 'Conscious Evolution'

VATICAN CITY, May 06, 2014  - The following is the text of a speech given by Cardinal Gerhard Müller, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, to the Presidency of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), April 30, 2014. 

***

I am happy to welcome once again the Presidency of the LCWR to Rome and to the Congregation. It is a happy occasion that your visit coincides with the Canonization of Pope John Paul II and Pope John XXIII, two great figures important for the Church in our times. I am grateful as well for the presence and participation of the Delegate for the implementation of the LCWR Doctrinal Assessment, Archbishop Peter Sartain.

As in past meetings, I would like to begin by making some introductory observations which I believe will be a helpful way of framing our discussion.

First, I would like to acknowledge with gratitude the progress that has been made in the implementation of the Doctrinal Assessment. Archbishop Sartain has kept the Congregation appraised on the work regarding the revision of the LCWR Statutes and civil by-laws. We are glad to see that work continue and remain particularly interested that these foundational documents reflect more explicitly the mission of a Conference of Major Superiors as something centered on Jesus Christ and grounded in the Church’s teaching about Consecrated Life. For that collaboration, I thank you.

Two further introductory comments I would like to frame around what could be called objections to the Doctrinal Assessment raised by your predecessors during past meetings here at the Congregation and in public statements by LCWR officers. We are aware that, from the beginning, LCWR Officers judged the Doctrinal Assessment to be “flawed and the findings based on unsubstantiated accusations” and that the so-called “sanctions” were “disproportionate to the concerns raised and compromised the organization’s ability to fulfill its mission.” This principal objection, I note, was repeated most recently in the preface of the collection of LCWR Presidential Addresses you have just published. It is my intention in discussing these things frankly and openly with you to offer an explanation of why it is that we believe the conclusions of the Doctrinal Assessment are accurate and the path of reform it lays before the LCWR remains necessary so that religious life might continue to flourish in the United States.

Let me begin with the notion of “disproportionate sanctions.” One of the more contentious aspects of the Mandate—though one that has not yet been put into force—is the provision that speakers and presenters at major programs will be subject to approval by the Delegate. This provision has been portrayed as heavy-handed interference in the day-to-day activities of the Conference. For its part, the Holy See would not understand this as a “sanction,” but rather as a point of dialogue and discernment. It allows the Holy See’s Delegate to be involved in the discussion first of all in order to avoid difficult and embarrassing situations wherein speakers use an LCWR forum to advance positions at odds with the teaching of the Church. Further, this is meant as an assistance to you, the Presidency, so as to anticipate better the issues that will further complicate the relationship of the LCWR with the Holy See.

An example may help at this point. It saddens me to learn that you have decided to give the Outstanding Leadership Award during this year’s Assembly to a theologian criticized by the Bishops of the United States because of the gravity of the doctrinal errors in that theologian’s writings. This is a decision that will be seen as a rather open provocation against the Holy See and the Doctrinal Assessment. Not only that, but it further alienates the LCWR from the Bishops as well.

I realize I am speaking rather bluntly about this, but I do so out of an awareness that there is no other interpretive lens, within and outside the Church, through which the decision to confer this honor will be viewed. It is my understanding that Archbishop Sartain was informed of the selection of the honoree only after the decision had been made. Had he been involved in the conversation as the Mandate envisions, I am confident that he would have added an important element to the discernment which then may have gone in a different direction. The decision taken by the LCWR during the ongoing implementation of the Doctrinal Assessment is indeed regrettable and demonstrates clearly the necessity of the Mandate’s provision that speakers and presenters at major programs will be subject to approval by the Delegate. I must therefore inform you that this provision is to be considered fully in force. I do understand that the selection of honorees results from a process, but this case suggests that the process is itself in need of reexamination. I also understand that plans for this year’s Assembly are already at a very advanced stage and I do not see the need to interrupt them. However, following the August Assembly, it will be the expectation of the Holy See that Archbishop Sartain have an active role in the discussion about invited speakers and honorees.

