Earlier in the week the “Secretary for the Holy See’s Relations with States”, Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, hosted talks between the “Holy See” and a British Government Ministerial delegation led by Baroness Warsi. The delegation also included the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Owen Paterson.
A joint communique was issued at the end of the meeting.
It included the following statement:
Too many people are still hungry, too many people do not have access to education and to decent work, too many women die in childbirth. In view of these challenges we recognise a shared obligation to achieve a fair international financial and trade framework. And we will strive for a better future for all humanity, taking into particular account care for the poorest people in the world.
Indeed. However, in most cases the reason that too many people are too hungry, and that too many do not have access to education or paid work, is because of over-population and lack of birth control – and the institutionalised degradation of women. The Holy See’s failure to encourage the use of contraception and family planning – and abject failure to promote equality and equal status for women in some of the world’s poorest societies – has manifestly contributed to the very problems to which the joint communique alludes.
Baronness Warsi – a Muslim – was at pains to point out that “Christianity is as vital to our future as it is to our past”. Thankfully that’s not the case. Only a minority of people in the UK attend any type of church regularly. The United Kingdom is rapidly dispensing with religion. And, as for the Holy See, it’s an institution in crisis. It has failed to adequately address the issue of clerical abuse at its heart. The majority of its church members in the West ignore most of its core teachings. It has become the ultimate menu religion. Moreover, it doesn’t even represent Christianity – Christianity has splintered off in a myriad of directions, and has no unified voice on just about any social issue. Moreover, Islam is side-lining the Catholic Church in importance – it is by far the world’s fastest growing religion. In the period 1990-2000, approximately 12.5 million more people converted to Islam than to Christianity.
The British government needs to be much more cognisant of the growing public indifference to religion in the UK – and the inevitable marginalisation of all religions in secular Western societies. The Cabinet Office is pushing against the tide – and Baronness Warsi is alienating even her own cabinet colleagues (with the obvious exception of Owen Paterson) in taking part in these pointless and counter-intuitive delegations to failing, anachronistic, sexist dynasties.
More useful than the joint statement from Her Majesty’s Cabinet Office and The Holy See, is the following extract from the Science Summit on World Population – issued in 1993, and still as relevant today.
Millions of people still do not have adequate access to family planning services and suitable contraceptives. Only about one-half of married women of reproductive age are currently practicing contraception. Yet as the director-general of UNICEF put it, ”Family planning could bring more benefits to more people at less cost than any other single technology now available to the human race.” Existing contraceptive methods could go far toward alleviating the unmet need if they were available and used in sufficient numbers, through a variety of channels and distribution, sensitively adapted to local needs.
But most contraceptives are for use by women, who consequently bear the risks to health. The development of contraceptives for male use continues to lag. Better contraceptives are needed for both men and women, but developing new contraceptive approaches is slow and financially unattractive to industry. Further work is needed on an ideal spectrum of contraceptive methods that are safe, efficacious, easy to use and deliver, reasonably priced, user-controlled and responsive, appropriate for special populations and age cohorts, reversible, and at least some of which protect against sexually transmitted diseases, including AIDS.
Reducing fertility rates, however, cannot be achieved merely by providing more contraceptives. The demand for these services has to be addressed. Even when family planning and other reproductive health services are widely available, the social and economic status of women affects individual decisions to use them. The ability of women to make decisions about family size is greatly affected by gender roles within society and in sexual relationships. Ensuring equal opportunity for women in all aspects of society is crucial.
Thus all reproductive health services must be implemented as a part of broader strategies to raise the quality of human life. They must include the following:
Efforts to reduce and eliminate gender-based inequalities. Women and men should have equal opportunities and responsibilities in sexual, social, and economic life.
Provision of convenient family planning and other reproductive health services with a wide variety of safe contraceptive options. irrespective of an individual’s ability to pay.
Encouragement of voluntary approaches to family planning and elimination of unsafe and coercive practices.
Development policies that address basic needs such as clean water, sanitation, broad primary health care measures and education; and that foster empowerment of the poor and women.
“The adoption of a smaller family norm, with consequent decline in total fertility, should not be viewed only in demographic terms. It means that people, and particularly women, are empowered and are taking control of their fertility and the planning of their lives; it means that children are born by choice, not by chance, and that births are better planned; and it means that families are able to invest relatively more in a smaller number of beloved children, trying to prepare them for a better future.”