Most of us are familiar with the exchange between Trump and Pope Francis in February regarding the pope’s trip to Mexico. Trump said “Mexico got him to do it because Mexico wants to keep the border just the way it is.” The pope said “a person who thinks about building walls … is not Christian.” Trump responded, “For a religious leader to question a person’s faith is disgraceful.”
But Hillary Clinton courageously challenged a pope about his organization’s grievous denial of women’s rights.
In 1994, at the United Nations International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo, recommendations “formed at the time seemed a strong international consensus that the most effective strategy for limiting population was providing women better access to education and reproductive health care, including contraception and safe abortion.” “[T]he UK’s international development secretary, accused the Holy See of steering a ‘morally destructive course’ that would lead to an increased incidence of illegal abortion, unwanted pregnancy and HIV/AIDS.”
At the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women held in Beijing in 1995, the debate was expected to “pit the delegations of many national governments against the Vatican and an assortment of Islamic and conservative governments.”
In the opening salvo of what is expected to be a major battle, Vatican delegation head Mary Ann Glendon said promoting women’s aspirations should not come at the expense of “undermining their roles within the family”
[H]uman rights took center stage [however] with an impassioned speech by Hillary Rodham Clinton, while the Vatican complained that the conference platform doesn’t give due credit to marriage and motherhood.
“Women’s Rights Are Human Rights” is the name of the speech given by Clinton on September 5, 1995, and the phrase has continued to be used by the feminist movement. “The speech was courageous and considered path breaking to many in its demand for action.”
“If there is one message that echoes forth from this conference, let it be that human rights are women’s rights and women’s rights are human rights once and for all … The great challenge of this conference is to give voice to women everywhere whose experiences go unnoticed, whose words go unheard,” Clinton told the assembled dignitaries.
Therefore, we can hope that Clinton will continue to challenge a Vatican where
Nothing has really changed
Mary Ann Glendon continued serving on the boards of neocon think tanks and advocacy organizations – the Institute on Religion and Democracy, the Ethics and Public Policy Center, Bill Donohue’s Catholic League, the American Enterprise Institute, etc.
She was George W. Bush’s ambassador to the Vatican and received an honorary doctorate from Opus Dei’s flagship university in Navarre, Spain.
Three months after being elected in March 2013, Pope Francis named Glendon as a member of a commission to study the Vatican Bank. In July 2014, the pope appointed Glendon to the bank’s board of supervisors along with selecting a host of other practitioners and proponents of vulture capitalism to manage his wealth.
Glendon was the only American Pope Francis appointed to his curia until he chose the celibate member of Opus Dei and former Fox News correspondent, Greg Burke, as director his Press Office.
Pope Francis is steadfast on HIV/AIDS and women’s reproductive rights
On June 8, 2016, Pope Francis’ ambassador to the UN stated the position of the Holy See on the Political Declaration, “On the Fast-Track to accelerate the fight against HIV and to End the AIDS Epidemic by 2030.” He repeated essentially the same stance the Vatican held in 1994: “the undeniable fact that the only safe and completely reliable method of preventing the sexual transmission of HIV is abstinence before marriage and respect and mutual fidelity within marriage.” The Vatican “does not consider abortion, access to abortion, or access to abortifacients [i.e. the morning-after pill which does not cause an abortion but rather prevents pregnancy] as a dimension of the terms ‘sexual and reproductive health,’ ‘sexual and reproductive health-care services’ and ‘reproductive rights.’” The ambassador also took the occasion to reaffirm that “gender recognizes the objective identity of the human person as born male or female.”
During his trip to the Philippines in 2015, “Pope Francis reaffirmed the Church’s ban on contraception, leading us to conclude that abstinence is his answer to rampant population growth and its consequential poverty and environmental destruction.”
Pope Francis “reaffirmed the Church’s virtually absolute condemnation of contraception” in his April 2016 exhortation, “Amoris Lætitia.” On abortion, he wrote: “that no alleged right to one’s own body can justify a decision to terminate that life, which can never be considered the ‘property’ of another human being.” Consequently, “those who work in healthcare facilities are reminded of the moral duty of conscientious objection.”
While never as crude as Trump, the pope’s misogyny is often manifested in statements such as: women theologians are “strawberries on the cake,” Europe is a “grandmother who is no longer fertile and vibrant,” a nun should “be a mother and not an old maid!,” “a Church that seems more like a spinster than a mother,” “I am wary of ‘masculinity in a skirt,” “pastors often wind up under the authority of their housekeeper,” etc.
During his trip to the U.S., Pope Francis had a private visit with the Little Sisters of the Poor to give his support for their lawsuit against the Obamacare provision for providing contraception coverage to employees. While the Supreme Court sent the Little Sisters of the Poor case back to the lower courts, the conservative press saw it as a “significant victory” because “when the court vacates the ruling you’re challenging, that’s a win.”
Additionally, “Sexual abuse of minors is the No. 1 reason why religious organizations in the United States went to court in 2015.”
So those issues, as well as the right of religious organizations to continue to discriminate against women, LGBTQI persons, and children under the guise of “religious liberty,” will be present in our courts for the foreseeable future. The president’s ability to select Supreme Court justices and other federal judges is one of the primary reasons Americans are planning to vote in this election.
Clinton, however, did align with the Church in the 2009 coup in Honduras that “removed the democratically elected Manuel Zelaya and helped lead to a new era of repression and lawlessness. [D]espite the fact that various governments around the world, as well as the United Nations, condemned Zelaya’s ouster as a coup and called for his restoration as president,” Clinton did not. She has been widely condemned for continuing aid to the dictatorship which mounted the coup and succeeded Zelaya.
“Opus Dei participated actively in the coup against Zelaya.” The group was “headed by Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, spiritual leader of the Honduran Catholics, who has not denounced the violation to the Constitution that the coup was, and has instead blessed it.”
In his first act as pontiff one month his election, Pope Francis chose Rodriguez Maradiaga as head of a group of cardinals to help him govern the Church . Rodriguez Maradiaga is usually described the pope’s “right-hand man” in the press.
U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia, Clinton’s vice presidential running mate, has often spoken about how profoundly moved he was by his year of service in Honduras in 1980. Not surprisingly, he has remained silent about both Clinton’s and the Church’s role in the 2009 coup.
Also, not surprisingly, the issue of Pope Francis’ agenda of depriving women of their right to health care will not be mentioned during the campaign. However, we can count on a Democratic president and elected officials to uphold the promise that “Women’s Rights are Human Rights.”
(Betty Clermont is author of The Neo-Catholics: Implementing Christian Nationalism in America. My appreciation to Gerald Slevin, Harvard-educated attorney and Catholic blogger, for reminding me of Clinton’s role in the 1995 Beijing conference and her potential as an opponent of Pope Francis’ global and national agenda against women’s rights.)
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