Osservatore Romano

Is New U.N. Secretary General Defender of Unborn?

Joffre Swait comments
| World

Religion might be making its way into the United Nations from the top down.

Antonio Guterres, a former prime minister of Portugal turned diplomat, is a socialist and Roman Catholic. He served as High Commissioner for Refugees at the United Nations from 2005 until the end of 2015, the second longest tenure in that position. The 15-member U.N. Security Council has voted to put his name to a formal vote by the General Assembly within the next few days, which should make him the next Secretary General of the United Nations.

Mr. Guterres is not expected to bring a lot of change to his job or the institution he has dedicated his latter years to. From one perspective, he is what most United Nations General Secretaries have been: a choice that the five permanent members of the Security Council can live with, a choice that neither upsets nor excites. On the other hand, there are plenty of people upset by his selection.

The press and intelligentsia had already decided that the next Secretary General needed to be a woman. Mr. Guterres is not a woman.

But an even bigger sticking point is that he seems to behave like what he says he is. He is a socialist, which is upsetting to some. But he is a Catholic, which is upsetting to others. As Prime Minister of Portugal in 1998, Mr. Guterres succeeded in pushing a measure to legalize abortion, which had already been approved by parliament, to be voted on in a popular referendum. He then, in a very non-Socialist move, campaigned on the winning “No” side. Pushing the vote to popular referendum delayed the legalization of abortion in Portugal by nine years, which saved tens of thousands of lives.

He also spoke disapprovingly of homosexuality and homosexual marriage in the 90s, and has since maintained a discreet silence, a thing easier to accomplish as a diplomat than in his previous incarnation as a politician. His silence is, to many, damning.

It is unlikely that Mr. Guterres will be able to or even want to fight against the tide of death that has been rising these many years. He made his bones as a negotiator and compromiser. But he has also shown himself willing to fight and make unpopular choices when the stakes were high enough.

Christians would do well to watch his continuing career at the United Nations, and, for good or ill, to study his life in politics when his career is over.


Joffre Swait

Joffre Swait grew up in three countries, for no particular reason beyond his dad's wanderlust. He blogs and vlogs as Joffre The Giant, but when writing about serious times in serious places he uses his real name. Like here, for example. Joffre Swait really is his real name, because this is a serious website. He and his wife Kimberly used to own a used bookshop in upcountry South Carolina, but now they live as missionaries in Porto Alegre, the capital city of south Brazil's gauchos, with their five kids (Renata, Joffre, George, Ward, and Mara).