Steve Jalsevac

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Vatican’s handling of Pope’s interview “another public-relations debacle”?

Steve Jalsevac

It has been a wild ride for the pro-life, pro-family movement since the release last Thursday of the lengthy Jesuit magazine interview with Pope Francis. Most of the world's secular media have taken the most self-serving interpretations of what the pope said. And those reports have just kept coming and coming.

One particular AP story was picked up by many news outlets. Friday morning I sat down to read a national newspaper, and had to endure the following disturbing, front page intro to that article which I knew millions of others were likely also reading:

"Pope Francis has warned that the Catholic Church’s moral structure might “fall like a house of cards” if it doesn’t balance its divisive rules about abortion, gays and contraception with the greater need to make the church a merciful, more welcoming place for all.

But his vision of what the church should be stands out, primarily because it contrasts so sharply with many of the priorities of his immediate predecessors, John Paul II and Benedict XVI. They were both intellectuals for whom doctrine was paramount, an orientation that guided the selection of a generation of bishops and cardinals around the globe" - blah, blah; blah.

Another AP story noted:

"But in blunt terms, in an interview published Thursday in 16 Jesuit journals worldwide, the new pope Francis called the church’s focus on abortion, marriage and contraception narrow and said it was driving people away. Now, the U.S. bishops face a challenge to rethink a strategy many considered essential for preserving the faith.

“I don’t see how the pope’s remarks can be interpreted in any other way than arguing that the church’s rhetoric on the so-called culture war issues needs to be toned down,” said John Green, a religion specialist at the University of Akron’s Bliss Institute of Applied Politics. “I think his language calls for less stridency on these issues.”'

And Time wrote:

"And he may have won over a whole new crowd who have grown disillusioned with organized religion, after he chastised the Roman Catholic Church for being "obsessed" with abortion, contraception, and gay marriage. Francis' remarks, published in 16 Jesuit journals worldwide, have rocked the Catholic world.

As recently as last year, Pope Benedict XVI called gay marriage a threat to "human dignity and the future of humanity itself." Compare that to Pope Francis, who said in Rio de Janeiro this summer, "If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?"

The article then went on to urge that the Pope's new way of thinking needs to be taken up by the Republican Party that should change its strong pro-life, pro-family platform.

That is just a tiny preview of numerous similar articles and television and radio reports and commentaries that were issued in response to the published Jesuit magazines' interview. They have been very distressing for many who have been giving their lives to the cause of life and family at this time when their struggles have become more difficult than ever.

Some in the orthodox Catholic and pro-life world really lost their cool over all this and unfortunately pounced on Pope Francis for what he said. Not good. We had to remove more than a few rather hysterical or nasty comments from imprudent individuals from under our two reports related to the interview.

Most however, took the pope at his word that he is obviously one with the Church's teachings. However, they had to spend some time trying to figure out exactly what Francis really said and meant by his not necessarily clear remarks as I mused about in my Friday blog.

As it turns out there appears to have been a major failure to communicate beforehand with certain Vatican parties so that quick clarifications would be immediately available when the inevitable flood of misrepresentations or highly selective quoting from the document would begin.

Well respected Catholic commentator Phil Lawler of Catholic Culture noted today that this was "Yet another Vatican PR debacle":

"Whether you think The Interview was a coup or a disaster—or something in between—we should all be able to agree that the Vatican’s handling of the Pope’s blockbuster was another public-relations debacle.

Ironically, the Pontifical Council for Social Communications was meeting in Rome when the news broke. Greg Erlandson, the publisher of Our Sunday Visitor, who was at the meeting, observes that Church leaders had no warning about the interview."

So, huge problems resulted, calling for major damage control.

There were some faithful Catholics who respectfully expressed sincere concerns, not about Pope Francis's fidelity, but rather the wisdom of his strategy in the interview. They tended to be roasted over the coals by fellow Catholics who tolerate zero questioning of anything any Pope would say.

In his National Catholic Register blog today, Pat Archbold refers to this troublesome intolerance.

In his article, "The Loyal Opposition" Archbold writes, "It seems to me that we have arrived at the point where mere disagreement on tactics is viewed as akin to treason."

Non-Catholic Peter LaBarbara of Americans for Truth about homosexuality also expressed concerns  about last week's published interview and the spontaneous press conference on the airplane coming back from Brazil. He wrote:

"...the great fear that I and many like-minded pro-family advocates share (including several Catholic friends with whom I’ve spoken) is that the pope is naive about the aggressive homosexualist agenda. Pro-”gay” ideologues are cunning and tactical — they are already using the pope’s words to advocate ideas that he surely condemns. While laying claim to the Gospel and noble concepts like tolerance and equality, they have brought corruption and destruction to many institutions, of which the Catholic Church is but one.

