War on Christianity

I previously wrote about the war on Christianity. I made a big joke about it then. There is more, however. Apparently there really is a war on Christianity, and it’s being waged by no less than the United Nations. A conservative friend posted this on Facebook. I have copied and pasted the ensuing exchange with some editing to remove superfluous text and to obscure the identity of some participants:

UN report demands Catholic Church change teaching on homosexuality, abortion | LifeSiteNews.com
http://www.lifesitenews.com
A report by a UN human rights committee is a thinly disguised ideological attack on the Catholic Church’s teachings on abortion, contraception …
http://www.lifesitenews.com/news/un-report-demands-catholic-church-change-teaching-on-homosexuality-abortion

John Blanton: Not thin at all. The church has long been off base in its disdain for basic human rights, including its protection of pedophile priests against the interests of the victims.
February 5 at 3:33pm

MJ: Freedom of religion includes things people don’t agree with. I don’t agree with a lot of religions but I support their right to believe what they choose to. You cannot legislate faith. Trying only causes oppression and revolution. Might as well try to legislate thought.
February 5 at 3:38pm

John Blanton It’s not a matter of faith to put the church ahead of the rights of young boys who have been abused by priests. It’s not a matter of faith to declare a certain class of people to be second class citizens. It’s not a matter of faith to legislate against the medical judgment of practicing physicians.
February 5 at 8:27pm

MJ: I agree that they should immediately turn pedoohiles over to authorities. Just because they disapprove of someone’s lifestyle does nor mean they consider the person to be a second class citizen. Most people disagree with somebody else’s lifestyle. You disagree with the catholic lifestyle. You can appreciate the person without approving if the behavior. I disapprove of people who drink and drive or who do drugs but I don’t treat them as second class citizens. As far as medical procedures goes there are people who support killing an unborn child and people who believe it is murder. I do not think anyone can really prove categorically that abortion is not killing a human being. Many doctors refuse to perform abortions for this reason. It is ironic for the united nations to complain about Catholics harming children and in the same document try to force them to approve of abortion. I find it ironic as a society that a man who chooses not to be responsible for his child is a deadbeat and can go to jail but the woman can choose to terminate the child’s life and be applauded for it.
February 5 at 8:50pm

DJ: Where’s the report demanding that Muslims abandon the concept of jihad and systemic oppression of women?
Yesterday at 11:05am

John Blanton: [DJ]’s inference about Muslims is correct. There are rights issues with Islam, including the criminalization of homosexuality and apostasy. The disadvantage with Islam is there is no Muslim church akin to what Christians have in the Vatican. There are just mosques all over the world, each responsible to itself. There is no Muslim pope. The UN seems to be going after an identifiable organization, a pressure point against which it can apply useful leverage.
Posted today

There may be more to this exchange later, and I will update this if there ever is any.

What is this all about? Here is the full text of the item referenced in the Facebook post:

UN report demands Catholic Church change teaching on homosexuality, abortion

by Hilary White, Rome Correspondent
Wed Feb 05, 2014 13:32 EST

ROME, February 5, 2014 (LifeSiteNews.com) – A report by a UN human rights committee is a thinly disguised ideological attack on the Catholic Church’s teachings on abortion, contraception and homosexuality – and even the nature of human sexuality – under the guise of a critique of the sex abuse scandals, says a leading pro-life NGO.

Pat Buckley, the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children’s representative in Geneva, said the Committee on the Rights of the Child that drafted the report has “significantly overstepped its mandate” by demanding changes to Catholic teaching.

“There is nothing in the Convention [on the rights of the child], which requires the Catholic Church or any other body to facilitate abortion, contraception or homosexuality,” Buckley said.

The Church, the report said, must identify “circumstances under which access to abortion services can be permitted.” It must “overcome all the barriers and taboos surrounding adolescent sexuality that hinder their access to sexual and reproductive information, including on family planning and contraceptives,” it added.

