Press Releases 1999

Catholics Decry School Board Harassment of UNICEF – The Children’s Charity Call for UN Review of Vatican Status

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(WASHINGTON) — Catholics for a Free Choice (CFFC) today renewed its call for a review of the Vatican’s status at the United Nations.  CFFC noted that a Canadian Catholic school board’s action to drop one of the world’s oldest and most respected providers of health care for needy mothers and children in favor of a local antiabortion group highlights how inappropriate it is for the Catholic church to participate in UN policymaking.   The Toronto Catholic District School Board has discontinued its participation in the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Halloween collection program, which raises money for programs in 161 nations, and replaced it with Aid to Women, a Toronto group that works to stop women from having abortions.

“Once again the Catholic hierarchy has sacrificed the well-being of needy children to its obsession with restricting access to family planning services,” said CFFC President Frances Kissling.  “This is exactly why we oppose the Catholic church’s participation in the UN, because time and time again they have allowed outdated dogma to take precedence over the provision of health services for people in need right now,” she added.

In 1996, the Vatican cut off its annual contribution to UNICEF, charging that the UN agency was involved in distribution of contraceptives contrary to church teaching.  It called on Catholics to review their support of the charity.  That move was widely seen as an attempt to undermine UNICEF’s greeting card program, which raises millions annually in churches around the world.

CFFC’s “See Change” Campaign (www.seechange.org) is calling on UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan to review the Vatican’s UN status.  As a Non-member State Permanent Observer, the Holy See, the government of the Roman Catholic church, has both a voice and a vote at important UN conferences on women’s rights and population issues, where it consistently takes an obstructionist role due to its ideology.  CFFC believes that the Vatican should be represented at the UN like the world’s other religions, as a non-governmental organization.

“The Toronto school board’s action demonstrates that it is time to get the Catholic church out of a policy-making role in the United Nations.  The Vatican’s insistence that UNICEF’s policies conform to Catholic teachings on human reproduction — teachings that have been rejected by a majority of Catholics and most nations — shows that it is not an impartial public policy player, but a religion with an agenda,” said Kissling.

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Catholics for Choice shapes and advances sexual and reproductive ethics that are based on justice, reflect a commitment to women's well-being and respect and affirm the capacity of women and men to make moral decisions about their lives.