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Conscience Magazine

An End to the Holy See’s Privilege?

September 16, 2013

In 1984, I was among the plaintiffs who challenged President Ronald Reagan’s decision to extend US diplomatic recognition to the Holy See, elevating one faith over all others in violation of the separation of church and state. In Joanne Omang’s excellent article, “Playing Hardball against Women’s Rights” (Vol. XXXIV, No. 2), she rightly states that the Holy See’s permanent observer status at the UN privileges one religious body over all others—especially when the Holy See uses (misuses?) that position to block international efforts to advance women’s and children’s rights. Pope Francis should change the Holy See’s position at the UN to match that of other faith and nongovernmental groups.

Incidentally, Bennett Elliott’s informative review of Eric Berkowitz’s book, Sex and Punishment from the same issue reminded me of a lecture I attended more than 50 years ago with Dr. Alfred Kinsey at his Institute for Sex Research at Indiana University. During the informal gathering Kinsey let it be known that the institute boasted the largest library in the world on all matters sexual, except for one even larger—the Vatican’s. He asserted that the church had tried to amass information about sexual behavior as a first step towards deciding what to condemn as sinful and what regulations to make.

President, Americans for Religious Liberty
Silver Spring, MD