Hilary White, Rome Correspondent

A strange grief: Losing Pope Benedict XVI

Hilary White, Rome Correspondent
Hilary White, Rome Correspondent
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ROME, February 14, 2013, (LifeSiteNews.com) – If our readers will forgive the self-indulgence, I thought I would talk frankly about my feelings, for a change, since I suspect that I am not alone in them. There have been few newsworthy events of the last ten years over which I have felt more at a loss than Pope Benedict’s announcement that he will renounce the papal throne at the end of the month. Catholics all over the world were as stunned and speechless as were, reportedly, the small group of cardinals to whom he made his brief announcement on Monday morning. 

And, as the world’s news cycle turns back to its daily amusements, there are some of us, perhaps many, who are left as though beached and stranded by this momentous and unprecedented tidal shift. In the last few days, I have found myself among those still grappling with the implications. One of the rules by which we understood the world, or at least the Church that makes up much of our personal world, seems to have been broken. Popes do not resign. There can be no such thing as an ex-pope.

After a few days of putting a brave face on things, trickles of writing, mostly from ‘bloggers, who don’t mind letting the world in, are expressing our shock and dismay, sadness and even anger. Pat Archbold wrote in the Catholic Register, “Orthodoxy aside, there is one thing and one thing only that I would demand from our new pontiff. Holy Father, when you die, you must die as Pope.”

“So my advice to the future Pope is simple. Make it clear early and often that as long as your are able to blink instructions in Morse code, you will not be leaving the Papacy by any means other than [a] sarcophagus. If Popes do not leave town in a coffin, they will eventually be driven out on a rail.”

Since Monday, I have struggled even to understand my own feelings. These have ranged, honestly, from shock to a kind of dread not only at the ominous question of what happens now, what is coming next, but at the very great strangeness of breaking of this ancient precedent. How can it be right? And why now, when the world seems to be sinking into an unimaginable darkness?

Today I put some of these questions to a cleric who has been in Rome and around Vatican circles for many years. He said that, though they would not dare to breathe a word of criticism, many inside are also feeling a gamut of emotions, not restricted to shock and bewilderment but also grief and even anger. In frank and pastoral terms, my wise “source inside” assured me that I and people like me are not over-reacting or “over-thinking”. And that our feelings are natural and even a sign of real fidelity, of genuine Catholicity.

“We normal Catholics are reacting so strongly because, simply, we love him. It’s a very personal and natural thing; we gave him our hearts. How am I to react when our father, or step-father, the one given to us to protect us, says he will leave us?

“And we do love him. We’ve loved him since the day his name was announced. And we feel like our father is leaving us. And we’re completely at wit’s end because even if we don’t want to think ill of Benedict, we still don’t have a natural outlet for our feeling of loss."

He called it a “strange and confusing grief,” because though we have lost him, Benedict is not dead. This is why the situation “for many Catholics is surreal, almost dream-like.”

“When a pope dies we can have a funeral, we can have requiems in black. But in this strange situation, we have no natural way to express the grief we feel at having lost our father. And we have. We’ve lost someone that we love.” 

“The papacy is an absolutely unique institution in this world. In many ways he is like a father, because he is our Holy Father. In some ways it’s like a step-father, because he is there taking care of us when we can’t see our real father, our Heavenly Father. And the papacy, until very recently, until three days ago, was for life, and we trusted it to remain so. And now we say to ourselves, well, he can never stop being a father. So we are confused by our own feelings.” 

The Church makes distinctions for papal infallibility, and Catholics are free to disagree with the pope’s “prudential decision” while remaining perfectly faithful. We can legitimately feel, he said, that the pope is making a prudential mistake. This isn’t a lack of fidelity or love, or even of trust. We have to accept the decision, he said, but we don’t have to agree or like it.

My inside man strongly denied the rumours swirling around the internet that somehow the pope has been forced or coerced into making this decision by dark and nefarious forces. “It’s perfectly in character for him,” he said. “Nothing in Benedict’s character, that we have all observed very publicly for decades, has indicated he would ever bow to such pressure.”

