Church or State? The Vatican Has Too Much Influence at the UN

VIDEO: The Holy See at the United Nations: Church or State?

Should one religion be granted special privileges and recognition as a state while the others are not? Read more about the See Change Campaign here. [via Catholics for Choice]

Click here for all our coverage on Pope Francis’ recent comments on abortion, contraception, and homosexuality.

The pope’s groundbreaking comments last week have certainly knocked the wind out of the ultraconservatives’ proverbial sails. And rightfully so. Pope Francis spoke to those who want a bigger church, one that needs all the world’s churches, not just St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.

Those of us who support this new turn, this acknowledgement that Catholics do disagree on occasion, will have an opportunity, we hope, to see the results in action this week. The United Nations General Assembly is taking place in New York, and it could not come at a more opportune time.

Ever since the Vatican—as the Holy See—joined the UN as a state actor in 1964, without a popular vote, people have asked, “Is the Holy See a church or a state?” Now, a three-minute video (at right) gives some much-needed perspective to the unprecedented situation of allowing a religion to masquerade as a state.

The UN is the place where international norms are set; it is run on the basis of respect for diversity and the protection of rights, including the right to religious freedom. It works mainly through the General Assembly, but also at international conferences—where the Holy See has access that other religions do not. This means that other faiths’ moral reasoning in favor of condoms or abortion access, protections for women or LGBTQ individuals, doesn’t get the same audience as the Vatican, because other religions may only participate as non-governmental organizations.

It is simply unjust that one religion is allowed to act as a state, and use that power to block rights rather than protect them. I’m hopeful that, following Pope Francis’ conciliatory words last week, his diplomats will change their tune at the United Nations. Previously, they have railed against reproductive health services at every opportunity, including issuing statements against sustainable development and opposing a consensus document condemning violence against women.

The pope’s new approach to how the hierarchy interacts with Catholics and non-Catholics alike may now be reflected in its approach to other nations at the UN. For too long, the Vatican has obstructed progress on women’s rights and reproductive rights. Perhaps now, the Vatican’s representatives can stand aside rather than stand in the way.

As the video shows, the Holy See claims to work for “family values” but is home to few women and even fewer families (there are only an average of ten children in Vatican City at any time). In countries where the Catholic hierarchy is powerful, women are jailed after being suspected of abortion, which is not by any stretch of the imagination equivalent to protecting women’s dignity, health, or safety.

Anybody who supports true religious liberty would want religions to be treated equally at the United Nations. And anyone who wants to make their own decisions about sex and relationships would not want conservative religious groups—like the Holy See—to have the power to take away those rights. Just because this situation has been allowed since 1964 does not mean it must continue.

“The Holy See … should be judged by the actual results of its policies,” concludes the video, which calls for a change in the Holy See’s role at the UN.

Read more about the Holy See at the UN here.

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  • mlechman

    “Previously, they have railed against reproductive health services at every opportunity”

    So they shouldn’t be allowed to participate? Simply because you don’t agree with or understand their perspective?

    • HeilMary1

      Child-raping mother killers who support genocidal dictators should have no say in denying UN reproductive health care to women. The criminal Munchausen by Proxy Vatican steals and traffics women’s wombs on behalf of spoiled pedophile priests. There is nothing moral in the Vatican’s extortion, so why would you defend and indulge this atrocity?

    • Brian

      Are you purposely ignoring the rest of the article or are you incapable of keeping more than one point in head? It is clear, even from just skimming this piece, that the problem with the Holy See’s role at the UN is not its point of view, it’s the fact that it is not a country. It should have the same right to participate as any other non-governmental organization.

    • Amanda Kazarian

      Yup, the Catholic church has no right to participate in my life. They cannot make any decisions for me or affect my lifestyle choices in anyway. Tough.

    • colleen

      Most women are not Catholic. As long as religion is a voluntary belief system we will remain non-Catholics. Why should a religion that has demonstrated centuries of overt hostility towards women, a religion that proudly excludes women from ‘participation’ and yet tells all women our true purpose and nature and social VALUE is limited to our reproductive capacities, a religion that responds to legitimate concerns about overpopulation with vicious denial, why should a religion that treats women like garbage be allowed to try to force us to live and die according to your beliefs?

    • osiote

      Because they want to enslave women, asshole.

  • Rabbi Dennis S. Ross

    Thanks so much for these words! i too believe in religious liberty and want all religions treated equally!

    • phillip howel

      Rabbi pray, pray hard you never find yourself in and Islamic nation. What power other than words does the Vatican have?

      • colleen

        Ohhh, feel the Christian Love!

  • phillip howel

    Magdalena wrote ” It [the Vatican] works mainly through the General Assembly, but also at international conferences—where the Holy See has access that other religions do not.” Really? Every Arab nation and Indonesia are Islamic governments, their nations exist under Islamic law and rule. Those Islamic nations have a full vote, vote on human rights resolutions. Magdalena, aren’t you aware of how dissident’s are treated under Islam, that women are subjected from birth to men, a women procuring an abortion is stoned to death, gay men are hung in the public square, beatings of wives are permitted IF they do not leave bruises? Forbes recently published a BBC story about a Norwegian woman who was sentenced to jail after she was raped….. What ability to punish or harm does the Vatican have?

    • HeilMary1

      Your dreaded Islamic nations are merely copying Inquisition and Nazi Catholic Ustasha punishments of “sinners”. If creeps like you get their way, your Teabangenital GOP will impose similar punishments here and you know it.