Hilary White, Rome Correspondent

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Catholics and journalists call for heads to roll at L’Osservatore Romano

Hilary White, Rome Correspondent
Hilary White, Rome Correspondent
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ROME, November 23, 2010 (LifeSiteNews.com) - For perhaps the first time, mainstream journalists are joining with conservative Catholics in criticizing the editors of the Vatican’s newspaper L’Osservatore Romano for having created this weekend’s media maelstrom over Pope Benedict’s comments on condom use for AIDS prevention. The pope’s brief comments were a small section of a new interview book, released in Rome today, by German journalist Peter Seewald

Catholic commentators and mainstream journalists alike are denouncing L’Osservatore Romano for what they identify as its “betrayal” of the Pope and of accepted standards of journalistic ethics.

Christine Vollmer, a founding member of the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy for Life and president of the Latin-America Alliance for the Family, told LifeSiteNews.com that the action by L’Osservatore Romano to leak the comments prior to the launch date was a betrayal of Pope Benedict, and called for its editor-in-chief, Gian Maria Vian, to be sacked.

“The big mistake,” she said, “for which Vian would be fired from any normal employ, is that, knowing there were those phrases in the book, they had no explanations ready.” This failure to prepare adequately for the media onslaught that was certain to follow, Vollmer said, is “utterly inexcusable.”

“So much so, that normal incompetence is not credible. It would seem that, as with the Fisichella article, the editorial line is to incite doubt on moral matters.” Vollmer was referring to the uproar that ensued last year when the paper published, and refused rebuttal on, the notorious article by Archbishop Rino Fisichella on the abortion of twins of a nine year-old rape victim.

“They obviously feel that it stimulates interest in the publication and that seems to be the idea. If the paper were to publish articles that shed doubt on the Assumption of Our Lady, what would happen?  But they have no compunction to shed doubt on moral matters,” Vollmer said.

U.S. Catholic journalist and author Philip Lawler wrote that “today millions of people around the world believe that the Pontiff has changed Church teaching, has opened the question of contraception for debate, and has justified condom use in some circumstances. How did that happen?”

Lawler pinpoints the Vatican paper as the cause, saying, “Yet again, Pope Benedict has been badly served by his public-relations staff. In this case, the Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano bears most of the blame for a truly disastrous gaffe.”

The Vatican had meticulously prepared for the launch of German journalist Peter Seewald’s new book-length interview with the pope. A press conference was scheduled for this morning and selected experts around the world had been vetted and prepared to give knowledgeable comment to media.

But on Saturday, all those plans came to naught when the pope’s paper, three days in advance of the official launch, broke the Vatican’s own embargo and published a selected excerpt - from the short section dealing with the Pope’s comments on condom use in Africa last March. Many are saying the “gaffe” was deliberately calculated to create the current global media feeding frenzy.

Headlines exploded into cyberspace through the weekend claiming that Pope Benedict XVI has “changed” Catholic teaching, either on the use of condoms in AIDS prevention or more generally on contraception. Although today news stories are appearing with more nuanced and contextualized claims, the media continues to report that the pope has opened the door for debate on the use of condoms in AIDS prevention. International organizations such as the World Health Organization, which have long promoted condom use for AIDS prevention, are congratulating Benedict on his “new” stand.

A prominent theme among Vatican-watchers in the last few years has been the role played by the Vatican communications offices in the string of media outbursts over the pope’s various comments, speeches and acts such as the lifting of the excommunication of a Holocaust-denying British traditionalist bishop. Some are now asking if the Vatican can be trusted competently to follow the accepted rules of journalistic ethics.

At the press conference this morning, officials declined to answer a pointed question from Frank Rocca, Vatican correspondent for Religion News Service and a mainstream journalist with the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Time and the Boston Globe. Rocca asked whether L’Osservatore Romano’s publication of the excerpts on Saturday “without informing the Sala Stampa [Holy See Press Office]” was an indication for the need for “better coordination” by the Vatican’s communications office.

Italian journalists have been especially blunt, with Paolo Rodari of Il Foglio, calling this weekend’s affair a “debacle.”

Veteran Italian journalist, Vatican expert and author of the 1987 interview book, The Ratzinger Report, Vittorio Messori, said that L’Osservatore Romano had “not even met the minimum requirements of prudence” in its decision to publish just the one small section on condoms that would ensure the media uproar that followed.

“Yet another failure of communication leads us to note once again that the Pope is not helped at all by those in the Vatican who should help.”

Lawler said that the action by L’Osservatore Romano has completely undermined the Vatican’s own plans to promote the book.

After this weekend’s consistory in which the Church welcomed 24 new cardinals, Lawler said, “the launch of Light of the World should have been another joyful occasion.”

“With appropriate planning, the publisher was poised to introduce the Pope’s book with a major publicity campaign. Now that publicity-which might have offered an accurate and favorable portrayal of the Pope’s book-will be nearly lost in the deluge of misinformation currently sweeping across the world.”