Ruling out a palace coup, he said that we can accept the decision because it was also not immoral. “It was done humbly. It was not an act that is intrinsically evil. He’s doing it because he thinks it’s what God wants him to do. It’s one of the few things he’s done entirely on his own and he’s in complete control. No one can stop him. 

“He is very dedicated to the Church, and he wants to do what is best. And he saw first hand the problems with a largely incapacitated pope, and it may have frightened him. He really does believe that he has a ministry, the Petrine ministry, that is not for himself but for others, for us. And he really believes that if he cannot fulfill that duty he should step down.

“And because the papacy is not precisely fatherhood – it’s an analogy – he sees his own weakness, he sees a way that he can take away his weakness and provide for his children, by letting someone else take up the mantle and take up the sword and the shield.”

But he assured me that we have no obligation to think this is a good idea, or even that it will not damage the Church. Popes have made bad decisions in the past, even good popes: “If the Church has or has not done something for 600 years, there’s usually a reason for it. I myself think that popes should stay on until they’re dead, and let God remove them.” 

“I think he has taken into account the wisdom of the world to achieve those otherworldly ends. This is not all bad, but you also have to look to the supernatural considerations. I think it is good for the pope to let God to determine the time when he leaves ministry. Because God is the pope’s only superior.”

Catholics doubting the decision, he said, “may simply not be convinced that he can’t protect us any more.”

“I’m not convinced of this. But we know we must accept the decision, not just because he’s the pope and we have to defer to his judgment, but also because we can’t see inside his soul, and we can’t enter into that decision.”

What aspect of Benedict’s intellect does this decision come from then?

“There is,” he answered, “a very worldly sense that entered into the Church with the ascendancy of the liberal faction in the post-Vatican II era, and Benedict was part of that. He was a centrist liberal, a Catholic liberal and he shifted to the right. But he still embraced a lot of this-worldly prudence from that time. A kind of utilitarian idea that things that are not absolutely essential are ultimately disposable.”

“It’s not absolute worldly prudence because it’s not directed towards worldly ends. But men like John Paul II and Benedict XVI have looked at the supernatural with prudential, pragmatic, this-worldly eyes.” 

“There’s a degree to which this is necessary. You have to be as wise as serpents. But you also have to be willing to lose everything. I think there really is a need for someone with a more otherworldly focus. And someone who is a more of a hero than a manager or even an academic. A paladin.” 

“And we mustn’t forget that there is such a thing as the grace of the state. The pope gets special gifts from the Holy Spirit.”

The reasons people are angry and upset, or at least disconcerted is perhaps an intuitive worry that this decision comes from emphasizing the wrong aspect of the papacy, the institutional character of it at the expense of the fatherly, incarnational, supernatural aspect of it.

The pope’s decision is unsettling those who look upon the papacy as more than merely the function. It has appeared to further that ominous modern tendency to push the papacy down from its supernatural heights, to the level of mere functionalism.

“The papacy has these different layers of meaning, similar to a monarchy, where you have, united in one person, both the natural aspects of being a ruler and a sovereign and a leader, and the supernatural aspects of being a father and a person to love. It’s why the papacy is about more than what the pope can do.”

I said I was confused about the sudden outpouring of hatred for him in the press, now that he is no longer any threat to the “progressive” or “liberal” end of the Church?

“A lot of Catholics, good, bad, indifferent, liberal, traditionalist, charismatic, have a visceral attachment to the pope as a father. That’s why some of them can be dissidents, because they all love their father. They can disagree with their father, but he’s still their father. 

“People can’t leave it alone, they can be overflowing with vitriolic hatred, and people ask them, ‘Why don’t you leave the Church,’ and they can’t. They can’t ever stop being the children of their father.”

As for the sudden explosion of hatred from the non-Catholic, secularist world, he said, the answer is much easier: “The world always hates the popes.”

“Now sometimes that doesn’t show as much, but even with the popes who are well respected by the world, you don’t have to scratch too deep to find that bitter hatred. It’s true of anyone who follows Christ, but even more towards his Vicar. And the more the pope conforms to Christ, the more he will be hated with that blistering hatred that he still inspires in some people.”

And they particularly hate Benedict XVI because whatever the prudential problems with his resignation, he is “clearly not acting from a selfish motive”.

