From the November, 2000 issue of Touchstone

The UN—From Friend to Foe by Allan Carlson

The UN—From Friend to Foe

The Fate of the Family in the Triumph of Socialism over Christian Democracy

by Allan Carlson

Early this summer, several hundred advocates for life and family autonomy squared off in a war of words and paper against a much larger and better-funded band of feminists and sexual radicals. The United Nation’s “Beijing Plus Five” Conference on the Status of Women, held in New York, was the battleground this time for rival Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), following the earlier clashes at UN meetings in Cairo (1994), Beijing (1995), Copenhagen (1996), Istanbul (1997), and Nairobi (1998).

The stakes have been high, for these meetings are now shaping international policy and law regarding the status of the family, including husband-wife bonds, parent-child relations, and human reproduction. For the large majority of nations that have signed UN treaties regarding the “rights” of women and children, the consequences are great, for these treaties contain enforcement mechanisms that are proving to be surprisingly effective (e.g., the Australian state of Tasmania was forced to give favorable legal treatment to homosexuality while Canada is under pressure to suppress spanking). But even for that handful of states that have not ratified these treaties (notably the United States and a few Islamic countries), the implications are large. “International precedents” shaped by the UN process have begun to enter American judicial decision making, while the Clinton administration has used Executive Orders to implement sections of both the “children’s” and “women’s rights” conventions.

Curiously, in its early years, the United Nations actually operated on remarkably strong pro-family principles. Its shift toward extreme “equity feminism” and sexual radicalism came only later. How did this happen?

Two factors shaped the attitudes toward the family to be found in the early years of the United Nations. To begin with, the horrors created by the Nazi occupation of Europe—the death camps, the eugenics campaigns, the experimentation on human subjects—were vivid images in the minds of those who gathered in San Francisco in 1945 to inaugurate the new organization. It became important both to restore respect for the “human person” and to rescue “the family” as an ideal from the race-motivated distortions of Adolf Hitler.

Second, four rival worldviews emerged out of the rubble of World War II, seeking to shape the postwar environment and the new organization. Dominant at the political and military level was the rivalry between the communism found in the Soviet Union and the liberal democracy of the Americans: the period from 1945 to 1990 is commonly seen through the lens of the resulting Cold War. But at the social policy level, and specifically at the family policy level, a different competition of worldviews ensued: here, between Christian democracy and social democracy.

The “Christian Democratic” Episode

The Christian Democracy movement that took form in Europe in the mid-1940s claimed to be something altogether new. Christian political movements before 1930 had commonly shown suspicion of modernity, distrust of democracy, opposition to individualism, and hostility to the legacy of the French Revolution.

Yet by the 1930s something fresh and creative was emerging among Christian thinkers, with particular clarity in France. The key figure was Emmanuel Mounier. Writing in the Catholic idea-journal, Espirit, Mounier worked out a “Christianized” version of individualism, called “personalism.” This approach saw every human person as unique, a “free agent” with “inherent” moral qualities, and with rights rooted in a natural law. This vision placed strong emphasis on the importance of developing all dimensions of the human personality: “social as well as individual and spiritual as well as material.” Mounier emphasized that the full flowering of the individual would come only through social structures such as family, local community, and labor union. He called for creation of a revolutionary Christian party, one “hard,” one worthy of Christ, and one “radical” in its social-economic vision.1

In 1943, a young Catholic philosophy student and disciple of Mounier, Gilbert Dru, drew up a manifesto for postwar Christian Democratic work. He emphasized the revolutionary quality of true Christian action: the whole person must become engaged, not just as a cog in a party machine, but as a militant working to build a new France on radical Christian principles. A year later, Dru paid for this manifesto with his life, being shot by the German gestapo in Lyons.2

