Pope Francis Urges Catholic Lawmakers to Protect Human Dignity Online

Speaking to the International Catholic Legislators Network, the Pope encouraged the politicians to “make every effort to undertake serious and in-depth moral reflection on the risks and possibilities associated with scientific and technological advances.”

Pope Francis greets participants in a meeting promoted by the International Catholic Legislators Network in the Vatican's Clementine Hall, Aug. 27, 2021.
Pope Francis greets participants in a meeting promoted by the International Catholic Legislators Network in the Vatican’s Clementine Hall, Aug. 27, 2021. (photo: Vatican Media. / Vatican Media)

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis urged Catholic lawmakers Friday to protect human dignity online by using public policy to combat child pornography, data breaches, and cyber attacks.

“In our age particularly, one of the greatest challenges confronting us is the administration  of technology for the common good,” Pope Francis said in the Apostolic Palace on Aug. 27.

Vatican Media.

Vatican Media.

“By means of policies and regulations, lawmakers can protect human dignity from whatever may threaten it. I think, for example, of the scourge of child pornography, the misuse of personal data, attacks on critical infrastructures such as hospitals, and the spread of false information on social media and so on,” he said.

Speaking to the International Catholic Legislators Network, the Pope encouraged the politicians to “make every effort to undertake serious and in-depth moral reflection on the risks and possibilities associated with scientific and technological advances.”

Pope Francis said that moral reflection on technology would help ensure that laws and regulations focus on “promoting integral human development rather than progress as an end in itself.”

Vatican Media.

Vatican Media.

“The wonders of modern science and technology have increased our quality of life,” he said. “At the same time, left to themselves and to market forces alone, without suitable guidelines provided by legislative assemblies and public authorities guided by a sense of social responsibility, these innovations can end up becoming a threat  to the dignity of the human person.”

The International Catholic Legislators Network is a group of Catholic parliamentarians from around the world that holds an annual private meeting in Rome.

Vatican Media.

Vatican Media.

The group, founded in 2010 by the Austrian Cardinal Christoph Schönborn and David Alton, a member of Britain’s House of Lords, is dedicated to religious liberty, Church-state relations, the protection of life, and communicating Catholic thought in secular politics.

Vatican Media.

Vatican Media.

“Your work as lawmakers and political leaders is more important than ever. Charged with serving the common good, you are now being challenged to direct your efforts to the  integral renewal of your communities and of society as a whole,” Pope Francis said.

“This entails more than simply combating the virus or seeking to return to the status quo prior to the pandemic — no, that would be a failure — it demands confronting the deeper causes that the crisis has laid bare and aggravated: poverty, social inequality, widespread unemployment, and the lack of access to education.”

Vatican Media.

Vatican Media.

Among those present at the papal audience were Christiaan Alting von Geusau, president and rector of the International Theological Institute in Vienna, Cardinal Schönborn, and Patriarch Ignatius Aphrem II of the Syriac Orthodox Church.

Vatican Media.

Vatican Media.

“In an age of upheaval and political polarization, legislators and politicians in general are not always held in high esteem,” the Pope said. “Yet what loftier vocation can there be than that of serving the common good and placing the welfare of the community before our personal advantage?”

Vatican Media.

Vatican Media.

“If we are to heal our world so harshly tried by the pandemic, and build a more inclusive and sustainable future in which technology serves human needs without isolating us from one another, we need not only responsible citizens, but also capable leaders inspired by the principle of the common good,” Pope Francis said.

Source: ncregister.com


The Scottish government is determined to advance trans ideology – and it’s our children who will suffer

(Photo: Unsplash)

The cynical would suggest that it’s not often that a politician or government keeps their promises. But sometimes they do. In 2018 the Scottish Government Deputy First Minister John Swinney announced that Scotland would become the first country in the world to have LGBT inclusive education embedded in the curriculum. He was following up on the priority stated in 2014 by his boss Nicola Sturgeon who declared that “it is trans issues that are the next big challenge”.

Sturgeon has been determined to follow the trans ideology – even getting rid of one of her more competent ministers, Joanna Cherry, simply because she dared to stand up for women’s rights. No one should be surprised at the trajectory that Scotland has been going. The SNP promised it and they have kept this promise.

This week it was reported by The Telegraph that “children as young as four will be able to change their name and gender at school without their parents’ consent under new LGBT inclusivity guidelines drawn up by the Scottish Government.”

You have to stop, take a breath and re-read that sentence again. Many people just simply don’t believe it. As someone said to me, it’s so mad that it cannot be true. Four-year-olds sometimes think they are animals or Thomas the Tank Engine – they are certainly not capable of determining that they are a different gender from their body.

When my children were at primary school they were not even allowed to have sun cream put on them by a teacher without written permission from a parent. Now a four-year-old can change their gender without their parents even being told! Following that logic, there is no reason why a child should not also determine that they want to be sexually active!

One atheist contacted me to say that if this were true he would be on the streets protesting – but of course it can’t be true. But such denial doesn’t help. This is happening in Scotland today.

