Vatican Conference Presents Disturbing Lineup of Speakers

“Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses.”

─ Pope St. Paul VI, Evangelii Nuntiandi, no. 41

Throughout his pontificate, Pope Francis has repeatedly warned against the temptation to make the Church into just another non-profit organization. The Church, he said in 2013, “is not a shop, a humanitarian agency, an NGO.”

NGO stands for Non-Governmental Organization. The term designates a wide variety of non-profit agencies that advocate for various causes. In some cases, they resemble traditional charities, providing things like food and water to needy people. In other cases, however, they are highly bureaucratic organizations, employing academics, lawyers, and consultants, agitating on behalf of some cause.

Pope Francis’ frequent criticism of the idea of the Church as an NGO is spot on. Far too many people nowadays despiritualize the Church’s salvific mission, instead prioritizing worldly matters of “social justice.” Even the Church’s enormous charitable activities, such as providing healthcare and education, cannot be allowed to eclipse Her evangelical mission – to preach Jesus Christ crucified.

As the Holy Father put it in his very first homily as pope: “We can walk as much as we want, we can build many things, but if we do not profess Jesus Christ, things go wrong. We may become a charitable NGO, but not the Church, the Bride of the Lord.”

A Secular Gabfest at the Vatican

I cannot argue with the Pope’s point. However, it is precisely because I agree with him so much, that I am so disturbed by the way the Vatican has increasingly come to resemble an NGO in recent years.

It is strange and ironic to me that a pope who has preached so fervently and astutely against an NGO Church appears to be promoting conferences and other activities at the Vatican that are almost completely secular, in many cases indistinguishable from anything you might find within the halls of the United Nations.

The latest example of this trend is truly disturbing. This week, the Vatican is hosting its Fifth International Conference. The conference will be dealing with the theme, “Exploring the Mind, Body & Soul.” It is subtitled, “A Global Health Care Initiative.”

At a time when the world is still struggling beneath a global pandemic, and when so many Catholics are dealing with the burden of the loss of access to the sacraments, there is an urgent need for Catholic thinkers to discuss themes related to healthcare. How do we approach a global health emergency from a Catholic perspective? How do Catholic healthcare workers and religious help provide healthcare for the neediest? How do bishops and pastors balance the spiritual needs with the physical health of their flock? These are difficult and urgent questions.

However, even a brief glance at the list of speakers and attendees at this conference is enough to leave you scratching your head. There are almost no Catholic clergy, bishops, or theological experts listed on the program. Instead, there is a huge who’s-who list of secular globalist billionaires, business owners, celebrities, academics, and healthcare experts. Many of these figures are extremely anti-life and anti-family: like Chelsea Clinton; pro-abortion model Cindy Crawford; Marc Benioff, the CEO of Salesforce, one of the most virulent anti-family corporations on the planet; and new-age guru Deepak Chopra. Anthony Fauci and the CEO of Pfizer are also among the many other secular speakers.

Yes, Cardinal Parolin is scheduled to speak, as well as Cardinal Ravasi. There are also a handful of other identifiably Catholic speakers. But they constitute a tiny minority. Indeed, if you were casually scrolling through the list of speakers, you would probably have no idea that the conference is being hosted by the Vatican or has anything to do with religion.

With the Catholic presence so overwhelmingly dwarfed by the secular presence, it is basically a guarantee that the conference will be, at best, a giant secular gabfest, but with a slight Catholic gloss. In which case, you have to ask: What is the point of this conference? Why has the Vatican poured such enormous effort into hosting a conference that any other NGO on the planet could have hosted?

A Disturbing Pattern

One Catholic healthcare expert, Ruth Institute President Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse, has said that the Vatican’s choice of speakers for the conference is “deeply embarrassing” for the Church.

“The Catholic Church is a world-wide institution of over one billion members. Among all those people to choose from, the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Culture couldn’t find anyone better than this lineup of abortion advocates?” she said.