We understand that the pope is not embracing a change in Church doctrine, and that he truly wants to help homosexual strugglers come to God. But at the same time we recognize that words matter in this debate — indeed, they often drive it."

Lastly though, Fr. Frank Pavone, the Director of Priests for Life and one of the world's foremost pro-life evangelists and activists, was fortunate to be in Rome these past few days. He is there at the invitation of the Vatican to speak, as he wrote today, "about the Church's defense of the unborn child, and about the clear and strong position of the Church, expressed in many documents, that the right to life is our first right and the foundation and condition for all the others."

Fr. Pavone went on:

"I was asked by many alarmed and confused people these past few days about the reported comments of the Pope that the Church should not be "obsessed" with this issue, and that there should be "balance" and "context.

Is the pope saying we should talk less about abortion? Is he saying that the emphasis the Church has placed on this issue has been a mistaken emphasis?"

Amazingly, Fr. Pavone continued:

"When I first received these inquiries via emails and text messages, I was actually in the presence of Pope Francis, in the dining room of his residence.

So the news came to me with more than a little irony, and I immediately began to tell worried pro-life warriors that they had no reason to think that the Pope no longer wanted the Church to focus on abortion.

Pope Francis preaches on pro-life in a very integral way. He gives strong and clear messages that derive from the very substance of the Faith and a very broad vision of the demands that Faith places upon us. The conclusions and applications for the pro-life movement are undeniable, even if he does not use the specific words “pro-life movement” and “unborn.”

You can read the full letter from Fr. Pavone here where he expands on his comments.

But to finish I quote perhaps the key paragraph in Fr. Pavone's letter stating that the Holy Father's "approach radically strengthens the Church's opposition to abortion, because the Pope is saying not simply that it breaks the Fifth Commandment ("You shall not kill"), but that more fundamentally it breaks the First Commandment ("You shall not have other gods besides me") and that to disrespect life is to abandon God himself."

That is actually the direction that many in the pro-life and pro-family movements have been going for years, but something really got lost in the translation, so to speak, over this Jesuit magazine interview.

So, that is the latest that I am aware of. There will certainly be much more written and said about this issue in the days and weeks to come and hopefully there will be much more clarification for the world's media and the dissenting Catholics who have also been exploiting the Pope's off-the-cuff interviews with glee.

It will be extremely difficult to undo all the negatives that have been written, but given the massive popularity of this charismatic Pope, we might actually end up better off in the near future in this great battle of life vs Death, once all is said and done.

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Mugging by Catholic bloggers

Steve Jalsevac
Steve Jalsevac

Now and then various Church officials complain about deeply uncharitable and harmful discussions on some Catholic blogs. Facebook, blogs, Twitter and even email can each far too easily allow angry thoughts that cross people’s minds to be published for all the world to see without the sober second thought that would naturally accompany face-to-face or spoken communication.

There was a recent attack against LifeSiteNews from a very well known Catholic writer and another such writer and her husband. Using these means of unfiltered near-instant communications, they poured calumny and invective on LifeSiteNews and our talented and committed staff.

Critics who obviously know very little about us, how we function, and our editorial decision-making penned very harsh judgments about our motives and other aspects of our work.

Here are just a few samples of what was what posted on the Facebook pages of various well-known and prolific Catholic writers:

  • “Two sentences that make me turn on my bullshit detector: ones that start, ‘Guess what Pope Francis just did?’ and ones that start, ‘According to LifeSiteNews . . . ‘”
  • “lying assholes who attack the Church”
  • “lazy, biased, and stupid reporting”
  • “no respect for LSN as a whole”
  • “an organization with a bad reputation”
  • “no news sense and no conscience”
  • hang your “head in shame for attempting to bring division in the Church through inaccurate and dishonest reporting”
  • “anti-Catholic bias”
  • “They have a distorted view of reality, and no conscience when it comes to reporting lies in order to advance the agenda.”
  • “sleazier than the National Enquirer”
  • “They don't actually do any reporting. They rewrite a lot of other people's reporting without checking facts or giving attribution.”
  • “The narcissism and pride is epic.”

Criticism naturally comes with the territory of journalism and should always be expected. However, when this kind of crude assault is hurled so recklessly from fellow Catholics or other Christians, it does leave us unsettled. Moreover, when such vile language and character assassination comes from Catholics who are published at influential Catholic publications, it is also a concern for the writers’ own Catholic reputation and that of their employers.

LifeSiteNews does not claim to be a Catholic organization. We have many good and faithful Catholics on staff, but we do not claim to be a Catholic organization and our reporting is intended for people of all faiths and even no faith. 