The guidance states that pupils should be allowed to use whatever toilet or changing room they want, have gender neutral uniforms, and transgender characters and history should be included. Of course all this comes from Stonewall – who are funded by the Scottish government to tell the schools what they should be doing.

Women’s groups are rightly concerned. Again to quote from the article: “This is really, really worrying,” said Marion Calder, co-director of the For Women Scotland campaign group. “The bottom line is that this is a dangerous ideology that the Scottish Government is pushing.

“It shows a failure in safeguarding and a removal of parental rights. It used to be commonly understood that children should be able to play and experiment with gender roles, with clothing, their likes and dislikes.

“Those children are now being encouraged on to a medical pathway, potentially for the rest of their lives. We should not be teaching children, and especially primary school children, that you can change sex, because you cannot change sex.”

I have a great deal of personal experience of this. I could tell you so many stories. The-7-year old returning home from school in tears because the teacher said that she had to choose whether she was a boy or girl; the 14-year-old teenage boy advised by a guidance teacher that his depression might be because he was a girl trapped in the wrong body (the school was after a Stonewall award and as they had no trans pupils that was difficult); the posters in a classroom for six-year-olds telling them to ‘respect others’ pronouns’ (are you not impressed that six-year-olds know what pronouns are?); the angry young woman in tears because after detransitioning she wanted to know why no one in authority discouraged her from taking such a damaging path; and so many more. A trail of damaged young lives all because our leaders are enslaved to this harmful ideology.

The Scottish government has now gone down this damaging route. What Abigail Shirer calls ‘Irreversible Damage’ in her insightful and disturbing book of the same name, is now official State doctrine in Scotland. The extraordinary thing in this is not just that the government is encouraging this – but that it is also displaying its utter contempt for parents in doing so.

A few years ago, because of my writing on the subject, I was asked by the Scottish government to meet with their civil servants who were drawing up the legislation. They asked me if I could ever see my way to support the proposed gender recognition act, and the changes in the law. I said no – but that I would ask for compromise on three things. Firstly, women would be guaranteed women-only spaces in jails, hospitals, refuges and sport. Secondly, I would not go to jail for saying that a man could not become a woman or vice versa. And thirdly, that this queer theory ideology should not be taught to children. At the end of our discussions it became clear that none of these things would be given. Even then the Scottish government was set on this abusive and destructive path.

A month later I was summoned to meet Shirley-Anne Somerville, who is now the SNP education secretary, and who has stated that the new government guidance for schools does not promote transitioning. When we had what is often called a ‘full and frank discussion’ I suggested to her that this was a suicidal route for the SNP to go down (I didn’t fully realise what a stranglehold the SNP has over the Scottish press and the civic institutions) and that if she and I had a debate on this issue in front of any group of parents in Scotland, she would overwhelmingly lose, not because of my brilliance but purely and simply because most parents have far more knowledge and common sense than our civic elites.

I have never forgotten her chilling reply: “That’s because most parents are ignorant.” In that one phrase the contempt of the Scottish government for parents and the family was exemplified. So this week’s announcement that four-year-olds can transition under the influence of teachers, but not parents, was not a surprise to me.

What can be done about this? You would hope that politicians, teachers’ unions and medics would all speak out. But the truth is that the civic institutions have either been indoctrinated into this insanity, or people within them are too scared to speak out because it could be career ending. This will be even more so now that the SNP are to go into a formal government with the Greens – who under their leader, Patrick Harvie, are the foremost advocates of Queer theory and will insist on even more indoctrination.

You would hope that the Church leaders would speak out. But I suspect that whilst they will have no qualms about making proclamations about racism in America, or Brexit, or climate change, it will be a hot day in Scotland before they say a word on this issue. Perhaps an odd mix of women’s groups, left wing social conservatives, evangelical Christians and parents can be mobilised to work together to oppose this evil. Because it must be opposed.

‘You’re upset,’ I’ve been told. Absolutely! This is not about cultural wars. This is not about politics. This is not about oppressing those who suffer from gender dysphoria and need proper help. This is about the abuse of children. This is about my grandchildren and many others. This is about Scotland heading down into Hellish depths.

I share the upset of Jesus. “If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea” (Matthew 18:6).

This is Code Red for Scotland’s children. Enough.

David Robertson works as an evangelist with churches in Sydney, Australia. He blogs at The Wee Flea.

Source: christiantoday.com


Why protections for animals but not the unborn, asks peer

The government has introduced a Bill to formally recognise animals as sentient beings.(Photo: Unsplash)

Human rights campaigner and Member of the House of Lords, David Alton, has highlighted the double standards of the Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill currently being considered by the House of Lords.

As explained in the piece, “If enacted, the [The Animal Welfare (Sentience)] bill would formally recognise animals as sentient beings, and create an Animal Sentience Committee to evaluate policy changes regarding animal welfare”.

