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Archive of December 12, 2008

University of San Francisco health care plan includes abortion coverage

San Francisco, Calif., Dec 12, 2008 (CNA) - Since at least fall of 2008, the Jesuit-run University of San Francisco's required health care plan has included "maternity coverage" which pays for 70 to 90 percent of the cost of elective abortions, listing them under the euphemism "Voluntary Termination of Pregnancy."

 

University of San Francisco (USF) Student Health Insurance Plan is underwritten by Aetna Life Insurance Company, the Catholic Key reports. All full-time undergraduates, international students and all students living on campus are required to purchase the plan, unless students can prove "that they have coverage comparable (equal or better) to the University-sponsored plan."

 

If they do not have such coverage, "Students automatically will be enrolled in, and have their accounts billed for, the University-sponsored Student Health Insurance Plan."

 

The plan is detailed in the "University of San Francisco Student Health Insurance Plan Brochure" dated 2008-2009.

 

On page 15 of the plan, under the section "Maternity Expenses," the brochure notes that the "voluntary termination of pregnancy" is covered under both the "Preferred Care" plan and the "Non-Preferred Care" plan.

 

Under the Preferred Care option, 90 percent of the "negotiated charge" is covered. Under the Non-Preferred Care option, 70 percent of the "reasonable charge" is covered.

 

The Catholic Key also reports that California employers are not required to provide abortion coverage. The Archdiocese of San Francisco's health insurance plan reportedly does not include this coverage.

 

Catholic teaching has condemned abortion many times. In the Second Vatican Council's Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, Gaudium et Spes, abortion is classified as a deed "opposed to life itself." Abortion is among the acts the document calls "infamies indeed" which "poison society" and are "a supreme dishonor to the Creator."

 

The Cardinal Newman Society called on USF President Stephen Privett to take immediate action to remove the abortion coverage.

 

"Given the importance of life issues for Catholics, it is stunning that USF's student health program would pay for abortions," said Patrick Reilly, president of The Cardinal Newman Society, in a press release.  "I pray that this was a mistake and not a willful action of the Catholic university, but regardless of how the abortion coverage ended up in the policy, it clearly cannot remain."

 

CNA contacted USF for comment but did not receive a detailed response by press time.

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Petition drive to protest Catholic U.S. Congressmen's $9 million in donations from pro-abortion groups

Washington D.C., Dec 12, 2008 (CNA) - A San Diego mother of seven who tracks the performance of Catholic politicians has found that many of the 162 Catholics in Congress have received a total of $9 million in contributions from pro-abortion groups since the 1990 election cycle.

 

Lisa Correnti runs the web site "One Nation Under God." While compiling information on political donations, she researched the total amount of campaign donations given to Catholic congressmen by groups such as Planned Parenthood, Emily's List, NOW, and Naral Pro-Choice America.

 

Correnti found that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has received $244,113 from such groups, while Sen. John Kerry has received $205,768.

 

Washington state's Sen. Patty Murray received more than $1 million from pro-abortion groups, while Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri received just under $1 million in campaign contributions.

 

Sen. Bob Casey, who is described as a pro-life Democrat, has received $327,914 from pro-abortion rights groups.

 

Though most donation recipients are Democrats, some Republican Catholics have also been implicated. Maine's Sen. Susan Collins reportedly received $237,347, while Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski received $13,935.

 

Information on the campaign donations of Vice President-Elect Joe Biden, who recently resigned his Senate seat, was not provided as he is no longer a current Congressman.

 

Correnti has launched an on-line petition drive asking Cardinal Francis George, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, to call on Catholic politicians to decline campaign donations from pro-abortion groups.

 

"With 54% of self-identified Catholics supporting a presidential candidate with an extreme abortion record it became evident that Catholics are not clear on their responsibility to safeguard life through just public policy and electing moral leaders to public office," Correnti commented.

 

Both information on Catholic congressmen who receive donations from pro-abortion groups and information on the petition drive are located at the One Nation Under God web site, www.onenationundergod.org

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Papal nuncio praises 'fundamental' Universal Declaration of Human Rights

, Dec 12, 2008 (CNA) - Archbishop Celestino Migliore, the apostolic nuncio leading the Holy See's permanent observer mission to the United Nations, on Wednesday delivered remarks commemorating the 60th anniversary of the U.N. Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Saying that human rights find their source in natural reason common to all men, he praised the declaration's protection of religious freedom.

