Jeanne Smits, Paris correspondent

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UPDATED: 1.4 million French march against gay ‘marriage’;police tear gas crowd, children

Jeanne Smits, Paris correspondent
By Jeanne Smits
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LifeSiteNews reporter Jeanne Smits directly witnessed the events that took place during this extraodinary event. She confirms the enormous numbers claimed by organizers and reports on many aspects either ignored or distorted by French and other media. This LifeSiteNews exclusive reports on what really happened during the demonstrations, including the totally uncalled for police tear gassing of some of her peaceful and prayerful friends and relatives.

Analysis

March 25, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) - According to organizers, nearly one and a half million people joined the third demonstration in five months against the legalization of same-sex “marriage” by the French government in Paris, on Sunday.

Meanwhile, large numbers of demonstrators who were unable to join the main venue – which had filled up by 3 p.m. – or who headed straight to the largest and most prestigious Parisian thoroughfare, the Champs-Elysées, were sprayed with tear-gas and beaten as they neared the presidential palace. Victims included children as young as 6 years old, elderly gentlemen, women of all ages, middle-aged priests and monks, and even a baby aged 10 months.

One boy, aged 14, named Lancelot, needed respiratory assistance for half an hour; another youth, Léonard, 17, was gassed and subsequently seized by riot police who threw him down the stairs at the entrance of a nearby subway station. Christine Boutin, leader of the mainstream Parti chrétien démocrate (Christian democratic Party), was also among the victims: she passed out after having been sprayed with tear-gas and lay unconscious on the street for several minutes.

Videos also show a woman demonstrator who was apparently deliberately knocked over by a police van being attended to by volunteer first-aid workers of the Order of Malta. Another young man, Tristan, told LifeSiteNews.com that he was gassed with a group of friends after sitting down in the street at the request of the armed forces.

The French media played down the police violence: all major radio, tv and other news sources spoke of “attacks” by violent young demonstrators against the police and armed forces, while the minister of the Interior, Manuel Valls, publicly congratulated law enforcement officers for their “professionalism and cool-headedness.” However, dozens of videos posted on the Internet as well as eye-witness reports received from personal acquaintances of this author certify the opposite: unarmed and pacific, the overwhelming majority of the demonstrators assaulted by the armed forces did no more than vociferate their disapproval of the draft law, if that: most of them were laughing and singing as they strolled down the “most beautiful avenue in the world” – as the French believe – and were suddenly attacked by the riot police.

Contrary to recent public demonstrations involving youths from the suburbs, no damage was caused and the young people and families involved were unarmed. No stones or Molotov cocktails were thrown, and there were virtually no attacks against the police who on several occasions let people through to the Champs-Elysées without offering much resistance.

Why did all these thousands of people – up to 40,000, according to the numbers quoted by the organizers of the “Manif pour tous’” (“Demonstration for all”) – decide to defy police orders not to march on the Champs-Elysées as had originally been planned? The ban had been made official for five days and had been confirmed by an emergency ruling on Wednesday afternoon. Hoqwcwe, the definitive itinerary and access points to the demonstration were only published by the “Manif pour tous” on the weekend. Frigide Barjot, the demonstration’s figurehead had previously announced that even if access to the Champs-Elysées were to be forbidden the March would go there all the same and plant tents to occupy the thoroughfare until some assurance would be given that the draft law would not be voted and enforced. She later backed down from this statement.

The symbolism of the Champs-Elysées is very important to the French. Military parades are held there on the 14th of July; it is where the Liberation parade took place on August 26th, 1944; soccer fans rallied there in their hundreds of thousands when France won the World Cup in 1998 and compact crowds gather every 31st December to see in the New Year. Political rallies were also held there, notably when hundreds of thousands of French demonstrated their support to general De Gaulle in the wake of the May-68 revolution.

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Even if the anti-gay “marriage” mobilization has been uniformly peaceful since the demonstrations began on November 17th, the powers that be are getting noticeably nervous about public opposition and the Champs-Elysées are way too close to the presidential palace (called the Elysée) for comfort. François Hollande, increasingly unpopular because of his handling of the economic crisis – latest opinion polls give him a meager 36% of popular approval – can certainly do without a major public hostile manifestation. Especially when his socialist predecessor François Mitterrand is known to have remarked, back in 1984: “When over one million people take to the streets, the government totters on its base.”

