The Catholic Church and International Law
Posted: 26 Oct 2017
Date Written: October 2017
Since the 1960s, the Catholic Church has been immensely influential in shaping international law. It provides a compelling example of how nonstate actors, relying on principled positions rather than resources, can alter the course of global policy making. The Church's authority rests on three distinct features: (a) independence from the nation-state system; (b) a centralized transnational bureaucracy; and (c) its enduring ideology. In this review, we elaborate on the Church's role in promoting peace, serving the poor, and blocking the institutionalization of access to contraception and abortion. Church ideology finds strong secular counterparts in the cases of promoting peace and support for the poor. It is on shakier ground when it ventures into gender issues, which it has done with zeal in recent years. Its primary allies on gender issues have been other religious organizations and Islamic states, reinforcing the religious rather than human rights basis for Church positions. The Church's role as the moral authority in the secular United Nations system is therefore less clear when it speaks about gender and sexuality.
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