UN Rejects Pope Francis’ Call for Openness to Life

Ireland really is in a heated battle on the cultural front. The abuse scandal hit the Church particularly hard in Ireland, and this once-Catholic nation has rapidly secularized, with polls on life and family changing dramatically in just the last few years, all in the wrong direction.

Of course, the battle is on all over the world. This has been a big week for those who defend the Church’s doctrine on the dignity of the person and the great gift of human sexuality.

On Tuesday, September 20, a group of faithful Catholic scholars put together a brilliant defense of Humanae vitae, in response to a United Nations-sponsored attack on Pope Paul VI’s encyclical On Human Life.

The attack came in the form of a group of dissenting Catholic professors releasing the “Wijngaards Statement” at a UN event that was meant to advocate for greater progress toward “sustainable development.”

The Wijngaards Statement is mostly a rehash of 60s and 70s-era self-centered “ethics” from a group who base their reasoning on a person’s desires and feelings rather than truths about who the person really is.

Still, we might have expected a better attempt, or at least some new thinking as they put together a remarkably un-Catholic document. The drafters not only reject Catholic anthropology and moral theology, the missed the fact that Humanae vitae‘s dire predictions about the effects of widespread contraceptive use have all come true. Maybe they didn’t have room in their document to list the many class-action lawsuits brought by tens of thousands of women who were surprised to find that they were lied to: their “safe” birth control was not really safe. Nor do we see that 70s group of theologians mention of the FDA’s “black box warning” on the pill (for highly elevated risk of osteoporosis with extended use), or the WHO’s designation of most forms of hormonal contraception as belonging alongside cigarettes and asbestos in the category of Group-1 carcinogens.

Perhaps the editor of the final version of the Wijngaards Statement felt it prudent to ignore the fact that rather than stem the (then-marginal but growing) demand for legalized abortion, the legalization and wide acceptance of contraception was followed immediately by increased legalization at the state level and, soon after, Roe v. Wade. This happened despite assurances that more “responsible married couples” using contraception would “naturally” lead to a decline in demand for abortion.

Of course, the opposite happened. And why would these theologians again unleash all of their situation ethics against the Church now?

Our findings and theological materials will also be made available to all UN departments and development agencies that are trying to navigate the relationship between religious belief and women’s health as they work towards the UN Sustainable Development Goals. (Wijngaards Statement, introduction)

So the UN is suddenly interested in Catholic theology because the Catholic Church remains the biggest obstacle to enacting what the UN calls “sustainable development,” which, to them, means many fewer people in the world.

Really, the dissenting theologians aren’t doing theology at all, they are simply providing talking points meant to undermine Pope Francis’ central argument in Laudato Si: openness to new human life and protection of the environment are not only compatible, but mutually required if we are to heal our common home for generations to come.

If personal and social sensitivity towards the acceptance of the new life is lost, then other forms of acceptance that are valuable for society also wither away. (Laudato Si, n. 120)

In quoting the Asian bishops on the Church’s concern that human development not treat human persons as obstacles to be overcome, the Holy Father was clear in Laudato Si about the Church’s position. In paragraph 50, citing a key passage from the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, he was even clearer:

Instead of resolving the problems of the poor and thinking of how the world can be different, some can only propose a reduction in the birth rate. At times, developing countries face forms of international pressure, which make economic assistance contingent on certain policies of “reproductive health”. Yet “while it is true that an unequal distribution of the population and of available resources creates obstacles to development and a sustainable use of the environment, it must nonetheless be recognized that demographic growth is fully compatible with an integral and shared development.”

Considering these and similar passages from the pope’s encyclical on care for our common home, is it possible that the United Nations could have misconstrued the Church’s position on these matters? Or are they doing this precisely because of the Church’s unchangeable teaching?

With Tuesday’s event, the United Nations has clearly rejected Pope Francis’ argument in Laudato Si. This is why HLI’s leadership signed on to CUA’s wonderful statement setting the record straight. We note here happily that the faithful CUA statement has more than three times as many signatures as the dissenting document. And it makes the reply even sweeter in a spiritual sense that the faithful reply was published by Catholic University of America, where the original and catastrophic dissent to Humanae vitae was launched in 1968.

This is far from the first time the UN has sought to undermine Church teaching, and it won’t be the last. We are honored to stand with the Church and her faithful theologians in reaffirming the truth of Humanae vitae.

Thank you for your prayers for HLI’s mission and your generous support. Know that you are in my prayers as well!

About Fr. Shenan J. Boquet

Fr. Shenan J. Boquet has served as president of Human Life International since 2011. He was ordained in 1993 as a priest of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux, Louisiana. As HLI’s president, Fr. Boquet collaborates with fellow laborers in the pro-life and family movement in over 80 countries, offering the Sacraments, giving seminars and trainings, appearing on numerous media outlets, and encouraging people of all walks of life to live as faithful advocates for a Culture of Life and Love. He is available for interviews and bookings on behalf of HLI by emailing hli@hli.org.


  1. HELEN on September 24, 2016 at 8:16 PM

    It is not the right of anyone or group to dictate how many children should be born to a couple. They may want a large family and have 7/10 children. That should be their business ALONE.
    I am sick to death of this dictatorial attitude of those who are so closed minded to the right to life. If they are so intent on reduction tell them to have themselves removed so they do not have to put up with the rest of the world. They do NOT provide life. God provides life and He knows the planet will sustain as much life as He sends. This is a waste of time, money and thought process. The earth will sustain as much life as God wants, not man!

    • Tim on September 26, 2016 at 8:54 AM

      Dear Helen. Well stated I am also tired of the pro murder of babies agenda of the un the us govt,and all the other countries that accepting this evil.

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