Let me address a second objection, namely that the findings of the Doctrinal Assessment are unsubstantiated. The phrase in the Doctrinal Assessment most often cited as overreaching or unsubstantiated is when it talks about religious moving beyond the Church or even beyond Jesus. Yes, this is hard language and I can imagine it sounded harsh in the ears of thousands of faithful religious. I regret that, because the last thing in the world the Congregation would want to do is call into question the eloquent, even prophetic witness of so many faithful religious women. And yet, the issues raised in the Assessment are so central and so foundational, there is no other way of discussing them except as constituting a movement away from the ecclesial center of faith in Christ Jesus the Lord.

For the last several years, the Congregation has been following with increasing concern a focalizing of attention within the LCWR around the concept of Conscious Evolution. Since Barbara Marx Hubbard addressed the Assembly on this topic two years ago, every issue of your newsletter has discussed Conscious Evolution in some way. Issues of Occasional Papers have been devoted to it. We have even seen some religious Institutes modify their directional statements to incorporate concepts and undeveloped terms from Conscious Evolution.

Again, I apologize if this seems blunt, but what I must say is too important to dress up in flowery language. The fundamental theses of Conscious Evolution are opposed to Christian Revelation and, when taken unreflectively, lead almost necessarily to fundamental errors regarding the omnipotence of God, the Incarnation of Christ, the reality of Original Sin, the necessity of salvation and the definitive nature of the salvific action of Christ in the Paschal Mystery.

My concern is whether such an intense focus on new ideas such as Conscious Evolution has robbed religious of the ability truly to sentire cum Ecclesia. To phrase it as a question, do the many religious listening to addresses on this topic or reading expositions of it even hear the divergences from the Christian faith present?

This concern is even deeper than the Doctrinal Assessment’s criticism of the LCWR for not providing a counter-point during presentations and Assemblies when speakers diverge from Church teaching. The Assessment is concerned with positive errors of doctrine seen in the light of the LCWR’s responsibility to support a vision of religious life in harmony with that of the Church and to promote a solid doctrinal basis for religious life. I am worried that the uncritical acceptance of things such as Conscious Evolution seemingly without any awareness that it offers a vision of God, the cosmos, and the human person divergent from or opposed to Revelation evidences that a de factomovement beyond the Church and sound Christian faith has already occurred.

I do not think I overstate the point when I say that the futuristic ideas advanced by the proponents of Conscious Evolution are not actually new. The Gnostic tradition is filled with similar affirmations and we have seen again and again in the history of the Church the tragic results of partaking of this bitter fruit. Conscious Evolution does not offer anything which will nourish religious life as a privileged and prophetic witness rooted in Christ revealing divine love to a wounded world. It does not present the treasure beyond price for which new generations of young women will leave all to follow Christ. The Gospel does! Selfless service to the poor and marginalized in the name of Jesus Christ does!

It is in this context that we can understand Pope Francis’ remarks to the Plenary Assembly of the International Union of Superiors General in May of 2013. What the Holy Father proposes is a vision of religious life and particularly of the role of conferences of major superiors which in many ways is a positive articulation of issues which come across as concerns in the Doctrinal Assessment. I urge you to reread the Holy Father’s remarks and to make them a point of discussion with members of your Board as well.

I have raised several points in these remarks, so I will stop here. I owe an incalculable debt to the women religious who have long been a part of my life. They were the ones who instilled in me a love for the Lord and for the Church and encouraged me to follow the vocation to which the Lord was calling me. The things I have said today are therefore born of great love. The Holy See and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith deeply desire religious life to thrive and that the LCWR will be an effective instrument supporting its growth. In the end, the point is this: the Holy See believes that the charismatic vitality of religious life can only flourish within the ecclesial faith of the Church. The LCWR, as a canonical entity dependent on the Holy See, has a profound obligation to the promotion of that faith as the essential foundation of religious life. Canonical status and ecclesial vision go hand-in-hand, and at this phase of the implementation of the Doctrinal Assessment, we are looking for a clearer expression of that ecclesial vision and more substantive signs of collaboration.

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The Holy See and the Convention against Torture

By Holy See, Archbishop Silvano M. Tomasi

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Mr. Chairperson, Members of the Committee,

Allow me, first of all, to extend cordial greetings to all the members of the Committee on the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. In the presentation of the Initial Report of the Holy See, I wish to introduce the members of our Delegation present for this interactive dialogue. With me this morning are Monsignor Christophe El-Kassis and Professor Vincenzo Buonomo, of the Secretariat of State of the Holy See, and Monsignor Richard Gyhra, Secretary of the Holy See Mission.