This may be the reason for police counts of demonstrators on Sunday afternoon. A few days ahead of the March, the Parisian police announced they were expecting some “100,000” participants, although the number of special trains and buses coming in from the French provinces was larger than two months ago. On January 13th the police had officially announced 340,000 participants as opposed to the million plus counted by the “Manif pour tous”.

This time round it had to be less. Official sources stopped their count at 300,000. They did so despite the fact that it had been given out beforehand that if the wide avenue behind the Arc de Triomphe where the demonstration was parked for five hours filled up – it can contain 1.2 million people – an additional avenue would be opened to accommodate the demonstrations. This took place at 3 p.m. An additional avenue was opened soon after, but despite this the crowds were so compact that many people literally spilled out onto the “place de l’Etoile” which separates the Champs from the Avenue de la Grande-Armée where the giant podium of the March was raised. This author witnessed part of the demonstration head-on from the balcony of a 6th floor apartment and can testify to the fact that the closely-knit, static crowd reached all the way to the end of the avenues between the Arc de Triomphe and the river Seine: some 6 kilometers.

This makes the “Manif pour tous” one of the most important demonstrations by far in the last thirty years. And it took many by surprise: most forecasters were expecting a lower turnout than two months ago, given the cost and bother of coming to Paris from the far away provinces, the more so because many large families came complete with all their children. Added to this is the fact that the demonstration is not claiming rights, benefits or public money. The French are voicing their opposition to same-sex “marriage” and “procreative rights” for homosexual couples as a matter of principle, in order to defend the community as a whole, the rights of children and the future of society itself.

These points were made by the many orators on the podium. Frigide Barjot has taken pains to keep politics and religion out of the “Manif pour tous”. However a number of representatives of the UMP, ex-president Sarkozy’s party, were allowed to speak. They are mostly in favor of legal civil unions as an alternative to same-sex “marriage” and over the years their party has promoted homosexual rights and criminalization of “homophobic hate-speech”. Left-wing politicians opposing gay “marriage” were also welcome, including a Trotskyite activist. Robert Lopez, the American professor who has publicly told of the problems he experienced as the child of a lesbian mother, told his story to enthusiastic applause. Gay men opposing same-sex “marriage” are among the organizers of the event. Adopted children witnessed to the importance of having a father and a mother to raise them, while adoptive parents told the crowd of the difficulties couples will experience when foreign countries refuse to let children in need of parents to travel to France if homosexuals are allowed to adopt here.

Jewish and protestant representatives were allowed to speak, as was a member of the Muslim brotherhood.

No Catholic bishop was invited to speak even though the vast majority of participants identify with Catholicism, sociologically at least, and it is an open secret that Sunday’s turnout was largely due to the Catholic hierarchy’s support.

Meanwhile, language that opponents to gay “marriage” and civil recognition of homosexual couples are finding increasingly difficult to stomach – calls from Frigide Barjot to applaud “the homosexuals” met with polite indifference – a certain ambiguity as regards the objectives of the march, and the sentiment that the advantage of previous demonstrations has not been pressed, all contributed to the nervousness of the crowds. Slogans like “Hollande resign” spontaneously arose while the organizers are still asking “Monsieur le Président” for a “dialogue” or a “referendum” about the draft law. Frigide Barjot’s main request was to obtain an interview with François Hollande today.

She also called the victims of Sunday’s police brutality “rioters” and “extremists,” implicitly justifying the use of teargas and violence against the crowds.

A spokesman for the government indicated early on Monday morning that the draft law will move ahead as planned. After a first reading at the National Assembly, it is scheduled to be discussed by the Senate in the beginning of April; second readings are expected and will take place if the Senate does not vote the text in identical terms.

Meanwhile, the socialist government is preparing other attacks on the family and the right to life. Embryo research is about to be voted into law: a whirlwind debate is expected at the National Assembly on Thursday. Child benefits are set to be cut for higher-income families. And as of Easter Sunday, abortion and contraception for under-age girls will be entirely funded by public money, making them 100% free.

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Wendy Davis facing trouble in Democratic stronghold over radical abortion stance

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By Dustin Siggins

State Senator Wendy Davis' outspoken support for late-term abortion made her a national figure, but it may have so turned off Hispanic voters that it could cost her, and her party, the votes of a Democratic-stronghold.

