Kenneth D. Whitehead

It’s time to get “obsessed” about opposing today’s moral evils

Kenneth D. Whitehead
By Kenneth Whitehead
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November 13, 2013 (crisismagazine.com) –A recent Quinnipiac poll found that some 53 percent of Catholics who attend Mass weekly, and some 65 percent of those who attend Mass less frequently, would favor a law legalizing so-called same-sex “marriage” in spite of the Church’s clear teaching that any true marriage must always and necessarily be between a man and a woman. The same poll cited almost identical percentages, 52 and 66 percent respectively, favoring the ordination of women, even though Blessed Pope John Paul II foreclosed that option in his 1994 Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, which confirmed that the Church’s teaching forbidding female ordination was “definitive,” and was “to be held by all the faithful.”

The Catholic League’s Bill Donohue questioned the honesty of this poll, primarily because among those who attend Mass less frequently than weekly, it did not distinguish those who no longer attend Mass at all, and hence could no more represent “Catholic” opinion than, in Donohue’s comparison, a teetotaler could be considered a drinker. Bill Donohue has a PhD in sociology and understands polling; he pointed out that “every poll ever taken” verifies that Catholics are more likely to agree with the Church’s teaching in the degree that they actually practice their religion and attend Mass faithfully.

So we can perhaps question whether these startlingly elevated figures in favor of gay marriage reflect valid Catholic opinion. Nevertheless, there does seem to be a considerable gap today between what the Church teaches and what some Catholics apparently believe and follow. We know from other sources, anecdotal as well as statistical, that there is a divergence, sometimes wide, between what the Church teaches, and what many self-identifying Catholics are prepared to accept and affirm today. The really disturbing number of Catholics whom other polls show rejecting the Church’s teaching against contraception, for example—many of whom evidently resort to the use of it as well—represents a notable case in point. Open dissent from the Church’s teaching on birth control has been a regrettable feature of the Church’s life for nearly a half century now; and since this dissent has rarely been corrected by Church authority, but rather has been typically passed over as if it didn’t really exist, the same attitude of dissent has sometimes extended to the denial of other doctrines—which Church authority has again usually not gotten around to correcting.

There is, for example, the now quite notorious phenomenon of the pro-abortion politicians or public figures who readily and cheerfully identify themselves as Catholic while blandly declining to admit that their public support for such contemporary moral evils as legalized abortion, government-subsidized family planning, or gay marriage could in any way be in conflict with the Catholicism they claim to profess. Today we have before us practically an entire generation of “Catholics” who apparently think that no moral teaching in particular any longer attaches to the profession of the Catholic faith. They feel able to espouse and promote virtually any or all contemporary moral aberrations and evils as if this had no bearing whatsoever on the authenticity of their profession of Catholicism.

In recent years, for example, the two Catholic lay people in immediate succession of the U.S. presidency, Vice President Joseph Biden and former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, could regularly be counted on to go along with practically every new manifestation of the culture of death being adopted by the government—as if such an attitude somehow came right out of the old Baltimore Catechism. Vice President Biden once even threatened mayhem with his Rosary towards anybody questioning his Catholicism.

Similarly, Supreme Court justice Anthony Kennedy, who with his majority opinion recently opened the door to the recognition of same-sex unions legalized as marriages by various states, betrayed not the slightest hint of concern that his position might represent any kind of contradiction with his baptismal faith. Then there are the cases of New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo, and Maryland’s Governor Martin O’Malley, both of whom are frequently mentioned as possible 2016 candidates for national office, even while both of them pointedly and proudly promote grave moral evils as public policy. The same supposedly amoral attitude can unhappily be predicated of scores of contemporary Catholics, who evidently sincerely do believe that being a Catholic no longer entails the acceptance of Catholic moral teaching; somehow that teaching is no longer supposed to apply today.

In this atmosphere, what Pope Francis said in his recent interview published in various Jesuit publication thus really does not apply to the real situation which confronts the Church in today’s decadent society and culture. The pope’s remarks inspired worldwide sensational media reports claiming that he thought that Catholics and the Church were currently “obsessed” with combating the contemporary evils of abortion, contraception, and gay marriage; and the idea was that Catholics should soft-pedal these “obsessions.” What the pope actually said—in the context of discussing how the faith should be proclaimed to the world today—is that “we cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage, and the use of contraceptive methods” (emphasis added). That is certainly true enough in the context of evangelization.

But what quickly got lost in the controversy stirred up by the pope’s statement was the truth about the extent to which Catholics and the Church were in fact insisting “only” on these issues in today’s typical public discourse. Certainly the Church does oppose abortion, gay marriage, and contraception—they are objectively evil. But they are most distinctly not “only” what the Church mainly “insists” on today. The “obsession” concerning them, in fact, seems to be rather one belonging not to the Church but rather to today’s secular media people themselves, who almost never fail to raise these same issues whenever they are reporting on practically anything concerning the Church. Apparently they can neither understand nor abide that the Church should actually continue to condemn what the world has instead decided to condone and even to celebrate; and so the media reports were almost bound to treat any mention of these issues at all by Pope Francis in the way that they did treat them. Clearly, for them the retrograde Church has simply got to reconcile herself and come to terms with the modern world!