The Holy See acceded to the Convention against Torture (CAT) on June 22, 2002. It did so with the very clear and direct intention that this Convention applied to Vatican City State (VCS). In its capacity as the sovereign of Vatican City State, the Holy See provided an important "Interpretative Declaration" that shows its approach to the CAT.1 Such Declaration underlines the motives for accession to the Convention and expresses the moral support given to it, namely the defense of the human person as already indicated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

For the Holy See, the Interpretative Declaration provides a necessary hermeneutic to understand the motives for acceding to the Convention and also for considering the implementation of the Convention by the legal order of Vatican City State which is the very exercise we are engaging in at this moment in the consideration of the Initial Report of the Holy See to the CAT.

In this sense, my Delegation deems it worthwhile to reiterate several of the more salient points of the Interpretative Declaration so as to properly frame the consideration and discussions of the Initial Report of the Holy See.

In the first place, the Interpretative Declaration lauds the Convention as a worthy instrument for the defense against acts of torture when it says: "The Holy See considers the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment a valid and suitable instrument for fighting against acts that constitute a serious offence against the dignity of the human person." In this sense indeed, the Holy See wished to express the harmony of its own principles and vision of the human person with those ideals and practices set forth in the Convention against Torture.

Second, the Declaration elaborates more precisely the Holy See’s position, in which the teaching of the Catholic Church clearly articulates its opposition to acts of violence and torture.2 Third, although the Convention applies to Vatican City State, the Holy See adds a crucial moral voice in its support through its teaching3 and through the following statement: "In this spirit the Holy See wishes to lend its moral support and collaboration to the international community, so as to contribute to the elimination of recourse to torture, which is inadmissible and inhuman."4 Finally, and not of least importance, the Interpretative Declaration insists that "The Holy See, in becoming a party to the Convention on behalf of the Vatican City State, undertakes to apply it insofar as it is compatible, in practice, with the peculiar nature of that State."5 As such, in regard to the application of the Convention and any examination, questions or criticisms, or implementation thereof, the Holy See intends to focus exclusively on Vatican City State, respecting the international sovereignty of this State and the legitimate and specific authority of the Convention and of the Committee competent to examine State reports. Hence, my Delegation judges it useful to present, briefly yet clearly, the essential distinctions between Vatican City State and Holy See, as described in the Initial Report.6

The Holy See, as member of the international Community, is related but separate and distinct from the territory of Vatican City State, over which it exercises sovereignty. Its international personality has never been confused with the territories over which it has exercised State sovereignty. In its present form, Vatican City State was established in 1929 to more effectively guarantee the spiritual and moral mission of the Holy See. Therefore, colloquial references to the Holy See as the "Vatican" can be misleading. In this sense, the Holy See, as mentioned, globally encourages basic principles and authentic human rights recognized in the CAT, while implementing it within the territory of Vatican City State in harmony with the Interpretative Declaration.

Having presented some of the essential points that should guide and assist our discussion, I now wish to give an overview of the Holy See’s Initial Report.

The Initial Report of the Holy See, submitted to this Committee in December 2012, is divided into four parts: 1) Introduction, 2) General Information, 3) The Convention against Torture, and 4) Affirmation of the prohibition against torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment in the teachings and activities of the Holy See. Since much of the content of the Introduction has been already mentioned, as this provides a necessary guide to understanding the approach and perspective of the Holy See regarding the Convention, I shall proceed to the second part on "General Information".

Apart from presenting the essential distinctions and relations between the Holy See, Vatican City State and the Catholic Church, I wish to highlight several important elements presented within the section of "General Information". In particular, the first point of reference is the legal system of Vatican City State, that is autonomous in respect to the legal system of the Catholic Church. In fact, not all canonical norms are relevant for the governance of this territory. In relation to the topic of crime and punishment there are specific laws that criminalize illicit activities and provide for proportionate penalties in Vatican City State. The necessity of a penitentiary system, in this small territory, is minimal, especially considering certain aspects of the Lateran Treaty (Article 22) which afford this territory the option of utilizing the judicial assistance of the Italian State if deemed necessary.