Ahead of the further consideration of the Bill, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has confirmed that the Government has commissioned an independent external review of the available scientific evidence on animal sentience – the capacity to be aware of feelings and sensations – in both crabs and lobsters.

Last year, the findings of a similar review into the sentience and pain of unborn children was not incorporated into any Government plans.

Lord Alton continued, “…although our society has been moving in the right direction when it comes to animal cruelty, it has failed to make this connection between what we do to other species and what we do to our own.”

He specifically highlights the double-standards in UK law, “the recent Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act stipulates that animal fetuses must be killed in ‘humane’ ways, but no parallel legal provision exists for human fetuses”.

“If only all humans enjoyed similar defences in English law. Alas, unborn children in the UK are left without such protections. When I inquired whether some of the bill’s safeguards might be extended to unborn homo sapiens, I was told that the bill had been cast in such a way as to prevent this.

“Last year, I took part in an inquiry into fetal pain organised by eighteen parliamentarians from both Houses. We found that recent studies strongly suggest that unborn children may feel pain much earlier than previously thought. In an article published in the Journal of Medical Ethics, researchers say there is now ‘good evidence’ that the brain and nervous system, which start developing at 12 weeks’ gestation, permit the unborn baby to feel pain. One of the researchers is a ‘pro-choice’ British pain expert who used to think there was no chance that unborn babies could feel pain before 24 weeks. He too is now erring on the side of caution.”

Nor is it required to give pain relief to babies during the abortion process.

He also went on to discuss the hypocrisy of many people’s approaches to the rights of animals in comparison to unborn children.

“I have met people who claim to be great champions of animal rights, and yet are vehemently in favour of abortion—including some who are trying to amend the law to allow abortion in all circumstances right up to birth,” he said.

“We rightly celebrate when charity is offered to animals who suffer from a particular injury or disability, yet we allow abortion up to birth for human beings with any kind of disability, including cleft lip, cleft palate, or club foot—to say nothing of Down syndrome.”

A spokesperson for Right To Life UK, Catherine Robinson, said: “As Lord Alton highlighted in this comprehensive piece, last year the UK’s All-Party Parliamentary Pro-Life Group (APPPG) commissioned and released a report on fetal sentience and pain summarising the extensive developments in medical science and academic research. All pointed to the same conclusion: it is likely that babies in the womb can feel pain, possibly from as early as 12 weeks’ gestation, with some evidence suggesting even earlier.

“It is therefore scandalous, not only that we allow terminations to take place, but that they often occur without administering pain relief to the unborn child. Meanwhile, the Government thinks that it is appropriate to legislate for animals to receive this protection and not members of our own species”.

Source: christiantoday.com


HATING OUR OWN SPECIES by David Alton

C. S. Lewis loved the animal kingdom. In his space trilogy, he missed no opportunity to demonstrate his profound distaste for animal cruelty. As Lewis scholar Gerald Root has examined, he often linked such cruelty to evil characters—such as Professor Weston, a vivisectionist described in the books as “the unman.” In the Chronicles of Narnia series, Lewis illustrated how mistreating animals often leads to mistreating human beings. Recall that in The Magician’s Nephew, the callous Uncle Andrew’s grotesque experiments on guinea pigs are a prelude to his experiments on the children Digory and Polly.

In his 1947 essay “Vivisection,” Lewis explored the difference between sentience and consciousness and the differences between animals and human beings. From both a philosophical and theological standpoint, Lewis believed that human beings have a responsibility toward animals. He insisted that inflicting pain requires justification, and that if the person inflicting the pain has no plausible justification, it becomes an evil act.

Lewis was clear that cruelty to human beings is an inevitable corollary when you are cruel to animals. Such unhindered cruelty, he wrote, marks “a great advance in the triumph of ruthless, non-moral utilitarianism over the old world of ethical law; a triumph in which we, as well as animals, are already the victims, and of which Dachau and Hiroshima mark the more recent achievements. In justifying cruelty to animals we put ourselves also on the animal level. We chose the jungle and must abide by our choice.”

It would surely trouble Lewis to know that although our society has been moving in the right direction when it comes to animal cruelty, it has failed to make this connection between what we do to other species and what we do to our own. In the U.K., the House of Lords is debating legislation designed to prevent animal cruelty: the Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill. If enacted, the bill would formally recognize animals as sentient beings, and create an Animal Sentience Committee to evaluate policy changes regarding animal welfare.

If only all humans enjoyed similar defenses in English law. Alas, unborn children in the U.K. are left without such protections. When I inquired whether some of the bill’s safeguards might be extended to unborn homo sapiens, I was told that the bill had been cast in such a way as to prevent this.

There is a great discrepancy between how our laws treat animals and how they treat unborn human beings. For instance, the recent Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act stipulates that animal fetuses must be killed in “humane” ways, but no parallel legal provision exists for human fetuses.

As Lewis recognized in “Vivisection,” the sentience of animals is a complex and controversial scientific topic. He argued that if you are in doubt, then you should err on the side of caution and prudence. Of course, we know far more now about animal sentience than we knew in 1947. But that new knowledge pales in significance when compared with what science has taught us about life in the womb since 1947.

