Katholieke Stichting Medische Ethiek
9 december 2022

COMECE over abortusresolutie Europees Parlement: “nee tegen ideologische barrieres en polarisatie, we moeten werken aan eenheid in Europa”

In a statement released on Friday 8 July 2022, Fr. Manuel Barrios Prieto, General Secretary of the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union (COMECE), regrets the adoption of a new resolution on abortion by the European Parliament. “We must work for more unity among Europeans, not to create higher ideological barriers and polarization”.

According to Fr. Barrios Prieto, the resolution – entitle “US Supreme Court decision to overturn abortion rights in the United States and the need to safeguard abortion rights and Women’s health in the EU” – paves the way for a deviation from universally recognized human rights and misrepresents the tragedy of abortion for mothers in difficulties.

“The prioritization of the inclusion of abortion in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union – the statement reads – intensifies confrontations among our fellow citizens and between the Member States”.

In his statement, the General Secretary also encourages MEPs to “work for more unity among Europeans, not to create higher ideological barriers and polarization”, and calls on the European Parliament not to “enter into an area, such abortion, which is out of its competence”.

In June 2022 COMECE released another declaration in view of the European Parliament discussion on the leaked draft opinion of the US Supreme Court concerning abortion.


Abortus USA

Pauselijke Academie voor het Leven, 24 juni 2022

Regarding the United States Supreme Court decision that modified the 1973 legal position Roe v. Wade on the issue of abortion, the Pontifical Academy for Life presents the following statement.

The Pontifical Academy for Life joins U.S. Bishops’ statement on the decision of the Supreme Court of the United States. As Archbishop H. Gomez and Archbishop Lori declared:

“It is a time for healing wounds and repairing social divisions; it is a time for reasoned reflection and civil dialogue, and for coming together to build a society and economy that supports marriages and families, and where every woman has the support and resources she needs to bring her child into this world in love.”

The Court’s opinion shows how the issue of abortion continues to arouse heated debate. The fact that a large country with a long democratic tradition has changed its position on this issue also challenges the whole world. It is not right that the problem is set aside without adequate overall consideration. The protection and defense of human life is not an issue that can remain confined to the exercise of individual rights but instead is a matter of broad social significance. After 50 years, it is important to reopen a non-ideological debate on the place that the protection of life has in a civil society to ask ourselves what kind of coexistence and society we want to build.

It is a question of developing political choices that promote conditions of existence in favor of life without falling into a priori ideological positions. This also means ensuring adequate sexual education, guaranteeing health care accessible to all and preparing legislative measures to protect the family and motherhood, overcoming existing inequalities. We need solid assistance to mothers, couples and the unborn child that involves the whole community, encouraging the possibility for mothers in difficulty to carry on with the pregnancy and to entrust the child to those who can guarantee the child’s growth.

Archbishop Paglia said: “in the face of Western society that is losing its passion for life, this act is a powerful invitation to reflect together on the serious and urgent issue of human generativity and the conditions that make it possible; by choosing life, our responsibility for the future of humanity is at stake”.


COMECE: ‘Abortus is geen Europees of internationaal recht’

Declaration of the General Secretary of COMECE on the EP discussion on “Global threats to abortion rights”

In view of the discussion scheduled for today, Wednesday 8 June 2022, in the European Parliament under the title “Global threats to abortion rights: the possible overturn of abortion rights in the US by the Supreme Court”, the Secretary General of COMECE, Fr Manuel Barrios Prieto, has made the following declaration:

We see with surprise that the European Parliament will discuss the impact of a leaked draft opinion of the US Supreme Court concerning abortion. This is an unacceptable interference in the democratic jurisdictional decisions of a sovereign state, a country that is also not a Member State of the EU. The adoption of a resolution by the European Parliament that endorses this interference will only discredit this institution.

In this regard, we would like to reiterate that, from a legal perspective, there is no recognized right to abortion in European or International Law. Therefore, no State can be obliged to legalize abortion, or to facilitate it, or be instrumental to perform it.