 

Congratulating the endurance of the declaration, Archbishop Migliore said that through it people can "rediscover the true significance of the person, his concrete humanity, the individual and communitarian dimensions of his rights, and in particular the universal value of human dignity."

 

He said the rights of the Declaration are not mere legal creations but "find their source and ends in ethics and natural reason common to all men."

 

The international protection of rights, the archbishop said, has helped avoid conflicts and has advanced "a united path consisting of cooperation and integration."

 

Archbishop Migliore referred to Pope Benedict XVI's April 18 remarks to the U.N., saying the pontiff "linked human rights and their protection to two fundamental objectives: the promotion of the common good and the safeguarding of human freedom."

 

The archbishop called the common good the "essential condition" for effective decision-making in security, development, and humanitarian action.

 

"The first violation of rights comes from the lack of essential living conditions, when there prevails an inequitable distribution of wealth, conditions of poverty, of hunger, lack of medical care," he continued, noting that the first of the UN's Millennium Goals is aimed at overcoming poverty and a shortage of basic necessities.

 

Protecting the various dimensions and manifestations of human freedom, Archbishop Migliore remarked, guarantees the building of the common good, overcoming the threats to the dignity of every person, and recognizes that all humans are born free and equal in dignity and rights.

 

However, he lamented the "negation of rights" that "violate the order of creation, contradict the sacred character of life, deprive the human person, the family, communities of their natural identity."

 

"Human rights express the unity of the human creature, of his aspiration at satisfying his essential needs while attaining at the same time freedom, human relations and spiritual values," he continued.

 

He especially noted that rights are an instrument through which a person "manifests his relationship with the truth, protects his conscience, his dimension of faith and his most profound convictions."

 

The Universal Declaration's content which addresses religious liberty, the archbishop said, provides a simultaneously individual and communitarian approach and "does not set the dimension of the citizen against that of the believer, recognizing instead the full freedom of the relationship between the person and his Creator."

 

No national or international law can cancel or limit this relationship, Archbishop Migliore insisted. "The free relationship between the person and his Creator, today as then, should not be limited to the exercise of religious belief, but open to the public expression of religious worship through the channels of formation, instruction and full participation in all decision making within a given country."

 

He then concluded by emphasizing how potent human rights had become in international thought.

 

"Human rights consist no longer in mere proclamations or legislative and institutional modifications," and are not a "rhetorical remembrance," but are "the result of the responsible deeds of everyone."

 

Such deeds are necessary in a world with adequate means to end hunger and poverty, to guarantee security, and to "safeguard the life of everyone in every moment."

 

"To celebrate this day means to place the person in the heart of the international Community and of its law and to overcome present obstacles on the path of humanity," Archbishop Migliore said.

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Pope Benedict discusses importance of witness to the faith

Vatican City, Dec 12, 2008 (CNA) - College students from around Rome gathered to hear Pope Benedict speak about St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans on Thursday afternoon. During the address, the Pontiff emphasized the need for Christians to give credible witness to their faith with their lives.

Every year the vicar of Rome holds a Mass for university students in Rome as they prepare for Christmas. This year, Cardinal Agostino Vallini celebrated Mass in the Vatican basilica for the academics in training.

After Mass was finished, Pope Benedict addressed the students on the teaching of St. Paul focusing on his Letter to the Romans.

Pointing out that the Church is celebrating the Pauline Year, the Holy Father said that "the two thousandth anniversary of the birth of the Apostle to the Gentiles is helping the entire Church to rediscover its proper and fundamental missionary vocation and, at the same time, to make full use of the inexhaustible theological and spiritual treasure of the Pauline letters."

"I am convinced that for you, from a personal as well as the communal and apostolic point of view of the university, studying the person and message of St. Paul is a very enriching opportunity. This is why I will soon be presenting his Letter to the Romans to you," the Pope explained.

The Letter to the Romans, the Holy Father said, "is without a doubt one of the most important cultural texts of all time. It is and continues to be principally a living message for the living Church."

