Vatican's U.N. role
Charleston Gazette June 01, 2000
AS IF THERE already weren't enough issues in the 2000 presidential campaign, another has been added: the U.N. status of the Vatican.
The Roman Catholic Church headquarters - a 108-acre compound legally separate from Italy - is considered a country by the United Nations. It is designated a U.N. "nonmember state with permanent observer status." This enables the church to participate in all U.N. activities except voting. Catholic delegates join debates - often opposing U.N. birth control programs, for example.
A rebel group, Catholics for a Free Choice, is challenging this arrangement, saying a church has no right to be deemed a nation.
Last week, Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush - wooing votes from America's 60 million Catholics - said he supports the Vatican's U.N. role, and accused the White House of being vague about it. Immediately, the Clinton administration - likewise seeking Catholic votes - declared its solid support for the Vatican. That's politics.
However, we're troubled by a nagging question: Is it fair for just one church to be allowed full participation in U.N. debates? Why shouldn't Muslims, Hindus, Mormons, Southern Baptists, Buddhists, Anglicans, Sikhs, Methodists, Jews, Presbyterians, Moonies, Shintoists, Jehovah's Witnesses, Baha'is, Hare Krishnas, Pentecostals, Whirling Dervishes and all the rest have equal privileges?
The United Nations is committed to democracy - and democracy requires even-handed treatment of all groups.