Portuguese bishops invite nations of the world to be consecrated at Fatima

Image of Our Lady of Fatima in Lisbon's cathedral. Credit: Kate Veik/CNA
Image of Our Lady of Fatima in Lisbon’s cathedral. Credit: Kate Veik/CNA

.- On Wednesday, nations from around the world can be consecrated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary in a liturgy to be celebrated at the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Fatima, built in the place where in 1916 and 1917 the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to three Portuguese children.

In response to the global coronavirus pandemic, the Portuguese bishops’ conference announced last week they would reconsecrate Portugal to Christ and Mary on the evening of March 25. Shortly after the announcement, the Spanish bishops’ conference requested that their country also be consecrated in the same liturgy.

The secretary general of the Portuguese bishops’ conference told ACI Digital, CNA’s Portuguese language news partner, that any other country can also join the initiative, simply by a request from its bishops’ conference to the bishops’ conference of Portugal.

During the March 25 liturgy, Cardinal Manuel Clemente, Patriarch of Lisbon, alongside Cardinal António Marto, diocesan bishop in Fatima, will lead the rosary, before consecrating the Iberian Peninsula, along with any other countries joining the initiative, to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

The global coronavirus pandemic has infected nearly 400,00 people, and killed more than 16,000 worldwide. In Portugal, more than 2000 have been infected and more than 20 have been killed. In neighboring Spain, more than 30,000 have been infected, and 2,200 have been killed.

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Source: catholicnewsagency.com

Will religious freedom be safeguarded in Europe?

By Andrea Gagliarducci
Pope Francis addresses the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France on Nov. 25, 2014 - credit Alan Holdren / CNA
Pope Francis addresses the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France on Nov. 25, 2014 – credit Alan Holdren / CNA

Despite major successes, the EU let the office of the Special Envoy for the promotion of Religious Freedom and Belief outside of Europe expire, and haven’t renewed yet its highly successful envoy – who secured the liberation of Asia Bibi and safe passage to Canada for the Pakistani Christian woman wrongly convicted and sentenced to death.

All this is unfolding within a broader international context in which religious freedom is increasingly under attack, and religious persons and institutions are under increasing pressure to bring their beliefs in line with a prevailing Western secular orthodoxy.

A signal was the report on religious freedom presented on March 2 at the Human Rights Council in Geneva was a signal.

In particular, the report underscored that all religions had to be open to these new rights. These new rights have not an international consensus, and they cannot be in any way considered on a par with the human rights listed in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The Report was based on fighting “worldwide religious precepts (that) underlie laws and state-sanctioned practices that constitute violations of the right to non-discrimination of women, girls and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT+)”

One of the goals of the Report is “emphasizing the responsibility of States in creating enabling environments to advance the non-discrimination and freedom of religion or belief rights of women, girls and LGBT+ persons.”

The report also attacked religious beliefs when they were opposed to the so-called “new rights,” especially “LGBT rights”.

The Holy See and several NGOs sharply criticized the report, which they argued was based on a twisted interpretation of religious freedom, one that ultimately came to a sort of freedom from religion.

The Holy See lamented that “the Report seems to focus less on the protection of men and women, of any faith or personal belief, that are persecuted or discriminated against (a still too vivid reality for millions of persons worldwide), and more on pushing a vision of human society that is not shared by all and does not reflect the social, cultural and religious reality of many peoples.”

The UN report can be interpreted as a signal that religious freedom will not be at the top of the international agenda.

The situation becomes more worrisome when you focus you eyes on Europe.

On May 6, 2016, the European Commission established the position of an EU Special Envoy for the promotion of Freedom of Religion and Belief outside of Europe. The Juncker Commission announced the establishment of the envoy on the very day Pope Francis was awarded the Charlemagne Prize. The new position set religious freedom issues among the priorities of the EU foreign policy.

Jan Figel was tapped for the position of special envoy.

