Hilary White, Rome Correspondent

Mainstream media goes gaga over Pope Francis and same-sex civil unions

Hilary White, Rome Correspondent
Hilary White, Rome Correspondent

ROME, March 7, 2014 (LifeSiteNews.com) – As I do most mornings, one of the first things I did today was put the search terms “Pope Francis” into Google. This morning the offerings from the mainstream media, and a fair chunk of the blogosphere, is along the lines of “Pope Francis leaves door open for civil unions!” Ah, there must have been another interview, I thought. Here we go again…

Sure enough, yesterday Corriere della Sera, one of Italy’s mainstream daily papers published another “wide-ranging” interview with Pope Francis, and the usual round of arguments, disputes and triumphant whoops exploded over what the pope said, didn’t say, was mistranslated or misinterpreted or misrepresented as saying, in the press and the blogosphere.

An English translation was provided Wednesday by Zenit, which gave the money quote as:

Many countries have regulated civil unions. Is it a path that the Church can understand? But up to what point?

Holy Father: Marriage is between one man and one woman. The secular States want to justify civil unions to regulate different situations of coexistence, spurred by the need to regulate economic aspects between persons as, for instance, to ensure healthcare. Each case must be looked at and evaluated in its diversity.

There was other stuff in there that might cause the scrupulous and observant to take a few sharp inward breaths, but for the press, that was THE one.

The Vatican, in the person of Fr. Thomas Rosica, issued a quick statement yesterday responding to the inevitable feeding frenzy, calling the matter of homosexual civil unions “delicate,” but failing to actually clarify that Pope Francis would not now or at any time approve either “civil unions” or homosexual behaviour.

“The Pope did not choose to enter into debates about the delicate matter of gay civil unions,” Rosica said. “In his response to the interviewer, he emphasized the natural characteristic of marriage between one man and one woman, and on the other hand, he also spoke about the obligation of the state to fulfill its responsibilities towards its citizens.”

“We should not try to read more into the Pope’s words than what has been stated in very general terms,” he added. And as might be expected, this “clarification” was roundly ignored. So, if we can’t look to the Press Office for a clarification, then where?

Terence Weldon, at his always-entertaining Queering the Church blog, set the tone. Weldon, who is a vigilant Vatican-watcher as well as a leading figure in the Catholic wing of the UK’s homosexualist movement, was hot off the mark yesterday – before there was a reliable English translation – with the headline “Has Pope Francis Signalled Support for Civil Unions?” He led with: “Cardinal Bergoglio’s name is already included, as Archbishop of Buenos Aires, in the growing list of senior bishops and cardinals who have expressed some form of support for same – sex civil unions, but it’s too soon to add his name as Pope Francis.” But today’s interview with Corierre della Sera, he adds, “indicate[s] that may soon change.”

To this introductory shot, Weldon followed up today with a somewhat more sober, “Pope Francis Has NOT ‘Supported’ Civil Unions – but Catholic Thinking Continues to Evolve.” Citing Zenit’s complete English translation, Weldon writes, “Francis holds back from a blanket endorsement, for the simple reason that the term ‘civil union’ means many different things, taking different forms in different jurisdictions.” Fair enough, I guess, but then we have: “Nevertheless, these extremely cautious words represent the beginnings of some evolution in formal, institutional Catholic thinking.”

Francis’ statement that “each case must be looked at and evaluated in its diversity,” Weldon says, “is indirectly encouraging open discussion, debate and listening.” He takes it as a good sign of things to come from this pontificate, and contrasts it favourably with the statements from Benedict XVI and John Paul II. And so do quite a few other people.

Whatever the pope actually meant by the comment, it is difficult to argue with a man like Terence Weldon on optics. This, from the point of view of homosexualist activists, and their fellow-travelers in media and politics, is what the pope appears to have meant. Even if the Church can never actually approve civil unions, as the Vatican’s magisterial text on the issue states, when it comes to the culture war, optics count a great deal.

The Terence Weldon interpretation has been taken up by media and activist organizations (yes, there’s a difference, technically) as the official one. We have confirmation from the New York Daily News, as only one among the multitudes, who included a video interview from a local New York television station with the vice president of Dignity USA, the homosexualist group that is doing more or less the same work as Terence Weldon.

Lewis Speaks-Tanner told WPIX New York that the comment was “very encouraging” because the pope “actually used the word ‘civil union’ and he opened the doors to continue dialogue, which no pope has actually said before.”