The EU should respect the legislative competences of its Member States and the principle of conferral whereby the Union shall act only within the limits of the competences conferred upon it by the Member States in the Treaties to attain the objectives set out therein (Article 5.2 of the Treaty of the European Union). As the Standing Committee of COMECE expressed in a statement in February 2022 the attempt to introduce a supposed right to abortion in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union would be a law “devoid of an ethical foundation and destined to be a cause of perpetual conflict among the citizens of the EU.”

We also note with high concern and regret the negation of the fundamental right to conscientious objection, which is an emanation of freedom of conscience, as declared by Article 10.1 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union and recognised by the UN Human Rights Committee (case Jeong et al v. Republic of Korea, 27 April 2011). We are alarmed that the right of health institutions to refuse to provide certain services, including abortion, is weakened or, even, denied. As stated by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in its Resolution 1763 (2010) on the right to conscientious objection in lawful medical care “no person, hospital or institution shall be coerced, held liable or discriminated against in any manner because of a refusal to perform, accommodate, assist or submit to an abortion, the performance of a human miscarriage (…) or any act which could cause the death of a human fetus or embryo, for any reason.”

As the Standing Committee of COMECE highlighted: “We are aware of the tragedy and complexity of the situations in which mothers considering an abortion find themselves. Caring for women who are in a difficult or a conflict situation because of their pregnancy is a central part of the diaconal ministry of the Church and must also be a duty exercised by our societies. Women in distress should not be left alone, nor can the right to life of the unborn child be ignored. They both must receive all necessary help and assistance.”


COMECE tegen president Macron: er is geen recht op abortus in Europees of internationaal recht

In a statement released on Tuesday 8 February 2022, the Presidency of the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union (COMECE) expresses its deep concern on President Macron’s proposal of including a supposed right to abortion in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union.

Aware of the tragedy and complexity of the situations in which mothers considering an abortion find themselves, the EU Bishops highlight the need to provide the necessary help and assistance to women in distress and to their unborn child.

“Caring for women who are in a difficult or a conflict situation because of their pregnancy is a central part of the diaconal ministry of the Church and must also be a duty exercised by our societies”reads the statement of the EU Bishops.

From a legal perspective, the members of the COMECE Presidency stress that “there is no recognized right to abortion in European or international law. Attempting to change this – they continue – not only goes against fundamental European beliefs and values, but would be an unjust law, devoid of an ethical foundation and destined to be a cause of perpetual conflict among the citizens of the EU”.

“The proposal of President Macron of inserting this supposed right can in no way be seen as «breathing new life into our basic rights»”, continued the Bishops of the European Union.

Recalling the founding fathers of the European Union, the COMECE Presidency stresses that the European integration should always “foster and promote respect for different identities and avoid ideological impositions”.

The statement of the COMECE Presidency follows President Emmanuel Macron’s speech addressed to the European Parliament on 19 January 2022 in the context of the French Presidency of the Council of the European Union.

The Presidency of COMECE is composed of:
• H. Em. Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich SJ (President)
• H.E. Mgr. Mariano Crociata (First Vice-President)
• H.E. Mgr. Noel Treanor (Vice-President)
• H.E. Mgr. Jan Vokál (Vice-President)
• H.E. Mgr. Franz-Josef Overbeck (Vice-President)


Oproep kerkelijke leiders in Europa: ‘Laat je vaccineren!’

Joint appeal from the presidents of COMECE and CEC
European Churches urge people to get vaccinated against COVID-19

COMECE, 14 december 2021

Urging responsibility and care amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and encouraging vaccination together with necessary sanitary measures, H.Em. Card. Jean-Claude Hollerich SJ, President of the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union (COMECE), and Rev. Christian Krieger, President of the Conference of European Churches (CEC), have issued the following joint appeal.