According to The Texas Tribune, Davis has a tremendous advantage in the Rio Grande Valley, a strongly Hispanic part of the state. Hidalgo County has not elected a Republican to a countywide post in "the modern era," the paper noted.

But her Republican challenger, Attorney General Greg Abbott, is looking to change that, targeting the area and the Hispanic vote with a new ad campaign.

According to U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-TX, pro-life Democrats will find it more difficult to vote for Davis because of her abortion position. And the region, which is very Catholic, tends to send pro-life Democrats to the polls.

Even as Davis faces risks among Hispanic Catholics, Abbott is making a major push to the minority population, which is expected to become a plurality of the state's population by 2020. Abbott has launched ads in Spanish, and spoken about how his wife will be the first Hispanic First Lady of Texas. He has also brought volunteers in for a ground campaign in the Rio Grande Valley, reminiscent of the 1998 George W. Bush gubernatorial campaign.

Bush was considered a popular Republican among Hispanics, winning 44 percent of the Hispanic vote in his 2004 president re-election campaign. While Abbott has a 12 to 13-point advantage in many polls over Davis, and an enormous financial advantage, his efforts are seen as looking to the GOP's future in Texas.

Davis, meanwhile, has struggled with all voting blocs. She is losing to opponent Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott by 12 to 13 points -- including women, according to an April 2014 poll. Democrats have largely written off the race, especially with control of the U.S. Senate taking up enormous media and financial resources.

Since her filibuster, Davis has attempted to walk a tightrope on her abortion position in order to win more moderate voters. She has called herself "pro-life" because of her support for certain education policies, and indicated that she supports limitations on abortions done after the first trimester. However, she has also recently published a book describing how she aborted a child in 1997 to prevent the child from "suffering."

That claim has drawn enormous media coverage for Davis, who was in New York for a book signing, was on the Rachel Maddow show, and generally had her abortion claims widely covered in innumerable national media outlets.

The book has also brought new life to abortion's importance in the gubernatorial race. In the Davis-Abbott debate last week, the first between the candidates, Davis indicated she supported no restrictions on abortion. She was asked "What do you see as fair regulations on abortion?"
Davis responded that she has "always believed that women should be able to make this most personal and difficult of decisions themselves, guided by their faith and their family and with their doctor."
"I stood on the Senate floor for 13 hours to ensure that this most private of decisions could be made by women," Davis said, before attacking Abbott for, among other things, allegedly opposing abortion in cases of "brutal rape" and incest.

At no point did Davis indicate support for any "regulations on abortion."

In his response, Abbott said that he is "pro-life" and Catholic. He said that "all life is sacred," and said that "Texas is ensuring that we protect more life and do a better job of protecting the health care of women by providing that women still have five months to make a very difficult decision, but after that time the state has an interest in protecting innocent life."

When asked by Houston-area TV station KHOU whether he would sign a bill that would ban abortions for reasons of rape and incest, however, Abbott did not answer the question. Instead, he described his support for the lives of the unborn and women, and his support for HB2.

HB2 is the legislation that Davis filibustered last year.

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Abbott faces his own difficulties -- he favors border enforcement and has made comments about corruption in the Rio Grande Valley. University of Texas-Pan American political scientist Jerry Polinard told the Tribune that he expects Davis to pull at least 55 percent of Democratic voters in Hidalgo, Texas – simply because "this is the bluest part of a red state." 

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Paul Huff, 66, and Tom Wojtowick, 73, were “married” in Seattle in May 2013. Wojtowick was an organist at the parish, while Paul sang in the choir. Video screenshot
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Bishop stands by priest who removed ‘married’ homosexual couple from parish ministry

Lisa Bourne
By Lisa Bourne
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'This is not animus against someone who happens to be a homosexual; this issue is the same-sex marriage,' said Bishop Warfel.

A Montana bishop is standing by one of his priests after the priest told a homosexual couple in his parish that they cannot receive Communion or participate in Church ministry due to the fact that they have contracted a civil “marriage.”

Paul Huff, 66, and Tom Wojtowick, 73, have reportedly been together for more than 30 years and were “married” in Seattle in May 2013, according to the Associated Press.

The men told the local ABC-FOX affiliate that Father Samuel Spiering approached them shortly after beginning his assignment as administrator of St. Leo the Great and asked if the rumor he’d heard of them being “married” was true. When they affirmed it was, he asked if he could meet with them the following day.