In three years, Figel traveled a lot, established bridges of dialogue, and achieved some remarkable successes, notably the liberation of Asia Bibi, the Pakistani Christian woman convicted of blasphemy and sentenced to death. The woman won her final appeal, but she was in danger in her country. It was also thanks to Jan Figel that Bibi and her family were able to leave Pakistan and find a haven in Canada.

The commission headed by Figel did not address threats to religious liberty inside of Europe, but Asia Bibi’s acquittal and liberation showed that the European Union could act as a soft power in defending religious freedom.

This is one reason why there were expectations that EU leadership would confirm Figel in the envoy’s position, once the Juncker commission ended its mandate and following the  EU elections,.

This was especially the case in view of the new EU policy priorities that focus on Africa, a continent where religion plays a great role. An EU official championing religious freedom in diplomatic talks would have been a natural choice.

However, more than 100 days into the mandate, the EU commission chaired by Ursula van der Leyan has not decided yet. The question is: who is going to take care of the religious freedom issues in EU foreign policy?

There are three possibilities.

First: the Special Envoy for the promotion of freedom of religion or belief outisde the EU is re-established. This seems to be the more natural option.

Second: EU institutions can rely on the European External Action Service (EEAS). Within the EEAS, there is also the position of consultant of the EU Special Representative for Human Rights Eamon Gilmore. Merete Bilde was tapped at the post, with a particular focus on Religious Freedom and Freedom of Faith.

In this case, the option might be a downgrade of the portfolio of Freedom of Religion or Belief. In fact, there would not be a dedicated envoy, but just a consultant to a wider human rights portfolio.

Also, this option would be much weaker than what was initially called for by the European Parliament in the resolution recognising the atrocities perpetrated by ISIS as genocide in 2016, where it called for the establishment of an EU Special Representative on Freedom of Religion or Belief.

Third: the EU Commission might establish a special consultant on religious freedom issues.

The fact that there are no decisions yet might suggest that religious freedom is lower on the list of EU priorities.

Adina Portaru, legal counsel for ADF International in Brussels, voiced with CNA the preoccupation of the advocates of religious freedom.

“Nobody, said Portaru, should be persecuted because of their faith. At a time when religious persecution is on the rise, the EU should strengthen its international response, not weaken it”.

For this reason, she added, “the EU should take the steps necessary to become a champion for religious freedom worldwide. Failing to continue the mandate of the Special Envoy for the promotion of freedom of religion or belief outside the EU is clearly a step in the wrong direction.  We urge the EU to make good on its promise to defend victims of violence based on religion or belief worldwide.”

The UN Report presented in Geneva might be an alert. Without a firm policy on religious freedom, there is the risk that there will always be more papers like that one. Papers that – in the Holy See’s words – “seemingly defend religious freedom, while in fact, they attack it.”

* Catholic News Agency columns are opinion and do not necessarily express the perspective of the agency.

Source: catholicnewsagency.com

Chinese Christians Caught Between Coronavirus and Persecution

03/23/2020 China (International Christian Concern) – Despite the Chinese government’s claim that there are no new confirmed cases of the Coronavirus in the country, China is still very engulfed in the battle against this disease.

Other than the patients and medical professionals who became direct victims from the outbreak, some Christians also face additional challenges during this time.

Christian persecution watchdog China Aid reports on the persecution faced by a member from the Fengle Church in Heshan city, Guangdong province.

Ruan Haonan, who used to be a chef at a hotel, is caught between the disease and harassment from the police. Though he has landed multiple jobs in the past few years, he was laid off repeatedly due to the police’s oppression.

“After our church was raided by the public security bureau in 2017, it has been difficult (for me) to look for a job. Every year local police would call me, question, and scold me, asking me not to share the gospel anymore,” Ruan said.

Ruan was criminally detained for a month for “Organizing and Using a Cult to Undermine Implementation of the Law” in June 2017. After that, he could only stay employed for a short period of time, since the police always find him and pressure his boss to lay him off.

“Now due to the virus, many restaurants are closed, it has become harder for me to find a job. […] Two days ago, I went to a factory (to look for employment), but they claimed that I have a criminal record and I am part of a cult. If I were to return to my hometown, the local police would ask me where I went and whether or not I am proselytizing. With little options left, I can only find a job that doesn’t require registration of ID, which pays little,” he added.

