Hilary White, Rome Correspondent

Media and nuns colluding in deception, says expert: Vatican’s reform no David and Goliath battle

Hilary White, Rome Correspondent
Hilary White, Rome Correspondent
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ROME, April 25, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Despite few in the western world having seen any in the last four decades, the image of the nun as the sweet, selfless and courageous “bride of Christ” is remarkably enduring. And according to U.S. Catholic author, researcher and expert on Catholic religious life in the U.S. Donna Steichen, this “classic” and noble image is now being used knowingly by the LCWR sisters and their supporters as a means of generating public sympathy in their fight with the Vatican.

Last week the media and the “progressive” end of the Catholic Church reacted with outrage to the announcement by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith that the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) is to be reformed after a doctrinal investigation found that their focus had turned more towards radical feminist politics than their Catholic religious foundations.

The picture being manufactured by sympathetic media, including the Washington Post, Huffington Post, and Independent, closely following the lead of the National Catholic Reporter and America, the two main organs of the extreme Catholic left in the U.S., is that of an epic struggle between a tyrannical, overbearing, “out of touch,” Vatican, and a group of plucky, underdog sisters, fighting a guerilla battle for intellectual and moral liberty: a theme one Catholic blogging wag has described as an endless recap of the plot to Star Wars.

That this shopworn theme is a deliberate falsehood, Steichen says, is what Catholics should first understand when reading either the secular mainstream coverage of the affair or the sisters’ own comments.

“This spin,” she said, “is omnipresent, always interesting, and often unintentionally comic. But however maliciously intended, I think it contains an element of nostalgia. It proves the irresistible attraction of goodness. Not even the liberal mainstream media can fail to see its beauty.”

Dressed in a flowing habit and devoting her life to educating children and building hospitals, or gliding serenely down spotless convent hallways and singing Gregorian chant in Latin: the classic image of the nun is less stereotype than it is archetype, a cultural icon of everything good and holy and true, and it is as much beloved by media as it is by Catholics.

Steichen told LSN that the only trouble with this picture is that the “good sisters” made in the image of this archetype are mostly an artifact of U.S. history and are now nearly extinct. LCWR represents about 80 percent of the 57,000 religious sisters in the U.S., with an average age of 74 and climbing. With the exception of a handful of young, deliberately faithful, countercultural, and largely recently-founded communities, the LCWR nuns and sisters have abandoned not only the habit that symbolized their devotion, but the faith that defined it, she said.

Donna Steichen spent 10 years researching feminism in the Catholic Church, and particularly in the Catholic religious life since the close of the Second Vatican Council in 1965. The result was what many consider the definitive book on the political and philosophical origins of the collapse of the U.S. religious life, entitled Ungodly rage: The Hidden Face of Catholic Feminisim,” published by Ignatius Press in 1991.

The religious core of Catholic sisterhoods was replaced decades ago, she told LSN, by an extreme left political ideology manifested in a feminism that has grown increasingly radical and bizarre, and in recent years, infused with New Age and occult practices that have nothing to do with Catholicism.

Starting in the 1960s and ‘70s the sisters leaped on the bandwagon of the broader social and sexual revolution, attending workshops in the Human Potential Movement and “alternative” spirituality, taking classes in Marxist theory, abandoning their customs as well as the habit, and taking up the mantras of the Esalen Institute and, most significantly, of academic feminism.

Even worse, the sisters then took these ideologies and practices and started feeding them through the conduits of their educational institutions to infect the mainstream of Catholic Church in the U.S. The result, Steichen said, has been “the suffering of innocent people, in injustice, lost faith, and collapsed institutions.”

The Vatican’s attempt at reform is 40 years overdue, but unlikely to rescue either LCWR or the communities it represents from impending extinction, she said. The good news is what sounds like bad news: “It is evident to all observers that the feminist contingent of women religious is indeed dying out, what with that mean age of 74.”

But just what is so bad about feminism? One lady commenting on last week’s LSN story about the Vatican’s doctrinal assessment accused Cardinal Levada of outright lies: “HOW could a nun be an extreme liberal feminist? It doesn’t seem likely.”

