Pope Pourri
Katha Pollitt
Nation, April 19, 1999

Catholics for a Free Choice, leading a coalition of more than seventy nongovernmental organizations from around the world, is challenging the Vatican’s Non-Member State Permanent Observer status at the UN. Because of the superficial resemblance of Vatican City to an independent city-state, the Catholic Church is the only one among thousands of religions to enjoy an official designation that gives it voting rights at some conferences and agency meetings, which it has used to block consensus on contraception, sex education and AIDS prevention. Why should one religion¾that is, the all-male hierarchy, not the laypeople, who increasingly differ with the Pope on such issues¾be able to impose its views on people who don’t believe in it?

“The time has come to challenge this façade of the Vatican  as a state,” said Frances Kissling, president of Catholics for a Free Choice. “Why should an entity that is in essence 100 square acres of office space and tourist attractions … with a citizenry that excludes women and children have a place at the table where governments set policies affecting the very survival of women and children?” Like many other religious organizations¾the World Council of Churches, for instance¾the Vatican should participate in UN activities simply as an NGO. You can send a polite letter to Secretary General Kofi Annan (Office of the Secretary-General, Room 3800, UN Headquarters, New York, NY 10017). Catholics for a Free Choice can also provide preprinted postcards, singly or in bulk, for the asking (202-986-6093; info@seechange.org).