Campaign to Kick the Vatican out of the UN

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Almost one year ago, a group of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) announced that they intend to get the Vatican kicked out of the United Nations. Through extensive international media coverage, a sophisticated web-site, and advertising in the New York Times, the campaign has grown to 400 organizations that are now calling for the UN to downgrade the status of the Vatican from Permanent Observer to NGO.

The leader of the campaign is Frances Kissling, President of Catholics for a Free Choice (CFFC), an NGO dedicated to overturning official Catholic teaching on contraception and abortion. Kissling last year compared the Holy See’s position at the UN with “Euro-Disney sitting on the Security Council.” Kissling wondered “why…an entity that is in essence 100 square acres of office space and tourist attractions…with a citizenry that excludes women and children have a place at the table where governments set policies affecting the very survival of women and children.”

Called “See Change”, the campaign began with 70 organizations, including one of the most powerful UN NGOs, International Planned Parenthood Federation, the largest abortion provider in the world. The coalition has grown to include three major strands; pro-abortion groups, those in favor of population control, and groups hostile to religion.

Participants include the Center for Reproductive Law and Policy, Equality Now, Marie Stopes International, the National Abortion Federation, the Feminist Majority, the Sierra Club, Population Concern, Center for Research on Population and Security, the American Humanist Association, and Atheists United. The list includes groups from more than a dozen countries.

Kissling claims her coalition will ask UN Secretary General Kofi Annan to “review” the status of the Holy See. Their complaint is that the Holy See delegation is able to block to various initiatives to expand women’s rights in UN documents. Over the years, beginning at the International Conference on Population and Development, the Holy See has become the main voice in opposition to expansion of abortion in UN documents. The Holy See participates in a loose-knit coalition of Catholic and Muslim states that has also stopped the efforts to expand gender to include homosexuality, and to redefine the family to include homosexual couples.

Since the UN works by consensus, any small group of states can theoretically stop any piece of language they find objectionable. Since most states rely on foreign aid, the pressure to bend to the will of the Clinton Administration and the increasingly radical European Union is intense. The Holy See does not receive any foreign aid, so it cannot be pressured in the traditional ways.

Not even Kissling believes her campaign will have the stated affect of taking the Holy See out of the UN. She said as much in an article in the Washington DC-based Legal Times published last summer. Veteran UN observers understand that the Kissling effort is really intended to intimidate the Holy See delegation and to scare away her allies from Latin America and the Middle East.


866 United Nations Plaza, Suite 4038
New York, New York 10017
Phone: (212) 754-5948
Fax: (212) 754-9291

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Posted 10 Feb 2000.

Copyright 2000 by Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute.
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