“He’s not seeking self-aggrandizement, he is healthy enough that it’s not something he has no choice about. He could keep going if he chose. And that strikes the world where it hurts, in their pride.

“We live in a world of reality TV shows where fame is so desperately important that you would humiliate yourself for it, and this is a man who is more photographed than anyone on the planet, and three weeks from now, no one is going to see him ever again.

“They all believe, wrongly, that the papacy is this great, powerful Emperor Palpatine sort of position. And the ones who hate him really believe that he is a power-hungry, power-obsessed old man. And here he is, the head of this huge, immensely powerful organisation, voluntarily setting aside that power. Not out of cowardice, but out of humility and meekness. The world hates that. With a passion.” 

“And they hate him, because, quite frankly, he’s one of the best popes we’ve had in the last 70 years. He’s been doing incredible things. Incredible good for the Church. And they hate him all the more because he was a good pope.”

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Don Feder

The only way to beat our demographic crisis is to confront the Sexual Revolution

Don Feder
By Don Feder

Editor’s Note: The following address was delivered by Don Feder, communications director for the World Congress of Families, at the International Forum: Large Family and the Future of Humanity in Moscow September 10-12, 2014.

If current trends continue, we won’t run out of energy or other natural resources in the foreseeable future. We will run out of people. This global catastrophe will be the result of rapidly declining fertility, known as Demographic Winter.

In 1960, worldwide, the average woman had 5 children. Now, that number is 2.6 and falling – in other words, a decline of almost 50 percent in a little more than 50 years. Today, 59 countries with 44 percent of the world’s population have below-replacement fertility. Many developed nations have fertility rates of 1.5 or lower, with 2.1 needed just to replace current population.

This didn’t happen spontaneously. Demographic Winter is the direct result of the Sexual Revolution – which first became noticeable in the late 1960s, not coincidentally, about the time birth rates began to fall.

The dogma of the Sexual Revolution – which has become ingrained social wisdom in the West -- might be summarized as follows:

  1. Sex is the most important aspect of existence;
  2. When sex is consensual, it’s always good;
  3. The primary purpose of sex is pleasure, not procreation or the physical expression of love;
  4. The primary purpose of life is pleasure;
  5. Inhibitions lead to neuroses and must be overcome;
  6. Sex has nothing to do with morality; and
  7. Sex should not only be guilt-free, but free of consequences -- hence contraception, hence abortion, hence abandonment of marriage.

The prophets of the Sexual Revolution include Sigmund Freud,  “researchers” like Alfred Kinsey and Masters and Johnson, pornographers like Playboy founder Hugh Hefner, and feminists like Margaret Sanger, Betty Friedan, and Simone de Beauvoir.  In the United States, the Sexual Revolution is spearheaded by groups like Planned Parenthood, the National Organization for Women, the (homosexual) Human Rights Campaign, and the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the U.S. (SIECUS).

The impact of the Sexual Revolution on fertility cannot be overstated.

For the first time in history, just under half the world’s population of child-bearing age uses some form of birth control. By 2015, the global contraceptives market will generate an estimated $17.2 billion annually.

Overwhelmingly, this is financed by governments, businesses or international aid agencies. Other species have become extinct. Ours may be the first to finance its own extinction.

Worldwide, there are approximately 42 million abortions a year.  That’s more than twice the number of military deaths in World War II.

From a demographic perspective, we’re not just losing 42 million people annually, but also their children, grandchildren and other descendants down through the ages. We are, quite literally, aborting our future.

The flight from marriage has affected fertility even more profoundly than contraceptives. In France, in 2010, more people began living together than married.

In the United States, in 1960, 59 percent of 18-to-29-year olds (those in their prime childbearing years) were married , compared to only 20 percent today.

Once a central reality of existence, marriage is increasingly optional. In its place have come cohabitation, casual liaisons and out-of-wedlock births. Not surprisingly, fewer marriages – especially early marriages -- result in fewer children.

Just as Demographic Winter is the result of the Sexual Revolution, the latter is the result of something called Cultural Marxism – a movement associated with Antonio Gramsci, the Frankfurt School and Herbert Marcuse.