Nothing written by LifeSiteNews ever remotely approaches the level of calumny in the condemnations and criticisms seen in the Facebook posts mentioned. We explicitly forbid our writers from making such comments and are constantly removing similar comments from readers commenting under our reports. That is not free speech. We consider it to be an abuse of freedom. We also have a policy of never responding in kind to such comments.

However, a natural response is: “Where is the Christianity in any of these comments?” It boggles the mind that anyone would publicly exhibit such a total lack of charity for all the world to see and think that they are thus exhibiting love of God or properly defending the Church or Pope Francis.

We often encourage our readers to be very respectful in any communications they make in response to our reports. We recognize that condemnatory, hostile, and disrespectful communications will always cause harm and hardly ever help advance the cause of life and family.

Why the scandal of such ad-hominem attacks are permitted by well-known Catholic websites is a puzzle. LifeSiteNews is only one of many victims who have been targeted and at times harmed by these all-too-frequent, very uncharitable, and careless blog postings over the years. 

Productive dialogue is impossible without mutual respect. Still, we never close the door to future communications if circumstances change. Many of us on the LifeSiteNews team have gone through major life conversions, so we understand the importance of forgiveness and charity.

One of our team did attempt to reach out and dialogue. Unfortunately, all attempts to respond to the criticism charitably, humbly, and privately, resulted in further, public attacks against the professionalism and integrity of LifeSiteNews, and on the personal character of LifeSiteNews personnel.

At LifeSiteNews we welcome feedback and reasoned, respectful criticism. When readers feel we are not doing the job, or are not doing it well, we take it seriously. We try to respond with charity, humility, and clarity.

The feedback we’ve received over the years has varied wildly from being told we are “doing the work of Satan” to the more usual one that we are doing God’s work. We‘ve been told more times than we can count, in emails and personal encounters with readers, that our reports are among the most reliable, trustworthy, and professionally written on the Internet on the issues that we cover. That is truly our aim. We pray and work every day to arrive at that lofty goal. And with your support, your prayers, and your constructive advice, I’m sure we can maintain our current high level of reporting while always striving to improve it even more.

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Thank Canada's Archbishop Richard Smith; watch excellent EWTN coverage of Ottawa march Sat.

Steve Jalsevac
Steve Jalsevac

Edmonton Archbishop Richard Smith’s strong, blunt criticism of Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau’s outrageous announcement that pro-life candidates will no longer be permitted to run for the Liberal Party is a welcome change from the usual silence of Canada’s bishops on almost all such developments.

I really hope many pro-life Canadians thank Archbishop Smith for speaking out and encourage him to continue to publicly hold Canadian Catholic politicians accountable for their anti-life and anti-family pronouncements, votes and other actions.

Here is the archbishop’s contact information:

Most Rev. Richard SMITH
Archbishop of Edmonton
8421-101 Avenue

Edmonton (AB) T6A 0L1

Tel: (780) 469-1010
Fax: (780) 465-3003
Web Site
Message entry page

And PLEASE, don’t criticize him for not doing all that you think that he should have said and done about Trudeau. This was a positive step. Congratulations, gratitude and encouragement is what you should convey.

Hopefully, more bishops will start to publicly hold to account Canada’s Catholic politicians who have very badly betrayed the people of Canada by leading, as have Justin and many other Canadian Catholic politicians, the advancement of the culture of death in Canada. It has been a sordid, terrible record so far, probably worse than in any other nation in the world.

The archbishop proclaimed that Justin’s announcement of his pathetic policy just before the Marches for Life to be "slap" in the face for all those who would be participating in the various marches across Canada. How true that is and I hope Canadians do not conveniently forget this travesty when the next federal election finally comes around.

Voters have a strong tendency to forget these things, much to the benefit of the worst politicians. Hopefully, there will be more strong statements from Canadian bishops around election time in order to refresh memories.

By the way, the EWTN coverage of the National March for Life in Ottawa was really outstanding this year. If you missed it, I strongly recommend that you tune into the replay tomorrow (Saturday) from 1 to 5:30 p.m.

I wasn’t able to make it to the March this year, having just come back from 10 days in Rome and now preparing for Washington next week, but I did catch some of the EWTN coverage and was thoroughly impressed.  If you can’t get EWTN on your cable network I believe the program can still be viewed via the EWTN website. 

Give it a go.  It is a wonderful way to experience the march and a lot of the interviews were great. LifeSiteNews team members John-Henry Westen and John Jalsevac were among those interviewed.

And I must also mention that Sun News gave the Ottawa March for Life excellent, fair coverage. See a list of their video reports here.