A Christian from Guizhou also told China Aid, “We have been meeting online since the Lunar New Year. Most people in Guiyang are staying at home, although some already started to work, we still gather online and avoid having it at home. First, we worry about the infectious disease. Second, we do not want to let the police know.”

House churches in China have been facing increasing pressure from the government in the last two years, often demanded to join the state-sanctioned Three-Self church, in order for them to survive. Those who refuse to comply face constant harassment or even closure.

For interviews, please contact Olivia Miller, Communications Coordinator: [email protected].

Source: persecution.org

How My Pregnancy Exposed The Silent Genocide Of Babies With Down Syndrome

It has never been a better time to be a person with Down syndrome, unless he is still in the womb.
Anna Bohach


When I was in my late 30s, I became pregnant with my youngest son. My family and I were overcome with joy and excitement at the promise of a new baby. My oldest son, having two younger sisters, had prayed every night for two and a half years for a baby brother named Charlie. God always listens to the prayers of children.

My excitement was short-lived and replaced with fear and uncertainty after a series of appointments wherein doctors told me I was of advanced maternal age and should consider genetic testing to be sure I wasn’t pregnant with a “defective” baby. I declined all genetic testing, much to my doctor’s dismay.

At 20 weeks, I had my first ultrasound and anatomy scan of my baby. My husband and I were very happy as we found out we were indeed having a boy. We came home that day and gave our children a box filled with blue balloons to reveal our baby’s sex.

The next day, I woke up on cloud nine, feeling healthy, happy, and joyful — until I got a call from my doctor informing me they had discovered an abnormality. She told me my baby had a mass on his neck that alarmed her, and she wanted to transfer me to a specialist in maternal fetal medicine. I asked what the mass might be, but she declined to tell me, saying she didn’t want to “freak me out.” Too late.

Finding a Doctor Who Actually Cared for Me and My Baby

I immediately contacted the specialist to schedule an appointment. I told the specialist I couldn’t come in right away because my husband had started a new job and we didn’t know the exact day our health insurance started. At first, they told me that would be fine, but when I called back a week later and told them my insurance began in four weeks, they told me I couldn’t wait that long as I wouldn’t be able to schedule an abortion that late in pregnancy.

At this point, I still had no idea what was wrong with my baby, and specialists were already telling me I would need to schedule an abortion. I asked the nurse what was wrong with my baby, and she told me she couldn’t discuss it over the phone.

I felt like the wind had been knocked out of me. Never in my life had I felt so alone and desperate to protect my child. I declined the offer to make an appointment. I broke down in tears, sobbing uncontrollably until my husband came home and picked me up off the floor.

It took me three weeks to find a doctor who would treat my son and me like human beings. When I finally met with my new doctor at 26 weeks and five days, he informed me that my son had a marker for Down syndrome. The mass on his neck was called a “thickened nuchal fold,” which is commonly seen in babies who have Down syndrome.

My jaw dropped open, and I remember saying, “That is it? My baby might have Down syndrome, and they put me through all of this?” My doctor told me we could do a test to see for sure if Charlie had the disorder, or we could wait until birth to see, as everything else indicated he was a healthy baby boy. My husband and I decided to wait, since it did not matter to us.

When our Charlie was born, he did indeed have Down syndrome, and I loved him just the way he was. Down syndrome is just a part of who he is; it is not what he is. He is a perfect combination of love, joy, happiness, and hugs in the cutest little package imaginable.

How the Medical Community Lies About Down Syndrome

My shock at being told my baby should have been aborted was well justified. When I researched prenatal Down syndrome diagnoses, I found that in the United States, 65 to 90 percent of pregnancies prenatally diagnosed with the disorder are terminated. In countries such as Denmark and Iceland, nearly 100 percent of such pregnancies are terminated.

When mothers receive a Down syndrome diagnosis, doctors tend to present termination as their first option, giving them prejudiced, bigoted, and outdated information on the lives of people with Down syndrome. The literature often emphasizes and exaggerates the difficulties associated with the condition.