Given that the letter contains Paul’s teaching on the relationship between faith and works, the Pope told the students that he hopes the letter will "be substantial nourishment for your faith, leading you to believe more and better and also to reflect upon yourselves so that you might come to a 'mature' faith and, at the same time live this faith, putting it into practice according to the truth of Christ's commandment."

"Only in this way can the faith that one professes become 'credible' for others as well, who are conquered by the eloquent testimony of our deeds," Pope Benedict said.

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In a just society we should not be afraid to be faithful Catholics, remarks Benedict XVI

Vatican City, Dec 12, 2008 (CNA) - Upon receiving the bishops of the Taiwanese Episcopal Conference this morning as part of their ‘ad limina’ visit, Pope Benedict XVI emphasized that the Catholics of their country “are a living sign that, in a justly ordered society, one need not fear to be a faithful Catholic and a good citizen.”

 

In his address, the Pope recalled the celebration of the 150th anniversary of Catholic Evangelization in Taiwan, noting that it represented "an occasion to manifest ever more eagerly your oneness with each other and with our Lord as you together promote the Church's common apostolate."

"This unity of mind and heart," he continued, "is evidenced by your desire to cooperate more closely in spreading the Gospel among non-believers and forming those already initiated into the Church through Baptism and Confirmation. I am pleased to note that you continue to coordinate a variety of institutions for this purpose, with due emphasis on the parish, the 'prime mover and pre-eminent place for catechesis',” he continued.

The Pontiff then discussed programs for priestly formation saying that they should be “designed with due consideration for the variety of ages, life conditions and duties found among your clergy" and asked that the catechists be furnished "with the necessary resources so that they may follow the example of Jesus in speaking the truth straightforwardly and in a way readily accessible to all."

 

It is through effective catechesis that stronger families are built, which in turn lead to an increase in vocations.  “Parents, pastors, teachers, parish leaders, and all the members of the Church must set before young people the radical decision to follow Christ, so that in finding him, they find themselves,” he continued.

 

Benedict XVI then referred to the recent pastoral letter of the bishops—"Social Concern and Evangelization"—which "underscores the Church's need to engage actively in the promotion of family life."  He noted that "your deep concern for the good of families and society as a whole moves you to assist couples in preserving the indissolubility of their marital promises.”

 

“Never tire in promoting just civil legislation and policies that protect the sacredness of marriage,” he continued.  “Safeguard this sacrament from all that can harm it, especially the deliberate taking of life in its most vulnerable stages.”

 

The Pontiff also encouraged the Taiwanese Church in its efforts to help the most vulnerable, especially migrants. “In several recent pastoral letters, you have indicated the essential role of the parish in serving migrants and raising awareness of their needs.”

 

 

"Your apostolic bond with the Successor of Peter entails a pastoral responsibility for the universal Church across the globe. This particularly means, in your case, a loving concern for Catholics on the mainland, whom I constantly hold in prayer.”

 

He concluded, “you and the Christian faithful in Taiwan are a living sign that, in a justly ordered society, one need not fear to be a faithful Catholic and a good citizen. I pray that as part of the great Chinese Catholic family, you will continue to be spiritually united with your brethren on the mainland."

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Pope Benedict offers ethical evaluation of biomedical advances

Vatican City, Dec 12, 2008 (CNA) - Today Pope Benedict XVI, through the work of several Vatican congregations, weighed-in on the ethical nature of various fertility treatments, experiments with stem cells, human cloning and the creation of hybrid embryos.

The new document issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) is the result of six years of study and deliberation on the most recent developments in the field of bio-technology.

Beginning with the words “the dignity of the person” or “Dignitas Personae,” the aim of the three-part instruction is to provide responses from the Church to new bioethical questions that didn’t exist when the Church released her last biomedical document in 1987. According to the CDF, the document seeks “both to contribute ‘to the formation of conscience’ and to encourage biomedical research respectful of the dignity of every human being and of procreation.”

Archbishop Luis Francisco Ladaria Ferrer, S.J., Secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, explained at a press conference at the Vatican today that “Dignitas Personae” carries the weight of an official teaching of the Pope and "is of a doctrinal nature."

Archbishop Ladaria described the document as encouraging “biomedical investigation that respects the dignity of all human beings and of procreation.” While it “does not exclude diverse biomedical technology as ethically illicit,” he said, "it will probably be accused of containing too many prohibitions.