In this time of Advent, let us manifest Christ’s love by demonstrating responsibility and care for all. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues into a second year, European Churches encourage everyone to observe necessary sanitary measures and get vaccinated.

According to the reports, COVID-19 infections are still on the rise in Europe, while doctors and paramedics are exhausted and hospitals face the risk of imminent collapse.

Varying vaccination rates throughout Europe offer clear indications of the reasons for this dramatic situation. In several Member States of the European Union, the uptake of full vaccination, unfortunately, still remains much below the needed threshold for stemming the spread of the virus, although vaccines are available.

Subsequent to listening to experts in science and medicine, we believe that vaccination is currently the most effective way to counter the pandemic and save human lives. Vaccination offers protection not only to ourselves but also to our brothers and sisters, particularly the more fragile among us. It is thus an act of love and care and also one of responsibility and social justice.

We recognise that the decision to get vaccinated may not be easy and reasons to be hesitant may be manifold. Some may not be able to receive the vaccination due to serious medical conditions. Others may be afraid or doubtful of its effects. We encourage them to clarify their concerns and take a well-informed decision after having sought professional advice from competent authorities and experts.

Regrettably, we are also witnessing the spread of false information and unfounded claims in our societies with regard to vaccination, instrumentalising the pandemic by causing fear and polarisation at a time when our societies need cohesion, unity and solidarity.

We strongly appeal to all who bear responsibility in society, including political and media actors, as well as members of our Churches, to counter any attempts of disinformation.

We call on all societal actors to raise the awareness of everyone and encourage them to take responsible actions to protect themselves and others, particularly those who cannot be vaccinated for health or other reasons.

We also wish to reiterate our call to the European Union and its Member States to fulfill their vaccine-sharing pledges and step up global efforts towards ensuring an equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines for all, including in regions with weaker health systems.

While we prepare to celebrate Christmas, let us remember: “A voice cries: In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God (Isaiah 40.3)”. God sent His son to earth to express His love and care for us. This good news remains very relevant today. Let us give living witness to it, let us show responsibility and care.


Joint appeal from the presidents of COMECE and CEC European Churches urge people to get vaccinated against COVID-19

Urging responsibility and care amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and encouraging vaccination together with necessary sanitary measures, H.Em. Card. Jean-Claude Hollerich SJ, President of the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union (COMECE), and Rev. Christian Krieger, President of the Conference of European Churches (CEC), have issued the following joint appeal.

In this time of Advent, let us manifest Christ’s love by demonstrating responsibility and care for all. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues into a second year, European Churches encourage everyone to observe necessary sanitary measures and get vaccinated.

According to the reports, COVID-19 infections are still on the rise in Europe, while doctors and paramedics are exhausted and hospitals face the risk of imminent collapse.

Varying vaccination rates throughout Europe offer clear indications of the reasons for this dramatic situation. In several Member States of the European Union, the uptake of full vaccination, unfortunately, still remains much below the needed threshold for stemming the spread of the virus, although vaccines are available.

Subsequent to listening to experts in science and medicine, we believe that vaccination is currently the most effective way to counter the pandemic and save human lives. Vaccination offers protection not only to ourselves but also to our brothers and sisters, particularly the more fragile among us. It is thus an act of love and care and also one of responsibility and social justice.

We recognise that the decision to get vaccinated may not be easy and reasons to be hesitant may be manifold. Some may not be able to receive the vaccination due to serious medical conditions. Others may be afraid or doubtful of its effects. We encourage them to clarify their concerns and take a wellinformed decision after having sought professional advice from competent authorities and experts.

Regrettably, we are also witnessing the spread of false information and unfounded claims in our societies with regard to vaccination, instrumentalising the pandemic by causing fear and polarisation at a time when our societies need cohesion, unity and solidarity.

We strongly appeal to all who bear responsibility in society, including political and media actors, as well as members of our Churches, to counter any attempts of disinformation. We call on all societal actors to raise the awareness of everyone and encourage them to take responsible actions to protect themselves and others, particularly those who cannot be vaccinated for health or other reasons.

