|Commentary: Castaneda: Report on Encuentro Onternacional|
Report on Encuentro Internacional "Vida y Familia"in Cochabamba, Bolivia
Adolfo J. Castañeda, Vida Humana Internacional
Bolivia, a country the size of Texas and California combined, is in the heart of South America. It has no outlet to any ocean, but plenty of rivers with delicious fish. This land of about 8 million people (mostly Catholic) and a very low population density of less than 10 persons per square mile, is also blessed with natural gas, gold, silver and a great variety of vegetables, including more than 20 different types of potatoes. Unfortunately, years of governmental corruption, cocaine trafficking and leftist agitation have impoverished this beautiful country. Nevertheless, Bolivia does have very capable people, including professionals, experts in technology and scientists, who can turn it around.
I arrived at Cochabamba, the third largest city, early in the morning, after flying all night. I was immediately taken to the First International Conference "Life and Family" by Mrs. Nora Rojas, the wife of Mr. Mario Rojas, the Executive Director of ANE Provida, our affiliate in Bolivia. ANE stands for "Apostolado de la Nueva Evangelización" ("New Evangelization Apostolate") - a Catholic evangelization movement that started at Cochabamba, but that has gone international. It has the blessing of the local bishop and is very faithful to the Magisterium. It emphasizes the Eucharist and devotion to Our Blessed Mother (you can't go wrong with that!). Needless to say, all pro-lifers were worried about my delay and praying their hearts out for my successful arrival.
The Conference was a huge success. About 600 professionals attended, most of them were young educators - that was the emphasis of the event. Its international character was due to the fact that 4 out of the 6 speakers were from outside the country, myself included. Dr. Concepción Morales, from Pro-Vida Cuba (an organization which belongs to the Catholic Church in that country), spoke to an attentive crowd about the consequences of abortion and contraception, and also about the benefits of NFP, of which she is an expert. Another expert of NFP, Dr. Blanca Neira, a leader of CEPROFARENA, our affiliate in Peru, also spoke about this issue. Carlos Beltramo, also form Peru and a leader of ALAFA (a pro-family organization active in Latin America), addressed attendants on the topics of chastity and the importance of the family in building the Culture of Life.
The two national speakers were Fr. Miguel Manzanera, SJ, an expert in bioethics and the President of ANE Provida, who spoke on the status of the human embryo and on respect for the dying; and Dr. Silvestre Arze, another expert in bioethics, who gave a talk on the correct approach to organ transplants. He based his definition of death on the Holy Father's careful approach to this delicate issue.
I gave three conferences. The first was on the immorality of human cloning and its ethical alternatives (a hot topic at this moment in Bolivia). The second one was on the true meaning of human sexuality - here I discussed chastity, marriage and celibacy, as well as the evils of contraception, fornication and homosexual activity, among others. I emphasized why these things are wrong and I also explained the beauty of Church teaching about the wonderful gift of human sexuality. My final talk was on the work Vida Humana Internacional does in the Hispanic world - for which I used a Power Point Presentation. I also brought with me 70 pounds of educational materials, which will be greatly used by the local pro-lifers.
The Conference ended with a beautiful Mass (without liturgical abuses). It was presided by His Excellency Archbishop Ivo Scapolo, Apostolic Nuncio to Bolivia, who came down from La Paz (the capital) to be present for the entire event. Concelebrating were His Excellency Tito Solari, Archbishop of Cochabamba; His Excellency René Fernández, Retired Archbishop of Cochabamba; His Excellency Luis Sainz, Auxiliary Archbishop of Cochabamba; His Excellency Abel Costas, Retired Bishop of Tarija; Fr. Manzanera; Fr. Víctor Benavente, Rector of San Luis Seminary; Fr. Franco Gasparini and Fr. O'Brien, a Maryknoll missionary, who has worked for many years in La Paz. There were also several seminarians from San Luis Seminary.
That evening, I personally gave to Mons. Scapolo and to Mons. Solari copies of two manuals we have prepared for the bishops in the Hispanic world. One of them is about how to help persons with homosexual inclinations live a chaste life. The other one is about post-abortion healing and reconciliation.
The Conference also received a lot of press coverage in the local newspapers. One of them, Los Tiempos ("The Times") sent a reporter to interview the speakers. I was interviewed on human cloning. During my last day in Bolivia, May the 26th I was again interviewed, this time more extensively, by the same newspaper on the same topic.
The next day of the Conference, Sunday May the 25th, we held training sessions. Drs. Morales and Neira and I addressed over 30 leaders on pro-life strategies and counter arguments to the anti-life lies and deceptive language. I must point out that those present were people who also attended the Conference and who were not only from Cochabamba, but from other cities as well, including La Paz, Santa Cruz and Tarija. Bolivia is by no means a small country, so the pro-lifers traveled quite a bit to be present there. In four hours these attentive people, most of them professionals, including doctors and educators, were drilled on IPPF, the UN, the anti-life feminists and their deceptive arguments, such as "reproductive health", "gender perspective" and "safe and legal abortion", among others.
