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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 clear at that moment that without new pro-life/pro-family political leadership, the wave of so-called "reproductive and sexual rights" would be enshrined as new "fundamental" human rights in the space of years, not decades.

While a great deal of attention has been given during the past two years to the differences of opinion between the Holy See and the Bush Administration regarding the Iraq War, we wanted to apprise you of the less reported, but more wide-reaching pro-life/pro-family leadership of President Bush at the United Nations since his inauguration in January 2001.

President Bush's pro-life/pro-family leadership in the international arena began with his reinstatement of President Reagan's "Mexico City" Policy which effectively banned the provision of US Government funds to Non Governmental Organizations (NGOs) who promote or perform abortion overseas, as well as the performance of, or counseling for, abortion in U.S. military facilities. It was no accident that he did this as his first official act as President.

In this same vein, within 10 days of President Bush's inauguration, the head of the U.S. Delegation to the UN General Assembly's Special Session on Children pronounced a total reversal of previous US policy: the United States would promote and defend the family and parental rights and would not agree to any promotion of abortion, including further use of the UN's abortion pseudonym "reproductive health services".

In consonance with President Bush's directives, successive US delegations to a wide variety of UN conferences have unabashedly promoted marriage, abstinence for unmarried adolescents, faithfulness for adult couples, a ban on sexual trafficking of women and children, and a total ban on human cloning. The parallel with Catholic social teaching could not be more clear. The Holy See and the United States had common positions on these issues for the first time in over eight years.

Our witness to these developments was underlined by John Klink's nomination by the President as a Senior Private Sector Adviser to almost every delegation where these important social issues appeared on the agenda, and Mrs. Ann Corkery's nomination to the important post of Public Delegate to the UN General Assembly last year and the Commission on the Status of Women. The President's action did not go unnoticed by US Congressional abortion proponents who filed written complaints to Secretary of State Collin Powell, voicing their frustration that a former Vatican representative would be included in U.S. delegations. As with the President's attempts to appoint prominent Catholic judges, the message was clear from the opposition: practicing Catholics should have no part in important US Government involvement lest their pro-life/pro-family views have real influence. However, President Bush was not deterred and remained steadfast both with the Administration's pro-life/pro-family positions as well as in support of our nominations.

While Cardinal Ratzinger's recent clarifications regarding the reception of communion by pro-abortion politicians has been the subject of some controversy, we feel that not only should the issue of discipline of Canon Law be the subject of honest and thoughtful debate, but that a real recognition should be given by the Church to politicians, whether Catholic or non-Catholic, of whatever political party who promote the Church's pro-life and pro-family values in the public square, in furtherance of the teachings of the Second Vatican Council. For this reason, it is our wish to make this full report to Your Eminence on President Bush's courageous pro-life leadership in the international arena since the beginning of his term of office--a commitment which remains as a promise of continued action should he be elected for another term of office.

Please accept Your Eminence/Your Excellency, our sentiments of esteem and our request for your prayers for our joint endeavors with the Bush Administration and many other dedicated international professionals to promote the culture of life.


John M. Klink
Ann M. Corkery


Bishop Emeritus of Corpus Christi TX, US
Bishop Rene Henry Gracida, D.D. - Bishop Emeritus of Corpus Christi, 661 869-1000



Abortion, Prolife, Babies, Cloning, Cell

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