The Child’s Best Interests and Religion: A Case Study of the Holy See’s Best Interests Obligations and Clerical Child Sexual Abuse

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


Anchored in the wider debate on the relation between the child’s best interests and religion, the chapter inquires whether the Holy See — a religious actor, party to the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) — has best interests obligations, and whether it acknowledges these in its actions and norms intended to address clerical child sexual abuse. The study challenges the self-portrayed dual personality of the Holy See qua government of the Vatican and qua government of the Church; instead, it posits that the Holy See and the Vatican form a construct ‘clothed’ with state-like resemblance, which therefore enjoys the privileges of states and incurs correlative obligations. By drawing on doctrinal and judicial developments in the area of extraterritoriality, and critically examining the 2014 Concluding observations of the CRC Committee, the chapter shows that the Holy See’s child rights obligations, including those related to the child’s best interests, do not stop at the tiny borders of the Vatican. Lastly, it examines whether the Holy See assumes its best interests obligations and their extraterritorial reach, and reveals a surprising dissonance between the actor’s discourse on the one hand, and recent legislative and institutional practice on the other.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationImplementing Article 3 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child: Best Interests, Welfare and Well-Being
EditorsElaine Sutherland, Lesley-Anne Barnes Macfarlane
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages15
ISBN (Print)9781107158252
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • Law and religion
  • Holy See
  • clerical child sexual abuse
  • extraterritoriality
  • rights of the child
  • Best interests
  • Convention on the Rights of the Child

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