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Report Reveals Vatican Efforts to Expand Power in European Union

October 1, 2003

EU constitution, health policies and funding are all targets for Vatican lobby opposing sexual and reproductive health and rights

Washington, DC–A report released today by Catholics for a Free Choice (CFFC) reveals the goals and methods of a well funded and orchestrated campaign by the V atican and conservative Catholic allies to undermine the European Union’s support of sexual and reproductive health and rights. Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) have come out strongly in support of the report, entitled Preserving Power and Privilege: The Vatican’s Agenda in the European Union. Proinsias De Rossa, MEP for Ireland, said “I would recommend that all MEPs read this timely report. We do need to know the provenance of proposals to change our laws and policies as they sometimes come from a rather narrow interpretation of a particular religious viewpoint.” At the Intergovernmental Conference being launched in Rome on October 4, many issues in the EU Constitutional Treaty will be debated, including reference to the Christian roots of Europe. The Vatican will be a key player, advancing its long-term strategy that is laid out in the CFFC report.

“The information contained in this report is critical to an understanding of the profound differences in worldview and values that divide most of Europe from conservative Roman Catholic thought,” states Frances Kissling, president of CFFC. “If the Vatican succeeds in its goal to gain special status within the EU to affect its policies and funding, millions of people could face discrimination and be denied their human rights. What is at stake is no less than the lives and well-being of the world’s women—which for the present are very much in the hands of the European people.”

MEPs supporting the CFFC report include, Joaquim Antonio Miranda da Silva, MEP for Portugal and Chair of the Development Committee of the Parliament, who stated, “I share the concerns expressed in this courageous report which speaks about issues at the core of the current debate [on the Constitution], in particular the relationship between the EU and the Vatican.”

Written for European policy makers and for all citizens concerned about human rights, Preserving Power and Privilege provides facts and analysis of the Catholic church’s efforts, past and present, to influence public policy and secure and extend its power at the EU. The report details exactly what the Vatican wants included in the Constitutional Treaty, including:

· An exemption to discriminate on the grounds of religion or sexual orientation. This would grant a church the right to organize and administer its charities and workplace for hundreds of thousands of European citizens according to its own rules. The Vatican got its desired language on this right annexed to the 1997 Treaty of Amsterdam—the first mention of the church in a European legislative document—to allow all churches to be exempted from the treaty’s prohibition of discrimination on the grounds of religion or sexual orientation.
· A special consultative status not held by any other nongovernmental entity. This would provide for the Catholic church to be consulted in the pre-drafting stage of legislation on a wide range of matters where the church feels it has expertise and for regular consultations at the highest level of the various EU institutions—a constitutionally granted voice in state affairs.
· The mention of God and of Europe’s Christian roots in the Constitution. A doctrinal note to Catholic policy makers released in January 2003 by Cardinal Ratzinger, the pope’s guardian of the orthodoxy of Catholic faith, declared that the separation of religion and politics did not mean a separation of morals and politics. It asserted that the Catholic church has the divine, ultimate and legitimate authority to define the truth on morality and what is right in politics and exhorted Catholics to defend the church’s positions without compromise, in particular on issues related to the family and to sexual and reproductive health and rights.

As the report makes clear, the Vatican is adamantly opposed to the EU’s efforts to recognize the right to plan family size, choose homosexual or other non-married partnerships, seek abortion, or form non-traditional families. The pope seeks to restore outdated policies that limit access to abortion and family planning and discourage and discriminate against non-traditional unions and families. Preserving Power and Privilege explains how the stakes at the EU include both official policy and budget allocations.

§ In 2002, the European Parliament was reauthorizing “aid for policies and actions on sexual and reproductive health and rights in developing countries.” The proposed amount of €20 million for 2003-2006 was slashed to €6 million when 160 Members of European Parliament voted against the measure, signalling that the European Parliament’s consensus on sexual and reproductive rights might be over and that the Vatican’s lobbying was having an impact.
§ While the Vatican rejects EU policy, Catholic charities receive a substantial amount of EU money. Between 1997 and 2002, Catholic charities received nearly €99 million of EU funding under the budget line that goes to fund NGO development projects—close to 10% of the total €1 billion the EU spent on such projects.

§ To discredit a report by Belgian MEP Anne Van Lancker that addressed family planning, contraception, education, abortion, and pregnancy, the Vatican and its allies tried to block it through procedural methods, then mounted a disinformation campaign, falsely accusing Van Lancker’s report of promoting abortion, and engaged other MEPs to attack it. The report was adopted in 2002 by a vote of 280-240 with 28 abstentions, but the controversy created illustrates typical opposition tactics employed by the Vatican in reproductive rights debates in the EU.

Van Lancker welcomed the publication of Preserving Power and Privilege. “Europe has always been a firm defender of sexual and reproductive health and rights. With the adoption of my report…the EP reaffirmed the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) consensus that women should be able to choose whether they want children, when they want them, and how many they want and to experience their sexuality in a healthy way,” she said. “But recently, Europe’s progressive consensus has come increasingly under attack by Vatican lobbying. In the light of the 10 year review of ICPD,” Van Lancker stressed, “Europe should join forces to ensure women’s sexual and reproductive rights. This report will help us to undertake action, as it brings the Vatican’s activities in this matter to full light. And action is now needed more than ever to safeguard the European consensus in a Union of 25 and more Member States.”

“The Catholic hierarchy is seeking to expand and consolidate how it exerts direct influence on EU policy making on sexual and reproductive health and rights to bring it in line with the positions of the church,” stated Elfriede Harth, European representative for CFFC, who contributed to the report. “While the Vatican certainly has a role to play on the international stage, and Catholic charities do much good work, the Catholic church is working to impose its view onto the developing legal system of the European Union, and, as a result, onto the lives of all European citizens, regardless of their faith.”

– Statement Ends –