Asociación Madres de Plaza de Mayo endorses The "See Change" Campaign

For immediate release Contact:Jon O’Brien/Patti Miller
May 5, 2000 Work phone: +1 (202) 986-6093


Washington, DC--The internationally renowned Argentinean human rights group Asociación Madres de Plaza de Mayo (Mothers of the Disappeared) has endorsed The "See Change" Campaign. Asociación Madres de Plaza de Mayo was established in the late 1970s by a group of mothers whose daughters and sons were kidnapped by military death squads and who literally "disappeared" during the bloody reign of a military dictatorship in Argentina. Dressed in black and wearing white head scarves, they demonstrate every Thursday at 3:30 in the afternoon in the famous Plaza de Mayo in Buenos Aires, demanding to know the fates of their loved ones and for those responsible for the disappearances of more than 30,000 people to face justice.

The "See Change" Campaign, initiated by Catholics for a Free Choice, seeks a review of the Holy See's special UN status as a Non-member State Permanent Observer. It is currently endorsed by more than 525 organizations, including women's and human rights groups and Catholic groups from around the world.

In 1997, Asociación Madres de Plaza de Mayo accused Cardinal Pio Laghi, then the prefect of the Vatican's Congregation for Catholic Education, of complicity in several hundred disappearances. Cardinal Laghi served as papal nuncio to Argentina between 1974 and 1980, and Asociación Madres de Plaza de Mayo claimed that he had "intimate knowledge" of government plans to kill, torture and murder its political opponents. Although charges were filed in an Italian court, Cardinal Laghi escaped prosecution because of the diplomatic immunity granted to all Vatican officials.

"It is a testament to the importance of this campaign that Asociación Madres de Plaza de Mayo-an internationally renowned symbol of human rights activism and the struggle for justice-would choose to associate with it. It also demonstrates the diversity of this effort and shows that people all over the globe are genuinely concerned about the status of the Holy See at the United Nations," said Frances Kissling, president of Catholics for a Free Choice.

In another development, letters have been arriving from leading nongovernmental organizations and endorsers of The "See Change" Campaign that challenge resolutions introduced in the U.S. Congress by conservative, anti-family planning lawmakers. Sister Maureen Fiedler, SL, the national coordinator of Catholics Speak Out, challenged the notion that the campaign is anti-Catholic. "Some people have begun to claim-apparently for politically partisan reasons-that this is an anti-Catholic campaign. Nothing could be further from the truth. It was begun by Catholics and is supported by Catholics worldwide," she wrote in a letter to members of the House of Representatives.

Tony O'Brien, chief executive of the Irish Family Planning Association, further developed the point when he told members of the US Congress that the "position taken by the Holy See at the UN is entirely inconsistent with the practical and caring approach of so many clerical and lay members of the Catholic church working at the ground level throughout the world." O'Brien also noted the inappropriate ways in which the Catholic church uses its influence against those who disagree with its positions on reproductive health issues. "Here in Ireland, we have had firsthand experience of the power and strength of the Catholic church as it has sponsored state censorship and restrictive legislation. As an organisation, we at IFPA have helped overcome censorship laws against the publication of information about contraception and forced the repeal of restrictive condom laws," he wrote.

And Bene Madunagu, chair of Girls' Power Initiative in Nigeria, noted in a letter to members of the U.S. House of Representatives the very real role that the Catholic church plays in blocking initiatives designed to halt the spread of AIDS and reduce maternal mortality. "The Catholic church, through the activities of the bishops here in Nigeria, and its position at the United Nations, works hard to keep the status quo, where talk about sex is taboo, and talk about preventing unplanned pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases is forbidden," Madunagu wrote.

--Statement Ends--

Catholics for a Free Choice shapes and advances sexual and reproductive ethics that are based on justice, reflect a commitment to women's well-being, and respect and affirm the moral capacity of women and men to make sound decisions about their lives. Through discourse, education, and advocacy, CFFC works in the United States and internationally to infuse these values into public policy, community life, feminist analysis, and Catholic social thinking and teaching.