Last year, I took part in an inquiry into fetal pain organized by eighteen parliamentarians from both Houses. We found that recent studies strongly suggest that unborn children may feel pain much earlier than previously thought. In an article published in the Journal of Medical Ethics, researchers say there is now “good evidence” that the brain and nervous system, which start developing at 12 weeks’ gestation, permit the unborn baby to feel pain. One of the researchers is a “pro-choice” British pain expert who used to think there was no chance that unborn babies could feel pain before 24 weeks. He too is now erring on the side of caution.

However, in the U.K., babies undergoing abortion at 20 weeks’ gestation “via surgical dilatation and evacuation”—described by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists as “where the foetus is removed in fragments”—are not provided with pain relief. Neither are babies aborted after 22 weeks through “foeticide, where potassium chloride is injected into the heart to cause immediate cardiac arrest.” Human Rights Watch has highlighted that potassium chloride is “excruciatingly painful if administered […] without proper anaesthesia.”

In 2018, Ross Clark, writing in The Spectator, observed that “A Martian looking at us from the outside might well conclude that it is a committee of animals which sets the terms of our political debate.” I have often remarked that when an animal arrives at Westminster’s Carriage Gates holding a placard saying “Save the Human Race,” we might wake up to the illogical nature of some of our attitudes and laws.

Those who criticize such laws risk being de-platformed or pushed into political no-man’s-land. This silencing of debate has led from illogic to ignorance. A 2013 YouGov Poll found that a shocking 17 percent of British people do not believe that human beings are alive until birth. Perhaps, given the brutal reality of abortion, they do not wish to consider the implications of the opposite being true. And government policy seems to imply the same.

I have met people who claim to be great champions of animal rights, and yet are vehemently in favor of abortion—including some who are trying to amend the law to allow abortion in all circumstances right up to birth. We rightly celebrate when charity is offered to animals who suffer from a particular injury or disability, yet we allow abortion up to birth for human beings with any kind of disability, including cleft lip, cleft palate, or club foot—to say nothing of Down syndrome. The U.N. Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities has consistently criticized Britain’s discriminatory permissions for disability-selective abortions and has suggested legislation must be amended. But don’t hold your breath and expect the U.K. to do this any time soon. We have come perilously close to self-hatred—hatred of our own species.

As Lewis once wrote, every day we have to choose between “becoming a creature of splendid glory or one of unthinkable horror,” and those “who keep silence hurt more.”

Lord David Alton is a member of the House of Lords of the United Kingdom.

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Source: firstthings.com


EU bishops’ commission urges action to protect religious freedom

EU bishops’ commission urges action to protect religious freedom

European Union flags flutter outside the EU headquarters in Brussels July 15, 2021. (Credit: CNS photo/Yves Herman, Reuters.)

BRUSSELS — European bishops called on the European Union to do more to protect religious freedom in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic as part of efforts to strengthen the bloc’s role as a “global humanitarian, development, economic and peace actor.”

“Vulnerable religious communities are experiencing discrimination, intolerance and, in some cases, persecution as victims of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes,” the Brussels-based Commission of Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union said in a joint statement with the non-Catholic Conference of European Churches.

“The Union needs to pay particular attention to protecting and promoting freedom of religion or belief in the world — not only as a human right, but also as a strategic dimension of democratic freedom, conflict prevention, and a way to foster social peace, justice and reconciliation,” said the commission, known as COMECE.

The statement followed a July 15 online meeting of church representatives with the EU’s new Slovenian presidency, which took office July 1.

It said the EU should update its 2013 Guidelines on Religious Freedom, while “putting in place a mechanism” to reinforce them globally in line with “a new European strategic culture of peace.”

“Together, we represent the membership of around 380 million EU citizens, and we are strongly committed to develop the European project on the basis of the Christian ideals of justice, peace and the integrity of creation,” the statement added.

Church leaders repeatedly have called on the EU to link protection of religious rights to its aid and trade packages amid reports of worsening violations across the world.

In May, a new EU religious freedom envoy was appointed, two years after the post was allowed to lapse following the resignation of Jan Figel of Slovakia.

COMECE said it also wanted to see religious freedom fully restored within the EU itself in the wake of forced church closures despite a current resurgence in coronavirus cases.

It added that religious freedom remained “a matter for national authorities” in the 27 member-states, but was also affected by EU policies, which should now focus on “re-expanding freedom of worship to pre-pandemic standards.”

“Freedom of religion or belief needs to be promoted and protected in our European societies — we encourage the EU presidency to look at EU initiatives through this lens,” the commission said.

“Reopening policies should take into account the situation and needs of churches, both as actors that can facilitate recovery through their social actions, and as actors in need of recovery support.”

The statement said a “resilient and healthy Europe” should show greater concern for “hidden vulnerabilities” in EU societies, as well as ensuring a just distribution of vaccines.

