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Vatican official hits back at pro-life critic over UN invitation

The UN headquarters (CNS)

A row has broken out between the most senior woman at the Vatican and an American pro-life advocate.

Prof Margaret Archer, a sociologist at the University of Warwick and president of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences (PASS), was responding to an article by Stefano Gennarini, director of the Centre for Legal Studies at the Centre for Family and Human Rights Institute (C-Fam).

Following high-level meetings between PASS at the Vatican in April, Dr Gennarini criticised Bishop Marcelo Sánchez Sorondo, chancellor of both PASS and the Pontifical Academy of Sciences (PAS).

Dr Gennarini accused Bishop Sorondo of being “the first Vatican official who interfaces with the United Nations to openly defy the position the Holy See has held” on the terms “sexual and reproductive health” and “reproductive rights” for “over 30 years because of their association with abortion”.

He went on to accuse economist Prof Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University and a senior UN adviser, and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon of actively promoting abortion.

In her response, published on the Vatican’s website, Prof Archer began: “I was frankly amazed at the distorted criticism you chose to aim at the Chancellor of the two Pontifical Academies.”

She said that Dr Gennarini’s article “raises some very serious questions about your understanding of Catholic Social Doctrine”.

She asked him: “Is your sole concern with human dignity confined to the period between conception and live-birth?” and accused him of being “totally uninterested in vicious practices, such as human trafficking” – the subject of the five-day plenary session of PASS.

This was followed a week later by a one-day summit on the moral dimensions of climate change and sustainable development, attended by Ban Ki-moon and Prof Sachs. According to Prof Archer, “the word ‘abortion’ was never once mentioned”.

Asking “Why do you direct a hate message to Bishop Sánchez Sorondo alone?” she said that other cardinals and academics were present. “I am appointed by the Pope and responsible directly to him. I’m afraid that leaves you and your cohort out in the cold,” she said.

She went on to say: “Why are we not allowed to speak to Jeffrey Sachs or the Secretary General of the UN?” Pointing out that Pope Francis had invited Ban Ki-moon to a private audience, she asked Dr Gennarini: “Do you really have a higher moral standard than the Pope? Or is your own minimalistic version of the Creed, consisting of the single item: ‘We believe in the ethical depravity of abortion’ considered to be an improvement?”