Interim Special

United Nations – The Vatican mission to the United Nations is withdrawing symbolic contributions to UNICEF, saying the U.N children’s charity supports birth control programs and abortion advocacy.

In a November 6 statement, the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for the Family said it has uncovered evidence of UNICEF promoting abortifacients and other contraceptive measures. The Vatican also cited UNICEF’s efforts to lobby governments for legislation supporting access to abortion.

“The new involvement of UNICEF in the areas of concern…has forced the Holy See to take this visible stop,” the Vatican statement said.

The Vatican mission donated $2,000 to UNICEF in 1996 out of a total budget of about $1 billion. The donations over the years represented the Church’s concern for United Nations efforts to alleviate suffering among developing world children. They were granted with the understanding that UNICEF policies were not inconsistent with church social and moral teachings.

The Vatican said UNICEF participates in the publication of a U.N manual calling for the distribution of post-coital contraceptives to refugee women and is involved in advocacy work on abortion legislation. This comes in spite of UNICEF assurances over the years that its practices were in accord with Catholic Church teaching on abortion and contraception.

The Vatican also charged UNICEF for failing to provide accountability for funding which it believes is being used for morally objectionable purposes.

Despite the move, UNICEF continued to deny the Vatican assertions, saying its policies are “consistent with that of the Holy See.”

However an advisor to the Vatican mission said UNICEF had moved beyond its main objections and into “peripheral” issues such as family planning.

The Vatican is an observer state at the United Nations. It has a non-voting seat in the General Assembly.

Locally, news of the Vatican is vindication for Toronto-based journalist Michael Coren. Coren censured recently by the Ontario Press Council for a November, 1995 newspaper column in which he criticized UNICEF for supporting abortion and contraception in the Third World and for misleading the public as to its objectives.