Hilary White, Rome Correspondent

Radical feminist nuns’ group ‘stunned’ by Vatican criticisms, reform plan

Hilary White, Rome Correspondent
Hilary White, Rome Correspondent
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VATICAN CITY, April 19, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The announcement yesterday by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) that one of the most notoriously liberal radical feminist organizations in the American Catholic Church is to be the subject of a major reform effort has been met with surprise from the group and condemnation from some of its members. 

An initial statement from the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) leadership says they are “stunned” by the critical comments made by the CDF in their doctrinal assessment. The CDF had specifically criticized the organization for its refusal to accept Catholic teaching on abortion, human sexuality and women’s ordination.

“Because the leadership of LCWR has the custom of meeting annually with the staff of CDF in Rome and because the conference follows canonically-approved statutes, we were taken by surprise,” the LCWR said in a statement. The leadership will meet in the next month to consider a comprehensive response.

Individual members, however, have been prompt in condemning the Vatican’s interest. Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of NETWORK, a lobbying group of U.S. Catholic nuns cited as problematic in the CDF’s report, told the Washington Post, “It’s painfully obvious that the leadership of the church is not used to having educated women form thoughtful opinions and engage in dialogue.”

Benedictine sister Joan Chittister, a prolific author and the unofficial spokesman of the extreme feminist left among Catholic women religious, told the National Catholic Reporter, “When you set out to reform a people, a group, who have done nothing wrong, you have to have an intention, a motivation that is not only not morally based, but actually immoral.”

Chittister called the CDF’s proposals an attempt “to control people for one thing and one thing only – and that is for thinking, for being willing to discuss the issues of the age.”

“If we stop thinking, if we stop demanding the divine right to think, and to see that as a Catholic gift, then we are betraying the church no matter what the powers of the church see as an inconvenient truth in their own times.”

In an interview with LifeSiteNews.com in 2010, Chittister had said that while she is personally “against” abortion, “I would never condemn a woman who finds herself in the position where she believes that, or her doctor believes that, abortion is the only answer for her at that moment.”  She also criticized the Catholic Church as being based “on a patriarchal system” and described her admitted divergence from Catholic teaching as a “position of query, of theological and scriptural commitment and search.”

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While the LCWR leadership and supporters say they are surprised, others have noted that reform of the religious life has been a prominent feature of Pope Benedict’s papacy. Among his earliest acts as pope was the launching of a reforming investigation into the wealthy and influential Legion of Christ, founded by the now-disgraced, late Marcial Maciel, after years of accusations of misconduct.

One Vatican source told LifeSiteNews.com that while some may consider this action against LCWR typical of an “ultra-conservative” pope acting to suppress the liberal factions, “It should be remembered that Benedict’s first target was the Legionaries and Maciel, then the darlings of the conservative end of the Church.”

LCWR was founded in 1956 and approved by the Vatican as an umbrella organization representing sisters and nuns in the U.S. Its 1500 members are members of congregations representing over 80 percent of the 59,000 Catholic women religious in the United States. Since the 1960s, however, the LCWR has become the de facto representative of the far left in the U.S. Catholic Church, with its membership dedicated to, in the words of the CDF, “certain radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith,” and “policies of corporate dissent,” from Catholic teaching.

CDF prefect Cardinal Levada said he had received many letters from women religious in the U.S. complaining about Catholic teaching. “The terms of the letters,” he wrote, “suggest that these sisters collectively take a position not in agreement with the Church’s teaching on human sexuality.

“It is a serious matter when these Leadership Teams are not providing effective leadership and example to their communities, but place themselves outside the Church’s teaching.”

The document from the CDF outlines the Vatican’s plan to spend the next five years reforming the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR).

Seattle Archbishop Peter Sartain has been appointed to oversee the reform of the organization, which will involve revising its statutes, creating new programs, reviewing and offering guidance on liturgy and reviewing LCWR’s affiliations with other organizations, citing specifically NETWORK and the Resource Center for Religious Institutes.

The announcement comes at a delicate time in the relations between the US Catholic Church and LCWR, with the latter endorsing the Obama administration’s health care plans and former leading a fight against the administration’s plans to impose birth control coverage on Catholic institutions and fund abortion in the health reform law. This conflict of interest seems to be in the mind of the CDF, which has an American, William Levada, as cardinal prefect. The document noted, “occasional public statements by the LCWR that disagree with or challenge positions taken by the Bishops, who are the Church’s authentic teachers of faith and morals, are not compatible with its purpose.”

The CDF said that the sisters represented by the LCWR, 80 percent of the remaining female Catholic religious in the US, are “in crisis.” They have moved away from the fundamental purpose of their existence as Catholic religious and are suffering from “a diminution of the fundamental Christological center and focus of religious consecration,” it said.

