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April 08, 2013

NYC Public Schools Can’t Teach Sex Ed On Campus If The Catholic Church Owns Their Property

Today in religious oppression, public schools that rent space from the Catholic church are forbidden by the church from teaching sex ed. Do we think it's a good idea to let landlords tell their renters what they can and cannot say? NYC Public Schools Can't Teach Sex Ed On Campus If The Catholic Church Owns Their Property | ThinkProgress
In New York City, the public school students who attend classes in a building owned by the Catholic Church can’t actually attend all of their classes there. As the New York Daily News reports, students need to leave campus in order to receive state-mandated instruction on sexual health, as part of a long-standing agreement between Church officials and the city’s public school district that has recently come to light. New York state law requires sex ed classes to include information about condoms, birth control, and HIV and STD transmission, and those standards were strengthened specifically for New York City’s public school district under a new citywide standard enacted in 2011. So far, those initiatives have been wildly successful, and New York City’s teen pregnancy rate has plummeted by more than 25 percent over the past decade. But Church officials say that type of comprehensive sex ed instruction violates Catholic doctrine. In Catholic-affiliated schools, students are taught abstinence-only education with no mention of contraceptive methods — and at least in New York City, the Church’s influence can even impact public schools’ ability to teach sex ed.

March 13, 2013

The new pope once helped kidnap and torture human rights activists in Argentina

Meet the new pope, same as the old. On the Selection of Jorge Mario Bergoglio as Pope Francisco | Americas South and North
However, his election is more than a little surprising, given his past. Bergoglio was the head of the Jesuits in Argentina during the military dictatorship of 1976-1983, during which the military murdered upwards of 30,000 people (as well as kidnapping hundreds of children whose parents the regime had tortured and murdered). Unlike Catholic officials in neighboring Chile and Brazil, where priests, bishops, and even cardinals spoke out against human rights abuses and defended victims of abuses, in Argentina, the Catholic Church was openly complicit in the military regime’s repression. Bergoglio was not exempt from this involvement: military officers have testified that Bergoglio helped the Argentine military regime hide political prisoners when human rights activists visited the country. And Bergoglio himself had to testify regarding the kidnapping of two priests who he stripped of their religious licenses shortly before they were kidnapped and tortured. This isn’t just a case of Bergoglio being a member of an institution that supported a brutal regime; it’s a case of Bergoglio himself having ties, direct and indirect, to that very regime. For those who hoped for a Pope who might represent a more welcoming and open path for the Catholic Church, the selection of Bergoglio has to be a let-down. This is why the selection of Bergoglio over Scherer is disappointing. Thirteen years younger than Bergoglio, Scherer’s path was notably different. To be clear, the Catholic Church supported Brazil’s military dictatorship (1964-1985) in its early years; however, as Ken Serbin has demonstrated, already by the late-1960s and early-1970s, high-ranking officials in the church hierarchy were secretly meeting with representatives from the dictatorship in order to try to pressure military rulers to respect human rights, even for alleged “subversives.” By the latter half of the 1970s, the Brazilian Catholic church had become one of the more vocal opponents of human rights violations under the regime, and the Archdiocese of S�o Paulo ultimately played a central role in secretly accessing, collecting, and publishing files on torture, murder, and repression under the dictatorship, eventually published in 1985 as Brasil: Nunca Mais (literally Brazil: Never Again; in English, Torture in Brazil). Where Bergoglio was active in a context where the Argentine Church openly supported military regimes and human rights violations, Scherer was active in a context where members of the Brazilian Church openly took a stand against such abuses and against the regime that committed them. A few weeks ago, a student asked me if I thought the cardinals would finally pick a Latin America pope. I commented that if they were smart, they’d diversify by picking a Brazilian and democratizing a bit, but I feared they’d pick an Italian and show a refusal to reform and democratize the church. With the selection of Bergoglio, it appears they’ve chosen to split the difference, diversifying beyond Europe while continuing the conservatism that defined recent popes.