“Nevertheless, faced with this possible accusation it is necessary to emphasize that the Church feels the duty of making those without voices heard."

Also speaking at the press conference was Professor Maria Luisa Di Pietro, associate professor of Bioethics at the Sacred Heart University, Rome and President of the "Science and Life" Association.

Di Pietro noted that the new instruction from the CDF deals with techniques like assisted fertility, in vitro fertilization, the freezing of embryos and eggs, embryo reduction, and pre-implant diagnosis, among others.

As noted by Archbishop Ladaria, the Vatican finds many of the practices in use today immoral. In vitro fertilization, for example, is found to be immoral because of the “blithe acceptance of the enormous number of abortions involved.” This fact alone “vividly illustrates how the replacement of the conjugal act by a technical procedure…leads to a weakening of the respect owed to every human being,” the document says.

Bishop Elio Sgreccia, the former president of the Pontifical Academy for Life addressed the third part of the document that deals with newly proposed therapies that involve the manipulation of the embryo or the human gene pool.

"The text holds that it is necessary," he said, "to keep in mind one fundamental distinction: theoretically, genetic therapy can be applied to somatic cells with directly therapeutic ends or to germinal cells." The current work on germinal cells is not moral because “there still does not exist a safe technique," he stressed, "because it could entail the risk of deformation in the hereditary genetic patrimony of future generations."

Bishop Sgreccia also affirmed that "the distinction between reproductive cloning and therapeutic cloning is untenable.”

A summary of “Dignitas Personae” can be read by clicking here or by visiting: http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/document.php?n=784

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Cardinal Avery Dulles passes away at Fordham

, Dec 12, 2008 (CNA) - This morning, on the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Cardinal Avery Dulles died at the age of 90 at Murray-Weigel Hall, located at Fordham University in New York.

 

According to America Magazine, the New York Province of the Society of Jesus released a statement reporting that the cardinal passed away around 6:30 this morning.

 

Cardinal Dulles was born August 24, 1918 in New York to U.S. Secretary of State John Foster Dulles.  He was raised as a Protestant but converted to Catholicism while studying at Harvard. 

 

The prelate was ordained on June 16, 1956 and went on to teach at Woodstock College and the Catholic University of America.  He authored 21 books, wrote over 650 articles and was named President of the Catholic Theological Society of America and the American Theological Society.

 

He was created a cardinal by Pope John Paul II in 2001.

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Cardinal Rouco: Not possible to be Christian without rejecting terrorism

Madrid, Spain, Dec 12, 2008 (CNA) - The Archbishop of Madrid and president of the Bishops’ Conference of Spain, Cardinal Antonio Maria Rouco Varela, has condemned neutrality and silence as a response to terrorism.

 

“It is not possible to be neutral about terrorism, whoever is silent is responsible for its existence,” the cardinal said during his speech at the closing of the sixth Seminar on Information, Victims and Terrorism, organized by the International Observatory of Victims of Terrorism at San Pablo University.

 

Throughout the conference, Cardinal Rouco Varela referred to the pastoral instruction, “Terrorism, It’s Causes and Consequences,” and its evaluation of this “intrinsically perverse” phenomenon.  Terrorism “cannot be morally justified,” the cardinal stressed, saying it was distinct from an act of war or a just response to an act of aggression. 

 

He went on to express his hope for the conversion of terrorists, if they recognize “the intrinsic evil of terrorism” and show “a will to make reparation.”

 

The cardinal closed his statement by adding that “one cannot be a Christian if one does not unequivocally reject terrorism.”

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University apologizes for student health plan abortion coverage, but questions remain

San Francisco, Calif., Dec 12, 2008 (CNA) - Following reports that the Jesuit-run University of San Francisco (USF) required students to join a health plan which included coverage for abortions, the university has apologized and has taken “full responsibility” for not adequately reviewing the health contract.

However, a report indicates that USF health insurance has a history of providing abortion coverage. Further, a Catholic-sponsored student health clinic near the university allegedly offers students referrals for abortions.

On Wednesday the blog of the Catholic Key, the newspaper for the Diocese of Kansas City - St. Joseph in Missouri, reported that USF students were required to enroll in the USF health insurance plan if they did not have comparable coverage of their own.

