The United States and Somalia feature prominently in the recent movie “Captain Phillips,” which stars Tom Hanks as a U.S. merchant sea captain battling Somali pirates off the Somali coast. Currently this unusual pairing occurs, somewhat surprisingly, at the United Nations as well.
Neither nation has ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and they are the only countries in the world (along with the new nation, South Sudan) not to have done so. Nonetheless, both the U.S. and Somalia were right not to do so, and should stand firm. In fact, the United States should be wary not solely of the Convention but of any so-called “human rights” treaty. Such treaties can become the proverbial slippery slope, leading to many unintended consequences.
Case in point: the CRC made the news recently when something called the “Committee of the CRC” issued critical comments to a party to the Convention, criticizing the stance of the Catholic Church on life, abortion and other issues that can be decided in part based on personal values.
It told the Catholic Church to “ensure its interpretation of scripture” was in line with the Committee’s liberal views, and it told the Church to change its internal laws and practices to ensure conformity. In essence, it ordered the church to violate the conscience and beliefs to conform to the CRC’s views.
This incident sheds light on an on-going, though largely unreported, story about using “international law” to advance a radical agenda on life and other issues.
As a treaty, the Convention is a legally binding international agreement on all those who are a party to it. While technically, the “Holy See,” which is a sovereign entity under international law, is the actual party to the treaty, the Convention Committee’s efforts have implications for the Catholic Church worldwide.
In fact, all parties – sovereign nations and entities such as the Holy See – that have ratified the Convention are bound much as anyone would be bound by a written contract, that is, to the words in the document. To evaluate the demands the Committee made upon the Catholic Church (Holy See), it’s important to understand the terms of the treaty.
Does it mention “abortion”? No, it does not. But it does say that “the child, by reason of his physical and mental immaturity, needs special safeguards and care, including appropriate legal protection, before as well as after birth,” and it says the word “child” in the treaty “means every human being below the age of eighteen years.” It goes on to say: “States Parties recognize that every child has the inherent right to life … States Parties shall ensure to the maximum extent possible the survival and development of the child.”
If anything, this protects a child against abortion, or, at the very least, should preclude the assertion that abortion is guaranteed by the CRC. Yet, ignoring the actual words of the Convention, the Committee told the Catholic Church (Holy See) “to review its position on abortion … with a view to identifying circumstances under which access to abortion services can be permitted.”
Does the Committee have the authority to interpret the Convention in this manner and to make such demands? The short answer is, no.
In essence, what the Committee is trying to do is to bind the Catholic Church (Holy See) to do something it did not agree to do, exerting authority it does not possess. The CRC committee is presenting a proverbial bill for something the Church had no intention of buying.