John Westen

Cardinal Ambrozic 1930-2011: a LifeSiteNews donor, and a complex relationship

John Westen
John Westen
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TORONTO, August 26, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) - It may come as a shock to many that the late Cardinal Aloysius Ambrozic who reigned as Archbishop of Toronto from 1990 till his retirement in 2006 was a staunch supporter of the pro-life cause and a donor to LifeSiteNews.  However, that fact is a good example of the complex relationship which he had with the pro-life movement.  A relationship best characterized in his own words which appear at the conclusion of this reflection.

One of the most difficult stances Cardinal Ambrozic made in support of life was to stand up publicly against Development and Peace and many of his brother bishops represented by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops over the March of Women in 2000.

Very much like the 2008 Development & Peace (D&P) scandal, LifeSiteNews had in 2000 discovered that D&P was funding a pro-abortion and pro-lesbian feminist cause known as the March of Women.  While the March was also in support of legitimate women’s rights such as relief of poverty, oppression, and discrimination against women, the organizers were decidedly pro-abortion and pro-lesbian, and included those motifs powerfully in the March of Women agenda. 

While the US bishops totally boycotted the March for those reasons, LSN was shocked to find D&P and the CCCB backing the March. However, Cardinal Ambrozic led the way for a handful of bishops to publicly object to the participation and funding of the pro-abortion March.

The Cardinal instructed ShareLife to cut funding to D&P by $15,000 in protest to the Catholic agency’s support for the March.  In a letter to all priests in the Toronto archdiocese, Cardinal Ambrozic wrote, “many of our clergy and laity have queried the involvement of Development and Peace.” The letter continued, “the association of D&P with this group is indeed unfortunate and we need to make a definite statement to disassociate our archdiocese with this movement through D&P.” 

It sure wasn’t easy though for Cardinal Ambrozic to bear the criticism he received over his leadership in this regard, especially from his brother bishops.  To indicate how severe the division was it is instructive to recall that despite his public protest, D&P and the CCCB released a public letter of reaffirmation of their support for the March of Women.

Beyond that, six Canadian bishops concelebrated a Mass for the March of Women - all at a time when only one Canadian bishop (a retired one) was celebrating the Mass for the annual March for Life in the national capital. 

Cardinal Ambrozic’s personal positions were not always shared by those within his chancery.  At times communication with the Cardinal was difficult.  He often felt pushed by pro-life Catholics to undertake difficult choices and at times tempers flared.

Back in 2002 LSN blew the whistle on the annual Toronto Red Mass dinner hosted by the Toronto Catholic Lawyer’s Guild. The annual dinner which is followed by the Red Mass - usually celebrated by the Archbishop of Toronto - was having a keynote address by former Prime Minister and Progressive Conservative Party Leader Joe Clark - a Catholic who supported both abortion and same-sex unions. 

As the date for the dinner approached various Catholic lawyers and politicians told LSN they were boycotting the dinner due to the scandalous selection of the keynote speaker.  However, organizers of the dinner were still assuring LSN that the Cardinal was to attend, and celebrate the annual Mass.  The communications office at the Archdiocese refused to answer when we queried several times to confirm.

Then, just a couple of days prior to the event, LSN received a call from Suzanne Scorsone who was at the time the communications director at the Archdiocese.  The information conveyed was that the Cardinal would not be attending the Red Mass dinner.  “He had another commitment,” LSN was told. 

The Cardinal did however say the Red Mass.  With former Prime Minister Clark sitting there front and centre, Archbishop Ambrozic unleashed a homily that likely still remains with many to this day.

Speaking of “the suffering of the babies who are being aborted,” the Cardinal said, “Somehow the people who are pro-abortion ... think that somehow they don’t feel the horrible pain that accompanies every death. I don’t know one piece of living flesh that doesn’t feel the pain when life is being gouged out of it.”

On the family front in the culture war, Cardinal Ambrozic also undertook challenging actions.  His interventions often came at the behest of pro-life activists who sometimes pressed uncomfortable nerves.