The University of San Francisco (USF) Student Health Insurance Plan, underwritten by Aetna Life Insurance Company, is described in a university brochure.

The brochure on the health plan’s coverage lists under the category “Maternity Expenses” its provisions for “voluntary termination of pregnancy.” The brochure notes the different costs of the procedure, which depend on the type of plan.

On Friday Gary McDonald, Assistant Vice President of Communications and Public Affairs at USF, issued a statement apologizing for the plan’s coverage of abortion.

“It was not the University's intention to offer this coverage.  USF supports the Catholic Church's views on the sanctity of life, at all stages, and we will remove this provision from our student health plan,” he told CNA.

“We regret this mistake, and we take full responsibility for not adequately reviewing the contract. We are grateful to those who brought this issue to our attention.”

The Catholic Key has provided more information critical of USF, arguing that if the abortion coverage was an unintentional mistake, it is “an oft repeated mistake if so.”

In 2002, USF was criticized by the Association of Students at Catholic Colleges for referring students to Planned Parenthood on university websites and at student clinics, the Catholic Key reports.

In 2005, USF offered in its non-mandatory student health insurance a plan through BC Life and Health which included coverage of the abortion pill under the category "Prescription drug for elective abortion (mifepristone)."

And in 2006, USF’s Kaiser Health Plan for employees provided coverage for "Voluntary termination of pregnancy" for a $15 copayment per procedure.

Also in 2006, USF’s Blue Cross employee plan offered mifepristone and abortion coverage.

According to the Catholic Key, the Archdiocese of San Francisco uses Blue Cross and Kaiser Permanente as its insurers but it uses a plan which specifically excluded abortion coverage.

Our Sunday Visitor’s “Daily Take” blog reports that USF students receive most of their health care through a special clinic for students at St. Mary’s Medical Center. According to its web site, the Sisters of Mercy “sponsor or co-sponsor many organizations and ministries” such as St. Mary’s Medical Center.

An official at St. Mary’s said that the student health clinic refers students who request abortion or contraception either to Planned Parenthood or Aetna providers, Our Sunday Visitor says.

St. Mary’s senior director Les McGee, who reportedly oversees the student health clinic, told Our Sunday Visitor that no statistics are kept recording student requests for abortion.

“We just provide them with resources of where they want to go,” McGee said. “We’re not involved in terminating pregnancies.”

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Vatican spokesman: Church defends true marriage between man and woman

Rome, Italy, Dec 12, 2008 (CNA) - During a press conference on Thursday to present Pope Benedict XVI’s Message for the World Day of Peace 2009, the Director of the Holy See’s Press Office, Father Federico Lombardi, said the Church defends true marriage between one man and one woman and cannot accept placing homosexual unions on the same level.

 

According to L’Osservatore Romano, in response to a question about the Holy See’s position on a French proposal to “decriminalize” homosexuality worldwide, Father Lombardi said, “I don’t think the document has been presented and I don’t think it will be presented for a vote at the next U.N. Assembly.  So I don’t think there’s a point in creating a controversy about a text the contents of which are not yet officially known.”

 

“However,” he continued, “the position expressed by Archbishop Celestino Migliore (the Holy See’s Permanent Observer at the U.N.) responding to a question by one of your colleagues was clear and worthy of being shared with the entire Church. He said that with respect to the Church’s position on a law that penalizes homosexuals or establishes the death penalty, there is nothing to discuss: she is absolutely opposed. This is a position that respects the rights of the human person in his dignity.”

 

Father Lombardi went on to state that the Catholic Church does not accept discrimination against homosexuals.  However, he clarified, “she opposes the perspectives that lead some to say that sexual orientations should be placed on same level in all situations and in relation to all norms.”  An example of this, he added, is that of marriage: “marriage between one man and one woman is what the Church upholds, and she doesn’t accept putting relations between persons of the same sex on the same level.”

 

Father Lombardi also took the opportunity to criticize the media for often twisting and manipulating the Pope’s words when he points out some issue of importance.  “I don’t think this is exact or fair behavior,” he said.