Even the Centers for Disease Control, as of today, lists outdated information, talking only about the detrimental aspects and costs of the disorder. Nowhere does it mention how those with the condition contribute to society nor the joy and happiness they bring to their families and community. Nowhere in the medical literature given to pregnant mothers does it discuss that people with Down syndrome live fulfilling lives, that their siblings are joyful, and that their parents are the happiest. The pamphlets never tell expectant moms that their children can one day go to college, get a job, fall in love and get married, have children, and even drive a car.

It has never been a better time to be a person with Down syndrome, unless he or she is still in the womb. Sadly, they have been targeted by a brave new world for genocide. How can women be expected to make a free choice when every piece of information they receive about Down syndrome is negative, and doctors bully them to abortThat is not a choice; that is coercion.

In 1930s Germany, people with Down syndrome were the first victims of Hitler’s final solution. They were viewed as drains on society, and it was seen as “merciful” to kill them. At the same time in the United States, eugenicists such as Margaret Sanger of Planned Parenthood advocated for the forced sterilization, imprisonment, and “mercy killing” of all people she deemed to be “morons.” Planned Parenthood to this day still promotes this dark ideology and praises Sanger for her work.

This is the same final solution governments and the medical community, including Planned Parenthood, use today to eradicate people with Down syndrome. Planned Parenthood heavily promotes genetic testing and abortion for pregnant women and advocates aborting babies who have been diagnosed with Down syndrome prenatally.

Iceland claims it has “eradicated” the condition through genetic testing. The country did not cure the condition, however. It killed an entire group of people who had it. That is called genocide.

Standing for the Rights of People with Down Syndrome

In the last 40 years, the lives of people with Down syndrome have greatly improved thanks to parent advocacy groups and prominent people shining a light on their plight. In 1980, the life expectancy for a person with Down syndrome was 25. Today it is 60.

Parent advocates created organizations such as the National Down Syndrome Society and the Global Down Syndrome Foundation. These organizations fight for the rights and dignity of people with the disorder. As a result of their tireless efforts, people with Down syndrome are thriving and living their lives in ways never thought possible before — living independently, going to college, and getting married.

Sadly, the majority of Down syndrome advocacy groups are purposely ignoring the silent genocide being carried out against this vulnerable people group. They don’t want to be viewed as political, and many who run the organizations are abortion supporters and refuse to say anything against the gruesome practice, even if their silence means the very people they fight for will disappear.

March 21 is World Down Syndrome Day, a time to highlight the inherent dignity of people with the condition and fight for their rights to live full and productive lives. We must start talking about the silent genocide being committed against this community of people. If we don’t, there will be no one with Down syndrome left.

Anna Bohach is the founder of 500 Mom Strong, an organization dedicated to fighting the misogyny of Drag Queen Story Hour and the transgender movement. She has a bachelor’s degree in Communication with an emphasis in Rhetorical Criticism from California State University Los Angeles. Anna lives in Spokane, Washington, and has been married to her husband for 13 years and is the mother of four.

Finnish MP now facing 4 investigations after speaking about Christian beliefs

A member of the Finnish Parliament and former Minister of the Interior, Päivi Räsänen, now faces police four investigations.

Mrs Räsänen has served as an MP since 1995, was chair of the Christian Democrats from 2004-2015 and from 2011-2015 she was the Minister of the Interior, during which she held responsibility for church affairs in Finland.

In June 2019, she directed a tweet at the leadership of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland, questioning its official sponsorship of the LGBT event “Pride 2019”, accompanied by an image of Romans 1:24-27 from the New Testament that describes same-sex relationships as ‘shameful’.

She wrote: “How can the church’s doctrinal foundation, the Bible, be compatible with the lifting up of shame and sin as a subject of pride?”

Räsänen attended two police interviews about the tweet as well as a pamphlet she wrote 16 years ago on human sexuality for a Christian foundation.

She now faces further questioning regarding interviews she gave to a television program and a radio station and is being supported by Christian religious freedom charity Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF).

