Peter Baklinski

Choosing Hope and Grace: How two babies who shared one heart momentarily brought heaven to earth

Peter Baklinski
Peter Baklinski
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(Editor’s note: LifeSiteNews dedicates this story to Luci and Chris who celebrate tomorrow the 3rd anniversary of the passing of their children Hope and Grace. Luci told LifeSiteNews that the Klare family is flourishing with baby Joseph being born just in time (2 weeks ago) to give older sister Maria, age 2, a playmate.)

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COVINGTON, Kentucky, June 22, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Luci and Chris Klare were barely married three months when, in December 2008, a pregnancy test revealed that they were nine months away from becoming a family. The couple was exuberant.

“It was joyful and frightening, but mostly pure elation,” recounted Luci on her family’s blog.

But the parents’ elation was short-lived. Two months into the pregnancy a visit to the doctor revealed that Luci was carrying conjoined twins who amazingly shared a single beating heart.

The doctor gave the twins one percent chance of survival.

Luci and Chris remember experiencing an impossible mix of emotions. They were elated by the thought of having twins but devastated by the thought of losing their babies so quickly.

The couple spent a number of days crying in each other’s arms, trying to find a way to make sense of the situation.

“God, why us?,” they asked time and time again.

Luci found consolation in remembering the loud and clear thumping of her babies’ heartbeat that she had heard during the doctor’s appointment. “When I heard their heart beat for the first time, I was in love.” The echo of that heartbeat in her memory reminded her that she was still a mother and these unusual babies were still her children.

“It didn’t matter what form they came in or what their chances were, they were our children,” the parents realized.

But the parents could not help but look upon the forthcoming birth of their children with fear and uncertainty.

“We struggled countless times, but we took it one day at a time and one prayer at a time. Each day brought new hope as we grew closer to them being born. We still cried often together — when we were scared of what our future held — but those days were less often than the ones where we laughed and felt overjoyed to feel them kick, to see them grow in our weekly ultrasounds, and to hear their heart beating…”

While the parents did not “completely understand” how to make sense of what was happening, they “simply wanted to trust” that what was put before them “was the will of God, and therefore perfect”.

Luci and Chris’s close friends and family members found it hard to understand why the young couple was given such a heavy burden to bear. But the young couple began to see things through the eyes of faith.

“We feel chosen for this task”, the parents learned to say to their friends and family members. “Our sufferings come in so many different ways and in so many different sizes. The suffering is only not knowing when they will be with us or leave us. But we have been chosen and are grateful to be given this chance to love two children of whom many mothers and fathers would have chosen to terminate their chances of life.”

Treasuring the Gift

In June 2009, Luci gave birth to conjoined girls, naming them Hope and Grace. Together they weighed 6.8 pounds. Each had a full head of hair.

“They were born kissing and hugging each other, and they were beautiful,” Chris remembers.

The parents knew that they did not have much time with their precious daughters.

The doctors gently placed the baby girls into the arms of Chris, who immediately baptized them so that they would now belong to God’s family. During the brief ceremony, both girls had their eyes open and were gazing upon their father and their mother.

“One of the girls looked over at her mom and gave her a big wink,” Chris remembers.

For the next 46 minutes, Luci and Chris’s whole universe revolved around treasuring the fragile gift of their tiny children.

Luci held the girls upon her chest, placing their single heart right next to hers. “We cried in joy and love. And we sat there together as a family in love,” she said.

“They watched every breath and savored each second” recounted Luci’s sister Maria who was in the hospital room.

Luci and Chris could not stop gazing upon their girls with love.

Maria recounted how Luci kept saying over and over again, “I’m just bursting with joy, I can’t explain it. I just love them so much.”

“I’m not sure what it feels like for Heaven to pour down on me, but this must be it,” said Luci. “I am just so happy.”

The girls’ time of departure was beginning to draw near. Chris held his babies until they took their last breath and their single heart gave its last beat.

“Then the little girls peacefully, so very peacefully, left for their trip to paradise. Hand in hand, they went eagerly to see the King who created them so specially,” said Maria.

Shortly after the girls’ passing, Luci and Chris invited family members into the hospital room to bid farewell to the tiny babies.

