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Catholic conference spurs debate, protest

The Catholic Church is seriously concerned when ideology can somehow create a new human right, President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and Ghanaian Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson stated in his speech at an International Conference called “The Catholic Church and Human Rights” in Bratislava on March 4.

The Catholic Church is seriously concerned when ideology can somehow create a new human right, President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and Ghanaian Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson stated in his speech at an International Conference called “The Catholic Church and Human Rights” in Bratislava on March 4.

“Healthy realism is the basis of human rights,” said Turkson, as quoted by the TASR newswire. “When a separation occurs between reality and what is being required as a so-called new human right, there’s a threat of new interpretations of the existing dictionary of human rights.” As an example, he pointed to recent developments in Belgium, where new legislation on euthanasia, adopted by the Belgian parliament on February 13 also allows children to ask for a voluntary death.

“Another example is the use of the term gender in order to indicate that sex isn’t biologically given as male and female, but as a social construct or a product of what individuals think or feel to be,” he said.

“The current state of interpretation of basic human rights is marked by two factors: denying of human dignity and the ideologising of human rights,” Archbishop Stanislav Zvolenský, head of the Conference of Bishops of Slovakia, said according to TASR. “Especially in the process of preparation of the Strategy of Human Rights document,” he added.

During Turkson’s speech, non-governmental organisations Institute for Human Rights and Rainbow Slovakia held a protest with about 30 people attending.

“We’re here because there’s a conference with human rights in its title, organised by the Catholic Church, but one of the speakers is a cardinal who has repeatedly downplayed the violence – including murders of gays – in Uganda, by referring to culture and tradition,” said one of the organisers, Peter Weisenbacher.

Turkson also said in his speech that the Church defends everyone’s right to life and physical safety, regardless of any “sexual difference” that they may feel.
The protests in Pilárikova street in the capital was meant to last from 10:00 to 13:00, but the protesters split after about half an hour, the SITA newswire wrote. Weisenbacher stressed that he and his co-protesters wanted to debate at the conference, for which they duly registered. The KBS first refused to register them, and later refused their entry, arguing capacity was full. Romana Schlesinger, spokeswoman for the Queer Leaders Forum, said that some more protests are planned, but they will take place only after the presidential election in Slovakia. Protests will target efforts to alter the constitution to define marriage as a bond of a man and a woman.

(Source: TASR, SITA)
Compiled by Zuzana Vilikovská from press reports
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