The further elaboration of Christian Democratic doctrine came primarily from two journalist-philosophers, Etienne Gilson and Etienne Borne, both writing for the journal Aube. They rejected the atomistic individualism of the nineteenth-century bourgeoisie, which, they said, had exhibited a “narrow,” self-centered outlook and had shown “an indifference toward basic institutions such as the family.” These writers also scorned the Socialists and Communists for their “materialism” and hostility toward revealed religion. Indeed, bourgeois liberalism and communism could be seen as “two facets of a single error.” The task now facing Western civilization was to reconcile true respect for the person and the reality of industrial society with Christian teaching, to find a middle way between bourgeois liberalism and collectivism.3

A second plank in the Christian Democratic platform was that, while the movement and party would be openly Christian, it would be neither clerical nor strictly Catholic. Following the anti-religious darkness of the Nazi conquest of Europe, this movement would instead seek to unite Catholic and Protestant believers and sympathetic others—Jews and agnostics—in a defense of Christendom as a civilization with religiously infused values.4

The Democratic Vision

Christian Democracy also sought to deliver both freedom and justice, goals to be pursued with equal vigor. As Etienne Borne explained in his book, Cet Inconnu:

Freedom without justice is artificial, deceptive and hypocritical; it can be used to justify the mechanism of the free market and the servitude of the proletariat; such freedom is, in fact, the antithesis of freedom. Likewise, justice without freedom leads to tyranny and to the totalitarianism of Soviet communism or Fascist corporatism.5

To accomplish these tasks—to reconcile individualism with community and to deliver both justice and liberty—the Christian Democrats gave priority to the defense of what they called “natural social structures.” These included neighborhoods, towns, labor unions, and churches; but the one given most attention was the family. Etienne Gilson, in his 1948 book Notre Democratie, neatly summarized the point:

From his birth to his death, each man is involved in a multiplicity of natural social structures outside of which he could neither live nor achieve his full development. . . . Each of these groups possesses a specific organic unity; first of all, there is the family, the child’s natural place of growth.6

These institutions were intrinsic or innate, meaning that they would always reappear out of the very instincts and nature of man. They also pre-existed the State; that is, the law did not create families and towns; it “found them.” As Etienne Borne put it: “A people is not really a people and certainly does not live in freedom unless the natural social groups which compose it accept each other, and unless the state recognizes their differences and ensures that their interests are represented.”7

The great disorders of the early twentieth century could be explained, in part, by the weakening of the family, as an industrialism backed by materialistic philosophers stripped away family function after function. Policy should now seek to return functions to the family.8 But this would not mean a return to the patriarchal, paternalistic family system of old Europe. The father-dominated family could not be reconciled with “personalism.” Christian Democrats held that women should know and enjoy equal civil, legal, economic, and political rights. At the same time, restoration of the family did mean that control of education should be returned to parents, that motherhood should enjoy special protection by the state, and that heads of households should receive a “family wage,” so that mothers might be empowered to remain home with their children.9

Unlike earlier Christian political movements, the postwar Christian Democrats enthusiastically embraced political democracy as the superior venue for the full development of the free human personality. Indeed, they held that democracy itself derives from Christian principles, such as the equality of all believers. They even urged expansion of the democratic principle. As Gilson argued: “History has proven that political democracy is to a great extent based on fiction if it is not accompanied by a truly economic and social democracy.” The movement stressed that economic life should be subordinate to spiritual life and the existence of families. This made Christian Democracy the friend of widely distributed small property and an advocate for peasant or family farms. They favored strong state controls over large, impersonal corporations, and the “humanization” of workplaces through measures such as the “family wage.”10

Undergirding the Christian Democratic worldview was a new interpretation of history. Where the Christian churches had usually been hostile to the French Revolution of 1789 and its program of “Liberty, Equality & Fraternity,” the new movement aimed at embracing the revolution and these words, albeit with a twist. As another leader of the young French movement, Maurice Schumann, put it, Christian Democracy “is the continuation of an effort, which dates from 1789, not only to reconcile the revolutionary tradition and Christian thought with each other but to foster them reciprocally.”11