“Everyone rotated into the hospital room a little at a time,” said Maria. “Most of us held the little treasures and marveled at their tiny hands and long feet … Everyone just kept saying, ‘They are so beautiful.’”

It was finally time for Luci and Chris to say a final farewell to their baby girls. The parents wept bitterly.

“From the depths of their souls came a sorrow that only a parent who has lost a child could know,” said Maria.

Love Letters

Two weeks passed by.

Luci found the courage to share on her family’s blog the miracle of love that took place in the hospital room. She wrote her thoughts in the form of a love letter to Hope and Grace.

“My Dearest Daughters,

“I miss you. I love you. It’s hard to believe that it was more than two weeks ago that I received the news that you were to be born to me that Tuesday evening. I was so scared. I was so unprepared to finally meet you. I truly was not ready to part from the joy you brought while I carried you.

“I shook with such anguish knowing that once you left the comfort of my belly, that you would shortly leave me forever here on earth.

“You came to us at 6:01 pm, and you both took your first breaths of life. When I saw them carry you both over to the warming table and your Pappa by your side to baptize you, it was the proudest moment of my life. I couldn’t believe that you were mine and that God had given me such a beautiful family.

“It is an image I will never forget - Your Pappa in his blue scrubs baptizing your foreheads with holy water, and though I could not see your face Hope, I know your eyes were open looking at your father. And Grace your eyes open looking at me for the first time. To see your eyes so big and beautiful staring back at me let me know that the ultimate gift had been given to your Pappa and I - the gift of life.

“When your Pappa brought you over to my arms I was so impatient to get every glimpse of you I could. We sat together for the first time as a family. How big all our hearts grew in that moment.

“In your Pappa’s arms and my hand caressing your faces, I was in love.

“I fell in love with your curly hair, your smooshed noses, your long fingers and long feet and so in love with your beautiful bodies that were connected together in a hug so tight, that even God did not choose to separate.

“I was so proud to show you to our families that gathered in prayer and love to welcome you into this world. We were all there, expecting you to come to us and to fill our hearts, and you did.

“How I miss your sweet lives in my arms. It is a feeling I will never forget for the rest of my life.

“When I go to bed, I can still feel you on my chest, pressing our hearts against each other, as we did in the hospital bed. And I hold my heart so tightly as though I am holding you again.

“And though your sweet heart finished beating, the hearts of your Pappa and I are still here.

“We were not overwhelmed with grief or pain: we saw such beauty and comfort in knowing that you were here and with us. I couldn’t stop the awe that overwhelmed me in that you were right there in my arms snuggling with me. It was truly what I had asked the Lord for, and he did give it to me.

“And as I watched your Pappa bathe you and dress you, and look at you in such pride and love, I think I fell in love with you three all over again.

“And today, my sweet Hope and Grace, I have to continue without seeing your faces or watching your Pappa hold you, until we are called to be with you in Heaven. And this hurts my heart the most.

“I know you must hate it when I cry everyday and have this longing pain to be with you, but it is because I love you. It is good this pain and suffering I feel for you daily, for I hope that it only makes me stronger to be a saint like you have taught me; that way, I may go to Heaven right away and sweep you back into my arms again where I desperately need you to be.

“Please pray for me, girls that I will be strong, that I will be patient and most of all that I will be completely surrendered to God’s Will.

“We have had such a tremendous journey together. Haven’t we? You have been with me at each second, of each moment of each day for the past 8 months and now you are with Jesus.

“Thank you my darlings for bringing me the greatest joy my heart has ever known. Thank you my sweet dumplings for making me so proud of who you have become to so many people who have heard your story of life.

“Thank you Hope and Grace for filling my heart with your love. I will always cherish and appreciate that God gave you to us. He gave your Pappa and I life with you in our arms; something that was supposed to have never even have happened.

“I am so unworthy of such a gift.

“You brought to me Heaven in a little room, in this big world.

“God has called you girls each by name. We love you and will be with you again.”

A year later, on the anniversary of their birthday, Chris wrote his own letter of love to his departed daughters.

“One year ago today at 6:01 pm you made me the proudest and happiest Papa ever! It was on June 23, 2009 when I finally received the answers to my prayers.

“I got to see you face-to-face … I got to meet my beautiful daughters.

