John Jalsevac

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Gay students organize campaign to kick out Catholic priest for saying homosexuality, abortion sinful

John Jalsevac
John Jalsevac
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WASHINGTON, D.C., April 5, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Catholic students at George Washington University are rallying to the support of their beloved priest after two gay seniors launched a campaign to kick him out of his post at the university’s Newman Center for preaching that homosexuality and abortion are sinful.

The GW Hatchet, a campus newspaper, reported this week that seniors Damian Legacy and Blake Bergen are spearheading the campaign. The story has since been picked up by numerous other news outlets.

The students say that they will file a formal complaint with the university, release a video featuring ten other students who share their opinion, and hold prayer vigils until the priest is removed from his post. They are also demanding that the university’s Student Association defund the Newman Center, which receives $10,000 a year.

In their letter of complaint the pair will reportedly cite studies showing how being around “homophobic” behavior can lead to loss of appetite and problems sleeping.

The students complain that Fr. Greg Shaffer has spoken out against gay “marriage” and abortion, and has counseled homosexual Catholic students to embrace celibacy. They said they were disturbed when Fr. Shaffer quoted the Book of Romans and the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

One of the two students, Damian Legacy, says he spent a large portion of his free time at the Newman Center during his freshman year at the university, including serving at Mass, and that he had hoped to become a priest. However, Fr. Shaffer reportedly disapproved when he found out that Legacy was in a relationship with another male student, and that he and Bergen were both running for offices with the gay rights organization Allied in Pride. 

“To have my faith leader view me that way, just because of one piece of the way that God made me, and to think that one part is responsible for the destruction of my human dignity, it just didn't, I can’t even begin to describe the mental conflict that it creates,” Legacy said. 

The Hatchet reports Bergen was "raised Jewish" and "identifies as agnostic." Legacy has since been ordained in the North American Old Catholic Church, which encourages homosexuals to become clergy.

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Catholic students rally to defense of Fr. Shaffer

Meanwhile, a student at the university has launched a website in support of Fr. Shaffer. Entitled The Chaplain We Know, the site features dozens of glowing testimonies from students about how the priest has touched their lives, and paying tribute to his spirit of service and passion for the Catholic faith.

Several students spoke of the priest’s willingness to meet with them at any time of day or night when they were in crisis or needed support. One described how, overcome with guilt during her freshman year, she had randomly called the priest at 2:00 in the morning on a Friday. 

“I don’t even know why,” she said. “I was a freshman, and I wasn’t even that Catholic yet. I dialed his number because I found his business card in the chapel. And he answered, and I was sobbing like a little baby and he didn’t even know who I was but he met me at the Foggy Bottom metro, and we talked and he got me Confession.”

Another student described how, after he learned that his father was dying from cancer this past Christmas, Fr. Shaffer cancelled his plans and drove nine hours to be with the student’s family. There he celebrated Mass and prayed over the student’s father. 

“I will never forget or be able to truly express my gratitude for the selflessness and charity he showed by coming to be with my family over this past Christmas break,” wrote the student, who said that his father has since defied the doctors’ prognosis and dramatically improved.

Interestingly, one of the gay students who is seeking to oust the priest shared a similar story about Fr. Shaffer’s dedication, telling The Hatchet that he knew the priest would always answer his telephone, even if he called him in the middle of the night. 

Chris Crawford, the student behind The Chaplain We Know, told LifeSiteNews.com that he was motivated to start the site because "Fr. Greg has been an enormous source of strength for GW Catholics."

"He is like a father to many of us. When we need someone to turn to, he is always there to answer our call - even if we call his cell phone in the middle of the night," said Crawford. "Whenever we need him, he is there to help us and to show us love and support. Lately, a false caricature of Fr. Greg has been created by some of the media on campus. This caricature is not in line with the loving, supportive Chaplain that we know. I wanted people to know the loving, supportive chaplain that we know."

Crawford said since the story broke, Fr. Shaffer, GW Catholics, and The Chaplain We Know, have "received an overwhelming outpouring of support."

