The Cairo Conference (Letter of Sept. 11, 1994 to the Irish Times)

     Your Sept. 9 report is in general a fair reflection of my views on family issues.  However one statement you make lends itself to grave misinterpretation.  I did not affirm that the Cairo agenda is not representative of UN member-States.  Rather I expressed my conviction that vast numbers of persons throughout the world (citizens therefore of these States) do not want policies which figure prominently in the original and even recent agenda: 'value-free' sex education, hand-out contraceptives for all, abortion presented as a "normal" thing, a mark of progress and civilization, and a right.

     Many people resent campaigns for such policies, especially when they are pressed by richer and more powerful countries, or international organizations (here I am not thinking of the UN) on countries that are poorer or smaller.  The governments of such countries often find it hard to resist pressure to sponsor such campaigns, in particular when this is made a condition for receiving aid.

     While we do not yet have the final Cairo statement, it now seems likely that it will omit some of the worst aspects of the original proposals, especially any implication that there is a "human right" to abortion.  To my mind, the extreme pressure groups are quite right to lay a large part of the "blame" for these changes on the Pope.  But if the Pope and other religious and moral leaders involved turn out to have been at least partly successful in bringing about modifications, I do not see how they can be reasonably accused of having "subverted" the Conference or acted in any but a demo­cratic way.  The Vatican after all has no army divisions (the Swiss Guard are not likely to scare too many people), nor can it exercise the political power of a large state, nor the financial pressures of international organizations.  The only authority it has is moral.

     The Pope's moral authority may be unappealing to some groups.  Their real problem however is not his authority, but the millions of people who respond to it; and who do so in all freedom, simply because they are convinced it echoes the truth: that the Pope is right when he states that many of the points presented to the UN Conference represent a real threat to human progress, happiness and freedom.