National Catholic Register


Holy See Leads Fight for Life and Family

BY Jim Cosgrove

August 23-29, 1998 Issue | Posted 8/23/98 at 1:00 PM


LISBON—Pro-family nations, led by the Holy See and assisted by international pro-family lobbyists, scored a significant victory on the final day of the World Conference of Ministers Responsible for Youth in Lisbon. Quite unexpectedly, a paragraph recognizing the family as “the basic unit of society” and affirming the call of young people to marriage was incorporated into the preamble of the official “Lisbon Declaration.”

The Holy See bid to include the reference to family and marriage was thought to have little chance of success when negotiations began on Sunday, according to main negotiation committee chairman Ethel Blondin-Andrew, Canada's Secretary of State for Youth. The prospects darkened even further on Monday when the more liberal western states helped to reject an earlier Holy See bid to recognize the fundamental rights of parents.

But when debate on family and marriage commenced on Tuesday, resistance to the language was overcome by an artful bit of diplomacy by tiny Andorra. In place of the language suggested by the Holy See, Andorra suggested using language approved long ago at the 1995 Copenhagen Social Summit. Muslim and Catholic countries were joined in support by the United States and all resistance to the family-affirming Copenhagen language fell away.

National delegates credited pro-family lobbyists in the eventual successful outcome. Among them, Holy See delegate John Klink noted the presence of many pro-life youth representatives attending their first U.N. gathering. He credited them specifically with ensuring a strong pro-family content in the final report on a “working group” discussion held during the conference.

On the other hand, pro-family forces acknowledge that they suffered a major setback with the rejection of a parentalresponsibility reference in the Lisbon Declaration. The Declaration calls for youth access to “reproductive health care” and “family planning methods of their choice.” The Holy See had campaigned strenuously for a reference to parental rights be inserted. Since both “reproductive health” and “family planning” services — by official U.N. definition — include access to abortion and artificial contraception, the Lisbon Declaration now calls for parent-free access to those anti-life services. Alarmingly, World Health Organization (WHO) spokesman Paul Bloem stated at an August 10 press conference that U.N. agencies interpret the Lisbon Declaration's health recommendations as being applicable to children as young as 10.

In spite of these hazards, the delegates rejected the Holy See bid to temper the language regarding “reproductive health” and “family planning” with an acknowledgment of parental authority. In so doing, Klink pointed out, the conference had ignored key human-rights documents, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child, that specifically affirm parental responsibilities. (Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute)