13 April 2009 — Vol. 11/No. 11
When I received information about the upcoming “Pastoral Meeting about Children and Adolescents at Risk,” organized by the Latin American Bishop’s Conferences (CELAM), I decided to attend as a representative of the Commission of Life, Family and Childhood of the Peruvian Episcopal Conference. What made up my mind was the appearance on the program of speakers from UNICEF and the Pan-American Organization for Health (OPS), which is a member organization of the World Health Organization (WHO). I was very curious as to what UNICEF and OPS would say to Church representatives from throughout Latin America who had gathered from the March 23-27 event.
Both UNICEF and OPS, it turned out, sang from the same hymnal. Both proposed a “strategic alliance” with the Catholic Church. Both spoke of “re-launching” of a “promising” joint partnership between their Church and their organizations. This “tripod” of “strategic partners”–UNICEF, OPS, and the Catholic Church–could do much good, they averred.
Few of those present in the audience objected. Some of those attending, I knew, were aware of the involvement of these organizations in abortion and birth control around the world, but most were ignorant. How could the priests and religious in attendance, who live and work with poor children in their communities, be expected to know about the great difficulties that would arise if they agreed to work with these organizations? How could they be aware of the dangers of taking money from organizations that would then expect them to compromised on key moral issues.
The UNICEF and OPS representatives, for their part, were careful not to tip their hands. There were a couple of offhanded references to “reproductive health” in their proposed “partnerships” with the Church, but nothing that would arouse suspicion in the uninitiated Church leaders present. The speakers carefully avoided subjects like abortion, the morning-after pill, and feminist ideologies where the policies of their organizations run counter to the teachings of the Catholic Church.
In order to help the Latin American Bishops Conferences make an informed decision on the proposed “strategic alliance, I decided to interview both speakers: Dr. Oscar Suriel, the International Consultant on Family Health and Community of OPS, and Dr. Manuel Manrique Castro, who introduced himself as an officer of long experience with UNICEF. Both agreed to be interviewed on camera. I summarize the sometimes startling results below:
Interview with Dr. Oscar Suriel, representative of OPS/WHO:
When I asked Dr. Suriel about OPS/WHO ‘s blatant promotion of abortion, he at first flatly denied that his organization was involved in these activities.
Unfortunately for him, I had OPS documents proving otherwise. According to OPS, it had been one of the players to pressure the Nicaraguan government to reinstate so-called “therapeutic abortion.”
At this point, he changed his story. “OPS supports therapeutic abortion,” he claimed, “but not abortion ‘per se’.”
This is a distinction without a difference, I told him. It is by now widely known, and not just in side the Church, that “therapeutic abortion” is a contradiction in terms. It is nothing more than a semantic dodge used to slip abortion past existing laws proscribing it.
I also pointed out that his answer was disingenuous. “OPS supported Mexico City’s abortion law, which legalizes the practice for pregnancies up to 12 weeks gestation.”
I then asked if OPS/WHO would be willing to relinquish its promotion of abortion in order to partner with the Church.
Suriel indicated that it would not revise or revoke any of its anti-life activities or positions. Instead, he told me that I was the one with a problem. “If you actually had to walk the road,” he said, “you would perceive these matters differently.” In the end, he said, “what matters is to save lives.”
I repeated my question: Would OPS/WHO be willing to abandon its abortion agenda in order to facilitate an alliance with the Catholic Church?
“You’re talking to me about dissent,” he responded, “and I am talking about consensus. On no issues do we disagree with the Catholic Church.”
Since we obviously disagree with OPS on a whole host of issues, beginning with abortion, it is obvious that it was Suriel was retreating to a position of knee-jerk denial.
Interview with Dr. Manuel Manrique, Representative of UNICEF:
In the interview with Dr. Manrique, I asked him what he thought about the Holy See’s inquiry into UNICEF for its involvement with the abortion and reproductive health.
Manrique tried to downplay the issue, saying that “these were small contingencies that are of little importance” and that they were “not deep issues.”
I disagreed, noting that UNICEF’s official web site contains an order form for suction abortion machines.
Manrique’s response was to say that he didn’t believe it. He explained that he had heard about UNICEF be involvement in the purchase of abortion machines, but had dismissed it as an unsubstantiated rumor.
If you want access to this information, just click on the link and see the section marked “HOSPITAL EQUIPMENT”
- 0760640 Pump, Suction, foot-operated / EA 3750 Oct-07 units
- 0760605 Pump, Suction, portable, 220V, w / access 2100 Oct-07 units
That is, UNICEF made an estimate of purchase, in October 2007, 5850 units between pumps and pedal powered machines! It is worth noting the estimates for the next 24 months as well.
When I brought up UNICEF’s support of “therapeutic abortion” in Nicaragua and Mexico, Manrique told me that while individuals associated with UNICEF supported this move, UNICEF as an organization had not. This is not a credible defense, since the signature of the UNICEF representative, as well as the organization’s logo, is available on public documents concerning the matter.
Even more incredible was his distortion of the Church’s teaching on condoms. UNICEF ceaselessly promotes condoms among teens, supposedly for AIDS prevention. Manrique claimed that the Catholic Church was not officially opposed to the use of condoms, and gave examples of bishops who support their use in such cases. He referred specifically to the Secretary of the Episcopal Conference of Colombia and to a number of Brazilian Bishops.
I asked whether Pope Benedict XVI, who has unswervingly stated the Church’s official opposition to condoms, was not the official voice of the Church.
“That’s what you say,” Manrique responded.
No sooner had the cameras stopped rolling than both Manique and Suriel began harshly criticizing me, and demanding that I not publish these interviews.
This only strengthened my resolve to publish the damaging information that I had discovered on their official websites, as well as their denials and equivocations about the hard facts of their organizations’ support of abortion and other evils.
“Don’t you know how much money would be lost if this collaboration is not carried out?” Suriel demanded. For him, it all came down to the power of money.
Neither really understood the nature of the Church’s work, I believe. They believe that they are simply recruiting social workers–who work cheaply or simply for free–into the service of a secular health organization. As far as the Church’s position on abortion is concerned, they apparently believe that if they co-opt enough of the Church’s workers, priests, and bishops, that they can use it as an instrument for their own ends.
it is clear that UNICEF and OPS know exactly what they are doing: trying to pull the wool over the eyes of the naïve. Let us not be deceived.
Carlos Polo is the Director of the Latin American Office of Population Research Institute.