Source: cruxnow.com


48 Christian Churches in Canada Have Been Burned Down or Vandalized as Persecution Continues

Video footage shows a woman attempting to light a Canadian church on fire days before the church burned to the ground.

Surrey Royal Canadian Mounted Police said in a press release that St. George Coptic Orthodox Church was destroyed in an early Monday morning fire, the cause of which is still under investigation. The fire is being treated as “suspicious,” particularly in light of video surveillance footage obtained by CTV Vancouvershowing a woman attempting to light the church on fire last Wednesday.

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Authorities have not established that the incidents are connected. Sergeant Elenore Sturko told the Daily Caller News Foundation Tuesday that the suspect in the July 14 video, described as a “Caucasian woman, 5’7 tall, with a heavy-set build, and dark hair,” has not yet been identified.

The church, attended by more than 380 families, also served as a daycare to 65 children, CTV reported.

“We will not be deterred and we will rebuild,” said Bishop Mina of the Coptic Orthodox Diocese of Mississauga, Vancouver and Western Canada, the Vancouver Sun reported.

“The timing of this fire … raises many questions about what the authorities did to protect our church, especially considering the attempt on the same church this past Wednesday,” he added, according to the Vancouver Sun.

The Royal Mounted Canadian Police told the DCNF Tuesday that though it is investigating the crimes against churches, it does not have statistics on how many churches have been vandalized or burned.

“The RCMP is tracking/investigating these crimes where we are the police of jurisdiction. We don’t have a mandate to collect/track statistics for crimes investigated by other police departments,” RCMP spokesperson Robin Percival told the DCNF.

At least 48 Christian churches in Canada have either been vandalized, desecrated, or burned down since unmarked graves were uncovered near residential schools for indigenous children, according to one estimate by the Canadian publication True North.

The New York Post’s Kelly Jane Torrence criticized media outlets for suggesting Canada had hidden “genocidal death camps.”

Torrence wrote the unmarked graves are “confirmations” of a sad history Canadians have always known, rather than “discoveries.”

Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation report, released in 2015, found that thousands of children died from disease in the overcrowded schools and that lack of supervision allowed for abuse and neglect.

“This is not a mass gravesite,” Saskatchewan First Nation Chief Cadmus Delorm said June 24, regarding burials found near a former Indian residential school. “These are unmarked graves.”

“The finds were shocking but not surprising,” wrote Torrence. “As a schoolgirl in Canada, I learned the ugly history of the country’s forced assimilation policy. Over the course of a century, 150,000 native children were torn from their families — by force, if necessary — and sent to get an English- (or French-) language education in government-funded schools run mainly by the Catholic Church.”

Torrence wrote that most of the clergy in charge were “well-meaning,” but that some “took advantage of their positions to inflict abuse.”

“The idea was to turn poverty-stricken children into productive, even prosperous, members of mainstream Canadian society — and, from the church’s perspective, to save their souls,” she added. “Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission concluded in 2015 that at least 3,200 students died, later revising that figure to 4,100. The No. 1 cause of death was tuberculosis; influenza hit hard, too. Far from home, children were often buried on site, their graves marked with wooden crosses, most of which deteriorated and disappeared.”

LifeNews Note: Mary Margaret Olohan writes for Daily Caller. Content created by The Daily Caller News Foundation is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a large audience.

Source: lifenews.com


How the Irish, and Many Others, Lost Their Religious Freedom to COVID Restrictions

A visitor prays during mass at a Roman Catholic church in Knock, Ireland, in 2010. (Cathal McNaughton/Reuters)
Around the world, religious institutions bore the brunt of coronavirus rules. We can’t let this happen again.

In Ireland, you can face six months behind bars for forging a drug prescription. Or for stealing€20,000 from your employer for luxury holidays. Or, until recently, for attending church.

Even in a year that has turned societal norms on its head, it’s surely a surprise that the Emerald Isle, once a home away from Rome for Europe’s Catholics, got into this state. There are few places more steeped in Church tradition.

Ireland, of all places, enforced some of the most draconian restrictions on religious freedom in the world during the pandemic. Authorities didn’t just close places of worship; they criminalized anyone who would attend a service or a Mass, regardless of their willingness to mask and distance. When a rural priest from County Cavan tried to hold a service, police set up checkpoints surrounding the building and fined him for daring to bid parishioners to come to a large, airy church. Meanwhile, dry cleaners, supermarkets, and even liquor stores stayed open for business. It was considered safer to pick up a cheap merlot outside a corner off-license than to take bread and wine in a socially distanced Communion service with holy God.

 

With the internationally solidified right to worship trounced in favor of one’s right to a spruced-up suit, the Irish government’s religious illiteracy in the context of fundamental freedoms has been exposed. And it’s a far-reaching problem across the global West. In Nevada, citizens were left with no choice but to render unto Caesars Palace when casinos stayed open, but churches had to close. Meanwhile, a young doctor serving on a COVID ward became the “David” of Switzerland in May, taking a slingshot to the sweeping, Goliathan ban by getting the Constitutional Chamber of Geneva to recognize it as unnecessary and disproportionate. They could hardly decide otherwise. Professional choirs were allowed to meet for practice, and demonstrations could take place. Why were Christians ever considered more contagious?