The committee also attacked the Church’s teaching on sexual “complementarity and equality in dignity,” the idea that human beings are made by God to be male and female for the purpose of procreation and equal in moral dignity. This concept, they said, which lies at the heart of all Catholic teaching on sexuality, “differ[s] from equality in law and practice provided for in article 2 of the Convention and are often used to justify discriminatory legislation and policies.”

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The committee also wants the Church to “ensure that sexual and reproductive health education and prevention of HIV/AIDS is part of the mandatory curriculum of Catholic schools.”

It condemned the “Holy See’s past statements and declarations on homosexuality which contribute to the social stigmatization of and violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender adolescents and children raised by same sex couples.”

The report demanded that the Holy See “make full use of its moral authority to condemn all forms of harassment, discrimination or violence against children based on their sexual orientation or the sexual orientation of their parents and to support efforts at international level for the decriminalisation of homosexuality.”

The committee repeated the long-discredited claim that Catholic clergy were ordered to remain silent about sex abuse under pain of excommunication. It accused the Catholic Church of being concerned only with “the preservation of the reputation of the Church and the protection of the perpetrators above children’s best interests, as observed by several national commissions of inquiry.”

John Smeaton, executive director of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, blasted the committee, saying there is a “great deal of hypocrisy” in their report.

“Under the cover of seeking to protect children against sexual abuse, the report promotes damage to children – the destruction of unborn children through abortion and the destruction of born children’s innocence through the promotion of contraception and homosexuality.”

Smeaton added a call for pro-life and family groups to come to the UN to “help the Holy See in its vital work of protecting unborn children and the marriage-based family. This work is under constant attack by the Catholic Church’s enemies, as manifested in the committee’s report today.”

This is the photo that accompanied the posted item. 

This exchanges provides an excellent opportunity to apply skeptical analysis to how a controversy is handled and how it is rendered in public discourse. My plan is to dissect:

  • The posted news item
  • How the posted news item interprets the United Nations report
  • How the Facebook correspondents responded to the posting

Before starting I must state up front that I have met the Facebook correspondents referenced above. I know them to be earnest, sincere and of upright character. From their Facebook postings and from my correspondence with them I also know them to be adherents to an intense conservative political persuasion. They are anti-abortion, pro-gun, strongly against liberal politicians, the so-called liberal media and especially the current Obama administration. Conversely they support such conservative politicians as George W. Bush and Mike Huckabee. They are Christians and possibly Catholic, but their level of involvement in the church cannot be discerned from my information. This, then, is an analysis of how a conservative media outlet handles and portrays a political point and how ordinary citizens, such as these Facebook correspondents respond to this presentation.

First an analysis of the posted item.

The venue is LifeScienceNews.com.

LifeSiteNews.com is a non-profit Internet service dedicated to issues of culture, life, and family. It was launched in September 1997. LifeSiteNews Daily News reports and information pages are used by numerous organizations and publications, educators, professionals and political, religious and life and family organization leaders and grassroots people across North America and internationally.

LifeSiteNews.com Daily News reports are widely circulated reports on important developments in the United States, Canada and around the world. Their purpose is to provide balance and more accurate coverage on culture, life and family matters than is usually given by other media. Available by free daily email subscription and on LifeSiteNews.com.

Some people call me skeptical, but when I see something like “Their purpose is to provide balance and more accurate coverage on culture, life and family matters than is usually given by other media,” I get to thinking, “What was there in the ‘other media’ that was unbalanced and not accurate?” Sometimes the correct interpretation is, “Our views are not given the disproportional weight they deserve.” Sometimes the raw truth will not do.

Look at what LifeSiteNews said about the U.N. report:

A report by a UN human rights committee is a thinly disguised ideological attack on the Catholic Church’s teachings on abortion, contraception and homosexuality – and even the nature of human sexuality – under the guise of a critique of the sex abuse scandals, says a leading pro-life NGO.

