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New Report Documents Conservative Catholic Mayhem at UN

March 7, 2001

Cites claim by Catholic lobbyist that Holy See delegate made offensive remark about Hillary Clinton.

Washington, DC–A new report from Catholics for a Free Choice (CFFC) released today uncovers shocking remarks made by Austin Ruse, president of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute, regarding then-First Lady Hillary Clinton.  The report, “Bad Faith at the UN:  Drawing Back the Curtain on the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute,” quotes Ruse as saying that a priest from the Holy See’s UN delegation guaranteed him “absolution if I just took her [Hillary Clinton] out—and not on a date.”

Frances Kissling, president of CFFC, said the reported remark is part of an increasingly warlike mindset that permeates the thinking and action of conservative groups at the United Nations, where the conservative lobby has failed to impede progress at UN conferences concerning population, development, reproductive health and women’s rights. “It is of course very shocking that such a mindset might exist within the Holy See delegation,” said Kissling, adding, “Considering increased global awareness about violence against women and the diplomatic demands of the UN, it is hard to believe that a member of the Roman Catholic clergy would even joke about such things and hard to believe that a lobbyist associated with the Holy See would repeat such remarks.  But why would Austin Ruse lie about such things?”

Ruse made the remarks in a March 2000 address to the Cardinal Mindszenty Foundation, a militant anticommunist organization.  CFFC was sent a tape of the speech by the Cardinal Mindszenty Foundation.

The new report examines the history, activities and finances of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute (CAFHRI), a conservative, anti-reproductive rights Catholic organization that lobbies the UN.  Among the key findings:

  • CAFHRI claims to be an independent entity, but extensive documentation obtained by CFFC illustrates that it was established by Human Life International (HLI), an anti-abortion organization that has been charged with anti-Semitism for claiming that Jews run the abortion industry, and Human Life International-Canada, after HLI was denied UN accreditation.
  • CAFHRI has applied for special nongovernmental organization (NGO) status so it can lobby UN delegates, but it ignores the basic requirement that such an NGO support the work of the UN.  Its president, Austin Ruse, admits to only a “veneer of support” for the UN and boasts of actions that “defy every UN rule on lobbying.”  CAFHRI spokespeople and literature routinely disparage and denigrate the UN and its work.
  • Documentation obtained by CFFC shows that CAFHRI sought to hide its connection to Human Life International, as well as the fact that its primary purpose is to serve as a resource for the Holy See at the United Nations.

CFFC President Frances Kissling concludes, “We would hope that the Holy See considers itself a good partner at the United Nations, and call upon the Holy See to repudiate the statements and tactics of CAFHRI. Religious groups have been active in the UN from its founding.  For the most part they have participated in good faith and they have contributed much.  They have respected the plural, secular and tolerant nature of the UN.   It would be unfortunate if CAFHRI, wearing the mantle of religion, were allowed to continue its efforts to create a Holy War in the international institution most identified with peace.”

–Statement Ends–