What’s Behind the UN Attack on the Church?

As faithful Catholics continue to contend with last week’s incendiary United Nations report attacking the Church for her teachings on contraception, abortion, and homosexuality, it may be time to look closely at the real agenda at the United Nations.

For more than two decades, the UN has dedicated itself to attempting to diminish the influence of the Church on life issues. We need to begin to understand why.

In an October 2013 Crisis article entitled “Kicking the Church out of the UN,” Austin Ruse, the president of Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute (C-FAM), suggests that the reason for the hostility directed at the Church is because the Church has obstructed the goals of the population control zealots at the UN. “Starting at the Cairo Conference in 1994, the Church has been able to block an international right to abortion … the Holy See has consistently handed the Catholics for Choice, the Norwegians, the United Nations Population Fund and all the other uglies at the UN defeat after defeat.”

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It is likely that last week’s UN Committee on the Rights of the Child report was payback.   Despite its non-voting status at the United Nations, the Holy See has stood as the major barrier to the UN goal of universal access to abortion and contraception for young girls and women throughout the world.  While the Church was unable to convince all countries—including the United States—of the evils of abortion, the Vatican, as a sovereign state, continues to play an important role at the negotiating table in areas in which the Church has a stake in helping to ensure the right to life and the dignity of the person.

The UN has attempted to end that influence.  In 1999, decrying the Vatican’s role in encouraging the United Nations to block funding for abortion services, Frances Kissling, then-president of Catholics for Choice—a group that claims to speak for pro-abortion Catholics, yet has no actual membership—began a campaign to remove the Vatican from the UN.  A strong media presence and a letterhead funded by the abortion industry and pro-abortion organizations like the Ford and Rockefeller Foundations, Operation See Change, as Kissling called her campaign against the Vatican, attempted to persuade the United Nations to revoke the Vatican’s status as a permanent observer.

Although Kissling’s See Change Campaign was supported by the abortion industry and was successful in focusing international public attention on the unique standing of the Vatican at the UN, opposition to the Catholics for Choice initiative was also strong.  Then-Senators Rick Santorum (R-PA) and Bob Smith (R-NH), and Representative Chris Smith (R-NJ) introduced congressional resolutions critical of the See Change Campaign and lauding the role of the Vatican at the UN. In the end, not a single member state signed on to support the Catholics for Choice campaign.

Still, the efforts to expel the Vatican continue today.  Austin Ruse’s C-FAM recently announced that Catholics for Choice has re-launched its See Change Campaign demanding that the Vatican’s observer status be reduced to that of a non-governmental organization—barring Church officials from negotiations.  And, as Ruse, who has a front row seat for the UN negotiations, writes: “a nasty Norwegian diplomat at the UN” who “frequently badmouths the Holy See” has suggested that it is time that the Holy See be expelled.

It is not a coincidence that Kirsten Sandberg, Chairman of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child that issued the attack on the Vatican last week, is from Norway.  Demanding that the Church amend Canon Law to accommodate the changing culture, Sandberg’s committee “urges that the Holy See review its position on abortion which places obvious risks on the life and health of pregnant girls, and to amend Canon 1398 relating to abortion with a view to identifying circumstances under which access to abortion services can be permitted.”

Sandberg’s committee demands that the Church “assess the serious implications of its position on adolescents’ enjoyment of the highest standard of health and overcome all the barriers and taboos surrounding adolescent sexuality that hinder their access to sexual and reproductive information.”  Further, Sandberg’s UN Committee moves beyond denigrating the Church for her teachings on abortion and contraception to demand that the Church “overcome the taboos” surrounding adolescent sexuality—including homosexual behavior—by changing Church teachings on homosexual relations to conform to the prevailing culture espoused by the UN.

Recent Events Highlight UN’s Progressive Culture
Although Sandberg’s Committee on the Rights of the Child report has gotten the most publicity because it is the first to directly attack the Church in this way, the truth is that the report is just the latest in a long series of UN reports designed to make abortion an international right, and increase world-wide support for same-sex behavior.  A report issued last month by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) entitled “Teaching and Learning: Achieving Quality for All,” is described by C-Fam in a report released last week as suggesting that the purpose of educating children is not simply to increase literacy, but also to teach them “where and how to have an abortion” and to be more accepting of same-sex behavior.

The UNESCO report decries that “in many parts of the world, people remain intransigent in their attitudes toward homosexuality.”  The truth is that many countries struggle with these new UN requirements to teach tolerance of homosexuality in their school curriculum while sodomy and homosexuality continue to be outlawed in their countries.

But, laws against abortion and homosexuality have not stopped UNESCO from promoting their pro-abortion and pro-same sex policies in the past.  In 2012, Maria Casado, director of UNESCO’s presence at the University of Barcelona, Spain called for a national registry of doctors who refuse to perform abortions.  According to LifeSiteNews, Casedo expressed opposition to restrictions to abortion in Spanish law and called for a more stringent definition of conscientious objection for doctors—claiming that her goal is to “respect rights in a democratic society, women’s rights as well as doctor’s rights…. When conscientious objection is transformed into a collective stance for ideological reasons, it turns into civil disobedience,” naming the Catholic Church as responsible insofar as it promotes conscientious objection to abortion.

