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Statement of Frances Kissling, president of Catholics for A Free Choice, on the introduction of congressional resolutions regarding the “See Change” Campaign

July 11, 2000

Several Republican members of Congress (Sens. Rick Santorum and Bob Smith and Rep. Chris Smith) have introduced a resolution condemning The “See Change” Campaign and objecting to any effort to expel the Holy See from the UN.  It should come as no surprise that Republican members of Congress should attempt to assuage the current charges of anti-Catholicism by one of the Republican candidates for president by attempting to push through a “motherhood and apple pie” resolution lauding the Roman Catholic church. It should come as no surprise that anti-family planning and anti-choice members of Congress would come to the defense of their staunchest ally, the Roman Catholic church. It should come as no surprise that those who held hostage the payment of our UN dues to their anti-family planning views would again threaten the UN with this resolution.

The resolution lauds the role played by the Holy See in the UN and threatens that any change in the Vatican’s status would “further damage relations between the United States and the United Nations.” We sincerely hope and urge legislators to avoid taking the easy out–and largely meaningless step–of voting for this resolution.

Catholics for a Free Choice is the initiator of The “See Change” Campaign–the international campaign calling on the United Nations secretary-general to review the current status of the Holy See at the United Nations.  At the UN the Holy See is accorded many of the privileges of a state–privileges not granted to any other religion. The campaign has gained significant international support, with close to 400 organizations worldwide endorsing it. A signature gathering drive is currently underway to garner individual support.

The campaign was triggered by the ongoing obstructionist behavior the Holy See delegation has engaged in at United Nations conferences and meetings where women’s rights and reproductive health policy are under review. It is fair to ask, in light of Pope John Paul II’s own description of the Holy See’s role in the UN as “spiritual” and “very different from that of the states, which are communities in the political and temporal sense,” whether it is appropriate for it to hold state status.

The “See Change” Campaign will go forward. While respecting the right of the Roman Catholic Church to speak as a religion and as a nongovernmental organization, we maintain that the possession of 100 acres of office buildings, churches and tourist attractions in the center of Rome does not constitute a state. Groups and individuals committed to the separation of church and state, as well as those deeply concerned about reproductive health, women’s rights and the prevention of AIDS–all areas in which the church has used its status in the UN to restrict policies that would save lives–will continue to raise these issues in their countries and in the UN. 

— statement ends —