“This conference is a travesty,” she added. “There are too many abortion proponents speaking at this conference to simply uninvite a few. The Ruth Institute calls on the Vatican to cancel the event. Plan a new, fresh conference with prominent scientists, philosophers, and religious leaders who are committed to authentic human rights, including the rights of the most vulnerable among us.”

I couldn’t agree with Dr. Morse more.

By providing these individuals a global pulpit from which to preach, the Vatican is exposing millions of vulnerable souls (Catholic and non-Catholic) who are weak in knowledge of the perennial teaching of the Catholic Church, to secular viewpoints on faith, religion, human dignity, sacredness of life, marriage, healthcare, and science. Moreover, because it is a Vatican-sponsored program, what is proposed, in most people’s minds, must then be true, accepted as Gospel. And as we have witnessed with past events, there will likely be little to no rebuttal to what is being proposed, thus sowing confusion and scandal.

Unfortunately, however, as I have already noted, this conference is merely the latest example of a disturbing pattern of Vatican-sponsored events that have given prominent platforms to some of the strongest anti-life and anti-family activists on the planet.

In recent years, pro-population control activist Jeffrey Sachs has repeatedly appeared at conferences hosted by the Pontifical Academy of the Sciences. Often these conferences enthusiastically tout, without any necessary qualifications, various tenets of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), some of which pro-abortion activists interpret as including a right to abortion and contraception. At another conference, former California Gov. Jerry Brown, an extremely anti-life politician, spoke about climate change.

In one bizarre event, Pope Francis himself gave an award to George Clooney, Richard Gere, and Salma Hayek at the Vatican. As LifeSite reports, the pope gave the three pro-abortion and anti-family actors the award “in recognition of their activism against climate change, war, and terrorism.” The three actors were also designated as “ambassadors” for Scholas Occurrentes, an education-focused charity founded by Pope Francis in 2013. Scholas Occurrentes itself is a strangely secular organization, which has also been caught peddling troubling anti-family materials.

However, perhaps the most disturbing event of all was when notorious population controller Paul Ehrlich, who has promoted forced contraception/sterilization and even forced abortion, was invited to speak at the Vatican in 2017. It is hard to think of anybody alive today who is more opposed to Catholic teaching, and whose anti-life influence has been more pernicious, than Paul Ehrlich. Ehrlich’s alarmist 1968 book The Population Bomb, predicted impending, massive food shortages and starvation. It gave enormous fuel to the population control movement, and has been used to justify all manner of inhumane and coercive population control measures all around the world.

silhouette crucifix outside

Demands of Discipleship and Crisis in the Church

How is it that billions of people throughout history have worshipped and continue to worship a God Who is invisible? “Simply believing in the existence of God is not exactly what I would call a commitment,” said Mother Angelica, reflecting on this question. “After all, even the devil believes that God exists. Believing has to change the way we live.” (Mother Angelica, Answers Not Promises)

Before Christ left His disciples and ascended into heaven, He instructed them to, “go, and make disciples of all nations.” This is the central, salvific mission of the Church.

It took a tremendous amount of extraordinary energy for the early apostles and disciples to convert the populace, which began with their own conversion and life in Christ. It demanded faith, heroic witness, and the shedding of blood to open the eyes of the blind and the ears of the deaf. The disciples deeply understood that they were “in” the world, but not of the world.

We accept and expect hardships in following Jesus; after all, the Master told us:

Behold, I am sending you like sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and simple as doves. But beware of people, for they will hand you over to courts and scourge you in their synagogues, and you will be led before governors and kings for my sake as a witness before them and the pagans. When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say. You will be given at that moment what you are to say. For it will not be you who speak but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Brother will hand over brother to death, and the father his child; children will rise up against parents and have them put to death. You will be hated by all because of my name, but whoever endures to the end will be saved. (Matthew 10:16-22)

Sadly, to see so many prominent figures at the Vatican reshaping the Church in a worldly image, granting a platform to false prophets to disseminate their secular philosophies, is disconcerting and causes grave concern! There is nothing positive to gain in inviting prominent anti-life and anti-family proponents to the Vatican. These individuals – simply by observing their public behavior or listening to what they have spoken in public forums or published – have no perceivable desire to promote Christ or uphold the teaching of His Church; instead, they tirelessly work to undermine Christ and the mission of the Church. They are false. Moreover, where is the fraternal correction? We do no service to them, or to ourselves, by elevating their propaganda and philosophy to the level of the truth about human dignity and the human person’s call to eternal life.