He said he hopes that the publicity around the campaign from the students will lead people to check out the Newman Center. "If people, even those who expect to dislike us, come to The Newman Center to learn more about us, they will become closer to Christ. The Newman Center is a welcoming place in which everyone is loved. This is like our home away from home."

Meanwhile, he said, he is praying for the two students who have launched the campaign, whom he doesn't personally know.

Archdiocese, other Catholic organizations support Fr. Shaffer

Other Catholic organizations have also stepped up in support of the priest. In a letter to the university, Bill Donohue of the Catholic League described the two students’ complaint as “an attack on the freedom of expression of Catholics on campus to discuss their religious beliefs and practices with impunity.” 

Patrick O’Reilly of the Cardinal Newman Society, a Catholic education watchdog organization, told Fox News he found the whole incident “absolutely disturbing.” 

"Chastity outside of marriage has been the Catholic church teaching for more than 2,000 years," he said. "The only discrimination occurring there is trying to silence a priest for trying to teach the Catholic faith."

The Archdiocese of Washington has responded to the controversy with a statement defending their priest. While the GW Newman Center is affililated with the university, it is officially part of the archdiocese.

"Fr. Greg Shaffer, chaplain at the Newman Center on the campus of the George Washington University, shares the teachings of the Catholic Church in a welcoming and joyful manner. His ministry is a vital component of the vibrant faith community on campus," reads the statement.

"The Catholic Church welcomes everyone. The teachings, however, are not tailored to an individual's personal beliefs," it continues. "Thus, priests have a commitment to educate people in the truths of our faith, regardless of the current cultural trend." 

“Forgive them, Father”

The university has said it is investigating the complaint. Vice Provost for Diversity and Inclusion Terri Harris Reed released a statement saying that the university "strives to embody the spirit of mutual respect and reasoned debate that is essential to our academic mission." 

"We are therefore committed to ensuring that all members of our community are free to express their religious beliefs while honoring the right of others to express theirs," the statement read. 

Fr. Greg has not yet responded at length to the accusations, other than in one quote included in the Hatchet article, in which he said that freedom of religion and freedom of speech are “important rights that play a vital role at a diverse university like GW,” and that they are on his side.

However, in a blog post Wednesday, the day before the story was published in the Hatchet, he posted a photo of Jesus sitting on some rocks, with the words “Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do.”

A message left with Fr. Shaffer was not returned by press time. 


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Quebec groups launch court challenge to euthanasia bill

LifeSiteNews staff
By LifeSiteNews staff

As announced when the Quebec legislature adopted Bill 52, An Act respecting end-of-life care, the citizen movement Living with Dignity and the Physicians’ Alliance against Euthanasia, representing together over 650 physicians and 17,000 citizens, filed a lawsuit before the Superior Court of Quebec in the District of Montreal on Thursday.

The lawsuit requests that the Court declare invalid all the provisions of the Act that deal with “medical aid in dying”, a term the groups say is a euphemism for euthanasia. This Act not only allows certain patients to demand that a physician provoke their death, but also grants physicians the right to cause the death of these patients by the administration of a lethal substance.

The two organizations are challenging the constitutionality of those provisions in the Act which are aimed at decriminalizing euthanasia under the euphemism “medical aid in dying”. Euthanasia constitutes a culpable homicide under Canada’s Criminal Code, and the organizations maintain that it is at the core of the exclusive federal legislative power in relation to criminal law and Quebec therefore does not have the power to adopt these provisions.

The organizations also say the impugned provisions unjustifiably infringe the rights to life and to security of patients guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms. They further infringe the right to the safeguard of the dignity of the person, which is also protected by the Quebec Charter.

In view of the gravity of the situation and the urgent need to protect all vulnerable persons in Quebec, they are requesting an accelerated management of the case in order to obtain a judgment before the Act is expected to come into force on December 10, 2015.