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A protester rallies against Hobby Lobby, protesting against the Supreme Court decision Dan Holm/Shutterstock
Dustin Siggins Dustin Siggins Follow Dustin

DNC chairwoman exhorts constituents to boycott local Hobby Lobby store

Dustin Siggins Dustin Siggins Follow Dustin
By Dustin Siggins

The Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby decision was nearly two months ago, but the issue as hot as ever, as was demonstrated yesterday when Democratic National Committee chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schulz, D-FL, urged constituents to boycott a Hobby Lobby store in her district.

In a press conference one lot away from the Hobby Lobby location in Davie, which opened in April, Wasserman-Schultz said that she wanted "people to know that this Hobby Lobby is here and they should vote with their purses and their pocketbooks, and women should not shop here."

"If you didn’t know this Hobby Lobby was here before, know it now and don’t shop here. They don’t deserve women’s business because they are the ones that all across the country have made it harder for women to get access to birth control,” she said.

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Wasserman-Schultz said that Hobby Lobby's corporate ownership "doesn’t support its employees" and "wants to be able to get in the personal business of their employees and make health care decisions and replace their own values, replace their employees’ health care decisions, with their values…."

She also criticized the Supreme Court's late June decision in favor of Hobby Lobby, which had sued the federal government over the Obama administration's HHS Mandate.

The Green family, which owns Hobby Lobby, say it violates their conscience to pay for coverage for the four abortifacients and potential abortifacients that the mandate required them to cover.

"The Supreme Court’s decision in the Hobby Lobby case was not only disappointing, it was dangerous," said the Democrat. "No boss should have the right to dictate and employee’s health decisions because [they] don’t belong in the bedrooms, doctor’s offices or pharmacies of their employees.

"A woman and her doctor know what’s best for their body. Not an insurance company. Not a politician. And certainly not a manager at a Hobby Lobby."

The Supreme Court's decision allowed closely held corporations to not fund coverage of contraception or abortion drugs and devices.

Wasserman-Schultz's office did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Through a spokesperson, the Green family declined to comment about the Congresswoman's statements. 

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Kirsten Andersen Kirsten Andersen Follow Kirsten

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America is rejecting abortion because pro-lifers are having more children: study

Kirsten Andersen Kirsten Andersen Follow Kirsten
By Kirsten Anderson

According to a new Northwestern University study, American attitudes about abortion are trending more conservatively than other contentious social issues, a phenomenon the authors credit to the simple fact that pro-lifers have more kids.

“We find evidence that the abortion attitudes have lagged behind a liberalizing trend of other correlated attitudes,” the authors wrote. Using GSS data collected between 1977 and 2010, “We test[ed] the hypothesis that the comparatively high fertility of pro-life individuals has led to a more pro-life population.”

The authors wrote: “Support for abortion rights has turned flat after a period of increase following Roe v. Wade, and in recent years there are even indications of a reversal toward more restrictive attitudes. This U-turn is evinced particularly among younger cohorts, and is happening despite liberalizing trends in several ostensibly related issue domains.”

The authors speculated that the reason for the increase in pro-life attitudes among young people is that their parents had more children than their pro-abortion counterparts. When they examined the data, they found that pro-life individuals had, on average, 27 percent more children than those who considered themselves “pro-choice.”

Not only that, but pro-life parents appear to be much more likely to pass their views on to their children. The researchers found that the younger generation’s pro-life shift was too strong to be blamed solely on differences in fertility – meaning children of pro-abortion parents are rejecting their parents’ views.

“[E]ither pro-life beliefs are always more faithfully transmitted than pro-choice ones; or, there has been a cultural shift towards more pro-life beliefs that is being reflected in the parent-child correlations,” the authors wrote.

The study concluded that if it wasn’t for the higher fertility rate among pro-life people, the nation as a whole would favor abortion by about five percentage points more than it does currently – and researchers predict the pro-life trend will continue.

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“Taken together, these findings suggest that fertility has had at least some part in leading the population in a more pro-life direction over time,” the authors wrote. “Further investigation into this pattern indicates that not only are abortion attitudes associated with fertility, but in proportional terms—which is what matters for cultural change—the gap is widening.”

“Fertility has declined for both pro-choice and pro-life groups over the past 30 years, but fertility has declined far less markedly for pro-life individuals,” they added. “Whereas pro-[life] individuals born before 1940 were only having about 1.2 children per one child born to a pro-choice parent, this ratio has grown to over 1.5 for those born in the mid to late 1970s. This pattern suggests that future cohorts may place an even stronger demographic drag on the liberalization of abortion attitudes.”

