John Jalsevac

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'Seamless garment' theory has been abused to ignore life issues: top Vatican official

John Jalsevac
John Jalsevac

John Jalsevac reporting from Rome last week

ROME, February 25, 2013, (LifeSiteNews.com) – “Intellectually dishonest” theologians and politicians have abused Cardinal Bernardin’s famous “seamless garment” image of Catholic moral teaching to “justify turning a blind eye” to injustices such as abortion, contraception and public funding for embryonic stem cell research, according to the head of the Vatican’s number two office.

Speaking at the Vatican to the annual meeting of the members of the Pontifical Academy for Life, Archbishop Gerhard L. Müller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, a position previously held by Pope Benedict, said that, viewed properly, the seamless garment image is valid.

But where some adherents of the theory have gone wrong is by emphasizing more popular “social justice” issues such as economic or environmental issues, while dismissing life issues such as abortion and euthanasia as being of lesser importance, or even putting them outside the scope of social justice altogether.

“There is a beautiful coherence to the Church’s moral teaching, but that coherence can only be demonstrated, and its truth apprehended, when the moral teaching of the Church is taught in its entirety and lived out integrally,” said the archbishop.

(Read the complete talk here.)

According to Archbishop Müller, this abuse of the seamless garment theory appears to stem from a desire on the part of some to look for “common ground” with the surrounding culture. But while this approach may at times be appropriate, it risks overlooking the differences between the values of the culture and some of the “profoundly counter-cultural” teachings of the Church.

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Teachings of Humanae Vitae must be restored to the ‘seamless garment’

In particular, the head of the CDF highlighted Pope Paul VI’s famous encyclical, Humanae Vitae, in which that pope reiterated the Church’s long-held teaching on the immorality of artificial contraception. The encyclical also drew a connection between contraception and other evils such as abortion and divorce.

In the days and months before the release of Humane Vitae, many had expected the Roman Catholic Church to follow the lead of other Christian denominations and approve contraception. The document remains widely unpopular in many “liberal” Catholic circles.

But according to Müller, once the teaching of Humanae Vitae is ignored, and sex is removed from the context of a life-long marriage open to life, the seamless garment “begins to unravel.” The result, he said, is nothing short of disastrous.

In the first place, the widespread adoption of a “profoundly distorted” view of sexuality, in which sex is denied any “intrinsic value” and “reduced to a merely pleasurable pursuit or a morally irrelevant activity,” is “at the very core of many of the bioethical problems which confront us today.”

The “prophetic” teaching of Humanae Vitae “is so important that without it we cannot engage our faithful—to say nothing of the larger society—in a coherent discussion of the problems and moral evil presented by techniques of artificial fertilization, preimplantation diagnosis, cryogenic freezing of embryos and ‘embryo reduction’, human cloning and the therapeutic use of stem cells,” said Archbishop Muller.

In the second place, he said, wherever the teachings of Humanae Vitae have been downplayed or ignored, “we have witnessed a collapse of family life, an increase in extra-marital infidelity and a diminishment of vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life.”  At the same time, this approach has failed to lead to any corresponding increase in social acceptance of the Church, or “to a renewal in her own life.”

The solution, said the archbishop, is to return the Church’s teachings on sexuality to pride of place within the “seamless garment.”

Given the widespread unpopularity of the teachings of Humanae Vitae in the broader culture, and even among many Catholics, this may seem a daunting task. But according to Archbishop Müller, restoring the proper balance is not as difficult as it may seem, since many Catholics have not actually rejected the Church’s teachings, but rather a “caricature” of them.

The truth is that many have never heard the fullness of the Church’s teaching, the profound “yes” to the sanctity of sexual love lived-out in marriage and the family; the “yes” to responsible parenthood; the “yes” to the dignity of the woman against manipulation by a process that views her body as a problem to be overcome or circumvented.

The first step, he said, is to begin talking about the Church’s teachings everywhere possible – in diocesan newspapers and offices, in homilies, and in marriage preparation programs.

“[T]he only response of the Church to modernity has to be one which is completely faithful to the teaching of the Magisterium, above all on matters of sexual morality because this is precisely where doctrine touches life,” said the archbishop.  

“Yes, we fight for peace and justice in the world, and at the same time we need to set forth persuasively the Church’s vision of life, love and sexuality, including the intrinsic immorality of abortion and contraception.” 

Why is the Church so concerned with sex? Because sex has ‘everything to do with love’

The archbishop acknowledged that the Church is often accused of having an excessive focus on sex. But, said the archbishop, this is natural, particularly in a culture that has deviated so far afield from what constitutes a healthy sexuality, since the Church is the only institution with the means to provide a long-term remedy.  

“The Church is so concerned with sex because sex has everything to do with love, and God is love!’” said Archbishop Müller. “There is plenty of loneliness, brokenness, and unhappiness in the world.  Yet often the Church is the only voice speaking to the cause of that existential loneliness and unhappiness.” He added:

The degradation of the sexual act, reducing it to a function of pleasure, power, or control, demeans the human person. The great lie of the sexual revolution is that sex always leads to happiness and personal liberation.  The sexual union of a man and a woman does lead to integral fulfillment in its authentic context, which is when it is open to new life within the life long bond of marriage. However, without this context it invariably leads people into the desert of meaninglessness.