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Colorado baker appeals gvmt ‘re-education’ order

LifeSiteNews staff
By LifeSiteNews staff

A Colorado cake artist who declined to use his creative talents to promote and endorse a same-sex ceremony appealed a May 30 order from the Colorado Civil Rights Commission to the Colorado Court of Appeals Wednesday.

The commission’s order requires cake artist Jack Phillips and his staff at Masterpiece Cakeshop to create cakes for same-sex celebrations, forces him to re-educate his staff that Colorado’s Anti-Discrimination Act means that artists must endorse all views, compels him to implement new policies to comply with the commission’s order, and requires him to file quarterly “compliance” reports for two years. The reports must include the number of patrons declined a wedding cake or any other product and state the reason for doing so to ensure he has fully eliminated his religious beliefs from his business.

“Americans should not be forced by the government – or by another citizen – to endorse or promote ideas with which they disagree,” said the cake artist’s lead counsel Nicolle Martin, an attorney allied with Alliance Defending Freedom. “This is not about the people who asked for a cake; it’s about the message the cake communicates. Just as Jack doesn’t create baked works of art for other events with which he disagrees, he doesn’t create cake art for same-sex ceremonies regardless of who walks in the door to place the order.”

“In America, we don’t force artists to create expression that is contrary to their convictions,” added Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Legal Counsel Jeremy Tedesco. “A paint artist who identifies as homosexual shouldn’t be intimidated into creating a painting that celebrates one-man, one-woman marriage. A pro-life photographer shouldn’t be forced to work a pro-abortion rally. And Christian cake artists shouldn’t be punished for declining to participate in a same-sex ceremony or promote its message.”

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In July 2012, Charlie Craig and David Mullins asked Jack Phillips, owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop, to make a wedding cake to celebrate their same-sex ceremony. In an exchange lasting about 30 seconds, Phillips politely declined, explaining that he would gladly make them any other type of baked item they wanted but that he could not make a cake promoting a same-sex ceremony because of his faith. Craig and Mullins, now represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, immediately left the shop and later filed a complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Division. The case now goes to the Colorado Court of Appeals as Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Craig.

“Jack, and other cake artists like him – such as those seen on TV shows like ‘Ace of Cakes’ and ‘Cake Boss’ – prepare unique creations that are inherently expressive,” Tedesco explained. “Jack invests many hours in the wedding cake creative process, which includes meeting the clients, designing and sketching the cake, and then baking, sculpting, and decorating it. The ACLU calls Jack a mere ‘retail service provider,’ but, in fact, he is an artist who uses his talents and abilities to create expression that the First Amendment fully protects."

Celebrity cake artists have written publicly about their art and the significant expressive work that goes into the artistic design process for wedding cakes.


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Prisoner of conscience Mary Wagner appeals her conviction

Tony Gosgnach
By Tony Gosgnach

TORONTO -- As promised, Mary Wagner has, through her counsel Dr. Charles Lugosi, filed a formal notice of appeal on numerous points regarding her recent, almost two-year-long court case that ended on June 12.

Justice Fergus O’Donnell of the Ontario Court of Justice rejected every application made by the defence – including for access to abortion center records, public funding, standing for a constitutional challenge and for expert witnesses to be heard – before he found Wagner guilty and sentenced her to five months in jail on a charge of mischief and four months on four counts of failing to comply with probation orders.

He further levied two years of probation, with terms that she stay at least 100 metres away from any abortion site. However, because Wagner had spent a greater time in jail than the sentence, she was freed immediately. She had been arrested at the “Women’s Care Clinic” abortion site on Lawrence Avenue West in Toronto on August 15, 2012 after attempting to speak to abortion-bound women there. She then spent the duration of the trial in prison for refusing to sign bail conditions requiring her to stay away from abortion sites.

Wagner is using the matter as a test case to challenge the current definition of a human being in Canadian law – that is, that a human being is legally recognized as such only after he or she has fully emerged from the birth canal in a breathing state.

