The Scholas Occurrentes foundation has also recently hosted a number of conferences from pro-abortion, and otherwise heterodox speakers
The story of the series of children’s books promoted by Pope Francis’ pet pontifical foundation, Scholas Occurrentes, might seem an old one to some in a world that moves as fast as ours. The fifteen booklets published in various Spanish-speaking countries in 2015 under the title Con Francisco a mi lado (“With Francis by my Side”) attracted attention from the start: under cover of promoting values such as friendship, joy, hope, peace, simplicity, dignity, self-esteem and “diversity,” they included obvious promotion of gender identity and same-sex marriage – the “LGBT” goals. But the remarkable news today is that since then, nothing has been done in order formally to dissociate the papal organization from the publication: on the contrary, Scholas Occurrentes is refusing to answer questions about it, according to an in-depth study by Catholic News Agency published last Thursday in Spanish (and on Friday in English). The CNA report also highlights the fact that the foundation has recently hosted a number of conferences from pro-abortion, and otherwise heterodox speakers.
Scholas Occurrentes was first promoted in Buenos Aires by Cardinal Bergoglio as an initiative that would help children and young people from different, mainly underprivileged backgrounds (including different religions) to find a place where they could meet and exchange ideas under the form of art, sports, technology and creativity, in a “new culture: the Culture of Encounter.” In 2015, the organization was given the status of a pontifical foundation, even though it has no specific Catholic identity, instead promoting “openness” to all and the idea that “living makes sense.”
Not unsurprisingly, Scholas Occurrentes is openly committed to promoting eight of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals for 2030, including “gender equality.” It has the support of Ban Ki-moon, the former UN General Secretary whose involvement with “LGBT rights” was a marker of his work at the head of the United Nations.
So finding LGBT propaganda in the booklets it promoted was not in contradiction with its self-proclaimed aims.
In the booklet titled I am a dog!, a white kitten manages to get itself “recognized” as a dog thanks to a donkey that identifies as a horse. As ludicrous as the story may sound, this is clearly the promotion of “gender identity” ideology. In explaining the story for parents and educators, Scholas says that “our image and sense of ourselves develops throughout our lives,” according to CNA.
In Chiquillería (“Kids’ Stuff”), one of the stories published by Scholas, homosexual “parenthood” is promoted in relation along with the value of “diversity.”
“There are children who have a father and mother. One of each one. Others, two of each. Others, one and two. Or two and one,” the story reads. CNA’s report notes that “[a]n illustration included shows two children holding hands by two characters wearing skirts.” Here also, the CNA report quotes comments by Scholas that leave little doubt that the booklet’s contents were known to the organization: “In the ‘guide for parents and educators,’ Scholas points out that the story is aimed at teaching that ‘diversity goes beyond the social group or culture to which we belong’ and includes ‘the traits that we are not capable of changing: including age, physical characteristics, gender and sexual orientation’.”
Note that Scholas did not say that we are not capable of changing our sex or our biological “gender,” but our “gender and sexual orientation,” meaning that, according to them, a person with homosexual or other inclinations can do nothing about them and these are simply equated with their identity.
At the time, in 2015, the Spanish online news media Infovaticana gave details of the scandalous propaganda but claimed that, having checked with Scholas Occurrentes, that it was clear that the foundation was not aware of the shocking messages contained in some of the booklets. The May 4, 2015, article by Infovaticana quoted unnamed representatives of Scholas as being “not at all happy” with the use of its name and the figure of Pope Francis. They even “apologized” for their distribution, adding that they had “no opportunity to see the books before they were published, or to vet their contents.”
The story did include a photo of Pope Francis smilingly presenting a copy of one of the books. Scholas Occurrentes told Infovaticana that Pope Francis “was very interested to see a worldwide contest of children’s drawings take place.” The Argentinian daily, Clarín, was making this come true by adding a free copy of the booklets to its Sunday editions over 15 weeks, along with running a drawing competition which boasted a trip to Rome as its first prize.
Ten of the fifteen booklets were re-prints of older publications, but contained two pages in each of them of material provided by Scholas Occurrentes, with quotes and images of Pope Francis. These were included in the collection for children “My favorite stories from the BLUE TRAIN” produced by Edebé, a Salesian publisher based in Spain.
So, while Scholas Occurrentes was not prepared to bear the responsibility for the booklets when interviewed by Infovaticana, it is worth noting that these books were created and published by a supposedly Catholic publisher catering for children and adolescents.
On May 24, two days before the booklets were launched in Ecuador, the national newspaper El Universo gave details about how its subdirector César Pérez Barriga was in the Vatican three months earlier, in February 2015, in order to sign an agreement with Scholas Occurrentes. “There, the bibliographic material was presented and the directors of the attending media even greeted His Holiness individually and personally. The directors of Scholas, José María del Corral and Enrique Palmeyro, were also present,” according to El Universo, as well as representatives of other media that were to distribute the booklets.
