Posts Tagged ‘Secularism’

Where Irreligious Trends Lead After Decades

By Edward Pentin

ROME, JAN. 12, 2012 (Zenit.org).- To see how disturbing a secularist and increasingly irreligious society can become, one need only look to Sweden.

Abortion has been free on demand and available without parental consent in the country since 1975, resulting in the Nordic nation having the highest teenage abortion rate in Europe (22.5 per 1,000 girls aged 15-19 in 2009).

Swedish law does not in any way recognize the right to conscientious objection for health care workers (last year, the Swedish parliament overwhelmingly passed an order instructing Swedish politicians to fight against the rights of doctors to refuse to participate in abortion).

Meanwhile, sex education is graphic and compulsory, beginning at the age of six, and children from kindergarten age are taught cross-dressing and that whatever feels good sexually is OK. The age of consent is 15.

“We have so many violations of human dignity on so many levels, and so many problems when it comes to social engineering,” explained Johan Lundell, secretary-general of the Swedish pro-life group Ja till Livet. “This has been going on for the past 70 years.”

Lundell was a guest of ours recently at the Dignitatis Humanae Institute (Institute for Human Dignity) where he laid out a catalogue of offenses against human dignity in Swedish society. “We have the highest teenage abortion rate in Europe. Why? Because we say abortion is a human right, it doesn’t kill anything, just takes away a pregnancy,” he said. “And after 20 years of this, young people don’t care any more. Why should they? For 10 to 15 years no one has even said abortion should be legal but rare.”

Its sex education program, seen by some social liberals as groundbreaking but others as far too explicit, has been given by some as the principal reason for a low teenage pregnancy rate. But the high number of abortions among that age group are rarely discussed, nor are the figures disclosed. “No one talks about child abortions,” said Lundell. “They’re ashamed of them. Yet we’re the only country in Europe where there’s abortion on demand, there are no formal procedures, no parental consent, no informed consent.”

Nor are the number of rapes in Sweden widely known or advertised. Yet according to Lundell, over the past 50 years — during this era of loose sexual mores — they have risen by “1,000 percent.”

Lundell further noted that all other countries want to reduce the number of abortions, yet despite having 550 different government departments in Sweden, none has a mission to lower the number of terminations. “Children can see this is wrong, parents can see it’s wrong, and as a society we don’t want it and yet no one talks about it,” Lundell added. “It’s absurd.”

He said that Sweden should “definitely” be taken as a warning to other countries pursuing secularist, socially liberal policies “because then you can see what the agenda is for people, and how the European Union and the United Nations are copying these Scandinavian ideas.”

Returning to the subject of sex education, Lundell said Swedes generally don’t bother any more trying to argue that homosexuality is genetic– a common argument used to promote the same-sex agenda — because the movement is now so fully accepted that it no longer needs this argument as a support. “In sex education books, they don’t talk about someone being heterosexual or homosexual — there are no such things because for them everyone is homosexual,” he said.

Lundell referred to a brochure for children published by same-sex associations, and printed with the help of financing by the state. “They write positively about all kinds of sexuality, every kind, even the most depraved sexual acts, and it goes into all schools,” he explained. “The information is put on Web sites, and school children are told about the Web sites so they can see it.” Teachers, he said, are encouraged to ask students “What turns you on?” yet Lundell pointed out that if the chief executive of a company asked that at a business meeting, he’d be fired. “It would be sexual harassment,” he said. “And yet you train people to do this to children?”

Some parents have made formal complaints, branding it as carnal knowledge, too candid for the classroom and labeling the lessons as “vulgar” and “too advanced.” But the majority acquiesce to the curriculum, while the option to homeschool children is almost forbidden.

Yet to many outsiders, Sweden’s popular image is of a fair, ordered, just and harmonious society — the model example of a functioning welfare state. In many cases this is true if one looks at infant mortality rates, life expectancy, standard of health care and access to education. The level of poverty is also relatively low.

“It’s long been said that if it is not possible to bring about a socialist world in Sweden, then it’s not possible anywhere,” said Lundell. “That’s why some have tried to make it into a socialist paradise. But unlike in, say, Italy or Greece, in Sweden it’s not about the socialism of finances but rather the socialism of families — social engineering, which has been much more visible here than in southern Europe.”