In his interview the pope himself, however, went on immediately to confirm that the teaching of the Church on the contemporary moral evils he made reference to “is clear, and I am a son of the Church.” He accepts and affirms these teachings. How this added up to the conclusion that he somehow thought that the Church should no longer be so “obsessed” with them was never very clear in the various media reports.

The fact of the matter, of course, is that neither Catholics nor the Church are “obsessed” with these issues in the way that the typical media reports asserted. The grave evil of abortion, certainly, has rightly been opposed by the Church from the time that it got legalized. The American Catholic bishops have regularly issued statements opposing it and have also, admirably, sponsored and promoted events and activities opposed to it; but none of this has ever been a first priority for them; nor has it in any way been an “obsession” of theirs; they have mainly just lent their support to a pro-life movement that grew up and got organized quite independently of them.

And as for contraception, it represents a different case entirely. Far from being “obsessed” with fighting it, Catholics and the Church have rather been largely passive and accepting of it in American society, even if at least some Catholics never resorted to using it. Beginning back in the 1960s, the U.S. government has supported Planned Parenthood and similar organizations with literally millions of taxpayer dollars with no discernible public opposition from Catholics, certainly none from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). During those same years you had to be a Catholic of a certain age ever to have heard a sermon directed against contraception. Virtually any mention of it at all similarly disappeared from confessionals, classrooms, marriage counseling, textbooks, and most Catholic newspapers and periodicals. It was not until 2009 that the USCCB finally got around to issuing a pastoral letter morally condemning contraception by name, thereby reminding everybody that this had been the official teaching of the Church all along.

Only now, with the current U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) mandate requiring virtually everybody and most institutions to purchase and carry health insurance providing gratis contraception, sterilization, and abortion-inducing drugs have Catholics and the Church been obliged to stand up and fight against contraception. Fortunately, the Catholic bishops and a strong segment of the Catholic people apparently do understand that we do have to fight this government requirement, which obliges us to violate Catholic teaching with a positive act (of payment). It is no longer abstract or theoretical: we have to fight. But in no way is it any “obsession.”

Similarly with same-sex unions legally declared to be marriages, Catholics are strictly obliged to oppose these aberrations, if only because of the penalties progressively being attached to any unwillingness to accept the gross falsehood that these homosexual unions are marriages. At least one Catholic adoption agency has already had to close down rather than accept that children must obligatorily be placed in same-sex households. Caterers, photographers, florists, and such are similarly and more and more being required by law to service these same-sex “weddings,” and this type of abuse will no doubt continue unless today’s increasing recognition of same-sex unions as marriages is effectively stopped.

Thus, as the Quinnipiac poll suggests—even if we do not have to agree uncritically with its very high figure of 53 percent of Mass-going Catholics accepting of gay marriage—not only are most Catholics not “obsessed” with fighting gay marriage; a significant number of them apparently approve of these ersatz liaisons. At the very least it seems plain that many Catholics are prepared to go along with today’s decadent culture in this and in a number of other ways.

What this points to is a deficiency in the Catholic body which has long been evident. Nor is it with regard only to gay marriage (or ordination) that many Catholics today no longer accept and follow what the Church teaches. So-called “cafeteria Catholicism” appears rather to be an established way of life for many Catholics. Pace Pope Francis, the moral teachings of the Church are evidently not “well known”—or at any rate, that Catholics are supposed to believe and follow them does not seem to be universally operative today. Ironically, these Church teachings do seem to be very well known—and bitterly resented—by the media people rushing to exploit the words of Pope Francis. But it is only within the Catholic body itself that they seem to be unknown, or at any rate too often unheeded.

Thus, the task of the Church today in the era of the New Evangelization entails considerably more than just proclaiming to the world the positive truths of the love of Jesus, as Pope Francis has so eloquently proposed. The task of the Church today must also include a revitalized catechesis of her own faithful in her authentic teachings; and this catechesis must not only include treatment of what and why the Church teaches what she teaches in the moral area; it must include and insist on the truth that profession of the Catholic faith requires that those who profess it must accept and follow what the Church teaches.

Far from being “obsessed” with a few moral teachings to the detriment of the whole faith, then, as the sensational media reports on the interview of Pope Francis had it, the Church must imperatively fight those very same evils of “abortion, gay marriage, and contraceptive methods” while not insisting “only” on them!

Kenneth D. Whitehead is a former career diplomat who served in Rome and the Middle East and as the chief of the Arabic Service of the Voice of America. For eight years he served as executive vice president of Catholics United for the Faith. He also served as a United States Assistant Secretary of Education during the Reagan Administration. He is the author of The Renewed Church: The Second Vatican Council’s Enduring Teaching about the Church (Sapientia Press, 2009) and, most recently, Affirming Religious Freedom: How Vatican Council II Developed the Church’s Teaching to Meet Today’s Needs (St. Paul’s, 2010).

Re-published with permission from Crisis Magazine in which this article was first published.

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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 millions 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.

Click "like" if you want to defend true marriage.

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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