Will anti-Catholic group finally die
after humiliating defeat in Congress?

By Donald DeMarco
The Interim

It is a monumental challenge to put the right spin on losing by a score of 416-1 to create the impression that your opponent’s victory was something less than deserving or decisive. Undaunted by monumental challenges, a group that calls itself Catholics for a Free Choice reacted to the U.S. House of Representatives voting 416-1 July 11 to preserve the Vatican’s observer status with the United Nations by calling it “nonbinding jingoistic apple pie.”

Frances Kissling, executive director of CFFC that led the effort to dissolve the Vatican’s association with the UN, has some rather curious notions about choice. She has supreme confidence that 416 Catholic woman can conscientiously choose abortion, but has none whatsoever that the same number of House of Representative voters, mostly men, can make a conscientious choice on whether the Holy See should maintain its observer status with the United Nations. The “jingoistic apple pie” reference, which is neither convincing nor coherent, is an allegation that all House members (save one) have been stricken by an extreme form of sentimental patriotism that prevents them from seeing things objectively and humanistically.

But the word “jingoism” refers not only to a chauvinistic variety of patriotism, but also to an aggressive foreign policy that invites war with foreign powers. The House vote can hardly be seen as hostile, given its near unanimous acceptance of the Vatican’s UN role, to a foreign nation. Nor can it be viewed as politically partisan, though Kissling says the vote “is primarily an effort by Republican anti-choice members.”

What does CFFC think about China’s policy of not allowing any of its female citizens the choice of bearing more than one child? Marissa Navarro, a CFFC representative at Beijing, told journalist Melinda Tankard Reist, concerning the Chinese government’s position on forced abortions: “Well, I’m not willing to make any kind of observation about any particular government.” CFFC does not object to physical coercion if it is the Chinese government that is forcing women to undergo abortions, but it is resolutely opposed to peaceful means of persuasion if it is the Holy See that is defending unborn human beings. Somehow, according to CFFC’s tortured logic, the former is a friend of choice, whereas the latter is a foe. And Kissling has the chutzpa to say it’s the 416 House members who were politicized!

Prior to the House vote on July 11, the UN received letters from over 4,000 groups from more than 70 countries throughout the world that supported the Vatican. (Canada’s own Campaign Life Coalition was responsible for collecting more than 200 of these letters, by the way.) The House resolution noted that the diplomatic history of the Holy See began over 1,600 years ago, that the Holy See has formal diplomatic relations with 169 nations, including the United States, and maintains 179 permanent diplomatic missions abroad. It commended the Holy See “for its strong commitment to fundamental human rights, including the protection of innocent human life both before and after birth, during its 36 years as a Permanent Observer at the United Nations.” It also stated the belief “that any degradation of the status accorded to the Holy See at the United Nations would seriously damage the credibility of the United Nations by demonstrating that its rules of participation are manipulable for ideological reasons rather than being rooted in neutral principles and objective facts of sovereignty.”

The overwhelming support the House gave for the Vatican’s role in the protection of innocent human life before birth and its commitment to objectivity rather than ideological manipulation, is a glorious historical moment for the Holy See, the House of Representatives, America, and the unborn throughout the globe. And it is a day of exposure and disgrace for CFFC.

“If anything,” stated Rep. Christopher Smith of New Jersey, “the Holy See deserves a more prominent role in the United Nations.” Recognizing the moral significance of the resolution, he added: “Today Congress has sent a clear message that this shameful deception of anti-Catholic bigotry will not be tolerated.” House majority leader Dick Armey of Texas said: “This attack against the Vatican strikes at our bedrock democratic values that teach us tolerance for legitimate differences of opinion.”

For CFFC, an anti-Catholic group funded by anti-Christian agencies such as Playboy and Ms., the vote was humiliating. Moreover, words and phrases it customarily used to discredit others were now being thrown back in its own face. Now it was CFFC that was accused of being “anti-choice,” “intolerant,” of promoting “sexual colonialism,” and acting as “pro-abortion fundamentalists.”

Whatever spin CFFC continues to use in order to discredit the 416-1 vote against it can only backfire. It is a group that denounces the very values it claims to endorse: choice, freedom, tolerance, broadmindedness, democratic values. It also assaults the religion that it professes to uphold. Catholic World Report reported in January 1994 that when Frances Kissling joined CFFC she no longer considered herself a Catholic. Society has little tolerance for public hypocrisy. CFFC’s humiliation, it is fervently hoped, will precipitate its long overdue demise.

Dr. DeMarco is a professor of philosophy at
St. Jerome’s University in Waterloo, Ont