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Pope Francis: ‘Abortion compounds the grief of many women’

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By John-Henry Westen
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VATICAN CITY, April 25, 2014 (LifeSiteNews.com) - In his “ad limina” visit with the Bishops of the South African Bishops Conference, Pope Francis emphasized that “abortion compounds the grief of many women” and that marriage, which he said is a "lifelong covenant of love between one man and one woman," is “disintegrating under tremendous pressure from the secular world.”

“Abortion compounds the grief of many women who now carry with them deep physical and spiritual wounds after succumbing to the pressures of a secular culture which devalues God’s gift of sexuality and the right to life of the unborn,” the pope said in a prepared text.

The pope also noted the concern that “Catholic families have fewer children, with repercussions on the number of vocations to the priesthood and religious life.” He added also that “the rate of separation and divorce is high, even in many Christian families, and children frequently do not grow up in a stable home environment.”

“All these realities,” he wrote, “threaten the sanctity of marriage, the stability of life in the home and consequently the life of society as a whole.”

“The holiness and indissolubility of Christian matrimony, often disintegrating under tremendous pressure from the secular world, must be deepened by clear doctrine and supported by the witness of committed married couples,” the pope said.

“Christian matrimony is a lifelong covenant of love between one man and one woman; it entails real sacrifices in order to turn away from illusory notions of sexual freedom and in order to foster conjugal fidelity,” he added.

As for a way forward in such a “sea of difficulties,” the pope proposed that “we bishops and priests must give a consistent witness to the moral teaching of the Gospel.”  He added, “I am confident that you will not weaken in your resolve to teach the truth ‘in season and out of season’ (2 Tim 4:2), sustained by prayer and discernment, and always with great compassion.”

His full remarks are as follows:

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Dear Brother Bishops,

I offer you a warm welcome as you make this pilgrimage ad Limina Apostolorum, in which you have come to pray at the tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul, and to reflect with me on the joys and challenges of the Church in Botswana, South Africa and Swaziland. Your presence expresses your unity with the Successor of Peter, and provides an opportunity to be refreshed in the faith and in your ministry of shepherding God’s people. I thank Cardinal Napier for his warm words of greeting, offered on behalf of Catholics in your dioceses – priests, religious and lay faithful. I assure them through you of my love and prayerful solidarity.

Our meeting today allows us to give thanks to God the Father for the growth of the Church in your countries, thanks to the labours of missionaries from many lands, who along with indigenous men and women of South Africa, Botswana and Swaziland, sowed the seeds of your people’s faith so deeply. For generations they have gone out to meet them wherever they are to be found, in villages, towns and cities, and especially in ever-expanding urban townships. They built the churches and schools and clinics that have served your countries for nearly two centuries; this heritage shines forth even now in the heart of every believer and in the continuing works of the apostolate. The Gospel teaches that the seed of the Word, once sown, grows by itself even as the farmer sleeps, accomplishing “what it wills in ways that surpass our calculations and ways of thinking” (Evangelii Gaudium, 22).

Despite many challenges, your countries are blessed by flourishing parishes, thriving often against very great odds: far distances between communities, a dearth of material resources and limited access to the sacraments. I know you are training permanent deacons in some dioceses, to assist the clergy where priests are fewer. There is a concerted effort to renew and deepen the formation of lay catechists who assist mothers and fathers in preparing the coming generations in the faith. Priests and religious brothers and sisters are of one mind and heart in their service of God’s most vulnerable sons and daughters: widows, single mothers, the divorced, children at risk and especially the several million AIDS orphans, many of whom head households in rural areas. Truly the richness and joy of the Gospel is being lived and shared by Catholics with others around them. A Catholic minority in countries of mixed religions, the faithful are having to rely more and more on their own support, with diminished aid from the countries who first sent missionaries. Many of them work with great generosity in numerous projects of charity, manifesting the loving face of Christ to those who need him most. Each is a sign of hope for the whole Church! I pray that they will continue to persevere in building up the Lord’s Kingdom with their lives that testify to the truth, and with the work of their hands that ease the sufferings of so many. 

