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SPECIAL: Defending Life at the United Nations is No Easy Task

By Bishop Rene Henry Gracida, D.D.
Bishop Emeritus of Corpus Christi
©Catholic Online 2004

“Last week’s U.N. debate on the prohibition of human cloning ended without a decision.” (, October 24, 2004).

“The Holy See alerted the U.N. of the danger of hindering promising research in adult stem cells by diverting attention to the cloning of human beings as a source of embryonic stem cells.” (, October 22, 2004).

If persons engaged in the struggle to promote respect for human life in the United States Congress think that they have a tough job, they should monitor the struggle which the Holy See is constantly engaged in over at the United Nations. There the threat to human life at all of its stages is constant with pressure coming from nations like The Netherlands promoting euthanasia and from Britain promoting abortion and cloning.

The United States has, especially in the past four years, played a significant role in helping to hold back the assault on human life on the international scene. Much of the credit for that must go to President George W. Bush.

It really is regrettable that because President Bush has some reservations about banning abortions involving cases of rape and incest it is necessary to categorize him as being pro-abortion. On a pro-abortion scale of one to ten he would not even rank as a “one.” He has demonstrated time and again that he is more pro-life than he is pro-abortion.

Everyone knows that President Bush expended a lot of political capital to see that the bill banning the terrible procedure known as partial-birth abortion was finally passed by Congress after having been passed during the Clinton Administration twice only to have President Clinton veto it. Similarly, President Bush has limited the use of Federal funds for embryonic stem-cell research to the embryonic stem-cell lines existing at the time he issued his presidential order.

What is not generally well known is the extent to which President Bush has fought for the same moral positions which the Catholic Church has been fighting for on the international scene ever since he took office as President. I only became aware of the full extent of the Bush Administration’s commitment to fight on behalf of the same human life and family issues, that have been of such great concern to Pope John Paul II, in a conversation earlier this year with my friend John Klink.

During the 1980’s I was privileged to serve on the Board of Directors of the Catholic Relief Agency. Part of my responsibilities as a Board Member was to visit the staff members of CRS working in the Caribbean and Central American countries. On one of my visits to Haiti to see first hand the important work being done there on behalf of some of the poorest people in the world I met and became friends with John Klink, who was part of the team working in aid to Haiti.

John Klink has recently, at my urging, sent an important letter to every Catholic Bishop in the United States. I have asked him if I could share it with the general public and he has graciously consented to its publication. Here is his letter:

1187 Coast Village Road, Suite 10-M
Santa Barbara, CA 93108
Tel.: 805 565-1001

October 18, 2004

Your Eminence/Your Excellency,

We hope this letter finds you well.

We know that you will have followed with careful attention and prayer the extremely important debates at the United Nations over the course of the past 15 years. As you will recall, His Holiness Pope John Paul II was instrumental in focusing the world’s attention on these debates, particularly the now famous Cairo Population Conference. John Klink was honored to have assisted the Holy See in those critical years as a diplomat and negotiator from 1988 to 2001, working under H.E. Cardinal Martino, the then Permanent Representative of the Holy See to the United Nations in New York and the current President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. Despite the notable successes in the promotion of the culture of life won by the Holy See and its allies in those critical years, major and continuous opposition to these efforts was marshaled by the European Union and the United States. As the history of the major UN conferences bears witness, these extraordinarily powerful political entities continually sought to create an international right to abortion, to effectively promote sexual activity amongst adolescents, and to weaken parental rights.

Arguably, the most dangerous of the UN conference documents was the outcome document of Cairo + 5 in 1999 which for the first time in a United Nations document called for training health care workers to perform abortions. It was ...

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