And, while one of the goals of UNESCO and the Committee on the Rights of the Child has been population control through abortion and contraception, there is no other entity at the United Nations that has worked as ruthlessly for population control as the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).  Exposed by Steven Mosher, president of the Population Research Institute, as being a direct participant in China’s coercive one-child policy, UNFPA is an international development agency that “promotes the right of every woman, man and child to enjoy a life of health and equal opportunity.”  Three core areas of UNFPA’s work focus on reproductive health, gender equality, and population and development strategies.  The main focus is on increasing access to contraception and abortion by working directly with governments throughout the world.

Population control supporters Bill and Melinda Gates have assisted the efforts of UNFPA through the Gates Foundation.  Recipients of the prestigious UNFPA Population Fund award in 2010, Bill and Melinda Gates have donated more than one billion dollars to family planning groups—including the UNFPA; International Planned Parenthood Federation; CARE International—an organization that works with the UN to lobby for legalized abortion in several African nations; Save the Children—a major promoter of the population control agenda; and the World Health Organization—an organization that forcibly sterilized thousands of women in the 1990s under the pretence of  providing tetanus vaccination services in Nicaragua, Mexico and the Philippines.

Sharing the same ideology as the UN, Bill and Melinda Gates view population control as the key to the future.  For Bill Gates, “there is no such thing as a healthy, high population growth country.  If you’re healthy you’re low-population growth…. As the world grows from 6 billion to 9 billion, all of that population growth is in urban slums.”

At an international women’s health conference called “Women Deliver” last May in Kuala Lumpur, Melinda Gates promised to expand access to family planning and promised to raise $4 billion to supply contraceptives, particularly Depo-Provera, to 120 million more women. Co-sponsored by the UNFPA, UNWomen, UNAIDS, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and others including the World Bank and the World Health Organization, the “Women Deliver” conference included a presentation by the late-term abortionist LeRoy Carhart who was there to instruct others on how best to expand abortion services.  Participants also heard presentations from Princeton University’s most famous abortion proponent and euthanasia advocate, Professor Peter Singer.

It is likely that the United Nations will continue its commitment to expanding access to abortion and contraception, and removing the taboos that surround homosexuality throughout the world.  The Catholic Church is one of the few remaining barriers to this expansion.  There will be continued attacks and the Church needs to prepare for them as the United Nations will continue to attempt to diminish the authority of the Church by resurrecting old clergy abuse cases and inflating statistics on past misdeeds by priests.

Pot Calls Kettle Black
Continuing a defensive stance has not been effective. The Catholic laity should demand that the United Nations look to its own failures to protect children.  Even Neil MacFarquhar, a reporter for the New York Times, had to admit in an article published in 2011 that the United Nations needs to “focus serious attention on addressing sexual crimes” by those involved in the peacekeeping missions globally: “But the question that diplomats, advocates and even some officials ask is why the efforts still lag in terms of investigating accusations and, making sure those who send troops and contractors abroad hold them accountable.”

In his Times article, MacFarquhar described a 2011 case in which “hundreds of Haitians protested in support of a teenage boy who said he was sexually assaulted by peacekeepers from Uruguay on a United Nations base, eliciting a furious rebuke from Haiti’s president and an apology from Uruguay.”

The Times article charges that human rights experts and some member states fault the United Nations for leaving too much of the job of enforcing its zero tolerance policy to others. Worse, MacFarquhar charges that “[i]ndividual cases and any disciplinary action are rarely made public.”  The Times also points out that the United Nations has been recalcitrant in responding as “senior officials defend the numbers as improving and argue that publicly shaming member states would make finding peacekeeping troops more difficult. Going into a blame and shame approach is counterproductive because this requires a mind-set change, said Susanna Malcorra, head of the logistics end of (UN) peacekeeping.”

Of course, as the most recent report issued by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, the UN has no problem in attempting to “shame” the Catholic Church by dredging up unsubstantiated allegations of priestly pedophilia.  In contrast, the sexual abuse by UN peacekeepers continues.  A report published last September in the United Nations own News Center described serious misconduct by its UN peacekeeping troops—including sexual abuse—in Mali.

More than a decade ago, the Christian Science Monitor suggested that “Wherever the UN has established operations in recent years, various violations of women seem to follow.” It seems that these violations also include sexual abuse involving young men and girls.  The Christian Science Monitor concludes that these violations have included a prostitution ring in Bosnia involving peacekeepers, UN staff members in West African withholding aid such as bags of flour from refugees in exchange for sexual favors, Jordanian peacekeepers in East Timor accused of rape, peacekeepers in Somalia accused of sexual abuses, and Moroccan and Uruguayan peacekeepers in Congo accused of luring youth into their camps with offers of food for sex.

Perhaps it is now time for the Church—including the laity—to stand up to the bullying by the various committees of the United Nations—including the Committee on the Rights of the Child.  It is time to expose the real agenda of the United Nations—most notably the UNFPA—to expand the lucrative contraceptive and abortion industry throughout the world, and remind others that the true protector of children remains the Catholic Church.


  • Anne Hendershott

    Anne Hendershott is Professor of Sociology and Director of the Veritas Center for Ethics in Public Life at Franciscan University of Steubenville, OH. She is the author of The Politics of Envy (Crisis Publications, 2020).

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