“It was both of you who showed me the beauty of life, the heavenly sacrifices and the gratitude of all that God has blessed me with. I thank you both for giving me the honor of loving you, reading to you, holding you until you left for a higher journey, and for allowing me to be your Papa.

“You girls, mean more to me than words can ever describe. So much that I have reserved a place in my heart especially for you. A place that can never be filled and a constant reminder of what I must fulfill to someday be given an eternal opportunity to meet you face-to-face and hold you again.”

The Beauty of Life

Photographer Melanie Pace, whose profound pictures capture the birth, life, and death of the two girls summarized in her own words the power of love that she witnessed that day in the hospital room: “God gave us these girls to teach us the beauty of life. To remind us how blessed we are even in times when it feels quite the opposite.”

Today, Luci and Chris find consolation in the words of the Psalmist: “you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:13-14).”

“To this very day I read this verse and look at pictures of Hope and Grace and see God’s perfection,” said Luci to LifeSiteNews. “I see how much effort God put into ‘knitting’ two such beautiful souls together through one heart and how blessed I am to be their mother. Their lives have touched so many people in so many incredible ways.”

“Hope and Grace, you showed me that all this time your Pappa and I were right about you, in that you are fighters for life and for faith! We were right in that, even though God has asked so much of our little family, that much was also given to us. It is something only that our four souls will truly ever know … how beautiful it all really was ... and is.”


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Hilary White Hilary White Follow Hilary

Growing ‘Women Against Feminism’ movement draws fury

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By Hilary White
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Critics of feminism have long said that it is entering the final stages of its long career, with more of its assertions about the nature of human sexual and social relations being contradicted by the evidence and fewer young people following its dictates every decade. But in the last few weeks, it seems that feminism’s last gasp is being used to direct insults at young women who are lining up to publicly reject and ridicule it.

The Tumblr site Women Against Feminism has started a social networking trend in which thousands of young women photograph themselves holding signs bluntly denouncing feminism, giving a sharp indication that the feminist brand has become poison to young, hip, and internet-savvy women.

Mainstream and journalistic feminists have lashed out at the site and its followers, entering into an online spat over the increasingly popular photos. The signs say, “I am not a victim,” and “This is what an anti-feminist looks like.”

They continue: “I am an adult who is capable of taking responsibility for myself and my actions. I define myself and derive my value by my own standards. I don’t need to be ‘empowered’. I am not a target for violence and there is no war against me. I respect me and I refuse to demonize them and blame them for my problems.”

The messages held by the women pinpoint with pithy and acerbic precision exactly the reasons given by many critics that the movement has lost favour with young people. They call it a creed of double standards that promotes victimhood and endorses bullying of anyone who critiques it.

The site’s explanatory page, which was taken down for unknown reasons in the last two days, said, “Feminists are the only people who lose their minds with rage when you tell them that women already have the same exact rights as men. That’s not good enough. They want more. They desperately want to be victims. They want a privileged social position.”

The author goes on to accuse feminism in general of systematic censorship, discrimination, elitism and “policing other women” who do not toe the line – as well as baseline misandry. The anonymous creator denounced feminism’s adoption of “abortion as ‘empowerment’”:

This opinion is unpopular, but I don’t agree that I need to have my baby scraped out of my uterus in order to feel empowered. But the abortion industry (i.e. Planned Parenthood) makes a ton of money off this perversion of empowerment. ‘Abortion as empowerment’ teaches women to see their wombs as nothing but garbage bins full of disposable waste.

One of the contributors wrote, “I don’t need feminism because my self-worth is not directly tied to my victim complex. As a woman in the western world I am not oppressed, and neither are you,” says one. Another: “I don’t need feminism because I don’t need to bully someone to share my opinions with others.”

Some come right out and say that feminism promotes exactly the evils it purports to fight against: “I don’t need feminism because I believe in equality, not entitlements and supremacy.”

Although the site and its contentious photos have been running around the internet for many months, arguments among journalism’s feminists started breaking out this week after a mocking Buzzfeed feature helped the site gain momentum on social media outlets.

Some feminist journalists simply flung insults. Lillian Kalish sniffed on Ryot, “These Women Who Think They Don’t Need Feminism Don’t Know What Feminism Is.” “Did these posters ever think to look up the actual definition of feminism?”

