Vatican Tells UN it is ‘Deeply Concerned’ by Push to ‘Reinterpret’ Foundations of Human Rights

Archbishop Caccia specifically criticized the promotion of abortion and euthanasia as supposed “rights.”

Archbishop Gabriele Giordano Caccia, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations.
Archbishop Gabriele Giordano Caccia, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations. (photo: Kevin Jones / CNA/EWTN News)

VATICAN CITY — Vatican representative told the United Nations Tuesday that the Holy See was “deeply concerned” by moves “to reinterpret the very foundations of human rights.”

In a statement Oct. 6, Archbishop Gabriele Caccia, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, said that the reinterpretation of human rights benefited the powerful at the expense of the weak.

“The Holy See is deeply concerned over growing pressure to reinterpret the very foundations of human rights and to compromise their inner unity so as to move away from the protection of human dignity and to satisfy political and economic interests,” Archbishop Caccia said during the 75th session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

“This approach creates a hierarchy of human rights by relativizing human dignity and assigning more value and additional rights to the strong and healthy, while discarding the weak.”

The archbishop specifically criticized the promotion of abortion and euthanasia as supposed “rights.”

He said: “This failure to understand the nature and reality of human rights leads to grave inequalities and injustices, such as ignoring children in the womb and treating the lives of the elderly and persons with disabilities as insupportable burdens on society.”

Quoting from Samaritanus bonus, a letter released last month by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, he added: “Just as there is no right to abortion, there is also no right to euthanasia: ‘laws exist, not to cause death, but to protect life and to facilitate co-existence among human beings.’”

Archbishop Caccia added that the sacredness of human life also impelled the Vatican to oppose the death penalty.

His comments were the latest in a series of forthright interventions from the Vatican regarding the UN, which the Holy See has steadfastly supported as a way of promoting international cooperation.

Pope Francis called for reform of the intergovernmental body in his new encyclical, Fratelli tutti, released Oct. 4. Late last month he lamented the promotion of abortion by “some countries and international institutions” in a video message to the UN General Assembly. 

Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin offered a critical assessment of the UN’s 75-year history in his speech to the General Assembly.

“The United Nations is not perfect and it has not always lived up to its name and ideals, and it has harmed itself whenever particular interests have triumphed over the common good,” he said.

Archbishop Caccia’s statement addressed not only human rights, but also inequalities highlighted by the coronavirus pandemic, violence against women, children’s rights, the welfare of indigenous peoples, racism, and criminal justice. 

He said that the virus, which has killed more than a million people worldwide, had “dramatically impacted” the elderly and the disabled. The resulting “waves of unemployment and underemployment” had left the young fearing for the future, he observed.

He called for greater efforts to combat violence against women and girls, which had increased since the COVID-19 outbreak.

He added that the crisis was having “devastating effects” on children, millions of whom were unable to return to school and were at risk of exploitation.

He said that the pandemic had worsened conditions for indigenous peoples, who struggled to obtain medicines, food and water amid nationwide restrictions.

He also deplored a “worrying resurgence of aggressive nationalism, ethnic violence and the widespread phenomena of racial discrimination.” 

Finally, Archbishop Caccia said that the pandemic presented new challenges to fighting human trafficking, the drugs trade, and corruption. 

“As we face an unprecedented health crisis, there is reason to be concerned that the vast amount of funds released for COVID-19 pandemic recovery has already attracted criminal activities,” he said.

In conclusion, the archbishop argued that “human rights will never be fully recognized and universally acknowledged unless all states, especially those in conflict, engage in good faith and integrity with this international organization, working together to reach this goal.” 

“International consensus requires setting aside ideological conflicts and also conceptions of the human person in which the dignity, rights and freedoms of the other are not respected,” he said.