Tuesday, May 29, 2012

World Congress of Families, Madrid 2012

An Introductory Report: Multidimensional Challenges Ahead
The Echo Chamber at the World Congress of Families

This weekend, May 25–27, the biennial World Congress of Families (WCF) international conference will be held in Madrid, Spain. Running under the banner “Marriage and the Family: The Future of Society,” this year’s conference promises to be an echo chamber for regressive social views presented by advocates from a variety of arch-conservative organizations, notably the Howard Center for Family, Religion and Society, its sponsor. Biographies for selected speakers are available here.

Catholics for Choice has reported from several previous iterations of the WCF. Our previous reports are available here. Because of the nature of these gatherings, and the fact that antichoice activists tend to hold them up as examples of a new dawn in antichoice activity, we attend and report on the events in order to provide the truth about what is happening: who is there and what they are saying. Providing accurate information about the opposition’s activities helps all of us counter their propaganda from a position of strength.

The choice of Spain as the venue also provides us an opportunity to assess what really lies behind the noises that the conservative Spanish government has made about reversing the progressive laws passed under the last administration. It is clear that the decision to host this event in Spain was at least somewhat driven by the notion that “the faithful” must drive headfirst into the heart of iniquity, slaying the dragon of modernity in order to achieve salvation, both here and in the hereafter. However, as they tilt towards these windmills on Don Quixote’s home turf, it is entirely possible that a sexually progressive and politically active opposition may show up to protest. In which case, the World Congress of Families may draw some attention—just not the sort of attention that, even if they want it, will be beneficial to their cause.

One might suppose that given the current global economic climate, a significant portion of the World Congress of Families would relate to helping families make it through the crisis. Help with real challenges like unemployment, healthcare and childcare would be welcome. With breakout sessions such as “The Homosexual Lobby,” “Effects of Social Experimentation and Same-Sex Adoption,” “Solutions to Homosexual Behavior” and “Promoting Fatherhood: the Crisis of Manhood,” however, the Congress appears far more concerned with fabricated social issues that have no substantial impact on the welfare of the family.

The WCF gives the distinct impression that it means to codify an antiquated set of social behaviors they hope will safeguard them from an “encroaching darkness,” which the majority of the world simply refers to as “change,” “the future” or even “progress.”

This viewpoint draws a special assortment of speakers at the Congress. Yet the extremist nature of previous Congresses has moved big-name speakers with sympathies to the group’s aims into last-minute cancellations—the most notable of these at the last conference being Cardinal Alfonso Trujillo and Polish President Lech Kaczynski. For this year’s conference, while there are some minor EU officials, there are no figures with any sort of instant name recognition outside of the insular community of attendees.

This is no fluke—the conference has consistently failed to meet attendance expectations. In 2007, attendees to the Warsaw event were bussed in from surrounding parishes. And at one point in 2009, the only echo to be heard was conference speaker Austin Ruse infamously tweeting “What’s going on? Where is everybody?” as he looked out on an almost-empty conference hall.

The Howard Center’s first notice on the event was titled “Multidimensional Challenges Ahead,” a background document drafted by one of the Congress speakers, Dr. Farooq Hassan. With a world of rights-empowered advocates fighting for everything the Congress is fighting against, the Madrid gathering will have its work cut out as it tries to shore up its retrograde vision of society. In the next few days, Catholics for Choice will be reporting on the World Congress of Families as it faces these many challenges with all hands on deck.

For more on Catholics for Choice’s opposition work, please read Twenty Years of Taking Down the Opposition.

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