The archbishop said that within the “stark simplicity” of the Church’s teachings on sexuality there is “tremendous power for liberation and happiness.” The only thing necessary is to “communicate to people the intrinsic meaning of sex within the Christian vision of love.”

“Only through an integrated and enthusiastic presentation of our teaching can we begin to reclaim the language and concept of human rights as it relates to family life and especially to marriage as constituted by one man and one woman,” he said.

Read the complete talk here


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Quebec groups launch court challenge to euthanasia bill

LifeSiteNews staff
By LifeSiteNews staff

As announced when the Quebec legislature adopted Bill 52, An Act respecting end-of-life care, the citizen movement Living with Dignity and the Physicians’ Alliance against Euthanasia, representing together over 650 physicians and 17,000 citizens, filed a lawsuit before the Superior Court of Quebec in the District of Montreal on Thursday.

The lawsuit requests that the Court declare invalid all the provisions of the Act that deal with “medical aid in dying”, a term the groups say is a euphemism for euthanasia. This Act not only allows certain patients to demand that a physician provoke their death, but also grants physicians the right to cause the death of these patients by the administration of a lethal substance.

The two organizations are challenging the constitutionality of those provisions in the Act which are aimed at decriminalizing euthanasia under the euphemism “medical aid in dying”. Euthanasia constitutes a culpable homicide under Canada’s Criminal Code, and the organizations maintain that it is at the core of the exclusive federal legislative power in relation to criminal law and Quebec therefore does not have the power to adopt these provisions.

The organizations also say the impugned provisions unjustifiably infringe the rights to life and to security of patients guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms. They further infringe the right to the safeguard of the dignity of the person, which is also protected by the Quebec Charter.

In view of the gravity of the situation and the urgent need to protect all vulnerable persons in Quebec, they are requesting an accelerated management of the case in order to obtain a judgment before the Act is expected to come into force on December 10, 2015.


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Colorado baker appeals gvmt ‘re-education’ order

LifeSiteNews staff
By LifeSiteNews staff

A Colorado cake artist who declined to use his creative talents to promote and endorse a same-sex ceremony appealed a May 30 order from the Colorado Civil Rights Commission to the Colorado Court of Appeals Wednesday.

The commission’s order requires cake artist Jack Phillips and his staff at Masterpiece Cakeshop to create cakes for same-sex celebrations, forces him to re-educate his staff that Colorado’s Anti-Discrimination Act means that artists must endorse all views, compels him to implement new policies to comply with the commission’s order, and requires him to file quarterly “compliance” reports for two years. The reports must include the number of patrons declined a wedding cake or any other product and state the reason for doing so to ensure he has fully eliminated his religious beliefs from his business.

“Americans should not be forced by the government – or by another citizen – to endorse or promote ideas with which they disagree,” said the cake artist’s lead counsel Nicolle Martin, an attorney allied with Alliance Defending Freedom. “This is not about the people who asked for a cake; it’s about the message the cake communicates. Just as Jack doesn’t create baked works of art for other events with which he disagrees, he doesn’t create cake art for same-sex ceremonies regardless of who walks in the door to place the order.”

“In America, we don’t force artists to create expression that is contrary to their convictions,” added Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Legal Counsel Jeremy Tedesco. “A paint artist who identifies as homosexual shouldn’t be intimidated into creating a painting that celebrates one-man, one-woman marriage. A pro-life photographer shouldn’t be forced to work a pro-abortion rally. And Christian cake artists shouldn’t be punished for declining to participate in a same-sex ceremony or promote its message.”

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In July 2012, Charlie Craig and David Mullins asked Jack Phillips, owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop, to make a wedding cake to celebrate their same-sex ceremony. In an exchange lasting about 30 seconds, Phillips politely declined, explaining that he would gladly make them any other type of baked item they wanted but that he could not make a cake promoting a same-sex ceremony because of his faith. Craig and Mullins, now represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, immediately left the shop and later filed a complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Division. The case now goes to the Colorado Court of Appeals as Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Craig.

“Jack, and other cake artists like him – such as those seen on TV shows like ‘Ace of Cakes’ and ‘Cake Boss’ – prepare unique creations that are inherently expressive,” Tedesco explained. “Jack invests many hours in the wedding cake creative process, which includes meeting the clients, designing and sketching the cake, and then baking, sculpting, and decorating it. The ACLU calls Jack a mere ‘retail service provider,’ but, in fact, he is an artist who uses his talents and abilities to create expression that the First Amendment fully protects."

Celebrity cake artists have written publicly about their art and the significant expressive work that goes into the artistic design process for wedding cakes.


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Prisoner of conscience Mary Wagner appeals her conviction

Tony Gosgnach
By Tony Gosgnach

TORONTO -- As promised, Mary Wagner has, through her counsel Dr. Charles Lugosi, filed a formal notice of appeal on numerous points regarding her recent, almost two-year-long court case that ended on June 12.

