Hilary White, Rome Correspondent

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Birmingham archbishop attacks faithful Catholics protesting London’s ‘gay Masses’

Hilary White, Rome Correspondent
Hilary White, Rome Correspondent

LONDON, December 17, 2010 (LifeSiteNews.com) - A group of pro-life and pro-family British Catholics have reacted with dismay this month as the “conservative” archbishop of Birmingham, Bernard Longley, has accused them of being “judgmental” in their opposition to an officially approved “gay” Mass that is ongoing in the archdiocese of Westminster.

In an interview with the liberal Catholic magazine, The Tablet, Longley, widely regarded as a theological conservative among the Catholic bishops of England and Wales, said, “I assume” that the people praying and protesting outside the church where the Masses are held, are acting out of prejudice.

Asked by The Tablet whether “those protesting are making assumptions” about the “lifestyles” of the people attending the Masses, Longley replied, “I would assume that is the case, and so it isn’t for any of us to make those judgments which, in conscience, people make before God and also within the sacraments, particularly the sacrament of reconciliation assisted by the priests and other pastors within the Church.”

“The Church does not, as it were, have a moral means-testing of people before they come to receive the sacraments and it is very easy to jump to and come to the wrong conclusions about people when you don’t know them.

The people protesting and praying, however, have said that they have never been given a chance to express their concerns with the Catholic leadership and are shocked at being so casually dismissed as “judgmental”.

The so-called Soho Masses were instituted in Britain’s leading diocese in 2007, when Longely - at that time an auxiliary of Westminster - was asked by then Cardinal Murphy O’Connor to find a place for them in a local Catholic parish, Our Lady of the Assumption in Soho. The Masses are openly supportive of the “homosexual lifestyle,” with some of the organisers publishing materials on the internet in opposition to Catholic teaching on sexuality.

“I don’t know whether the people outside have made attempts to meet the people who are going to the Masses in Soho,” Longley told The Tablet.

He added, “I think at the end of the day, those sorts of protests are counterproductive and usually have the effect of hardening attitudes and polarising rather than fundamentally changing people’s minds.”

But Daphne McLeod, the organiser of the group that prays outside Our Lady of the Assumption, has said that the archbishop, now head of Britain’s “second” diocese, has unjustly attacked them.

In a letter to The Tablet, McLeod wrote that the group are not “protesting” in the style of political demonstrations, but praying in reparation to any possible sacrileges that may be taking place.

“If he had asked us we would have assured him that we have met many of them [and] most of them are very friendly and perfectly honest abouut their homosexual lifestyles, introducing us to their partners and emphasizing that they are in sexual relationships. So we are not ‘making any assumptions’ about them,” McLeod wrote.

“Some of us have been down to the Social Hour which follows every Mass where we have received kind hospitality enabling us to spend some time eating and drinking and talking to them and examining the books they have on sale.

“No-one, apart from the Archbishop, tries to pretend they are living or striving to live chaste lives.”

Archbishop Longley declined to respond to LSN’s request for clarification. His secretary Fr. Martin Pratt said in an email that Archbishop Longley’s comments “related to the period between 2003 and 2009 when he had responsibility as an Auxiliary Bishop of Westminster for the Parish of Our Lady of the Assumption in Soho.

“Since 2009 he has been in Birmingham and could not comment usefully on more recent events.”

Daphne McLeod told LSN, “From the acknowledgment from his secretary I would guess he is going to try and pretend that the situation has changed since he went to Birmingham. However the truth is that it has not.

“They were openly flaunting their homosexual life styles from day one of the first Mass - when they were under the jurisdiction of Archbishop Longley.”

Some of the organisers of the Soho Masses Pastoral Council have commented on their sexuality in public, including Terrence Weldon, who runs the ‘blog “Queering the Church - towards a reality-based theology,” on which he advocates for the Catholic Church to alter its teachings on homosexual activity.

When the See of Westminster was open, Weldon wrote that Longley was the pick of the dissenting homosexualist Catholic community that gathered at the Soho Masses. Weldon wrote in March 2009, that if Longley were to be chosen as the new archbishop it would be “huge for us”.

“It has also been reported that he stood up for us and urged their continuation when Murphy O’Connor allegedly wanted to shut us down,” he wrote. After “frank” discussions about the “reservations” the archdiocese had with the “gay community in general,” Weldon was confident that Longley would represent their interests: “We did not always agree, but established very clear common ground in a shared desire for the Masses to continue and to succeed.”

After criticizing the Catholics praying outside the Soho Masses, Longley told the Tablet, “It is always very difficult for people to hear absolutes and I think in our own culture today it is very hard because our culture is not attuned to hearing about and receiving teaching on absolute truth, so every pastor has to present the Church’s teaching accurately and clearly, sensitively also, because what is said has to be heard to be effective.”

