U.N. status questioned

Well, here they go again. Forces once more either are insisting that the Holy See "renounce" its status as a Permanent Observer at the United Nations or, that failing, that the United Nations eject the Holy See.

(The United Nations provides for certain sovereign entities to be seated as a Permanent Observer, allowing these entities the right to join in debates and activities, but not to vote in the General Assembly or be elected to serve on the Security Council. The number varies. Once Switzerland, as well as both North and South Korea, now regular member states, were Permanent Observers. Presently, the Holy See and Palestine are Permanent Observers.)

Demanding the departure, or removal, of the Holy See from the United Nations is nothing new. It came in earnest 12 years ago when Vatican representatives spoke against certain population-control proposals, and definitely against abortion, in several major U.N. sessions.

These statements, given officially by persons formally representing Pope John Paul II, resulted in an outcry from pro-abortion interests.

As is often the case in arguments of any kind, the tactic was not to answer the questions proposed by the Holy See's criticisms of abortion, but to insist that persons speaking in the name of the Holy See simply be put out of the meetings.

Demands to get rid of the Holy See did not succeed then, and it is very unlikely that they will be successful now. After all, 176 world governments, including all the major governments except China, maintain full diplomatic relations with the Holy See. These governments post ambassadors in Rome, separate from their embassies to Italy.

In turn, 176 world governments officially receive ambassadors, or nuncios, from the Holy See. (It actually is inappropriate to refer to "ambassadors to the Vatican," although this term commonly is used. Vatican City State neither dispatches, nor receives, ambassadors. These 176 ambassadors come from their governments to the highest authority in the Catholic Church -- namely, the pope. In receiving nuncios, these governments receive representatives not from Vatican City State but from the highest authority in the Catholic Church.)

All these activities function outside the United Nations. However, it hardly is probable that a government that keeps an embassy in Rome at the Holy See, in addition to another embassy to Italy, would vote to expel the Holy See from the United Nations.

At one time, governments had embassies at the Holy See because the pope actually governed part of Italy. This secular rule of the pope ended 137 years ago when Italy was unified. Since then, embassies have been established so that governments can communicate with the pope precisely in his role as a moral and religious leader.

Building on this regard for the head of the Catholic Church, the United Nations has invited Pope Benedict XVI to address its General Assembly on his view of world concerns, and he is expected to come to New York for this purpose early next year. The invitation hardly will be accompanied by the expulsion of his representatives from the United Nations.

Do not dismiss these demands, even if they will not be effective. Learn from them about the pro-abortion movement. After all its talk about "choice," and democracy, and pluralism, the pro-abortion lobby is as fanatical and dictatorial as it can be. It will not even consider arguments contrary to its stand. In fact it will not even admit that people have the right to voice these arguments aloud.

The Catholic Church's standing as a moral voice is a great threat to the pro-abortion lobby.

This lobby is very strong in the United States, and it also is strong internationally. It takes no prisoners. It tolerates no debate. This is what we who cherish life are up against. Never forget it.

Msgr. Owen F. Campion is associate publisher of OSV.