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Mary Ann Glendon: 

The Holy Father’s Inspired Choice

Inside the Vatican, January 2001

By John Mallon

There are times in history and in our lives that it seem that God in His Providence sends exactly the right person for a given role or task. Few faithful Catholics could argue that the papacy of Pope John Paul II is not an example of this sign of God's presence and active concern for the world. Indeed Karol Wojtyla seems tailor made for his times and office.

So it was when the Holy Father sought the right person to lead the Holy See Delegation to the United Nations Conference on the Status of Women in Beijing in 1995. In Professor Mary Ann Glendon he found an inspired choice. Mrs. Glendon is a woman of radiant intelligence and radiant femininity, charm and grace, and her qualifications were perfectly impeccable for the task. An expert in international family law on the faculty of Harvard Law School, and such a deep, intelligent and mature love for her Catholic faith that one must wonder if some of the ideological feminists at the Beijing conference knew what to make of her, or had ever seen a woman like her before. 

With smooth expertise she saw through the designs of those who would narrow concerns of women and families and subvert the rights of women to ideology. In 1997 at the Second World Meeting of the Holy Father with Families in Rio de Janerio, Brazil she gave an address entitled "The Family and Society: International Organizations and the Defense of the Family" in which she pointed out the irony of the word "and" in her title: 

The more one reflects on the topic, "international organizations and the defense of the family," the more puzzles seem to be packed into the one little word "and." On one side of the conjunction we have families, the oldest groups of human society. On the other, we have huge modern organizations that are remote from everyday life. It is not at all clear what either should have to do with the other. 

In fact, it is only within the past thirty years or so that there has been much of a connection between international organizations and family life. Fifty years ago, the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights proclaimed as a fundamental human right that the family is entitled to protection from society and the state. But there is no evidence in the historical background of the Declaration that the drafters expected the U.N. itself to play much of a role in protecting the family—except insofar as families would benefit from the humanitarian activities of agencies like the World Health Organization and the U.N. Children's Fund. 

Gradually, however, the U.N. grew in size and ambition. Its 25 specialized agencies are now surrounded by large international lobbying associations, many concerned in various ways with the family. But it is still far from obvious how institutions at that level can best assist families. In fact, the current activities of many international organizations often cause one to wonder whether the family needs to be defended by them or protected against them! ...

She continued:

Specifically, I wish to call attention to a surprising trend that is gathering momentum as the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights approaches. This development is nothing less than a many-sided attack on the family protection principles enshrined in the Declaration. Though these attacks fly the flags of various liberation movements, they also represent bids for unprecedented forms of social control. If they are not resisted, we will soon see the family not only ousted from its position as the subject of human rights protection, but treated as an obstacle to human rights! ...

Some of the newer U.N. agencies, such as the Population Fund and the Committee on the Status of Women, developed close working relationships with a variety of special interest lobbies, some of which, unfortunately, wanted to protect the family as much as wolves want to protect little lambs. Gradually, some U.N. bodies became more intent on managing the family than in providing humanitarian assistance to it. Thus, efforts to oust the family as a subject of human rights protection were launched quietly inside the U.N., many years before the public became aware of what was happening.

Glendon then notes how the U.N grew into an elaborate bureaucracy and how special interests began taking over infusing ideology into international documents. She note a subtle shift in the thrust from aiding and protection families to a focus on "individual rights" creating a conflict between the two. She quotes a 1995 document and shows the shift in emphasis from the original Declaration of Human Rights of 1948. She says, 

"To understand why and how the family protection principle came under attack in the U.N., let us fast-forward to 1995 when the assault on the family came boldly out into the open. Early that year, the U. N. Secretariat for the International Year of the Family issued a booklet stating that:

The basic principle of social organization is the human rights of individuals, which have been set forth in international instruments of human rights.

That idea sounds innocent enough. But still, one might wonder how it fits with the 1948 Declaration which provides that the family is the basic unit of society. The U.N. Secretariat anticipated this question. It is true, they admitted, that "several human rights documents" refer to the family as the basic social unit, and that they guarantee protection and assistance to the family, but "The power of the family is and should be limited by the basic human rights of its individual members. The protection and assistance accorded to the family must safeguard these rights.

That proposition, too, seems unobjectionable if it simply means that no rights, including the rights of the family, are unlimited. But, together with other recent U.N. developments, the 1995 guidelines begin to look very much like part of a deliberate effort to create a false opposition between the individual and the family, to insert the state between children and parents, and to undermine the special protections that so many countries have given to marriage, motherhood and the family. Consider, for example, the subtle erosion of the moral authority of parents in the 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child. In November 1995, the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child angrily attacked the Holy See for raising exactly those concerns in its reservations to the Children's Rights Convention. Since all these documents were issued by the U.N. itself, it appeared that the fox was in the chicken coop. 

Glendon's observations, gracefully stated summed up the very simple but intensely fought ideological split which now pervades the world scene, especially at the frequent U.N. Conferences run by the wealthy and powerful elitists of the world who speak of newly invented "rights" usually sexual in nature, but who also view the families of people to whom rights to belong as obstacles to progress which can best be dealt with by population control. The battle will certainly continue into the 21st Century. 


John Mallon is a Contributing editor for Inside the Vatican. His personal website can be found at http://johnmallon.LIFE