SANTO DOMINGO — The Organization of American States (OAS), which begins its annual assembly in the Dominican Republic on Monday, has been criticized by a bishop there as seeking to impose a foreign agenda on the Caribbean island nation.

Bishop Víctor Masalles, auxiliary bishop of Santo Domingo, says the OAS’s cultural agenda promoting gay marriage and abortion are in direct contravention of the Christian humanist traditions of Latin America, and in violation of the OAS’s own charter.

Created in 1948, OAS is the main political, juridical, and social governmental forum for the 35 independent states of the Americas. But critics say that since the return of democracy in Latin America in the 1990s, the OAS leadership has been captured by the cultural left, promoting an agenda that undermines Latin America’s Catholic tradition.

The OAS’s secretary general since last year, Luis Almagro, is a former minister in Uruguay’s leftist government under President José Mugica.

Since the 80-year-old Archbishop of Santo Domingo, Cardinal Nicolás de Jesús López Rodríguez, disappeared from public life last year, suffering from a variety of illnesses, Masalles has become the leading public voice of the Dominican Church, speaking out, for example, against the US ambassador in Santo Domingo for his gay activism.

In an interview for Crux which is also being published by the Dominican daily Listín Diario, Masalles explained his misgivings about the agenda of the OAS, which holds its 46th General Assembly Monday through Thursday in Santo Domingo.

Crux: Many news reports here describe you as an opponent of the OAS. Is that right?

Masalles: The significance of the organization and the idea behind it are beyond question, and in no way am I an opponent of its objectives. But the OAS hasn’t always been consistent with its own values.

We saw that when, for example, it legitimized the US invasion of the Dominican Republic in 1965, resulting in the deaths of thousands of innocent Dominicans and the destabilizing of its democracy– a source of shame for the community of American states. To this day the OAS has never officially apologized, although Mr. Almagro did so in a personal capacity.

What worries me is that the OAS has become the mechanism of a new foreign interference, promoting what Pope Francis calls ‘ideological colonization’.

We are no longer faced with an invasion using weapons but an ideological invasion, one that ignores and even has contempt for traditional Dominican values, and which is seeking a cultural change in a country according to principles alien to that country.

This is an essential principle: each country must have self-determination. In the case of the Dominican Republic, our values come from the Western Christian humanist tradition. The OAS should encourage the strengthening of that tradition, not seek to undermine it.

The theme of this OAS assembly is ‘Institutional Strengthening for Sustainable Development in the Americas.’ What’s wrong with that? Isn’t that a good objective?

The idea is fine, but it is not enough to focus on state institutions alone; we have to strengthen, above all, the institutions of society.

The base of society is the family, and this should be the priority when thinking about a really sustainable development. It’s a contradiction to focus on the strengthening of state institutions while at the same time weakening the institution of the family, which provides the key space for the full development of a human being.

A country’s development cannot be at the expense of what is essential.

The OAS is seeking greater equality of rights for gay people. The Church is committed to overcoming an unjust discrimination against gay people. Don’t you share the same agenda?

As you say, the Church seeks to overcome all unjust discrimination, not just against same-sex attracted people, but against women, the poor, migrants, people of different colors and creeds, and any people who are shunned by society.

But what is behind the policies promoted by the OAS is not just the ending of discrimination, but an attempt to impose so-called “gender ideology”, which rests on a false concept of the human being. This ideology intentionally deploys radical feminist language to gain acceptance for its principles, taking advantage of society’s sympathy for efforts to overcome discrimination against women.

The result is that it faces little opposition from people who do not understand just how damaging it is.

You overcome discrimination through education and awareness, teaching welcome, tolerance and mutual respect, not by means of laws that give special privileges to some sectors of the population rather than others.

We have to recognize there are priorities for Latin America which have been de-emphasized because of the pressure from certain groups. I mean issues like the eradication of poverty, the care of natural resources, nutrition, health, people-trafficking, access to drinking water, the just distribution of wealth.

We have to give priority to these issues, and attend firstly to the basic rights of the human being.

Turning to the issue of reproductive rights, which are promoted in the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals as well as, very explicitly, in this OAS assembly …

I’m sure that many people don’t realize what is implied by the promotion of “sexual and reproductive rights” because they sound quite attractive.

But in reality what they are seeking to inculcate, from a very early age, is the idea that everyone is free to decide what to do with their body, what sex to have, who to have relations with and when, when and with whom to have children, and so on. As well as, of course, the freedom to “interrupt a pregnancy”, that is, to have an abortion, and the freedom to have any kind of sexual expression without being questioned by anyone.

Privacy is encouraged only in relation to families — “you don’t have to say anything to your parents”, undermining the authority and rights of parents, and making it much harder for them to help the psycho-affective development of their children.

All the talk is of free sexual association — “get together with whomever you want, enjoy the pleasures of sex, don’t worry about age or whether they are married” — but not of the emotional, physiological and psychological consequences of sexual freedom … This is a distorted sexual education.

What we propose is an integral sexual education, that respects the gradual development of the different stages of the child or teenager; which educates in love, responsibility, affective stability, and concepts such as abstinence, chastity, self-control; and the maturity that needs to learn to wait for a greater and more lasting good.

Let’s go to an area where you and the OAS might be on the same page. As result of the encyclical of Pope Francis, Laudato Si’ — a year old this month — we know that ecology, care of our common home, is a priority for Pope Francis. And it is, too, in this assembly. So do we get convergence?

 At first glance, it seems that way. However, the ecological ethic proposed by the Church goes beyond only caring for natural resources. The indiscriminate use of nature that the human being has been responsible for includes, also, the abuse of our human nature.

Pope Francis says clearly that “the defense of nature is incompatible with the justification of abortion”.

We cannot get to the common good by means of an individualistic ethic; it is a contradiction to think of future generations while promoting birth control, which leads to self-destruction both in nature and in humanity.

Laudato Si’ challenges this “technocratic paradigm”.

What do you understand the pope to mean when he speaks of the “technocratic paradigm?”

The arrogance we’ve arrived at after two centuries of industrial development. Today we are ever more centered on technology, on the increase in productivity, on the genetic manipulation of food, and not on the human person.

The mentality which abortion and gender ideology bring about starts from this same arrogant paradigm, in which we believe we have the right to manipulate or modify creation. Society itself has spontaneously begun to react to this exploitative model of nature, becoming more conscious of the consequences and seeking a return to the essential, the natural, and what is ‘organic’.

If we want sustainable development we have to abandon that technocratic mentality and give way to an integral ecology capable of caring for all creation, starting with human life itself.

I understand there will be a demonstration in front of the building where the OAS will be meeting on Sunday. Some are saying it is organized by the Church, others specifically by you. Is that right, and what is the demonstration for?

It’s a peaceful demonstration that aims to publicize some of what has been going on, which has generated great anxiety among families and which has found an echo in the parishes and religious congregations, as well as in neighborhood associations, clubs and other civil society bodies. What brings them together is the anxiety over a proposal to adopt gender ideology and make it binding on all public institutions.

It’s true that this is not the central theme of the [OAS] assembly, but it remains an essential theme to keep in mind for the discussion, because the family is the nucleus of our society and the guarantee of sustainability.

Only with strong and healthy families can we have a development that lasts us for generations to come.