Father Spiering informed them the next day that they have broken Cannon Law, and that they would not be able to receive communion or continue in ministry.

Canon 915 holds that those persevering in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to Holy Communion.

Both men sang in the choir and Wojtowick was an organist.

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The men agreed to write a restoration statement that, in part, would uphold the concept of marriage being between a man and a woman, during an August 25 conference call with Father Spiering, Bishop Warfel and other diocesan officials. They said they did not intend to challenge the Church’s concept of marriage with their union, rather they just wanted civil protection.

However, the statement also included a timeline for the two men to cease living together and divorce, which they would not agree to.

In an interview with the Billings Gazette last week Bishop Warfel said he knows Wojtowick and Huff “to be good people.”

“This is not animus against someone who happens to be a homosexual; this issue is the same-sex marriage,” Bishop Warfel said. “A lot of people put those two together, and obviously there’s a connection, but it’s not the same thing.”

After meeting with parishioners on Sunday, the bishop said that he would like to “effect healing” at the parish, but pointed out that he also has to uphold Catholic teaching.

The bishop also confirmed for ABC-FOX-Montana on Saturday that Huff and Wojtowick could not receive Communion.

While Bishop Warfel acknowledged growing support for homosexual “marriage” when speaking with the Billings Gazette, he said the fact remains that it stands in conflict with Catholic teachings.

“As a Catholic bishop I have a responsibility to uphold our teaching of marriage between one man and one woman,” said Bishop Warfel. “And I think there’s very solid scriptural teaching on it and our sacred tradition is very strong on it.”

Those teachings leave him little choice, he continued.

“Either I uphold what Catholic teachings are or, by ignoring it or permitting it, I’m saying I disagree with what I’m ordained to uphold,” the bishop said.

“Everyone is welcome to the journey of conversion,” said Bishop Warfel. “But there are certain convictions, beliefs or behaviors that are in direct contradiction to what we believe and teach, and this would be one of them.”

Father Spiering has declined to speak publicly and there has not been an official diocesan statement on the issue since the meeting at the parish on Saturday.
 

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New archbishops in Chicago and Madrid: Ratzingerians out, ‘inclusiveness’ in

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By Hilary White
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Chicago's Archbishop-elect, Blase Cupich

Pope Francis announced Saturday that he is appointing as archbishop of Chicago a prelate best known in pro-life circles as the man who ordered his priests in 2011 not to participate in local 40 Days for Life prayer vigils. The media and Church watchers describe him as “progressive,” “inclusive,” and “left-of-center.”

The appointment of Bishop Blase Cupich, current head of the Spokane diocese in Washington, to America’s third most prominent see – an appointment which Vatican watchers predicted would signal the pope’s priorities for the direction of the U.S. Church – has been widely praised by liberal Catholics and opponents of Church teaching but met with concern by many Catholic activists.

The archbishop-elect gave a sense of his approach to the U.S. “culture war” in an interview Sunday with Chicago’s CBS affiliate, in which he suggested he would be open to giving Communion to pro-abortion Catholic politicians and a person wearing a button in favour of same-sex “marriage.”

“As long as they’re in church, are willing to hear the word of God, be open to Christ’s call of conversion for each one of us, then I think that that’s sufficient for me,” he said. “We cannot politicize the Communion rail and I just don’t think that that works in the long run.”

Cupich will replace the ailing Cardinal Francis George, known in the US as a “Ratzingerian” for his strong defense of Catholic orthodoxy, particularly on issues of sexual morality, but who is suffering from cancer and is overdue for retirement at age 77. The archbishop of Chicago is also normally granted the “red hat” and made a cardinal, which would make Cupich eligible to vote in upcoming papal conclaves. Cupich is scheduled to be installed in Chicago November 18.

The Chicago appointment mirrors that of another outside the US in recent weeks. Rome announced August 28 that Carlos Osoro Sierra, 69, will be installed as the new archbishop of Madrid, Spain’s capital city and largest archdiocese. But the story in Madrid has less to do with the new appointee and more to do with the would-be appointee who was demoted.

Until just before the appointment, most Vatican watchers expected the prominent post to be given to 68-year-old Vatican Cardinal Antonio Cañizares Llovera, dubbed the “little Ratzinger” for his orthodoxy in line with Pope Benedict XVI.  When LifeSiteNews interviewed Cardinal Cañizares in 2009 at the time of his appointment as prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments, he noted that denying communion to pro-abortion politicians was a charitable act.