Nuala McKeever, in the Belfast Telegraph, called the women posting the photos “silly, ignorant, vacuous wee girls with absolutely no thoughts beyond their own self-absorbed inanities.”

Time Magazine’s Sarah Miller said, “I Really, Truly, Fully Hate ‘Women Against Feminism’—But…” Miller wrote, “[T]he tendency to see sexism everywhere is proof that feminism is healthy and vigilant, and that is not necessarily a bad thing, because misogyny is insidious and rampant… We need feminism.”

But Miller added, “Still, the pain that we experience as women—even physical—does not give us the right to tell people there’s one way to think or feel, or to assume that we have some god-like understanding of everyone’s motivations.”

Cathy Young, however, responded in Time, saying, “Stop Fem-Splaining: What ‘Women Against Feminism’ Gets Right.” She writes, “The charge that feminism stereotypes men as predators while reducing women to helpless victims certainly doesn’t apply to all feminists—but it’s a reasonably fair description of a large, influential, highly visible segment of modern feminism.”

The site, Young says, “raises valid questions about the state of Western feminism in the 21st Century — questions that must be addressed if we are to continue making progress toward real gender equality.”

Sarah Boesveld wrote in the National Post on Friday that the site shows that feminism has become “complicated” and “sometimes alienating.” She quotes an email sent to the paper by 22 year-old Australian Lisa Sandford, who “believes in equality for the sexes” but firmly rejects feminism as “rude and nasty” and intends to be a stay-at-home mother. 

Sandford wrote, “If feminism really accepted equality, they would not tell me my views are wrong, they would accept it and let me be.”

Browse the 'Women Against Feminism' archives here (warning: occasional strong language).


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Steven W. Mosher and Anne Roback Morse

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Welcome Baby Filipino 100 Million!

Steven W. Mosher and Anne Roback Morse
By Steven W. Mosher and Anne Roback Morse

Population Research Institute welcomes the birth of little Chonalyn Sentino. Baby Chonalyn was born this past Sunday to parents Clemente and Dailin, and was feted in the Philippines as “Baby 100 Million.” PRI welcomes Baby Chonalyn as well, saying that she will be a blessing to her family, her community, and her nation.

The Philippines is one of the largest Catholic countries in the world, and its people value children. For this reason, it has been a target of the population controllers for decades. It was one of the countries singled out by Henry Kissinger’s National Security Council in 1974 for special “attention” and, more recently, has been bullied by the Obama administration into passing its first population control law. 

The bill, which was touted as being all about promoting “reproductive health,” was actually intended to drive down the birth rate. For example, section 15 requires that all couples receive a “Certificate of Compliance” from the local Family Planning Office before becoming eligible for a marriage license.

Some in the Philippines are decrying Chonalyn’s birth, repeating USAID’s talking points about the “dangers” of overpopulation. They welcome Chonalyn as an individual little girl, while simultaneously calling for future little girls and boys to be removed from existence.

The Philippine Star wrote that the birth symbolized a “large population that will put a strain on the country's limited resources.” Another paper cited the executive director of the official Commission on Population who bluntly said “We'd like to push the fertility rate down to two children per (woman's) lifetime.” And the Global Post cited “concerned advocates” who thought the current population was not a “complement with the country's economic growth.”

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But many other Filipinos aren’t buying into the anti-people hysteria. Francisco Antonio, a Filipino Chemical Engineering graduate student at Yale, adamantly rebutted the notion that there are too many Filipinos, saying: “I celebrate life because population control is defeatism disguised as pragmatism. And because human creativity holds more potential for protecting this planet and its inhabitants than any other resource I know of.”

A Filipina currently living in California told PRI that she welcomed the transition of her country to 100 million persons: “Filipinos are not a burden to the world population, because we not only care for our own but also for others in the world. One of the greatest and most sought after exports of the Philippines is our skilled, motivated, and exemplary workforce. And these workers tirelessly cultivate their family and community abroad and in the Philippines. We are a very social and civic minded people. We care and share because it is part of our culture and we do it with a smile.”