As noted in the section on Statistics, the small population of Vatican City State, while receiving roughly 18 million pilgrims and tourists annually, has a relatively tiny number of criminal and penal matters registered. It is also worth mentioning that the message of the various media services of the Holy See, disseminated in the major languages, reaches a truly international audience that makes it arguably one of the most effective moral voices in the world for human rights, including the position against torture and other cruel and inhuman punishments.

Turning now to the third part of the Initial Report, which addresses systematically each of the sixteen substantive articles of the CAT, my Delegation wishes to highlight several significant steps and improvements in Vatican City State to comply with the Convention, even since the consigning of the Initial Report in December 2012. In the first place, there is the modification of Vatican City State legislation with the promulgation of Pope Francis’ Apostolic Letter on July 11, 2013, "On the Jurisdiction of Judicial Authorities of Vatican City State in Criminal Matters", particularly article 3, of Law N. VIII, which deals specifically with the Crime of Torture.7 While the implementation of this basic law into the criminal and penal law of Vatican City State in some fashion touches upon different articles of the Convention, it is worth mentioning a few directly. In relation to Article 1 of the Convention, the new Vatican City State legislation integrates, practically verbatim, the definition of torture and cruel and inhuman punishment as supplied therein and, therefore, de facto, fulfills Article 4 of the Convention by its integration into the penal code and the establishment of appropriate penalties for such offences. Paragraph 6 of the same article 3 of the amended Law VIII effectively restates article 15 of the Convention, prohibiting the use of any statement made as a result of torture to be considered as evidence.

Also modified in July 2013, the amendments of Law IX address with greater specificity and clarity the questions of crimes, whether within or outside the territory of the State, of jurisdiction, of extradition, and of terms of sentencing.8 The procedural and legislative changes seek to implement the principles contained in the Convention against Torture under articles 3, 5, and 8. In particular, one should note the development on the question of extradition and also the denial thereof on the part of the Holy See if the requesting State practices torture or uses capital punishment.9

To summarize, the third part of the Holy See Report must be viewed through the updates offered by the recent modifications to the procedures and legislation of Vatican City State which are a significant improvement from previous legislation and enhance positively the contents of the Initial Report. In fact, my Delegation views this new legislation as a direct result of the Holy See’s adhesion to the CAT. Therefore, I am sure the Committee will consider these new laws in the ensuing discussion and the eventual Concluding Observations.

The fourth part of the Initial Report, regarding the "Affirmation of the prohibition against torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment in the teachings and activities of the Holy See", references the wide-array of documents, proclamations, publications, radio and television programs by which the Holy See actively addresses not only followers of the Catholic Faith, but also the international Community and all people of good will.10

In this way, the moral voice of the Holy See, while promoting and defending all authentic human rights, reaches the members of the Catholic Church in an attempt to foster an interior conversion of hearts to love God and one’s neighbor. This love, in turn, should overflow into good practices at the local level in accordance with the laws of States. It should be stressed, particularly in light of much confusion, that the Holy See has no jurisdiction - as that term is understood also under article 2.1 of the Convention - over every member of the Catholic Church. The Holy See wishes to reiterate that the persons who live in a particular country are under the jurisdiction of the legitimate authorities of that country and are thus subject to the domestic law and the consequences contained therein. State authorities are obligated to protect, and when necessary, prosecute persons under their jurisdiction. The Holy See exercises the same authority upon those who live in Vatican City State in accordance with its laws. Hence, the Holy See, in respecting the principles of autonomy and sovereignty of States, insists that the State authority, which has legitimate competency, act as the responsible agent of justice in regard to crimes and abuses committed by persons under their jurisdiction. My Delegation wishes to emphasize that this includes not only acts of torture and other acts of cruel and inhuman punishments, but also all other acts considered as crimes committed by any individual who, notwithstanding affiliation with a Catholic institution, is subject to a particular State authority. The obligation and responsibility of promoting justice in these cases resides with the competent domestic jurisdiction.