Per Bylund, a Swedish fellow at the Von Mises Institute, once described the all encompassing power of the state thus: “A significant difference between my generation and the preceding one is that most of us were not raised by our parents at all. We were raised by the authorities in state daycare centers from the time of infancy; then pushed on to public schools, public high schools, and public universities; and later to employment in the public sector and more education via the powerful labor unions and their educational associations. The state is ever-present and is to many the only means of survival — and its welfare benefits the only possible way to gain independence.”

Yet this social engineering has had dire consequences. Few European countries have witnessed such a rapid decline in the institution of marriage, nor such an expeditious rise in abortion. During the 1950s and first half of the 1960s, the marriage rate in Sweden was historically at its peak. Suddenly, the rate started dropping so quickly that it saw a decrease of about 50% in less than 10 years. No other country experienced such a rapid change.

Between 2000 and 2010, when the rest of Europe was showing signs of a reduction in annual abortion rates, the Swedish government says the rate increased from 30,980 to 37,693. The proportion of repeat abortions rose from 38.1% to 40.4% — the highest level ever — while the number of women having at least four previous abortions increased from 521 to approximately 750.

With the exception of a few stalwart campaigners such as Lundell, most Swedish Christians — and particularly Christian politicians — remain silent in the face of the countless social violations against human dignity. Little resistance is also given to attacks on religious freedom for Christians, with priority increasingly being given to Sharia law.

Judging by the figures, it could almost be said the faith has packed up altogether. At the end of 2009, 71.3% of Swedes belonged to the Lutheran Church of Sweden — a number that has been decreasing by about one percentage point a year for the last two decades. Of them, only around 2% regularly attend Sunday services. Indeed, some studies have found Swedes to be one of the least religious people in the world and a country with one of the highest numbers of atheists. According to different studies carried out in the early 2000s, between 46% and 85% of Swedes do not believe in God.

Lundell said that although small, the Catholic Church has a good bishop and is helped by immigrants from Poland and Latin America. But Catholics are generally seen as outsiders with little influence and they are wary of overtly campaigning or being seen as “too tough,” he said. Even Pentecostals are reticent to raise objections. “They are probably the only Pentecostal church in the world that doesn’t,” he added.

But despite all this, Lundell, whose organization is attracting a growing number of young people, remains hopeful — and he remains ultimately loyal to his home country. “I’m so proud of Sweden I can’t imagine moving away,” he said. “But I am ashamed of the politics when it comes to the family, sexual politics and restrictions on freedom of religion.”

“Whole parts of society aren’t Sweden any more,” he added. “So we will fight, and we will do so with more eagerness than ever.”

Edward Pentin is a freelance journalist and Communications Director at the Dignitatis Humanae Institute. He can be reached at epentin@zenit.org.

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Interview With Founder of New Missionary Group

VATICAN CITY, AUG. 17, 2007 (Zenit.org).- The founder of a new spiritual family, the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary, says that gratitude should be the real motivation for a moral life.

The Franciscan Missionaries of Mary, also known as the Missionaries of Gratitude, are present in 78 dioceses in 22 countries, totaling more than 10,000 lay members, consecrated women, priests and seminarians. The group’s statutes were recently granted pontifical approval at a Vatican ceremony.

In this interview with ZENIT, Father Santiago Martín, a journalist and priest of the Archdiocese of Madrid, discusses the origin and meaning of the missionaries’ new approach to evangelization and the pursuit of holiness. 

Q: What led you to found the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary?

Father Martín: When you consider the history of the Church, you can see that the process of founding organizations has always been similar. First, problems arise, and then, a solution. 

There were unschooled children in the street, so the Holy Spirit moved someone, St. John Bosco, for example, to do something for them; that is how the Salesians arose. 

There were beggars in the streets of Calcutta and the Spirit urged Blessed Teresa to found the Missionaries of Charity. 

Something similar happened to me. 

Q: What problem did you see?