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New law would make Spain the country with highest number of abortions in EU

Madrid, Spain, Dec 12, 2008 (CNA) - The president of the Institute for Family Policy, Eduardo Hertfelder, warned this week that the new law on abortion currently under consideration would make Spain the country with the highest number of abortions in the EU by the year 2015.

 

“In fact, the future law on abortion would ensure that Spain surpasses 224,000 abortions per year by 2015, which would mean that more than 670 children would not be born each day because of abortion.” With an abortion occurring “every 2.15 minutes,” this situation will “only serve to make abortion centers rich at the expense of women who see themselves as doomed to abortion,” Hertfelder said.

 

He also noted that “in order to grasp the magnitude of these figures, we only need to point out that the number of abortions by the year 2015 will be the equivalent of the sum total of the populations of communities like Castilla y Leon (2.5 million people), Castilla La Mancha (2 million people), Galicia (2.7 million people), etc., or the equivalent of the sum total of the populations of Aragon, Navarre and Cantabria.”

 

“The implementation of abortion on demand as contemplated by the new legislation will far surpass the ‘current colander’ of a law we have now that allows abortion up to the last week of pregnancy for a so-called ‘psychological risk to the mother’ and will go against what most of the countries of the European Union do,” he added.

 

Hertfelder also explained that the new law “would be a disaster in which the mother—who sees herself as doomed to have an abortion—loses, in which the child (who is not born) loses, and in which all of society (which is deprived of a child and is faced with mothers with psychological problems) loses as well.”

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Christmas is about Christ, not gifts, cardinal reminds Catholics

Guatemala City, Guatemala, Dec 12, 2008 (CNA) -  

The Archbishop of Guatemala, Cardinal Rodolfo Quezada Toruno, called on the faithful in that country not to reduce Christmas to the mere “exchanging of gifts” and to keep in mind that “Christ must be the irreplaceable and only focus of our Christmas celebrations.”

 

In his pastoral exhortation for Advent and Christmas, the archbishop stated, “It is not possible to reduce it to an occasion for extraordinary purchases, to the exchanging of gifts, to a children’s festivity or a simple excuse for profane celebrations.”

 

He called on Christians to “see the time of Advent as a spiritual journey towards Christmas and to not allow it to be swallowed up by the consumerist atmosphere of the age.”

 

The cardinal said nativity scenes should be turned into “small domestic altars, places of payer, reflection and great spiritual content.”  He also encouraged Guatemalans to be austere in their celebrations for Christmas, in “imitation of Christ, who was born, lived and died in poverty.”  “A good Christian must never fall into the claws of a consumerist society.”

 

“To consider superfluous material things as necessary and to acquire them at any cost is a new form of slavery,” he added.

 

“May all of us find in this celebration another reason to be consistent with our faith in our personal, family and social lives,” the cardinal stated.

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Scholars call for gender ideology to be removed from public education in Puerto Rico

San Juan, Puerto Rico, Dec 12, 2008 (CNA) - The president of the Pontifical Catholic University of Puerto Rico, Marcelina Velez de Santiago, together with other academic scholars, is supporting a request from various organizations that the government revoke a memo that obliges public schools to include the controversial gender ideology in their curricula.

 

Since it was issued last July, the memo has generated protests from numerous religious and civil groups.

 

In a letter sent to the current governor and to the governor-elect, Velez de Santiago said the memo should be revoked for the good of Puerto Rican children and young people. 

 

She noted that “gender equality” is “not a term that is clearly defined” and is “strongly disputed, criticized and even rejected in the academic environments of America and Europe because of its anthropological, psychological, philosophical and theological implications.  To aim to restructure all curricula in light of a disputable and elusive theory is to launch public schools into a chaotic and anarchic reform in which subjective opinions and arbitrary decisions will prevail,” she said.

 

Likewise, Velez de Santiago warned that “by reducing the sexual difference to a social construct” gender equality goes against “the most elementary evidence of reason that has in reality, and not in theories, its proper object.” Education and social pressure, she said, “can mold different ways of being men and women, they never define being a man and a woman, which is data that is inscribed in nature and in human reality.”

 

She went on to say that to introduce “this theory into public schools would only be justified if the sole purpose were to educate the young generation in the self-determination of their own sexual identity, independent of any objective data, opening the door to the acceptance of any form a affective relationships and sexual practice (homosexual, bisexual, transsexual).”

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