New York, NY, March 12, 2019 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) --

New York, NY….March 12, 2019: On March 14th, 2019, during the 63rd session of the Commission on the Status of Women, the United Nations’ intergovernmental conglomerate official commission that focuses on for the advocacy and the human rights of and empowerment of women, there will be two events sponsored by the International Fellowship for Reconciliation and others  entitled “Catholics for Human Rights: Challenging the Holy See at the United Nations.”  


The events will highlight the history and current role of the Holy See at the UN. Theologians, lawyers and advocates will examine the effect that the Holy See has on rights-related policy, interrogating the present practices and failures of the HS to adequately address human rights of women and of young people, especially in light of current global abuse scandals situation, presenting a case for the removal of the Holy See from the CSW.


Said Sheila Peiffer, President of the National Board of the Women’s Ordination Conference: “On March 14, a coalition of Catholics for Human Rights and their allies will be calling for the Holy See to be removed from participation in the Commission on the Status of Women at the United Nations. 


The Holy See is not a member state but uses their Permanent Observer status to wield undue influence in many spheres. Many times they take part in UN activities and mechanisms like a state, while other times they want to exert moral authority as a religious denomination. Unfortunately, their interference in governmental matters often dilutes their authority in places where they could be a force for good. As the world watches the Catholic Church itself grapple with a systemic child abuse scandal, it is more than ironic that the Holy See has a place in the Commission on the Status of Women, established to protect and enhance the life of children and women.


The most fundamental principle of Catholic Social Teaching is the absolute dignity of the human person, which in turn, means respecting each person’s conscience.

The Holy See at the CSW has consistently violated this principle of respecting women’s and LGBTQ peoples’ rights to conscientious decisions about their own bodies and lives. The Holy See’s fixation on the word “gender” has stymied many important agreements and aid packages.  Their homophobic attitude toward LGBTQ people and lack of support for women’s mental and physical health foments violence and obstructs progress towards attaining the Beijing Platform for Action, adopted at the UN's Fourth World Conference on Women as well as UN Sustainable Development Goals. 


The Holy See does not merit inclusion in the Commission on the Status of Women.”



Each year, the session brings together those representing UN Member States and civil society non-governmental organizations to further the advancement of gender equality and gender justice, working towards common goals for the betterment of women’s lives around the world and the fulfillment of the universally approved UN sustainable development goals.


The second panel will be held at The Community Church of New York and will turn a critical eye towards the Catholic Church in an effort to illuminate abuses and consider practices and policies that work towards harm reduction and healing. Speakers will demand that the Holy See step down from the CSW. In addition to a report and written complaint that will be made available to attendees, they will publicly discuss the central role the Holy See has played in obstructing any progress by the CSW in many areas of human rights, including in sexual and reproductive rights, and how the Holy See as a religious body exceeds their powers at the CSW and at the UN., In part, this is manifested by not as well as not complying with treaties related to the treatment of women and children, as well as  to condemning and denying rights of those the committee is dedicated to protecting, from women and children to LGBTQ people. 


These events are especially timely given that they are occurring shortly after a highly criticized international gathering of Bishops in Rome, where Pope Francis hosted a four-day summit on clergy sexual abuse and the myriad abuses of men, women and children by Catholic clergy.  These events speak to gender-related discrimination within the Holy See’s very structure and its failures to adequately promote rights of women and young people within and outside the UN system.



Catholics for Human Rights: Challenging the Holy See at the United Nations 


Location: Church Center for the United Nations, 777 UN Plaza, Second Floor


Time: 10:30 AM to Noon




Mary Hunt: feminist theologian, an active Catholic, a lecturer, writer, and co-director of the Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics, and Ritual (WATER).


Virginia Saldanha: Activist, Theologian and Writer. Former Executive Secretary of the Women’s Desk, Archdiocese of Bombay; of the CBCI Commission for Women and the FABC Office of Laity, Family and Women. Presently Secretary of the Indian Women Theologians Forum & Ecclesia of Women in Asia.


Mary Anne Case: Arnold I. Shure Professor of Law, University of Chicago Law School, her scholarship to date has concentrated on the regulation of sex, gender, sexuality, religion, and the family; and on the early history of feminism.


Amanda Ussak: International Program Director at Catholics for Choice, Ussak implements and manages Catholics For Choice international activities including initiatives with global advocates, policymakers and reproductive health providers and other influencers to advance sexual and reproductive health and rights worldwide.


Kate McElwee, Executive Director of the Women’s Ordination Conference, the oldest and largest national organization that works to ordain women as priests, deacons and bishops into an inclusive and accountable Catholic church. Kate McElwee currently serves as the Executive Director of the Women's Ordination Conference (WOC), where she has worked since 2011. Founded in 1975, WOC is the the oldest and largest organization working to ordain women as deacons, priests, and bishops into an inclusive and accountable Roman Catholic Church. Kate attended Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, Massachusetts to study Religion and later attended SOAS - University of London, earning an M.A. in International Human Rights Law. Kate also serves on the Leadership Circle of Women's Ordination Worldwide and the Parish Council of Caravita Catholic Community in Rome, where she has lived since 2014.



Survivor Voices for Justice: Holding the Holy See Accountable at the United Nations 


Location: The Community Church of New York, 40 East 35thSt


Time: 2pm-5pm


Moderators: Kate McElwee, Executive of the Women’s Ordination Conference and Amanda Ussak, International Program Director at Catholics for Choice (bios above)





Barbara Dorris: has spent the past sixteen years working with leaders around the world as SNAP’s Outreach Director before assuming the role of Executive Director in 2017. She has managed international and national conferences, worked with media, helped to prepare a case to present to the ICC and the UN committee on the Rights of the Child. She has talked with thousands of survivors, trained  volunteer leaders and help to start dozens of support groups. In her role as executive director, she guided the organization into a new era, helping to build strategic partnerships, expanding SNAP’s role in exposing institutional corruption in the cover-up of child sexual abuse in institutions.  


Carla Rivera: Venezuelan lawyer who has been working since 1998 in the field of reproductive health and rights. She is currently the Executive Director of Grupo Parlamentario Interamericano sobre Población y Desarrollo-GPI, (Inter-American Parliamentary Group on Population and Development), which is the Secretariat of a parliamentary network that seeks to promote and advance sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) in the in the Americas.  


Sara Oviedo: former Vice-president of the Committee of the Right of the Child of the United Nations (until Feb 28th, 2017) Sociologist specializing in research on childhood and the management of programs and projects on childhood and adolescence.


Pam Spees: a senior staff attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights with a background in international criminal and human rights law. She has spent almost a decade working with survivors for accountability for rape and sexual violence by catholic clergy in international courts and human rights bodies. 









Cathy Renna
Catholics For Human Rights