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Pope Francis and former UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon

NEW YORK, April 5, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) – Despite widely-reported statements by Pope Francis and other Vatican officials enthusiastically supporting the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), there is not agreement within the Vatican on the Church’s official take on the SDGs.

Pro-life groups have raised serious concerns over the past year after various Vatican officials and departments, including the pope, publicly championed the SDGs, without referencing any of the Holy See’s past concerns about anti-life and anti-family language within the Goals.

Two of the SDG’s 17 goals have targets that call for “universal access” to “sexual and reproductive health” and “reproductive rights.” The UN defined these terms at its 1994 Cairo conference to denote providing women with “modern contraception” for “family planning” and with “safe abortion” anywhere the procedure is legal.  

However, in a little-noticed statement dated last October, the Holy See’s official representative at the UN clarified that the Holy See opposes any interpretation of the SDGs that could be used to support abortion, contraception, population control, and gender ideology.

The perception that the Vatican was aligning itself with the UN goals was strengthened after Pope Francis last June publicly expressed his gratitude for the passage of the SDGs. Last July, Jeffrey Sachs, one of the world’s most prominent supporters of the SDGs and a frequent visitor to the Vatican, also said the pope’s encyclical Laudato Si “made possible” the passage of the SDGs.

That came a year after Monsignor Joseph Grech, representing Archbishop Bernardito Auza, the Holy See’s permanent observer at the UN, alarmed pro-life advocates when he said the Vatican supports the goals and targets of the SDGs “verbatim.” However, Monsignor Grech pointed out to LifeSiteNews at that time that the Holy See had previously raised reservations concerning the targets and that it “cannot and will never support … anything that can undermine the family or the right to life from the moment of conception.”

But perhaps the strongest supporter of the SDGs at the Vatican has been Archbishop Marcelo Sánchez Sorondo, chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences.

In April 2015, the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences issued a joint statement welcoming the SDGs. Equally as concerning to pro-life advocates, the Academy has hosted a string of conferences on issues related to “sustainable development” featuring prominent UN-linked, pro-abortion supporters of the SDGs. That has included Sachs, former UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, and the man considered by many to be the founder of modern population control, Paul Ehrlich.

In a recent interview with LifeSite, Archbishop Sorondo rejected pro-life concerns about giving a prominent platform to population control advocates at the Vatican and specifically pointed to the successful passage of the SDGs as justification for the partnership.

Holy See’s permanent observer at the UN holds the line

However, at the same time as certain sections of the Vatican have enthusiastically endorsed the UN agenda, the Vatican’s official representative has quietly laid out objections to the SDGs based upon Catholic teaching.

In the statement issued last October, which seems to have gone unnoticed by the media, Archbishop Auza laid out a laundry list of objections to the SDGs and clearly reaffirmed the Holy See’s commitment to Catholic teaching.

The concerns listed echo those made by the Holy See just before the UN’s September 2015 approval of the SDGs. At that time, the Holy See representative had made formal “reservations” clarifying that the Holy See interprets problematic terms in the goals solely in accord with the Church’s teachings.

The more recent note, issued to mark the one-year anniversary of the SDGs, acknowledges again that the Holy See has reservations with targets 3.7 and 5.6, and other parts that include “reproductive health” and “gender” language.  

The note from the Holy See also states that the portion of the Agenda holding that “no one will be left behind,” must include “the respect for the right to life of the person, from conception until natural death.”

The note also recognizes that women “have a special role to play in the family and society” and that their gifts “include defending, nurturing, and caring for life, from conception until natural death.”

Women must be protected from “psychological and physical violence,” says the statement, including “through all forms of abortion, including female feticide and female infanticide.”

“The Holy See reads the 2030 Agenda,” it states as well, “with particular regard to the reduction of preventable ‘newborn, child and maternal mortality,’ so as to include the unborn child.”

The statement clearly rejects gender ideology, saying that, “any references to ‘gender’, ‘gender equality’ and ‘gender equality and empowerment of women and girls’ are understood according to the ordinary, generally accepted usage of the word ‘gender” based on the biological identity that is male and female.”

The note establishes the right to life as a pillar of integral human development and states that it is threatened without recognition of a higher power and natural law.

It further explicitly says “sustainable development” — a term frequently equated with anti-human life initiatives — is secondary to human development, stating, “The Holy See prefers to use the expression ‘integral human development,’ which includes sustainable development.”

Despite Holy See statement, prominent pro-aborts given Vatican platform

This formal rejection by the Holy See of pro-abortion, population control-related terms and initiatives and affirmation of Church principles on human life was contradicted most recently when the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences hosted a Biological Extinction eco-conference.

At the event the Vatican gave a platform, despite strenuous protests from pro-life organizations, to John Bongaarts, vice president of the population control and contraception-promoting Population Council, along with Erlich, one of the most extreme population control zealots in history.

Critics said that, given the nature of Bongaarts’ organization and the incendiary positions taken by Ehrlich against Church teaching, such as, among others, support for forced sterilization and forced abortion, the Vatican hosting them communicated doctrinal fragmentation from the Church.

Generating further disconnect with Church principles and added confusion for the faithful were Archbishop Sorondo’s statements regarding procreation at that same eco-conference that, “Many times, we don’t know exactly what is the doctrine of the Church.”

Pro-life critics of the conference pointed out that there were no strong orthodox Catholic voices present at the conference, and that Ehlich, Bongaart and others were able to present their views without anyone presenting Catholic corrections to their statements.

Indeed, at one Archbishop Sorondo himself promoted reducing family sizes, saying that “when you have education” women will only have one or two children, instead of seven.  

Bongaarts replied that “without having access to birth control, she will have more children than she wants.” “And that’s why it is not just education alone, it is a combination of education and birth control that brings fertility down.”

Nobody present at the conference contradicted him.