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End the Exceptional Status of the Vatican at the U.N.!

ProChoix (France) joins the campaign led by Catholics for a Free Choice in demanding an examination of the exceptional status the Vatican enjoys at the U.N..

Since 1957, the Vatican has occupied what is referred to as the "Holy Seat" at the U.N.. Since 1964, the Vatican has been a permanent observer at the U.N., although it is not a member-state. This exceptional status permit the Vatican to participate in all U.N. debates. But since the Vatican is not a member of the U.N., it does not have to conform to U.N. programs such as literacy campaigns, birth control, or the struggle against HIV. In fact, the Vatican leads battles against these very programs: both as a country on its own territory and as an interest group in the rest of the world.

The Effects of the Holy Seat at the U.N.
600,000 women die each year during pregnancy and childbirth. The U.N. is a crucial place to initiate information campaigns on contraception and abortion which could save lives. Unfortunately, the Holy Seat uses its power to limit access to family planning and abortion, even in countries where abortion is legal, even for women who are victims of rape during war. After having sided against the right to abortion for women who were rape victims in Bosnia, the Vatican also argues against the right to the abortion pill RU-486 and surgical abortions for rape victims in Kosovo. In another example, during both the U.N. World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995 and the U.N World Conference on Population in Cairo in 1994, the Vatican and its allies spent huge amounts of energy fighting against a woman's right to choose. The Vatican also tried to convince the members of the Group of 77 that family planning initiatives were an American and European consipracy to exterminate Muslims through birth control. This is one of the reasons that all texts on abortion and gay and lesbian rights were either watered down or rejected at those conferences.

End Exceptional Status for the Vatican
There are many reasons to question the power of the Holy Seat at the U.N. and its assimilation as a nation. For example, a nation must have representatives in the majority of nations in the U.N.. But in 1985, the Vatican had delegates in only 53 out of 112 countries at the U.N.. Nor does the Vatican meet the four criteria for nations as defined in the U.N. Convention of Rights and Duties:

1) A nation must have a population: Who are the citizens of Catholocism? All the Catholics in the world? Only those who live in the Vatican City? In any case, belonging to a religion cannot be compared to being a citizen of a country.

2) A nation must have a defined territory: Even the Vatican is only a few square kilometers, its power extends all over the world. So what territory does it control?

3) A nation must have a government: But the Vatican doesn't fit this definition—does it govern the Vatican City, or the Catholic Church?

4) A nation must be capable of having relations with other nations: This is the sole criteria the Vatican can meet.

To participate in the Catholics for a Free Choice campaign to demand an end to the exceptional status of the Vatican at the U.N., send a copy of this letter at the Secretery general or to : cffc@catholicsforchoice.org

Dear Secretary-General Annan,

As a UN Non-member State Permanent Observer, the Holy See often enjoys unique status as a voting partner with countries at UN conferences. Granting governmental privileges to what is in reality a religious body is questionable statecraft. While the Holy See—the government of the Roman Catholic church—has made positive contributions through the United Nations to peace and justice, this should not be used to justify granting the status of a state to a religious institution.

Governmental participation in the UN should be reserved to actual states. The world's religions have been well represented through non-governmental organizational status. With NGO status, the Roman Catholic church would be able to continue its participation in the UN—like the World Council of Churches—without ambiguity or privilege. We call upon you to open an official review of the Holy See's status at the UN.

Name : First name : Signature :
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