Indeed, millions of others across the Continent were affected by severe worship restrictions at some point during the pandemic. For a society built on Judeo-Christian values, it’s been a stark revelation of how little we think of our foundations. Somebody check on Nietzsche — he might be getting his mourning clothes out again to proclaim that God is dead.

Undeniably, churches play an immensely important role in society. At a time of loss and grieving, who can question the benefit of accessing a transcendent touch-point — a place to find hope and comfort amid despair? But the significance of religious freedom in the midst of a global crisis goes beyond even spiritual welfare. It’s a test of which human rights the government truly values under pressure and which it doesn’t. The right to worship is a deeply personal one. When that right is lost and discarded, it puts the very premise of all human-rights protections at risk. And if, in the global shake-up, respect for religious freedom is proven to be nothing more than a cathedral built on sand, it’s not going to be respected tomorrow either.

If you’re hearing a faint solo over the Irish Sea, it might be a “hallelujah” — after almost 12 months of criminalization, churches reopened recently, albeit at a limited capacity. It’s good news for many. However, the Irish government has never acknowledged that the blanket ban was ever wrong. The next time an emergency hits, it will be back to police squadrons and church raids in another bizarre blend of Exodus meets World War Z. And so a Galway businessman, Declan Ganley, has taken up the challenge of persuading the courts of Ireland to join those in Scotland, Switzerland, Chile, and several U.S. states in striking down the disproportionate ban once and for all.

Christians across the country are voicing their support for the principle. Hundreds have already signed an open petition to the government asking for a commitment that the ban will never be imposed again. Court dithering and delaying has left the situation somewhat unclear. But even though the churches can now open, the courts still have an opportunity to tackle the much deeper issue: Is religious freedom really worth protecting? Did the government indeed violate that fundamental right? And do we need to do better to make sure that the rights of religious groups aren’t left vulnerable in the next global emergency?

Source: nationalreview.com


European Parliament due to vote on ‘extreme’ abortion report

CNA_54b530740ba73_44984.jpgThe European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, on Nov. 25, 2014. Credit: Alan Holdren/CNA.

The European Parliament is due to vote on an “extreme” report calling on all European Union member states to allow access to abortion.

The report, presented by Croatian politician Predrag Fred Matić, also seeks the recognition of a “right to abortion” and the redefinition of conscientious objection as a “denial of medical care.”

The report was tabled May 25 for a vote at the next plenary session of the European Parliament, the EU’s law-making body, in Strasbourg, France, on June 7-10.

Pro-life groups have expressed alarm at the report, which they say violates the established principle that abortion laws fall within the competence of member states, rather than EU institutions.

Most of the EU’s 27 member states permit abortion on demand or on broad social grounds, except Malta and Poland, which have strong pro-life laws.

The Parliamentary Network for Critical Issues (PNCI), based in Washington, D.C., described the report as “extreme” and “radical.”

The European Centre for Law and Justice (ECLJ), an NGO based in Strasbourg, suggested that supporters of the draft resolution were seeking “to introduce a new norm without it appearing at first sight to be imposed.”

It said: “The choice of the institution in this strategy is not to be underestimated, because although the resolutions of the European Parliament have no binding legal value, they are the expression of an opinion that the Parliament wishes to make known.”

“A resolution may subsequently serve to politically legitimize action by the member states or the institutions; it is intended to produce practical effects.”

“More importantly, it can express a pre-legislative intention that can later be used to justify binding acts. There is, therefore, no doubt that an act of the European Parliament represents the gateway to the heart of the normative system.”

The “Report on the situation of sexual and reproductive health and rights in the EU, in the frame of women’s health” was adopted by the European Parliament’s Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality on May 11.

An accompanying “explanatory statement” claimed that the report “comes at a crucial moment in the EU, with backlash and regression in women’s rights gaining momentum and contributing to the erosion of acquired rights and endangering the health of women.”

Two Members of the European Parliament, Margarita de la Pisa Carrión and Jadwiga Wiśniewska, set out a “minority position,” arguing that the report had “no legal or formal rigor.”

“It goes beyond its remit in addressing issues such as health, sexual education, and reproduction, as well as abortion and education, which are legislative powers belonging to the member states,” they wrote.

“It treats abortion as a purported human right that does not exist in international law. This is a breach of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the main binding treaties, as well as of the case-law of the European Court of Human Rights and the Court of Justice of the European Union.”

They noted that 154 amendments were tabled against the text.

The European Parliament passed a resolution last November lamenting what it called a “de facto ban on the right to abortion in Poland.”

It backed the resolution by 455 votes to 145 after Poland’s top court ruled that a 1993 law permitting abortion for fetal abnormalities was unconstitutional.