 Ed, a Filipino accountant, also celebrated the birth of Baby Chonalyn: “The typical Filipino does not associate a baby with ‘cost’ or ‘expense’ but rather as a ‘blessing’ and a ‘gift.’ This is because Filipinos recognize that true happiness does not come from the accumulation of material wealth or prestige, but rather, from true, genuine, and strong relationships with other people. [Filipinos] value life, not because the Church says or the Pope says so, but because they recognize it to be true. And the truth about the value of life, will continue to shine, long after the debates are over.”

It goes without saying that we at the Population Research Institute also welcome Chonalyn’s birth. We need more Filipinos, not fewer. 

Reprinted with permission from Pop.org.


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Two very different ways to respond to Pope Francis’ unrecorded interviews

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By John-Henry Westen

In the last few weeks another series of interviews with Pope Francis surfaced and have again left many Catholics scratching their heads.  Headlines all over the world had the Pope saying that two percent of priests are pedophiles, but is that what he said?  Even though the Vatican spokesman did issue a clarification, that question and others remain unanswered.

Critical reactions to these interviews have been interesting not even so much for their contents as from whom they arise.  These are the observations of some of the most faithful Catholic Church watchers today.  The folks pointing out these concerns are not, as many would assume, ‘“far right-wing-holier-than-the-Pope” types, but mainstream Catholics known for their loyalty to Pope Francis.

Phillip Lawler is the founder of Catholic World News, the first Catholic news service operating on the Internet. In part of his criticism of the most recent interview, he states: “Why was Pope Francis speaking with Scalfari without having first established clear ground rules for the conversation—rules that would certainly include recording and verification of any quotes?”

(To comprehend the situation accurately it is necessary to have an understanding of the man whom the Pope has allowed to interview him.  Eugenio Scalfari is relatively unknown in the West even after the fanfare of his papal interviews. LifeSiteNews has produced this piece to assist that understanding.)

Lawler recalls: “Back in October the Vatican had been embarrassed by an ‘interview’ in which [Scalfari’s] reconstructed quotes caused an uproar, and the Vatican press office was forced to issue an awkward ‘clarification’ which only added to the confusion.”

In addition to that clarification of the October Scalfari interview, the confusion and uproar got so bad that the Vatican removed the interview from their website, where they had it posted in the section containing the Pope’s speeches. Interestingly, that interview resurfaced two weeks ago on the Vatican website only to be removed again after a new round of criticism.

A blogger at the EWTN-owned National Catholic Register offered an observation similar to Lawler’s but with a little more bite. Pat Archbold writes, “The internet is once again abuzz with the second-hand hearsay of an unrecorded Papal interview.” Archbold advises his readers with characteristic sarcasm, “So pay no attention to those crazy and outlandish anti-Catholic headlines tearing up your RSS feed.  Just ignore them and hope they will soon go away, just like unrecorded Papal interviews.”

A second unrecorded conversation with the Pope makes news

Another write-up of an encounter with Pope Francis also caused a stir.  Brian Stiller, an Evangelical leader from Toronto was part of a delegation of Evangelical Christians who met with Pope Francis earlier this month. In his July 9 account, Stiller puts in quotes this statement he attributes to the Pope: “I’m not interested in converting Evangelicals to Catholicism. I want people to find Jesus in their own community.  There are so many doctrines we will never agree on. Let’s not spend our time on those. Rather, let’s be about showing the love of Jesus.”

That led noted priest-blogger Father Dwight Longenecker to first caution that the quotes are “Brian Stiller’s memory of the conversation.” 

Then with the caveat of not actually knowing the whole conversation, Fr. Longenecker says “it would not be unusual for a Catholic priest of Pope Francis’ generation to feel that way.”  He explains that he has “heard from numerous convert clergy over the years who said when they went to their local Catholic priest and expressed the wish to become Catholic the priest told them it wasn’t necessary and that they could do much more good to Christ’s kingdom and the Catholic church by staying where they were and evangelizing within their own denomination.”

“Now this strikes me as rather troublesome on several levels,” says Longenecker. He notes he had himself once used that line with a Protestant friend, to which his friend replied, “You don’t want to convert me? Why not? I don’t have much respect for your religion if you think so little of it that you don’t want me to share it!”

