Hilary White, Rome Correspondent

Pope to U.S. bishops: reform of Catholic universities the ‘most urgent challenge’

Hilary White, Rome Correspondent
Hilary White, Rome Correspondent
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ROME, May 11, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Against a backdrop of institutionalized opposition to Catholic teaching in much of American Catholic academia, Pope Benedict XVI has told visiting U.S. bishops that Catholic colleges need to return to being a bastion of orthodoxy against an increasingly hostile and aggressive secular world.

While improvements have been made, Pope Benedict said, “much remains to be done,” particularly in “such basic areas” as compliance with Canon 812 of the Code of Canon Law. That section mandates that theology professors at Catholic universities be faithful to the teaching of the Church.

Canon 218 says, “Those who are engaged in the sacred disciplines enjoy a lawful freedom of inquiry and of prudently expressing their opinions on matters in which they have expertise, while observing due respect for the magisterium of the Church.”

This lack of progress, the pope said, has created confusion by “instances of apparent dissidence” between academics and the bishops. “Such discord harms the Church’s witness and, as experience has shown, can easily be exploited to compromise her authority and her freedom.”

The issue of religious freedom is at the top of the American bishops’ agenda at the moment, in the midst of their fight against the Obama administration’s attempt to mandate coverage of artificial birth control by Catholic institutions. Even as the U.S. bishops have fought the Obama mandate, prominent Catholic organizations have expressed their support, undercutting the efforts of the bishops. Most recently Georgetown University, a Catholic Jesuit university, invited Kathleen Sebelius, who as secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services was the architect of the birth control mandate, as a commencement speaker.

The pope called the need to reform Catholic academia the “most urgent internal challenge facing the Catholic community” in the U.S.

“Catholic identity, not least at the university level, entails much more than the teaching of religion or the mere presence of a chaplaincy on campus.

“All too often, it seems, Catholic schools and colleges have failed to challenge students to reappropriate their faith,” Benedict continued.

In the decades since the 1960s, most Catholic universities and colleges in the U.S., and around the world, have shifted their focus from being bastions of Catholic orthodoxy against the outside world’s secularism, to playing along with the zeitgeist, especially in areas of sexual morality. Most critics agree that this shift in Catholic academia was the source and engine of the more general shift in the same direction throughout the Church’s institutions and among the laity.

In recent years, this shift toward a secularist orientation has shown itself prominently in Catholic academia’s quiet, or even open support first for contraception use, then legal abortion, homosexual behaviour and most recently euthanasia.

The scramble of American Catholic academia away from Church teaching on sexual matters began to be seen in public in 1967 when Fr. Charles Curran, a former theological advisor or “peritus” at the Second Vatican Council, was re-instated at his tenured professorship at Catholic University of America (CUA) after having been sacked for opposing Catholic teaching on artificial contraception.

Curran, who was barred by the Vatican from teaching Catholic theology and now teaches at a Methodist university, became a herald of the new, updated and heavily secularized version of Catholicism when in 1968, he, together with 600 other theologians, authored an open letter formally dissenting from Pope Paul VI’s encyclical on contraception, Humanae Vitae.

This new, and increasingly popular version of Catholicism became highly fashionable, first at CUA, the American Catholic Church’s flagship educational institution, then throughout most of the Church’s most prominent colleges, seminaries and convents. From there, the idea of the “loyal dissenter” in the Catholic intellectual establishment spread out into the political world, leading finally to the advent of the “pro-choice” Catholic politicians who now represent the majority of Catholics in public life.

In the current, highly politicized climate since the reaction of the U.S. bishops against the Obama administration’s contraception mandate, some Catholic colleges are starting to pull back from full support for the secularist agenda.

In an address to Catholic academic loyalists at Franciscan University of Steubenville, Cardinal Newman Society (CNS) President Patrick J. Reilly said that a return to Catholic orthodoxy, far from being a retreat to the “Catholic ghetto,” would create a strong line of defense for religious liberty in the U.S.

“There is little question that the apparent hypocrisy of some Catholic colleges, charities, schools and other entities—which may dissent from church teachings, or may have watered down their religious identity in search of state and federal funds—reduces public sympathy for groups whose rights are threatened,” Reilly said.
 
“There is no question that the threats to Catholics’ religious liberty are wrong. But it is the failure of the Church to respond adequately to dissent, to clearly distinguish Catholic from secular identity, that endangers even the most faithful Catholic apostolates by feeding suspicion in a culture already suspicious of the Church,” he continued.

Reilly’s remarks are in line with Pope Benedict’s previous messages to visiting American bishops this year. Speaking to the bishops of Baltimore and Washington in January, the pope said, “The legitimate separation of Church and State cannot be taken to mean that the Church must be silent on certain issues, nor that the State may choose not to engage, or be engaged by, the voices of committed believers in determining the values which will shape the future of the nation.”

He noted that the founding American political “consensus” of political, social and religious liberty, “has eroded significantly in the face of powerful new cultural currents” that are “directly opposed to core moral teachings of the Judeo-Christian tradition” and “increasingly hostile to Christianity as such”.

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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.

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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