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07.12.2017 | 14:31 | IKA E - 196151/12

Presentation of a Message from the Croatian Conference of Bishops: "Support the Fundamental Values of Education and the Family"

Zagreb, (IKA) - At a press conference held on December 7 at the headquarters of the Croatian Conference of Bishops in Zagreb, a message from the CCB was presented: "Support the Fundamental Values of Education and the Family."
During the introduction, the president of the CCB, Archbishop Želimir Puljić of Zadar, noted that at the previous session of the CCB, it was pointed out in the statement that the Croatian bishops are following developments and discussions on certain issues in the society. It was decided then to address a letter to the public with suggestions for improving the educational system, proposals for legal provisions relating to the family and in connection with the discussion on the Istanbul Convention. In that statement, the bishops added that the convention, in addition to the noble intentions in regard to the discussion of the protection of women and families from violence, also implements gender terminology and, therefore, they emphasize how "'certain colonization,' about which Pope Francis spoke last year, should not be accepted." On that occasion, the bishops urged everyone engaged in the discussion of the convention to conduct it constructively and not submit to the vague and questionable proposals that the convention involves. In connection with curricular reforms, the bishops noted that it is necessary to select highly qualified experts for the subjects that make the system Croatian, and they showed particular interest in Catholic religious education in elementary and secondary schools. The bishops emphasized that they anticipated the transparent selection of experts and scientific personnel in the various areas, especially for subjects within the educational system that make the system Croatian, i.e., that impart its specific identity.

Archbishop Đuro Hranić of Đakovo-Osijek, President of the Council of the CCB for Catechesis and New Evangelization and President of the Justice and Peace Commission of the CCB, spoke about the first part of the message to the journalists. He noted that the Croatian bishops had already expressed their support for educational reform but believe that all those who are responsible for education are also concerned with the dimension of upbringing. "Upbringing requires and presupposes a certain value system. Since this concerns the Croatian educational system, it must take the Croatian, national, cultural and linguistic identity of children and young people into account and acquaint them with Croatian history and culture," said Archbishop Hranić. The message emphasizes that is necessary to devote particular attention to subjects from the social and humanistic area, which directly provide a value framework for that which the Congregation for Catholic Education in its recent document has correctly called "fraternal humanism." "Humanizing education" means putting the person at the center of education. "While from the one side it is necessary to improve the mastery of new material, nevertheless educational reform must be oriented toward the fruits that are evident in the abilities of young people to form their personal, moral and social attitudes and values, taking into account their talents, and guiding them toward building the common good," states the message. The message points out that overemphasis of this dimension of education will not help develop communication skills or promote independent creative thinking. "At the end of the educational process, we want to obtain well-rounded young people who are able to reflect independently and critically on the reality around them."
In this context, with this message the bishops urge all who bear responsibility for the Croatian educational system to "devote due attention to the formation of the curriculum for the subjects that have the highest significance in terms of identity, particularly the Croatian language and literature, history, geography and religious education, because it is precisely these subjects that build the national, cultural and religious identity of a young person."
The message emphasizes the importance of confessional Catholic religious education but also of other confessional religious education in the Croatian educational process, because confessional religious education contributes to the development of dialogue with members of other confessions and religious communities with different identities, while at the same time teaching genuine moral values, especially for the spirit of service and living Christ's commandments of love, contributing to life together, promoting peace, social justice and solidarity. Furthermore, in the message there is emphasis on the importance of involving parents in the school system, because they have the most responsibility for the upbringing and education of their children, as they are "the first teachers, and all others are their collaborators and help them in their right and duty to bring up and educate their children." In conclusion, Archbishop Hranić added that the message reminds us how "the success of educational reform depends on teacher education, and it is necessary to do everything to make their profession dignified and appreciated, and their work should be justly rewarded."

Prof. Dr. Vladimir Dugalić of the Catholic Faculty of Theology, University of Osijek, presented the part of the message referring to the issue of the family in legislation and the ratification of the Istanbul Convention.
It is clear that the bishops do not intend to write the family law but by following the public discussion, particularly regarding the definition and concept of marriage and the family, and then following the events regarding the Istanbul Convention, they want to provide some guidelines, primarily to the faithful but also to the society as a whole, and encourage reflection in the light of the principles that can make it possible for these two issues to be resolved in the best way, he said. In the message, the bishops want to emphasize how the adoption of family law is of the utmost importance for each country because its purpose is to protect and promote the basic unit of society. "The Church has always emphasized that the family is the setting of primary socialization because 'it is where we first learn to relate to others, to listen and share, to be patient and show respect, to help one another and live as one.' Therefore, the family deserves a special place in every society. For the faithful, the family is perceived as an intimate community of married life and conjugal love, and is a sacramental bond."

