By maintaining the correct focus, the international community can commit itself to “the pursuit of a more integral development which corresponds to the dignity of every human being,” said Cardinal Odilo Pedro Scherer.
Cardinal Scherer represented the Holy See at the recent Rio + 20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development.
Timothy Herrmann of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute, who attended the conference, explained that the Holy See was joined by a variety of nations, including Chile, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Egypt, Honduras, Nicaragua, Russia and Syria in rejecting references to abortion in the document.
He reported on June 20 that groups such as the International Planned Parenthood Federation, Catholics for Choice and the United Nations Population Fund had been working along with Iceland and Norway to insert language of “population control” and “reproductive rights” into the conference’s final outcome document.
Such language is often used to promote an international “right” to abortion and contraception.
However this effort was resisted by numerous countries, Herrmann said.
The delegation from Nicaragua noted that the language of “reproductive rights” directly conflicted with the laws of many nations and is simply “a code at the U.N. for abortion.”
Chile’s delegation argued that the term “reproductive rights” is “incompatible” with the “right to life” and is not relevant to a document on sustainable development.
Russia observed that the population control language was used as an unacceptable means of reaching sustainable development.
In his address, Cardinal Scherer emphasized the importance of keeping work toward such development centered on the human person.
When dealing with the threats “posed by the persisting injustice of hunger, poverty and underdevelopment,” the international community must remain focused on “the dignity and worth of each and every person,” he said.
He observed that people are “charged with stewardship over nature,” and “this stewardship necessarily possesses an ethical dimension.”
“The right to water, the right to food, the right to health and the right to education are intrinsically linked to the right to life and to the right to development,” the cardinal said.
He warned of the “risk of obscuring this correct relationship,” particularly with regard to the right to health.
“Imposing death upon the most vulnerable human lives – namely, those in the safest sanctuary of their mothers’ wombs – cannot conceivably be brought under the nomenclature of health-care,” he insisted, cautioning that such a view “profoundly menaces the dignity of the human person.”
Cardinal Scherer called for “a renewed and deepened reflection on the meaning of the economy and its purposes,” as well as an ecological view that evaluates current challenges through “an integrally human model.”
Countries worldwide joined together to prevent language supporting abortion and population control from being included in an international document produced at a recent U.N. gathering.