In Mexico, the distribution was co-sponsored by the government. ACI Prensa, the Spanish-speaking sister agency of CNA, sent the Mexican government a legal “transparency request” in October 2020 asking how the publication was financed and how many copies were printed; it received no response.
On January 12 of this year, ACI Prensa also contacted Virginia Prano, communications director of Scholas Occurrentes, by email, asking for information about “how much money was invested and how much was received in donations” related to the publication and distribution; it also asked whether the books had “actually received the approval of Pope Francis and the Vatican.” Once again, there was no response either at the time or three weeks later when a reminder was sent. When Priano finally answered a direct phone call from ACI Prensa, she immediately hung up when the journalist identified himself and, according to the news agency, blocked his number.
ACI’s investigations have led it to question Scholas Occurrentes’ finances with millions of dollars spent on administrative costs, salaries, mobile phones, travel and offices, while not a cent went to the construction of schools for young people “with limited resources.” Scholas’ website gives some insight to what it actually does: like organizing six-day encounters to allow 200 to 400 youths from different schools to get together and talk about problems that affect them, and then present the authorities with solutions they have imagined. In other words: bottom-up group dynamics. Art and creativity as promoted by Scholas are resolutely contemporary or childlike – or both.
Other programs include “emotional wellbeing” – Scholas receives support from “Think Equal,” an organization that wants to “achieve a global system change in education introducing Social and Emotional Learning as a compulsory new subject on national curricula around the world” in order to put an end to “gender-based violence.”
Another supporter and collaborator is hundrED.org, which is funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation (whuch funds LGBT initiatives, “emergency” and other contraception, the National Abortion Federation and so on), George Soros’ Open Society Foundations, and many others.
Scholas Occurrentes itself also supports “mindfulness” programs. For instance, in 2015 it commissioned a specialist in mindfulness courses, Daniel López Rosetti of the central hospital of San Isidro, Buenos Aires, to help local schools offer “psychophysical relaxation and meditating techniques” to their pupils as a tool against violence.
Mindfulness is a technique based on oriental “meditation” that is not God-centered, but that aims to create non-judgmental attitudes through respiratory and other techniques leading to “acceptance” of the world and of oneself. It has been widely condemned as contradicting Catholic spirituality and creating a form of westernized Buddhism.
Dr. López Rosetti was invited by Scholas Occurrentes to present his pilot scheme to some 400,000 schools in various countries, according to redeculturadepaz. Whether this actually took place remains to be verified, but his program was used in many Argentinian schools where elementary school children could be seen sitting on the floor with crossed legs and joined fingers “meditating” in Oriental poses. Catholic primary schools in France also use the technique.
In another twist, Scholas Occurrentes has now set up a virtual “Universidad del Sentido” or “University of Meaning” to “embody beauty in each person:”
“The University of Meaning will not be the place of transmission of what has already been said, but the place where the words remain silent and again call us to listen. It will not be a place of ‘useful learning’, but of ‘beautiful teaching.’ Nor will it be the place of competitions, but rather of encounter. The University of Meaning does not dream the education of the future, but the education of the origin.”
This highfalutin language is at the service of a Christ-less, multi-religious experience, or as Scholas itself puts it: an “Educational program in which young people, adults and the elderly of all ethnicities, creeds and social classes [meet] through virtual encounters cultivating and exercising listening, creation and celebration, focusing on life.”
Words may well “remain silent” there, but it is difficult to spread ideas without them The University of Meaning’s virtual conferences therefore include people who actually talk, and among them are “well known promoters of legal abortion,” CNA points out.
In the University’s September session at the Catholic University of Valencia in Spain, these included the Argentinian philosopher Darío Sztajnszrajber and writer Luisa Valenzuela.
Last September, CNA’s David Ramos published a story about these intellectuals who presented YouTube and Zoom conferences in 2020. Sztajnszrajber talked about “deconstruction” on August 28 – the philosophy behind gender ideology. He himself came out in 2018 as a proponent of legal abortion in the name of the autonomy of the individual: “A woman who does not decide about her own body is a second-class citizen,” he said, as quoted by CNA. He openly speaks out against the reality of biological sex: “Having a penis does not make you male; being a male is an identity construct.” A self-identified agnostic, Sztajnszrajber expressed the blasphemous wish to “make love with whatever is God.”
In December 2019 Luisa Valenzuela, whose talk at the University went online on September 2020, explained that she joined the pro-abortion “green kerchief” marches in Buenos Aires, but that did not prevent her from being invited to give a course under the aegis of the Scholas.
Another speaker, Massimo Recalcati, had gone on record as saying that he is interested by Christ’s teachings, “but I don’t believe in his god and I’m not concerned with his existence.”
Other speakers, Carlos Skliar and Roberto Esposito, are quoted as inspirational by the pro-abortion movement in Argentina.
Again, ACI Prensa had reached out to Virginia Priano, communications director of Scholas Occurrentes, asking her why such speakers were invited to give conferences under its name. She told the journalist that such questions should be put to the “directors” or the “academic council” of Scholas. This was done, but to no avail.