“The misunderstanding arises from failure to define the term ‘feminism,’” Steichen said. “Feminists themselves avoid clearly defining it, so the general public accepts the rosy impression cultivated by advocates in media and academia; that the term simply means recognition that women are full and equal members of the human race who can do anything men can do.”

But this is a bit of public relations sleight of hand, she said. “Feminism is an ideology, and it is designed to destroy the family as the basic unit of society.” That ideology, she said, encompasses an entire universal outlook that, once adopted by an individual, ultimately totally eclipses any religious notions about the nature of human life, sexuality, family, the purpose of the state and finally, the nature of God.

Anyone interested, Steichen said, in investigating the origins of academic and radical feminism have to look no further than the social writings of Freidrich Engels, colleague of Karl Marx, who wrote that ultimately, the communist view of the family as a sub-unit of the state, would overrule the traditional Judeo-Christian view. Its ugliest fruit, she said, is abortion, which the ideology regards as an absolute necessity to separate womanhood from motherhood.

Feminism, Steichen said, is “detestable” because it is “so demeaning of women.”

“It denies the value of their natural role, urging them to trade it for the shabby substitutes of paid participation in the work force.

“Religious feminism is worst of all, because it further demands that women cease to recognize God’s eternal order. Like [Planned Parenthood founder] Margaret Sanger, it commands women to serve ‘no Gods, no masters’. Which somehow comes to mean ‘except feminist ideology’.”

Steichen suggests that those who are outraged at the Vatican examine some of the speeches made by speakers at LCWR’s annual conferences, many of which are available on their website. These speakers were specifically cited in the CDF’s document as problematic. One, Sr. Laurie Brink, was particularly noted as flagrantly denying the Divinity of Christ when she gave the LCWR keynote address in 2007, telling the sisters that to maintain their “prophetic” place in society they needed to “go beyond” the Church and even “go beyond Jesus.”

The CDF, Steichen said, is echoing the long-deferred feelings of many U.S. Catholics when it noted that these types of statements, endorsed many times by LCWR, “is a challenge not only to core Catholic beliefs; such a rejection of faith is also a serious source of scandal and is incompatible with religious life.”

Set to offer the keynote address at this year’s assembly in August is Barbara Marx Hubbard, a New Age guru, who is scheduled to speak on the theme, “Mystery Unfolding: Leading in the Evolutionary Now”.

A sample of Marx Hubbard’s writing gives a flavour of what the LCWR is looking for in a speaker:

Although we may never know what really happened, we do know that the story told in the Gospels is that Jesus’ resurrection was a first demonstration of what I call the post-human universal person. We are told that he did not die. He made his transition, released his animal body, and reappeared in a new body at the next level of physicality to tell all of us that we would do what he did. The new person that he became had continuity of consciousness with his life as Jesus of Nazareth, an earthly life in which he had become fully human and fully divine. Jesus’ life stands as a model of the transition from Homo sapiens to Homo universalis.

Despite the evidence being available at the click of a mouse, Steichen said, a great many Catholics still refuse to believe that the nuns have gone so far off the deep end.

Asked whether the Vatican’s reform plans will have the desired effect, Steichen remains dubious. “Will this process ‘work’? As a matter of fact, I do not expect mass repentance and re-conversion. In my experience, repentance is rare among ideologues of religious feminism.

“And I would be more hopeful about the prospect of institutional reform if the implementation were to be directed from the Vatican, or if the bishops assigned to head the USCCB ‘reform’ were men with sterner reputations. We need to pray for everyone concerned.”

She noted, however, that the mere fact that the attempt is being made at last “serves important purposes.”

“After decades of leniency toward them, it puts the Church officially on record as condemning the errors of radical feminism, New Age monism, and general doctrinal defiance. It must succeed in warning Catholic educational and professional institutions and organizations to enforce doctrinal orthodoxy even from women in positions of power.

“If the attempt fails, their continued defiance will be so salient as to force the Vatican into further disciplinary action. In either case, it is another signal that the era of post-concilar upheaval is over.”

As for the prediction, made by the UK’s Independent, that Rome is facing a “PR disaster” with the reform attempt, Steichen said, “Hostile voices in media will do their best to make it so, but among faithful Catholics, it is more likely to be a PR triumph.

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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 more than $400 million 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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