We also wish to reiterate our call to the European Union and its Member States to fulfill their vaccinesharing pledges and step up global efforts towards ensuring an equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines for all, including in regions with weaker health systems.

While we prepare to celebrate Christmas, let us remember: “A voice cries: In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God (Isaiah 40.3)”. God sent His son to earth to express His love and care for us. This good news remains very relevant today. Let us give living witness to it, let us show responsibility and care.


Vaccinatie: een morele plicht, maar geen juridische

Katholiek Nieuwsblad, 5 november 2021
door Willem kardinaal Eijk, aartsbisschop van Utrecht en medisch ethicus

Is het een morele plicht om je te laten vaccineren tegen Covid-19, zoals wel wordt gezegd? En zo ja, kan een overheid of werkgever mensen dan ook juridisch tot vaccinatie verplichten?

Het fundamentele principe van de katholieke sociale leer is het algemeen welzijn. Dat houdt onder meer in dat de levens en de gezondheid van mensen moeten worden beschermd. Een regering draagt hier de eerste verantwoordelijkheid voor en kan dus maatregelen opleggen om levens te beschermen, zoals lockdowns, afstandsregels of een ‘coronapas’. Dit wordt vaak gezien als een inbreuk op de vrijheid van het individu, maar autonomie is niet absoluut. Regeringen hebben het recht en zelfs de plicht om die in te perken als dat nodig is om een pan-demie tegen te gaan.

De vaccinatievraag heeft twee kanten. De maatschappelijke vraag is of vaccinatie vanuit het oogpunt van het algemeen welzijn een morele plicht is. De persoonlijke vraag is of vaccinatie voor het individu een proportioneel middel is om zijn leven te beschermen.

Het antwoord hangt af van drie voorwaarden: vaccins moeten bewezen effectief zijn; er moet een goede balans zijn tussen de gezondheidsrisico’s die je met vaccins voorkomt, en hun bijwerkingen; en de vaccins moeten op moreel goede of minstens te rechtvaardigen wijze zijn gemaakt.

Bijzonder bezwaar

De in het Westen gebruikte vaccins beschermen behoorlijk tot zeer goed tegen infectie met het coronavirus. Ja, gevaccineerden kunnen besmet raken door varianten, maar worden dan vaak minder ziek en zijn minder besmettelijk. Bezien vanuit het algemeen welzijn en de plicht je leven te beschermen, is vaccinatie een moreel goede daad en misschien ook een plicht.

Zoals alle middelen hebben vaccins bijwerkingen. De meest voorkomende zijn soms pittig, maar onschuldig. Ernstige bijwerkingen zijn zeer zeldzaam.

Een bijzonder bezwaar tegen sommige vaccins is dat bij de ontwikkeling, productie en/of testfase ervan, cellijnen zijn gebruikt die gekweekt zijn uit cellen van foetussen die, vaak decennia geleden, werden geaborteerd. Een menselijke foetus direct aborteren is een ernstig en intrinsiek kwaad, en nooit moreel gerechtvaardigd. Maar de klassieke moraaltheologie hanteert al eeuwen een casuïstiek om zulke absolute normen toe te passen. Bij de vaccins gaat het dan om het principe van medewerking aan het kwaad: in hoeverre zijn makers en ontvangers ervan betrokken bij de abortus?

Vertrekpunt is datje niet mag meewerken aan het kwaad dat anderen doen. Maar dat kun je niet categorisch weigeren. Zo volgt uit gewetensbezwaren tegen overheidsprojecten niet dat je mag weigeren de belasting te betalen waarmee je bijdraagt aan het algemeen welzijn.

Als we het met abortus eens zijn, dan is er ‘formele’ medewerking; doen we dat niet, dan is die ‘materieel’. Formele medewerking aan het kwaad is nooit toegestaan; materiële soms, als die indirect is.

