NEW YORK — Catholics have joined with members of other faiths to support the Holy See’s permanent-observer status at the United Nations, defending it against a group of abortion proponents seeking to oust the body from the international organization.
“The Holy See’s special status enables it to encourage genuine dialogue, promote peaceful resolution of conflicts and appeal beyond the mere territorial interests of states to the consciences of their leaders,” states a declaration and petition supporting the Holy See’s unique presence in world diplomacy.
The statement explains that the Holy See’s “disinterested, non-partisan service has always been appreciated by the member states at the United Nations.”
“We join with the member states in gratitude for the spiritual and moral witness of the Holy See at the United Nations,” it continues. “The world would be far poorer if the voice of the Holy See within the United Nations were ever silenced. May that day never come.”
The declaration and petition was launched Jan.17 by the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute. Three days later, it had accumulated more than 3,000 signatures.
Austin Ruse, the institute’s president, said the petition campaign is a response to efforts to remove the Holy See from the U.N. General Assembly.
“The Holy See is the conscience of the U.N. It is the only delegation that does not have political considerations in how they negotiate. They negotiate purely from first principles,” he said.
Drafted by Princeton Law School professor Robert George and William Saunders of Americans United for Life, the declaration noted that the Holy See has been working in diplomacy since the fourth century A.D. It now has diplomatic relations with 177 nations.
The declaration charged that opponents of the Vatican’s presence at the U.N. dislike the Holy See’s “steadfast defense of the sanctity of human life and the inviolable dignity of the family.”
“Certain organizations, in the name of a false ‘liberation,’ seek to undermine central truths regarding the nature of the human person and of the family. In the name of a false doctrine of human rights, they deny what makes men truly human and violate true human rights,” the statement said.
The abortion-advocacy group “Catholics for Choice” has been a longtime opponent of the Holy See’s permanent-observer status. The U.S. bishops have warned that this group is “not a Catholic organization,” but promotes teachings “contrary to the teaching of the Church.”
The group’s president, John O’Brien, used the Holy See representatives’ recent appearance at a hearing of the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child to criticize the permanent-observer mission.
He said that the Holy See “inexplicably … continues to enjoy the privileges of a state at the U.N.”
“The Holy See has no right to a seat at the U.N. and should not be signing these treaties and conventions,” he argued Jan. 16.
The Holy See’s representatives at the Jan. 16 hearing condemned violence against children and child exploitations, saying that the Vatican in recent years has made child protection a “priority.”
Signatories of the petition deplored efforts to end the Holy See’s permanent-observer status, charging that these groups see the Vatican as “an obstacle to their goals of re-engineering humanity and revising basic moral understandings.”
“While many of us do not share or endorse the claims of the Catholic Church, we are united in supporting the Holy See’s continued role as permanent observer at the United Nations,” the document said.
A similar declaration was launched in the year 2000, gaining support from Protestant and Muslim groups as well as Catholics.
Ruse urged supporters of the Holy See’s U.N. presence to sign the petition and ask others to do so.
The signatories will be presented to representatives of the Holy See in New York, Geneva and Rome sometime before the end of 2014.
The petition can be viewed in full at DefendtheHolySee.org.