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What Will Pope Francis Say at the UN?

September 24, 2015

Tomorrow, Pope Francis will address the General Assembly of the United Nations. Will he arrive with a pastoral message or a political one? Will he talk about his general concerns from a humanitarian point of view by addressing immigration, peace, poverty? Could this be an opportunity to lead by example, to show that he has concerns other than the pelvic zone? Or, will he be forced by the Holy See diplomats to squander the opportunity and rail against LGBT issues and contraception as the Holy See has been doing for years?

“It may surprise many, but under Pope Francis the Holy See has been continuing the agenda of Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI,” said Jon O’Brien, president of Catholics for Choice. “Holy See diplomats have continued to play an increasingly divisive role at the United Nations, working to block international advancements in sexual and reproductive health and rights while staying remarkably silent on other issues of social justice.”

  • During negotiations on the Sustainable Development Goals, the Holy See has devoted energy to pushing back on efforts to expand reproductive rights for women, girls and LGBT people.
  • In April 2013, the Holy See’s UN representative spoke against providing reproductive healthcare options for migrants.
  • In May 2014, Archbishop Francis Chullikatt said that reproductive rights and health infringe on the Vatican’s national sovereignty in a statement on one of the Sustainable Development Goals.
  • In October 2014, Archbishop Bernardito C. Auza, the Holy See’s current representative at the UN, said that we should not promote the advancement of women at the expense of other human rights.
  • In March 2015, Archbishop Auza spoke out against reproductive technologies, saying that “children must be begotten in love, not manufactured in labs.”
  • In September 2015, Archbishop Auza carefully excluded any mention of same-sex relationships when he commented on the post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals.

“I hope Pope Francis’ visit will bring a new era to how the Holy See behaves at the UN,” continued O’Brien.

Through the Holy See, the Catholic church exercises a very unusual power at the UN. It’s the only religion with the privileges of a state at the United Nations. As the Holy See, representatives of the Catholic church use direct access to the UN’s General Assembly and influential international conferences to impose an ultraconservative agenda on the global population, Catholic and non-Catholic alike. Diplomats, policymakers and advocates have drawn attention to the Holy See’s intransigence in pushing its agenda, as well as its tendency to insist on outlier positions that situate it far from those of the prevailing consensus, but no solution to staving off these costly crusades has been forthcoming.

Watch a video that explains the problem with the Holy See at the UN.