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CNN’s religion blog said much the same thing, with “Pope Francis: Church could support civil unions” as did USA Today, with “Pope Francis leaves door open for same-sex unions.” Time magazine, that bellwether of popularity-for-the-wrong-reasons, gave us: “Pope Francis Willing To ‘Evaluate’ Civil Unions, But No Embrace of Gay Marriage.”

And it goes on and on… Huffington Post: “Pope Francis Suggests Gay Civil Unions May Be Tolerable By Church”; ThinkProgress: “Pope Francis Suggests Support For Civil Unions.” Et cetera.

And lest we think that this is merely wishful thinking on the part of an anti-Catholic secular press, we have the Catholic News Service, the official media arm of the US Bishops’ Conference, tweeting, “Pope, in interview, suggests church could tolerate some civil unions.”

And what has been the response, editorially speaking? Time, which has already named Francis its “Person of the Year,” was perhaps the most succinct today about that, summing it up as, “Pope Francis the Popular.”

While the MSM seems only to be concerned with the pope and gays, there is a lot more going on here. Pope Francis answered questions on a stream of “hot-button” Catholic issues, including (translating the politely coded language) female ordination, divorce, abortion and contraception. And as before, there were comments in this latest interview that have a lot of people worried.

I know (from the flurry of emails and Facebook messages I received) that I am not the only one who noticed that he talked about contraception and Humanae Vitae, for example, in the same way that Cardinal Kasper talked the other day about the indissolubility of marriage: that it is a wonderful, unchangeable doctrine of the Faith, “prophetic” and given to us by the highest possible authorities…but…

Did I feel a faint whisper of Winnipeg’s cold breeze blowing in my ear when I read this?

It all depends on how the text of ‘Humanae Vitae’ is interpreted. Paul VI himself, towards the end, recommended to confessors much mercy and attention to concrete situations…The object is not to change the doctrine, but it is a matter of going into the issue in depth and to ensure that the pastoral ministry takes into account the situations of each person and what that person can do.

I keep wondering if anyone close to him is speaking to him, privately and perhaps urgently, telling him that whatever his intentions, the world is watching and is deeply pleased with everything he’s saying. And it’s not the nice, friendly world, the cheering Catholics who greet him at the Wednesday audiences. It’s those “wolves” some of us remember another pope mentioning once on a memorable occasion. These unknown advisors, in my imagination, might indeed be telling him something more or less like this from Time:

…once again, reminded the world that his papacy seeks to welcome gays, not to judge. It pointed to his desire to see a church of pastors, not of doctrinaires. It was a loud echo of the five most famous words of his papacy so far: “Who am I to judge.

He uttered them in reply to a reporter’s question on gays in an impromptu press conference last July. Even that brief gesture of increased compassion from the Holy See sent shockwaves through global Catholic communities, and it signified the shift in tone that put Francis on the cover of LGBT magazine The Advocate’s as their 2013 Man of the Year.

They might mention that a Pew research poll found Pope Francis is overwhelmingly approved by American Catholics and non-Catholics. All the world loves him: 85 percent of adult Catholics in the U.S. say they have a favorable view of him. 71 percent of U.S. Catholics said he “represents a major change in the direction of the Catholic Church,” and only 2 percent say that change is for the worse. More than half of American non-Catholics say, “Francis is a change for the better.”

Perhaps these imaginary saintly advisors might mention that with approval ratings far ahead of any other world leader, it could be difficult to recall that popularity with the world is not the best possible sign for a pope, scripturally speaking. I’m reminded of that old Christian axiom, borne out by the blood of the martyred popes of the first three hundred years of Christianity. It is not “popularity” with the “non-Catholic” world, and with a world in which almost no Catholics know anything about their faith, that is “the seed of the Church.”

“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.”

I noted also in the interview that Pope Francis says he consults and visits with Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, that he values the latter’s advice as a family should value the wisdom of a grandfather. May we hope that his predecessor will be able to lend him a copy of a document he published in 1986? The one that said, quite clearly and unambiguously, that “increasing numbers of people today, even within the Church, are bringing enormous pressure to bear on the Church to accept the homosexual condition as though it were not disordered and to condone homosexual activity.”

And that “departure from the Church’s teaching, or silence about it, in an effort to provide pastoral care is neither caring nor pastoral. Only what is true can ultimately be pastoral. The neglect of the Church’s position prevents homosexual men and women from receiving the care they need and deserve.”

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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.

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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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