To contact Archbishop Longley:

Phone: + 0121 236 9090
Fax: + 0121 212 0171
Email: fr_martin.pratt@rc-birmingham.org

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PBS defends decision to air pro-abortion documentary ‘After Tiller’

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By Dustin Siggins

Under pressure for showing the pro-abortion documentary "After Tiller" on Labor Day, PBS' "POV" affiliate has defended the decision in response to an inquiry from LifeSiteNews.

The producers of the film say their goal with the documentary, which tells the stories of four late-term abortion doctors after the killing of infamous late-term abortionist George Tiller, is to "change public perception of third-trimester abortion providers by building a movement dedicated to supporting their right to work with a special focus on maintaining their safety.” 

POV told LifeSiteNews, "We do believe that 'After Tiller' adds another dimension to an issue that is being debated widely." Asked if POV will show a pro-life documentary, the organization said that it "does not have any other films currently scheduled on this issue. POV received almost 1000 film submissions each year through our annual call for entries and we welcome the opportunity to consider films with a range of points of view."

When asked whether POV was concerned about alienating its viewership -- since PBS received more than $400 million in federal tax dollars in 2012 and half of Americans identify as pro-life -- POV said, "The filmmakers would like the film to add to the discussion around these issues. Abortion is already a legal procedure."

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"This is an issue that people feel passionately about and will have a passionate response to. We are hopeful that the majority of people can see it for what it is, another lens on a very difficult issue." 

In addition to the documentary, POV has written materials for community leaders and teachers to share. A cursory examination of the 29-page document, which is available publicly, appears to include links to outside sources that defend Roe v. Wade, an examination of the constitutional right to privacy, and "a good explanation of the link between abortion law and the right to privacy," among other information.

Likewise, seven clips recommended for student viewing -- grades 11 and beyond -- include scenes where couples choose abortion because the children are disabled. Another shows pro-life advocates outside a doctor's child's school, and a third is described as showing "why [one of the film's doctors] chose to offer abortion services and includes descriptions of what can happen when abortion is illegal or unavailable, including stories of women who injured themselves when they tried to terminate their own pregnancies and children who were abused because they were unwanted."

Another clip "includes footage of protesters, as well as news coverage of a hearing in the Nebraska State Legislature in which abortion opponents make reference to the idea that a fetus feels pain." The clip's description fails to note that it is a scientifically proven fact that unborn children can feel pain.

The documentary is set to air on PBS at 10 p.m. Eastern on Labor Day.

Kirsten Andersen contributed to this article.

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He defended ‘real’ marriage, and then was beheaded for it

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By Pete Baklinski

A Christian man was executed during the night by a high-profile ruler after making an uncompromising defense of real marriage.

The Christian, who was renowned for his holiness, had told the ruler in public that his relationship with his partner was “against the law” of God. The Christian’s words enraged the ruler’s partner who successfully plotted to have him permanently silenced.

John the Baptist was first imprisoned before he was beheaded. The Catholic Church honors him today, August 29, as a martyr and saint.

While John’s death happened a little less than 2,000 years ago, his heroic stance for real marriage is more pertinent today than ever before.

According to the Gospel of Mark, the ruler Herod had ‘married’ his brother’s wife Herodias. When John told Herod with complete frankness, “It is against the law for you to have your brother’s wife,” Herodias became “furious” with him to the point of wanting him killed for his intolerance, bullying, and hate-speech.

Herodias found her opportunity to silence John by having her daughter please Herod during a dance at a party. Herod offered the girl anything she wanted. The daughter turned to her mother for advice, and Herodias said to ask for John’s head on a platter.

Those who fight for real marriage today can learn three important lessons from John’s example.

  1. Those proudly living in ungodly and unnatural relationships — often referred to in today’s sociopolitical sphere as ‘marriage’ — will despise those who tell them what they are doing is wrong. Real marriage defenders must expect opposition to their message from the highest levels.
  2. Despite facing opposition, John was not afraid to defend God’s plan for marriage in the public square, even holding a secular ruler accountable to this plan. John, following the third book of the Hebrew Bible (Leviticus 20:21), held that a man marrying the wife of his brother was an act of “impurity” and therefore abhorrent to God. Real marriage defenders must boldly proclaim today that God is the author of marriage, an institution he created to be a life-long union between one man and one woman from which children arise and in which they are best nurtured. Marriage can be nothing more, nothing less.
  3. John did not compromise on the truth of marriage as revealed by God, even to the point of suffering imprisonment and death for his unpopular position. Real marriage defenders must never compromise on the truth of marriage, even if the government, corporate North America, and the entire secular education system says otherwise. They must learn to recognize the new “Herodias” of today who despises those raising a voice against her lifestyle. They must stand their ground no matter what may come, no matter what the cost.

