By Piero Tozzi, J.D.
(PHOENIX, C-FAM) As pro-life and pro-family leaders from around the world gathered in Madrid over the last weekend in May for the Sixth World Congress of Families, the man of the hour was clearly Bishop Juan Antonio Reig Pla. The Spanish bishop’s plainspoken honesty regarding the destructiveness of homosexual acts in the months leading up to the Congress earned him the enmity of leftwing rights activists and a standing ovation from conference participants.
Homosexual and leftist groups have sought Bishop Reig Pla’s criminal prosecution for a Good Friday homily where he listed a host of sins, including sodomy, that lead to spiritual death.
As such, his case has become Exhibit A in a “clash of rights” pitting traditional “negative” liberties grounded in the natural law – in Reig Pla’s case, freedom of expression and religion – against nebulous, newly-fabricated “rights,” such as those based on “sexual orientation and gender identity” non-discrimination. As the bishop discovered, proponents of such novel “rights” increasingly call upon the State to force dissenters to acquiesce.
A last minute scratch from a panel on religious liberty was Italian parliamentarian Rocco Buttiglione, who in 2004 ran afoul of the emerging “soft totalitarianism” of the Latex Left when his candidacy for the European Commission’s justice post was scuttled due to pressure from European “progressives” who claimed his religious affiliation disqualified him. Replacing him in a pick-up speech was Alliance Defense Fund President Alan Sears, who warned of the intensifying assault on religious liberty evident in the United States.
Several other panels also addressed the clash of rights theme and increasing restrictions placed on civil liberties. Dr. Gudrun Kugler of the Observatory on Intolerance and Discrimination Against Christians chaired a seminar on the use of “Hate Speech” and antidiscrimination laws to marginalize believers. Other panels addressed State attempts to limit parents’ rights to act as the primary educators of their children – a right explicitly acknowledged in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Among the signs of hope, however, was the engagement of Russian civil society organizations and Orthodox prelates in the conference, signaling the revival of Christianity in what was once the Soviet heartland. While respect for basic civil liberties in Russia is still somewhat tenuous, as the once-free West slides towards criminalizing religious expression and banishing reference to objectively-grounded moral norms, once-Communist Russia appears to be on a reverse trajectory. At the United Nations in recent years, for example, Russia has put forward a series of “traditional values” resolutions to counter the libertine sexual agenda of Europe and the Obama Administration while calling attention to the folly of population control programs amid demographic implosion.
Participants credited the Spanish hosts for successfully staging the Congress, singling out ringmaster Ignacio Arsuaga for particular praise in keeping multiple concurrent events running on schedule. Local and national Spanish government officials also welcomed the gathering, and pro-family Spanish politicians such as European Parliamentarian Jaime Mayor Oreja were key participants.
Current Spanish policy under Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy contrasts starkly with that of his predecessor, Socialist Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero. Zapatero’s government aggressively “worked to subvert the natural family,” in the words of the Declaration issued at the conclusion of the Congress.
The next World Congress of Families will be held in Sydney, Australia, in May 2013.
Piero Tozzi is a Senior Fellow at the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute (C-FAM), whose article first appeared in the Friday Fax, an internet report published weekly by C-FAM, a New York and Washington DC-based research institute (http://www.c-fam.org/). This article appears with permission.