Unfortunately, there was one begrudging report in the National Post, "Activists entrench on abortion", by what appeared to be a feminist writer, Meghan Hurley, consistently refering to "anti-abortionists", that had a pro-abortion edge to it. There was also a the predicatable accompanying photo of just a small portion of the massive crowd with emphasis on a large cross in the middle.

The article and the text under the photo presented the ridiculously far too low estimated number of persons present as only 6,000 to 8,000 persons. I don't understand why the Post would allow such obvious inaccuracy and poor reporting to be published as a supposed professional news report on the march.

To anyone who was there, the report really undermined the credibility of the Post. Any reasonably seasoned reporter who was at the event would have easily seen that the number was likely far closer to the march organizers' offical count of 23,000. the RCMP count has always been way off the mark as well and it has always been noticed that both the RCMP and Ottawa police are not not remotely enthused about having to cover the march every year. The pathetic police response to the Femen protesters this year really gave evidence to their atttitude towards the pro-life event - no matter how many Members of Parliament, Senators and Catholic bishops and cardinals are present.  

However, we do have to give the Post credit for publishing a lot of excellent commentaries on the Justin Trudeau statement that no pro-life candidates would be allowed to run for the Liberal Party while he is the leader.

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Legatus Summit blew us away

Steve Jalsevac
Steve Jalsevac
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John-Henry Westen, Jon Fidero and I just came back from attending the annual Legatus Summit in Orlando, Florida that took place this past Thursday to Saturday. It was an astonishing event, in that every speaker was rock solid and of the highest quality from the pro-life and pro-family perspective.

For those of us from LifeSiteNews and many others who heard John Smeaton's talk titled, "Bishops are the first ones called to be untiring preachers of the Gospel of Life", his was the highlight of the conference. Smeaton's current-state-of-the-world speech was high calibre, very well prepared and revealed his thorough knowledge of developments in England, Ireland and much of the world that in the end give cause for alarm, but also for hope. I overheard a few Legatus members state that they were shaken by what Smeaton revealed.

Smeaton's presentation was about far more than just the subject of denying communion to pro-abortion politicians. It is a 13-page masterpiece overview of a world in major crisis regarding the value of human life and what must be done about this crisis. I have personally known this incredible man for several years and can vouch for his competence and the truth of all that he said in his talk.

Smeaton's talk is MUST READING for all good people in order to understand just where we are at at this alarming time in history. He was notably passionate while giving his erudite presentation because he knew he had to be. He knows what is at stake now regardless of the contradictory claims by some that abortion will soon be ended.

This particular audience was one that might be able to do something about the reality of the looming monsters that we are about to face unless strong actions are quickly taken, especially by the leadership of the Catholic Church. There is no way to overemphasize or exaggerate the gravity of the situation. PLEASE read Smeaton's full talk that is linked to at the bottom of the article and then pass it around far and wide. Thank Legatus for allowing John Smeaton this special opportunity to present his prophetic message for the world at such an opportune gathering.

But back to the rest of the conference. The many members of this Catholic Christian business leaders’ organization, founded by Domino's Pizza billionaire Tom Monaghan, that we met during our stay blew us away. It is rare to attend such an event where most people really get it about the culture war that has been raging in the world. We also found everyone we met to be especially warm and gracious personalities and very open to engage in conversation about the difficult subjects that LifeSiteNews covers, no doubt largely because of their personal commitment to live their Catholic faith in all that they do.

Legatus members want to learn more and do whatever they can to help evangelize the world with Christian principles and the saving truths of the Christian faith. We saw that this personally means a lot to these high level business CEOs and their families. We found them to have much higher principles than we normally associate with persons in top business leadership positions.

After having now attended our second Legatus Summit as exhibitors and sponsors, I would strongly recommend membership in Legatus to any Catholic business leader who meets its membership qualifications. Husbands AND wives are strongly encouraged to attend together to emphasize the importance of the married couple and their family as the foundation of society. Legatus is clearly not a typical men-only business organization.

The personal growth experiences and exceptional fellowship opportunities that it offers can only enrich the lives of its members and their families.  Legatus also provides a real benefit to the rest of us who are not business leaders in that these specially gifted men and women are being guided by their Legatus formation to take on larger roles than many of us are capable of to make this a better world. There was a lot of stress on the essential role of the laity, partnering with their bishops, in the evangelizing mission of the Church.

Hats off to Tom Monaghan and his team of leaders and also to the membership of Legatus for incorporating into their business life a high calling to life, family and faith, without which they realize all their other successes would be seriously lacking full satisfaction and meaning. Legatus helps them to open and keep their eyes on God’s rewarding expectations of them. That is a win-win for everyone.

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