To recapitulate this fourth part of the Report, it might be said that the measures employed by the Holy See to take effective legislative, administrative, judicial or other measures to prevent and to prohibit torture and to address its root causes to avoid future acts in this area are abundant. This manifests the Holy See’s desire "to lend its moral support and collaboration to the international Community, so as to contribute to the elimination of recourse to torture, which is inadmissible and inhuman."11

In line with above considerations, the Holy See assures this Committee of its continued implementation and promotion of the Convention against Torture. An analysis of the Concluding Observations offered in the reviews of other Member States suggests that an evolution in the interpretation of this document may raise some questions on the part of the States Parties. As Party to the CAT, the Holy See wishes, that in the application of the Convention to all appropriate new situations, all should remain within its specific area of concern that the CAT outlines.12

My Delegation believes that the Holy See has fulfilled in good faith the obligations assumed under CAT, since it has integrated its values and principles into the legislation of Vatican City State according to the particular and unique nature of this State. In conclusion, allow me to underscore the singular role the Holy See has played, and will continue to play, in advocating on a global level the values and all human rights that safeguard the dignity of every person and which are a necessary component for friendly relations among peoples and peace in the world.

___________________

1 In this sense, the Holy See acted in accord with the provisions of international law of treaties, in full compliance of those norms, as accepted by the other contracting Parties.

2 Already in 1953, Pope Pius XII gave a clear condemnation of torture saying: "Preliminary juridical proceeding must exclude physical and psychological torture and the use of drugs; first of all because they violate a natural right, even if the accused is indeed guilty, and secondly because all too often they give rise to erroneous results." (Address to the Sixth International Congress on Criminal Law, 3 October 1953.) "In recent times the Catholic Church has consistently pronounced itself in favor of unconditional respect for life itself and unequivocally condemned "whatever violates the integrity of the human person, such as mutilation, torments inflicted on body or mind, attempts to coerce the will itself". (Second Vatican Council, Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et spes, n. 27. Cfr. John Paul II, Veritatis Splendor, n. 80 and Evangelium Vitae, n. 3). The Declaration also refers to the Code of Canon Law (1983), cc. 1397-1398, and the Catechism of the Catholic Church (1995), nns. 2297-2298, which "enumerate and clearly identify forms of behavior that can harm the bodily or mental integrity of the individual, condemn their perpetrators and call for the abolition of such acts." Following, and building upon, the teaching found these fundamental documents of the Holy See, one should include the articulation found in the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Catholic Church, published in 2004, which in treating the question of criminal interrogation states: "the regulation against the use of torture, even in the case of serious crimes, must be strictly observed: ‘Christ's disciple refuses every recourse to such methods, which nothing could justify and in which the dignity of man is as much debased in his torturer as in the torturer's victim.’ International juridical instruments concerning human rights correctly indicate a prohibition against torture as a principle which cannot be contravened under any circumstances" (Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Catholic Church, n. 404).

3 The Interpretative Declaration provides evidence of this unique contribution by offering examples from papal addresses and publications. On 14 January 1978, Pope Paul VI, in his last address to the diplomatic corps, after referring to the torture and mistreatment practised in various countries against individuals, concluded as follows: "How could the Church fail to take up a stern stand ... with regard to torture and to similar acts of violence inflicted on the human person?" Pope John Paul II, for his part, did not fail to affirm that "torture must be called by its proper name" (Cfr. Pope John Paul II. Message for the Celebration of the World Day of Peace, 1 January 1980). He also expressed his deep compassion for the victims of torture and in particular for tortured women, (see respectively, Pope John Paul II. World Congress on Pastoral Ministry for Human Rights, Rome, 4 July 1998; and Pope John Paul II, Message to the Secretary-General of the United Nations, 1 March 1993). To these could be added numerous other examples from the pontificates of Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis. For example, Benedict XVI, in speaking of the purpose of punitive institutions, declared: "By their very nature, therefore, these institutions must contribute to the rehabilitation of offenders, facilitating their transition from despair to hope and from unreliability to dependability. When conditions within jails and prisons are not conducive to the process of regaining a sense of a worth and accepting its related duties, these institutions fail to achieve one of their essential ends. Public authorities must be ever vigilant in this task, eschewing any means of punishment or correction that either undermine or debase the human dignity of prisoners. In this regard, I reiterate that the prohibition against torture ‘cannot be contravened under any circumstances’" (Benedict XVI, Address to the Participants in the Twelfth World Congress of the International Commission of Catholic of Catholic Prison Pastoral Care, 6 September 2007).

4 Interpretative Declaration. (The Holy See recognizes that its moral voice may assist the International Community in acting as an active agent in the promotion and defense of human rights. It willingly enters into the Convention against Torture with the principal intention of defending the inviolable rights of the human person and encouraging other Member States to do the same through adequate legislation and institutional practices which respect the life and dignity of the human person.)

