John Westen

Pope Francis thanks two conservative Catholics for their criticisms: report

John Westen
John Westen

VATICAN CITY, November 19, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) - This week has brought new hope to traditional and conservative Catholics concerning Pope Francis.  After months of a near-constant liberal media onslaught claiming Pope Francis as the pope of the left, and the exuberance of Nancy Pelosi and similar liberals, Pope Francis has signaled a very different trajectory.

Two personal communications from Pope Francis thanking Catholics on the right who have been critical of some of his recent moves, along with other indications have marked this week, in the words of one traditional Catholic, as “one that will be looked back on as a turning point in this pontificate.” 

Mario Palmaro, an Italian traditional Catholic writer who, along with Alessandro Gnocchi, was fired from Radio Maria Italy for being openly critical of the Pope’s controversial off-the-cuff interviews, received a phone call from Pope Francis on November 1. The article which led to their firing criticized the pope for, in the opinion of the authors, attempting to capture the praise of the world rather than remaining faithful to the truth. It was provocatively headlined “We do not like this Pope.” 

After expressing his distress that news about the phone call from the pope had been made public, Palmaro spoke with Italian media noting that the pope said he had read his criticisms and understood that they were done for the love of the Church and the papacy. The pope, he said, also told him it was important for him to receive the criticisms. 

According to Palmaro, the phone call began with the pope expressing his closeness and concern for Palmaro who is dying of cancer. 

"Pope Francis told me that he was very close to me, having learned of my health condition, of my grave illness, and I clearly noticed his deep empathy, the attention for a person as such, beyond ideas and opinions, while I live through a time of trial and suffering," related Palmaro. (translation by Rorate Caeli)

"I was astonished, amazed, above all moved: for me, as a Catholic, that which I was experiencing was one of the most beautiful experiences in my life. But I felt the duty to remind the Pope that I, together with Gnocchi, had expressed specific criticisms regarding his work, while I renewed my total fidelity [to him] as a son of the Church,” he added. “The Pope almost did not let me finish the sentence, saying that he had understood that those criticisms had been made with love, and how important it had been for him to receive them." 

"[These words] comforted me greatly," he said.

Michael Matt, editor of The Remnant newspaper, one of the most prominent traditional Catholic institutions in the United States, told LifeSiteNews that he was also comforted by news of the pope’s phone call, and other recent papal actions which came to light this week. 

The Palmaro incident he said, “speaks to the need for us to make our voices heard,” adding that it shows that “attempts by some Catholics trying to silence trads was really wrong headed.”

In addition to the Palmaro phone call, several other incidents weighed in to Matt’s assessment. 

One was the pope’s reported assurance that the Latin Mass, which has become a rallying point for many Catholics who also adhere to the Church's traditional teachings on life and family, is under no threat. A November 11 Catholic World News report related that Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos told members of Una Voce International (FIUV) “I met Pope Francis very recently and he told me that he has no problem with the old rite, and neither does he have any problem with lay groups and associations like yours that promote it.” 

A second was the Vatican’s pulling of the controversial papal interview with atheist Eugenio Scalfari from the Vatican website. That interview had been criticized by some for appearing to distort the teaching of the Church on what it means to follow one’s conscience in determining good and evil.

The third was the Pope’s promotion of the daily prayer of the Divine Mercy prayer with the distribution of 20,000 rosaries on Sunday.

And the fourth was an incident very similar to the Palmaro phone call. This time, it was an October 7 letter from Pope Francis to a conservative archbishop which was made public November 12.

In the letter, Pope Francis thanked Archbishop Agostino Marchetto for correcting him on some undisclosed matter. The context of the letter is Archbishop Marchetto’s critique of the “Bologna School” of theology - an approach that sees the Second Vatican Council as a point of departure from the former ways of the Church, including on key moral issues. Marchetto argues for the approach of Pope Benedict XVI, seeing the Council as a continuation of the Church’s teaching.

Many of the followers of the Bologna school initially took Pope Francis as one of their own, and as they were, opposed to Pope Benedict XVI.

However, Pope Francis’ letter dashed those hopes by clearly stating that that the Pope considers Marchetto to be “the best interpreter of Vatican Council II.”  (see full translation of the letter by Zenit here)

One of Italy’s most prominent traditional Catholics, Professor Roberto de Mattei, who is intimately involved in the debate between the different approaches to the interpretation of the second Vatican Council, was encouraged by the Pope’s letter to Archbishop Marchetto.  “In the letter the Pope has noted his opposition to the Bologna school, to the hermeneutic of rupture,” Professor de Mattei told LifeSiteNews.com. “Thus, the Holy Father has indicated his disagreement with the approach that favours a break with the Church’s teachings and practices of the past.  The Bologna school, to which the Pope has noted his disagreement, proposes alteration of the Church’s structure and organization, but also to her teachings around sexuality, contraception, women priests.”

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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."

Click "like" if you are PRO-LIFE!

"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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Pete Baklinski Pete Baklinski Follow Pete

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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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