Fr. Frank Pavone

John Paul II: The pope of life

Fr. Frank Pavone
Fr. Frank Pavone
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May 2, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) - On Sunday, May 1 the Catholic Church declared Pope John Paul II to be “Blessed,” a step on the way to being declared a saint. This was done not as a judgment on the effectiveness or influence of his pontificate, nor on the depth of his knowledge of theology, but rather on his fidelity in living the Christian virtues.

The Church said, in other words, “If you want to follow Christ, look to John Paul II as an example.”

Each person whom the Church beatifies or canonizes, moreover, has his or her special theme, some aspect of discipleship that marks his or her life. For Pope John Paul II, it is the theme of pro-life. Not only was this a theme he spoke and acted upon continuously, but he gave the Church and the world a new way of understanding and practicing it.

At a recent conference, Dr. Joaquin Navarro-Valls, who served as Vatican spokesman under Pope John Paul, said that the key to his effectiveness was his conviction that each person was created in God’s image and likeness. “He was a man profoundly convinced of the truth of those words in Genesis, ‘God made man and woman in his image and likeness.’ This gave him optimism even when he could no longer walk, and then even when he could no longer speak,” Navarro-Valls said. “I think this was what attracted people even more than the way he spoke.” (April 1, 2011, Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, Rome).

I was privileged to see this dynamic up close, as I served under Pope John Paul II at the Pontifical Council for the Family, an agency of the Vatican that he created in 1981 specifically to sustain and coordinate initiatives for the protection of human life from its conception.

This pope did not simply repeat the longstanding teaching of the Church that abortion is wrong. He did not simply hand down dogmas about what we can and cannot do, and how we are supposed to live up to the principles and the commandments, such as “Thou shalt not kill.”

Traditionally, these and other teachings of the Church have been communicated in a philosophical context that is objective, deductive, and principled. There is a truth to which we have to adhere, and from which we deduce moral imperatives that are the same for everyone.

Now John Paul II never denied that. But he also realized that people today don’t think that way anymore. Modern thought is more subjective, experiential, and inductive. It relies more on personal insights and viewpoints. “What’s true for me may not be true for you” is one of its favorite positions.

John Paul II was able to join traditional, objective thought with the patterns of modern thought in what came to be known as his “personalism.” He focused on the dignity, the uniqueness, of each individual human person and affirmed their subjective insights and experiences. He taught that in each person we have a unique and unrepeatable being. And that uniqueness is precisely a reflection, or image, of God himself. Here is where the two worlds merge. Individual experience is not crushed, lost, or absorbed by the recognition that there is a God who has revealed universal moral norms. On the contrary, when God reveals himself to us in Jesus Christ, he reveals us to ourselves.

This is a key teaching of John Paul II. Precisely by accepting, not rejecting, our individual uniqueness, we connect with a truth that surpasses it and leads us, as individuals and a community, to fulfillment.

That’s what he meant by the exhortation with which he began his pontificate and which he repeated so often: “Be not afraid!”

In other words, don’t fear what you will lose if you welcome Christ into your life. You will in fact find your best self!

One of the most powerful expressions of this teaching is in “The Gospel of Life” (Evangelium Vitae) the 1995 encyclical that John Paul II considered central to his entire pontificate.

Newsweek devoted a cover story to the Encyclical when it came out. Religion editor Kenneth Woodward praised it as John Paul II’s “signature statement” in history.

The encyclical calls us to “proclaim, celebrate, and serve” the gift of life, which is the foundation of society and of all the rights and goods we enjoy as individuals. He speaks in that document of how both the Church and state need to serve the human person in every circumstance, and identifies abortion and euthanasia as the fundamental and most serious moral problems of our day.

But they are not presented just as “issues.” They are presented as contradictions to a deeper call to serve the person.

The pope wrote often about women, and one of many points he made is that we need to provide them alternatives to abortion, and forgiveness and healing after abortion.

In “Crossing the Threshold of Hope” (1994) he said, “In firmly rejecting “pro choice” it is necessary to become courageously “pro woman,” promoting a choice that is truly in favor of women.”

He challenged public officials to realize that when a state permits abortion, “the disintegration of the State itself has already begun” (Evangelium Vitae, 20).

And he called upon the young, and all of us, to build a “Culture of Life” with tremendous hope.

If he could repeat one thing to us this day, I believe it would be his words at World Youth Day in Denver on August 15, 1993: “Have no fear. The outcome of the battle for life is already decided … You too must feel the full urgency of the task … Woe to you if you do not succeed in defending life. …This is no time to be ashamed of the Gospel. It is the time to preach it from the rooftops.”

By beatifying John Paul II, the Church is saying “Amen!”

This article reprinted with permission from www.priestsforlife.org

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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."

Click "like" if you are PRO-LIFE!

"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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