  • As early as 1999 he spoke out against a Supreme Court ruling granting spousal benefits to practicing homosexual couples warning presciently that it would “serve to undermine our traditional understanding of marriage and family, and the nature of spousal and conjugal relationships.”
  • By 2003 as the same-sex ‘marriage’ battle was in full swing he sent a letter to all Toronto parishes urging priests, “It is imperative that we speak publicly and clearly about what is referred to as the ‘same-sex marriage’.” 
  • In 2005, he wrote the Prime Minister asking for legislation to protect traditional marriage and warning that public schools would be forced to teach children that homosexual ‘marriage’ was equivalent to traditional marriage.
  • He had priests read out a message at all Masses encouraging the Catholics to take political action on the issue.
  • He backed the now famous marriage rally in Ottawa which saw 15,000 Canadians make a last ditch effort to protect marriage.

More troubling though than merely having to take part in the culture war in the public square was having to clean up the mess in-house.

Weeks after LSN revealed that a Toronto priest had filed an affidavit in support of same-sex ‘marriage’, Cardinal Ambrozic suspended Fr. Tim Ryan’s priestly faculties.

Another Toronto priest, Fr. Karl Clemens, announced on television he was ‘gay’ and thereafter attempted to run for Catholic school trustee.  Cardinal Ambrozic put out a release to Catholic voters noting that in addition to the fact that Fr. Clemens, was not permitted to say Mass in public, had no permission to run for elected office.

Cardinal Ambrozic again found himself bearing the rage of homosexual activists for refusing to confer a degree on a nun whose doctoral thesis celebrated lesbianism.

Another powerful example of the cardinal’s leadership on the life and family issues took place at World Youth Day in 2002. Cardinal Ambrozic received thunderous applause as he responded to a question on abortion in a Catechesis session. Asked about abortion and embryonic stem cell research the Cardinal said, “the Church will forever be opposed to it. I don’t feel the Church has any choice in the matter” - a response which elicited heartfelt approval from his the several hundred youth in attendance.

Responding bluntly on the issue of embryo research he said: “You don’t have to produce babies and kill them in order to experiment.” Buoyed by the supportive youth, the Cardinal made some of his most outspoken remarks calling the media “pro-abortion” for their slanted coverage of life issues.

While he may have appeared rough around the edges to many a pro-life leader, at heart Cardinal Ambrozic held them in very high esteem.  His own words, penned in 1993 give the strongest evidence of that, acknowledging too the challenges that pro-life activists were for him at times.  His contributions to LifeSite came in the form of $500 cheques accompanied by little encouraging notes, all in his own hand. 

The following is the last paragraph of the April, 1993 statement penned by Cardinal Ambrozic, titled, “Never Cowed by the Threats of the Wicked”,

Who might be closest to martyrdom in our own situation? Would it be those who struggle for the life of the unborn? They may at times be carried away in their zeal appearing to claim that “it is either their way or no way”. If it were not for them, however, our Church would be as mealy-mouthingly ineffective on pro-life issues as is many another Christian community. Our pro-life people are not daunted by the haughty disdain of the media, nor are they afraid of being branded as zealots. We may be tempted to seize upon one or another tactic of theirs as an excuse for not speaking out more often, failing to consider the possibility that our silence is forcing them to be more vocal. We ought to ask ourselves whether our “reasonableness” might be due to our fear of public opinion. Were it not for our sisters and brothers in the pro-life trenches, we, the “sensible ones”, would become the object of attack-if our politically correct media should think us worth attacking.

May God bless you Cardinal Ambrozic. We pray you rest in peace.

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Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller, prefect of the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
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Vatican pressing forward with reform of US feminist nuns: Cardinal Müller

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By Thaddeus Baklinski

Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, says the Vatican is pressing forward with plans to reform the U.S.-based Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR).

In an interview published in the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano, the cardinal said that the reform of the LCWR, which was undertaken after an assessment of the group found serious doctrinal problems, will be carried out with the goal of helping them "rediscover their identity.”