Als je abortus niet goedkeurt en niet direct betrokken was bij de abortus waaruit de cellijnen voortkomen, is de medewerking materieel, indirect en veraf (of zeer veraf als je het vaccin krijgt). Het coronavirus kan ernstige ziektes veroorzaken, kent relatief hoge sterftecijfers en kan het sociaaleconomische leven ontwrichten.
Vaccins zijn de enige manier om de pandcmie terug te dringen. Materiële, indirecte en verre medewerking aan de genoemde abortus door vaccins te maken of ontvangen, is dan gerechtvaardigd. Wel moeten we, zoals de Amerikaanse bisschoppen stelden, indien mogelijk een vaccin kiezen waarbij de cellijnen zo weinig mogelijk zijn gebruikt.

Mogen overheden vervolgens vaccinatie juridisch verplichten met een beroep op het algemeen welzijn? Nee. Vaccinatie is een ingreep in de lichamelijke integriteit van een persoon, die daar vrij en verantwoordelijk mee moet instemmen. Niemand mag iets doen dat volgens zijn geweten een kwaad is, ook niet als dat geweten misschien dwaalt. En niemand mag daartoe worden gedwongen. Wie geen vaccin wil, moet wel de gangbare coronamaatregelen in acht nemen.

Een uitzondering is de zorg. Ethisch gezien mag een zorginstelling personeel dat met kwetsbare mensen werkt, vragen zich te laten vaccineren, en weigeren hun daar te laten werken als ze dat niet doen.

Paus Franciscus noemde vaccinatie tegen Covid-19 een “daad van liefde”, een “simpele maar diepe manier om voor elkaar te zorgen”. Wie zich laat vaccineren, toont ook respect voor het recht op leven van zijn medemens. Misschien vereist ook de rechtvaardigheid dus vaccinatie. Het is ook een proportionele manier om je eigen leven te beschermen. Vaccinatie tegen Covid-19 is vanuit dat oogpunt een morele plicht.

Dit artikel is een ingekorte versie van een lezing die kardinaal Eijk onlangs in Rome hield.


World Mental Health Day 2021: inequalities in an unequal world

Message of the Prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development for World Mental Health Day, 10 October 2021

Introduction

World Mental Health Day is celebrated on 10 October. This year’s theme is Mental Health in an Unequal World, and aims to draw attention to the inequalities that exist in the treatment and care of people with mental illness.

In low- and middle-income countries, between 75% and 95% of people with mental disorders cannot access mental health services, and in high-income countries the situation is no better!

One of the most neglected dimensions in the broad universe of health is mental health, which is often accompanied by stereotypes, lack of knowledge about specific issues and misinformation. Worldwide, many human rights violations are committed against people with mental disorders: men and women of all ages who already suffer from the stigma and discrimination to which they are subjected, leading to isolation and marginalisation. In about half of all cases, mental disorders start before the age of 14, so much so that suicide is the second leading cause of death among 15 to 29 year olds.

Current situation

It is estimated that before the Covid 19 pandemic, almost one billion people worldwide suffered from mental disorders. As the health emergency unfolded, the social restrictions imposed by the first phase of the emergency led to an increase in the abuse of alcohol and other psychotropic substances, as well as the exacerbation of various forms of addiction, including gambling. It is precisely the measures taken to combat the Covid 19 virus that have been a further cause of loneliness for people with mental disorders: the impossibility of carrying out their usual activities and cultivating their usual relationships has worsened their already distressing condition of marginalisation, especially for people who are housed in social assistance institutions and psychiatric hospitals.