This connection to the revolution of 1789 also made human rights a central Christian Democratic concern, but again with a special twist. Where secular views of the French experience relied on a “naturalistic” or evolutionary understanding of rights, the new movement emphasized the rooting of human rights in the Creation itself, in the natural law. Such rights were “inviolable” and “innate” because their fountainhead was God himself. Bearing a healthy suspicion of the State, Christian Democrats embraced human rights in order to protect “the natural rights of each individual” and of “natural social groups” from the overweening power of government. Also advancing social and economic democracy, the movement held to a positive view of social rights as necessary to the security and dignity of humanity.12

Christian Democracy in the Early UN

The Christian Democrats of Europe would carry these novel, exciting, even revolutionary ideas into the early assemblies of the new United Nations, with important results. In France, Christian Democracy took political form as the Mouvement Republicain Populaire, or MRP, which became part of the French governing coalition in 1946. Strong Christian Democratic parties also formed in the Netherlands, Belgium, Italy, and West Germany.

This worldview had especial influence in the Economic and Social Council, or ECOSOC, which oversaw all UN work on issues of social policy and human rights, including the Commission on Human Rights, established in 1946. Named to head the Department of Social Affairs was Professor Henri Laugier of France, a figure sympathetic to the Christian Democratic cause. More important, though, was Charles Habib Malik of Lebanon, who became president of ECOSOC in the critical year, 1948, and who actively served on the Commission on Human Rights.

Malik was an Arab Christian with a French education and a philosopher wholly in tune with the new Christian Democratic currents. Rich Christian imagery ran through his speeches and writings, above all in his view that “there is a direct relationship between peacemaking and having the right relationship to God—the ground of being and existence.” Echoing the words of the French Christian Democratic martyr Gilbert Dru, Malik called for a fundamental Western Revolution, with “The Living God” at its core. Turning upside down the ideas of the German nihilist philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, he added: “Nietzscheans humbly grounding themselves in God is what this moment of history really needs.”13 Malik would be a key actor in crafting the language of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.14

Another central player was René Cassin, a lawyer skilled in international law, also from France. As a staff member of the Commission on Human Rights, Cassin took the lead role in producing successive drafts of the Universal Declaration. While himself Jewish, Cassin was sympathetic to the French MRP and to the goals of Christian Democracy. In his own speeches and essays, he emphasized the derivation of the human rights idea from Holy Scripture. The Jews, inspired by their idea of “one God, father of all men,” held “rather early a vivid repugnance to serfdom.” Jesus and Paul taught that “there is no more distinction between Jew and Gentile, between free men and slaves. All form one large family, one human family.”15 Cassin emphasized that the eighteenth-century Human Rights Declarations (such as the French Declaration of the Rights of Man) had overly exalted individualism, which had opened the way to abuses of liberty. Drawing from Christian Democratic doctrine, Cassin argued that the rights and liberties of individuals must be understood “as embedded within social groups and bonds” such as “family, household, vocation, city, and nation.”16

France was one of the eight nations assigned to the Commission on Human Rights, and its delegation served on the Drafting Committee for the Universal Declaration, and included several Christian Democrats, as did the delegations from Chile and Belgium. Meanwhile, the MRP leader Robert Schuman, as French Foreign Minister, ensured a strong Christian Democratic influence on the process from the domain of the Security Council.17

Approved by the UN General Assembly on December 10, 1948, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was, in one historian’s judgment, “largely identical” with the value system expressed in the Christian Democratic worldview.18 Specifically, we find in Article 16c the affirmation of “natural” social institutions: “The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the state.” The word, “natural,” comes straight out of the Christian Democratic worldview. Even the use of the word “society” here as distinct from and prior to “the state” is a Christian Democratic marker.

In Article 25, one finds support for family social rights, with particular emphasis on a “family wage”:

Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and his family, including food, clothing, housing, and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.

The Universal Declaration affirms the priority and autonomy of the family, as in Article 26(3): “Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.”