Bolivia is a special target of IPPF, which makes the ridiculous claim that its birth rate is too high (thank God it's about 4 children per woman of child-bearing age in a practically empty country!) They also claim that too many women are dying from clandestine abortions. That's the same argument pro-aborts made over 30 years ago in the U.S. to legalize abortion and make it "safe" - not for the unborn child nor for his mother, of course, but for the pockets of the abortion business. This "safe and legal abortion" dangerous nonsense is the same garbage that IPPF, the UN and their cohorts are pushing all over Latin America. Can you help us stop them?
The next day, Monday morning, May the 26th, I did not leave Bolivia on the flight I was scheduled to. Yes, it did happen again! Although this time I was "mysteriously" put out of that flight and into the one leaving that evening. But it was providential. As you know, God writes straight with crooked lines. That day I was invited to speak, along with Dr. Morales, to the student body of a school of nurse assistants. The school, which belongs to the government of Bolivia and which is partially financed by the government of Japan, is into the "reproductive health", and the pro-contraception sex "education" baloney. They had a full colored brochure, sponsored by the pro-abortion Pathfinder Fund, telling how "wonderful" pills, IUDs and condoms are. Of course, it did not say a word about the abortifacient effects or about the dangers to women's health of the first two, nor about the high failure rate in preventing AIDS of the latter. When it came to NFP, it reduced it to the "calendar" method.
Dr. Morales had a field day shocking the students, most of whom were young women, about the abortifacient nature of the Pill and the IUD, as well as the deceptive "safety" of the condom. She also chastised the brochure for being "over 70 years outdated" and proceeded to debunk the myths about the modern methods of NFP. In the afternoon she would continue to explain how NFP works and its wonderful benefits for marriage.
I began my talk by astounding the audience with the fact that nowadays Japan is the country whose government gives more money to the international anti-life movement --the very same government which is funding their school! I then told them which organizations belong to the death "culture": IPPF (including its affiliate in Bolivia: CIES), the UN, UNFPA, UNICEF, "Catholics for a Free (or rather, Fatal) Choice", the anti-life feminists, etc., etc.
I told also them that no loving husband would want his wife to be pumped with more that 150 different chemical reactions into her body (that's the effect of the Pill), nor having a dangerous piece of plastic perforate her uterus (that's a possible effect of the IUD). I then told them (by now they were dumbfounded) that a loving husband, if serious reasons were present to space the birth of children, would want to preserve the delicate and wonderful inner ecology of his wife by means of NFP. I finally told them that Bolivia's greatest natural resource was not natural gas, nor minerals, nor fruits, nor any of the rest; but Bolivians themselves, especially Bolivian children. And that no foreign country or organization should come to tell them how many children they ought to have or kill - nor should their own government cooperate with them.
Curiously enough, at the end, nobody asked any questions or made any comments. I wondered what happened between the students and the personnel in charge of the school after I left at noon. For, from time to time, some of the latter came to peek at our talks, which were delivered almost always only to the students. I hope they didn't "crucify" Dr. Morales, who stayed there the rest of the afternoon. Poor Dr. Morales, I think I left her with a "hot potato"!
I left Bolivia tired but happy. I think the pro-life cause is in very good hands there. ANE Provida has leaders who are both capable and solidly based on the spiritual life. They are faithful to the Magisterium and supported by their local bishops. But they now face two big challenges. The first one is the weak abortion law they have in Bolivia. It does not protect life unconditionally, but allows babies to be killed when they are conceived out of rape and when their mothers have a health problem while carrying them in their wombs. These two so-called "exceptions" are, of course, at least potentially, abortion on demand. That's especially so if the term "health" is interpreted broadly, as happened in the U.S. and as the pro-abortion, UN-dependent World Health Organization has defined "health".
The second problem is the fact that in vitro fertilization (IVF) is not even regulated at all. This, in a way, is schizophrenic. Because a country that forbids, even though weakly, the killing of unborn children, should also prohibit the killing of human embryos by means of IVF. The danger is that, just as they did with abortion, Bolivian legislators might prohibit IVF but with exceptions.
ANE Provida needs all the help it can get from all of us. It needs to educate its people about the humanity of the unborn child (including the embryo), the inhumanity of abortion and IVF and the monstrosity of a law that allows the killing of innocent human beings by means of so-called "exceptions".
I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate and thank Fr. Manzanera, Mr. Rojas, his wife Nora and the rest of the collaborators of ANE Provida for the great pro-life work they do and for the wonderful hospitality they showed me.