St. Paul reminds the shepherds and leaders of the Church to “keep watch over yourselves and over the whole flock of which the Holy Spirit has appointed you overseers, in which you tend the church of God that he acquired with his own blood.” (Acts 20:28)

The conference happening this week is just further proof that we are confronted by a great crisis in the Church. We must fast and pray for our Holy Father and all bishops, that they will renew their commitment to the Church’s evangelical mission, and eschew the secularist humanistic interpretation of the Church, that reduces Her mission to a worldly one.

As president of Human Life International, Fr. Boquet is a leading expert on the international pro-life and family movement, having journeyed to nearly 90 countries on pro-life missions over the last decade. Father Boquet works with pro-life and family leaders in 116 counties that partner with HLI to proclaim and advance the Gospel of Life. Read his full bio here.

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  1. Michel Thibodeau on May 7, 2021 at 9:12 PM

    Christ have mercy on us!
    Let’s pray!
    Thank you Fr. Boquet!

  2. Carol Ann Avian on May 7, 2021 at 2:35 PM

    Dear Fr. Boquet, Thanks for being a priest, providing the Sacraments, and your May 3, 2021 on Vatican speakers. As far as I can tell, the Church on earth has been in some kind of crisis state since Jesus Christ our Lord and God founded it (example: during Arian heresy years (followers of Egyptian priest named Arius, who rejected the Divinity of Jesus Christ), Arians had gotten into key Church positions and were oppressing Catholics, and it took about 100 years for the popes and bishops to halt this problem). I’ve also noticed in recent years some degree of misinformation and disinformation. Our Holy Father Pope Francis, among other good things, canonized Pope St. John XXIII, Pope St. Paul VI, Pope St. John Paul II, Sts. Louis and Zelie Martin (parents of St. Therese of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face, Virgin and Doctor of the Church, a.k.a. St. Therese of Lisieux), and beatified Carlo Acutis, and when I’ve seen his Papal Masses, he does celebrate reverently, and has orally and in writing denounced abortion. ” Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth,” and as St. Paul indicates in the New Testament that life is a race for heaven and Jesus is the Prize,” and that we’re not supposed to cling to people on this earth, as they could fall away at any time, but instead depend on those who have already won their race (the saints in heaven, a.k.a. the Church victorious) as coaches. So, keeping in mind Sacraments / Prayer / Church teaching (including Catholic Scriptures in conjunction with the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Papal and Church Council documents, lives and writings of the saints (not just European or American saints), Sacred Music, Sacred Art, Church History, etc.), Jesus, today, charity, and Prayer (especially the Divine Mercy Chaplet, and praying the Holy Rosary), (and pray, hope, and don’t worry per St. Padre Pio of Pietrelcina) / work / study, we just need the grace from God to persevere, regardless of events around us, and even if we don’t have access to all the help from the Church that we want, and when we want. Thanks for your consideration.
    in caritate Christi,
    Mrs. Richard Avian (Carol Avian)

  3. Gotthard Neeser on May 5, 2021 at 4:41 PM

    I wish there could be an interview with Pope Francise to question him about all the controversials just like Peter Seewald did with Pope BendiktVI.
    Keep on praying for our deeply wounded church and our Pope Francis.

  4. Helen on May 5, 2021 at 4:28 PM

    I am very very disappointed with this Pope. He has many times pulled State into Church. That is not our belief.