In reality, the onset of the pandemic, with profound consequences for the entire world population, is only the precipitating factor in a multi-dimensional crisis rooted in inadequate social, health and economic policies. Policies that have often generated new poverty and marginalisation, and which continue to create conditions of injustice and unfairness in the distribution of resources, to the detriment of millions of people. A crisis fuelled by a widespread weakening of spiritual values, of the sense of responsibility and of the value of solidarity. The gap between rich and poor has widened. With the health emergency, new poverties have emerged, adding to the already known social fragilities, mainly due to the lack of work. In particular, in the most vulnerable countries more and more people are losing their jobs, entering a condition of poverty; it is especially women who suffer most from the consequences of the pandemic and social inequalities.

Evidence shows that poverty and inequality affect a person’s mental development and mental health. Social disadvantage – which begins before birth and increases throughout life – has a significant impact on an individual’s mental health as a critical factor: the physical and social environment in which one lives, as well as access to health services and education, are all social determinants that have a profound effect on mental health.

In order to reduce the incidence of mental disorders associated with social inequalities, it is therefore necessary to adopt policies aimed at improving the physical and social environment of the unborn child, as well as living conditions during early childhood, school age, the period when family plans and professional ambitions are being realised, and in later life. In particular, it has been observed that ensuring optimal living conditions for children from the outset offers a greater likelihood of wellbeing, including mental wellbeing, in adulthood, with direct benefits for the community to which they belong.

In fact, we note that, in every culture, when mental health is lacking, there is a triple fragility: the fragility of any illness that confronts us with a personal limitation; the fragility that arises from a dissolution of one’s own identity, which leaves people “without a face”; the social fragility that is the result of the lack of integration in one’s own community and of the rejection of those who are frightened by mental illness and do not know how to integrate it, welcome it, treat it. Stigma and discrimination can affect more widely and deeply than wounds to the body and mind, and involve not only the person with the disorder but also his or her family. I therefore appeal for action to be taken to put an end to this personal and family stigma by tackling the causes that lead to rejection and isolation.

The role of the care community

In the face of this, we are all called to be close to our brothers and sisters with mental illness, to fight against all forms of discrimination and stigma against them.

As Pope Francis reminds us, “a truly human and fraternal society will be capable of ensuring in an efficient and stable way that each of its members is accompanied at every stage of life. Not only by providing for their basic needs, but by enabling them to give the best of themselves, even though their performance may be less than optimum” Indeed, “only when our economic and social system no longer produces even a single victim, a single person cast aside, will we be able to celebrate the feast of universal fraternity” The Holy Father’s words tell us that the logic of discarding and rejection is a logic that subverts social justice in the world. The words of the Holy Father tell us that the logic of rejection and waste is a logic that subverts social justice in the world.

This underlines the need to abandon the current paradigm of development in order to adopt a cultural model that restores human dignity to the centre and promotes the good of individuals and of the whole of humanity. It is time to return to caring for the fragility of every man and woman, every child and every elderly person, with the attentive attitude of solidarity of the Good Samaritan .

A caring community is a community of Good Samaritans

Our thoughts then turn to the many “hidden Samaritans”, the professionals, volunteers and workers at all levels who take care of those suffering from mental distress with professionalism and competence, and who often operate in difficult conditions due to the absence or scarcity of adequate facilities for treating these illnesses and assisting the sick person and his or her family. It is therefore hoped that the health system will be strengthened to protect mental health, not least by supporting organisations engaged in scientific research into mental illness and promoting models of social inclusion. It is important to involve the community in which the mentally ill person lives, to ensure presence and affection .

It is in this direction that the efforts of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development and the Vatican Covid 19 Commission, which the Holy Father established on 20 March 2020, within the Dicastery itself, to express the Church’s concern and love for the entire human family in the face of the pandemic, are moving. Drawing on a wealth of expertise from local communities, global platforms and academic experts, the Commission seeks broad and bold changes: dignity at work, new structures for the common good, solidarity at the heart of governance and nature in harmony with social systems. The aim is not only to alleviate immediate suffering, but also to initiate the transformation of hearts, minds and structures towards a new model of development that prepares a better future for all.

Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson
Prefect


Eugenetica: een nieuwe vorm van discriminatie

Archbishop Paul Gallagher On The 20th Anniversary Of The Durban Declaration And Program Of Action
By H. E. Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher
Secretary for Relations with States of the Holy See

United Nations high-level meeting to commemorate the 20th Anniversary of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action New York, September 22, 2021

Mr. President,

The Holy See is pleased to participate in the High-level Meeting to commemorate the 20thanniversary of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action, focusing on “reparations, racial justice and equality for people of African descent”.

As party to the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, the Holy See, in accord with its particular nature and mission and in a spirit of cooperation, is engaged in combating all forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.

Racism is rooted in the erroneous and evil claim that one human being has less dignity than another. This not only disregards the truth that “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights,” but also the foundational ethical summons to act toward “one another in a spirit of brotherhood.”

As Pope Francis noted in his Encyclical Letter Fratelli Tutti, our “social progress is not as real or definitive as we think,” with racism regularly hiding beneath the surface “only to keep remerging.”

Many persons of African descent around the world are migrants or refugees that after leaving their homes – or being forced to leave – face racism and xenophobia, discrimination and intolerance in countries of destination, rather than the support that they need. My Delegation hopes that the recent establishment of the Permanent Forum for People of African Descent will contribute to local, national and international efforts aimed at providing justice and support for victims of racism.

Universal human rights are indivisible and interdependent and thus cannot exist in opposition. Laws and norms that seek to root out discrimination and intolerance must therefore respect the right to freedom of opinion, thought, religion, and conscience. Monitoring, investigating, and prosecuting incidents of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance should never become a justification for States to violate the human rights of minorities or to censor minority opinions.

Racism can and must be defeated through a culture of encounter, fraternity, and solidarity. While adopting international agreements and declarations such as the Durban Declaration are an important and necessary step, they must lead to real change through implementation by governments as well as through education and ethical media reporting, providing fact based and objective information in ways that respect the dignity of all and do not foster a divisive “us against them” mentality.

Mr. President,

The Durban Declaration rightly expresses concern about intolerance, hostile acts, and violence against religious groups. Intolerance on the basis of religion or belief leads to restrictions to the right to practice one’s chosen religion freely and in its most extreme forms can cause hostility, violence, and atrocity crimes. Disregard for the right to freedom of religion and belief leads to the violation of further human rights. In recent years, we have witnessed an overall rise in religious persecution by both State and non-State actors. Individuals and entire populations are discriminated against because of their faith while perpetrators often enjoy impunity. Some religious minorities in certain regions even face extinction, including Christians who represent the most persecuted group globally.

Another form of discrimination is the insidious practice of eugenics. Today, we could say that a eugenic mentality often lurks behind artificial procreation techniques and the dark sides of pre-natal diagnostics, where the idea that there are human beings of inferior value because of disability, sex, or other traits often leads to the denial of their right to life. Such a mindset entrenches principles of discrimination squarely opposed to the Durban Declaration and cannot be ignored.

Mr. President,

The Durban Declaration recognizes the role of religion in promoting the inherent dignity and worth of every person and in eradicating racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. This must be coupled with legislation and functioning institutions, but ultimately “racism will disappear…only when it dies in people’s hearts.”

Thank you, Mr. President.


Matić rapport: COMECE roept EU parlement op met verantwoordelijkheid te stemmen

COMECE, 17 juni 2021

The Secretariat of the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union (COMECE) released a position paper on the ‘Matić Report’ on Thursday 17 June 2021, ahead of its final submission to the upcoming EU Parliament Plenary session. The Catholic Church recognises the importance of protecting the health and rights of women and calls on all MEPs to take into account the sensitive and complexity of the issue at stake, which “requires a lawful and ethical balancing of all rights involved”.

In view of the final vote on the draft report on “The situation of sexual and reproductive health and rights in the EU, in the framework of women’s health”, often referred to as the ‘Matić Report’, the Secretariat of COMECE releases a position paper highlighting the importance the Catholic Church gives to human health as “an essential basis for a dignified life”.