You have spoken to me of some of the serious pastoral challenges facing your communities. Catholic families have fewer children, with repercussions on the number of vocations to the priesthood and religious life. Some Catholics turn away from the Church to other groups who seem to promise something better. Abortion compounds the grief of many women who now carry with them deep physical and spiritual wounds after succumbing to the pressures of a secular culture which devalues God’s gift of sexuality and the right to life of the unborn. In addition, the rate of separation and divorce is high, even in many Christian families, and children frequently do not grow up in a stable home environment. We also observe with great concern, and can only deplore, an increase in violence against women and children. All these realities threaten the sanctity of marriage, the stability of life in the home and consequently the life of society as a whole. In this sea of difficulties, we bishops and priests must give a consistent witness to the moral teaching of the Gospel. I am confident that you will not weaken in your resolve to teach the truth “in season and out of season” (2 Tim 4:2), sustained by prayer and discernment, and always with great compassion.

I appreciate the fact that you, the bishops of Botswana, South Africa and Swaziland, are united to your people where they live and work and study, in solidarity with the vast numbers of unemployed in your countries. Most of your people can identify at once with Jesus who was poor and marginalized, who had no place to lay his head. In addressing these pastoral needs, I ask you to offer, in addition to the material support which you provide, the greater support of spiritual assistance and sound moral guidance, remembering that the absence of Christ is the greatest poverty of all. Here too we need to find new and creative ways of helping people encounter Christ through a deeper understanding of the faith.

Another significant challenge I have already touched on is the reduced number of priests – your first co-workers in the task of evangelization – as well as a significant decline in seminarians. What is required is a new impetus: fresh and authentic promotion of vocations in every territory, a prudent selection of candidates for seminary studies, fatherly encouragement of those men in formation, and attentive accompaniment in the years after ordination.

Together with priests, religious and lay catechists have played and continue to play a vital role in the growth of your communities. It is essential that they receive your encouragement and support, especially through the development of programs of ongoing formation grounded firmly in the inspired word of God, and introducing children and adults to the life of prayer and the fruitful reception of the sacraments. The sacrament of reconciliation, in particular, must be rediscovered as a fundamental dimension of the life of grace. The holiness and indissolubility of Christian matrimony, often disintegrating under tremendous pressure from the secular world, must be deepened by clear doctrine and supported by the witness of committed married couples. Christian matrimony is a lifelong covenant of love between one man and one woman; it entails real sacrifices in order to turn away from illusory notions of sexual freedom and in order to foster conjugal fidelity. Your programs of preparation for the sacrament of matrimony, enriched by Pope John Paul’s teaching on marriage and the family, are proving to be promising and indeed indispensable means of communicating the liberating truth about Christian marriage and are inspiring young people with new hope for themselves and for their future as husbands and wives, fathers and mothers.

I have also noted the concern which you expressed about the breakdown of Christian morals, including a growing temptation to collude with dishonesty. This is an issue which you prophetically addressed in your pastoral statement on corruption. As you pointed out, “corruption is theft from the poor… hurts the most vulnerable… harms the whole community… destroys our trust”. The Christian community is called to be consistent in its witness to the virtues of honesty and integrity, so that we may stand before the Lord, and our neighbours, with clean hands and a pure heart (cf. Ps 24:4) as a leaven of the Gospel in the life of society. With this moral imperative in mind, I know that you will continue to address this and other grave social concerns, such as the plight of refugees and migrants. May these men and women always be welcomed by our Catholic com-munities, finding in them open hearts and homes as they seek to begin a new life.

Dear Brother Bishops, in my Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, issued at the end of the Year of Faith which marked the fiftieth anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council, I expressed my hope that all Christians will embark upon a new chapter of evangelization marked by Gospel joy, seeking “new paths for the Church’s journey in years to come” (cf. No. 1). Now is the time to rekindle the precious gift of faith so as to renew your dedicated service to God’s people! May the saints of Africa sustain you by their intercession. May Our Lady of Africa be always at your side, and may she guide you as you share in the teaching, sanctifying and governing mission of Christ.

With these sentiments and with great affection, I impart my Apostolic Blessing to you, and to all the beloved priests, religious and lay faithful of your countries.

As published by the Vatican, April 25, 2014
 

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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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