Hilary White

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Obama blames Northern Ireland tensions on Catholic schools

Hilary White
Hilary White
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BELFAST June 20, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) – President Barack Obama is under fire this week after a speech he gave in Belfast, Northern Ireland, in which he labeled Catholic education “divisive" and likened them to segregated schools in the Deep South.

Obama’s comments have not only angered Catholics in Northern Ireland, but have put him at odds with the Vatican’s highest authorities in what remains an extremely complex and sensitive internal political dispute.

In comments that the Scottish Catholic Observer called “alarming” and “unfounded,” Obama implied that tensions between Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland would be eliminated if there were no separation between Catholic and Protestant schools.

“Issues like segregated schools and housing, lack of jobs and opportunity — symbols of history that are a source of pride for some and pain for others — these are not tangential to peace; they’re essential to it,” Obama said.

Speaking to an audience of about 2,000 youth at a town hall meeting in Belfast on Monday, Obama said, “If towns remain divided — if Catholics have their schools and buildings, and Protestants have theirs — if we can’t see ourselves in one another, if fear or resentment are allowed to harden, that encourages division. It discourages cooperation.”

Liam Gibson, Northern Ireland officer for the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, told LifeSiteNews.com that the president’s comments were offensive not only to Catholics, who won the right to Catholic schools only after many years of bitter political struggle, but to all those who have worked for social unity in Northern Ireland.

“Frankly as a north Belfast working class Catholic who was educated during the darkest days of the Troubles, I take what Mr. Obama said personally,” Gibson said.

“For the president of the United States to come to Northern Ireland as a guest and then to lay the blame for our past political violence on the Catholic school system is incredibly insulting. It may not have been his intention to imply that children who are educated in Catholic schools grow-up to become religious bigots but that, effectively, is what he did.”

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Gibson said the remarks “reflect a deep seated anti-Catholic prejudice” on Obama’s part, saying they were identical to the views of those who “have only the most superficial understanding of Irish history and politics but nevertheless feel qualified to use the Troubles to attack Catholic education all over the world.”

David Freddoso at the website of Conservative Intelligence Briefing wrote that Obama had stuck his foot in his mouth: “He’s just stepped into a foreign country and seized one of its political third rails. Just imagine the reaction if Obama had visited the West Bank and said something like this about Islamic education.” The topic remains extremely sensitive in Northern Ireland where some Protestant leaders have continued to call for the public defunding of Catholic schools.

Freddoso noted that despite their students generally being poorer, the Catholic schools of Northern Ireland regularly academically outperform the state-controlled Protestant schools. “As the Catholic schools pull off this feat and help Catholics attain equality in the workforce after decades of modern discrimination (not to mention what happened in previous centuries), they are in a constant fight against the very argument Obama voiced.”

Auxiliary Bishop Donal McKeown, chairman of the Northern Ireland Commission for Catholic Education, called Obama’s speech a “hackneyed” analysis of the province’s political issues, adding that they echoed a “Protestant/Catholic caricature that has actually receded into the background in Northern Ireland.”

“It is the Catholic schools in Northern Ireland that are now actually among the most racially and linguistically mixed. And, while so many young people are very open to new friendships and opportunities, it needs to be stated that it is adults outside schools who promote mistrust for their own political and personal agendas.”

“A simplistic denominational vocabulary fails to do justice to where we are,” added McKeown.

Gibson added it was significant that Obama chose to attack Catholic education near the anniversary of the signing of the Good Friday Agreement that put an end to the Troubles. “Why did he feel it was necessary to launch an attack on Catholic education? The answer is that liberal politicians believe that it is the job of the ‘Parental State’ to educate children in an entirely secular environment.”

The fact that Obama, “the most anti-family, anti-life President in U.S. history,” opposes Catholic schools “should not come as a surprise,” Gibson said. “But it ought to provide Catholic leaders with a wake-up call.”

“Governments in Europe and North America have become increasingly intolerant of Catholic values in education,” Gibson said. Starting with the imposition of secularized values-free sex-education Catholic schools are now being coerced by many Western states into providing artificial contraceptives and abortifacients to students, as well as endorsing the homosexual “lifestyle.”

Obama’s remarks “were not a plea for tolerance. They are an example of what Pope Benedict called the dictatorship of relativism.”

“If Catholic families ignore the numerous threats to their schools then they risk loosing their children to an aggressively godless and bitterly anti-Christian culture.”

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A White House spokesman has said the administration does not have “anything more to say on this beyond what the president said in his speech."

