Priest Ought to Return U.N. Award

An Italian Catholic priest received a high U.N. honor yesterday. It is a ghastly honor from a ghastly organization – and he should have turned it down.

By all reports, Father Aldo Marchesini does admirable work among the very poor in Africa. A Priest of the Sacred Heart, Marchesini was ordained in 1969 and, after receiving his medical degree, left for Africa in 1972. He has spent all of these many years in Mozambique.

He witnessed Mozambique’s successful fight for independence in 1975 and then watched the brutal civil war that went on for a decade during which he was kidnapped many times. He was not killed because his skills as a surgeon were useful to all sides.

One of the areas he has specialized in (and the reason he got the award) is obstetric fistula, something almost completely unknown in the developed world. It’s a condition where a woman, after a difficult childbirth, is left incontinent, unable to control bodily functions that leave her little more than a smelly outcast.

According to an article posted at maternova, a web marketplace for maternal health products, Mozambique has “an estimated 100,000 fistula cases per year.” The only doctor working on the illness for many years has been Marchesini. The article says he has performed 15,000 operations to remedy the problem. He is not alone any longer; he has trained many others who are now tackling the disease.

Marchesini is called the “Dr. Schweitzer of Today,” and he clearly deserves accolades, though there is little doubt he would be totally indifferent to them. Someone with his talent could easily have cleaned up in the medical field in the big city. But while he is a doctor, first he is a priest.

The problem is that Marchesini is receiving the award from one of the most wicked organizations in the world, one that works tirelessly and aggressively to spread the gospel of child killing.

Last night in New York, Marchesini received the 2014 United Nations Population Award from the U.N. Population Fund. The organization is the very one that helped the Chinese government set up the brutal one-child policy, resulting in tens of millions of forced abortions. Former UNFPA chief executive Nafis Sadik, herself a winner of the Population Award, said the one-child policy is one of the best things that ever happened to China.

A few years ago, a new U.N. delegate from a Caribbean nation balked at her country sponsoring a U.N. resolution that included coded pro-abortion language. The UNFPA lobbyist immediately threatened her government with losing UNFPA money.

In 1996, UNFPA convened a round table discussion in Glen Cove, New York, which brought together the heads of the major U.N. agencies (one is tempted to say the heads of the five families), treaty-body members, and others in order to discuss how to advance a right to abortion in international law.

       Abortion advocate: United Nations Fund for Population Activities

UNFPA was frustrated because the Vatican and many other governments over the previous two years had blocked an explicit right to abortion at the Cairo Conference on Population and Development and at the Beijing Women’s Conference.

The plan they cooked up is still unfolding: to make “reproductive health and rights” a new category of rights in all the existing U.N. human rights treaties. While the treaty monitoring bodies do not have the authority to rewrite treaties and add new rights, from that moment on, under the direction of UNFPA, they started doing just that.

This maneuver was played out in recent days when the Committee on the Rights of the Child actually told the Catholic Church to change her teaching on abortion in order to comply with the treaty, even though the treaty doesn’t mention abortion or even reproductive health.

UNFPA did that and more.

Consider this. Since the Cairo Conference in 1994 UNFPA and its allies have spent billions of dollars in advancing a right to abortion. Their fundraising for that purpose has kept those billions from going to efforts that would genuinely help the poor in Africa, such as basic medical care. Basic medical care is the thing that could solve the maternal health problem in Africa, including fistula. Yet all that money went instead to promotion of abortion. 

It is easy to be churlish in this day and age. We are told we must boycott almost every company because almost all of them in some way support things inimical to our faith. And that is sadly true. But you cannot boycott everything and oftentimes it is hard to see the real connection between my purchase of something and the company’s annual $5000 grant to Planned Parenthood. It is hardly cooperation with evil. But there are some bright lines.

Some years ago colleagues of mine went to the Sudan at the invitation of the government – this being the government that was at the time bombing Christian Churches in the south. I have nothing against working with difficult regimes behind closed doors at U.N. conferences. But my friends went to Sudan and actually allowed themselves to be interviewed on television. I would say they crossed a line.

The Population Award is more than a medal. It comes with a cash prize. Should a faithful Catholic accept such an award and the money? I think the answer is clearly no.

I was not there last night, indeed I wrote this before the ceremony. But it’s clear in advance that Fr. Marchesini will stand up in front of the U.N. and the world and receive an award form an organization that actively works to undermine the Catholic Church and Her teaching, and that is the global font of U.N.-style family planning and abortion.

What’s more, forever after his name will be listed on UNFPA’s website as an award recipient, right alongside the International Planned Parenthood Federation. It will look for all the world as if a heroic Catholic priest endorses the agenda of this wicked group.

He ought to give it back.

Austin Ruse is the President of the New York and Washington, D.C.-based Center for Family & Human Rights (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.