The United Nations is stepping up its attack on the Catholic Church's historic opposition to abortion, suggesting at a meeting Monday in Geneva that it amounts to “psychological torture” of women and should be repealed, a move Vatican officials refuse to consider.
A member of the United Nation Committee Against Torture also charged that the church’s anti-abortion stance has led women to seek out dangerous abortions, according to a pro-church representative at the Geneva hearing Monday.
“They are almost blaming the Catholic Church for unsafe abortions,” said Ashley E. McGuire of the group Catholic Voices USA in a telephone call from Geneva. “The church doesn’t believe there is anything as a safe abortion,” she added.
Among the questions about the Vatican’s anti-abortion position raised by the torture committee Monday was how it impacts the minds of women. One U.N. questioner said the “restrictions amount to psychological torture” of women, according to McGuire. “That’s crazy,” she added.
"Abortion is among the most egregious forms of torture than can be perpetuated against a child, and attacking the church's moral and religious beliefs violates the religious liberty of the church, a human right which the United Nations affirms. Yet, the U.N. Committee Against Torture seems to be setting the stage that if you are pro-life you are pro-torture,” she added.
It is the second time that the church’s anti-abortion law has come under fire by a U.N. panel, the last in January when the U.N. Committee for the Rights of the Child issued a report blasting the church sex scandal and demanding that it change its teachings on abortion, contraception, and gay marriage.
“There is a strong bias against the Vatican,” said McGuire, who testified before the torture panel Friday.
The committee is taking testimony from countries like the Holy See that long ago signed an anti-torture treaty. Each are being asked how they have lived up to the pact. The church’s sex scandal and abortion are expected to be attacked during the meetings and in a subsequent report.
But supporters like McGuire want the panel to better understand the church's position on abortion and recognize the Vatican's efforts, especially under new Pope Francis, to implement reforms to fight sex abuse by priests.
"Regarding the matter of the sexual abuse tragedy, it is equally astonishing that the committee would view sexual abuse offenses committed in gross violation of church teachings - as somehow in the same category as state-sponsored or state-sanctioned torture,” said McGuire. “The church views any form of violence or abuse of a child to be a great crime, which is why over the last decade the church has put into place reforms and protocols so strong that they are now being modeled by other institutions, like public schools, that are plagued by rampant child abuse. The committee should not overlook these reforms, in fact they could learn from them."Paul Bedard, the Washington Examiner's "Washington Secrets" columnist, can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.