“Congregations have no more vocations and risk dying out," Müller said. "We have first of all tried to reduce hostility and tensions, partly thanks to Bishop Sartain whom we sent to negotiate with them; he is a very gentle man. We wish to stress that we are not misogynists, we are not women gobblers! Of course we have a different concept of religious life but we hope to help them rediscover their identity.”

Moreover, the cardinal said that problems specific to the LCWR are not a reflection of all the women religious in the US.

"We need to bear in mind that they do not represent all US nuns, but just a group of nuns who form part of an association,” Müller said.

“We have received many distressed letters from other nuns belonging to the same congregations, who are suffering a great deal because of the direction in which the LCWR is steering their mission.”

Cardinal Müller's remarks confirmed the assertion he and the Holy See’s delegate to the LCWR, Archbishop Peter Sartain of Seattle, made in an address to LCWR officials in Rome on April 30, that the theological drift the feminist nuns are taking constitutes a radical departure from the foundational theological concepts of Catholicism.

The Holy See “believes that the charismatic vitality of religious life can only flourish within the ecclesial faith of the Church,” Müller said in the address.

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“The LCWR, as a canonical entity dependent on the Holy See, has a profound obligation to the promotion of that faith as the essential foundation of religious life. Canonical status and ecclesial vision go hand-in-hand, and at this phase of the implementation of the Doctrinal Assessment, we are looking for a clearer expression of that ecclesial vision and more substantive signs of collaboration,” he stated.

The LCWR has openly defied the mandate of reform intended to bring their organization into line with basic Catholic doctrine on the nature of God, the Church, and sexual morality.

Among the CDF’s directives, to which LCWR has strenuously objected, is the requirement that “speakers and presenters at major programs” be approved by Archbishop Sartain. This, Müller has explained, was decided in order to “avoid difficult and embarrassing situations wherein speakers use an LCWR forum to advance positions at odds with the teaching of the Church.”

The LCWR has invited speakers to their Annual Assembly such as New Age guru Barbara Marx Hubbard, and Sr. Laurie Brink, who is particularly noted for flagrantly denying the Divinity of Christ and telling the sisters that to maintain their “prophetic” place in society they need to “go beyond” the Church and even “go beyond Jesus.”

In one of the first public statements of his pontificate, Pope Francis affirmed that the investigation and reform of the LCWR must continue.

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Brian Fisher

Birth mothers: real heroes of the pro-life movement

Brian Fisher
By Brian Fisher
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What does it mean to be brave? Is it the doctor who dedicates himself to improving the health of a third-world nation? Is it the woman who faces her third round of chemotherapy to fight the progression of cancer? Is it the teacher who forgoes the comforts of a suburban school to reach minorities in the inner city? All of these are examples of bravery demonstrated in exceedingly challenging circumstances. And our society longs for stories of bravery to inspire us and fill us with hope.

As someone who works day in and day out with those on the front lines of helping rescue babies from abortion, I’m no stranger to stories of bravery. I see courage every day in the eyes of the men and women who sacrifice their time and energy to help women facing unplanned pregnancies. I see it every time a young mom — despite being pressured by her parents or significant other to get an abortion — chooses LIFE. And perhaps more profoundly than in any other situation, I see it when an expectant mom with no relational support, job, or income chooses to place her baby for adoption rather than abort her son or daughter.

This was Nicky’s situation.

When Nicky found herself pregnant with her boyfriend’s child, her life was already in shambles. During her 26 years, Nicky had already given birth to and surrendered sole custody of a little girl, committed several felonies, lived in her car, lost several jobs, and barely subsisted on minimum wage. So when she met up with an old boyfriend, Brandon, Nicky believed she was being given a second chance at happiness. “Our first year together was beautiful. We were getting to know each other and deciding if we would stay together forever.” Unfortunately, a positive pregnancy test result changed everything.

“When I told him I was pregnant, Brandon sat down on the bed, looked me in the eyes, and told me to ‘get an abortion’.” Nicky says those three little words changed everything for her. “I became depressed living with someone who wanted his child ‘dealt with.’”  Like thousands of women every day, Nicky began searching online for information on abortion, hoping her boyfriend would eventually change his mind. Through our strategic marketing methods, Online for Life was able to guide Nicky to a life-affirming pregnancy center where she received grace-filled counsel. “The woman I sat with was beyond wonderful. She helped me to just breathe and ask God what to do….And so I did.”

