In February, Archbishop Robert Carlson of St. Louis, caused somewhat of an uproar in the secular media by publishing a letter calling into question whether Catholics can any longer be associated with the Girl Scouts of America because of the support by the group of practices which are contrary to Catholic morality (indeed, even the natural law). Although the Archbishop’s letter may well be considered “too little, too late” by many, he should still be commended for taking a public stand, something very few of the members of the American episcopate chose to do.
Archbishop Carlson begins by stating the issues very clearly: For several years, the Archdiocese of St. Louis, along with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, has been investigating concerns regarding Girls Scouts USA (GSUSA). These concerns also extend to the parent organization of GSUSA, the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS). They include, but are not limited to: WAGGGS’ continued promotion of contraception and “abortion rights” on behalf of its girl members, the majority of whom are minors; financial contributions from GSUSA to WAGGGS, based on number of registered GSUSA members; GSUSA resources and social media highlight and promote role models in conflict with Catholic values, such as Gloria Steinem and Betty Friedan; Organizations that GSUSA promotes and partners with are conflict with Catholic values, such as Amnesty International, Coalition for Adolescent Girls, OxFam, and more. This is especially troubling in regards to sex education and advocacy for “reproductive rights” (i.e., abortion and contraceptive access, even for minors).
In November of 2014, the Catholic Youth Apostolate issued a letter of concern to pastors and the faithful of the archdiocese regarding these issues. Since then, GSUSA and Girls Scouts of Eastern Missouri (GSEM) have tried to downplay and distance themselves from these issues; however, we continue to have more questions than answers.
In addition to speaking about the Girl Scouts, Archbishop Carlson also spoke of issues surrounding the Boy Scouts of America. He writes: Concerns are also continuing to surface with Boy Scouts of America (BSA). While the new BSA leadership policy currently offers some protections to religious organizations, I continue to wonder in which direction this once trusted organization is now headed.
The Archbishop also notes that these groups have, for decades, been trusted organizations in assisting parents in the development of good character and morals in their children and adolescents, but that can no longer be assumed, despite the presence in local troops of leaders who are devoted to Catholic moral principles.
The Archbishop’s letter can be found here: archstl.org/files/field-file/Scout%20Letter%202%2018%2016.pdf
On January 25 (the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul!), Vatican Radio confirmed that Pope Francis will travel to Lund, Sweden on 31 October 2016 to join in a prayer service with the World Lutheran Federation to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Reformation.
Although no information has yet been released on what form this joint “prayer service” will take, it would seem likely that it will follow a prayer booklet issued jointly by the Lutherans and the Vatican entitled “Common Prayer: From Conflict to Communion: Lutheran—Catholic
Common Commemoration of the Reformation in 2017.” One example of a prayer taken from the service should provide the reader with the overall tenor of the service: Thanks be to you O God for the many guiding theological and spiritual insights that we have all received through the Reformation. Thanks be to you for the good transformations and reforms that were set in motion by the Reformation or by struggling with its challenges. Thanks be to you for the proclamation of the gospel that occurred during the Reformation and that since then has strengthened countless people to live lives of faith in Jesus Christ. Amen.
The entire event will be just one more example of the false ecumenism which has taken hold within the Vatican since the Second Vatican Council. This ecumenism has led many souls to perdition and confused countless others, in addition to leading to the syncretism so prevalent throughout the Church.
In Holy Week 2013, Pope Francis broke with centuries of papal tradition by not celebrating the Holy Thursday Mass In Cena Domini in the Basilica of St. John Lateran (the Cathedral Church of the Pope as Bishop of Rome). Instead, he celebrated the Mass in a juvenal detention center in Rome. Although this departure from the norm of papal procedure raised some eyebrows amongst many conservative Catholics, the most startling issue was that at the Mandatum (the rite of washing of the feet in emulation of our Lord’s action of washing the apostles’ feet at the Last Supper), the Pope washed the feet not of twelve men, as the rubrics of the Mass dictate, but of nine men and three women, one of whom was a Muslim.
As was expected, this action was followed by the usual conservative Catholic sources critiquing the action of Pope Francis because he did not follow the rubrics. The “neocons” were merely concerned that the Pope did not follow liturgical law, not that he was quite clearly overturning centuries of liturgical tradition. Thankfully for the “neocons,” Pope Francis has made a change so as to quash their scruples. On January 21, the Congregation for Divine Worship (headed by Robert Cardinal Sarah, hailed by many “neocons” as traditionally minded) issued a decree stating that the former rubric of allowing only the feet of men to be washed during the Mandatum is to be changed to include those of women.
Once again we see that those pastors who fought for years to maintain faithfulness to the Novus Ordo rubrics for the Mandatum have been unceremoniously “sacrificed” by a Roman Congregation. These priests endured much pressure from feminist parishioners and, in many cases, from their fellow priests and bishops, to allow women to be part of the ceremony. It appears their efforts were in vain.
Although the Islamic State (ISIS) has continued to perpetrate atrocities involving the murder of any persons who obstruct their establishment of a caliphate, it must also be noted that ISIS has continuously been waging war on any person or entity that could remind the world of the existence of Christianity. Earlier this year, this group leveled the Chaldean Catholic monastery of St. Elijah in Mosul, Iraq. The monastery had stood for over 1400 years, and, although it had no longer housed a community of monks, it still served as a place of worship. Most recently, the monastery served American servicemen who were stationed in Iraq prior to the withdrawal of United States troops.
