By CF.CILIA A CATHOLIC GROUP in America has described the Vatican's decision last week to suspend its annual gifts to Unicef, the United Nations children's charity, as "nothing short of outrageous".
The Holy See announced its plans to withhold their yearly gift of $2,000 only symbolic in amount but significant as a moral endorsement after saying that Unicef had been involved in distributing contraceptives, ihivocating abortion-related legislation and preparing an official UN manual Aatimagating abortifacient "post-coital ecAttropeptives" for refugee women in emergAtwy situations. But the WashingtotNied Catholics for a Free Choice hastff*ted angrily. "For the Vatican to its symbolic donor role to intimiT 2Nricl force an independent charity tto follow Roman
Catholic Church policies on family planning services, including contraception and abortion, falls far short of a Christian approach to charity," said CFFC president, Frances Kissling. "It will be an acute embarrassment to Catholics worldwide."
Although the $2,000 is only a fraction of Unicef's $1 billion budget, CFFC fears that the withdraWal of the donation will serve as a signal to Catholics that it is not acceptable to give to the charity. However, while the Vatican has indeed requested "local pastors and Church associated institutions" to review their support, this is only on a "case by case basis", and it has not called for a total break with the organisation.
"Unicef deserves to be supported for helping children in need," said Ms Kissling, who believes that widespread Catholic participation in a boycott could have a significant impact. "But once again, the Vatican sacrifices everything to its obsession with restricting access to contraception and abortion."
Archbishop Renato Martino, Vatican nuncio to the UN, announced that Rome had decided it had to act when Unicef failed to provide any means of assuring that funds designated for specific activities in harmony with Catholic principles would be used only in that way. He announced that Vatican gifts next year would include $2,500 to the UN Development Fund, $2,000 to the UN Fund for the Disabled, and $1,000 for the UN Fund for the Victims of Thrture. The money that would have gone to Unicef will be divided between a programme of the World Health Organisation and and the UN Fund for the International Control of Drugs.
It is now thought that the donation will only be forthcoming in the future in the event of policy changes.