John the Baptist was not intolerant or a bigot, he simply lived the word of God without compromise, speaking the word of truth when it was needed, knowing that God’s way is always the best way. Were John alive today, he would be at the forefront of the grassroots movement opposing the social and political agenda to remake marriage in the image of man.

Click "like" if you want to defend true marriage.

If he were alive today he might speak simple but eloquent words such as, “It is against God’s law for two men or two women to be together as a husband and wife in marriage. Marriage can only be between a man and a woman.” 

He would most likely be hated. He would be ridiculed. He would surely have the human rights tribunals throwing the book at him. But he would be speaking the truth and have God as his ally. 

The time may not be far off when those who defend real marriage, like John, will be presented with the choice of following Caesar or making the ultimate sacrifice. May God grant his faithful the grace to persevere in whatever might come. St. John the Baptist, pray for us!

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The Wunderlich family Mike Donnelly / Home School Legal Defence Association
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German homeschoolers regain custody of children, vow to stay and fight for freedom

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By Thaddeus Baklinski

One year to the day since a team of 20 social workers, police officers, and special agents stormed a homeschooling family’s residence near Darmstadt, Germany, and forcibly removed all four of the family’s children, aged 7 to 14, a state appeals court has returned custody of the children to their parents.

The reason given for the removal was that parents Dirk and Petra Wunderlich continued to homeschool their children in defiance of a German ban on home education.

The children were returned three weeks after being taken, following an international outcry spearheaded by the Home School Legal Defense Association.

However, a lower court imposed the condition on the parents that their children were required to attend state schools in order for them to be released, and took legal custody of the children in order to prevent the family from leaving the country.

In a decision that was still highly critical of the parents and of homeschooling, the appeals court decided that the action of the lower court in putting the children in the custody of the state was “disproportional” and ordered complete custody returned to the parents, according to a statement by the HSLDA.

The Wunderlichs, who began homeschooling again when the court signaled it would rule this way, said they were very pleased with the result, but noted that the court’s harsh words about homeschooling indicated that their battle was far from over.

“We have won custody and we are glad about that,” Dirk said.

“The court said that taking our children away was not proportionate—only because the authorities should apply very high fines and criminal prosecution instead. But this decision upholds the absurd idea that homeschooling is child endangerment and an abuse of parental authority.”

The Wunderlichs are now free to emigrate to another country where homeschooling is legal, if they choose, but they said they intend to remain in Germany and work for educational freedom.

“While we no longer fear that our children will be taken away as long as we are living in Hessen, it can still happen to other people in Germany,” Dirk said. “Now we fear crushing fines up to $75,000 and jail. This should not be tolerated in a civilized country.”

Petra Wunderlich said, "We could not do this without the help of HSLDA,” but cautioned that, “No family can fight the powerful German state—it is too much, too expensive."

"If it were not for HSLDA and their support, I am afraid our children would still be in state custody. We are so grateful and thank all homeschoolers who have helped us by helping HSLDA.”

HSLDA’s Director for Global Outreach, Michael Donnelly, said he welcomed the ruling but was concerned about the court’s troubling language.

“We welcome this ruling that overturns what was an outrageous abuse of judicial power,” he said.

“The lower court decision to take away legal custody of the children essentially imprisoned the Wunderlich family in Germany. But this decision does not go far enough. The court has only grudgingly given back custody and has further signaled to local authorities that they should still go after the Wunderlichs with criminal charges or fines.”

Donnelly pointed out that such behavior in a democratic country is problematic.

“Imprisonment and fines for homeschooling are outside the bounds of what free societies that respect fundamental human rights should tolerate,” he explained.

“Freedom and fundamental human rights norms demand respect for parental decision making in education. Germany’s state and national policies that permit banning home education must be changed.

"Such policies from a leading European democracy not only threaten the rights of tens of thousands of German families but establish a dangerous example that other countries may be tempted to follow,” Donnelly warned.

HSLDA Chairman Michael Farris said that acting on behalf of the Wunderlichs was an important stand for freedom.

“The Wunderlichs are a good and decent family whose basic human rights were violated and are still threatened,” Farris said.

“Their fight is our fight," Farris stressed, "and we will continue to support those who stand against German policy banning homeschooling that violates international legal norms. Free people cannot tolerate such oppression and we will do whatever we can to fight for families like the Wunderlichs both here in the United States and abroad. We must stand up to this kind of persecution where it occurs or we risk seeing own freedom weakened.”

Visit the HSLDA website dedicated to helping the Wunderlich family and other German homeschoolers here.

Contact the German embassy in the U.S. here.

Contact the German embassy in Canada here.

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