5 Ibid

6 Holy See, Initial Report, nn. 4-6.

7 Holy See, Supplementary Norms: Law VIII, Chapter I, Crimes Against the Person, Art. 3: Torture. Full text follows:

1. The public official having judicial, judicial police or law enforcement functions, as well as whoever performs in an official capacity a similar or analogous role, and whoever, under their instigation or with their consent or acquiescence, inflicts severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, to a person in order to obtain from him or a third person some information or a confession, or to punishing him for an act that he or a third person has committed, or is suspected of having committed, or to intimidate or coerce him or a third person, or for any other reason based on any kind discrimination, is punished with five to ten years imprisonment.

2. The penalty is increased by one-half if the offence results in serious injury or if it is committed against a minor. The penalty is doubled if the offence results in an injury of the utmost gravity.

3. If, as an unintended consequence of the offence, the victim dies, the penalty shall be of no less than fifteen years imprisonment.

4. The offence does not exist when the pain or suffering arises from, is inherent to, or is caused by legitimate measures or sanctions.

5. The offence is not justified by an order from a superior officer or a public authority, nor by a state of war or a threat of war, nor by internal political instability or any other exceptional circumstances.

6. No statement made under torture may be invoked or used as evidence in any proceedings, except against a person accused of torture, in order to prove that such a statement was made.

8 Holy See, Law IX: Amendments to the Criminal Code and the Code of Criminal Procedure. Of particular relevance vis-à-vis the CAT are articles 1-7 and 32-46.

9 Cfr., Ibid., Chapter I, Article 6 on "Extradition".

10 In particular, the Holy See exercising its voice as a moral authority to the community of believers freely integrated into, and following, Catholic doctrinal and moral teaching, promotes the integral formation of the human person based on an accurate understanding of human dignity. This formation, while guided by Catholic principles, is primarily rooted in the education of the faithful, especially the young, which then also permeates all of society through the dedicated efforts of Catholic inspired institutions, found throughout the world, as they fulfill their mission in the variety of fields from education, health care, penitentiaries, refugee camps, among others.

11 Holy See. Interpretative Declaration.

12 The caveat of the Holy See is twofold. First, for the sake of defending the competency, integrity and duty of the Committee to oversee the implementation of the Convention against Torture, it seems fair and prudent that the focus should remain upon the contents of the Convention. Second, the introduction of other themes, of which the Convention does not speak, effectively diminishes the original focus of the Convention and thus further jeopardizes the situations for those who are truly being abused, tortured and punished. As such the purpose of the Convention, as it is being unfolded in the work of the Committee, runs the risk of not only being ineffective, but even counterproductive, with regard to its original, noble, intention.

© Libreria Editrice Vaticana 2014

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Vatican tells U.N. Abortion is a Form of Torture

By Stefano Gennarini, J.D.

NEW YORK, May 9 (C-FAM) The Vatican had strong words for U.N. experts who accused the Catholic Church of torture because of its teaching on abortion.

“The Holy See condemns the torture of anyone, including those tortured and killed before they are born,” said Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, Apostolic Nuncio at the United Nations in Geneva.

For the second time this year, a Vatican delegation was in Geneva to discuss the obligations of the Holy See under international law with U.N. experts, and for the second time Catholic doctrine on abortion was at issue, drawing media attention and criticism for the mostly obscure U.N. committees.

Tomasi was reporting on the Vatican’s implementation with the U.N. treaty against torture, which it ratified in 2002. Experts on the U.N. committee against torture suggested the Church’s teaching on the inviolable dignity of human life is a form of torture.

“Late-term abortion constitutes torture,” Tomasi said in reply to questions from Felice Gaer, an American expert.

He accused Canada and the United Kingdom of being guilty of torture by allowing late-term abortions where children are left to die without any medical care after they are born alive.

The Archbishop said the Vatican has no power to impose its doctrine, but that Catholics worldwide provide maternal health care, alternatives to abortion, and help women physically and spiritually after an abortion. He cautioned against interfering with the exercise of religious freedom.

Tomasi warned against “ideological” attacks against the Catholic Church in an interview on Vatican Radio last week. He said the committee would discredit itself if it showed bias.