The very structure of the declaration embodies the unique Christian Democratic understanding of human rights. Articles 1–21 protect the political rights of persons against the ambitions of the State; in this, the document resembles the Bill of Rights found in the US Constitution. Meanwhile, Articles 22–27 protect the “social and economic rights” of persons, precisely as Gilbert Dru or Etienne Gilson would have insisted.

Even the term equality, subject before and later to so much mischief, finds rich meaning in the Universal Declaration through “personalist” conceptions of “the right to life” (Article 3), “the dignity and worth of the human person” (Preamble), and innate human nature: “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act toward one another in a spirit of brotherhood” (Article 1).

Indeed, the only Christian Democratic theme lacking is an open affirmation of the Deity of Creation. Several members of the drafting committee, led by Charles Malik, sought inclusion of this idea. But in the end, they agreed to more universal language that implied, rather than named, God.19

In sum, the Christian Democratic worldview dominated discussion of “social policy” and “human rights policy” during the founding years of the United Nations, 1946 to 1948, and it remained an intellectual force there for at least another decade. While the emergence of the Cold War put the brake for a time on further development of “human rights” documents, the promised international covenant on “Civil and Political Rights,” finally issued in 1966, still affirmed that “the family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society, and is entitled to protection by society and the state.”20

The Rival Socialist Triumph

Yet by this time, a rival worldview was gaining ascendance within the United Nations structure: Democratic Socialism. This idea-system first took root at the UN through Scandinavian dominance of the Secretariat between 1946 and 1962, in the persons of Trygve Lie and Dag Hammarskjold.

The Norwegian Trygve Lie was the original Secretary General of the new organization, serving from 1946 to 1953. From recently released documents, we now know that he was the first choice of the Soviet Union to assume this post, and that his name originally surfaced on a candidates’ list through Alger Hiss, a US State Department official later revealed to be a Soviet agent. Despite some evidence to the contrary, Lie himself was probably never a true member of the Communist party. But he did have an early flirtation with bolshevism, and in 1921 journeyed to Moscow, where he met with Lenin. Lie retained a strong sympathy for the Soviet experiment in Russia, and the Communists saw him as a pliable tool for their UN ambitions.

Lie was a leader of the Norwegian Labor party, a Social Democrat considered to be on the movement’s “hard left.” Active in shaping Norway’s domestic policy during the 1930s, he had gained a reputation as a fervent social engineer.21

Compromised by the politics of the Korean War, Lie resigned in early 1953. Replacing him was the Swedish civil servant, Dag Hammarskjold.

It is important to distinguish the myth of Hammarskjold, still strong at the UN, from the man. He was, as one biographer puts it, a person of “rare sensibility and catholic interests.” A modern mystic, his Christianity was real and intense, albeit personal: not denominational, but one man’s daily dialogue with God. Born to an old noble Swedish family, with a tradition of service to King and State, Hammarskjold never joined a political party. Yet in every way but officially, he was a Social Democrat. In the early 1930s he acknowledged his conversion to “left socialist intellectuality.” He gained his Ph.D. in economics at the University of Stockholm, and joined Gunnar Myrdal (his dissertation disputant) and Knut Wicksell (his mentor and Minister of Finance in the Social Democratic government) in transforming Sweden into a socialist welfare state.

Hammarskjold enjoyed the camaraderie of working with others over long spells to solve policy problems, and he expressed disappointment whenever a newly married colleague no longer put in the evening hours that he did. Hammarskjold himself never married, and some of his contemporaries—including his predecessor Trygve Lie—whispered that he was a closeted homosexual. But this does not appear to be true. His biographers agree that sex played little, if any, part in his life. Rather, he was “almost asexual,” a “born bachelor,” “a determined loner.” Relative to family issues, this did mean that Hammarskjold had little personal knowledge of the reality of marriage and child rearing and was quite willing to leave such matters to his chosen “experts.”22

Under the influence of Lie and Hammarskjold, Democratic Socialism grew as a force within the Secretariat. Scandinavians disproportionately peopled its offices, and adherence to the leaders’ worldview became valuable to advancement.