In the message, the bishops point out that under the guise of concern for preventing injustice, the possibility is opened for the promotion of an ideology that has the intention of altering the very foundations of the anthropological concept of the family. Prof. Dugalić pointed out that it is important to clearly define what is understood by the concept of family, and that the legal regulation of other unions that are not a family can be achieved with other special provisions, which does not mean discrimination or injustice toward such forms of unions.
The bishops' message clearly supports those legal provisions that have the aim of protecting the welfare of children and their rights to both parents. "The legal solution will ultimately be decided by politics but through this message they want to point out that first of all it is necessary to take account of the welfare of children and protect their right to both parents. This is the principle attitude that has additional gravity for the Croatian society, especially in the situation of the current unfavorable demographic trends and worrisome decline in the birth rate, as well as the increase in the number of separations and divorces. In this spirit, we also support efforts to devise and achieve mediation in cases where there is the danger of divorce," said Prof. Dugalić. Furthermore, he said that the Istanbul Convention has much that is positive and good. "It is first and foremost the war against violence." Any form of violence inflicted upon people is unacceptable to Christians because it is contrary to Christ's teachings and Church Magisterium. Family violence is not only a private matter but is also a major social problem, an evil we must address publically and do everything possible to uproot. In a particular way, it is necessary to support the suppression of discrimination against women, the revisionof legal regulations and the effective work of the relevant bodies in order to prevent violence, and if it occurs, to provide the victims with assistance and protection." From this position, the bishops salute the intentions, proposals and documents that obligate the state to provide protection from violence and protection of the victims. However, they caution that the convention does not only approach the issue from the standpoint of criminal law and prosecution but also from the standpoint of preventive action. "It is evident that there are also justified provisions that oblige the signatory states to provide conditions and means for the training of suitable services, and those that require the establishment of a large number of shelters for victims, as well as launching a campaign against violence in the family."

These are all good initiatives, especially the preventive measures and obligations of the state, particularly in the prevention of violence against women and children, and such provisions can be commended and should have a place in the Croatian legislative system, said Prof. Dugalić, and continued: "In the bishops' message, they want to caution that there are certain vagaries in this convention, which, if they are not removed, can have certain long-term consequences, the extent of which we do not know. We think that such an important issue, which is the protection of especially vulnerable groups, should not be subjected to any ideologies." He emphasized that the convention has been read carefully, as well as the explanations that accompany the text.
Accordingly, the bishops express concern that in such an important international document there are unacceptable definitions of "family," "gender" and "gender-based violence," he said, and explained: "In Article 3, gender is defined in the traditional sense and means male and female, and in the explanation the convention distances itself from gender ideology; but then in the next article the measures for protection of the rights of the victims 'shall be secured without discrimination on any ground such as sex, gender, race, color, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, association with a national minority, property, birth, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, state of health, disability, marital status, migrant or refugee status, or other status' (Article 4, Paragraph 3). Unfortunately, in the interpretations and explanations of the convention, the concepts of 'gender' and 'gender identity' are not clarified. Therefore, we cannot say that this convention does not use the terminology of 'gender ideology' and that it is not found there."
The bishops clearly want to emphasize that it would be highly irresponsible and reckless to ratify the convention without knowing what these terms mean and who will interpret them. Moreover, after this convention is ratified, it will become part of the legal order in the sphere of its application and it remains unclear what the scope of such definitions would be. In particular, it remains unclear who would interpret the terms "gender identity" and "non-stereotyped gender roles," as well as the obligation of the state signatories, "where appropriate, to undertake the necessary steps to include teaching material on issues such as equality between women and men, non‐stereotyped gender roles, mutual respect, non‐violent conflict resolution in interpersonal relationships, gender‐based violence against women and the right to personal integrity, adapted to the evolving capacity of learners, in formal curricula and at all levels of education" (Article 14). This has far reaching consequences and encroaches on many rights, if it is introduced into the educational system, because it deprives parents of their right to raise their children in accordance with their own Christian beliefs, and the right of religious communities to teach in accordance with their doctrines.
At the end, he reiterated that the Church is not against the convention: "We believe that we can implement everything that is positive and good in the protection of women and children and the war against family violence, in the national legislation without the ratification of the convention. However, we cannot rid ourselves of the impression that here quietly, in a surreptitious manner, gender ideology is being introduced into the national legislative and educational system. It is a cause for concern that in Article 28 the state signatories assume the obligation "to take the necessary measures to ensure that the confidentiality rules imposed by internal law on certain professionals do not constitute an obstacle to the possibility, under appropriate conditions, of their reporting to the competent organizations or authorities if they have reasonable grounds to believe that a serious act of violence covered by the scope of this Convention, has been committed." This is an encroachment on professional confidentiality, which is a foundation of the democratic order. Such a practice would lead to distrust between professionals and the victims or perpetrators with whom they work. It would also apply to religious officials, so that this issue also encroaches upon the confidentiality of the confessional, which is absolutely unacceptable. Although the convention mentions exceptions, it is vague and contradictory."

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