“While there has been a great deal of work on the part of LCWR promoting issues of social justice in harmony with the Church’s social doctrine, it is silent on the right to life from conception to natural death, a question that is part of the lively public debate about abortion and euthanasia in the United States,” the document said.

If the LCWR leadership says it is “stunned” by the outcome of the CDF’s investigation, the reaction is possibly the result of statements previously coming from the Vatican itself. Following several negative reactions from LCWR sisters after the investigation was announced, the recently appointed Secretary of the Congregation for Religious, Archbishop Joseph Tobin, said that he anticipated no censure from Rome as a result.

“I can say that I would be very surprised if anybody would purport to give any punitive or overly prescriptive norms as a result of this visitation,” he said. “If the visitors, in dialogue with the sisters, have identified some specific issues that need to be dealt with, okay. But forcing people into habits or something like that? That’s not what this is about.”

Tobin also said that strong actions against American women’s religious orders “would be really disrespectful of what women religious in America have accomplished,” and that the “depth of anger and hurt that exists among the sisters ... can’t be ignored.”

Archbishop Tobin had previously told journalists that the animosity between the US religious orders and the Vatican is the Vatican’s fault. The real problem, he said, was the presence of “unscrupulous canonical advisers” in the Vatican.

Two years after Archbishop Tobin reassured LCWR, Mother Clare Millea, the sister appointed in 2008 by the Vatican to coordinate the Apostolic Visitation of all the U.S. active religious orders, issued a statement saying, “Although there are concerns in religious life that warrant support and attention, the enduring reality is one of fidelity, joy, and hope.”

She told Catholic journalist Ann Carey in January this year, “The dialogue promoted by the apostolic visitation is just a beginning of new vitality in religious life. I am confident that much more will unfold with the passing of time and that the Holy Spirit will continue to work in and through women religious to strengthen unity within the Church and further the saving mission of Christ.”

“As I learned of and observed firsthand the perseverance of the religious in the United States in their vocations, in their ministries and in their faith … I have been both inspired and humbled,” she added.

The situation of the Catholic sisterhoods in the U.S. has been in flux since the closing of the Second Vatican Council in 1965 ushered in a maelstrom of change. This change, while frequently lauded as “prophetic” by the LCWR sisters themselves, has seen the near-total collapse of the Catholic religious life, and after 40 years, the closure or effective secularization of hundreds, if not thousands, of schools, nursing homes, hospitals, colleges and other Catholic charitable institutions, including convents.

In the intervening decades, while new vocations became more rare, the religious orders turned their attention largely to political interests, with the sisters themselves focusing on an array of left-liberal and secular causes. Meanwhile, the average median age of women in LCWR institutes is now 74, and many of the LCWR-represented congregations are no longer accepting applicants, choosing instead to merge with other orders or shut down their operations entirely.

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Sen. Rand Paul, R-KY, speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland, on March 7, 2014. Christopher Halloran / Shutterstock.com
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Rand Paul backs use of abortion-inducing drug as ‘birth control’

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By Ben Johnson

Rand Paul has said he had no objection to using the morning after pill as a form of “birth control.”

The junior U.S. senator from Kentucky and likely 2016 presidential hopeful responded to a question on the topic yesterday at the College of Charleston in South Carolina.

A woman asked, “If life starts at conception, should medicine that prevents conception like Plan B be legal?"

Paul replied, "I am not opposed to birth control, That's basically what Plan B is.”

“Plan B is taking two birth control pills in the morning and two in the evening, and I am not opposed to that,” he continued.

After the event, he seemed to tie his remarks to the Republican plan to embrace birth control on the campaign stump. "Plan B is taking birth control,” he elaborated. “I am not against birth control, and I don't know many Republicans who would be indicating that they are against birth control.”

But abundant evidence shows Plan B may work to prevent a newly conceived baby from implanting in the uterus, causing an early abortion.

As a doctor, "Rand Paul likely knows that the most likely effect of the high-dose Levonorgestrel-only contraceptive 'Plan B' is abortifacient,” Krista Thomas, communications manager of Human Life International (HLI) told LifeSiteNews. “Though it also has potential effects of thickening of the cervical mucus and prevention of ovulation, let’s face it, this drug is designed to be taken after sex, so the likelihood of these effects stopping pregnancy is very low.”

“Early abortions are its primary, and perhaps only, effect,” she said.

One of the world's leading authorities on the morning after pill – Dr. James Trussell, the director of Princeton’s Office of Population Research – has said that women must be told of the potential for abortion as part of ethical treatment. “To make an informed choice, women must know that [emergency contraceptive pills]…prevent pregnancy primarily by delaying or inhibiting ovulation and inhibiting fertilization, but may at times inhibit implantation of a fertilized egg in the endometrium,” he wrote.

