By Frances Kissling
Tuesday, May 9, 2000
Republican Task Force says the G.O.P. best represents the beliefs of Catholics. Catholics for a Free Choice argue this is true only if you ignore 95 percent of the church's positions on public policy, most notably its stance on capital punishment.
Catholics for a Free Choice has organized a campaign during the past year to seek a review of the unique status of the Holy See, the seat of the Roman Catholic church, as a Non-member State Permanent Observer at the United Nations. The "See Change" Campaign began with 70 initial endorsers and now that list has grown to over 450 organizations worldwide.In addition, press and nongovernmental organizations from the United Statesto Spain and Bangladesh have covered the campaign and individuals from all over the globe have signed postcards to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan. Aside from the outpouring of support from people and groups from every continent and the media attention it continues to generate, this campaign really seems to have the Vatican worried.First there were the statements by leading Vatican officials dismissing our efforts. The Holy See's official spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls called the campaign "a clumsy attempt to silence the Catholic church." And ArchbishopRenato Martino, the Vatican's representative at the United Nations, asked defensively: "What privileges are they referring to?" In the U.S. Congress, several Republican members, Senators Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania and Bob Smith of New Hampshire and Representative Chris Smith of New Jersey, introduced resolutions critical of See Change and lauding the role of theRoman Catholic church at the United Nations. The resolutions come as no surprise since Republican members of Congress are desperate to countercharges of anti-Catholicism. First, Republican candidates for president spoke at Bob Jones University, which holds extreme anti-Catholic views, going so far as to call the Roman Catholic church a "cult." Then Republicans in Congress rejected a Catholic priest who was nominated to be the House chaplain.How much the reaction of the political right-wing here in the United States to See Change is merely an electoral smokescreen can best be illustrated by the actions of the Republican National Committee. For several days, itsmembers tried to make the charge that See Change is all about abortion even though most of the campaign members have no position on abortion. We logged onto their website every morning to see what brilliant new angle the backroom boys at the RNC put forward. Then we noticed that the source within the RNC for much of this See Change condemnation was a group called the Catholic Task Force.That organization's mission statement proclaims God on its side with the triumphant words: "We have studied the political record of all majorpolitical parties and we believe that the Republican Party is closest to theteachings of the Catholic church."Members of the Catholic Task Force include well-known conservatives and antiabortion leaders such as former Vatican Ambassador Thomas PatrickMelady, Mary Cunningham Agee of the Nurturing Network and Women Affirming Life and three Republican members of congress, Bill Archer of Texas, Henry Hyde of Illinois, and Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania. Perhaps it is not surprising that these Republicans would see the positions of the Republican Party as close to the