Cultural Marxism was their answer to the failure of worldwide revolution after the First World War. Gramsci believed family and church gave workers what communists called a “false class consciousness” that made them immune to the appeals of Marxism.

The solution, then, was to destroy the family and religion – and what better way to do that than to foster sexual license and a society oriented toward mindless pleasure and away from hearth and home.

While there’s no proof that dramatically declining fertility is what Cultural Marxists wanted, it’s the natural consequence of creating a highly eroticized society where family is viewed as an obstacle to self-fulfillment and children as a burden.

We won’t find our way out of the forest of Demographic Winter until the Sexual Revolution is overthrown -- its prophets exposed and its dogma debunked.

Ultimately, the Sexual Revolution is about death – abortion, contraception, sexually-transmitted disease, pornography and promiscuity, in place of marriage, fidelity, procreation, and responsibility.

To combat both the Sexual Revolution and Demographic Winter, we must embrace a philosophy of life. For does not the Bible tell us: “I have set before you this day life and death, blessing and curses. Therefore, choose life so that you may live – you and your children.”

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Cardinal Dolan greets worshipers and guests on the steps of Saint Patrick's Cathedral in Manhattan after Easter mass on April 8, 2012 in New York City. Lev Radin / Shutterstock.com
Lisa Bourne

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Catholic leaders criticize Cardinal Dolan’s defense of gay group at St. Patrick’s Parade

Lisa Bourne
By Lisa Bourne
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New York Cardinal John O'Connor on the cover of the New York Post on January 11, 1993. http://rorate-caeli.blogspot.com/

New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan defended his decision to serve as grand marshal for the 2015 St. Patrick’s Day Parade on Wednesday, in the wake of widespread criticism from Catholics after he praised the organizing committee for allowing a homosexual activist group to march.

“If the Parade Committee allowed a group to publicize its advocacy of any actions contrary to Church teaching, I’d object,” Dolan stated in his weekly column. On the contrary, he argued, “The committee’s decision allows a group to publicize its identity, not promote actions contrary to the values of the Church that are such an essential part of Irish culture.”

Austin Ruse, president of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute, was not impressed with the cardinal’s argument. This is precisely about publicizing advocacy contrary to Catholic teaching,” he said.

“As a Catholic father I find there is rapidly contracting space where this shameful agenda is not stuck in the faces of my children,” Ruse told LifeSiteNews. “The Church should be protecting our children rather than abetting those who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of innocent souls."

Pat Archbold, a popular blogger at the National Catholic Register and who runs the Creative Minority Report blog, lambasted Dolan for suggesting the embrace and promotion of “gay identity” can be separated from the sin of homosexuality.

“This identity is not a morally-neutral God-given attribute such as male or female, black or white,” he said. “The identity is with the immoral choice to engage in immoral behavior.”

“The best that can be said in this situation is that these people choose to proudly identify themselves with an intrinsic disorder.  But in reality, it is worse than that,” he continued. “The people find their identity and pride in sin.  Either the Cardinal knows this or he doesn't, either way Cardinal Dolan reveals himself unequal to his responsibility as a successor of the Apostles.”

The parade committee changed its longstanding policy on September 3 after decades of pressure from homosexual groups. Upon being announced as the parade’s grand marshal later the same day, Cardinal Dolan said he had no trouble with the decision at all, calling it “wise.”

The organizers had never prohibited any marchers, but did not ban issue-focused banners and signs, whether promoting homosexuality or the pro-life cause.

Cardinal Dolan stated in his column Wednesday that he did not oppose the previous policy.

“This was simply a reasonable policy about banners and public identification, not about the sexual inclinations of participants,” he explained.

“I have been assured that the new group marching is not promoting an agenda contrary to Church teaching,” he said as well, “but simply identifying themselves as ‘Gay people of Irish ancestry.’”

The homosexual activist group that will march is called OUT@NBCUniversal, which describes itself as the employee resource group for LGBT & Straight Ally employees at the media giant.

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The network held the broadcast contract for parade coverage. Reports indicated the contract was about to expire, and that NBC joined in pressuring on parade officials.

Cardinal Dolan conceded in his column there were many thoughtful reasons for criticizing the parade policy change, and noted that he shared some of them.