Father Martín: Secularism. The work I have founded is oriented directly against this evil that uproots God from man’s heart and, as a consequence, casts God and all religious matters away from society. 

In the last few years, a suicidal perversion has come about in the message transmitted by certain ecclesial persons. 

They have stated that hell does not exist or that it is empty, and that everyone goes to heaven. This is not so, but most people now believe it. 

Most people that acted, stirred either by fear or convenience, have suddenly been told that, no matter what they do, they will get the same payment. They have ceased to be driven by religious motivations. 

These motivations, which were so strong in the past, have proved ineffectual, particularly in countries in which the standard of living has improved considerably and there is not much material suffering. 

In this way, the crisis in the belief in heaven and hell has accentuated secularism and has led people to forget about God, at least in everyday life.

Q: How do you include gratitude in the process?

Father Martín: This new foundation is a movement of spirituality based on gratitude, because I believe this to be the best way to combat estrangement from God.

I became aware, and I trust that it was through God’s inspiration, that the problem was that for centuries we had been comfortably settled, drawing returns from motivations that, in fact, were pre-Christian, even if genuine. 

It is true that saints have insisted on the love of God, but most Catholics have made the journey of their relationship with God based on convenience or fear.

That is what led me to feel that the solution to the problem of secularism should take the form of a spiritual conversion that should place in the hearts of Catholics the genuine reason for which things ought to be done: gratitude toward God, who loves us to the extent of having given his life for us.

Q: Is this why you have called your parish groups Schools of Gratitude?

Father Martín: Indeed. We have devised a formation program that is intended to teach people to be grateful.

The first thing is to make them understand how much God loves them. 

The second point is for them to understand that God has rights and we have duties toward him, duties of gratitude. 

The third aspect is to teach them to be grateful in everyday life, because gratitude should be demonstrated through deeds of love. And in this, God’s word, which the Church offers us every Sunday, is our point of reference.

Q: What accounts for the name Franciscan Missionaries of Mary?

Father Martín: St. Francis was the first to denounce publicly that Catholics were not seeking God for the right reason; he did so after the vision that lead him to say in tears: “Love is not loved.”

As for the Holy Virgin, she means everything to us, together with St. John Bosco, of whom I feel a spiritual son. 

I want to say, among us, Mary has done everything. She is the model for loving God because, in her, in the Immaculate, there was no room for interest nor fear; everything was love. She teaches us to love God with a Eucharistic heart, with a grateful heart.

Q: How has the movement spread? 

Father Martín: It has been very rapid, due, mostly, to the use of the media and, particularly, to Mother Angelica’s television channel, EWTN. 

However, I think the reason for this rapid progress is that people are ready to receive this message; they are hungry to hear, not only of God’s love, but of returning God’s love and of how to go about it. 

Our mission of loving and leading people to love Love, God who is Love, is welcomed everywhere with great enthusiasm.

Q: Where is this movement present?

Father Martín: We are all over America, from Canada to Chile and in several dioceses of Spain. 

We have started in Italy, in Poland, and in the Netherlands, in Amsterdam. We are also in Sri Lanka. 

It is the Virgin Mary who goes opening the way for us, and we only begin with a “School of Gratitude” where there are people interested in establishing one. 

Normally, people have heard about them through some communication media or because someone has told them about us.

Q: Is this a movement only for laypeople?

Father Martín: No, it is for everyone, because we are all called upon to live Eucharistically, to live in “thanksgiving” all day long. 

In fact, I think it is a movement that has arisen particularly for priests, both because of the spiritual good they can derive from it and because of the assistance their parishes receive from the Schools of Gratitude.

We insist on the need to help parishes, on the fact that it is through them that one must become inserted in the dioceses. 

I believe that the future of the Church is to be found in the union between movements and parishes. That is why our movement is essentially parochial.

Q: So there is a branch that is specifically for the priesthood?

Father Martín: Yes, and also a branch for consecrated women. The statutes that the Church has recently approved establish these three vocations: laypeople, consecrated women and priests. 

The call to gratitude is for everyone. In fact, I dare insist, that it is more for priests than for anyone else, because priests are the servers of the Eucharist and the Eucharist is thanksgiving par excellence.