Social Democratic Feminism

Among those named to a key post was Alva Myrdal. Secretary General Lie knew of her work in the 1930s on the “population crisis.” With husband Gunnar Myrdal, she had crafted a Social Democratic response to the sharp decline in Scandinavian birth rates. In essence, the Myrdals had argued that the only way to raise fertility to a replacement level was by socializing the costs and burdens of child rearing. Their theories, embodied in the 1934 book, Kris i befolkningsfrågan, gave an ideological justification for constructing the modern welfare state. Published in Norwegian translation in 1935, this volume and subsequent debate stimulated the creation of the Norwegian Commission on Population, and a series of Labor Party proposals to implement “the Myrdal line.”23

Alva Myrdal drew Lie’s attention again in 1948, through a speech at the UN offices in Geneva on “The Surplus Energy of Married Women.” With her own new-model marriage to Gunnar then in trouble,24 Alva Myrdal argued that child rearing and housewifery were no longer enough to keep a modern woman content. They needed to move into the world of outside work.

In mid-December 1948, Lie named Alva Myrdal as Deputy Assistant Secretary-General for the UN’s Social Commission. As such, she became the highest-ranking woman at the UN: “third person from the top,” as she would say. Her responsibilities were to manage UN work on women’s issues, population, welfare, and human rights. Alva Myrdal saw this as the perfect opportunity to turn the UN Secretariat into a vehicle for the spread of her version of Social Democratic feminism. On December 14, 1948, ironically, the very same week that the UN General Assembly approved the family-affirming Universal Declaration—Alva Myrdal wrote to her friend, Disa Västberg:

It is for me a great pleasure to think that Social Democratic women—not only in Sweden, even if we most directly—now gain an unhindered opportunity to speak to and gain influence over the UN Secretariat. . . . [W]hat this women’s group supports and wants is of such central importance to shaping the modern welfare state, that a key post in the UN’s Social Department will allow this group the best chance to alter human society in line with its views.25

What were those Social Democratic feminist views? As articulated by Myrdal in the 1930s and 1940s, they included:

1. There are no moral absolutes. Morals, including traditional Christian morals, are merely the product of historical evolution and institutional change. If large numbers of persons no longer behaved in accord with so-called moral standards, then those standards—rather than the people—needed to be changed.

2. The existing, so-called traditional family inherited from the nineteenth century “is almost . . . pathological,” “rootless,” “isolated,” and doomed. It should be replaced by a new family model, where women stood beside men “as comrades” in outside labor; where children became a social—meaning governmental—responsibility, requiring state-provided infant and day care, and subsidies for everything from clothing to summer camps; where children, from the earliest age, are “indoctrinated” into a new model of social cooperation; where marriage is stripped of its autonomy and specific legal protections; where the family surrenders all of its remaining functions, except controlled reproduction; where “voluntary parenthood” is assured through liberalized abortion laws and the early exposure of children to sex education; and where the parental control of children is exposed as unhealthy, as seen in this passage:

Much of the tiresome pathos which defends “individual freedom” and “responsibility for one’s family” is based on a sadistic disposition to extend this “freedom” to an unbound and uncontrolled right to dominate others.26

3. Gender equality demands the leveling of all institutions, traditions, and cultural structures that get in its way. Even the “great and fundamental differences” between men and women that were created by nature had to be eliminated or compensated for by state intervention.27

The “Sea Change” in Values

The contest between the Christian Democratic and the Social Democratic worldviews came to a head in the 1960s. The victor would be Social Democracy. Why?

The cause, in part, was the collapse of Christian Democracy as a vital idea-system. The youthful excitement, energy, and sense of positive revolution evident in the 1940s dissipated during the next decade. In France, Christian Democracy’s main political vehicle, the MRP, lost support to Charles de Gaulle’s new party, the RPF (Ressemblement du Peuple Français), and by 1958 had disappeared altogether. In Italy and Germany, meanwhile, Christian Democratic parties consolidated their hold on power at the price of their vision. By the early 1960s, they were increasingly pragmatic, bureaucratic, and defenders of the status quo. Ambitious office seekers, rather than idealists, came to dominate the party ranks. Movements for “moral and political renewal” became simply mass parties of the right-of-center.28 When a new “crisis of values” hit Europe with particular force in 1968, the Christian Democrats were unprepared to respond. They appeared by then as old and discredited guardians of a new kind of self-satisfied materialism, the very opposite of what the movement’s founders intended.

