Holy See's UN mission warns of state intrusion on families

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Archbishop Francis A. Chullikatt.

Parental and family rights are at risk of being usurped by governments, the Holy See's mission at the United Nations warned during the 45th Session of the Conference on Population and Development.

“For some time now,” said Archbishop Francis A. Chullikatt, “my delegation has noticed a disconcerting trend, namely, the desire on the part of some to downplay the role of parents in the upbringing of their children, as if to suggest somehow that it is not the role of parents, but that of the State.”

“In this regard it is important that the natural and thus essential relationship between parents and their children be affirmed and supported, not undermined,” said the archbishop, who leads the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations, in his April 24 statement to the conference.

Held from April 23–27, the 45th session of the population and development conference focused on adolescents and youth. While two of the session's keynote speeches focused on topics like health and demographics, a third took up the controversial question of “ensuring the sexual and reproductive health of adolescents and youth.”

In his remarks to the conference on Tuesday, the Holy See's permanent U.N. observer stressed that the duty of forming young people belongs principally to parents and communities. He said these social structures should be supported, not replaced, by states and non-governmental organizations.

Archbishop Chullikatt thanked United Nation Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon for affirming families' importance, and the rights and duties of parents, in the previous day's opening address. The archbishop built on this theme as he went on to discuss the family as “the original nucleus of society,” whose integrity must be preserved.

“Each family, founded on the indissoluble union between a man and a woman, accomplishes its mission of being a living cell of society, a nursery of virtues, a school of constructive and peaceful coexistence,” he affirmed, describing the family as “ a privileged environment in which human life is welcomed and protected … from its beginning until its natural end.”

“In this regard, the singular and irreplaceable value of the family founded upon matrimony and the inviolability of human life from conception until natural death must be affirmed.”

Documents such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child speak of parents' rights and responsibilities, the permanent observer noted.

And these parental prerogatives, he said, are especially important when it comes to topics bearing on the fundamentals of human life – including children's “access to, as well as confidentiality and privacy of, information … and services concerning their health and well-being, including in the areas of human love, human sexuality, marriage and the family.”

The Vatican representative also spoke of what an “authentic rights based approach to development” would involve. He outlined a vision based on a respect for human dignity, religious faith, and the integrity of communities built on the foundation of family life.

Real development, he said, “respects the nature of the family, the role of parents, including their religious and ethical values and cultural backgrounds, and affirms the contribution that young people can and do make to their community and society.”

“The more the countries recognize this, the more they will be able to put into place policies and programs that advance the overall well-being of all persons.”

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