Opposition Watch: World Congress of Families, Madrid 2012
Catholics for Choice Report on Day Three and a Wrap: Rooms Available in the Persecution Complex
May 30, 2012
“How can we do away with the government planning everything?” It was fitting that these words, uttered by Dr. Francisco J. González Estepa of the Asociación de Homeschoolers Evangélicos, were among some of the first on the last day of the World Congress for Families (WCF) in Madrid. González ʼ vague and genuinely fearful question helped usher in the most paranoid day of the event. That the Congress could end any other way, however was quite unlikely. With speeches such as “The Role of Media in the Education of Children/Indoctrination,” “Religious Persecution Worldwide,” “Religious Symbols in Public Spaces, a Right?,” “Promoting Fatherhood (Crisis in Manhood),” and its counterpoint, “Promoting Motherhood (Crisis in Womanhood),” the final day of the conference appeared to be specifically organized to gin up enough fear and outrage to embolden the participants in their fight against “change” and “the future” for the 12 long months stretching between May 27 and next year’s World Congress of Families in Sydney, Australia.
Per the established tone of the Congress, Dr. González’s remarks came a half hour later than expected, the attendees having taken their time emerging from Mass. Focusing on the filth and misinformation supposedly disseminated in public schools—specifically in Spain where recent years have seen great advances in sex education, contraceptive provision and laws involving rights for homosexual couples—the crowd was quite receptive. The enthusiasm for the doctor was, however, mild compared to what was shown for the man who followed after him in the lineup.
In a conference full of speakers making blood-and-thunder pronouncements, founder and publisher of Movieguide and Chairman of the Christian Film and Television Commission Ted Baehr was rivaled only by Austin Ruse of C-FAM and Alan Sears of the Alliance Defense Fund for doom-mongering.
The first three minutes of his Baehr’s presentation stuck to strengths he displayed the previous evening—talking down to the audience, touting one of his many books and whipping up fear. “I want to help you understand the influence of mass media entertainment that is not educating your children or leading them out of darkness,” Baehr warned before a screen showing the cover art of Judd Apatow’s Knocked Up, “but is quite often indoctrinating your children, leading them exactly in the wrong direction.” Baehr then went on to educate his audience on the evils of this indoctrination with a series of slides and facts—all of which were attributed to his own publication, Movieguide. Even for the WCF, this was audacious—the man was, essentially, citing himself.
With the amount of time dedicated to promoting his books, the substance of Baehr’s presentation was cut short. On the previous day, however, topics he covered included: the influence of homosexuals in the movie industry and their inherent perversion; the percentage of movies that were “Christian, Pagan, and Humanistic;” and the fact that most of the highest-grossing movies of all time were Christian or contained “Christian values.” (Never mind that, when Baehr presented a list of the 20 top-grossing movies of all time, number two was Pirates of the Caribbean—a movie about the morally upright profession of piracy, the main character of which is a sexually ambiguous buccaneer modeled on a 1960s rock-guitarist heroin addict. An appearance was also made by Thor, which is explicitly about pagan deities.) Nonetheless, Mr. Baehr was met with much applause—and I’ve no doubt he sold more than a few books.
The next session on “Religious Freedom” commenced with Javier Menéndez Ros, director of Ayuda a la Iglesia Necesitada, engaging in a bit of statistically un-cited and hyper-paranoid arithmetic. By Menéndez’ calculations, 200 million Christians are persecuted in the world each year, with 150 million more experiencing discrimination. This, according to Menéndez, meant that one-third of all persons persecuted in the world were Christian. Never mind that the words “persecution” and “discrimination” were not clearly defined—what matters is that “they” are out to get you. Who “they” are was never clearly defined at the conference, though repeat mentions were given to “the homosexuals,” “the secularists,” “the communists,” “the government,” “the entertainment industry” and “the media”—all of which presumably form some sort of cabal.
