John Westen

LifeSiteNews meets Pope Francis

John Westen
John Westen
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Over a decade ago, LifeSiteNews co-founder Steve Jalsevac and I were surprised to learn that the Vatican makes use of LifeSiteNews.com’s news and information.  We learned this information directly from one of the participants at a high level Vatican meeting.

Since learning this we’ve made yearly or twice yearly trips to Rome to meet with various curial officials to share information and learn how best to help them advance the pro-life and pro-family cause.  On the most recent of these trips, earlier this month, I was even able to personally meet Pope Francis.

But before I tell you about that meeting, I want to tell you a little more about how this working relationship with leaders of the world’s largest religion has helped benefit pro-life activists all over the world.

To cite a couple of examples. LifeSiteNews has led the way in reporting on the troubling activities of some official Catholic charities which have funded many groups that were pro-abortion and offended Christian principles in other ways.  These reports and similar investigations by others led to a major revamping of the Catholic approach to charities that was directed by the Pope. 

First off, Pope Benedict issued his encyclical Caritas in Veritate, wherein he stated that, "Openness to life is at the centre of true development.”  After that came the famous Motu Proprio  ‘On the service of charity’ released in 2012 which ordered that charitable activities undertaken by the Catholic Church must never offend Catholic teaching. In a subsequent talk interpreting his own Motu Proprio the Pope said specifically, “We must exercise a critical vigilance and at times refuse funding and collaborations that, directly or indirectly, favour actions or projects that are at odds with Christian anthropology.”

And should anyone attempt to accuse the Vatican of being ‘all talk and no action’ on the matter, there was action indeed.  The head of the Rome-based umbrella group for all diocesan-linked Catholic charity groups – Caritas Internationalis – was not permitted to renew her leadership. Even though she complained to the press, her dismissal was not overturned and the Vatican’s move was vindicated when months later she was hired by a pro-abortion group.

On various occasions during the affair we were consulted by Vatican officials asking for additional evidence on such matters.

Another instance took place back in 2008 when there was a heated debate among Catholics about the permissibility of using the morning-after-pill in Catholic hospitals to administer to rape victims.  Several US states were insisting on such rape-treatment protocols at all hospitals – Catholic included. 

While there was an official Catholic teaching document prohibiting use of the morning-after-pill, that document did not speak of rape cases and so there was a question as to whether there could be an exception.  While in Rome I interviewed the leading authority in the Catholic Church on the matter, then-Bishop now-Cardinal Elio Sgreccia.  He confirmed that the prohibition on its use applied to cases of rape as well.

That exclusive interview was key for pro-life leaders back in America to have the needed ammunition to safeguard life even in difficult circumstances.  Judie Brown of American Life League later called me to let me know how providential that interview was for engaging with Bishops on the matter.

In the past few months, Vatican officials reached out to LifeSiteNews.com to help with the promotion of ‘Evangelium Vitae Day’, the June 15-16 commemoration of Pope John Paul II’s awesome pro-life encyclical known in English as ‘The Gospel of Life’.

Not only did we promote the celebration, Steve Jalsevac and I went to Rome to cover it and I was honored to be asked to play a role in the official celebration.  On behalf of LifeSiteNews.com, I was given the opportunity to meet with Pope Francis, and was asked to do the English-language prayers for the candlelight vigil and procession into St. Peter’s Square.

Meeting the Pope after the outdoor Sunday Mass, I was introduced as one of the founders of LifeSiteNews and the father of eight children. I showed him a photo of my family on my IPhone and asked him if he would bless them. He gladly did so and them commented with a laugh, “keep going”.

The power of working closely with faith leaders of all denominations has proven time and again to be a key ingredient to bringing about a Culture of Life, and of strengthening the family. 

Please help LifeSiteNews get there. Help us reach out to faith leaders around the globe with your generous donation today

There is a vacuum of strong faith leadership in many places today. However, with the Internet and this unique international news service we are able to broadcast the voices of the strong leaders to the rest of the world, to fill in the gaps, to provide that leadership and voice that is lacking.

Please make this happen with us. Support us today with as generous a gift as you can.

Pray for us my friends. These are tough times, yes, but they are exciting too. With great hardship comes great graces.  Christ never gives us anything that we can’t bear with His help!  So while the battle is heating up and life and family values are threatened like never before, the opportunities to spread faith and the truth are also more abundant than ever before.  Let’s go for it!!

God bless you,

John-Henry Westen
Co-Founder
LifeSiteNews.com

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Dustin Siggins Dustin Siggins Follow Dustin

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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Pete Baklinski Pete Baklinski Follow Pete

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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
Thaddeus Baklinski Thaddeus Baklinski Follow Thaddeus

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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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