In my Facebook response to my correspondents I objected to the phrase “thinly disguised.” The attack was not thinly disguised. It was very up front. And It was rightly placed. Also the attack was not “under the guise of a critique of the sex abuse scandals.” The sex abuse scandals, the church’s cover-up of the predation by priests on boys and young men, is an issue in the report, but equally egregious sins of the church are also addressed. In the report there is no attempt to disguise these other attacks on church policy and practice, and there was no need to.

The LifeSiteNews item quotes John Smeaton, “executive director of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children.”

Under the cover of seeking to protect children against sexual abuse, the report promotes damage to children – the destruction of unborn children through abortion and the destruction of born children’s innocence through the promotion of contraception and homosexuality.

Really?

The promotion of homosexuality? If you are a Christian, then you believe that God makes us who we are. It follows that if a Christian is right for condemning a person for being homosexual, then Jesus is to blame for making that person a homosexual in the first place. What kind of person does that make Jesus, and how are Christians to reconcile their anti-homosexual biases with their faith in Jesus? See the following which somebody posted on Facebook:

I am so very sorry

LifeSiteNews makes its assertions without disclosing the complete language of the U.N. report. It does provide a link. I have obtained a copy of the report (PDF). It will be interesting to look at specific language in the report.

First of all, the report is addressed to the Holy See, and not directly to Catholics. The U.N. is not addressing the affairs of private individuals:

The activities of the Holy See within the United Nations system officially began on April 6, 1964, when the Holy See was granted the status of permanent observer state. In that capacity, it has since had a standing invitation to attend all sessions of the United Nations General Assembly, the United Nations Security Council, and the United Nations Economic and Social Council to observe their work. Accordingly, the Holy See has established permanent observer missions in New York and in Geneva and has been able to influence the decisions and recommendations of the United Nations.

The report addresses church failings as they are controlled by the Holy See. Here is some specific language in the report speaking to the church’s abuses related to abortion:

54. The Committee expresses its deepest concern that in the case of a nine-year old girl in Brazil who underwent an emergency life-saving abortion in 2009 after having been raped by her stepfather, an Archbishop of Pernambuco sanctioned the mother of the girl as well as the doctor who performed the abortion, a sanction which was later approved by the head of the Roman Catholic Church’s Congregation of Bishops.

None of this was mentioned in the LifeSiteNews item. Instead, LifeSiteNews emphasized the report’s sanctioning of abortion.

Readers are urged to obtain a copy of the report and read it through. I have done that, and I have highlighted additional notable points of interest and will exhibit them here, some without comment:

25. The Committee welcomes the information provided by the Holy See during the interactive dialogue that it has initiated a review of its legislation with a view to withdrawing the discriminatory expression “illegitimate children” which can still be found in Canon Law, in particular Canon 1139. While also noting as positive the progressive statement delivered in July 2013 by Pope Francis, the Committee is concerned about the Holy See’s past statements and declarations on homosexuality which contribute to the social stigmatization of and violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender adolescents and children raised by same sex couples.

Regarding “illegitimate children,” here is what Canon 1139 has to say:

Can. 1139 Illegitimate children are legitimated by the subsequent valid or putative marriage of their parents or by a rescript of the Holy See.

Properly interpreted, this says that there is somehow something wrong with a child whose parents are not married under the church. This defect can be corrected, and the child can be made whole, only when the parents engage in a marriage sanctioned by the church. This idea goes against a great and personal philosophy of mine: There may be such a thing as an illegitimate parent, but there is no such thing as an illegitimate child.

The report also finds fault with practices and preachings by the church that bring about “social stigmatization of and violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender adolescents and children raised by same sex couples.” I will come back to this point later.

And there is this from the report, without comment:

27. With reference to its previous concern on gender-based discrimination (CRC/C/15/Add.46, para. 8), the Committee regrets that the Holy See continues to place emphasis on the promotion of complementarity and equality in dignity, two concepts which differ from equality in law and practice provided for in article 2 of the Convention and are often used to justify discriminatory legislation and policies. The Committee also regrets that the Holy See did not provide precise information on the measures taken to promote equality between girls and boys and to remove gender stereotypes from Catholic schools textbooks as requested by the Committee in 1995.