Because of the violence aimed at Christians in Iraq, the Christian population in that country has dropped from 1.3 million in 2003 to 300,000 in 2015. It should be noted that 2003 marked the US-led invasion of Iraq; although Saddam Hussein certainly was a ruthless dictator, his time in power did represent a period of relative peace for Christians in Iraq.
With the destruction of the St. Elijah monastery, the total number of sacred Christian sites and other non-Muslim historic sites in Iraq and Syria leveled by ISIS has grown to over 100. The monastery is named for St. Elijah, the Assyrian Christian monk who built it during the years from 582 to 590 AD. It had been a holy site for Iraqi Christians for centuries, part of the Mideast’s Chaldean Catholic community.
ISIS is not the first group of Muslims who has attacked the monastery. In 1743, 150 monks who refused to convert to Islam were massacred under the orders of a Persian general. he monastery was damaged at that time. We must continue to pray for the Catholic community in Iraq and Syria as they face daily threats of torture and death.
In October 2015 the State Department of the United States had announced that the term “genocide” would be applied to the actions of Islamic State (IS) against the Yazidi minority (a Kurdish religious minority), but not to the persecutions of Christians in the Near East. There were strong reactions to that announcement and, in response to the growing controversy, Congress demanded that the State Department make a decision by mid-March at latest.
That is why the Knights of Columbus, a fraternal Catholic organization based in the United States, published on March 9, 2016, together with the association In Defense of Christians, a 278-page report on the atrocities committed against Christians by ISIS: the Islamic State (IS) in Iraq and Syria and in North Africa, with testimonies—collected between February and March 2016—about forced displacements, thefts, murders, tortures, sexual slavery and acts of violence. The document, entitled Genocide against Christians in the Middle East, was sent to the State Department; it declares that the term “genocide” does not require the extermination of an entire group of persons, but rather a campaign aimed at destroying that group “wholly or in part”. Thus, the forced deportation or reduction to slavery suffered by Christian women can be considered as genocidal actions. The report publishes the lists drawn up between 2003 and the rise of IS in 2014, which identify by name 1,131 Iraqi Christians killed, with the places and dates of their execution, as well as the 125 Iraqi churches that have been profaned, with their names, dates, towns and the types of attack.
In mid-March 2016, the U.S. House of Representatives approved by a large majority a resolution condemning as “genocide” the atrocities committed against Christians and other religious minorities in Iraq and Syria by the jihadist group ISIS (also referred to by its Arabic acronym “Daesh”). Although the decision is not binding on the government, it increases pressure on the Obama administration, Associated Press emphasized.
On March 17, John Kerry, the American Secretary of State, declared that Christians, Yazidis, Shiite Muslims and other religious and ethnic minorities were victims of a campaign of “genocide” on the part of ISIS. The Obama administration, hesitant to include Christians among the victims, finally yielded to the pressure exerted by some circles. The announcement by the State Department is “revolutionary”, because the term “genocide” is rarely used to describe atrocities committed by groups or States, the Catholic News Agency (CNA) commented. The last declaration of genocide had been made in 2004, concerning the massacres in Darfur in Sudan. According to the terminology adopted by the United Nations, genocide is the “crime of crimes”, because it involves the intentional destruction of a whole people “in its entirety or in part”.
The European Parliament, in February of this year, also pronounced in favor of the designation of genocide in the Middle East. Defenders of Christians estimate that these two declarations will help to increase pressure on the U.N. Security Council to declare a case of “genocide” and refer it to the International Criminal Court (ICC), which is in charge of judging those responsible.
On March 18, 2016, Abp. Jacques Behnan Hindo, Titular Syrian Catholic Archeparch of Hassakè-Nisibi, commented in an interview with the Vatican news agency Fides on the statements by the American Secretary of State, John Kerry, on the “genocide” perpetrated by militants of the so-called “Islamic State” against Christians and other minority groups. Denouncing a “geopolitical operation that exploits the category of genocide for its own interests,” Abp. Hindo criticized this “proclamation of genocide that was made by spotlighting the so-called ‘Islamic State’, while censoring all the acts of complicity and the historical and political processes that led to the creation of the jihadist monster, starting with the war in Afghanistan against the Soviets, through the support of armed Islamist groups.” The prelate pointed out an “intention to erase all the foreign factors that contributed to the rapid, abnormal emergence of the so-called ‘Islamic State’”, recalling that some recent “Turkish and Saudi pressures—countries allied with the United States” were working to get “the jihadists of al-Nusra to distance themselves from the Al-Qaida network so as to be classified as ‘moderate rebels’ and thus aided by the West…!”
It is misleading to present Christians as the only victims or the primary victims of the violence of ISIS, the Archbishop continued. “These fools,” Abp. Hindo said indignantly, “kill Shiites, Alawites, and even any Sunnis who do not submit. The Christians are a minimal part of the 200,000 who have died in the Syrian conflict and, in some cases, Christians are allowed to flee or to pay the submission tax (jizya), whereas for non-Christians, the only solution is death.”
The declaration of “genocide against Christians” on the part of the American administration is, in Abp. Hindo’s view, an attempt to regain ground in light of the increased prestige of Russia among the people of the Near East. “The Russian intervention in Syria has increased Moscow’s authority in a vast sector of the peoples of the Near East, and not only among the Christians,” he emphasized. “Some powerful groups in the United States fear it and now they are playing the protect-the-Christians card. It would that we have returned to the nineteenth century, when the protection of the Christians in the Near East was also a tool for geopolitical operations aimed at increasing influence in the region,” the prelate concluded.
(Sources: apic/ap/cna/fides – DICI no. 333 dated March 25, 2016)