SALT LAKE CITY, Utah: While the world’s Catholic bishops recently spent two weeks in Rome exploring ways and means of deepening the gospel values for the family, an international group of pro-family leaders recently met in this city to examine the prospects of the natural family in the years ahead. The outlook proved genuinely positive, thoroughly hopeful for the basic unit of human society, despite its present state.
This is “Mormon country,” as some people would like to put it, home state, if you like, of the Church of Jesus Christ and the Latter-Day Saints, which has a growing presence in the Philippines and many other countries. So what is this Filipino Catholic doing here? This seems to be the first legitimate question to ask.
Well, I came not to join the LDS nor to proselytize. This was a planning session for the 2015 World Congress of Families, which will be held in this city, the first one to be held in the United States, after having nearly circled the globe in the last 17 years. The WCF has its central headquarters in Rockford, Illinois, where its founder, Dr. Allan Carlson, presides over the Howard Center for Family, Religion and Society, and the Family in America Studies Center. But it was launched in Prague in 1997, where my own association with it, as one of its inaugural speakers, began.
Since then the Congress has been held once every two years in Geneva, Mexico, Warsaw, Amsterdam, Madrid, and Sydney. I had the good fortune of speaking to all, except for the ones in Mexico, Warsaw and Sydney, which I simply could not attend. They have now put me on the Advisory Committee and conferred upon me the WCF Lifetime Achievement Award. So I could not miss Salt Lake, despite pressing deadlines and other engagements at home.
Gathered at Salt Lake’s Grand America Hotel last week were among the most energetic pro-life and pro-family activists of various faiths from Europe, Africa, Latin America, Asia, Australia, and the US. Most of them have been with the WCF from the very beginning, and had so much to contribute to the discussions. But not to be outdone were our young hosts, many of them half the age of the oldest veteran, but with new and brilliant insights into family issues that have long bedeviled mankind.
But you cannot possibly come to Salt Lake without talking about it. So we’ll have to say something about Salt Lake first. It is not enough to say it is the capital city of Utah, the 13th largest, 33rd most populous, 10th least-densely populated state of the United States. More importantly, it is one of the friendliest and cleanest cities in the world, obviously one of the greatest places to raise a family with lots of children.
I had been here before, as guest of the World Family Policy Center at Brigham Young University (BYU) in Provo. There I had the privilege of speaking before the BYU Law School, and lunching with Law Prof. Lynn Wardle at Robert Redford’s ski resort at Sundance. Here at Salt Lake, I had the privilege of listening to the famous Mormon Tabernacle Choir, and watching Utah’s basketball team Jazz play an opening game for the NBA from the owner’s box. But I may have missed a thing or two about the people’s family life.
Now, in apparent contrast to the growing trend in many other countries where the young tend to delay their marriage in favor of their careers, the young people here seem to favor marrying early and raising large families, the larger the better. The large family is an endangered species, in fact already extinct in many parts of the world. Last month, I addressed a conference on “large families and the future of humanity” at the Kremlin and the Russian Orthodox Church in Moscow, but failed to meet anyone with a significantly large family. In this conference, however, I met quite a few.
At first, a Catholic or someone of a different faith may have some misgivings coming to this “LDS country.” This need not be. For despite the presence of well-sculpted LDS churches everywhere, the 10-percent Catholics run next to the Mormons in number, and they have several beautiful churches of their own. The most prominent of these is the Cathedral of the Madeleine on South Temple Drive, built in 1909. There is no religious discrimination whatsoever.
Neither is there any reason for a visitor to feel like a stranger here. Everyone has the warmest smile and greeting for everybody else, whether in the hotel, in the shops or in the streets. At the tram station where people take their ride for free to the City Creek Center, all the young men and young women rose to offer their seats to us, as my wife and I walked in. I thought it was a superb way of welcoming their guests to their city, until I saw the sign, “Please give your seats to seniors.” Then I realized to my amusement that I was not only a foreign guest but also no longer just past sixty. I just couldn’t imagine anything like it happening inside Manila’s MRT.
Like all of Utah, Salt Lake is non-alcoholic, non-smoking country. People generally avoid alcohol, coffee or tea. They do not impose this norm on foreigners or non-LDS members, but the Rules of Conduct at City Creek Center say it very clearly: You are most welcome to enjoy this privately-owned facility, but you may not use profane or vulgar language, behave in a scandalous or unruly manner, consume alcohol or smoke. And everyone obeys these rules as law.
