The Catholic Church made news when it came out powerfully against the 20,000 Strong Women's Empowerment march. That was sent out on March fourth, but what escaped our attention was another major policy position sent out by the Church on March third. This one came from the Office of Bishop Dorrick Wright, and it laid down a hardline directive to all two hundred plus Catholic-managed schools: Catholic managed schools should decline "any and all invitations" from the Belize Family Life Association, UNIBAM, the National AIDS Commission and the Red Cross program of "Together We Can." The directive is to all local Managers of Catholic Schools, Assistant Local Managers, all Administrators, Principals and Teachers. These organizations have all been blacklisted because according to the Bishop the, quote, "foster programs that ultimately undermine our Catholic values." The directive accuses BFLA of fronting for "Planned Parenthood" which is says is, quote, "an international billion dollar business that profits from the killing of babies through abortion." End quote.
He laments that, quote, "This agenda of sodomy, abortion, and sexual gender redefinition, is seeking to radically change Belize's Christian character. I call on all of you to be vigilant with me against this threat to Belize's moral foundations and family values."
That is strong talk and it is can meaningfully affect those organizations. The National AIDS Commission's Executive Director explained that they won't be able to work as effectively if they are barred from catholic-managed schools:..
Allison Green, Executive Director - National Aids Commission
"We are not looking at the morality of it. We are not looking at the doctrine of it. We are not looking at the dogma of it. We are looking at the reality and the practicality of it. Much of our work happens in every area of the country and for them to be blacklisting us like you said then we are put in a very difficult situation because we would not be able to our job in the way that we need to do it."
"We have various programs that directly involves youth; in school and out of school children and for the Roman Catholic administration to be getting a mandate of this nature - we are not able to go on to their premises or take any of the information, any training, any workshop onto their premises or involving any of their students, then that certainly is going to hinder the work that we've accomplish so far."
"We are looking at it from a holistic approach, a national development issue; if you don't protect your vulnerable people then the national development of the country cannot be realized. What we are seeing in the country is a rise of the number of HIV cases in the country. There are young people who are going to the hospitals for various reasons. This mandate does not look at what the reality is when it comes to on the ground that these same partners are seeing on a daily basis and that is what we have to look at - the national response."
Green says that her organization wants to begin a conversation to clarify their work with the church, which she believes is misinformed.
Gay rights activist Caleb Orozco is not so sympathetic. His organization UNIBAM is also on the blacklist - and he says that the church is missing the message:..
Caleb Orozco, UNIBAM
"For us here it's a dangerous precedent because it then affects millions and millions of dollars of health investment that our government has made, it then affects the entire service deliver structure where its calling for people to be ignorant and to be disempowered in addressing their health concerns and to do this to women and children is to not only affect women and children but the very family structure that the church is supposed to be concern about. There is a set of people who are disconnect from the realities of poor people, from the realities of the young who are unemployed, from the realities of folks who can't access health services because simply they can't afford it and to put a barrier to the basic health information that is given out there. It's disconcerting because what you are doing is perpetuating marginalization around young people, poor people..."
The Bishop's message ends by saying, quote, "Do not be afraid as you stand against the 'dictatorship of moral relativism' that now threatens our small country." End quote.