Leaving his Vatican post, he was considered a natural for the Madrid spot. But instead it went to the archbishop of Valencia, and Cañizares is to fill that vacancy instead.

The former archbishop of Valencia is known for his strong “liberal” leanings and he will be replacing Cardinal Antonio Maria Rouco Varela, 78, who, like Cañizares, is also known for following the lead of the retired Pope Benedict XVI.

El Pais wrote of the new appointee that Catholics of the Madrid archdiocese, accustomed to the “hieratic” Varela, will be seeing “an entirely different model.”

“Shortly after the announcement of his appointment, the most repeated words to define his figure were ‘dialogue’ and ‘moderation.’”

“During the 12 years he has been the head of the Catholic Church [in Madrid], Rouco Varela has too often mixed faith and politics, with an overdose of intransigence. Defending the (exclusively traditional) family and attacking laws that recognize the right of women to abortion are the main workhorses.”

Catholic News Agency’s Vatican-watcher, Andrea Gagliarducci, wrote that the appointment marks a “new course for Spain’s bishops.” He is described in the Spanish press as “affable,” “friendly,” and “extremely gregarious.” 

As for Cupich, David Gibson of Religion News Service described him as “a prelate closely identified with the Catholic Church’s progressive wing.”

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Vatican watcher Rocco Palmo, author of the “Whispers in the Loggia” blog, wrote that the appointment is “the most shocking major move the American hierarchy has seen in the last decade and a half.” Another Vatican veteran, John Allen Jr., wrote for the US Catholic online magazine Crux that Cupich so closely mirrors Pope Francis’ theology and style that he could be called the “American Pope Francis in Chicago.”

On his blog, Bishop Robert Lynch of St. Petersburg, Florida, known for his icy relations with the pro-life movement, shared his excitement over the “new breeze” brought by Cupich’s appointment. The bishop noted that Cupich “admires deeply the ecclesiology and vision” of leftist prelates such as former San Francisco Archbishop John Quinn and former Galveston-Houston Archbishop Joseph Fiorenza.

The news of Cupich’s appointment was met with praise in the mainstream press. According to The New York Times Francis has “set the tone” for US appointments by “replacing a combative conservative with a prelate whose pastoral approach to upholding church doctrine is more in keeping with the pope’s inclusive tone.”

It has also been praised by dissident Catholic groups such as the homosexual activist group New Ways Ministries. Last year, the group issued a roundup of evaluations of the various leading members of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops who were set to elect a new president. New Ways praised Cupich for his intervention in the 2012 debate leading up to a referendum on “gay marriage” in Washington State. Cupich’s only intervention was a pastoral letter in which he asked voters to uphold traditional marriage, but also called for a “more civil and honest conversation about Catholic positions on equality.”

“I also want to be very clear that in stating our position, the Catholic Church has no tolerance for the misuse of this moment to incite hostility toward homosexual persons or promote an agenda that is hateful and disrespectful of their human dignity,” Cupich wrote.

Cupich stood out from his fellow US bishops in his response to the abortion-funding Obamacare. Though he joined his other bishops in condemning the Obama administration’s mandate that Catholic employers cover abortifacients and contraceptives, he encouraged Catholic Charities in his diocese to act as an Obamacare navigator and help people sign up for coverage that could fund the destruction of unborn life.

He also condemned the line of other US bishops when they threatened to shut down Catholic social services. “These kind of scare tactics and worse-case scenario predictions are uncalled for,” Cupich wrote in a letter to diocesan employees. “I am confident we can find a way to move forward.”

Today the anti-Catholic organization Call to Action issued a press release saying they are “relieved” at the appointment. “At a time when numerous U.S. Bishops are choosing to fight ideological battles, Pope Francis’ selection of Cupich demonstrates a desire for a humbler, more pastoral church.”  

Call to Action, like New Ways Ministries, works to overturn Catholic doctrine, particularly on sexual matters, from within the Church, and has received the censure of the US bishops for their activities. They wrote, “The choice of Cupich shows promise for a church which can be closer to the people. Catholics in Chicago and beyond yearn for a faith rooted in the Gospel call of love and justice over rigid orthodoxy.”

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