The police had already decided to drop the investigation into Mrs Räsänen’s pamphlet and concluded that there were no grounds to proceed with a prosecution. However, the Prosecutor General reopened the criminal investigation.

On 2nd March, the police interviewed Mrs Räsänen a second time about the tweet and on 5th March, Räsänen was informed that the Prosecutor General had launched two more investigations against her.

In 2018 the politician was on a show called ‘Maria Veitola, Overnight visit’, in which the presenter came to Räsänen’s home and stayed overnight. They discussed religious matters, including Räsänen’s personal beliefs. One of the investigations includes this programme.

The fourth investigation focuses on a radio interview from 20th December 2019, in which Räsänen commented on the show’s topic of discussion, “What would Jesus think about homosexuals?”

Responding to the police investigation, she said: “I never thought I would face a criminal investigation for sharing my deeply held beliefs. It came as a total surprise. As a Christian and a democratically elected Member of Parliament, I have often heard things with which I disagree – sometimes very strongly. At times, I have felt insulted. I believe the best response to this is more debate, not censorship.

“These police investigations raise concerns about limiting the freedoms that have been guaranteed in our Constitution and in international human right treaties. A major threat for freedom of religion and free speech is that we don’t make use of these rights. I hope these criminal investigations won’t lead to self-censorship among Christians. I am going to use my rights regardless of the police investigation. I encourage others to do the same.”

Lorcan Price, Legal Counsel for ADF International and part of the team supporting her case, said: “The European Court of Human Rights has affirmed that the right to freedom of expression does not protect merely popular ideas, but also those that challenge the status quo. You can support Mrs. Räsänen’s freedom of speech whether you agree with her positions or not. If we want to have freedom for ourselves, we have to extend it to those with whom we disagree. Tolerance is a two-way street. Driving people with different beliefs out of the public square is not only a violation of the rights protected in international and European law, but leaves our societies all the poorer for it.”

Source: premierchristian.news

EUROPE’S DUTY TO KILL by Sohrab Ahmari

Can you spare a minute for a story that doesn’t involve the coronavirus? Here’s hoping.

I first met Ellinor Grimmark at her lawyers’ office in Uppsala in the spring of 2017. The 43-year-old Swedish midwife and mother of two was of diminutive stature, with tightly curled blond hair and striking blue eyes framed by angular features. There was a tender toughness to her that I knew she would need as she reluctantly played protagonist in perhaps the most important freedom-of-conscience battle in Europe.

Now, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has dismissed her case as inadmissible, suggesting in a ruling Thursday that governments can blacklist midwives like Ellinor who refuse to assist with abortions. Put another way, Europe’s highest human-rights court has in effect recognized a dutyto kill the unborn.

Ellinor decided to become a midwife amid a severe shortage. To induce new recruits, local governments pay modest stipends to nurses considering midwifery. In Ellinor’s case, Jönköping County offered her $1,900 a month while she finished her training. Ellinor, who hails from Sweden’s intensely evangelical southern Bible Belt, was aware that some midwives are called upon to participate in abortions, but she assumed there would be conscience exemptions.

Besides, as she told me, “there is so much to do as a midwife. So I just thought, ‘OK, that’s one part, but I will do everything else.’” There is indeed much more to midwifery than extinguishing new life, and as one 2007 study found, 35 percent of midwives had never been involved in that grim task across their entire careers; another 23 percent hadn’t participated in abortions in the previous two years. Rationality and freedom of conscience could thus go hand-in-hand.

But no. What Ellinor didn’t expect was the sheer zeal of Sweden’s medical establishment, its ironclad commitment to ideological uniformity on abortion, even if that meant exacerbating the midwife shortage. In 2013, as she was finishing her studies, she mentioned her pro-life views to her supervisors at the hospital that was to hire her. The response from her manager: “How could you even think of becoming a midwife with these opinions?”

