Priests for Life - Church Teaching
The Catechism

From the Pope
Letters, Addresses,
and Homilies

From the Vatican

From Individual Bishops

From the
US Bishops’ Conference

From Other Sources Associated with
the Magisterium

America Will Not Reject Abortion Until America
Sees Abortion

Prayer Campaign

Take Action

Social Networking

Rachel's Vineyard,
A Ministry of Priests For Life

Silent No More Awareness Campaign, A Project
of Priests For Life

Clergy Resources


April 20, 1990


The Rights of the Child

This is the statement made 20 April in New York by Archbishop Renato R. Martino, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, at a press conference on the occasion of the accession of the Holy See to the Convention

 on the Rights of the Child. The convention was adopted by the 44th U.S. General Assembly last November.

I am pleased to announce that this morning, 20 April 1990, I have deposited with the Secretary-General of the United Nations the instruments of accession of the Holy See to the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

By choosing to be among the first in acceding to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Holy See would like to encourage all countries and peoples to join in assuring legal protection and effective support to the well being of all the children of the world.

The Holy See has always maintained that children are, in the words of His Holiness Pope John Paul II, "that precious treasure given to each generation as a challenge to its wisdom and humanity." Responding to such a challenge, the United Nations concluded on 20 Nov. 1989 the laborious work of drafting and adopting a Convention to defend the rights of children. The United Nations, since its inception, has considered human rights one of its fundamental concerns; the Convention on the Rights of the Child, once ratified, will have its rightful place among the major International Instruments on Human Rights which the Organization has produced.

One could have wished that the rights of the child should have been formally codified much sooner than now, even before the adoption of other specific human rights instruments, for the child represents the primordial subject of human rights and, in his total state of dependency, needs and merits absolute protection.

The key to the correct understanding and respect of the rights of children is rooted in the unambiguous recognition of their human nature. It is not governments or adult individuals that choose to grant the child rights. It is the human nature of the child that constitutes the infrangible and indivisible foundation of the child's rights, without regard to the levels of development of his or her precious existence or to the convenience or inconvenience caused by his or her presence. The violation or neglect of these rights--first among them the very right to life itself--represent crimes of a most hideous nature.

As I had the opportunity to state on 13 November 1989 before the Third Committee of the General Assembly, the Holy See has recognized the long and laborious work that has produced the Convention on the Rights of the Child and has taken note of the positive contributions that such an instrument can make towards many aspects of the wellbeing of children. The text of the Convention, however, represents the minimum grounds upon which agreement could be achieved and, therefore, presents areas where the consensus of the parties does not indicate their complete satisfaction.

The Holy See has held and continues to maintain definite positions on several items which were the object of the extensive debate that led to the formulation of the text of the Convention. With a view to avoiding further delay, the long process and considering that the adopted text would contribute to safeguarding the rights of children, the Holy See accepted, albeit with reservations, the final text.

The accession of the Holy See to the Convention on the Rights of the Child is accompanied by the following declaration and reservations.


The Holy See regards the present convention as a proper and laudable instrument aimed at protecting the rights and interests of children, who are "that precious treasure given to each generation as a challenge to its wisdom and humanity" (Pope John Paul II, 26 April 1984).

The Holy See recognizes that the convention represents the enactment of principles previously adopted by the United Nations, and, once effective as a ratified instrument, will safeguard the rights of the child before as well as after birth, as expressly affirmed in the "Declaration of the Rights of the Child" [Res. 136 (XIV)] and restated in the ninth preambular paragraph of the Convention. The Holy See remains confident that the ninth preambular paragraph will serve as the perspective through which the rest of the Convention will be interpreted, in conformity with Article 31 of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties of 23 May 1969.

By acceding to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Holy See intends to give renewed expression to its constant concern for the well-being of children and families. In consideration of its singular nature and position, the Holy See, in acceding to this Convention, does not intend to prescind in any way from its mission which is of a religious and moral character.


The Holy See, in conformity with the dispositions of Article 51, accedes to the Convention on the Rights of the Child with the following reservations.

a) that it interprets the phrase "Family planning education and services" in Article 24.2, to mean only those methods of family planning which it considers morally acceptable, that is, the natural methods of family planning;

b) that it interprets the Articles of the Convention in a way that safeguards the primary and inalienable rights of parents, in particular insofar as these rights concern education (Articles 13 and 28), religion (Article 14), association with others (Article 15) and privacy (Article 6);

c) that the application of the Convention be compatible in practice with the particular nature of the Vatican City State and of the sources of its objective law (Art. 1, Law of 7 June 1929, n. 11), and, in consideration of its limited extent, with its legislation in the matters of citizenship, access and residence.

Priests for Life
PO Box 236695 • Cocoa, FL 32923
Tel. 321-500-1000, Toll Free 888-735-3448 •