Ben Johnson

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1,400 Lutherans tell Catholic bishop: we’re standing with you for religious liberty

Ben Johnson
Ben Johnson
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FORT WAYNE, Indiana, April 19, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) – In a sign of growing solidarity and Christian unity, leaders of the Lutheran Church presented a Roman Catholic bishop with letters from nearly 1,400 Lutherans supporting the Catholic Church’s fight against the HHS mandate.

Leaders of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS) presented 112 letters from congregations and church institutions to Bishop Kevin Rhoades of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend as part of a “Stand Together for Religious Liberty” event on Tuesday. Some 1,396 Protestants from as far as Iowa signed the letters to the Catholic prelate.

On Tuesday, participants marched the one block from St. Paul’s Lutheran Church to the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, where a crowd of 250 people gathered shortly after noon Mass.

Rev. Daniel P. May, Indiana LCMS district president, said the Lutherans undertook the gesture to assure religious freedom remained “unobstructed by government intrusion or coercion, as guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States of America.”

The Rev. Dr. Charles Gieschen, professor of exegetical theology at Concordia Theological Seminary-Fort Wayne – of the denomination’s two seminaries – told LifeSiteNews.com he spoke at the event, then took part in delivering “letters of encouragement and support in light of the challenges the compromising of religious freedom has brought the Roman Catholic community.”

“It was organized primarily by a Lutheran layman who just saw this as an opportunity for Lutheran Christians to support other Christians,” Dr. Gieschen said. “In terms of sacred things we gather together with people of our communion, but on things like moral issues, such as the sanctity of human life, we seek to stand together with those who are lending their voices to address these issues in our wider society.” 

Bishop Rhoades “just thought it was a beautiful ecumenical outreach,” Tim Johnson, editor of the local diocesan newspaper, Today’s Catholic News, told LifeSiteNews.com. “I walked back with him to the cathedral, and you could tell he was so pleased at how it came out.”

Rev. Peter Cage, senior pastor at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, told a local television station, “We want to make it clear that this mandate is a concern not only for Catholics. It is an attack on freedom of religion. This controversy is not about contraception, or women’s rights, or anything other than freedom of religion.”

The bishop, who is a consultant to the Catholic Bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Liberty, spoke last, calling the contraceptive and abortifacient mandate “an unprecedented coercive action by the federal government to force religious institutions and individuals to facilitate and to fund products that are contrary to our moral teaching.”

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“Religious liberty is more than freedom of worship,” he said. “It includes the freedom to practice our faith in society without coercion from the government to violate our consciences. We stand together as Lutherans and Catholics today in opposing the attack on our religious liberty by the federal government.”

He told the mixed Protestants and Catholics at the event, “You give me hope that, with the help of God’s grace, we will see a new birth of freedom in our beloved country.”

“My heart is filled with gratitude to you, my brothers and sisters of Lutheran congregations of the Missouri Synod here in Fort Wayne,” the bishop said.

The outpouring of unity was the latest joint action the two historically estranged churches have taken together against the Obama administration’s encroachments on the freedom of religion.

The denomination’s president, Dr. Matthew Harrison, testified alongside a Catholic bishop at an often hostile hearing on religious freedom before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform in February. He estimated the mandate could cost his denomination tens of millions in fines if it refuses to comply and expressed his willingness to go to jail over his beliefs.

In February, the Fort Wayne seminary faculty posted a statement on the HHS mandate that said, “While we do not share with the Catholic Church the same teaching on contraceptives, we do honor their right, according to the First Amendment, to practice their beliefs according to their conscience. Furthermore, we do stand with them entirely on the matter of abortifacients, which we hold to be the taking of human life.”

“Furthermore, this mandate from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is by no means an isolated incident,” the statement held, “but is part of a troubling trend in which governmental entities are demanding that religious institutions abandon their own biblical principles or else discontinue their works of charity.”

The Obama administration intervened in Hosanna v. Tabor, a Supreme Court case attempting to eliminate the ministerial exemption. The Christian school being sued is affiliated with the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.

Catholic adoption agencies have closed rather than violate their consciences. Chicago’s Francis Cardinal George has warned all Catholic hospitals will close in two years if the HHS mandate is not rescinded.

“Do we want to live in a world where social activities informed by religious conscience are systematically exterminated?” the seminary statement asked. “Do we want to live in a world where the social fabric is torn apart, and an overreaching government harasses the very people who knit together our society through acts of charity and mercy? Do we want the public landscape wiped clean of religious hospitals, schools and charitable organizations?”

Dr. Gieschen told LifeSiteNews, as theologically distinct as Lutherans and Catholics remain, they will always fight shoulder-to-shoulder to maintain religious liberty and to preserve the sanctity of human life.