Wagner’s notice states the appeal is regarding:

  • Her conviction and sentence on a single count of mischief (interference with property),
  • Her conviction and sentence on four counts of breach of probation,
  • The order denying public funding,
  • The order denying the disclosure of third-party records,
  • The order denying the admission of evidence from experts on the applicant’s constitutional challenge concerning the constitutional validity of Section 223 of the Criminal Code,
  • The order denying the admission of evidence from experts concerning the construction of Section 37 of the Criminal Code,
  • The probation order denying Wagner her constitutional rights to freedom of speech, freedom of expression, freedom of conscience and freedom of religion on all public sidewalks and public areas within 100 metres of places where abortions are committed,
  • And each conviction and sentence and all orders and rulings made by O’Donnell.

In the notice of appeal, Lugosi cites numerous points on which O’Donnell erred:

  • He denied Wagner her constitutional right to make full answer and defence.
  • He denied Wagner her right to rely on Section 37 of the Criminal Code, which permits “everyone” to come to the third-party defence and rescue of any human being (in this case, the preborn) facing imminent assault.
  • He decided the factual basis of Wagner’s constitutional arguments was a waste of the court’s time and that no purpose would have been served by having an evidentiary hearing on her Charter application because, in the current state of Canadian law, it had no possibility of success.
  • He misapplied case law and prejudged the case, “giving rise to a reasonable apprehension of bias and impeding the legal evolution of the law to adapt to new circumstances, knowledge and changed societal values and morals.”
  • He accepted the Crown’s submission that it is beyond the jurisdiction of the courts to question the jurisdiction of Parliament legally to define “human being” in any manner Parliament sees fit.
  • He ruled Section 223 of the Criminal Code is not beyond the powers of Section 52 of the Constitution Act, 1982.
  • He ruled Section 223 of the Criminal Code does not violate the Preamble to, as well as Sections 7, 11(d), 15 and 26, of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
  • He denied Wagner standing to raise a constitutional challenge to the validity of Section 223 of the Criminal Code.
  • He ruled that Section 223 of the Criminal Code applied generally throughout the entire Criminal Code and used it to deny unborn human beings the benefit of equal protection as born human beings under Section 37 of the Criminal Code.
  • He denied the production and disclosure of third-party records in the possession of the “Women’s Care Clinic” abortion site, although the records were required to prove Wagner was justified in using reasonable force in the form of oral and written words to try to persuade pregnant mothers from killing their unborn children by abortion.
  • He denied Wagner the defence of Section 37 of the Criminal Code by ruling unborn children did not come within the scope of human beings eligible to be protected by a third party.
  • He ruled Wagner did not come within the scope of Section 37 because she was found to be non-violent (in that she did not use physical force).
  • He ruled the unborn children Wagner was trying to rescue were not under her protection.
  • He denied Wagner the common-law defences of necessity and the rescue of third parties in need of protection.
  • He denied Wagner public funding to make full answer and defence for a constitutional test case of great public importance and national significance.
  • He imposed an unconstitutional sentence upon Wagner by, in effect, imposing an injunction as a condition of probation, contrary to her constitutional rights of free speech, freedom of expression, freedom of conscience and freedom of religion.

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Among the orders Lugosi is seeking are:

  • That an appeal be allowed against conviction on all counts and that a verdict of acquittal be entered on all counts,
  • That Section 223 of the Criminal Code be found unconstitutional  and contrary to Section 52 of the Constitution Act, 1982, as well as the unwritten constitution of Canada,
  • That the sentence be declared unconstitutional and contrary to Section 52 of the Constitution Act, 1982, and the unwritten constitution of Canada or that a new trial be conducted, with Wagner permitted to make full answer and defence, be given standing to make a constitutional attack on Section 223 of the Criminal Code, with the admission of expert witnesses,
  • That the Women’s Care Clinic abortion site be made to produce third-party records pertaining to patients seen on August 15, 2012 (when Wagner entered the site),
  • And that there be public funding for two defence counsels at any retrial and for any appeal related to the case.

No date has yet been established for a decision on the appeal or hearings.

A defence fund for Wagner’s case is still raising money. Details on how to contribute to it can be found here.


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