US Jesuits urge passage of UN disabilities treaty

America's Jesuits are latching on to Pope Francis's compassion for people with disabilities to call for the Senate to pass a United Nations treaty that failed by just five votes in December 2012.

In this week's issue of America magazine, they argue that the pope's well-publicized embrace of a boy with cerebral palsy and a severely disfigured man “demand a response” from Catholics everywhere. Ratifying the treaty, they write, would help “ensure a basic level of human rights for disabled persons throughout the world.”

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“By declining to ratify the U.N. convention, Congress has declined to support the extension of disability rights to individuals worldwide,” they write. “Legislators should rectify that wrong by bringing up the matter again for a vote.”

Secretary of State John Kerry has made ratification a priority, as has his successor as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.). They have so far failed to nail down the two-thirds majority needed to get a treaty through Congress amid push-back from conservative Christian groups that argue the treaty could put barriers on Americans' ability to home-school their children, something proponents deny.

The Vatican's U.N. diplomats have been involved in treaty negotiations but the Holy See has not ratified it, amid concerns that it paves the way for people with disabilities to be guaranteed access to abortion. 

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