The report addresses some abuses of the rights of children:

33. The Committee is concerned about the situation of children born of Catholic priests, who, in many cases, are not aware of the identity of their fathers. The Committee is also concerned that the mothers may obtain a plan for regular payment from the Church until the child is financially independent only if they sign a confidentiality agreement not to disclose any information.

34. The Committee recommends that the Holy See assess the number of children born of Catholic priests, find out who they are and take all the necessary measures to ensure the rights of these children to know and to be cared for by their fathers, as appropriate. The Committee also recommends that the Holy See ensure that churches no longer impose confidentiality agreements when providing mothers with financial plans to support their children.

I have emphasized the matter that the church has sought the protection of its own reputation as a condition for living up to its responsibilities to children fathered by priests.

The report recommends the church acknowledge real solutions rather than blindly adhere to church doctrine:

36. In light of articles 6, 7, 8 and 19 of the Convention, the Committee strongly urges the Holy See to cooperate in studies to determine the root causes of the practice of anonymous abandonment of babies and expeditiously strengthen and promote alternatives, taking into full account the right of children to know their biological parents and siblings, as enshrined in article 7 of the Convention. The Committee also urges the Holy See to contribute to addressing the abandonment of babies by providing family planning, reproductive health, as well as adequate counselling and social support, to prevent unplanned pregnancies as well as assistance to families in need, while introducing the possibility of confidential births at hospitals as a measure of last resort to prevent abandonment and/or death of a child.

The report takes issue with the church’s disregard for real human rights:

Torture and other cruel or degrading treatment or punishment

37. The Committee is concerned that the Holy See has not taken the necessary measures to protect and ensure justice for girls arbitrarily placed by their families, State institutions and churches in the Magdalene laundries of Ireland run by four congregations of Catholic Sisters until 1996. The Committee is particularly concerned that:
(a) Girls placed in these institutions were forced to work in slavery like conditions and were often subject to inhuman, cruel and degrading treatment as well as to physical and sexual abuse;
(b) Girls were deprived of their identity, of education and often of food and essential medicines and were imposed with an obligation of silence and prohibited from having any contact with the outside world;
(c) Unmarried girls who gave birth before entering or while incarcerated in the laundries had their babies forcibly removed from them; and
(d) Although the four Catholic congregations concerned function under the authority of the Holy See, no action has been taken to investigate the conduct of the sisters who ran the laundries and to cooperate with law enforcement authorities in holding accountable those who were responsible for the abuse as well as all those who organised and knowingly profited from the girls’ unpaid work.

I have highlighted section (c).

The report outlines past transgressions of the church with respect to abuse by priests and points out that the church has even now not come clean abut the matter:

43. The Committee takes note of the commitment expressed by the delegation of the Holy See to hold inviolable the dignity and entire person of every child. The Committee nevertheless expresses its deepest concern about child sexual abuse committed by members of the Catholic churches who operate under the authority of the Holy See, with clerics having been involved in the sexual abuse of tens of thousands of children worldwide. The Committee is gravely concerned that the Holy See has not acknowledged the extent of the crimes committed, has not taken the necessary measures to address cases of child sexual abuse and to protect children, and has adopted policies and practices which have led to the continuation of the abuse by and the impunity of the perpetrators. The Committee is particularly concerned that:

(a) Well-known child sexual abusers have been transferred from parish to parish or to other countries in an attempt to cover-up such crimes, a practice documented by numerous national commissions of inquiry. The practice of offenders’ mobility, which has allowed many priests to remain in contact with children and to continue to abuse them, still places children in many countries at high risk of sexual abuse, as dozens of child sexual offenders are reported to be still in contact with children;
(b) Although the Holy See has established its full jurisdiction over child sexual abuse cases in 1962 and placed them in 2001 under the exclusive competence of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), it has declined to provide the Committee with data on all cases of child sexual abuse brought to its attention over the reporting period and the outcome of the internal procedure in these cases;
(c) Child sexual abuse, when addressed, has been dealt with as grave delicts against the moral through confidential proceedings providing for disciplinary measures which have allowed the vast majority of abusers and almost all those who concealed child sexual abuse to escape judicial proceedings in States where abuses were committed;
(d) Due to a code of silence imposed on all members of the clergy under penalty of excommunication, cases of child sexual abuse have hardly ever been reported to the law enforcement authorities in the countries where such crimes occurred. On the contrary, cases of nuns and priests ostracized, demoted and fired for not having respected the obligation of silence have been reported to the Committee as well as cases of priests who have been congratulated for refusing to denounce child abusers, as shown in the letter addressed by Cardinal Castrillon Hojos to Bishop Pierre Pican in 2001;
(e) Reporting to national law enforcement authorities has never been made compulsory and was explicitly rejected in an official letter addressed to members of the Irish Episcopal Conference by Bishop Moreno and Nuncio Storero in 1997. In many cases, Church authorities, including at the highest levels of the Holy See have shown reluctance and in some instances, refused to cooperate with judicial authorities and national commissions of inquiry.
(f) Limited efforts have been made to empower children enrolled in Catholic schools and institutions to protect themselves from sexual abuse.

I have highlighted what I consider to be a most disreputable practice.

Canon law still does not treat child sexual abuse by priests as a crime:

[44] (d) Amend Canon Law in order for child sexual abuse to be considered as crimes and not as “delicts against the moral” and repeal all provisions which may impose an obligation of silence on the victims and on all those that become aware of such crimes;

No comment on the following from the report:

Children deprived of a family environment

50. The Committee welcomes the emphasis placed by the Holy See on the importance for the full and harmonious development of children’s personality of growing up in a family environment. The Committee is however concerned about the situation of adolescents recruited by the Legion of Christ and other Catholic institutions who are progressively separated from their families and isolated from the outside world. While taking note of the Holy See’s response which highlights parental rights and duties to choose schools and seminaries for their children, the Committee also notes that in November 2013, the President of the French conference of bishops recognized the manipulation of individual consciences in some Catholic institutions and congregations.

Again, read the report.

What, now, of my Facebook correspondents’ take on all of this? From the Facebook postings:

MJ: Freedom of religion includes things people don’t agree with. I don’t agree with a lot of religions but I support their right to believe what they choose to. You cannot legislate faith. Trying only causes oppression and revolution. Might as well try to legislate thought.

I repeat a portion of this for emphasis: “Freedom of religion includes things people don’t agree with. I don’t agree with a lot of religions but I support their right to believe what they choose to. You cannot legislate faith.”

Here is some language from the report:

… the Committee is concerned about the Holy See’s past statements and declarations on homosexuality which contribute to the social stigmatization of and violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender adolescents and children raised by same sex couples.

It is not just religious faith and personal preference at issue here. The church is being accused of fostering real and tangible damage to human beings.

Another point is missed here. The issue is not what people think but what they do. Legislation of faith is not the same as legislation of actions. The Holy See has been tasked in the report on its actions. Its actions involved not only sanctions agains abortion, its actions also included the punishment, as far as the church had the legal ability, of the mother of a nine-year-old girl who underwent a life-saving abortion as well as the doctor who performed the procedure. Repeating: The girl was nine years old, the pregnancy was the result of rape, the abortion was deemed necessary to protect the life of the girl. The church’s action in this case had the intent and likely the effect of forestalling additional such therapeutic treatment. The church’s action has the likelihood of putting the lives of additional young girls in danger or forfeiture. To legislate against this physician’s actions would be to acknowledge the right of the church to sacrifice a girl’s life in order to honor a blind adherence to canon law. Putting it in the strongest light: Human sacrifice in the name of religion is not a religious right.

From MJ’s Facebook post:

I find it ironic as a society that a man who chooses not to be responsible for his child is a deadbeat and can go to jail but the woman can choose to terminate the child’s life and be applauded for it.