Catholic bishops across Europe criticized the resolution. In a letterreleased in February, they said that it would have “a very negative impact” on the way the EU is seen by its member states.

A bill seeking to decriminalize abortion was introduced in Malta’s parliament May 12. The bill is the first of its kind in the Mediterranean country. Malta’s President George Vella has said that he would rather resign than sign the bill.

The ECLJ highlighted the new report’s threat to conscientious objection to abortion.

Noting that many EU member states recognize healthcare professionals’ right to refuse to participate in activities that would violate their consciences, the report said: “Moving forward it should be addressed as denial of medical care rather than the so-called conscientious objection.”

The ECLJ pointed out that the right to freedom of conscience is guaranteed by international and European law.

“The fundamental nature of this freedom no longer needs to be proven; it is even described by the European Court [of Human Rights] as the foundation of democratic society,” it commented.

Source: catholicnewsagency.com


Austria’s Catholic Bishops: Provide ‘Assistance to Live,’ Not Assistance to Suicide

In their message, the Austrian bishops said: “We know from countless encounters with the dying that the last phase of life, in particular, can be a blessing. In many cases, important encounters and moments of reconciliation are still possible.”

Assisted suicide is currently punishable by up to five years in prison.
Assisted suicide is currently punishable by up to five years in prison. (photo: Patrick Thomas / Shutterstock)

VIENNA, Austria — Austria’s Catholic bishops urged the authorities on Tuesday to offer people “assistance to live,” rather than assistance to suicide.

The bishops issued a statement June 1 in the wake of a ruling by the country’s top court that assisted suicide should no longer be a criminal offense.

“Dying is a part of life, but not killing. Assisted suicide must therefore never be understood as a medical service or otherwise a service of a healthcare profession,” the bishops wrote in the five-page message marking the Austrian Church’s Day for Life.

The constitutional court argued in its Dec. 11 judgment that the country’s criminal code is unconstitutional because its ban on assisted suicide violates the right to self-determination. It ordered the government to lift the ban in 2021.

Assisted suicide is currently punishable by up to five years in prison.

At the time of the ruling, Archbishop Franz Lackner, the president of Austria’s Catholic bishops’ conference, said that the judgment marked a fundamental “cultural breach.”

CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German-language news partner, reported that the bishops urged legislators on Tuesday to take a number of steps to safeguard citizens, including expanding suicide prevention efforts, limiting the possibility of pressure from third parties, and guaranteeing conscientious objection.

“The limits of self-determination become apparent in life crises, in the event of a serious experience of suffering or in the face of a death that is becoming tangible,” the bishops wrote.

“It is an illusion to believe that we can determine ourselves completely and independently at any moment. As the constitutional court also admits, experience teaches us different things: We need each other! Man is a social being, always dependent and receptive to the expectations and valuations of the people around him.”

Austria is a country of almost nine million people bordered by the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Slovenia, Italy, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, and Germany.

In September 2020, the Vatican’s doctrinal congregation reaffirmed the Church’s perennial teaching on the sinfulness of euthanasia and assisted suicide.

Since then, supporters of the practices have made gains in several European countries.

In February, Portugal’s parliament backed a bill approving euthanasia. But President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa vetoed the bill.

Also in February, Catholic leaders and human rights advocates expressed concernover a bill seeking to legalize physician-assisted suicide in Ireland.

In the same month, Germany’s Federal Constitutional Court ruled that a provision in the German Criminal Code criminalizing commercial assisted suicide is unconstitutional.

In March, Spain’s legislature passed a law legalizing euthanasia and assisted suicide, making Spain the fourth country in Europe to legalize the practice, after the Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg.

Meanwhile, a peer in the House of Lords, the U.K. parliament’s second chamber, recently put forward a proposal to revisit the legalization of assisted suicide.

In their message, the Austrian bishops said: “We know from countless encounters with the dying that the last phase of life, in particular, can be a blessing. In many cases, important encounters and moments of reconciliation are still possible.”

“In addition, a widely publicized option to commit suicide puts pressure on all those who face life until natural death and are dependent on the help of others to do so.”

The bishops added, “According to the dangerous logic of euthanasia, they too would have the possibility to end their lives ‘autonomously.’”

Source: ncregister.com


Finland’s prosecution of Christian MP over biblical views is ‘act of oppression,’ legal scholars warn

Finland, Päivi Räsänen
Finnish Member of Parliament, Päivi Räsänen. | ADF International

Law professors and scholars are calling on the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom to pressure the State Department to sanction Finland’s prosecutor general for prosecuting a Christian politician who shared her biblical beliefs on sexuality and marriage.

In an open letter published by Real Clear Politics last Friday, professors from Ivy League institutions like Harvard University, Yale University and Princeton University spoke out in defense of Päivi Räsänen and Bishop Juhana Pohjola. They both face criminal charges related to Räsänen expressing her Christian views on marriage.

Räsänen, a member of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland, could face up to six years in prison after being charged with three counts of ethnic agitation related to statements she made expressing her beliefs pertaining to human sexuality and marriage.