 

 


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Although it is widely believed that people with Down syndrome are doomed to a life of suffering, in one large survey 99% of respondents with Down syndrome described themselves as "happy." Shutterstock
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‘Sick and twisted’: Down’s advocates, pro-life leaders slam Richard Dawkins’ abortion remarks

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By Dustin Siggins

Advocates on behalf of individuals with Down syndrome, as well as pro-life leaders, are slamming famed atheist Richard Dawkin’s statements made on Twitter earlier today that parents have a moral responsibility to abort babies diagnosed in utero with Down’s.

During a shocking Twitter rant, Dawkins responded to questioners saying that it was "civilised" to abort Down Syndrome babies, and that it would be "immoral" to choose not to abort babies diagnosed with the condition.

He said that his goal is to "reduce suffering wherever you can," indicating that unborn children cannot suffer, and that unborn children don't "have human feelings."

In addition to being scientifically challenged - unborn children can feel both pain and emotions - Dawkins' comments drew criticism for his callousness towards children with disabilities.  

"A true civilization – a civilization of love – does not engage in such cold and ultimately suicidal calculus"

“It's sick and twisted for anyone to advocate for the killing of children with disabilities,” Live Action President Lila Rose told LifeSiteNews. “Dawkins's ignorant comments serve only to further stigmatize people with Down syndrome.

“While many people with Down syndrome, their families, and advocacy groups are fighting discrimination on a daily basis, Dawkins calls for their murder before they are even born,” she said. “Those with Down syndrome are human beings, with innate human dignity, and they, along with the whole human family, deserve our respect and protection.”

Carol Boys, chief executive of the Down's Syndrome Association, told MailOnline that, contrary to Dawkins’ assertion, “People with Down’s syndrome can and do live full and rewarding lives, they also make a valuable contribution to our society.”

A spokesperson for the UK disabilities charity Scope lamented that during the “difficult and confusing time” when parents find out they are expecting a child with disabilities, they often experience “negative attitudes.”

“What parents really need at this time is sensitive and thorough advice and information,” the spokesperson said.

Charlotte Lozier Institute president Chuck Donovan agreed with Rose’s assessment. "Advocates of abortion for those 'weaker' than others, or of less physical or intellectual dexterity, should remember that each of us is 'lesser' in some or most respects," he said.

According to Donovan, "we deliver a death sentence on all of humanity by such cruel logic."

"A true civilization – a civilization of love – does not engage in such cold and ultimately suicidal calculus" he said.

One family who has a child with Down syndrome said Dawkins was far from the mark when he suggested that aborting babies with Down syndrome is a good way to eliminate suffering.

Jan Lucas, whose son Kevin has Down syndrome, said that far from suffering, Kevin has brought enormous joy to the family, and "is so loving. He just has a million hugs."

She described how Kevin was asked to be an honorary deacon at the hurch they attend in New Jersey, “because he is so encouraging to everyone. At church, he asks people how their families are, says he'll pray for them, and follows up to let them know that he has been praying for them."

It's not just strangers for whom Kevin prays. "My husband and I were separated for a time, and Kevin kept asking people to pray for his dad," said Jan. "They didn't believe that Kevin's prayers would be answered. Kevin didn't lose hope, and asking people, and our marriage now is better than ever before. We attribute it to Kevin's prayers, and how he drew on the prayers of everyone."

"I don't know what we'd do without him," said Jan.

Speaking with LifeSiteNews, Kevin said that his favorite things to do are "spending time with my family, and keeping God in prayer." He said that he "always knows God," which helps him to "always keep praying for my friends."

"I love my church," said Kevin.

Although it is widely believed that people with Down syndrome are doomed to a life of suffering, in one large survey 99% of respondents with Down syndrome described themselves as "happy." At the same time, 99% percent of parents said they loved their child with Down syndrome, and 97 percent said they were proud of them.

Only 4 percent of parents who responded said they regretted having their child.

Despite this, it is estimated that in many Western countries the abortion rate of children diagnosed in utero with Down syndrome is 90%, or even higher. The development of new and more accurate tests for the condition has raised concerns among Down syndrome advocates that that number could rise even higher. 


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Asked about Iraq on his return flight from South Korea, Francis replied that 'it is legitimate to halt the unjust aggressor.' Shutterstock
Steve Weatherbe

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Pope Francis: steps must be taken to halt ‘unjust aggressor’ in Iraq

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Pope Francis and his emissary to Iraq’s persecuted non-Muslim minorities, Cardinal Fernando Filoni, have both called on the United Nations to act in concert to protect Iraqis Christian and Yazidi minorities from the radical Islamic forces of ISIS.

Asked about Iraq on his return flight from South Korea, Francis replied that “it is legitimate to halt the unjust aggressor.”

He added, however, that “halt” does not mean to “bomb” and lamented “how many times with the excuse of halting the unjust aggressor…have powerful nations taken possession of peoples and waged a war of conquest!”

