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Catholics Call for Equality Among Religions at the UN

October 16, 2000

“There is a need to change the status of the Vatican at the UN,” says Catholic leader.

Washington, DC—“The Catholic church is complicit in interfering with women’s reproductive rights around the world,” is the central tenet of the address by a representative of The “See Change” Campaign to the World March for Women. Bishops in Africa are still burning condoms, despite the ravages of the HIV/AIDS crisis; the church blocks access to emergency contraception for women who have been raped; and thousands of women die each year as a result of unsafe illegal abortions. “The church’s opposition to contraception and abortion makes it an impediment to the health and well being of women. In a situation where women are dying from the lack of access to contraception and safe abortion, we call into question the Vatican’s status at the United Nations in order to reduce its impact on women’s lives,” the speaker, Serra Sippel, concluded.

A delegation from The “See Change” Campaign marched with the US World March of Women on Sunday, October 15th at the Ellipse in Washington, DC.  The delegation will also participate in the World March International Rally on October 17th at the Dag Hammarskjold Plaza in New York City.

More than 5,000 organizations, including The “See Change” Campaign, in 159 countries have joined the worldwide campaign for equality between women and men and to end poverty and violence against women.

The “See Change” Campaign has called on the secretary-general of the United Nations to review the Catholic church’s current status as a Non-member State Permanent Observer. We believe that the Holy See, the government of the Roman Catholic church, should participate in the UN in the same way as the world’s other religions do—as a nongovernmental organization.

Amnesty International Secretary General Pierre Sane severely criticized the Holy See, among others, at the recent Beijing +5 meeting in New York. Speaking at a satellite meeting during the UN-sponsored meeting on women, he said, “The unholy alliance formed by the Holy See, Iran, Algeria, Nicaragua, Syria, Libya, Morocco and Pakistan has attempted to hold ransom women’s human rights.”

Frances Kissling, president of Catholics for a Free Choice and co-founder of The “See Change” Campaign, said, “We are proud to march on this important day to highlight issues that for some women mean the difference between life and death, and to show our solidarity with women worldwide. The ‘See Change’ Campaign is a vital cog in the campaign to further women’s health and rights throughout the world. This is a great opportunity to send a strong message to the UN, to politicians and to policymakers that the activities of the Holy See at the UN are incompatible with women’s equality.”

The “See Change“ Delegation march in both Washington, DC and New York, carrying banners with the messages: “Keep the UN Safe For Women. End Vatican Statehood” and “Warning: Vatican Statehood is Dangerous to Women’s Health.