Indeed, it is now clear that a “silent revolution” in values set in among Europeans (and North Americans) after 1963. This marked an ideational shift away from values affirmed by Christian teaching (such as “responsibility, sacrifice, altruism, and sanctity of long-term commitments”) and toward a strong “secular individualism” focused on the desires of the self.29 Surveys of European youth in the 1970s and 1980s showed that they “appear to be extending non-conformism with respect to abortion, divorce, etc., to parenthood as well,” agreeing by large majorities with statements such as “children need only one parent” and “children are no longer needed for personal fulfillment.”

Another commentator pointed to the swift legalization of abortion and to “the falling awareness” among Europeans “of the dignity of every person, even the old and disabled.” He added: “Naked individualism and unbridled libertinism have become increasingly widespread in recent years. . . . Female emancipation, which is well advanced . . . appears to be headed in this direction” as well. Meanwhile, the courts and public opinion grew tolerant of sexual deviance.30 Understood in terms of worldview, such changes symbolized the triumph of Social Democratic “sexual and family ethics” over those of Christian Democracy.

Alva Myrdal had begun her work at ECOSOC in early 1949. Two and a half years later, she moved to UNESCO in Geneva, where she headed the Division of Social Science. With other Social Democrats, she planted the seeds of change, which bore fruit after 1963:

1. On women’s issues, as a shift from the original UN focus on gaining the vote for women and suppressing prostitution, to the new concentration on equal employment, the suppression of gender roles, the use of non-maternal child care, “sexual rights,” and family change;

2. On population issues, as a shift from the encouragement and protection of large families to strict attention to overpopulation as the problem, to be combated through sex education and “reproductive rights”;

3. On family issues, as a shift from affirmation of the family as “the fundamental and natural social group unit” to a portrayal of the family as antiquated and oppressive; and

4. On human rights, as a change from a “personalist” focus on the innate dignity of each human person and the necessary place of humans in natural communities to a radical feminist individualism.

And there have been real consequences. For example, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) is closely aligned with these new views. Taken as a whole, CEDAW strips the family of all autonomy and authority. It gives moral legitimacy solely to the isolated, radical individual. And it grants sweeping power to the State to regulate, restructure, and even abolish the natural family. This is the meaning, for example, of Article 5, which declares:

State parties shall take all appropriate measures to modify the social and cultural patterns of conduct of men and women, with a view to achieving the elimination of prejudices or customary and all other practices which are based . . . on stereotyped roles for men and women.

In related fashion, the Convention on the Rights of the Child31 contains measures that subvert the authority of parents over their children, strip away the authority of religious faith and tradition in favor of a politicized and radical social science, and prevent nations and peoples from sheltering their own unique cultures. In Article 13, we read:

[T]he child shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include the freedom to seek, receive, and impart information of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other medium of the child’s choice.

To put it simply, this understanding of “rights” is the opposite of that found in Article 26 of the Universal Declaration (which states, “Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children”), and it is evidence of the victory of one worldview over another.

A New Opportunity

But in recent years, an idea conflict has rekindled. Since the UN meetings at Cairo and Beijing in the mid-1990s, an international pro-family movement has begun to coalesce, by fits and starts. The contest for intellectual control of the United Nations continues; and the status of the family is still at the core of this struggle. What lessons might family advocates draw from past experience?