A few days later, her stipend was cut off. Another hospital offered to hire her, then backtracked, while a third said it could provide Ellinor with counseling aimed at reconciling her obstinate mind with the good of abortion. Eventually, she accepted a job in next-door Norway, which, despite a relatively liberal abortion regime, allows midwives with conscience objections to do the job that midwives have done since time immemorial: namely, bringing new life into the world.

Though the commute to Norway was four hours each way, and Ellinor hated leaving her own children, she delivered hundreds of babies in Norway. But when she filed suit in 2014 against the county council in Jönköping, she became Public Enemy No. 1 in her homeland.

At a panel on Islamist radicalism, a former government antiterror coordinator said: “Those who refuse to perform abortions”—a clear allusion to Ellinor and a second conscientious objector, Linda Steen—“are in my opinion extreme religious practitioners” similar to jihadists. On a popular TV show, feminist writer Cissi Wallin quipped: “Those who are against abortion now, can’t we abort them — retroactively?” Her fellow pundits laughed and agreed.

National tribunals in Sweden ruled against Ellinor (and Steen), making their case ripe for appeal to the ECHR. On paper, the two midwives had a formidable argument. Health workers mustn’t be blacklisted “because of a refusal to perform, accommodate, assist or submit to an abortion,” the Council of Europe has repeatedly emphasized. The European Convention on Human Rights likewise enshrines a “freedom of thought, conscience and religion.” States can restrict freedom of conscience in narrow contexts, but they must do so for legitimate purposes, using means that are “proportionate” in a democratic society.

Norway, where Ellinor has now moved full-time with her family, permits abortions but also carves out exemptions for pro-life practitioners. Then, too, even some older Swedish midwives still enjoy conscience rights under grandfathered arrangements that were part of the legislative history of the country’s 1974 omnibus abortion legalization bill.

So, slam dunk at the ECHR, the last guarantor of religious-conscience rights in a continent ruled by the children of the Enlightenment? Nope. In a decision marked by an astonishing absence of actual legal reasoning, the ECHR stated that Sweden’s interference with Ellinor’s freedom of conscience was justified in a democratic society, because it comported with Swedish law (well, one wonders, why then even have a supranational court?).

The ECHR also observed that “Sweden provides nationwide abortion services and therefore has a positive obligation to organize its health system in a way as to ensure that the effective exercise of freedom of conscience . . . does not prevent the provision of such services.” Employers, it went on, with that simple and brutal logic of the managerial liberal society, have a right to organize work in such a way as to require employees to do “all duties inherent to the post,” including the killing of babies as a midwife.

To repeat: If you are a midwife, a European state can now compel you to kill the unborn child. There is no shirking the duty to abort, that is, unless you are prepared to leave your home country and/or lose your profession. If there is a silver lining here, it is the stark revelation of the inner logic of the liberal society, how its promise of “freedom” without ends or limits inevitably strangles true freedom.

This column has been updated to clarify the nature of the ECHR’s ruling.

Sohrab Ahmari is the op-ed editor of the New York Post. He is finishing a book exploring 12 questions our culture doesn’t ask.

Photo by Adrian Grycuk via Creative Commons. Image cropped.

Source: firstthings.com

The Holy See slams UN Report on religious freedom

A session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva - credit UN.org
A session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva – credit UN.org

The Holy See has attacked the latest UN report on religious freedom. Decrying particularly the document’s many references to gender ideology, the Holy See called the language a sort of “ideological colonization on the part of some States and international institution.” The Holy See said the Report is an “attack to religious freedom.”

“Particularly unacceptable and offensive are the numerous references that recommend that freedom of religion or belief and the conscientious objection must be surrendered for the promotion of other so-called ‘human rights’, which certainly do not enjoy consensus;” the Holy See statement remarks.

The Report of the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief was discussed on March 2 at the 43rd session of the Human Rights Council. The Holy See delegation was led by Archbishop Ivan Jurkovic, the Holy See Permanent Observer to the international organization in Geneva.

The Report is based on fighting “worldwide religious precepts (that) underlie laws and state-sanctioned practices that constitute violations of the right to non-discrimination of women, girls and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT+)”

One of the goals of the Report is “emphasizing the responsibility of States in creating enabling environments to advance the non-discrimination and freedom of religion or belief rights of women, girls and LGBT+ persons.”

