Latin American delegations to the United Nations are saying a U.S. State Department employee mislead them last week about the Vatican’s stance on a controversial declaration about sexual orientation. They say the State Department representative told them that the Vatican supported a “joint statement” calling for “sexual orientation and gender identity” to be new categories of non-discrimination in international law. Some of these delegations actually believed her and signed the statement.
Of course, the Vatican does not and did not support such a statement, in fact actively opposed the statement. Such subterfuge against the Holy See at the United Nations is not new.
During the 1994 Cairo Conference, Vice President Al Gore met with the Holy See delegation to get their assurance that the Vatican would “negotiate in good faith,” meaning they would sign on to the eventual document, and “reserve” on any points of disagreement. With assurances in hand, Gore then met with the press and said after meeting with the Holy See he was convinced they were “negotiating in bad faith.”
Why such ongoing kerfuffles and outright deceit surrounding a sovereign personality with hardly any land, hardly any citizens, and only an Observer Seat at the United Nations? One is tempted to say simply: moral suasion. The Church still has a lot of moral authority that countries Catholic, formerly Catholic, and non-Catholic still listen to. And all that would be true. An unbroken string of morally gigantic popes has also helped.
Cardinal Renato Martino
The Holy See is also seen as an honest negotiating partner because it has no geopolitical designs. Rather than seeking the advantage over other countries, the Holy See tends to seek even-handed justice. Moreover, the Holy See does not ask for development aid, military aid, or aid of any kind. Neither does the Vatican provide that kind of aid and, therefore, also withhold it for political deals. What this means is that the Holy See representative is no kind of threat.
Much, if not all, of the deceit and enmity aimed at the Holy See comes in the reproductive health and rights debate. It is where and when the ugly claws and bared teeth of the pelvic left, both governmental and non-governmental, come into play.
Many years ago, John Paul II created an opposing force to the Clinton Administration, the European Union, and all of their allies in the pro-abortion world. At Cairo, this coalition delivered, if not a complete walloping, at least 90 percent of one. The other side has never gotten over it. They likely thought they could get explicit language in favor of a right to abortion. JPII and his Muslim allies along with vestigial Catholic countries put enough diplomatic fannies in seats that they were able to block much of what the left wanted to do.
The “Unholy Alliance”, as it was called by the New York Times, would never have been possible without the leadership of the Holy See. The abortion advocates know this, too, which is why they have fought so hard and so long to have the Holy See kicked out of the United Nations. It is also why the various U.N. agencies have developed whole programs to counter religious objections to the reproductive rights agenda.
The necessity of Holy See leadership has never waned. Many countries are quite willing to follow the Holy See. They are even willing to follow from the front, that is, be the first government to speak in negotiations and even be the most vociferous – just as long as the Holy See will be the fifth to speak or the tenth, and that the Holy See will be counted on to speak and will never waver.
Archbishop Francis Chullikatt
The long-time Nuncio at the United Nations was a man named Renato Martino, now a Cardinal and retired in Rome. Martino was not much liked by political conservatives in America. He was outspoken in his opposition to the war in Iraq and said some questionable things about just war not existing anymore. But, Martino was a street fighter when it came to defending the unborn child and the family. He and his chief negotiator, a layman named John Klink, never wavered, not even for a second. They made real the desire of John Paul II to stop an international right to abortion.
There is a new Nuncio in New York, much in the mold of Cardinal Martino. His name is Archbishop Francis Chullikatt. He was at the Holy See Mission when Martino was there and in 2006 went off to be the Nuncio in Baghdad of all places. He was there during the worst of it. At one point, tanks guarded his residence.
Chullikatt is a gentle man with a spine of steel. He inherits a much-degraded debate. Reproductive health is widely accepted by the U.N. community. Even our friends don’t want to fight on that anymore. There is great fatigue among them. The sexual orientation debate is heating up to a boiling point and is being framed as simply a defense against violence aimed at homosexuals, though it is much more than that. At the same time, the moral suasion of the Church has been weakened because of the plague of sex scandals.
What we know is this. The delegations of the United Nations are willing to listen to the Holy See. Moreover, they are willing to follow if the Holy See leads. The exciting part of what is happening now is that this gentle yet steely man Chullikatt is going to lead. And you can count on the United States and the European Union telling even more lies about the Holy See.
Austin Ruse is the President of the New York and Washinton, D.C.-based Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute (C-FAM), a research institute that focuses exclusively on international social policy. The opinions expressed here are Mr. Ruse’s alone and do not necessarily reflect the policies or positions of C-FAM.
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