One vital lesson is that “ideas have consequences.” When the United Nations Organization (UNO) favored the family, it was the result of ideas developed among a relatively small circle of European and Mediterranean Christian Democrats. When the UNO turned hostile to the natural family, it was the consequence of ideas first developed among an even smaller band of Scandinavian Social Democrats. A critical current need is to build a new pro-family/pro-life vision, a fresh worldview that could be to the early twenty-first century what Christian Democracy was to the late 1940s. To succeed this time, though, such an intellectual construct must appeal to more than Western Christians, who no longer dominate the UN or the world; it must build on the idea of a common human nature; and it must embrace all religiously grounded family morality systems around the globe, without descending into the banal. I believe, or at least hope, that projects such as the World Congress of Families are taking steps toward encouraging and shaping such a vision.

A second lesson from the last 55 years is that “people are policy.” Charles Malik and Rene Cassin were in the right place, at the right time, to give the Universal Declaration a Christian Democratic content. The influence of Trygve Lie, Dag Hammarskjold, and Alva Myrdal was instrumental in the eventual victory of the Social Democratic worldview at the UN. From this angle, the imperatives for the future include:

• To place solidly pro-family representation on national delegations to the UN;

• To take energetic action within the NGO process to blunt or prevent new assaults on family integrity;

• To place or to identify, protect, and help advance “friends of the family” within the UN Secretariat; and finally,

• To build an international movement of religiously grounded family morality systems that can influence and eventually shape sound social policy at the United Nations.

Information on the World Congress of Families is available at


1. See Mario Einaudi and Francois Goguel, Christian Democracy in Italy and France (Notre Dame, Indiana: University of Notre Dame Press, 1952), pp. 81–82; and R. E. M. Irving, The Christian Democratic Parties of Western Europe (London: George Allen & Unwin, 1979), pp. 30–31.

2. R. E. M. Irving, Christian Democracy in France (London: George Allen & Unwin, 1973), pp. 53–54, 58.

3. Irving, The Christian Democratic Parties of Western Europe, p. 31; Einaudi and Goguel, Christian Democracy in Italy and France, pp. 30–31. For those from the anglophone world, this language may sound familiar, for it is very close to the quest for a third way led by the English Christian writers Hilaire Belloc and G. K. Chesterton. They called their project the Distributist state; early Christian Democracy might be seen as its continental counterpart.

4. Noel D. Cary, The Path to Christian Democracy: German Catholics and the Party System from Windthorst to Adenauer (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1996), p. 180; Einaudi and Goguel, Christian Democracy in Italy and France, pp. 28–30, 84.

5. Quoted in Irving, Christian Democracy in France, p. 55.

6. Quoted in Einaudi and Goguel, Christian Democracy in Italy and France, p. 126.

7. Quoted in Irving, Christian Democracy in France, p. 60.

8. Guido Dierickx, “Christian Democracy and Its Ideological Rivals: An Empirical Comparison in the Low Countries,” in David Hanley, ed., Christian Democracy in Europe: A Comparative Perspective (London & New York: Pinter Publishers, 1994), p. 24.

9. See Irving, Christian Democracy in France, pp. 61–62.

10. Cary, The Path to Christian Democracy, p. 184; Einaudi and Goguel, Christian Democracy in Italy and France, pp. 36, 59, 83.

11. From Einaudi and Goguel, Christian Democracy in Italy and France, pp. 124–125, 130.

12. See Emiel Lamberts, ed., Christian Democracy in the European Union, 1945–1995 (Leuven, Belgium: Leuven University Press, 1997), p. 440.

13. Charles Malik, Man in the Struggle for Peace (New York & Evanston: Harper & Row, 1963), pp. xviii–xix, xli.

14. René Cassin, “Historique de la Declaration Universelle de 1948,” La Pensée et L’Action (n.p.: Editions F. Lalau, 1972), pp. 105–108.

15. René Cassin, “From the Ten Commandments to the Rights of Man,” in Shlomo Shoham, Of Law and Man: Essays in Honor of Haim H. Cohn (New York and Tel Aviv: Sabra Books, 1971), pp. 15–17.