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A declaration that PP is an 'enemy of the Church' would mean that Catholics who work with, advocate for, or support Planned Parenthood, incur automatic excommunication. American Life League
Lisa Bourne

New campaign asks Pope Francis to declare Planned Parenthood an ‘enemy of the Church’

Lisa Bourne
By Lisa Bourne

The Catholic pro-life organization American Life League (ALL) is launching a campaign calling for the Catholic Church to declare Planned Parenthood an “enemy of the Church.”

Using prayer and education, ALL’s Defend the Family campaign seeks to expose the nation’s largest abortion provider for contribution to the destruction of human lives, as well as the family. 

The campaign, said Jim Sedlack, vice-president of ALL, is quite simply “a way of calling attention to the fact that this is a very bad organization.”

“Planned Parenthood is attacking the family, either by killing preborn children or by robbing the souls of the older children,” he said. 

A declaration that PP is an “enemy of the Church” would mean that Catholics who work with, advocate for, or support Planned Parenthood, incur automatic excommunication.

Such a declaration would not be unprecedented. Popes in the past have identified and condemned organizations that posed a grave threat to the Church, most recently Pope Pius XII in 1949 with Communism and Pope Clement XII in 1738 with Freemasonry.

While specifics would depend on the wording of the Papal pronouncement, Sedlak told LifeSiteNews if the Holy Father makes the declaration there would be no mistaking its intent.

“When the pope makes the declaration it becomes crystal clear,” Sedlak said. “There’ll be no shades of gray, it’ll be black and white, it’ll be clear to the world.”

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'Now is the time'

There are still people who are not fully aware of the extent of the societal damage inflicted by Planned Parenthood, said Sedlak, including members of the Church hierarchy. He said it’s important to emphasize the truth of what the abortion giant does.

“That’s why we’re focusing on the enemy,” said Sedlak. “When people really stop and focus on Planned Parenthood, they realize it’s the enemy.”

ALL cites Planned Parenthood’s targeting of children to sexualize them as a major cause of the destruction of the family and a fundamental reason for the Defend the Family campaign.

“They really push for getting young people into lives of sexual sin,” Sedlak said. “Young people who aren’t pulled into sexual activity do not provide a cent of income to Planned Parenthood, but young people who are pulled in provide millions of dollars to the Planned Parenthood empire.”

ALL compiled a comprehensive report on Planned Parenthood titled, “The Vatican can help save souls from Planned Parenthood,” as part of the Defend the Family campaign.

“The document builds the case,” said Sedlak. “Why Planned Parenthood, why now is the time.”

Sedlak told LifeSiteNews that for its part Planned Parenthood has always recognized that its greatest enemy is the Catholic Church, even working to have the Church lose its status at the UN.

“They fight anybody who wants to take sex away from the kids in any way possible,” Sedlak said. “That’s one reason why Planned Parenthood is the sex mafia.”

And when Sedlak uses the term “mafia,” he means it literally, pointing out that the Holy Father condemned the mafia in his June 21, 2014, homily in Calabria, Italy, denouncing its, “Adoration of evil and contempt for the common good.”

“Planned Parenthood kills far more people than the mafia,” Sedlak said.

Also underscoring the need for the Vatican to act on declaring Planned Parenthood an enemy of the Church, is the convening of the Extraordinary Synod on the Family this October in Rome, which will lead into the general synod in 2015.

Sedlak told LifeSiteNews that these, along with the 2015 World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia, are events that ALL will rally around to raise awareness of the Defend the Family campaign.

Preliminary response to the campaign has been very positive, he said.

Sedlak told LifeSiteNews that the “Vatican can help save souls from Planned Parenthood” report was so well received upon initial presentation to Vatican officials, that ALL was asked to translate it into three more languages.

“The support we’ve gotten from talking to bishops has been overwhelming,” Sedlak said.

Prayer is priority #1

The Defend the Family campaign consists first and foremost of prayer, Sedlak told LifeSiteNews.

“Our approach is that we need prayer support,” he said. “The only way that we’re going to succeed is through prayer to the Blessed Mother; the only way it will succeed is if God wants it to succeed.”

Participants are asked to say regular prayers after Mass, to offer prayers for the pope and to initiate communication with local bishops about the dangers that Planned Parenthood poses to the faithful.

Sedlak also added that The Defend the Family campaign is for everyone, not just Catholics.

He said pro-life supporters of all faith traditions are invited to contact ALL for assistance in encouraging their religious denomination or church leader to declare Planned Parenthood an enemy.

In addition to prayers for the campaign, ALL is asking people to sign and submit ALL’s Declaration of Encouragement to the Holy Father, enroll in the Spiritual Bouquet for the Holy Father and to share ALL resources on Planned Parenthood.

Information, links and resources are available on the campaign website, defendthefamily.org.

Sedlak told LifeSiteNews that ALL is giving the success of the Defend the Family campaign up to God.

“This is all happening in God’s time, and so far he’s been blessing us mightily,” Sedlak said. “And we’re going to go wherever God takes us.”

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