Obama’s gaffe comes on the heels of warm commendation for Catholic education as a unifying cultural force, from Archbishop Gerhard Müller, the head of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. In a lecture to Scottish Catholics in Glasgow the day before Obama’s speech, Abp. Müller said, “The vision and practice of Catholic Education has, throughout the Church’s history, arisen out of a coming together of the Church with various cultures.”

“In the midst of so many diverse and at times bewildering versions of educational aims and processes, the Church has a rich and vital vision to proclaim.”

Obama was in Northern Ireland this week to attend the two-day G8 Summit at the Lough Erne resort in Enneskillen.

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Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller, prefect of the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
Thaddeus Baklinski Thaddeus Baklinski Follow Thaddeus

Vatican pressing forward with reform of US feminist nuns: Cardinal Müller

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By Thaddeus Baklinski

Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, says the Vatican is pressing forward with plans to reform the U.S.-based Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR).

In an interview published in the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano, the cardinal said that the reform of the LCWR, which was undertaken after an assessment of the group found serious doctrinal problems, will be carried out with the goal of helping them "rediscover their identity.”

“Congregations have no more vocations and risk dying out," Müller said. "We have first of all tried to reduce hostility and tensions, partly thanks to Bishop Sartain whom we sent to negotiate with them; he is a very gentle man. We wish to stress that we are not misogynists, we are not women gobblers! Of course we have a different concept of religious life but we hope to help them rediscover their identity.”

Moreover, the cardinal said that problems specific to the LCWR are not a reflection of all the women religious in the US.

"We need to bear in mind that they do not represent all US nuns, but just a group of nuns who form part of an association,” Müller said.

“We have received many distressed letters from other nuns belonging to the same congregations, who are suffering a great deal because of the direction in which the LCWR is steering their mission.”

Cardinal Müller's remarks confirmed the assertion he and the Holy See’s delegate to the LCWR, Archbishop Peter Sartain of Seattle, made in an address to LCWR officials in Rome on April 30, that the theological drift the feminist nuns are taking constitutes a radical departure from the foundational theological concepts of Catholicism.

The Holy See “believes that the charismatic vitality of religious life can only flourish within the ecclesial faith of the Church,” Müller said in the address.

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“The LCWR, as a canonical entity dependent on the Holy See, has a profound obligation to the promotion of that faith as the essential foundation of religious life. Canonical status and ecclesial vision go hand-in-hand, and at this phase of the implementation of the Doctrinal Assessment, we are looking for a clearer expression of that ecclesial vision and more substantive signs of collaboration,” he stated.

The LCWR has openly defied the mandate of reform intended to bring their organization into line with basic Catholic doctrine on the nature of God, the Church, and sexual morality.

Among the CDF’s directives, to which LCWR has strenuously objected, is the requirement that “speakers and presenters at major programs” be approved by Archbishop Sartain. This, Müller has explained, was decided in order to “avoid difficult and embarrassing situations wherein speakers use an LCWR forum to advance positions at odds with the teaching of the Church.”

The LCWR has invited speakers to their Annual Assembly such as New Age guru Barbara Marx Hubbard, and Sr. Laurie Brink, who is particularly noted for flagrantly denying the Divinity of Christ and telling the sisters that to maintain their “prophetic” place in society they need to “go beyond” the Church and even “go beyond Jesus.”

In one of the first public statements of his pontificate, Pope Francis affirmed that the investigation and reform of the LCWR must continue.

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Brian Fisher

Birth mothers: real heroes of the pro-life movement

Brian Fisher
By Brian Fisher
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What does it mean to be brave? Is it the doctor who dedicates himself to improving the health of a third-world nation? Is it the woman who faces her third round of chemotherapy to fight the progression of cancer? Is it the teacher who forgoes the comforts of a suburban school to reach minorities in the inner city? All of these are examples of bravery demonstrated in exceedingly challenging circumstances. And our society longs for stories of bravery to inspire us and fill us with hope.

As someone who works day in and day out with those on the front lines of helping rescue babies from abortion, I’m no stranger to stories of bravery. I see courage every day in the eyes of the men and women who sacrifice their time and energy to help women facing unplanned pregnancies. I see it every time a young mom — despite being pressured by her parents or significant other to get an abortion — chooses LIFE. And perhaps more profoundly than in any other situation, I see it when an expectant mom with no relational support, job, or income chooses to place her baby for adoption rather than abort her son or daughter.

This was Nicky’s situation.

When Nicky found herself pregnant with her boyfriend’s child, her life was already in shambles. During her 26 years, Nicky had already given birth to and surrendered sole custody of a little girl, committed several felonies, lived in her car, lost several jobs, and barely subsisted on minimum wage. So when she met up with an old boyfriend, Brandon, Nicky believed she was being given a second chance at happiness. “Our first year together was beautiful. We were getting to know each other and deciding if we would stay together forever.” Unfortunately, a positive pregnancy test result changed everything.

