The Vatican accused European nations on Saturday of opposing motherhood and the traditional family. European and American representatives shot back that the Roman Catholic church is trying to restrict women’s rights.
At issue is a U.N. plan of action meant to promote women’s equality. It is the main document that delegates from 189 countries at the Fourth U.N. World Conference on Women hope to produce in the remaining week of negotiations in Beijing.
The platform will not be legally binding, but will act as a guide for governments to make policy.
The Vatican accused European nations and other unspecified governments of removing references to religion, morals, ethics and spirituality, except where religion is associated with intolerance or extremism.
The draft document “casts marriage and the family negatively as impediments to women’s self-realization,” the Vatican said.
The dispute was dramatically illustrated when Vati can spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls and Monsignor Peter J. Elliott of Britain were confronted at a news conference by former U.S. congressman and activist Bella Abzug.
“The Holy See has a right to make a statement, but I tell you it’s a statement of desperation - and more significantly, it’s a statement ignoring the will of a large, large consensus which exists,” said Abzug, who heads the Women’s Environment and Development Organization, a non-governmental organization.
She said the whole document was about mothers and children, and accused the Vatican of defining women in narrow terms.
Elliott shot back: “It is most dishonest to depict us as anti-women.”
He said the Vatican wanted those seeking to include a statement condemning discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation to define sexual orientation. “Can that include pedophilia, for example?” he asked.