This is the address of Cardinal Alfonso López
Trujillo, President of the Pontifical Council for the Family, to the Special
session of the General Assembly of the UN in New York on children's rights
during the meeting of religious leaders on 8 May. the Cardinal insisted on the
basic right to life of children, the right of children to have a family and
the right of parents to raise their children. the Cardinal gave his address in
Spanish. Here is a translation.
There are certain truths in the world to which everyone
adheres and which continue to be validated through empirical data, such as
mathematical facts and scientific certainties. These truths continue to direct
learning and knowledge, unlocking even greater discoveries and secrets.
Fundamental rights enshrined in the founding document
At the same time, there are certain universal truths regarding
mankind and society that have been likewise recognized or established as
unquestionable, which are the foundation of human rights declarations and
international law and which have been enshrined in a document that for this
reason bears the title the "Universal Declaration of Human Rights".
What is striking is how in fact, this universality is afterwards not
recognized. Thus in Article 3 of the Declaration, the defense of the right to
life is affirmed, but then in various ways is rejected, especially regarding
the crime of abortion.
In this dialogue involving religious leaders, it seems
appropriate then to ask why those social truths, truths that are considered as
real and concrete as any mathematical proof or scientific fact, appear to be
so often ignored, questioned or challenged, especially within the work of the
For example, the Charter of the United Nations states that,
"We the peoples of the United Nations determined ... to reaffirm faith
in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in
the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small...".
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, in its first Article, proclaims, "All
human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights...". Yet
too many delegations refuse to speak of this human dignity with which we have
all been endowed and in which we all share. This truth, this fact is not only
the very cornerstone of the human rights outlined by the United Nations, but
the very cornerstone of humanity itself. It is the recognition of our human
dignity that helps bind us together and calls us to care and concern for each
other. Why then is it ignored?
Among rights of the child, the right to life is the basis
of other rights
The Declaration on the Rights of the Child recognizes that,
"... the child by reason of his physical and mental immaturity, needs
special safeguards and care, including appropriate legal protection, before as
well as after birth" (Preamble) and "... every child
has the inherent right to life", (Article 6). Yet, many delegations
and governments refuse to recognize that fact; that right to life and the
truth that life does indeed begin at the moment of conception. Delegations and
governments refuse to affirm that every child has a right to protection and
special care by the fact of the dignity with which he or she has been endowed
by God, and that such protection is owed to the child before birth as well as
after the child is born.
It is bewildering to think that many of those same delegations
that refuse to recognize the human dignity of the unborn child claim to speak
for the dignity of the oppressed, or those who suffer from discrimination.
Such a selective, superficial or distorted recognition and understanding of
human dignity is truly a denial of one of those social truths that should
never be questioned or challenged.
The family should be protected by society and the State
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights also declares that, "The
family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to
protection by society and the State." (Article 16) That same
sentiment is found in the Preamble to the Declaration on the Rights of
the Child, and has been repeated again and again in various United Nations
Plans and Programs of Action. Still, it seems that in almost every debate in
which the role of the family is discussed, this basic and recognized truth is
challenged, and too many delegations attempt to change the understanding of
the make-up and role of the family in society and in the life of the child.
Children have the right to live in a family, to be protected
and provided for by loving and caring parents or guardians. Everyone
understands the importance of the family and the role that parents play in the
lives of children.
At the same time there is a denial of parents' rights, there
is a denial of their religious or social background as well as their heritage.
And in those sad times when the structure of the family and the role of
parents have broken down, those same people who profess the best interests of
the child too often abandon their responsibilities to provide a loving, secure
and nurturing environment for children and, as a principle, these best
interests of the child are not observed. Another basic truth is pushed aside
in the name of progressive thinking; tradition is broken down and society
begins to crumble.
Everyone has the right to access to education, yet we see a
continued gap between rich and poor, and between the percentages of boys and
girls who are allowed to attend school, and complete a course of education.
Basic rights: access to education, highest standard of
health, adequate shelter
Everyone has the right to the highest attainable standard of
health. Can the world say that its people have enjoyed that right? Too many
people, far too many children die each day because they do not have access to
the most basic of medicines or health care. Too many people suffer because
they do not have clean water to drink or because they live in environments
that are unsafe.
Everyone has the right to adequate shelter, yet too many
children are homeless and too many people live in overcrowded homes in
overcrowded cities. This hard-won right is another that is very often denied.
These are not purely religious issues but rather social
issues. Nevertheless, it is the obligation of religion, which deals with the
spiritual relationship that we have with God and with one another, to point
out when and where the political and the secular arenas have strayed from
their true path.
The purpose for the establishment of the United Nations
Organization was clearly defined in its Charter. Over the course of fifty-six
years, the United Nations has struggled with making that stated purpose a
reality in the world. The principles set forth in the charter were more than
simply ideals. They continue to guide the concrete actions of the
international community towards making the world a better place for the
children of today and tomorrow.
RESERVATIONS AND STATEMENTS OF
INTERPRETATION OF THE HOLY SEE
The delegation of the Holy See
issued the following statement on Friday, 10 May, at the UN Session on
children's Rights and asked it to be included in the Report of the Special
Session as well as the verbatim record of this meeting. In these meetings
there is always an effort to use the term "reproductive healthy
services" to cover abortion and to give the term "family" an
extension that makes any small group of persons a family. The Delegation
wanted to emphasize that is "reservations and statements of
interpretation remain in effect. This includes issues regarding fundamental
human rights and dignity, protection, the provision of basic social services,
education, health, sexuality, the family and the rights, duties and
responsibilities of parents and especially the right to life from the moment
of conception. The Holy See is convinced that the best interest of the child
is best served in the context of the family". Here is the Declaration of
the Holy See's Delegation at the UN during the 8-10 May session on children's
The Holy See expresses its
appreciation to the General Assembly and the Preparatory committee for the
work during the past two years that has led to the successful conclusion of
this Twenty-seventh Special Session of the General Assembly, dedicated to
children. This Delegation also expresses thanks to their Excellencies:
Ambassador Durrant, Ambassador Chowdhury and Ambassador Schumacher for their
tireless efforts in leading and directing the discussions and the staff of
UNICEF, acting as substantive Secretariat throughout the preparatory process.
Consensus decision on document
The Delegation welcomes the
consensus decision of the assembly in the adoption of the document "A
World Fit for Children", and, in conformity with its nature and its
particular mission, while welcoming its adoption, the Holy See wishes to
express its understanding of the document.
Nothing that the Holy See has
done in this process should be understood or interpreted as an endorsement of
concepts it cannot accept for moral reasons.
Reservations and statements of
This should in no way be
interpreted as constituting a change in its well-known position concerning
those subjects upon which the Holy See has made reservations in past UN
conferences and summits. These reservations and statements of interpretation
remain in effect. this includes issues regarding fundamental human rights and
dignity, protection, the provision of basic social services, education,
health, sexuality, the family and the rights, duties and responsibilities of
parents and especially the right to life from the moment of conception.
Family is to be understood in
terms of marriage
The Holy See is convinced that
the best interest of the child is best served in the context of the family.
The Holy see interprets references to "family" or
"families" in terms of the duty to strengthen the family, the basic
unit of society, and in terms of marriage as an equal partnership between man
and woman, that is, husband and wife.
The Holy See requests that this
statement be included in the Report of the Special Session as well as the
verbatim record of this meeting.
New York, 10 May 2002.