Vatican delegations ought to avoid the rhetoric of the world.

By Dr. Jeff Mirus (bio - articles - email) | Jul 30, 2015

One does wonder occasionally about Vatican diplomacy. For example, in recent remarks at the UN, the Vatican delegation urged that controversial issues be left out of the UN’s sustainable development goals (see Avoid controversial issues in drafting development goals, Holy See tells UN). This is hardly surprising, as every schoolboy knows the UN constantly sneaks abortion, contraception, and sterilization into its development programs under the guise of reproductive “health”, while emphasizing the gay agenda under the guise of “tolerance and mutual respect”.

So the Holy See’s advice is well-taken. Why force various nations and peoples to opt out of sustainable development goals by including immoral provisions which are generally intolerable outside the decadent circle of the West?

But for all that, the rhetoic can be a little dodgy. In this case, Archbishop Bernardito Auza said:

It is my delegation’s strong conviction that we have a unique opportunity to adopt an unprecedented agenda that may not only eradicate extreme poverty and achieve sustainable development but that will do so without leaving anyone behind.

OK, I get it. This is the setup line for asking the UN not to ruin a good thing with its classic moral presumption. But no sane person believes that poverty can be completely eradicated in this world, or that nobody will be “left behind”. More to the point, Jesus Christ did not hold out that possibility (see Matthew’s Gospel, chapter 26, verses 8 – 11).

This does not mean we shouldn’t do everything we reasonably can to help those in need, or that we should not attempt to organize our economies to maximize solidarity and the universal destination of goods. Sustainable development is a very important goal.

But, on the whole, I think it is better not to talk like secularists. In politics, the perfect is the enemy of the good, for the simple yet compelling reason that perfection is not within the world’s grasp. When we speak as if it is, we give too much credit to “programs” (often totalitarian programs) and not enough credit to love.

Jeffrey Mirus holds a Ph.D. in intellectual history from Princeton University. A co-founder of Christendom College, he also pioneered Catholic Internet services. He is the founder of Trinity Communications and CatholicCulture.org. See full bio.

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  • Posted by: brenda22890 - Jul. 30, 2015 2:34 PM ET USA

    Thank you for this. I've often thought the same, not only of the Vatican delegation, but sometimes of Pope Francis, as well. While we need always to do every thing we can to remedy poverty, we need to remember that the poor will always be with us and not imagine that we can come up with some program or ideology that will create a utopia here on earth.