Kathleen Gilbert

Confusion as Maine bishop signals opposition to gay ‘marriage,’ but backs away from political fight

Kathleen Gilbert
Kathleen Gilbert
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PORTLAND, Maine, March 9, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Following the release of a pastoral letter some interpreted as backing away from Maine’s upcoming marriage fight, the office of Bishop Richard Malone of Portland has said that they plan to “promote the cause of defending marriage” regarding a ballot initiative this Fall. However, unlike in a similar 2009 battle, the diocese said it won’t take an active role in or contribute funds to the political effort to stop the redefinition of marriage.

Homosexual activists last month gathered enough signatures to place a redefinition of marriage on the 2012 general election ballot. The question will first be put to the Republican-controlled Legislature and Republican governor, who are expected to reject it, bringing the question before Maine voters.

Maine Today reports that gay rights advocates spent $5.8 million on the fight for marriage redefinition in 2009.

Malone elicited conflicting headlines in the media over the weekend when he issued a letter that emphasized the Catholic Church’s stance on marriage while announcing that the diocese would take a different approach to the push to redefine marriage than it did in 2009.

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“I feel compelled to teach and speak about marriage in the fullness of truth and in all charity,” wrote Malone, who called the ballot initiative “another attempt underway in Maine to redefine marriage” away from its true nature. The letter emphasized his “primary responsibility is that of teacher” as bishop, and the Church’s public function as a “prophet of the law,” noting, “The Church’s effort to promote and protect marriage in the public square is not a matter of forcing faith on anyone.” 

But media took notice this weekend when Bishop Malone said in a press conference that the diocese wouldn’t take special collections or otherwise join the political campaign to defend marriage, unlike in 2009, when the diocese played a significant role in a successful bid to reverse a new same-sex “marriage” law by voter referendum. Many called the new tack a softening of the diocese’s stance against marriage, a charge Malone’s office denies.

When asked about the change by CNN, Malone said that the diocese would still be “very involved” in the marriage fight but that the focus would be on education.

Suzanne Lafreniere, executive assistant for the diocese’s marriage office, told LifeSiteNews.com (LSN) that the diocese simply decided that active involvement “wouldn’t be the most effective use of the Catholic Church’s influence” in 2012. Asked why, she responded, “there’s no crystal ball, but in 2012 I don’t think it will be the exact same discourse.”

Brian Souchet, director of the Diocese of Portland’s Office for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage, told LSN that the letter was not a response to the referendum, and would have been issued even without the political battle. “I think the Church always needs to speak out strongly for the truth [in terms of] entering dialogue,” he said, emphasizing that “nothing’s changed” in terms of Maine voters’ feelings on the marriage issue.

Souchet said the diocese’s 2009 involvement, which included soliciting donations from other dioceses and taking up a second collection for the cause, was “absolutely not” a mistake but that it would not take place again, citing the diocese’s recent financial struggles. Asked why collections wouldn’t be taken, he said, “I don’t think [Bishop Malone] believes we need to be doing that.”

Other sources pointed to the extreme political blowback from the Diocese of Portland’s 2009 involvement as possibly contributing to the new direction this year.

When an effort to overturn the state’s redefintion of marriage was placed on the ballot three years ago, gay rights activists portrayed its opposition as merely an arm of the Portland diocese, pointing to the extent of its financial contributions as well as the role of Marc Mutty, the diocese’s Director of Public Affairs who served as chair of the Yes on 1 campaign.

Mutty was later to turn on his own campaign, telling makers of a documentary last year that he “hate[d]” the work and regretted his role aiding the marriage initiative. “I’m not particularly fond of being remembered as the star bigot in Maine — the one who led the charge to deny gays and lesbians their fundamental rights — which is how it’ll be painted, I fear,” said Mutty, who remains with the diocese.

The diocese nonetheless maintains a strong relationship with marriage defenders in the state, and promised to work with the new ballot committee to offer assistance where needed.

Carroll Conley Jr., executive director of the Christian Civic League of Maine, told LSN that his group maintains a “close personal friendship” with Bishop Malone. The Christian Civic League is behind the nascent ballot committee to defend the defintion of marriage in November.

“We would prefer they’d be involved in a formal relationship ... but we know how strongly [Bishop Malone] feels about this issue, and we know that he’ll engage Catholics effectively,” Conley said.

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Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller, prefect of the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
Thaddeus Baklinski Thaddeus Baklinski Follow Thaddeus

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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Dustin Siggins Dustin Siggins Follow Dustin

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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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