Nicky left the pregnancy center that day with a new resolve to choose life for her child, even though she still wasn’t sure how she’d financially support a child. “I was alone with just $10 in my pocket…and without any type of plan for what I was going to do.” So Nicky relied on the support of the staff she met at the life-affirming pregnancy center. With their help and through a chain of fortunate events, Nicky was put in contact with the couple who would eventually become her daughter’s adoptive parents.

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After meeting this couple face to face and coming to terms with her own desperate situation, Nicky conceded that the best thing for her unborn child would be to place her in someone else’s loving home. She told Brandon about her plans and he agreed that adoption would give their child the best chance at a happy and secure future. He even returned home to help Nicky prepare for the birth of their child. “The weeks leading up to my delivery were filled with a mixture of laughter, tears, protectiveness and sadness,” Nicky recalls. But one sentiment continued to be shared with her. “Brave…so brave.” That’s what everyone from the life-affirming pregnancy center to the adoption agency to the birthing center kept calling Nicky. “The nurses kept coming up to me and telling me they were honored to care for and treat someone like me.” After several weeks of preparation, Nicky finally gave birth to a healthy baby girl, and she made the dreams of a couple from the other side of the country come true.

Nicky’s adoption story continues to be riddled with a strange combination of pain and joy. “I cry every day, but I know my baby, who came out of a very bad time, ended up being loved by people from across the country.” When asked what message she’d like to share with the world about her decision to give up her child for adoption, Nicky responds, The voice of the mother who gives up a baby for adoption isn’t heard. We need to change that.”

To learn more about Online for Life and how we’re helping to make stories like Nicky and her daughter’s story a possibility, please visit OnlineforLife.org.

Author, speaker, and business leader Brian Fisher is the President and Co-Founder of Online for Life, a transparent, metric-oriented, compassion-driven nonprofit organization dedicated to helping rescue babies and their families from abortion through technology and grace.

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New York farmers stop hosting weddings after $13,000 fine for declining lesbian ceremony

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By Dustin Siggins

New York farmers Robert and Cynthia Gifford, who were ordered last week to pay $13,000 for not hosting a same-sex "wedding," say they are closing that part of their operation.

"Going forward, the Giffords have decided to no longer host any wedding ceremonies on their farm, other than the ones already under contract," said Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) lawyer James Trainor. ADF represented the Giffords in their legal fight against New York's non-discrimination law.

Last week, the Giffords were ordered to pay a $10,000 fine to the state of New York and $3,000 in damages to a lesbian couple, Jennifer McCarthy and Melisa Erwin, who approached them in 2012 about hosting their "wedding." The Giffords, who are Roman Catholic, said their religious convictions would not let them host the ceremony, but that McCarthy and Erwin could hold their reception on their property.

Unbeknownst to the Giffords, the lesbian couple recorded the two-to-three minute conversation. After declining to hold the reception on the Giffords' farm, on which they live and rent property, the lesbian couple decided to make a formal complaint to the state's Division of Human Rights.

Eventually, Judge Migdalia Pares ruled that the Giffords' farm, Liberty Ridge Farm, constitutes a public accommodation because space is rented on the grounds and fees are collected from the public. The Giffords argued that because they live on the property with their children, they should be exempt from the state law, but Pares said that this does not mean their business is private.

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Trainor told TheBlaze that the Giffords' decision to end wedding ceremonies at Liberty Ridge “will hurt their business in the short run," but that was preferable to violating their religious beliefs.

“The Giffords serve all people with respect and care. They have hired homosexual employees and have hosted events for same-sex couples,” he said.

However, "since the state of New York has essentially compelled them to do all ceremonies or none at all, they have chosen the latter in order to stay true to their religious convictions," Trainor explained to LifeSiteNews. "No American should be forced by the government to choose between their livelihood and their faith, but that’s exactly the choice the state of New York has forced upon the Giffords."

"They will continue to host wedding receptions," said Trainor.

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