16. Cassin, “Historique de la Declaration Universelle de 1948,” p. 114.

17. It is true that Eleanor Roosevelt, widow of the American wartime president, was chairman of the Human Rights Commission, and that American traditionalists have learned to be suspicious of the whole Roosevelt legacy. But at least relative to family issues, this is not a fair stance. Eleanor Roosevelt was not a liberal or equity feminist of the sort commonly seen today. She was a “social feminist,” in the mold of Frances Perkins, US Secretary of Labor in the 1930s. While embracing the full legal and political equality of men and women, social feminists focused on measures to give special protection to women as mothers and to deliver a family wage to fathers with wives and children at home. These were views almost identical to those of the Christian Democrats from Europe. On “social feminism,” see Allan Carlson, Family Questions: Reflections on the American Social Crisis (New Brunswick, New Jersey: Transaction Books, 1988), pp. 147–149.

18. Lamberts, Christian Democracy in the European Union, p. 442.

19. See Cassin, “Historique de la Declaration Universelle de 1948,” pp. 108, 115.

20. Noted in James W. Nickel, Making Sense of Human Rights: Philosophical Reflections on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1987), pp. 2–9. Nickel does note one important change in the 1966 documents, when compared to the Universal Declaration: deletion of the latter’s affirmations of a right to property and to fair remuneration for property taken by the state.

21. On Lie’s background, see the excellent volume by James Barros, Trygre Lie and the Cold War: The UN Secretary-General Pursues Peace, 1946–1953 (DeKalb, Illinois: Northern Illinois University Press, 1989), pp. 4–5, 11, 16, 29, 35.

22. On Hammarskjold, see Brian Urquhart, Hammarskjold (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1972), pp. 22–29; Joseph P. Lash , Dag Hammarskjold: Custodian of the Brushfire Peace (Garden City, New York: Doubleday, 1961), pp. 27–32, 78–79; and Stanley Meisler , United Nations: The First Fifty Years (New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 1995), pp. 77–79.

23. On Alva Myrdal’s role in the population debate of the 1930s, see Allan Carlson, The Swedish Experiment in Family Politics: The Myrdals and the Interwar Population Crisis (New Brunswick, New Jersey: Transaction Books, 1990).

24. See Sissela Bok, Alva Myrdal: A Daughter’s Memoir (Reading, Pennsylvania: Addison-Wesley, 1991), pp. 200–205.

25. Letter, Alva Myrdal to Disa Västberg, December 14, 1948; in Lars G. Lindskog, Alva Myrdal: “Förnuftet måste segra!” (Kristianstad: Sveriges Radios Förlag, 1981), p. 86.

26. From Alva and Gunnar Myrdal, Kris I befolkningsfrågan (Stockholm: Bonniers, 1934), p. 299. More generally, see Carlson, The Swedish Experiment in Family Politics, pp. 88–95.

27. On this point, see also Alva Myrdal, et al., Toward Equality: The Alva Myrdal Report to the Swedish Social Democratic Party (Stockholm: Prisma, 1972 [1969]), pp. 17, 38, 64, 82–84.

28. Geoffrey Pridham, “Christian Democracy in Italy and West Germany: A Comparative Analysis,” in Martin Kolinsky and William E. Patterson, eds., Social and Political Movements in Western Europe (London: Croom Helm, 1976), pp. 143–144.

29. See Ronald Inglehart, The Silent Revolution: Changing Values and Political Styles Among Western Publics (Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1977), p. 216; Ron Lesthaeghe, “A Century of Demographic and Cultural Change in Western Europe,” Population and Development Review 9 (Sept. 1983), p. 29.

30. Lamberts, Christian Democracy in the European Union, p. 445.

31. One hundred and eighty-five nations have ratified this convention. Only Somalia and the United States have not.

Allan Carlson is President of The Howard Center for Family, Religion & Society in Rockford, Illinois ( His books include Conjugal America: On The Public Purposes of Marriage and The Natural Family: Bulwark of Liberty. He is married and has four children and is a member of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. He is a senior editor for Touchstone.

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