The Catholic Church in Iceland is speaking out against a popular proposed law that could land Jewish and Muslim parents in prison for up to six years for circumcising their infant boys.
“If this bill goes through, it would mean regular persecution of Jewish people,” Father Jakob Rolland, chancellor of the Diocese of Reykjavik, told Catholic News Service. “That brings us back to 1933, when Hitler took power in Germany. And we know how it ended.”
The new bill, presented by seven members of the Icelandic parliament in February, seeks to ban nonmedically indicated circumcision of male children under age 18.
“We see this as a question of human rights. No person should be subject to unnecessary operations without their consent,” said Dr. Olafur Thor Gunnarsson, a member of the Icelandic parliament who is sponsoring the bill, at a conference April 17 in Reykjavik.
Leaders of Christian, Muslim and Jewish communities from various European countries traveled to attend the conference to voice their concerns to Icelandic lawmakers.
Rabbi Moche Lewin, vice president of the European Conference of Rabbis, said the proposed bill requires a “break with the history of the Jewish people.”
“Circumcision and the identity of a Jewish boy are inseparable,” said Rabbi Lewin. He said the bill would “be felt as a message that the Jew has no future in Europe.”
Despite the outcry, local politicians argue that circumcision is an irreversible operation and say religions should change to conform to the ideals of modern Icelandic society.
Gunnarsson, a physician, said religions are a private issue and should adapt over time to reflect the society they are part of.
Father Rolland described the proposed prison sentence as “very heavy” and said the bill appears to be gaining wide popular support, a development he finds worrying.
“This bill means more or less that Jewish people are banned from this country if they want to practice their religion,” said Father Rolland.
Msgr. Duarte da Cunha, general secretary of the Council of European Bishops’ Conferences, issued a statement condemning the proposed law as an attack on religious freedom and assuring the support of the European Catholic Church of the rights of Jews and Muslims to practice their religious tradition of circumcision.
“If the proposal were made into law, it would not only be an infringement of the fundamental human right of freedom of religion or belief, but would also be perceived as a signal that people with Jewish or Muslim backgrounds are no longer welcome to Iceland,” said Msgr. da Cunha’s statement.
He criticized Icelandic legislators’ approach to the issue, saying, “It is unacceptable that something that belongs to a religious tradition should be prohibited just for ideological reasons.”
Bishop David Tencer of Reykyavik wrote a letter expressing his solidarity with the Muslim and Jewish communities.
However, Father Rolland said, the tiny Catholic minority in Iceland — representing about 4 percent of the population — cannot do much to change the course of events.
The bill must be discussed in parliament for three sessions before a final vote. The first session has already concluded.
Father Rolland said he hoped the Catholic Church in other countries would unite to express their concerns before the bill becomes law.
Fletcher is a correspondent for Catholic News Service.
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This article quotes Father Rolland saying, “This bill means more or less that Jewish people are banned from this country if they want to practice their religion.”
How ridiculous! Does Father Rolland think the Jewish region is entirely dependent on mutilating the genitals of baby boys? Father Roland certainly must know that there are many Jews who do not cut baby boys, Google “Brit shalom” a Jewish welcoming ceremony where the child is kept whole and unharmed.
Political correctness taken to an idiotic end.
Thank You Zita Ballinger Fletcher for a well written article.
I am so happy that this law is being proposed and I truly hope it goes through. The right to decide what happens to your body should be as basic of a right as life.
I can’t believe these responses. Religious freedom is being destroyed all over the world. I guess transexual mutilation is OK because it’s their choice, right? You people are insane. God help us.
Female circumcision is a practice of some Muslims in some countries, yet no one suggests that laws banning female circumcision are anti-Islamic, and that Muslims should be allowed to mutilate the genitals of females because it is part of their faith. This is no different. A law that requires the protection of children of BOTH genders from genital mutilation is a law that protects ALL children. A law that protects ALL children is not anti-Semitic. Males who wish to be circumcised for religious reasons can choose to do so as an adult.
Catholic leaders would do well to read No. 2297 of the Catholic Catechism. “Respect for bodily integrity,” states in part: “Except when performed for strictly therapeutic medical reasons, directly intended amputations, mutilations, and sterilizations performed on innocent persons are against the moral law.” The American Heritage Dictionary defines amputate as “To cut off (a part of the body), esp. by surgery,” and it defines therapeutic as “Having healing or curative powers.” In 1999 the American Academy of Pediatrics described circumcision as “amputation of the foreskin,” and the American Medical Association called elective circumcision “non-therapeutic” (Council on Scientific Affairs 1999). Elective circumcisions are directly intended, nontherapeutic amputations of healthy foreskins. As such, they violate the moral law. It is disturbing to see Catholic leaders promoting a violation of the moral law.
So they’re saying that children shouldn’t have the right to decide for themselves how much of their own genitals they get to keep? That’s disturbing.
It’s illegal to cut off a girl’s prepuce, or to make any incision on a girl’s genitals, even if no tissue is removed , and even if the parents think it’s their religious right or duty. Even a pinprick is banned. Why don’t boys get the same protection? Except in surprisingly rare medical circumstances, everyone should be able to decide for themselves whether or not they want parts of their genitals cut off. It’s *their* body.