I should not need to point out that the church has sought to escape the penalties of a deadbeat father by requiring confidentiality before it would accept responsibility for children fathered by priests. And nowhere in the U.N. report is there applause for women who obtain abortions.

From the Facebook posts:

DJ: Where’s the report demanding that Muslims abandon the concept of jihad and systemic oppression of women?
Yesterday at 11:05am

DJ, I am glad you asked. This is from a page on the U.N. Web site:

International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women
25 November

  • Violence against women is a human rights violation
  • Violence against women is a consequence of discrimination against women, in law and also in practice, and of persisting inequalities between men and women
  • Violence against women impacts on, and impedes, progress in many areas, including poverty eradication, combating HIV/AIDS, and peace and security
  • Violence against women and girls is not inevitable. Prevention is possible and essential
  • Violence against women continues to be a global pandemic. Up to 70 per cent of women experience violence in their lifetime.

Does DJ think the U.N. does not address the matter of Islamic discrimination against women? Some Muslims would disagree:

Egypt’s Brotherhood slates ‘un-Islamic’ U.N. declaration on women rights
By AL ARABIYA WITH AGENCIES
Saturday, 16 March 2013

A United Nations call to stop violence against women has been slated by Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood on Friday for “violating Shariah (Islamic law) principles.”

The Brotherhood, Egypt’s ruling party, said the declaration agreed on by Muslim and western nations on to set out an international code of conduct for combatting violence against women, would lead to the “complete disintegration of society.”

“This declaration, if ratified, would lead to complete disintegration of society, and would certainly be the final step in the intellectual and cultural invasion of Muslim countries, eliminating the moral specificity that helps preserve cohesion of Islamic societies,” the Brotherhood’s statement claimed in an online statement on their official website.

The Brotherhood said the U.N. statement undermined Islamic ethics by calling for women to work, travel and use contraception without their husbands’ permission.

That should about do it for DJ’s question: “Where’s the report demanding that Muslims abandon the … systemic oppression of women?”

What about the “concept of jihad?”

I am assuming that when DJ says “jihad,” the reference is to violent, oppressive action and not to the first meaning:

There are two commonly accepted meanings of jihad: an inner spiritual struggle and an outer physical struggle. The “greater jihad” is the inner struggle by a believer to fulfill his religious duties. This non-violent meaning is stressed by both Muslim and non-Muslim authors. However, there is consensus amongst Islamic scholars that the concept of jihad will always include armed struggle against persecution and oppression.

If DJ was referring to violent, terrorist acts against other nations, the U.N. regularly condemns such actions, and nobody except maybe the mujahideen, consider this condemnation to be religious persecution.

My Facebook post addressed this, in part:

The disadvantage with Islam is there is no Muslim church akin to what Christians have in the Vatican. There are just mosques all over the world, each responsible to itself. There is no Muslim pope.

Where a country (Iran, for example) sponsors religiously-motivated violence the U.N. regularly takes what actions it can against the offending state.

And what was this all about? My take:

LifeStetNews has taken offense at some part of the U.N. report and has concocted a propaganda piece that selectively reviews the report “to provide balance and more accurate coverage on culture, life and family matters than is usually given by other media.” In other words, to defend the Holy See’s transgressions in the name of religious freedom. And LifeSiteNews has done this to help convince religious adherents that there is an attack on Christianity.

Does this tactic work? Apparently so.

MJ and DJ have read the LifeSiteNews posting and have taken it at face value. Without taking the time to obtain, much less read and review, the U.N. report. They have also gone to the trouble to post the LifeSiteNews item on Facebook with the likely intent of justifying their own world view and to reassure like-minded individuals of the validity of this view. This kind of action appears to have the desired effect.

I have observed a number of Facebook posts, and I have seen the term “sheeple” bandied about. “Sheeple” is obviously a contraction of “sheep” and “people,” and it’s an implication that some people are like sheep in that they are being led about by propaganda mills.  That such a situation exists I have no doubt. Those who fall back on terms like this instead of performing careful and reasoned analysis of what they read should take note. And they should make use of a mirror.

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