“While a handful have been less than charitable in their reactions, I must admit that many of you have rather thoughtful reasons for criticizing the committee’s decision,” he said. “You observe that the former policy was fair; you worry that this is but another example of a capitulation to an ‘aggressive Gay agenda,’ which still will not appease their demands; and you wonder if this could make people think the Church no longer has a clear teaching on the nature of human sexuality.” 

However, he said, the most important question he had to ask himself was whether the new policy violated Catholic faith or morals.

In stressing that homosexual actions are sinful while identity is not, Cardinal Dolan said, “Catholic teaching is clear: ‘being Gay’ is not a sin, nor contrary to God’s revealed morals.”

Making opinion paramount, the cardinal offered that the parade committee “tried to be admirably sensitive to Church teaching,” and even though the original policy was not at all unfair, the committee was “realistic in worrying that the public perception was the opposite, no matter how often they tried to explain its coherence and fairness.”

“They worried that the former policy was being interpreted as bias, exclusion, and discrimination against a group in our city,” Cardinal Dolan wrote. “Which, if true, would also be contrary to Church teaching.”

When the decision was announced and Cardinal Dolan named the parade’s grand marshal, Philip Lawler, director of Catholic Culture and editor for Catholic World News, called it a significant advance for homosexual activists, and a significant retreat for the Catholic Church.

Pointing out in his column that the media will be correct to concentrate on that narrative at next March’s event, Lawler identified what he said is almost certain to be the result of the 2015 St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

“Next year there will be only one story-line of interest to the reporters who cover the annual parade in the world’s media capital: the triumph of the gay activists,” Lawler wrote.

“Photographers will be competing for the one ‘money’ shot: the picture of the contingent from OUT@NBCUniversal marching past the reviewing stand at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, under the benign smile of Cardinal Timothy Dolan.”

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Facebook forces us, and hundreds of thousands of similar organizations, to fork out tens of thousands of dollars to reach our fans...
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Facebook is killing us…

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By John Jalsevac

I have some bombshell news to share with you.

Four years ago we began implementing a groundbreaking social media strategy for LifeSite.

The goal was to get the life-saving message of the Culture of Life out to millions more people, right where they are – on sites like Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

To say this strategy was a success would be a massive understatement. It was revolutionary!

Thanks largely to our rapidly growing presence on social media, traffic to LifeSite grew by over 400% in those four years, to over 20 million unique visitors last year - with many of those new visitors coming directly from social media sites like Facebook!

Those staggering numbers translated into

  • MORE lives saved from abortion
  • MORE people converting from the Culture of Death to the Culture of Life
  • MORE activists like you armed with the facts you need to be more effective culture warriors.

​But by now you’re probably thinking: So where’s the bombshell?

Well, out of the blue, Facebook has announced that they are dramatically changing the way businesses and organizations - including limited-income non-profits like ours - communicate with our Facebook fans who chose to follow us, and who RELY on our daily posts!

Until last December, a large percentage of our over 500,000 Facebook fans would see the many articles that we posted, which they in turn shared with their friends.

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...it’s Facebook, not us! 

Obviously this was a smart business move for Facebook. But right now, it is hurting LifeSite's mission!

Tens of thousands of people who have indicated they want to read our reports are being blocked from this information, unless we pay big dollars for the right to share with our Facebook friends - for every post!

Unlike many for-profit corporations and media organizations, we simply don’t have the funds to suddenly start spending that kind of money on Facebook marketing.

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In fact, for the past six months we have been working on a number of tools that will enable us to reach more people than ever before with the good news of the Culture of Life!

Our new website was just the first step in this process. 

But in order for us to make the best use of these tools, the blunt fact is that we actually need to far surpass our minimum $150,000 campaign goal.

And yet, thanks to Facebook’s changes, it is now harder than ever for us to reach many of our core readers to even ask for a donation!

So not only do we need to add a new category of marketing expenses to our budget, it’s even harder for us to raise the minimum funds necessary for our basic operating expenses!

That’s why I need you to make the most generous gift you possibly can, today!

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I can’t tell you how excited I am about some of the things LifeSite is developing to help spread the message of the Culture of Life.

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Please, make a donation today, and consider asking your friends and family to do the same.

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