Räsänen is the former chair of the Christian Democrats and a former interior minister who has served in Parliament for seven terms. The mother of five, who is married to a pastor and Bible college principal, has been under police investigation since June 2019.

She publicly voiced her opinion on marriage in a 2004 booklet on sexual ethics, describing marriage as between one man and one woman. She also expressed her views on a 2019 radio show and tweeted church leadership on the matter.

Prosecutors determined that her previous statements disparage and discriminate against LGBT individuals and foment intolerance and defamation. The mother of five is adamant that her expressions are “legal and should not be censored.”

In their open letter, the professors argue that the prosecution of the politician for her remarks could “compel Finland’s clergy and lay religious believers to choose between prison and abandoning teachings of their various faiths.”

“The charges against Dr. Räsänen stem from her authorship of a 2004 booklet entitled, Male and Female He Created Them: Homosexual Relationships Challenge the Christian Concept of Humanity, published by the Luther Foundation,” they wrote. “In the booklet, Dr. Räsänen argues that homosexual activity should be recognized by the church as sinful based on the teachings of the Hebrew Bible and Christian scripture.”

“Second, the Prosecutor General has charged the Bishop-Elect of the Evangelical Lutheran Mission Diocese of Finland, Rev. Dr. Juhana Pohjola, with one count of ethnic agitation for publishing Dr. Räsänen’s booklet,” the letter continues.

“The Prosecutor General’s pursuit of these charges against a prominent legislator and bishop sends an unmistakable message to Finns of every rank and station: no one who holds to the traditional teachings of Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and several other religions on questions of marriage and sexual morality will be safe from state harassment should they, like Bishop Pohjola and Dr. Räsänen, express their moral and religious convictions.”

The letter argues that the prosecutions “constitute serious human rights abuses” because they violate Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and Article 10 of the European Union Charter of Fundamental Rights. Those documents affirm the right of an individual “to manifest his religion or belief in teaching.”

The professors urged commissioners serving on the congressionally-mandated independent commission tasked with advising the U.S. government on international religious freedom matters to urge Secretary of State Antony Blinken to sanction Finland Prosecutor General Raija Toiviainen because of “a gross violation of human rights.”

The letter’s signatories include Princeton University law professor Robert P. George, Harvard University’s Learned Hand Professor of Law Emerita Mary Ann Glendon and Harvard constitutional law professor Adrian Vermeule.

Other signatories include: Peter Berkowitz, a senior fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution; Middlebury College political science professor Keegan Callanan; Yale University history and religious studies professor Carlos Eire; Princeton University math professor Sergiu Klainerman; Princeton University international studies professor John B. Londregan; Harvard University African American studies lecturer Jacqueline C. Rivers; and attorney David Rivkin of the law firm BakerHostetler.

The signatories argue that Räsänen’s prosecution isn’t merely “mundane applications of a European-style ‘hate speech’ law.”

“No reasonable balance of the goods of public order, civil equality, and religious liberty can ever support this suppression of the right to believe and express one’s beliefs. The prosecutions are straightforward acts of oppression,” they write.

“To uphold the internationally recognized rights of freedom of expression and religious liberty, the United States must now respond to the abuses in Finland as it has recently responded to other violations of religious liberty in non-western nations.”

The letter points to how the U.S. government designated a Chinese government official as a human rights abuser for “his involvement in the detention and interrogation of Falun Gong practitioners for practicing their beliefs.”

“Prosecutor General Toiviainen’s status as a European official must not shield her from sanctions for her abuse of traditionalist Christians in Finland,” the letter argues.

In addition, the letter urges USCIRF to pressure Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen to designate Toiviainen for sanctions under the Global Magnitsky Act, which allows for sanctions to be placed on foreign officials believed to be responsible or complicit in severe human rights abuse.

“Prosecutor General Toiviainen and any line prosecutors who choose to assist her plainly meet this description,” the professors argue.

The letter contends that there is “no statue of limitations on human rights violations of this magnitude.”

“Should calls by USCIRF to designate and sanction Prosecutor General Toiviainen and her accomplices fall on deaf ears, we respectfully request that USCIRF not simply let the matter drop,” they conclude.

Räsänen is represented by ADF International, which argues that her case is about the freedom to express religious beliefs in the public square without the fear of government investigation.

In a March statement, Räsänen said that she did not threaten, slander or insult anyone and that her comments were all “based on the Bible’s teachings on marriage and sexuality.” She vowed to defend her right to “confess” her faith.

“The more Christians keep silent on controversial themes, the narrower the space for freedom of speech gets,” she said.

Earlier this month, the European Evangelical Alliance voiced its support for Räsänen, asking if the prosecutor is “attempting to redefine human rights law.”

“Freedom of expression gives the right for anyone to share their opinion,” EEA General Secretary Thomas Bucher wrote in a statement. “The right to freedom of expression exists to legally protect those that express views which may offend, shock or disturb others.”

Source: christianpost.com