In the document, the Secretariat of COMECE welcomes “the fundamental concern of the report to protect the health and rights of women”, while expressing objections to several representations and arguments made in the draft resolution.

In violation of the subsidiarity principle, the draft resolution disregards the responsibility of the Member States to define their health policy and the organisation and delivery of health services and medical care. “This is also and especially true in highly sensitive areas such as the regulations adopted by the Member States on the conditions for abortion” – reads the statement.

The COMECE position paper notes with regret that “the draft resolution is characterised by a one-sided perspective throughout, particularly on the issue of abortion, which does not take full account of the life situations of the persons concerned and of their corresponding human rights”.

According to the COMECE Secretariat, the Matić Report also “negates the fundamental right to conscientious objection, which is an emanation of freedom of conscience as foreseen by Article 10.1 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union”.

The Catholic Church recognises the importance of protecting the health and rights of women and calls on all MEPs to take into account the sensitive and complexity of the issue at stake, “which requires a lawful and ethical balancing of all rights involved”.

In consideration of the above-mentioned elements and ahead of the June 2021 EP Plenary session, the COMECE Secretariat calls on all MEPs to duly consider the sensitivity and complexity of medical accompaniment, which requires a lawful and ethical balancing of all rights involved.


Vaticaanse diplomaat bij VN: “Een vaccin voor iedereen”

Statement At The ECOSOC Special Ministerial Meeting “A Vaccine For All”
By Msgr. Mirosław Wachowski, Under-Secretary for Relations with States

Ecosoc Special Ministerial Meeting “A Vaccine for All”
United Nations Headquarters, 16 APRIL 2021

Mr. President,

The COVID-19 pandemic has enveloped the entire world in a shared experience of illness, fear and loss and it has reminded us of our deep interconnectedness. We must work in fraternal solidarity to emerge from it together. Exercising that solidarity through universal access to vaccines, especially for those most in need, must be a priority.

Even as wealthy nations are now vaccinating their populations, many countries in the Global South have no vaccines at all. The Secretary-General’s recent assertation that 75% of all vaccines have been distributed in 10 countries, while 130 countries have zero vaccinations, is alarming. Due to poverty and fragile health infrastructures, billions of people live in what Pope Francis calls as a sort of “pharmaceutical marginality,” which is why he has said that “at an ethical level, if there is a possibility of curing a disease with a drug, it should be available to everyone, otherwise it creates injustice.” The consequences of long delays in vaccination in the poorest countries means that there will be more needless deaths, as well as damage to healthcare, education, and poverty eradication efforts.

The international community must work together for the common good and find creative solutions. Enabling the production of vaccines in Africa, Asia, and Latin America through the sharing of patent information and through technical collaboration could accelerate the vaccination rate significantly while also building healthcare system capacity. Furthermore, it is crucial to provide them with the infrastructure to receive, store, transport and distribute vaccines across their territories. The Holy See welcomes the efforts undertaken through COVAX, which has begun delivering vaccines to developing countries and has pledged to meet at least twenty percent of the need. Pledges from governments and pharmaceutical companies to share vaccines with those most in need are also hopeful signs.

Furthermore, civil society organizations, and faith-based organizations in particular, play a key role in expanding the vaccinations. Supporting them and unleashing their full vitality can strengthen healthcare in the future.

In order to facilitate not only the local participation in vaccine development and distribution, but also to help developing countries recover from COVID-19, the question of their crippling debt burdens, worsened by the economic devastation caused by the pandemic, must be addressed. Debt forgiveness could free up funds that would allow such countries to improve healthcare systems and access to medical care, including in response to COVID-19.

Mr. President, we must act on the commitment to ensure equitable access to vaccines for all by working together in service of this common goal. Today’s meeting is an important step toward the concrete action needed to meet that urgent aim.

Thank you