Fr. Peter West

A Benedictine response to the Culture of Death

Fr. Peter West
By Fr. Peter West
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July 10, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) - On July 11, we celebrate the Memorial of Saint Benedict of Nursia – the founder and patron of Western Monasticism.  St. Benedict (ca. 480 to 547 AD) was born in the small village in the high mountains northeast of Rome. His parents sent him to study in Rome, but he fled the city to live in the remote area of Subiaco because he was disgusted by the decadence of his fellow students. 

Soon after, St. Benedict was discovered by a group of monks who asked him to be their leader. He reluctantly accepted, but his leadership was too rigorous for the lukewarm monks. They even tried to kill him by offering him a pitcher of poisoned wine; but as the story goes, when he prayed over it, the pitcher miraculously shattered in his hands. St. Benedict left the “unruly” monks and went on to establish twelve other monasteries in the area before moving to Monte Cassino on a hilltop between Rome and Naples in 529 A.D.  There he destroyed a pagan temple dedicated to Apollo and built the monastery where he wrote his Rule and lived until his death. The Rule of St. Benedict is still used in many monasteries and convents today.

Pope Gregory the Great in his Dialogues presented St. Benedict as a “luminous star” who led humanity out of the “black night of history.”  St. Benedict lived in a time when the Roman Empire had collapsed.  Civilization was in ruins. It is said that the Benedictine monks brought civilization to Europe through “the cross, the book and the plow.”  Benedictine monks built monasteries where learning and ancient manuscripts were preserved for the ages. What we think of as the Christian culture of Europe is very much indebted to these monks whose monasteries were centers of piety and learning in medieval times.

In our times we might be able to identify with a civilization in ruins, or at least a civilization that appears to be hurtling toward ruin. Many, including and perhaps especially such Catholics as Melinda Gates, have abandoned the Christian faith and culture that St. Benedict was so essential to spreading, and human life is under attack in unprecedented ways. In these times, we need to call on St. Benedict’s intercession and ask for his intercession to point us out of the darkness of the culture of death and help us reform society.

Pope John Paul II said that St. Benedict’s vision for the reform of society included three main ideas: the value of the individual, as a person; the dignity of work, understood as service of God and brothers; and the necessity of contemplation, that is of prayer: having understood that God is the Absolute, and we live in the Absolute, the soul of everything must be prayer: “Ut in omnibus glorificetur Deus.” [That in all things God may be glorified.] 

The challenges are great. Europe is dying in large part because it has abandoned the Christian culture on which it was founded and has embraced a neo-pagan ideology.  Fewer and fewer Europeans are having children. Even worse, Europeans are trying to spread their anti-natalist ideology around the world. 

Case in point: a summit will be held in London today sponsored by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, who are announcing a massive project to spread contraception in the developing world.  It is clear that while Melinda Gates has called her campaign “No Controversy,” many other countries, especially Catholic and Islamic countries, think her campaign is very controversial. 

Many Muslims, like many Christians in the developing world, justly see population control as a new form of imperialism. Indeed, early in the population control movement, before the destructive ideology was wrapped in the language of “reproductive health” and “sustainability,” population control advocates were much more open about their aims. In 1929, British atheist philosopher Bertrand Russell wrote in his book Marriage and Morals: “It cannot be expected that the most powerful military nations will sit still while other nations reverse the balance of power by the mere process of breeding.”

There are too many examples of such blatant eugenic imperialism to list here, although now the same practice is ironically cloaked in the more deceptive language of “justice” and “women’s health.”

In the face of such challenges, we need to embrace the Benedictine motto Ora et Labora [Pray and Work] as we seek to restore that a Christian civilization of life and love.

St. Benedict wrote in his Rule “Whenever you begin any good work you should first of all make a most pressing appeal to bring it to perfection.”  He said that nothing should be preferred to Opus Dei [The Work of God], which is what he called the Liturgy of the Hours or the Divine Office. 
Both prayer and work are essential in rebuilding Christian culture and overcoming the culture of death. 

The Founder of Human Life International was Father Paul Marx, O.S.B. – a Benedictine monk who also was called to evangelize. As both a scientist and a man of faith he pointed out, even at a time when many clergy were in open rebellion against Humanae Vitae, that a contraceptive mentality inevitably leads to abortion and other assaults on life.

Fr. Marx in his 1993 book The Warehouse Priest laid out the case for supporting the Holy Father’s prophetic encyclical, saying that the Church must:

consistently proclaim that abortion is the fruit of contraception, that foresight contraception often leads to hindsight abortion, and that massive contraception has caused increasing abortion worldwide. Having visited and studied eighty-five countries, I challenge any bishop, priest, professor, or scientist to show me the contrary. Abortion is the end point of the abuse of sex, which begins with the unleashing of the sexual urge by contraception. (Page 262)

In 2004, Father Marx said that euthanasia is now following abortion just as surely as the latter followed contraception: “If you can be killed before birth, why not after?”  Noting that pro-lifers have been dismissed as foolish for making those claims, he continued: “It becomes more evident every day that you’re right… Europe is dying out. The United States is growing only because of immigration.”