Justice Fergus O’Donnell of the Ontario Court of Justice rejected every application made by the defence – including for access to abortion center records, public funding, standing for a constitutional challenge and for expert witnesses to be heard – before he found Wagner guilty and sentenced her to five months in jail on a charge of mischief and four months on four counts of failing to comply with probation orders.

He further levied two years of probation, with terms that she stay at least 100 metres away from any abortion site. However, because Wagner had spent a greater time in jail than the sentence, she was freed immediately. She had been arrested at the “Women’s Care Clinic” abortion site on Lawrence Avenue West in Toronto on August 15, 2012 after attempting to speak to abortion-bound women there. She then spent the duration of the trial in prison for refusing to sign bail conditions requiring her to stay away from abortion sites.

Wagner is using the matter as a test case to challenge the current definition of a human being in Canadian law – that is, that a human being is legally recognized as such only after he or she has fully emerged from the birth canal in a breathing state.

Wagner’s notice states the appeal is regarding:

  • Her conviction and sentence on a single count of mischief (interference with property),
  • Her conviction and sentence on four counts of breach of probation,
  • The order denying public funding,
  • The order denying the disclosure of third-party records,
  • The order denying the admission of evidence from experts on the applicant’s constitutional challenge concerning the constitutional validity of Section 223 of the Criminal Code,
  • The order denying the admission of evidence from experts concerning the construction of Section 37 of the Criminal Code,
  • The probation order denying Wagner her constitutional rights to freedom of speech, freedom of expression, freedom of conscience and freedom of religion on all public sidewalks and public areas within 100 metres of places where abortions are committed,
  • And each conviction and sentence and all orders and rulings made by O’Donnell.

In the notice of appeal, Lugosi cites numerous points on which O’Donnell erred:

  • He denied Wagner her constitutional right to make full answer and defence.
  • He denied Wagner her right to rely on Section 37 of the Criminal Code, which permits “everyone” to come to the third-party defence and rescue of any human being (in this case, the preborn) facing imminent assault.
  • He decided the factual basis of Wagner’s constitutional arguments was a waste of the court’s time and that no purpose would have been served by having an evidentiary hearing on her Charter application because, in the current state of Canadian law, it had no possibility of success.
  • He misapplied case law and prejudged the case, “giving rise to a reasonable apprehension of bias and impeding the legal evolution of the law to adapt to new circumstances, knowledge and changed societal values and morals.”
  • He accepted the Crown’s submission that it is beyond the jurisdiction of the courts to question the jurisdiction of Parliament legally to define “human being” in any manner Parliament sees fit.
  • He ruled Section 223 of the Criminal Code is not beyond the powers of Section 52 of the Constitution Act, 1982.
  • He ruled Section 223 of the Criminal Code does not violate the Preamble to, as well as Sections 7, 11(d), 15 and 26, of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
  • He denied Wagner standing to raise a constitutional challenge to the validity of Section 223 of the Criminal Code.
  • He ruled that Section 223 of the Criminal Code applied generally throughout the entire Criminal Code and used it to deny unborn human beings the benefit of equal protection as born human beings under Section 37 of the Criminal Code.
  • He denied the production and disclosure of third-party records in the possession of the “Women’s Care Clinic” abortion site, although the records were required to prove Wagner was justified in using reasonable force in the form of oral and written words to try to persuade pregnant mothers from killing their unborn children by abortion.
  • He denied Wagner the defence of Section 37 of the Criminal Code by ruling unborn children did not come within the scope of human beings eligible to be protected by a third party.
  • He ruled Wagner did not come within the scope of Section 37 because she was found to be non-violent (in that she did not use physical force).
  • He ruled the unborn children Wagner was trying to rescue were not under her protection.
  • He denied Wagner the common-law defences of necessity and the rescue of third parties in need of protection.
  • He denied Wagner public funding to make full answer and defence for a constitutional test case of great public importance and national significance.
  • He imposed an unconstitutional sentence upon Wagner by, in effect, imposing an injunction as a condition of probation, contrary to her constitutional rights of free speech, freedom of expression, freedom of conscience and freedom of religion.

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Among the orders Lugosi is seeking are:

  • That an appeal be allowed against conviction on all counts and that a verdict of acquittal be entered on all counts,
  • That Section 223 of the Criminal Code be found unconstitutional  and contrary to Section 52 of the Constitution Act, 1982, as well as the unwritten constitution of Canada,
  • That the sentence be declared unconstitutional and contrary to Section 52 of the Constitution Act, 1982, and the unwritten constitution of Canada or that a new trial be conducted, with Wagner permitted to make full answer and defence, be given standing to make a constitutional attack on Section 223 of the Criminal Code, with the admission of expert witnesses,
  • That the Women’s Care Clinic abortion site be made to produce third-party records pertaining to patients seen on August 15, 2012 (when Wagner entered the site),
  • And that there be public funding for two defence counsels at any retrial and for any appeal related to the case.

No date has yet been established for a decision on the appeal or hearings.

A defence fund for Wagner’s case is still raising money. Details on how to contribute to it can be found here.


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