On Vanishing Youth

Interview With Pontifical Academy President Mary Ann Glendon

ROME, APRIL 30, 2006 (Zenit.org).- The Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences is currently holding its plenary session on the theme “Vanishing Youth? Solidarity with Children and Young People in an Age of Turbulence.”

The president of the academy, Mary Ann Glendon, spoke with ZENIT on the scope of the conference.

Q: Could you give an overview of the first day of the conference?

Glendon: This morning was what you would call the “keynote” introductory speeches. The first was by Cardinal López Trujillo, who laid out the experience of the Pontifical Council for the Family in addressing the questions at hand.

He was followed by Cherie Booth — a great human-rights lawyer, a mother of four children — who gave an exposition of the challenges that not only children face, but adults too — and the way adults relate to them, and how they are models for children.

I think everyone agreed that it was a very inspiring and hopeful speech, and that both of these speeches together set the tone and framework for the next five days where we’re going to be hearing regional reports from every continent in the world. These are very detailed reports on the situation of children.

Q: What is the main hope and aim of this conference?

Glendon: The aim of the academy is to advance the social sciences, and to give the Church elements she can use to adapt her social doctrine to the constantly changing turn of events.

Right now we’re living through a period of demographic upheaval, of globalization that has unsettled so many economic expectations, a widening gap between the rich and the poor, and a situation in which those living in poverty are mostly children and mothers.

Q: Such groups can often be overlooked. What would you say is so important about having our world leaders in tune with Catholic social teaching when it comes to parenting or the rights of the child?

Glendon: There are voices that are missing from the mainstream debate on these questions.

Our title for this conference is “Vanishing Childhood” which, among other things, is an allusion to the fact that as birthrates decline — and they are doing that even in the developing countries — children become less visible, the voices of the people who speak for them are weaker.

So, the Catholic Church is able to do what Catholic social teaching helps us to do, which is to try to give policy-makers the wherewithal to bring the voice of the voiceless back into the debate, as well as the great themes of solidarity and subsidiarity, and keeping the human person at the center of concern.

Q. And what can we expect at the end?

Glendon: There will be wonderful things that will happen as the discussion unfolds — we’re all here to learn.

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