That was further confirmed by a 2014 report from the Charlotte Lozier Institute that found all forms of emergency contraception, as well as the IUD, can cause an early abortion.

Instead, Thomas said the abortion industry has muddied the waters about the impact and effect of so-called “emergency contraception,” like Plan B.

“The abortion industry giants including Planned Parenthood have done an incredible job misrepresenting what these hormonal contraceptive devices and drugs really do to unborn babies at their earliest stage, and also how destructive these are for women’s health,” she told LifeSiteNews.

Paul's comments in the early Republican primary state came just days after a poor showing in the annual Values Voters Summit straw poll, where Paul tied for fifth place with Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal.

But Thomas told LifeSiteNews that embracing abortion-inducing drugs is wrong morally and politically.

“It would probably be a better long term strategy for those who feel threatened by the nonsensical 'war on women' charge to go on offense and ask why” the abortion lobby is so “condescending towards women and uncaring about their health.”

Millions of women, she said, “really don’t appreciate being reduced to” the single issues of abortion and contraception access, “and we are not being heard from right now.”

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Paul worked with the National Pro-Life Alliance to introduce the Life at Conception Act into the Senate last March. Later that month, he appeared to foresee “thousands of exceptions” to any pro-life law that would pass, a statement his office later clarified with LifeSiteNews.

He has also said that traditional marriage is not a defining issue for Republicans, and members of the GOP can “agree to disagree.”

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Cancer-stricken mother foregoes lifesaving treatment to save her unborn daughter (Video)

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By Ben Johnson
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Ashley Bridges seemed to be living a dream when she met her fiance, Jonathon, and he proposed last fall. The couple soon learned they would be having a baby. Ashley's only complaint was persistent knee pain that got worse as time went on.

Then she got the news that would change her life: At 10 weeks pregnant, she learned she had a three centimeter tumor in her femur that would require surgery and chemotherapy.

The treatment, she was told, would require an abortion.

“There’s no way I could kill a healthy baby because I’m sick,” Bridges, 24, told the Los Angeles CBS affiliate KCAL.

Doctors found the tumor grew to 10 centimeters within two months, yet Bridges refused a full course of treatment to give her baby – whom she learned was a girl – the best chance at survival. She had a knee replacement to take out the tumor, which filled four inches of her femur.

At eight months, her doctors insisted she deliver her girl and begin chemotherapy. “That’s basically when they told me that it was terminal,” she said.

Doctors gave her one year to live, news that crushed her five-year-old son, Braiden.

But her daughter, Paisley, was born safe and healthy.

The whole family helps out in their Wildomar, California, home. Jonathon, who is in the military, works nights so he can be home with the child during the day.

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“The thought that I’m not going to see her grow up is really hard,” Ashley said.

Still, she has no regrets. “Maybe I’m not supposed to be here and she is,” she added.

Ashley began aggressive treatment, lost her hair, but seems to have had some success in stopping the spread of the cancer. She said that on September 27 her doctor told her that her cancer “hasn't spread to my legs like we thought and the [tumors] in my head haven't grown and the one that was causing me to blind seems completely gone. The ones in my hips and lower spine have grown so little there really isn't a difference!!!!”

“I'm crying, I'm so happy,” she wrote. “Thank God.”

The family has a GiveForward account to help cover their expenses. Already, she has raised $32,000 – some $12,000 more than her goal. You may donate here.

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I'm not afraid of being on the “wrong side of history” on gay “marriage”; I've been there before. I spent the first part of my life being told that the global triumph of Communism was “inevitable.”
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I make no apologies for being on ‘the wrong side of history’

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By Ben Johnson

“The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting” – Sun Tzu, The Art of War.

Among the stratagems employed by the cultural Left to discourage, dispirit, and dissuade the plurality of culturally sane Americans from opposing same-sex “marriage” is the all-encompassing insistence that the fight has already been lost. The phrase of choice is that proponents of traditional marriage are on “the wrong side of history.”

With at least 5,000 years of Western civilization normalizing monogamous heterosexual marriage, and the American experiment with redefining marriage a mere 10 years old, it certainly seems like I'm on the right side of history – the long one...the one authenticated by every society that produced human flourishing. 

But frankly, I'm not afraid of being on the “wrong side of history”; I've been there before.

I spent the first part of my life being told that the global triumph of Communism was “inevitable.”

