Rome, Italy, Jan 31, 2015 / 06:08 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The general secretary of the Italian bishops conference stressed on Friday that the attempt to introduce textbooks into the nation's schools that present gender theory as a fact are an effort to turn biological data upside down.
Bishop Nunzio Galantino of Cassano all’Jonio, general secretary of the Italian bishops conference, spoke following a meeting of the Italian Bishops Permanent Council, which took place Jan. 26-28.
On the bishops' agenda were new regulations for church buildings and the theme for the general assembly to be held in May, as well as some general issues, the most compelling of which was the introduction into Italian schools of texts supporting gender ideology.
Gender theory or ideology is the notion that one's 'gender' is chosen and need not correspond with one's biological sex.
In his opening address, Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco of Genoa underscored that the issue is pivotal, and mentioned Pope Francis’ concern over the ideological colonization of families, which he expressed twice during his trip to the Philippines earlier this month. Pope Francis lamented that foreign aid to developing countries is often tied to acceptance of gender theory, and called it a form a colonization.
Cardinal Bagnasco talked about the adoption of gender-oriented books in Italian primary schools, asking, “Have the books by the A.T. Beck Institute - captivatingly titled ‘Educating for diversity in school’ and inspired by gender theory - really disappeared from Italian schools?”
He then said the aim in spreading those books is that of “colonizing the minds of children, boys and girls, with a distorted anthropological vision, without having previously requested and obtained the authorization of parents.”
Cardinal Bagnasco’s denouncement followed a lengthy struggle of parents' associations in Italian schools.
Following the 2012 issuance of a “National Strategy for the prevention and contrast of discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity (2013-2015),” Italian schools have included sexual education plans that follow gender ideology.
Parents' associations have taken a strong stance against these plans of sexual education, including opposition to the adoption of the book “Educating for diversity in school”, issued by the National Office of Anti-Racial Discrimination.
The books have been printed, but were not distributed following the large protests from parents' associations.
In December, an initiative of CitizenGo gather almost 50,000 signatures asking the Italian Minister for Education to ban gender ideology in Italian schools.
“Currently, educational projects are often presented with the aim of ‘combating discrimination’,” reads the petition.
But “the generic topic of ‘non discrimination’ very often hides the negation of the natural sexual difference and its reduction to a cultural phenomenon; the freedom to identify as any gender, despite one's biological sex; the equivalence of any form of union and of family; the justification of almost every sexual behavior.”
This year, Amnesty International has presented a “high school teachers' handbook” titled “Schools active against homophobia and transphobia. LGBT rights, human rights.”
The handbook stresses that, as the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child considers children able to express their own ideas and make decisions, “it is necessary to understand that LGBT persons' rights are human rights,” and that if a school child “is wondering about his sexual orientation or gender identity,” then it is important to provide “positive images of the life of LGBT persons.”
The handbook also deals with gender theory, and explains to teachers “the difference between biological sex and gender.”
All of these issues have been widely discussed at the Italian Bishops Conference Permanent Council.
The final declaration of the Bishops Council stressed that this culture “does not preserve the family as the central cell of society,” but that it “denaturalizes the family,” and equates family “with any other affective link.”
Bishop Galantino called the “effort carried out with textbooks to propose gender theories to boys and girls as a matter of freedom” a “poisoned chalice.”
He added that “individual rights are legitimate, but they cannot be smuggled as the path that leads to the common good, which is based on other grounds.”
The bishops' concerns echoed those observed by Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski, prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education, when he said Dec. 19, 2013 that “today one of the greatest problems (facing Catholic schools) is when large organizations want to impose gender ideology.”
Washington D.C., Jan 30, 2015 / 05:10 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- During Catholic Schools Week, the president of a small school in Washington, D.C. explained its humble origins, extraordinary mission, and its hopes for the future.
“We intentionally seek out kids who can’t afford to go here and who are at risk,” Don Mullikin told CNA. He chairs the board of San Miguel School in Northwest Washington, D.C., a middle school catering exclusively to low-income immigrant families.
“When it comes to Pope Francis, his message is simple and clear, and it’s what we do: helping others who are more needy than you.”
The school is sponsored, but not owned, by the De La Salle Brothers. Its mission is in the La Sallian tradition of the “preferential option for the poor.”
That ministry dates back to the 1600s when St. Jean Baptiste de La Salle served the poor in France through Christian education, hoping to break their “cycle of poverty.”
And in the same way, San Miguel exists to break the “cycle of poverty.” The formula is not easy, because the students enter the middle school a year or two behind the sixth grade level. In three years, they must be ready to excel at a private Catholic high school.
In short, the school crams five years of education into three calendar years. Students attend school year-round for nine hours a day.
The enrollment is small – only 65 students – and is only male and middle school-age.
This is an extremely formative and important age, Mullikin explained, providing the best opportunity to prepare kids for high school, something many of their parents never got to accomplish.
With the small enrollment the principal knows every student, so “you cannot slip through the cracks.”
The students are all from immigrant families, half of them Salvadoran and the rest from other parts of Latin America. And every family starts out at or below the poverty line. Admission is made on a financial basis “in reverse.”
Thus, tuition is almost completely free, which separates San Miguel from other parochial schools. “We are reliant upon the good will and contributions of the community to survive,” Mullikin stated. “Most parochial schools don’t want to take our kids who can’t pay.”
Many families just pay the minimum of $50 a month. Those who can afford to pay more may do so. But the school doesn’t just cover education; it also provides counseling, breakfast, lunch, and extracurricular activities. It is almost completely dependent upon donors and foundations for its income.
Yet these low-income students leave with a ticket to a Catholic high school. The acceptance rate at Catholic high schools in the area is 100 percent, and 97 percent of alumni either have a high school diploma or are pursuing one. In comparison, that rate is 50 percent for all Latino males in the D.C. area.
The immigrant parents of students are extremely hard-working but do not know the “foreign” American school system, Mullikin explained. Thus they may not know of options like San Miguel.
“What’s really important is allowing these families to fulfill their dream of making it better for the next generation,” he said.
The parents are “working their fingers to the bone day and night,” he added. They don’t have time to research the U.S. school system. “We have to really reach out to them and teach them about the school.”
Cramming five years of education into three calendar years is an apt metaphor for the school. It seems a daunting task but not only does it work, it succeeds marvelously.
The end product, he said, is “well-educated boys who are young men who are prepared to succeed in high school.”
The school does not stop helping a student once he graduates, either. A counselor has a full-time job of checking in on each alumnus in high school, ensuring that any needs of theirs are met and that they are succeeding in school. This establishes a “safety net” that goes beyond the San Miguel years.
One example Mullikin gave was of a graduate who wasn’t eating lunch at his high school because he didn’t have the money. Once San Miguel discovered this they alerted his high school. The administration quickly took care of the problem and gave him a cafeteria card.
“If that safety net wasn’t there, he wouldn’t be eating,” Mullikin said.