Ora et Labora. We have to continue to pray as if everything depended on God and work as if everything depended on us. Melinda Gates’ new eugenics campaign is a challenge to all of us, we must spend time in prayer and allow Him to form our hearts and minds, so that we may think and respond in accordance with His will.

St. Benedict, pray for the conversion of those who have rejected their faith and are working to promote a culture of death.  You destroyed the Temple of Apollo and built the magnificent monastery of Monte Cassino. Help us to follow your example of work and prayer. Pray that the defenders of life and family will be successful in our mission to defeat the culture of death and build a culture of life!

Father Peter West is vice president for missions of Human Life International, the world’s largest international pro-life organization.


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UK quietly opens the door to genetic engineering, ‘3-parent’ embryos

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By Hilary White

Last month the UK’s Department of Health quietly redefined the term “genetic modification” to open the door to allow certain kinds of modification of human embryos – thus potentially making it the first country in the world to allow genetic engineering.

Scottish journalist Lori Anderson recently raised the alarm over the change in a column in the Scotsman, in which she alleged that the change is designed to “dupe” the British public into accepting “full-scale germline genetic engineering,” using human embryos as test subjects.

Anderson said that in July, the Department of Health “effectively re-wrote the definition of ‘genetic modification’ to specifically exclude the alteration of human mitochondrial genes or any other genetic material that exists outside the chromosomes in the nucleus of the cell.”

“The reason for doing this is that it believes it will be easier to sell such an advancement to the public if it can insist that the end result will not be a ‘GM baby’.”

This change follows a statement from the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), the government body that regulates experimental research on human embryos, approving the procedure to create an embryo from one couple’s gametes but with genetic material added from a third party donor, a procedure called in the press “three-parent embryos”.

Anderson quoted a statement from the Department of Health comparing this procedure to donating blood. The statement read, “There is no universally agreed definition of ‘genetic modification’ in humans – people who have organ transplants, blood donations, or even gene therapy are not generally regarded as being ‘genetically modified’. The Government has decided to adopt a working definition for the purpose of taking forward these regulations.”

This assertion was challenged by one of the UK’s leading fertility researchers, Lord Robert Winston, who told the Independent, “Of course mitochondrial transfer is genetic modification and this modification is handed down the generations. It is totally wrong to compare it with a blood transfusion.”

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The HFEA, which throughout its history has been known as one of the world’s most permissive regulatory bodies, has been working steadily towards allowing genetically modified embryos to be implanted in women undergoing artificial procreation treatments. In a document issued to the government last year, they called the insertion of mitochondrial DNA (mDNA) into embryos “mitochondrial donation” or “mitochondrial replacement”. mDNA is the genetic material found in the cytoplasm outside a cell’s nucleus, problems with which can cause a host of currently incurable genetic illnesses.

In the statement issued in June, the HFEA said the technique of inserting “donated” mDNA into already existing in vitro embryos, “should be considered ‘not unsafe’ for the use on a ‘specific and defined group of patients.’”

“Mitochondria replacement (or mitochondrial donation) describes two medical techniques, currently being worked on by UK researchers, which could allow women to avoid passing on genetically inherited mitochondrial diseases to their children,” the statement said.

The HFEA admitted that the techniques are “at the cutting edge of both science and ethics” and said that the results of a “public consultation” in 2012/13 were being examined by the government, which is considering “draft regulations”.

In June, the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children echoed Lori Anderson’s concern, commenting that the HFEA is attempting to deceive the public. Paul Tully, SPUC’s general secretary, said, “Human gene manipulation is being sold to a gullible public on a promise of reducing suffering, the same old con-trick that the test-tube baby lobby has been using for decades.” 

Any manipulation of human genetics, always breaks “several important moral rules,” entailing the creation of “human guinea-pigs,” Tully said. “Human germ-line manipulation and cloning – changing the genetic inheritance of future generations - goes against internationally-agreed norms for ethical science.”

He quoted Professor Andy Greenfield, the chairman of the scientific review panel that approved the techniques, who said that there is no way of knowing what effect this would have on the children created until it is actually done.

“We have to subject children who have not consented and cannot consent to being test subjects,” Tully said.

Altering the mDNA of an embryo is what cloning scientists refer to as “germline” alteration, meaning that the changes will be carried on through the altered embryo’s own offspring, a longstanding goal of eugenicists.

In their 1999 book, “Human Molecular Genetics” Tom Strachan and Andrew Read warned that the use of mitochondrial alteration of embryos would cross serious ethical boundaries.

Having argued that germline therapy would be “pointless” from a therapeutic standpoint, the authors said, “There are serious concerns, therefore, that a hidden motive for germline gene therapy is to enable research to be done on germline manipulation with the ultimate aim of germline-based genetic enhancement.”

