Tom Doyle on Holy See’s Response to the U.N. and Tom Reese’s Response to Roman Polanski

Click here to read story on Holy See’s response to U.N.

Click here to read Tom Reese’s article in the Washington Post.

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On the Holy See’s Response to the U.N.


and Tom Reese’s Response to Roman Polanski


Thomas Doyle, J.C.D., C.A.D.C.

September 29, 2009



            The International Humanist and Ethical Union, in a speech given at the U.N. on September 22, took the Vatican to task for its cover-up of reports of sexual abuse by clerics.  Predictably the Holy See responded but the response was much less measured and more emotional than usual.  Both have been widely covered by religious and secular media.  After reading both statements, it’s clear that the IHEU was dead on target and the Holy See was delusional as usual.


            The author of the Holy See’s response was Archbishop Silvio Tommasi, listed in the media as the Permanent Observer to the Holy See.  According to the Vatican’s official list of prelates, the Annuario Pontificio, Tommasi is actually not the Vatican ambassador to the Holy See.  He holds the curious title of being Papal Nuncio to Nowhere which means he’s sort of an official Vatican floater.  No matter.  He made the statement and he said dumb things which is pretty much what one expects from any official Church source when it tries to wriggle out of any responsibility for the nightmare that won’t go away.  All of his defenses are the usual knee-jerk, minimizing bromides that no thinking person believes.  The amazing thing is that the Holy See still seems to think that these excuses hold water.  They would actually be better off saying nothing than saying something stupid.


            I must admit that I was both surprised and disappointed at Tom Reese’s column in the Washington Post.  He said some of the “right” things but missed an essential point.  Roman Polanski and priests who rape children are far from analogous.  Roman Polanski was a Hollywood director, not a Roman Catholic priest.  He didn’t hold a position of immense trust nor did he come from an “industry” that preached chastity, purity and a sky-high standard of sexual morality.  But even more important, Roman did not have an archbishop or a cardinal in his corner who would lie about what he had done, intimidate his victims and then send him off where he could find yet more young people to devastate. 


            The movie industry never tried to present a systematized illusion that all of its directors, producers and agents…to name a few…were paragons of virtue.  That’s what the official Catholic Church has done and that’s a major difference between Roman Polanski and the priests.  Any attempt at defending accused clerics that comes forth from the institutional Church comes with an immediate lack of credibility simply because of the abominable track record of the Church at every level of authority.  The pity-party for priests is baseless when one recalls that in the past quarter century no Diocesan Priests’ Council, no unofficial gathering of priests in fact no clergy organization of any kind ever said one word of public support for the innocent and trusting people who have been ripped apart by sexual and spiritual abuse. 


    2 Responses to “Tom Doyle on Holy See’s Response to the U.N. and Tom Reese’s Response to Roman Polanski”

  1. Carolyn Disco Says:

    Oh Lord, it does one’s heart good to see Tom Doyle’s frank, straightforward language in his response. No bleached language of public relations, or passive voice verbal gymnastics.

    BTW, Archbishop Silvio Tommasi, permanent observer at the UN (at least it is not a member state), referred to the distinction between pedophile (pre-adolescent) and ephebophile (adolescent) abuse, as a way of minimizing damage. His comparisons with other religions or institutions had the same intent: we are not so bad after all. I have often wondered if a penitent in confession says, “well, everyone else is worse,” what the priest’s reaction would be.

    I enjoy seeing Tom’s comments on this blog, Please keep them coming.

  2. IHEU Says:

    On 22 September, speaking in the plenary of the UN Human Rights Council, the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU), representing more that 100 humanist, secular and free-thought organisations in over 40 countries, criticised the Holy See over its role in covering up the scale of child abuse by its priests and religious orders, and for failing to honour its obligations under international law. The statement was based on a longer written statement submitted to the Council in August and published by the UN on 8 September (http://www.iheu.org/un-publishes-iheu-statement-child-abuse-and-holy-see).

    The IHEU statement addressed specifically the role of the Holy See – which claims responsibility for the Catholic Church worldwide – in attempting to cover up the extent of child abuse perpetrated by its priests and religious orders. In exercising their right of reply to this criticism the representative of the Holy See ignored the main criticism contained in our statement.

    The reply made on behalf of the Papal Nuncio Archbishop Thomasi argued that the Catholic Church was not unique in having clergy who sexually abused children and young people, but it made no mention of the physical and mental abuse meted out for generations to children under the care of its religious orders. No doubt there are abusers in all walks of life, but our point was not the abuse itself but the cover up in which some of the highest officials of the Church were implicated.

    The Holy See is a sovereign state and its senior clergy, safely ensconced in the Vatican out of reach of civil law, are answerable to no earthly power other than themselves – and to the few international treaties to which they are party. One such is the International Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and, as shown in the IHEU report, the Holy See is in massive breach of its obligations under that convention.

    Commenting on the Holy See’s response, IHEU Main Representative in Geneva, Roy Brown, said: “By failing to address this issue while seeking to point the finger of blame elsewhere, the Holy See’ has scored a spectacular own goal. One senior UN official described their reply as ‘a disgrace’. We agree.”

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