“When I told him I was pregnant, Brandon sat down on the bed, looked me in the eyes, and told me to ‘get an abortion’.” Nicky says those three little words changed everything for her. “I became depressed living with someone who wanted his child ‘dealt with.’”  Like thousands of women every day, Nicky began searching online for information on abortion, hoping her boyfriend would eventually change his mind. Through our strategic marketing methods, Online for Life was able to guide Nicky to a life-affirming pregnancy center where she received grace-filled counsel. “The woman I sat with was beyond wonderful. She helped me to just breathe and ask God what to do….And so I did.”

Nicky left the pregnancy center that day with a new resolve to choose life for her child, even though she still wasn’t sure how she’d financially support a child. “I was alone with just $10 in my pocket…and without any type of plan for what I was going to do.” So Nicky relied on the support of the staff she met at the life-affirming pregnancy center. With their help and through a chain of fortunate events, Nicky was put in contact with the couple who would eventually become her daughter’s adoptive parents.

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After meeting this couple face to face and coming to terms with her own desperate situation, Nicky conceded that the best thing for her unborn child would be to place her in someone else’s loving home. She told Brandon about her plans and he agreed that adoption would give their child the best chance at a happy and secure future. He even returned home to help Nicky prepare for the birth of their child. “The weeks leading up to my delivery were filled with a mixture of laughter, tears, protectiveness and sadness,” Nicky recalls. But one sentiment continued to be shared with her. “Brave…so brave.” That’s what everyone from the life-affirming pregnancy center to the adoption agency to the birthing center kept calling Nicky. “The nurses kept coming up to me and telling me they were honored to care for and treat someone like me.” After several weeks of preparation, Nicky finally gave birth to a healthy baby girl, and she made the dreams of a couple from the other side of the country come true.

Nicky’s adoption story continues to be riddled with a strange combination of pain and joy. “I cry every day, but I know my baby, who came out of a very bad time, ended up being loved by people from across the country.” When asked what message she’d like to share with the world about her decision to give up her child for adoption, Nicky responds, The voice of the mother who gives up a baby for adoption isn’t heard. We need to change that.”

To learn more about Online for Life and how we’re helping to make stories like Nicky and her daughter’s story a possibility, please visit OnlineforLife.org.

Author, speaker, and business leader Brian Fisher is the President and Co-Founder of Online for Life, a transparent, metric-oriented, compassion-driven nonprofit organization dedicated to helping rescue babies and their families from abortion through technology and grace.

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Dustin Siggins Dustin Siggins Follow Dustin

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New York farmers stop hosting weddings after $13,000 fine for declining lesbian ceremony

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By Dustin Siggins

New York farmers Robert and Cynthia Gifford, who were ordered last week to pay $13,000 for not hosting a same-sex "wedding," say they are closing that part of their operation.

"Going forward, the Giffords have decided to no longer host any wedding ceremonies on their farm, other than the ones already under contract," said Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) lawyer James Trainor. ADF represented the Giffords in their legal fight against New York's non-discrimination law.

Last week, the Giffords were ordered to pay a $10,000 fine to the state of New York and $3,000 in damages to a lesbian couple, Jennifer McCarthy and Melisa Erwin, who approached them in 2012 about hosting their "wedding." The Giffords, who are Roman Catholic, said their religious convictions would not let them host the ceremony, but that McCarthy and Erwin could hold their reception on their property.

Unbeknownst to the Giffords, the lesbian couple recorded the two-to-three minute conversation. After declining to hold the reception on the Giffords' farm, on which they live and rent property, the lesbian couple decided to make a formal complaint to the state's Division of Human Rights.

Eventually, Judge Migdalia Pares ruled that the Giffords' farm, Liberty Ridge Farm, constitutes a public accommodation because space is rented on the grounds and fees are collected from the public. The Giffords argued that because they live on the property with their children, they should be exempt from the state law, but Pares said that this does not mean their business is private.

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Trainor told TheBlaze that the Giffords' decision to end wedding ceremonies at Liberty Ridge “will hurt their business in the short run," but that was preferable to violating their religious beliefs.

“The Giffords serve all people with respect and care. They have hired homosexual employees and have hosted events for same-sex couples,” he said.

However, "since the state of New York has essentially compelled them to do all ceremonies or none at all, they have chosen the latter in order to stay true to their religious convictions," Trainor explained to LifeSiteNews. "No American should be forced by the government to choose between their livelihood and their faith, but that’s exactly the choice the state of New York has forced upon the Giffords."

"They will continue to host wedding receptions," said Trainor.

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