The Archbishop of Lima in Peru has compared the United Nations to King Herod because the organisation has encouraged Latin American governments to allow women affected by the Zika virus to have abortions.
Cardinal Juan Luis Cipriani drew the parallel between the UN and the king who ordered the slaughter of the innocents in Bethlehem in his weekly radio programme, reports the Breitbart news service.
"Today we are surrounded by Herods, but Herods with neckties, public posts and budgets," he said. The UN "in the face of this Zika mosquito virus, has decreed that we should approve abortion everywhere so as to kill the children", he added.
The top UN human rights official called last week for countries with the Zika virus to make available sexual and reproductive health counselling to women and uphold their right to terminate pregnancies.
"Laws and policies that restrict her access to these services must be urgently reviewed in line with human rights obligations in order to ensure the right to health for all in practice," said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein.
The virus has been linked to microcephaly, a condition that leads to babies being born with small heads and birth defects.
Hussein's spokeswoman, Cecile Pouilly, asked about countries such as El Salvador that criminalise abortion, told a news briefing: "That's why we are asking those governments to go back and change those laws because how can they ask these women not to become pregnant? But also not offer them first information that is available but also the possibility to stop their pregnancies if they wish so."
Cipriani said in his broadcast he "cannot keep quiet" about these policies. "There is a Herod who thinks it's a good idea to decree an execution: let all pregnant women abort their babies because of a risk that hasn't even been conclusively shown. But in case of doubt, kill them all," he said.
While the Zika virus has been shown to raise the risk of microcephaly in infants and nerve disorders in adults, the mechanism is not well understood and its effect appears to be variable.