Below is the letter I sent to Youth Impact earlier today. The reason behind the letter was a matter of concern I had regarding a way they recommended our Year 10 students yesterday to get involved in social justice directives and make a difference. One such way they suggested was to write letters through Amnesty International. You'll learn more as you read the letter:
To whom it may concern,
My name is Stephen Spiteri and I am the Head of Senior Religious Education at Irene McCormack Catholic College.
Yesterday the first group of Year 10 students from Irene McCormack Catholic College attended an encounter day with Youth Impact at the Butler Community Centre. I am pleased to say that the students gained a great deal from the day and enjoyed it overall. They appreciated the energy and enthusiasm of the day leaders and this allowed them to engage with the underlying message of the encounter.
I am, however, concerned that as part of the “What you can do” (sic.) component of the program students were encouraged to get involved with numerous outreaches and organisations established to help those less fortunate, one of which was Amnesty International. Perhaps it is something the Youth Impact leadership body is unaware of but Catholic schools across Australia have severed ties with Amnesty International due to their change of stance on the abortion issue which occurred in 2007/08. Amnesty International are no longer supportive of a pro-life ethic especially where the unborn are concerned. This is contradictory to the teachings of the Catholic Church and diametrically opposed to divine and moral law.
As a Catholic school we have to uphold and live by the Catholic ethos and be faithful to the Magisterium of the Catholic Church as to avoid scandal and provide for our students and consistent Catholic education. As a Catholic educator I cannot in good conscience recommend my students be involved with Amnesty International.
In response to Amnesty International’s changed stance on the abortion issue, Catholic schools have affiliated themselves with the Benenson Society whom which uphold pro-life values especially where the unborn are concerned (more information about the Beneson Society can be found here: http://www.benensonsociety.org/).
I am in no way personally affiliated with the Benenson Society, but Youth Impact may want to consider this alternative to Amnesty International so as to remain consistent with what it is the Catholic Church teaches and maintain a consistent approach to the preservation and protection of the unborn.
As I indicated in the letter, it may be the case that the Youth Impact team were unaware of Amnesty International's change of stance on the abortion issue, but that in itself would be surprising considering they have now maintained this anti-life stance since 2007/08. This might then suggest that the material Youth Impact is using has gone unchanged for a number of years and is simply being rehashed, or that the Youth Impact volunteers are failing to take the initiative themselves and read up on organisations like Amnesty International to ensure their goals and mission statement adhere to Catholic teachings. Youth Impact are a Catholic ministry after all and so it's important that they themselves remain faithful to the Magisterium of the Catholic Church as you would expect a Catholic school or other educational institution to. More information about Amnesty International's abortion policy change can be found here: http://www.theage.com.au/news/national/amnesty-in-hot-water-on-abortion/2007/05/27/1180205077430.html - The Age, May 28, 2007 And for more information about the Catholic Church's stance on abortion, go here: http://www.catholic.com/library/Abortion.asp
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I received a reply email from the Managing Director of Youth Impact moments ago. They, Youth Impact, will no longer be making any mention of Amnesty International (AI) in their presentations in schools where they operate (WA and SA).
What was even more alarming about the issue is that I was apparently the first and only teacher in a Catholic school toquestion and challenge Youth Impact's "endorsement" of Amnesty International. What this means is that no one else has questioned or challenged this affiliation since 2007 and each year DOZENS of schools would have heard this endorsement of Amnesty International by Youth Impact. Shocking!!