“The latter could result in positive eugenics programs, whereby planned genetic modification of the germline could involve artificial selection for genes that are thought to confer advantageous traits.”


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Cable series portrays nun as back-alley abortionist

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By Ben Johnson
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'To depict a nun who performs an abortion is a new low,' said Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights.

The Cinemax TV series The Knick portrayed a Roman Catholic nun as a back alley abortionist who tells a Catholic woman God will forgive her for going through with the procedure.

In its latest episode, which aired Friday night, the series showed Sister Harriet (an Irish nun played by Cara Seymour) telling a Catholic woman named Nora, “Your husband will know nothing of it. I promise.”

“Will God forgive me?” Nora asked, adding, “I don't want to go to Hell for killing a baby.”

“He knows that you suffered,” the sister replied, before performing the illegal abortion off-screen. “I believe the Lord's compassion will be yours.” 

The period medical drama is set at the Knickerbocker Hospital (“The Knick”) in New York City around the turn of the 20th century, when abortion was against both civil and ecclesiastical law.

“It is no secret that Hollywood is a big pro-abortion town, but to depict a nun who performs an abortion is a new low,” Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, said. “The only saving grace in this episode is the real-life recognition of the woman who is about to have the abortion: she admits that her baby is going to be killed.”

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The series is directed by Steven Soderbergh, known for such films as Erin Brockovich, the Oceans Eleven franchise, and Sex, Lies, and Videotape. More recently he directed The Girlfriend Experience, a film about prostitution starring pornographic actress Sasha Grey.

Critics have hailed his decision to include a black surgeon in circa 1900 America. But after last week's episode, the New York Times stated that The Knick has chosen to “demonstrate concern for other kinds of progress,” citing the depiction of the abortion. 


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Catholic Malta enacts ‘transgender’ employment discrimination law

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By Hilary White

An amendment to Malta’s Employment and Industrial Relations Act means that employment “discrimination” against “transsexuals” is now officially prohibited in the Catholic country. The provision, which was quietly passed in May, came into effect on August 12th.

The law allows those who believe they have a complaint to make a case with the National Commission for the Promotion of Equality, with an industrial tribunal or the courts. A government spokesman told local  media, “Employees do not need to prove that their employer has discriminated against them.”

“They only need to provide enough evidence pointing to a likely case of discrimination. The employer will then need to prove that discrimination has not taken place.”

The amendment defines illegal discrimination against “transgendered” people as, “in so far as the ground of sex is concerned, any less favourable treatment of a person who underwent or is undergoing gender reassignment, which, for the purpose of those regulations shall mean, where a person is considering or intends to undergo, or is undergoing, a process, or part of a process, for the purposes of reassigning the person’s sex by changing physiological or other attributes of sex.” 

Silvan Agius, Human Rights policy coordinator with the Ministry for Social Dialogue, Consumer Affairs and Civil Liberties, told Malta Today newspaper that the new amendment brings Maltese law into harmony with EU law.

“This amendment is continuing the government’s equality mainstreaming exercise. The inclusion of gender reassignment in the Act also brings it in line with the anti-discrimination articles found in both Malta’s Constitution and the Equality for Men and Woman Act,” Agius said.

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Agius is a key member of the homosexual activist apparatus in Malta’s government working to entrench the ideology of gender in law in Malta and elsewhere. In June, he was a featured speaker, with the notorious British anti-Catholic campaigner Peter Tatchell, at a Glasgow conference organised by the Edinburgh-based Equality Network, a group that helps organise and train homosexualist campaign groups.

The amendment to the law follows promises made recently by the country’s equalities minister, Helena Dalli, to a “transgender” congress in Hungary in May. Dalli, who brought forward Malta’s recently passed same-sex civil unions bill, told a meeting of gender activists in Budapest that while her government’s focus had been mainly on homosexuals, that she would shortly be turning her attention to “trans” people.

“The next step now is a Bill towards the enactment of a Gender Identity law. A draft bill has been prepared and it has now been passed to the LGBTI Consultative Council for its vetting and amendment as necessary,” Dalli said.

“Some of you may be thinking that we are moving forward quickly. I have a different perspective though. We are doing what is right, what should have been done a long time ago,” she added.

Since the legalisation of divorce in 2011, Malta has been remarkable for its rapid adoption of the gender ideology’s agenda. In 2013, Malta was named the “fastest climber” on the Rainbow Europe Index, a survey organised annually by ILGA Europe, the leading homosexualist lobby group funded directly by the European Union.

The ILGA Europe report notes (p. 114) that Helena Dalli Helena “was one of 11 EU Member States’ equality ministers to co-sign a call for the European Commission to work on a comprehensive EU policy for LGBT equality.” The report also noted that although the new Labour government has proved cooperative, the Christian Democrat Nationalist Party has “progressively proved more receptive to LGBTI issues, including same-sex unions.”


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