In an interview with Vatican News, Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin affirmed that ending discrimination is a worthy goal, but doesn’t require cancelling Christianity or cultural differences.
The interview followed the release of a controversial manual for communication within European Union institutions. Helena Dalli, EU Commissioner for Equality, had presented the document “Union of Equality” on Twitter on Tuesday. It recommended replacing “Christmas period” with “holiday period” in EU communication and to “avoid assuming everyone is Christian” or celebrates the Christian holidays the same way. It also recommended the careful use of gender-neutral language by avoiding encoded expressions. It recommended replacing, for example, “man-made” with “synthetic.”
The real controversy, though, is over language related to Christmas. Politico reported that the EU document was criticized on social media for its lack of common sense and its attempt to ‘cancel’ Christian culture. By Tuesday afternoon, Dalli had announced that she was withdrawing the document for further revision.
Criticism of the document also came from within the European Union. As reported in Politico, an EU staffer said, “Commissioner Dalli compensates her total lack of weight in the College [of Commissioners] by pulling out of her hat ‘inclusive guidelines’ which deconstruct the most elementary rules. We are going crazy. With Dalli, we are experiencing surrealism.”
Though this is not the first time the EU has issued guidelines on inclusive language, the document went further than previous guidelines, according to Politico.
Following strong criticism, the European Union’s equality office had to retract and cancel the document. “The initiatives in the directives were intended to illustrate the diversity of European culture and show the inclusive nature of the Commission,” Dalli said on Tuesday. “However, the published version is not functional to this end. It is not a mature document and does not meet our quality standards. I therefore withdraw it and we will continue to work on this document.”
In an interview on the document with Vatican News, Cardinal Perolin affirmed the aspiration to end all forms of discrimination while asserting that the goal didn’t require ignoring obvious realities. “I believe that the concern to erase all discrimination is right. It is a path of which we have become more aware and which naturally must be translated into practice. However, in my opinion, this [“Union of Equality”] is not the way to achieve this goal. Because in the end we risk destroying, annihilating the person,” he said.
He explained that the negation of the person can happen in two ways. First, the “tendency to homogenize everything” can lead to “not knowing how to respect even rightful differences, which naturally should not become a conflict or a source of discrimination but should be integrated in order to build a full and integral humanity.” The second danger is in “the forgetfulness of what is a reality,” specifically, “the Christian dimension of Europe.”
“Of course, we know that Europe owes its existence and its identity to many influences, but we certainly cannot forget that one of the main influences, if not the main one, was Christianity itself,” the Cardinal said in the interview. “Therefore, destroying the difference and destroying the roots means precisely to destroy the person.”
He gave the interview before the document had been withdrawn.