In the end, the Report advocates a concept of freedom “from” and within” religion to protect the so-called new human rights; questions the existence of a right to conscientious objection; and also implicitly pushes doctrinal changes in religions on the basis of international law requirements.

 In addition to that, the Report was made available only at the last moment, not leaving States the possibility to look in-depth into it before the session.

Speaking at the Human Rights Council on March 2, Archbishop Jurkovic stressed that “the Report, at least in part, is an attack on freedom of religion or belief as well as freedom of conscience.”

Archbishop Jurkovic reiterated that “the Holy See has always understood ‘gender’ and related terms according to the ordinary, generally accepted usage of the word ‘gender,’ based on the biological identity that is male and female.”

The Holy See delegation lamented that “the Report seems to focus less on the protection of men and women, of any faith or personal belief, that are persecuted or discriminated against (a still too vivid reality for millions of persons worldwide), and more on pushing a vision of human society that is not shared by all and does not reflect the social, cultural and religious reality of many peoples.”

Archbishop Jurkovic noted that the Special Rapporteur made “no reference to the efforts made by religious leaders to intervene at the earliest opportunity to stop the shedding of innocent blood and bring an end to wars.”

This silence, the Holy See noted, is “ironic,” considering that the Report falls “in the year of the landmark Declaration on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together issued, on February 4, 2019, by the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar and Pope Francis.” The declaration, Archbishop Jurkovic added, “called on world leaders to work towards spreading a culture of tolerance and living together in peace.”

The Holy See also addressed the issue of ideological colonization. Quoting the 2019 Pope Francis’ speech to the diplomatic corps, the Holy See underscored “[t]he growing influence within the international Organizations of powers and interest groups that impose their own visions and ideas, sparking new forms of ideological colonization, often in disregard for the identity, dignity, and sensitivities of peoples.”

Archbishop Jurkovic added that “it is rather unfortunate, yet increasingly less surprising given its frequency, that a UN Report, which should defend the fundamental and universal human right of freedom of religion or belief as well as the right to conscientious objection, is now attacking the very reality it is called to defend.”

The Holy See mainly reacted to the frame of the Report, which builds on a twisted interpretation of the right to religious freedom to advocate LGBT rights, which are now considered on a par of human rights. The Holy See has always noted that the so-called “new human rights” have never gotten an international consensus, as the human rights of the Human Rights Charter did 70 years ago.

In particular, the Report targeted religions for preventing the States from defending gender ideology and LGBT rights.

“In all regions of the world, the Report read, actors citing religious justifications for their actions have advocated to governments and to the broader public for the preservation or imposition of laws and policies that directly or indirectly discriminate against women, girls and LGBT+ persons.”

The Special Rapporteur underscored “that States that maintain laws criminalizing consensual same-sex relations have occasionally referred to religious ‘justifications’ for maintaining them,” and that “many governments maintain legal provisions that discriminate against LGBT+ persons, including in healthcare, housing, social security, employment, marriage and parental rights, often on religious grounds.”

The Report also attacked the religious sentiment by saying that “laws criminalizing adultery are often rooted in patriarchal interpretations of religious doctrine and have a disparate impact on women”, while “discriminatory religious edicts inform laws and policies that restrict sexual and reproductive rights …., including, but not limited to, partial or total bans on access to abortion and contraception, prohibitions on assisted reproductive technologies and gender reassignment surgery, and limits on the provision of evidence-based sexuality education.”

The Report targeted religious institutions for “promoting and perpetuating interpretations of religious tenets to promote gender-based violence and discrimination against women, girls and LGBT+ persons; including physical, sexual and psychological harm.”

The Rapporteur underscored a misuse of “freedom of religion or belief across continents in the media, through litigation and political campaigns to counter human rights in the name of religion or belief.”

The Report even noted that “in three States, religious interest groups have attempted to change the constitution to define ‘the family’ according to religiously grounded heterosexual norms. Interest groups are also reportedly misusing freedom of religion or belief to oppose self-determination rights for gender diverse persons”.