He also cautioned that no single nation could determine the right measures. Any intervention must be multilateral and preferably by the United Nations, he said.

Meanwhile, Cardinal Foloni, who is visiting Iraq on behalf of Pope Francis, issued a joint statement this week with Chaldean Catholic Patriarch Louis Raphael I Sako and the Iraqi bishops that urged the international community to “liberate the villages and other places that have been occupied as soon as possible and with a permanent result.”

The statement also urged efforts to “assure that there is international protection for these villages and so to encourage these families to go back to their homes and to continue to live a normal life in security and peace.”

Archbishop Giorgio Lingua, the Vatican nuncio to Iraq, was also asked by Vatican Radio earlier this month about the U.S. airstrikes in Iraq.

“This is something that had to be done, otherwise [the Islamic State] could not be stopped,” the archbishop said. 

Although Pope Francis’ own remarks about an intervention in the war-torn country were carefully guarded, Catholic commentator Robert Spencer, author of such bestselling exposes of Islam as “The Truth About Muhammad: Founder of the World's Most Intolerant Religion,” told LifeSiteNews he believes the pope was clearly calling for an “armed intervention, though a very limited one.”  

“Only a fool would think there is another way to stop an ‘unjust aggressor,’” he said.

Spencer expressed concerns that both Francis and Pope John Paul II before him have both referred to Islam a “religion of peace,” which Spencer says is “completely false.” However, he suggested that Francis’ remarks calling for action in Iraq are a sign of a more realistic attitude towards Islam.   

On this, Spencer would likely have the support of Amel Nona, the Chaldean Catholic archbishop of Mosul, who issued a letter last week warning the West in stark terms about the encroaching threat of Islam.

“Our sufferings today are the prelude of those you, Europeans and Western Christians, will also suffer,” Nona warned. “Your liberal and democratic principles are worth nothing here.

“You must consider again our reality in the Middle East, because you are welcoming in your countries an ever growing number of Muslims. Also you are in danger. You must take strong and courageous decisions, even at the cost of contradicting your principles,” he said

“You think all men are equal, but that is not true: Islam does not say that all men are equal. Your values are not their values. If you do not understand this soon enough, you will become the victims of the enemy you have welcomed in your home.”


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'Apparently I'm a horrid monster for recommending WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENS to the great majority of Down Syndrome fetuses,' said Dawkins. 'They are aborted.' Shutterstock
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Richard Dawkins: it’s ‘immoral’ NOT to abort babies with Down syndrome

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By Dustin Siggins

In a bizarre rant on Twitter earlier today, atheist Richard Dawkins wrote that choosing not to abort a child with Down Syndrome would be "immoral."

The conversation started when Dawkins tweeted that "Ireland is a civilised country except in this 1 area." The area was abortion, which until last year was illegal in all cases.

A Twitter user then asked Dawkins if "994 human beings with Down's Syndrome [having been] deliberately killed before birth in England and Wales in 2012" was "civilised."

Dawkins replied "yes, it is very civilised. These are fetuses, diagnosed before they have human feelings."

Later, Dawkins said that "the question is not ‘is it 'human'?’ but ‘can it SUFFER?’"

In perhaps the most shocking moment, one Twitter user wrote that he or she "honestly [doesn't] know what I would do if I were pregnant with a kid with Down Syndrome. Real ethical dilemma."

Dawkins advised the writer to "abort it and try again. It would be immoral to bring it into the world if you have the choice."

According to Dawkins, the issue of who should be born comes down to a calculation based upon possible suffering. "Yes. Suffering should be avoided. [The abortion] cause[s] no suffering. Reduce suffering wherever you can."

Later, however, he said that people on the autism spectrum "have a great deal to contribute, Maybe even an enhanced ability in some respects. [Down Syndrome] not enhanced."

When Dawkins received some blowback from Twitter followers, he replied: "Apparently I'm a horrid monster for recommending WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENS to the great majority of Down Syndrome fetuses. They are aborted."

It is estimated that in many Western countries the abortion rate of children diagnosed in utero with Down syndrome is 90%, or even higher. The development of new and more accurate tests for the condition has raised concerns among Down syndrome advocates that that number could rise even higher. 

Although it is widely believed that people with Down syndrome are doomed to a life of suffering, in one large survey 99% of respondents with Down syndrome said they were "happy." At the same time, 99% percent of parents said they loved their child with Down syndrome, and 97 percent said they were proud of them.

Only 4 percent of parents who responded said they regretted having their child. 

A number of Dawkins' statements in the Twitter thread about fetal development are at odds with scientific realities. For example, it is well-established that 20 weeks into a pregnancy, unborn children can feel pain. Likewise, unborn children have emotional reactions to external stimuli -- such as a mother's stress levels -- months before being born. 

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