UNITED NATIONS HEADQUARTERS–One of the more influential leaders of the Catholic Church came to the UN Thursday to deliver a strong message about the importance of the family.
At a side-event organized by the Holy See, Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, president of the Pontifical Council for the Family, told delegates that “the family not only ‘matters,’ it is rather at the very heart of human development, indispensable and irreplaceable, and at the same time beautiful and welcoming.”
Paglia spoke during the UN celebration of the International Day of Families. Even that title displays some of the discord over family matters at the UN. Pluralizing “family” can be a political statement by those in the UN and elsewhere who are plumping for a new definition of the family that would include something different from marriage between a man and woman.
Aware of this, Paglia repeatedly told delegates that the family is made of “male/female” and “parent/child.” He used those words several times in his twenty-minute speech. He said, “The family is a unique social phenomenon in that it combines in a lasting fashion two kinds of relations characterized by radical differences, one being male and female, and the other being parent and child.”
He said the family had not always been perfect but that over time had “purified itself little by little.” He was speaking about the time in antiquity when the father literally owned his wife and children and could dispose of them as he saw fit.
Paglia quoted the recent talk to UN chiefs in Rome by Pope Francis, “…human life is sacred and inviolable from conception to its natural ending…” He quoted the Pope’s criticism of the “economy of exclusion,” a “throw-away culture,” and a “culture of death,” all references to abortion, also one of the hot issues at the UN.
Paglia is in the country also to tour the site of next year’s Vatican World Meeting of Families that will take place in Philadelphia. The biennial meeting has drawn millions in previous years but, because of the site chosen, is expected to bring no more than 15,000 in the summer of 2015. It is rumored this will be Pope Francis’s first trip as Pope to the United States, indeed Bergoglio’s first trip to the United States ever. It is not confirmed Francis will come to the meeting, but Archbishop Charles Chaput told the media this week he believes Francis will come. Paglia was there to visit the Liberty Bell, among other things.
Archbishop Francis Chullikatt, Papal Ambassador to the United Nations, also spoke to UN delegates in New York telling them that strong families obviate the need for bigger government. He also spoke out against abortion advocates: “The children do not belong to the State or to any special interest group [whose agendas] are actually inimical to the very existence of children. As children are our future, could we ever be satisfied with leaving that future to people who don’t even want to permit the children to draw their first breath?”
American Donna Bethell, chairman of the board of Christendom College in Virginia, told delegates, “…totalitarian regimes of the left always tried to co-opt the role of parents in influencing the education and formation of their children. They wanted families to produce more little communists and fascists.” Bethell called for “counterattack, to rally all available forces to reestablish the indispensable unit of the family founded on marriage as the societal norm.”
The Holy See side event comes as the UN is months into negotiations for what is called the post-2015 development agenda. The so-called Millennium Development Goals are sunsetting next year and are being replaced with what they are calling the Sustainable Development Goals. Abortion advocates are pushing hard for the new goals to include something about abortion, which was missing from the previous goals. The Holy See and its allies are cautiously optimistic that this can be stopped, as it was last time around.