Some experts sounded a conciliatory note after Tomasi’s comments.

“We all know the position of the Holy See on abortion,” said George Tugushi, from the nation of Georgia. The committee was concerned with cases where women are stigmatized after undergoing an abortion, he said, and not church doctrine.

The Chair of the Committee, Claudio Grossman, was also conciliatory. He also denied having a conflict of interests after news articles said his impartiality was compromised due to his support for same-sex marriage and abortion advocacy.

Felice Gaer was not conciliatory. The vice-chair of the committee said the Church’s moral stance on abortion was a “concern.”

“Women should have the legal right to chose abortion,” Gaer said. Her questions were drawn from a memo from the Center for Reproductive Rights, a group that defends late-term abortion and has challenged bans on partial-birth abortion in U.S. courts.

The U.N. committee against torture has told countries that restrictions on abortion in cases of rape are a form of torture on several occasions. This follows a scheme to interpret human rights treaties to include a right to abortion in which the Center for Reproductive Rights is an active participant. Presently, abortion is not a human right.

Gaer, who is not a lawyer, said the committee abided by the “strict meaning of the [torture] convention.”

While the convention defines torture broadly, it requires a state or state officials to perpetrate, instigate, or condone acts of torture. Controversially, the committee has dispensed with that requirement in certain cases of sexual abuse.

Some want to expand the definition of torture even more.

The committee asked questions based on information submitted from lawyers representing victims of clergy sex abuse. The Los Angeles Times reports the lawyers want clergy sex abuse to come under the definition of torture to circumvent state statutes of limitations. At one point Gaer asked how much money the Vatican had available to compensate victims of clergy sex abuse.

Tomasi detailed the Vatican’s response to the sex abuse scandal and its ongoing efforts to protect children. He insisted the Vatican was not guilty of torture in this regard.

The committee will publish written observations on the Vatican’s report by the end of May. The observations are neither binding nor authoritative.

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Statement From Interreligious Dialogue Council on Dialogue With Muslims

"The events of recent times cause many of us to ask: 'Is there still space for dialogue with Muslims?' The answer is: yes, more than ever"

VATICAN CITY, April 22, 2015 - Here is the full text of a Declaration published this morning by the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue:

“The events of recent times cause many of us to ask: 'Is there still space for dialogue with Muslims?'. The answer is: yes, more than ever.

Firstly because the great majority of Muslims themselves do not identify with the current acts of barbarism.

Unfortunately today the word 'religious' is often associated with the word 'violence', whereas believers must demonstrate that religions are required to be heralds of peace and not violence.

To kill in the name of religion is not only an offence to God, but it is also a defeat for humanity. On 9 January 2006 Pope Benedict XVI, addressing the Diplomatic Corps and speaking about the danger of clashes between civilisations and in particular organised terrorism, affirmed that 'No situation can justify such criminal activity, which covers the perpetrators with infamy, and it is all the more deplorable when it hides behind religion, thereby bringing the pure truth of God down to the level of the terrorists’ own blindness and moral perversion'. 

Unfortunately in recent days we have witnessed a radicalisation of community and religious discourse, with the consequent risks of increasing hatred, violence, terrorism and the growing and commonplace stigmatisation of Muslims and their religion.

In such a context we are called upon to strengthen fraternity and dialogue. Believers have formidable potential for peace, if we believe that man was created by God and that humanity is a single family; and even more so if we believe, as we Christians do, that God is Love. Continuing to engage in dialogue, even when experiencing persecution, can become a sign of hope. Believers do not wish to impose their vision of humanity and of history, but rather seek to propose respect for differences, freedom of thought and religion, the protection of human dignity, and love for truth.

We must have the courage to review the quality of family life, the methods of teaching religion and history, and the contain of sermons in our places of worship. Above all, family and schools are the key to ensuring that tomorrow’s world will be based on mutual respect and brotherhood.

Uniting our voice to that of Pope Francis, we say: 'any violence which seeks religious justification warrants the strongest condemnation because the Omnipotent is the God of life and peace. The world expects those who claim to adore God to be men and women of peace who are capable of living as brothers and sisters, regardless of ethnic, religious, cultural or ideological differences' (Ankara, 28 November 2014)”.

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