Salt Lake City: My daughter Gabbie and I arrived in Salt Lake on Monday evening Mountain Time (which was Tuesday morning Manila Time) after a day-long flight on Delta via Narita and Seattle to the warm welcome of the reception committee of the ninth World Congress of Families. It was a delight to walk once again into the Grand America Hotel, which I first visited a couple of years ago during the preparatory sessions for this Congress. It is one of the most magnificent hotels you will find on this side of the Atlantic. And the people here are among the warmest and friendliest you’ll ever meet anywhere.
I could see my youngest daughter, who writes social commentary for Philippine Star, succumb to the charm. But as the Congress opened hours later, I could sense some foreboding in the air. For although the World Congress of Families has been pure jubilation from the time it first convened in Prague in 1997, the dignity of marriage and the natural family has since triggered a global storm. And America has been in the eye of that storm.
It is in the US where the Supreme Court, rather than Congress, has legislated the right of women to contract abortion on demand, and it is here where the same Court, not Congress, has legislated same-sex unions all over the states of the Union. Millions of unborn children have been aborted since 1973 when Roe v. Wade became the controlling legal and political doctrine, and the promotion of abortion also became a major foreign policy thrust of the US under The Kissinger Report, otherwise known as National Security Study Memorandum 200, and later under President Bill Clinton, and now under Barack Obama.
Aside from its regular July 4 celebration, which embassies abroad normally mark with a diplomatic reception, the US government now hosts “Gay Pride” diplomatic receptions for gays and lesbians to proclaim its commitment to the LGBT cause. Pro-life and pro-family groups have received these occurrences with nothing more than raised eyebrows, but the homosexual lobby has condemned these groups as “hate groups” and their defense of human life, the natural family and marriage, which they denounce as “hate speech.”
My wife and I have been participating in pro-life and pro-family conferences since St. John Paul II launched the World Meeting of Families in Rome in 1992. We missed the last one in Philadelphia last month for some unavoidable reasons, but we have as a rule tried to follow the Pope’s meetings with the families everywhere. We were with St. John Paul II in Rio, and with Pope Benedict XVI in Valencia and in Milan.
Since 1997, I have also spoken at all the ecumenical World Family Congresses—- in Prague, Geneva, Amsterdam and Madrid—-, missing only the ones in Mexico in 2004, Warsaw in 2007, and Sydney in 2013 because of the Philippine national elections.
In all these conferences, I never felt the need to defend the truths of my Catholic Christian faith, or the God-given truths of human life, family and marriage from their radical and increasingly abusive opponents. I have always felt the burden of proof was on them——they needed to prove they had a case against the truths that we profess.
Here in Salt Lake, however, I see a shift in the global environment. This cannot be the mere product of a jet-lagged imagination. It is the reality everywhere. All over the world today, it is the good that has to be defended from evil, right from wrong, truth from falsehood, the law from the unlawful, peace and justice from the violent and the unjust, love from the propagators of enmity and hate, the natural from the unnatural.
Last year, at the Vatican, the Pope presided over an international colloquium entitled Humanum, composed of some 400 religious leaders and scholars from all religions around the world, to confirm the “complementarity of man and woman.” I heard the representatives of all the other faiths reaffirm what Christian Catholics and evangelicals have long believed. This colloquium was preceded by similar interfaith conferences earlier, some of which I had also attended. And all of them spoke as one on marriage as the union of one man and one woman for life, for the purpose of having children, whom they are to educate.
During his apostolic visit to the US last month, Pope Francis deliberately avoided wading into the same-sex marriage controversy in the US, by not publicly reproaching the five justices of the Supreme Court who had earlier pronounced a hitherto hidden human right of the American people to contract “same-sex marriage” in all the American states. But he did something which could not be communicated by mere words. He met with Kimberly Davis, the 50-year-county clerk of Rowan County, Kentucky, who had refused to issue marriage licenses to “same-sex couples wanting to get married.” That meeting was worth more than a million words.
Davis has since been satirized in the American secular media for her moral conviction and courage, but her example has inspired supporters from all over the world. In the US itself, more and more Americans have come forward to say they will not allow the American justices to usurp the word of God and have the last word on marriage.
Salt Lake is the home of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (more popularly known as the Mormon Church). Because of its reputation as a strong defender of family life and marriage, and as place where people are encouraged to avoid taking even the least toxic stimulants—such as coffee, tea and intoxicating drinks, it has become a primary target of the international homosexual attack.
The opposition, according to conference sources, has exerted every effort to persuade Utah Governor Gary Richard Herbert not to attend the Congress. They have failed. They will probably try to infiltrate the conference, and disrupt its proceedings if they can. I am told the organizers have taken all the necessary precautions for this. Indeed, I have no doubt that at the end of the day, good, right, truth, justice, peace and love will prevail.
For God, we are assured, never loses his battles, and this is God’s battle. As my friend Mario from Croatia told us in Rome long ago, “In most battles, we cannot foretell the outcome. But in this particular battle, we already know we have won, except that we still have to fight a little bit more.” I am in this Congress to do this “fighting a little bit more” and I shall be addressing the Congress on Thursday. I will be sharing this address with the readers of the Times on Friday.
But I have one point to make.
Back home, we are in the middle of serious rethinking of what to do, as a nation, in order to move forward. But we cannot move forward as a nation unless we first recognize our common humanity. Society is built on the inherent dignity of the human person and the family, but the family, not the individual, is the basic unit of society. We read this in our Constitution, which recognizes the family as the foundation of the nation, and marriage the foundation of the family, and which further recognizes the sanctity of family life and commits to protect the life of the mother and the life of the unborn from the moment of conception. We need to reaffirm all these now.
If there are to be any presidential and senatorial debates before the May 2016 elections, all the participants should be asked to declare whether they are prepared to uphold the moral and constitutional precepts that the State has no business redefining the nature and meaning of human life, the family or marriage. They must declare in the clearest possible terms that marriage is the exclusive union of one man and one woman for life, primarily for the purpose of rearing and educating their own children; and that married couples have a right to live their conjugal lives inviolably according to their faith, without any intrusion or intervention from the State.
The next President and senators of the Philippines should each be able to tell any foreign power, just as President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya recently told President Obama, that he does not have to be instructed by any foreign leader, no matter how well-meaning, on so-called “gay rights.”