According to Marxist apologists, the irreversible tide of Marxism was an historic and “scientific” reality. Karl Marx had devised a theory known as “Dialectical Materialism,” which claimed that all societies in history followed a predictable pattern resulting from the conflict between exploited workers (the proletariat) and their exploiters (the bourgeoisie). This interaction transformed primitive societies into feudal ones, then into capitalist nations, and ultimately, into communist utopias. The theory “proved” that mankind would evolve into the New Soviet Man.

This is the genesis of the political term “progressive” – progressives embraced policies that would “progress” society toward this evolutionary inevitability. Those who opposed socialism were branded “reactionaries” bitterly clinging to the past, who rejected modernity and wanted to “turn back the clock.” (Sound familiar?)

This historical arrogance was expressed in the 1961 Draft Platform of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, which said, “[T]he epoch-making turn of mankind from capitalism to socialism, initiated by the October Revolution, is a natural result of the development of society...and it will be taken sooner or later by all peoples.”

So fervently did all Western intellectuals believe this idea that, when he exposed a Communist spy ring in 1948, Whittaker Chambers told Congress, “I know that I am leaving the winning side for the losing side, but it is better to die on the losing side than to live under Communism.”

Who could argue? Within one generation, Communism went from a beachhead in one nation to a worldwide empire of 17 established socialist nations encompassing more than one-third of the world's population. Marxists ruled national capitals from North Korea to Nicaragua and Vietnam to Zimbabwe, with Communist armies fighting from Chile to Guatemala.

In the 1980s, Marxist insurgencies seemed destined to sweep norte through Central America to the very borders of the United States. This view seeped into popular culture through such dystopian productions as Red Dawn, Invasion USA, and Amerika, which aired just two years before the Berlin Wall was torn down.

Until the very end, Communism's victory, its crushing and obliteration of all opposition, seemed certain.

The threat posed by Communism dwarfed anything presented by abortion, redefining marriage, and any other social issue combined. Marxism did not squeeze public prayer out of schools; it formally taught atheism and socialist ideology to children, dynamited churches, and murdered anyone who publicly proclaimed the existence of a God higher than the State. It did not seek to redefine marriage but to abolish the family, with all women held in common and all children raised by the State. Its promotion of abortion led to the greatest death toll of unborn children in world history. It did not seize tax files or intercept the e-mails of its political opponents; its all-seeing totalitarian apparatus herded them into forced labor camps where death was preferable to unthinkable torture. One of its former fellow-travellers, George Orwell, described a Communist future as “a boot stamping on a human face – forever.”

Those condemned to live under its reign of terror prevailed only because of their determination never to give up, their firm resolution to hold the line against the Bolsheviks wherever possible, and their tenacity in keeping their faith and the truth alive amongst themselves, especially through the samizdat press.

At the core of Communism's failure was the fact that it was built on a lie that fewer and fewer people were willing to humor, even under threat of execution. The toppling and killing of Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu began during one of his interminable speeches, when one woman in the crowd yelled out, “Liar!” Soon, the crowd picked up the chant and chased him from power, ultimately sending him to his eternal reward.

Still, the tactic of presenting your extremist version of reality as inevitable – and ruthlessly crushing all opposition – won much of the world for much of the Twentieth Century. No sooner were these assertions disproved than were the exact same terms and arguments transferred from the economic realm into the cultural front. Communists learned that human beings won't give up their creature comforts for a workers' paradise – but they will cling to their sexual indulgences unto the death. They saw they could use this weakness to undermine the family, the Church, and any other intermediary institution that could stop the onslaught of the mammoth State.

Thus, their mantra that cultural devolution is “inevitable.” Their message to Christians is a mockery of a hymn: “The Strife is O'er, the Battle Lost.”

They are right, in a sense; history is rushing to its predetermined conclusion. That is the eternal reign of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ, thronged by His saints and angels who shall sing His endless praises forever. First, the world must pass through the dark night brought on by the Fall, the intense warfare between love and hate, and every act of cruelty, cupidity, and inhumanity preceding the Parousia.

The “progressives” are right that they are part of a grand historical drama but 180-degrees wrong about its ultimate outcome. They are progressing toward futility, destruction, and perdition.

But before Christ the King reigns, darkness must reach its apogee.

It may be that in the Left's cultural conquest of marriage, we are closer to 1917 than 1989, that a cocksure, opaque, malicious spirit is inexorably advancing rather than retreating. Those who defend the superiority of the natural family face social, economic, and (increasingly) legal censure. We have only the truth of science, human development, and children's social well-being on our side. And we must never tire of repeating it, whatever the outcome. But it is not hard to imagine that the worst is yet before us.

Where we stand in the mystery of iniquity and redemption is known only to their Master. But we may take to heart the words of the famed dissident Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, who lived to see the fall of the Gulag Archipelago that once imprisoned him: “One word of truth shall outweigh the whole world.” And the words of another, greater Authority: “In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”

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