Apropos of disappearances, the next scheduled speaker was Rocco Buttiglione. The moderator apologized to attendees, informing us that Mr. Buttiglioni would not be in attendance as he was “not feeling well at this time.” Standing in for him was Alan Sears of the Alliance Defense Fund. This replacement is worth mentioning because, on the previous day, Sears was unable to give his talk due to a delayed flight and had another participant read his speech to the auditorium. When Sears covered for Buttiglioni, however, he did not read the latter’s speech, but his own—an odd occurrence when one reflects that either a) Sears packs extra speeches with him wherever he goes, or b) someone may have known that Buttiglioni was not going to show up before his last minute cancellation and had given Sears the heads up.
Sears then warned the audience that they must be vigilant because their enemies had an insidious plan: “Freedom of worship is replacing freedom of religion.” Taken by itself, this statement highlights the core of the paranoia that characterized the entire conference, but especially the third day of the Congress: the participants do not want the right to observe their religion in a peaceful, private way that informs their daily lives. Instead, they want the acknowledgment of their apparently divinely mandated prerogative—the legal enforcement of a screaming evangelism that draws to a point in moral legislation that will allow them to enforce a single, intolerant view of existence.
If one is looking for proof of this viewpoint, they need go no further than the speaker following Sears, Paul Herzog Von Oldenburg, president of Federación Pro Europa Cristiana. Beginning his presentation with claims that “almost every single page of the Quran calls for violence against infidels,” Oldenburg quickly asserted that secular states were attempting to take control of religious bodies “in the name of ‘higher law,’ and by this I mean ‘so called human rights,’ and not the real fundamental, unchangeable rights of the human person, but the subjective, relativistic and evolving version.” It was against the encroaching threat of Islam and the ever-present threat of secular states that the speaker trotted out the complementary piece to Sears’ earlier comment about freedom of religion. “Our great ideal is to rebuild a Christian civilization from the ruins of the modern world,” Oldenburg asserted as he worked his way up to the conference’s big reveal, “just as the medieval world rose from the ruins of the Roman Empire.” Yes, ladies and gentleman, the World Congress of Families awaits with eager arms a neo-Dark Age, replete with a renewed taking up of arms against the alleged menace of Islam.
And then came the most important part of the day.
An announcement over the auditorium loudspeaker instructed everyone to keep their seats: the break between sessions was canceled so we could enjoy a special announcement from none other than Austin Ruse: “One of the problems that we have is at the end of something like the World Congress an organization is generally left holding the bag.” He then claimed that HazteOir—one of the principal groups responsible for helping the World Congress of Families come to and operate in Madrid—was on the hook for $300,000. He then released a group of tin-carrying teenagers on the crowd to collect donations to cover the hefty operational costs.
The close of the conference, for all of its paranoia and pomposity, was something of a letdown, however. A long promotional video of Australia, site of the next WCF; paranoid comments about secularism; a few goodbye speeches; and then a joint reading of what was termed the “Madrid Declaration.” Half recited in Spanish and half in English, the declaration was merely a codification of much of the vitriol and paranoia espoused over the last 72 hours. The document presents a series of affirmations such as:
- We affirm that the natural family is a fixed aspect of the created order, one ingrained in human nature. The natural family cannot change into some new shape; nor can it be re-defined by eager social engineers.
- We affirm that the natural family is the ideal, optimal, true family system. While we acknowledge varied living situations, all other “family forms” are incomplete or are mere fabrications of the state.
- We affirm the marital union of a man and a woman to be the authentic sexual bond, the only one open to the natural and responsible creation of new life.
And with that, the World Congress of Families VI in Madrid, Spain, was over. Despite the protestations against government, the frantic paranoia, the embattled mentality and terror-filled prognostications, no jackbooted security squad burst in at the final moments. No one was even verbally abused by a stranger with a dissenting opinion. Reading to themselves the things they already held to be true, cheering the notions they possessed prior to arriving at the Congress, they applauded. Much like Austin Ruse on the previous day, they applauded themselves and the courage it took to show up and say things that perfectly corresponded with the worldview of those around them. If the World Congress of Families is about anything, it is most certainly about the inherent sadness that arises from seeing things in a way that is fundamentally irreconcilable with the world which we all inhabit.
For more on Catholics for Choice’s opposition work, please read Twenty Years of Taking Down the Opposition.
For more information about Opposition Watch, please contact Catholics for Choice at +1 (202) 986-6093 or email@example.com.