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EU guide seeking to ditch word ‘Christmas’ shows ‘anti-religious bias,’ say European Bishops 

Europe’s Catholic bishops have taken aim at a withdrawn document by the European Commission (the executive branch of the European Union) which discouraged staff from using the word “Christmas,” alleging that it was tarnished by “anti-religious bias.”

On Tuesday 30 November, the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union (COMECE) welcomed the withdrawal of the contentious 32-page internal document, which was dropped on that same day. The document was called ‘#UnionOfEquality. European Commission Guidelines for Inclusive Communication.”

 “While respecting the right of the European Commission to model its written and verbal communication, and appreciating the importance of equality and non discrimination,  COMECE cannot help being concerned about the impression that an anti-religious bias characterized some passages of the draft document,” the bishops’ commission said in a press release.

The decision to scrap the document represented a U-turn from the European Commission who proposed banning gendered words and the word ‘Christmas’ in its profoundly ‘woke’ communication guide. It was forced to do an about face on an attempt to abandon gendered words such as “ladies and gentlemen” and “man-made” and replace them with gender neutral phrases such as “dear colleagues” and “human-induced.”

The guide, which was geared towards “inclusive communication” was designed to force the hand of EU officials, who the European Commission wanted to “update their language” and avoid using expressions which could be considered offensive according to gender, sexual identities, ethnic backgrounds and culture.

The ditched guidelines which were issued roughly one month ago “clearly needed more work,” according to Helena Dalli, the European Commissioner responsible for equality, said the guidebook, which was issued about four weeks ago, “clearly needed more work.” 

“Concern was raised with regards to some examples provided,” the EU’s equality boss said. Ms Dali had proudly posed for shots with the extensive guidebook last month, before it was rejected by Ursula von der Leyen, the Commission’s president, prior to it being withdrawn according to Brussels.

In the now-discarded guidelines, EU officials were ordered to avoid using gender-specific language in any capacity, and were told to use phrases like “colleagues,” “chair” and “human-induced” rather than “ladies and gentlemen,” “chairman” or “man-made”.

Commission staff were also ordered to scrap the pronouns “Mr, Mrs and Ms” unless they were specifically requested. “In the absence of such information, Mx should be used as the default,” the guidebook said.

The guidebook stated that officials should never “presume” a person’s gender or sexual orientation. “Do not ask what pronoun a person ‘prefers’. This assumes that gender identity is a personal preference — it is not,” the guidelines stated.

In a further push for gender-neutrality, it told officials to “never use gendered nouns such as ‘workmen, policemen’ or masculine pronouns (he, his) as a default”.

The guidelines further advised officials at the European Commission to ditch the word “Christmas” in a bid to “avoid assuming that everyone is Christian”.

“Not everyone celebrates the Christian holidays, and not all Christians celebrate them on the same dates,” the document added.

It encouraged staff based in the Belgian capital, Brussels, and Luxembourg to refrain from using a phrase such as “Christmas time can be stressful” and instead say “Holiday times can be stressful.”

 Ms Dalli recommended avoiding references to Christmas as well as “Christian names” alleging they could be deemed as an “intolerance or judgement, fuel stereotypes or single out one religious’ group”.

It also recommended using the term “first name,” rather than “Christian name,” and said that when presenting hypothetical examples, officials should “not only choose names that are typically from one religion.”

Rather than “Maria and John are an international couple,” the guide recommended saying “Malika and Julio are an international couple.”

Reacting, the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union (COMECE) said it was glad the guidelines had been pulled, releasing an emphatic statement that read:

“Respecting diversity cannot lead to suppressing religion from public discourse.”

COMECE president Cardinal Jean-Claude  Hollerich, S.J., added:

“Neutrality cannot mean relegating religion to the private sphere. Christmas is not only part of European religious traditions but also of European reality.” 

The Conference expressed concern that the draft document left an impression of ‘anti-religious bias’ in some passages.

“While respecting the right of the European Commission to model its written and verbal communication, and appreciating the importance of equality and non-discrimination,  COMECE cannot help being concerned about the impression that an anti-religious bias characterised some passages of the draft document.”

“The draft guidelines, for example, discouraged EU Commission staff members from referring in their communications to ‘Christmas’ holidays, to the expression ‘Christian names’ or to names that are typically from one religion,” the Bishops’ statement explained.

The archbishop of Luxembourg, President of COMECE, added:

“While the Catholic Church in the EU fully supports equality and countering discrimination, it is also clear that these two goals cannot lead to distortions or self-censorship. The valuable premise of inclusiveness should not cause the opposite effect of exclusion.”

Shortly before the guide was withdrawn, it also drew sharp criticism from the Vatican’s Secretary of State.

In an interview published by Vatican News on Nov. 30, Cardinal Pietro Parolin said that the document was going “against reality” by downplaying Europe’s Christian roots.

The withdrawn document was also widely ridiculed by right-wing politicians across the EU. French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen said: “These technocrats show their real face: that of an enemy to our identities, our roots, our traditions.”

Representatives of Italian right-wing party Lega in the European Parliament, Marco Zanni and Marco Campomenesi, also lambasted the publication, adding: “We hope that Brussels invests better their time and above all the money of European citizens, working on the most urgent issues and on real emergencies.”

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