Hence, the strong reaction of the Holy See. As Archbishop Jurkovic noted, it is not the first time that a UN report advocated for LGBT rights.

For instance, the Report of the UN Committee for the Rights of the Child on the Holy See, issued in February 2014, did not focus on how the convention was applied in Vatican City State, as it should, but rather asked the Holy See to change its teaching.

At that time, the Committee “regretted that the Holy See continues to place emphasis on the promotion of complementarity and equality in dignity,” which it claimed, “are often used to justify discriminatory legislation and policies.”

The committee asked “the Holy See to review its position on abortion … identifying circumstances under which access to abortion services can be permitted;” said that the Holy See should “assess … its position” regarding adolescents’ access to contraception;” urged the Holy See to “remove gender stereotypes from Catholic school textbooks … which may limit the development of the talents and abilities of boys and girls and undermine their educational and life opportunities.”

The Report, in the end, is nothing new under the sun. The Holy See strong stances against, by the way, shed light on how dangerous this position is for religious freedom. It is hoped that the Holy See’s words will not fall on deaf ears.

* Catholic News Agency columns are opinion and do not necessarily express the perspective of the agency.

Source: catholicnewsagency.com

Canadian hospice being taken over by government in euthanasia fight


Private facility gives up public funding, refusing to provide physician-assisted suicide.

Ahospice society in British Columbia, Canada, is refusing to make provisions for physician-assisted suicide, which is legal in Canada, and is being forced to give up government funding for the hospice they operate.

The board of the Delta Hospice Society is opposed to medically assisted death on moral and philosophical grounds, though it is not affiliated with any particular religion.

According to the contract the society has with the government to operate the Irene Thomas Hospice in Delta, a city that forms part of Greater Vancouver, funding will be provided for another year. But by February 25, 2021, the 10-bed facility will have to close.

“The Irene Thomas Hospice is dedicated to allowing patients access to expert symptom management for physical, emotional and spiritual distress,” the society said in a statement this past week. “It provides comfort, meaning, dignity and hope as one dies a natural death.” The statement expressed “shock and outrage” over the fact that the Fraser public health authority would “cut off all discussions and close the facility because it wants the hospice to provide MAiD (Medical Assistance in Dying) at every facility.”

According to the B.C. Catholic, the Fraser Health Authority and provincial Health Minister Adrian Dix earlier this year said the hospice would have to start allowing assisted suicides on site by February 3. Delta Hospice Society president Angelina Ireland responded that the hospice would rather give up $750,000 of its government funding than end the lives of its patients. It is the policy of the Fraser Health Authority that all hospices receiving more than 50% of provincial funding for their beds must offer MAiD to their residents. The hospice receives $1.4 million of its $3 million operating budget from Fraser.

On February 25, Dix announced the government was terminating the contract with Delta. Ireland said in the press release that Fraser Health ignored her request to lower the amount of funding to below the 50% threshold, and also forbade the hospice from finding another partner to work with.

To ensure hospice care remains available in Delta, Dix said the government would take over management of the current building or open another 10-bed hospice somewhere else in the area.

The hospice was built at a cost of about $9 million, paid for without government funding, Ireland said. Hospice supporters are planning a rally at the B.C. Legislature Saturday, April 4, according to the B.C. Catholic. Ireland said the Delta Hospice Society is considering legal and other options to continue serving patients who don’t want to end their lives by assisted suicide or die in a facility that offers it.

“They tell us if we’re getting taxpayer money, we have to” provide assisted suicide, Ireland told the B.C. Catholic in a separate interview. But “the people we take care of are taxpayers too. We are on the side of the taxpayers who want to access hospice palliative care.”

“If the government wants to open MAiD facilities, that’s their option, but they must not be allowed to download it onto the backs of private palliative care facilities,” Ireland said.

Meanwhile, the federal government plans to change assisted dying laws to eliminate the requirement that a person’s death must be “reasonably forseeable,” the newspaper said.

Source: aleteia.org