Hilary White, Rome Correspondent

Vatican Cardinal: ‘Individual bishops’, not just conferences must fight culture of death (exclusive)

Hilary White, Rome Correspondent
Hilary White, Rome Correspondent

ROME, April 23, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The bishops of the world must, as individuals, take the lead in combating the Culture of Death, and not wait for the national conferences, Cardinal Raymond Burke told LifeSiteNews.com in an interview yesterday.

“It should be emphasized that the individual bishop has a responsibility in this matter. Sometimes what happens is the individual bishops are unwilling to do anything because they wait for the national bishops’ conference to take the lead.”

Warning against some of the bureaucratic trends of “truth by committee” in the Church’s organisation, Cardinal Burke said, “Simply by the way these conferences work, it can be years before some kind of effective direction is given, and then oftentimes because this direction is discussed and debated, it can get very watered down.” 

He emphasized that the involvement of the bishops should be constant, and not merely a matter of issuing a statement once. “We’re not writing term papers here where you make reference to an earlier document and that’s sufficient.” In public life, he said, the message has to be stated and re-stated and kept up to date.

And statements, he said, are only one part of it. “Its another thing to encourage people to actively manifest their desire that the moral law be respected,” he said. Even in a “pluralistic” society the moral law is universal and can and must be expressed in law, he explained. 

The head of the Apostolic Signatura, the Vatican’s supreme court, spoke with LSN in the lead-up to the Marcia per la Vita (March for Life) Nazionale in Rome, set for May 12th in Rome. The Cardinal is known around the world as one of the strongest voices in the Vatican’s Curia for the Church’s teaching on the sacredness of human life at all its stages. He said that the growth of the marches for life, starting in the US, is indicating a shift in opinion on abortion in many countries of the western world, particularly among younger people. 

Cardinal Burke said that abortion is the premier social justice issue, even if some in the hierarchy, even in the Vatican, don’t seem to act that way. The lack of enthusiasm for combating abortion as a priority among some of the upper echelons of the Church administration, he said, “is something that needs to be addressed”.

He said that overall, “there is a concern” about abortion among the cardinals. “How they see it practically being witnessed is another thing, however.”

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“I think in some places there’s a great hesitation among prelates to be involved in public manifestations. Many see it as some kind of political activity that isn’t proper for a cleric.” 

But Burke said he does not hesitate to participate, “because to me, it’s a question of the common good. Giving witness for the common good. It’s not a political rally in the sense that they’re rallying for this or that candidate, it’s not partisan, it’s a good across the  board.”

Citing the encyclical by Pope Benedict XVI Caritas in Veritate, he said that abortion, as well as the widespread use of artificial contraception, must be made priorities: “It seems to me it’s the first issue of social justice, the right to life.” 

Remarking on the marches springing up in ultra-liberal European centres like Brussels and Paris, as well as the leap for the Italian national march from 1000 to 15,000 participants in one year, the cardinal said, “I think especially among the younger people there’s a great interest. People realise that the culture is really bankrupt and they’re trying their best to respond to the situation.” 

He said that there is a visible increase in interest by bishops, particularly at the March in Washington. He also said that the media blackout has been unable to stop the personal witness of the marches. “I believe it has a great impact,” he said. 

He urged the upcoming generation of younger pro-life leaders to bring the life issues up with their clergy.

“I think the lay faithful in the parishes and in the dioceses need to go to their bishops and priests and urge them to give that pastoral leadership that they’re called to give on this very critical issue. Yes the laity have their part, a very significant part in all the various areas of public life to give witness to the Gospel but they depend upon their priests and bishops to give that teaching and example, how to confront the situation.” 

“They need leadership. That’s what it’s all about.”  

The marches in Italy are only three years old, and have already grown from a small gathering in an out-of-the-way town in the north, to 15,000 last year in the capital. Organisers are hoping to jumpstart a public debate which has not occurred since Italy’s abortion law was passed in 1978.

While it is true that the Italian abortion rate is relatively low and few doctors are willing to participate in abortion – with overall about 70 per cent in the country refusing and as many as 86 per cent in Lazio, the region of Rome – the abortion rate has numbered in the millions since legalisation. The latest statistics available estimate that about 115,517 abortions in 2010 out of a total Italian population of 60.77 million and a national rate of 8.5 abortions per 1000 women between 18 and 49. 

In 2009, the notorious abortion drug regimen, RU-486, was approved for use in early pregnancies. Italian ambivalence about abortion was demonstrated in 1981 when a national referendum to repeal the law was rejected by nearly 68 per cent of voters and another, that would have removed legal restrictions was rejected by 88.4 per cent.

Marcia per la Vita, Roma organizers have asked for help with advertising expenses. In a media release today, organizers explained that radio spots, posters and newspaper ads have cost a total of around 10,000 Euros. “We ask you to help us according to your abilities, to give our event the biggest impact possible,” they said. 

“The life of a human being is priceless and we will be in the streets to join our voices in defense of innocent human life that is suppressed every day, every minute, in the world and also in Italy!” 

Visit the Marcia per la Vita website for more details on how to donate. 

 

Related LifeSiteNews stories

Rome’s March for Life will promote 1 million signature EU pro-life campaign

Organizer hopes astonishing growth of Rome March for Life will kick-start public debate

 

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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.

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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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