“He basically called me out on what was a little lie on my part. I wanted to be nice to him [so] I said I didn’t want to convert him. He said our discussion would be much better if I admitted that I did want him to become Catholic. He was right. I did. I still do.”

Inside the Vatican

Vatican journalist Edward Pentin has reported that unnamed “Vatican officials are uneasy and perplexed” about the interview. Pentin began reporting on the Vatican as a correspondent with Vatican Radio in 2002 and has since covered the pope for a number of publications, including Newsweek and The Sunday Times.

“The officials’ discomfort also extends to the Pope’s spontaneous telephone calls to strangers, a couple of which implied he deviated from Church teaching but, being private and unrecorded conversations, are difficult to verify,” he wrote for Newsmax.

From the outset of the Francis pontificate, there were these unrecorded and yet published interviews – the first was from a meeting with Latin American religious leaders in June 2013.  That was the one that had Pope Francis speaking of the existence of a “gay lobby” in the Vatican and also about being concerned about Catholics who would count rosaries to offer prayer bouquets.

At the time LifeSiteNews published nothing on that first unrecorded interview even though almost all other news services did.  Shortly thereafter I was at the Vatican inquiring about that unrecorded but reported-on encounter and was assured by various Vatican insiders that the communication was not accidental but intended – to me at the time a rather startling revelation.

But that same assessment came later from another Vatican quarter, a man who speaks German as does the pope and also shares the pope’s religious order.  “Francis knows exactly how power is spelled,” said Bernd Hagenkord, a Jesuit who is in charge of German programming for Vatican Radio in a May interview with The Atlantic. “He’s a communicator in the league with Mother Teresa and the Dalai Lama. They say he’s being unclear, but we know exactly what he means.”

Two different ways to respond

One of the most disturbing outcomes of these ‘interviews’ is that the words and interpretations of what is being said by the Pope, while they may be clear for the German Jesuit, are remarkably unclear for the vast majority of Catholics.  Catholics who know well their faith, its moral teachings, and the reason for them are few and far between. They are able to discern that the Pope cannot mean to undermine Church teaching; that those teachings are unchangeable.

But most people are taken in by the media’s false interpretation that ‘who am I to judge’ involves a new acceptance of homosexuality; the false possibility for legitimately-married Catholics to divorce and remarry outside the Church and still receive Communion; the idea that the Church should quiet down on her teachings on abortion, contraception, and same-sex “marriage.”  All of those false conclusions were drawn from previous Francis interviews.

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There are two ways forward for faithful Catholics in such a situation.  One way – a way that is most tempting - was recently recognized as a growing tendency by blogger Father Ray Blake. “Most Catholics but especially clergy want to be loyal to the Pope in order to maintain the unity of the Church,” he said.  “Today that loyalty is perhaps best expressed through silence.”

In leading up to that observation, Blake noted that in the previous pontificate “there was a solidity and certainty in Benedict's teaching which made discussion possible and stimulated intellectual honesty, one knew where the Church and the Pope stood.”  He added, “Today we are in less certain times, the intellectual life of the Church is thwart with uncertainty.”

However, Vatican Cardinal Raymond Burke suggested a different approach recently. According to Burke, who serves as head of the Vatican’s highest court, the Apostolic Signatura, the pope has made a strategic decision to focus on making the Church appealing, and thus bishops and priests “are even more compelled to underline these teachings (on life and family) and make them clear for the faithful.”

He told EWTN’s Raymond Arroyo, “The Holy Father has said on different occasions that he expects that bishops and priests are doing this teaching while he’s trying to draw people closer and not have them use [these doctrines] as their immediate excuse for not coming to the faith.”

Cardinal Burke’s strategy confronts the culture head-on even on the most difficult issues.  He sees that the often-used but failed tactic of avoiding difficult situations, of obfuscating or compromising on moral issues as worse than useless.

When truth is pushed aside for political correctness, to fulfill ideals of civility or to achieve false unity and false peace, the world is harmed by the lack of truth the Church is called to bring to it.

When truth is boldly proclaimed and held to, despite persecution, even the enemies of truth are forced to see that the opponents of their secular or liberal ideologies truly believe their teachings and are willing to suffer for them. This eventually generates a degree of respect from some of the critics and an openness to re-consider their own flawed positions.


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