Frustrated Feminists, Catholic Dissidents Call for Demotion of Holy See at UN

By | March 23, 2019

NEW YORK, March 23 (C-Fam) Dissident Catholics and their allies are calling once again for the Holy See’s status as a UN observer state to be revoked.  At an event on the sidelines of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), a group of collaborating activists calling themselves “Catholics for Human Rights” launched a petition for the UN to downgrade the Holy See’s status.  This is the latest in a series of similar quixotic efforts launched sporadically in previous years, none of which has been successful.

The Holy See is a frequent target of such campaigns due to its unique status within the UN system, the moral authority it wields, and its history of convening international alliances to push back against attempts to create an international right to abortion and redefine gender and the family.  In attacking the Holy See, feminists groups skeptical of all religions have found common cause with dissidents within the Church, such as Catholics for Choice and proponents of female ordination.  The recent resurgence of the sexual abuse scandal in the Church has provided them with further ammunition.

However, the Holy See has powerful support, ranging from individuals to organizations to UN member countries.  In 1999, pro-abortion Catholic dissidents called for the Holy See to be kicked out of the UN.  A Declaration in Support of the Holy See was circulated, gaining over 4,000 signatures, including the largest Protestant and even the largest Muslim groups in the world. When the attacks on the Holy See were renewed in 2014, C-Fam relaunched the declaration in a campaign that currently has signatures from over 6,800 groups and 130,000 individuals.

At the CSW parallel event, speakers included a representative of Catholics for Choice and a women’s ordination activist.

Professor Mary Ann Case said that most of what causes the Vatican to obstruct “women’s human rights” and recognition of sexual orientation and gender identity as categories of rights were developments that occurred after 1965, when the Second Vatican Council ended.  In fact, the Church’s positions on abortion and the complementary roles of men and women were being reiterated in response to new forms of opposition, which have only continued to grow in the last half century.

In its report on the Holy See at the UN, “Catholics for Human Rights” pointed out that the Holy See has not signed nor ratified the UN’s treaty against all forms of discrimination against women.  They surmised that the reason was “the Holy See’s theological ideology makes it incompatible with the aims of the treaty.” Throughout the report, the group of dissident “Catholics” affords greater deference to UN documents than those of the Church in which they claim membership.   This includes the nonbinding opinions of treaty bodies, such as the Committee on the Rights of the Child, which exceeded its mandate by criticizing the Holy See for its stance on abortion and homosexuality.

When asked to comment on the petition against the Holy See, a UN spokesman said that the Vatican’s status as an observer was for to UN member states to decide.