  5. Pietro Marchitelli on May 4, 2021 at 12:06 PM

    Jesus is a morally conservative Christ. He is a pro-life and a pro-family Messiah. His compassion is that of giving one more chance to people to connect with God’s heart and conscience and the principles through which He has created the creation. Jesus is totally aware of God’s nature and the original spiritual and intellectual qualities the Creator has imprinted in the Human’s original essence which one’s brought into full maturity reflect His own nature. There is a path made of love and principles through which human beings can bring to maturation such qualities, Jesus knows about it. Such path goes through sexual abstinence until reaching an adequate spiritual, psychological and intellectual development (marriage) and an eternal loyal conjugal relationship between one man and one woman, sharing love. life (and giving life) and liberty.
    God bless

  6. Jonathan Pearson on May 4, 2021 at 8:18 AM

    We must pray, but we must not be naive. Our current pope does not want the Church to lead people to God. He wants the Church to lead people into the world. He emphasis is on climate and earth based feelings. He has allowed China to destroy the Church there in exchange for money, (a very judas move). He speaks many times of truths of the Church and yet he appoints bishops that wish to destroy those teachings. Homosexual leanings have gained a monstrous foothold under his leadership and this sterile and disordered lifestyle is destroying many parishes and families.
    Ironically, this is not the time for despair.
    We know “where sin abounds, My Grace abounds all the more.” So, we pray, we teach our children the truths and we pray.
    God’s Grace and Mercy will triumph in the end.

  7. Nancy Young on May 3, 2021 at 8:54 PM

    This is very disturbing. None of the secular speakers mentioned is any kind of a role model I would want to listen to.
    If truly Catholic speakers were presented based on Catholic values, it would do so much to forward what the Catholic faith is about. I ams a healthcare worker would find comfort, a way to evangelize. I totally agree with your views on this. Thank you Father Boquet

  8. Steve Jones on May 3, 2021 at 6:22 PM

    Thank you for this article, Fr. Boquet. I read about this health care conference & the climate change conference with Paul Erhlich, and I’m very disturbed by what is happening, and that there aren’t more clergy, especially bishops speaking about this, and I started wondering if there was something wrong with me. What can we do, in addition to our prayers?

  9. Mary Isbell on May 3, 2021 at 5:37 PM

    I really would like for Pope Francis to stop trying to deal with Red China, he is hurting the underground Church, you don’t deal with a government that is socialism, to me it is like dealing with the devil, it makes me sad to see how it is hurting the good Catholics there. I just had to put my opinion about this. I am praying for these poor people.

  10. Silverio Di Fazio on May 3, 2021 at 5:27 PM

    My brother in Christ , it is very disturbing to wittiness this present events ; between the Holy Father , some Cardinals & bishops. Our Faith is based in our Savior Jesus , hope & pray for a change in the right direction. We need to Pray🙏

  11. Phyllis Nickchen on May 3, 2021 at 5:21 PM

    I believe that Blessed Fr. Joseph Kentenich , founder of the Schoenstatt Movement, had it right. We need a moral and spiritual renewal of the world.

  12. Felicia Boedart on May 3, 2021 at 4:18 PM

    It seems there is something evil going on around the world and our religion , it seems, is not escaping the evil. Too much attention and time is being allowed on the people spreading the evil. We are allowing too much infiltration in our church heirarchy, Christianity is being attached and those in charge are allowing it in government, church, schools, etc. Shame, shame, the devil is making inroads and we are following like sheep. In the name of all that is holy, and with our God, this needs to be stopped. We all must stand up or we all will pay a severe price. I think God has warned us and we are not listening. We need to wake up, be aware and act with conviction about saving our faith. God is with us!!!!

  13. Frederick Costello on May 3, 2021 at 4:06 PM

    We should pray that the pope and the mere presence of the meeting in the Vatican converts these anti-life people to the Catholic viewpoint.

  14. Barbara Garfield on May 3, 2021 at 3:48 PM

    Thank you, Father Boquet.

  15. Ann on May 3, 2021 at 3:44 PM

    Sadly this pope is pushing a left progressive movement for the church. He is showing that he stands with Satan with this conference and the people he is endorsing.
    May he pray to GOD for forgiveness.

    • Simon Mbuthia on May 4, 2021 at 2:13 AM

      May God intervene for our church that it may not be destroyed by humanism manipulations which is a great tragedy today. May we stand up as prayer warriors.

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