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Vatican Opposes Imposition of ‘Western Model’ Feminism

June 20, 1995

VATICAN CITY (AP) _ The Vatican announced its readiness Tuesday to battle for its agenda at the U.N. conference on women in September and said its delegation would probably be headed by a woman.

It would be the first time that a woman would lead a Vatican delegation at such a prominent international event. The Vatican’s intentions indicate that it is seeking to head off criticism that women, barred from the priesthood, also are blocked from other important Church roles.

Papal spokesman Joaquin Navarro said the woman could be a lay person or a nun, perhaps selected from among the women who have represented the Vatican at the preparatory sessions at the United Nations in New York.

They include Sheri Rickert, a New York lawyer who is a legal advisor to the Holy See’s U.N. Mission, and Gail Quinn, executive director of pro-life activities at the U.S. Bishops’ conference in Washington. Navarro also listed as possibilities lay women from Benin in Africa, Jordan and Indonesia.

``If it is a woman, she will not be a figurehead,″ he said.

Pope John Paul II recently described the conference, to be held in Beijing, as being of utmost importance for the future of humanity.

The Vatican, which has assailed what it calls attempts to impose a ``Western model″ of feminist concerns on the rest of the world, will seek strong language condemning all forms of violence against women, including on this list forced sterilization, the required use of contraceptives and incitement to abort.

``The Holy See has always expressed its concern for the number of women who are objects of systematic sterilization plans, above all in developing countries,″ Navarro said.

Among Vatican concerns cited by Navarro were attempts to promote abortion and to allow minors access to contraceptives and abortion without the consent of their parents.

He said these proposals resulted from pressures ``of an ideological nature″ to impose a particular Western social philosophy.

Navarro refused to identify any country by name but said pressure for minors to have easy access to abortions came from several countries in the 15-nation European Union.

At the U.N. population conference in Cairo last September, the Vatican campaigned aggressively to keep liberalizing abortion language out of the final document. It was accused of teaming up with radical Islamic countries in the process.

This time, Navarro dismissed the idea of such an alliance, saying there were ``substantial″ differences between Christians and Muslims on some women’s issues.

The pope has said the Beijing meeting should encourage women to realize their choices, including motherhood and active public roles.

Navarro said the Vatican will battle to protect the dignity of women and promote a woman’s ``universal rights.″

Navarro said the various delegations have been unable to agree to about a third of the proposals in the draft final document.

``We are not alone,″ Navarro said.

The Holy See has observer status at the United Nations and takes an active role in many of its conferences. It will send a 20-member delegation. The names will be announced in two weeks.