It is told at BYU that some federal authorities from Washington, DC once came down to the university to inquire into the “repressive effects” of not allowing students to smoke or drink wine, spirits, coffee or tea. They found a young Chinese lady scholar whom they asked if in China, she was free to smoke or drink wine, liquor, coffee or tea. She answered, yes. Now, what about at BYU? Was she still free to smoke or drink wine, liquor, coffee or tea?
The panel must have thought they had BYU on the ropes when the young lady said, “But I came here to study law, not to smoke or drink alcohol, coffee or tea.”
At the planning session, it was noted that despite the demographic decline and the general lowering of morality in many countries, the attack on the natural family, understood as the union of one man and one woman in a covenant of marriage, went on unabated. This, increasingly through the homosexual agenda, which seeks to promote homosexual acts as normative and homosexual unions as identical to marriage.
This is facilitated largely by the privatization of faith or the removal of God from the public square, and the deliberate manipulation of language and the terms of the sexuality debate in such a way that the extreme positions always dominate while the mainstream is left out.
One European activist pointed out that by taking the offensive on every issue, the “other side” has succeeded in putting the defenders of the natural family permanently on the defensive. They take completely outrageous positions which they themselves know would be publicly rejected, but by insisting on the same, they ultimately succeed in advancing at least 50 percent of their outrageous ideas. Thus, no one may denounce “sodomy” anymore, without being accused of being homophobic, or of using “hate language.” or of “discriminating against homosexuals,” and being legally prosecuted and punished for it.
Even the word “homosexual” has all but disappeared from our language in favor of “gay,” which used to be the dictionary equivalent of “cheerful” or “happy.” We have come to a situation where a miniscule minority which began by asking for “tolerance” from the overwhelming majority, which never oppressed them anyway, is now persecuting that same majority whose beliefs and practices they say they cannot “tolerate.”
It is time for a counter-offensive, says the European activist. And we could probably begin by criminalizing “sodomy” all over again, in our laws. He also proposed that a Russian film entitled, “Sodom,” which documents the real problems related to homosexuality, be distributed globally as an educational tool in turning back the LGBT assault. However, although these views were expressed in one group session, they somehow failed to make it to the plenary.
Despite the enormity of the continuing family crisis, the planning group believed there was reason to hope that faith and the family could still be restored to their rightful place. This would entail an all-out global effort to build coalitions, beginning with the youth, religious and political leaders, using all media—movies, dance, music, verbal, visual and written arts, and every other tool to reach and educate all audiences, on the most essential truths. A morally and spiritually desirable world is still possible, despite the apparent dominance of the false and the counterfeit in human culture.
How would such a world look like, say 10 or 20 years from now?
First of all, governments would now look at the stability and prosperity of the family as the real basis and true measure of the stability and prosperity of every nation. The US Supreme Court will have vacated the Roe v. Wade decision as the US Constitution and the constitution of other nations are amended to include a right to life of the unborn, and the United Nations retracts all anti-life and anti-family language in every international document.
China will have abandoned its one-child policy and launched a campaign to encourage couples to have at least three children. Fertility growth will have increased to at least 3.5 per woman, the divorce rate will have plummeted down to the ocean floor, pornography and sodomy will have been driven completely underground, and large families will have become common with children and grandchildren deciding to care for their grandparents instead of putting them in “homes.”
Finally, International Planned Parenthood, US AID, George Soros, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and others will now be using their money to promote the growth and prosperity of the natural family instead of funding the war on population.
This may sound like a Utopian dream, possible only if and when pigs begin to fly. But this is how things should be if and when good triumphs over evil, and men and women would begin acting faithfully according to the natural order of things.
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Correction: In my last column on Blessed Paul VI, I quoted the British journalist Gart Alexander’s “eyewitness account” of President Marcos stopping the Pope’s would-be assassin at the Manila international airport in 1970 with a karate chop. I was information secretary at the time but did not see this, so I quoted Alexander’s report. Now comes Archbishop Emeritus Fernando Capalla with an important correction: It was a Mill Hill missionary from Borneo, he says, that kicked Benjamin Mendoza and prevented him from mortally wounding the pope. Also, the Pope was slightly wounded in the stomach. But nobody knew this except his secretary, an Irish monsignor who later became a bishop. The Pope asked him not to tell anyone while he was still alive. After his death, the Irish bishop wrote the bishops of the world about the secret. That’s saintly humility, Archbishop Capalla writes. The archbishop is a great admirer of Blessed Paul VI, who named him auxiliary bishop of Davao on April 8, 1975 and as residential bishop of Iligan later.