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Tiny pro-life activist making big waves

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By John Jalsevac
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December 20, 2010 (LifeSiteNews.com) – When 12-year-old Lia Mills decided to tackle the topic of abortion for a grade 7 speech project in February 2009, neither she nor her family had any idea what lay in store for them.

Now, less than two years later, a homemade video of Lia’s speech, shot with their tiny digital point-and-shoot, has been watched over a million times on Youtube, at least one unborn baby has been saved from abortion, Lia has spoken before a crowd of over 10,000 pro-lifers at the National March for Life in Ottawa, and she is viewed as one of North America’s most promising up-and-coming young pro-life leaders.

“Never in our wildest dreams” did the Mills see what was coming, said Kimberley Mills, Lia’s mother, in a recent LifeSiteNews.com interview.  “This could only have been a God-thing because it’s so unbelievable.  Lia made a simple decision to speak on a topic she felt God prompted her to speak on and He took it from there.”

Against the odds

The last two years appear all the more remarkable in light of their inauspicious beginning – when Lia’s pro-abortion teacher found out the topic of her speech, she told Lia that she could present her speech to her class, but would be automatically disqualified from the speech competition attached to the project. She recommended that Lia choose a different topic.

At the recent International Pro-Life Conference in Ottawa, Lia told the crowd that being “a fairly competitive person,” she was eager to participate in the competition; however,  “after more praying and thinking” she decided that she would stick with the topic of abortion anyway, even if it meant disqualification.

Unexpectedly, however, Lia’s teacher was so impressed with the speech that she backtracked and, despite her pro-abortion views, recommended that Lia represent her class in the schoolwide competition. 

But before Lia had a chance to go before the school and the panel of judges, her teacher demanded that she remove one sentence from the speech that referenced God. Once again Lia was forced to choose between her principles and her desire to compete, and possibly win – and once again, she chose the former. “After a night of tears and prayer, I went to school, and sadly told my teacher that I couldn’t take that sentence out and that I would withdraw from the contest,” she says.

But once again her teacher changed her mind, and allowed Lia to compete anyway. 

At the schoolwide competition, one pro-abortion judge stepped down from the panel before Lia even began.  And after the speech, the judges initially told Lia she had been disqualified.  But controversy among the judges eventually led to a reversal, and Lia’s family learned the next day that Lia had been declared the winner.

But, as it turned out, this welcome and hard-won victory was only the beginning for Lia.

Not your typical young activist

When the young pro-life orator, who is now 14 years old, steps up to the microphone, you hardly know what to expect. At best, one looks for the normal fare of the precocious young activist – that is, a cute, but ultimately unoriginal parroting of the movement’s talking points.

Not so with Lia.  At the conference in Ottawa, Lia could barely see over the podium. But when she opened her mouth what poured out was a confident, well-structured, fluid and insightful look into the nature and struggles of the pro-life battle – a speech that stood on its own two feet, without any apologetic remarks about “her age.” Lia had written out her speech beforehand – but barely glanced at her notes the whole time she delivered it. 

(Read the complete prepared text of the speech here.)

“What I realize now,” she told the crowd, “is that when I made the decision to speak on abortion, it wasn’t just a decision to do a speech. It was a decision to step into a spiritual battle, a battle that I wasn’t aware of in the least and a battle that was growing in intensity.”

“I still don’t know why God chose me to do what I did,” she continued, “but I’m learning, ever so slowly, to try and embrace conflict, to try to realize that some things will only change as I become willing to stand in opposition to the status quo, as I become willing to see beyond my need for peace and safety and learn to step out of the boat and make some waves.”

Naturally, many of those who have seen Lia in action have questioned how much of the credit for her accomplishments she can truthfully accept: have not her parents held her by the hand all the while, prodding her to take on these controversial topics and perhaps even writing her speeches for her? 

But according to Lia’s mother, this simply is not the case.

According to Kimberly, not only did Lia independently make the decision to speak about abortion, but she and her husband even urged Lia to choose another topic when her original choice was opposed by her teacher. 

While Christian and pro-life in their convictions, the Mills had never been involved in the pro-life movement. “We tended to regard [abortion] as a ‘side issue’, and we focused our attention elsewhere,” says Kimberly. 

“Many times,” she continued, “we’ve asked [Lia] if she wants to step away from pursuing this.  Every time another speaking engagement comes up, we leave it to her to decide whether to accept.  Each time she prays and comes back with her answer and, up to now, she’s always felt that pressing on is what God wants for her.”

While Kimberly says she’d like “to think that, as parents, we’ve made a positive impact on Lia …  as I see what God is doing in and through her, I know it goes way beyond what we’ve done.  Often, I find myself, like Mary, just marveling and pondering these things in my heart.”

As for the actual content of Lia’s speeches, the writing and research is performed almost entirely by the young girl herself, though she does seek advice from her family regarding pacing, flow, and content. Sometimes her speeches will go through as many as 7 or 8 drafts.

The power of new media

When Lia’s parents uploaded her first speech onto Youtube, with the intention of sharing it with family friends, they were completely unprepared for the reaction. The statistics for the video immediately shot through the roof, and it sparked a heated debate – so heated, in fact, that the Mills were forced to shut down commenting on the video after death threats were leveled against Lia. 

Lia says that through witnessing the response to that video, “I really developed an appreciation for the work that any pro-life organization does, because there is so much backlash and opposition.”

But while the “opposition was extremely intense … so was the support,” she says.

The greatest affirmation of the effectiveness of that video came in the form of a comment on the video by someone who said that his aunt had decided against getting an abortion, after watching Lia’s speech.

After seeing the possibilities of Youtube, Lia has gone on to produce a number of new videos tackling different aspects of the pro-life issue. The videos have since become more sophisticated, as the Mills have begun to splice together footage and use other effects, but they are still recording with the same basic point-and-shoot as at first. 

While none of these videos have enjoyed nearly the same level of exposure as the first one, they all have healthy stats – between ten and fifty thousand views.

Big words from a little person

A quick glance at the comments beneath these videos shows that the commonest rebuttal to Lia’s arguments is her age … and her size. But while she herself is the first to acknowledge her youth and inexperience, she is completely undeterred.

“I know these all seem like big words coming form a very little person, but we’re all little compared to God,” she told the pro-life conference. “God’s not looking at how big we are, or how smart we are or how popular we are.  He’s just looking at how willing we are.”

Lia is certainly willing. And perhaps equally as important, given her age, so is her family. She has two siblings (plus a third in his mother’s womb), and - while Lia’s lookalike youngest sister can get frustrated explaining that she is not her famous sibling - they are both “very proud” of her, says Kimberly. In fact, when Lia first started getting so much attention her whole family prayed and fasted together to discern God’s will. “We knew that what was happening with Lia was going to affect us all in some way,” says her mother. 

And when the family finally “voted”  on where to go with it, “everyone was unanimous in their belief that God was behind this and that we should press forward.”

And press forward they have. 

As Lia explained it in the conclusion to her speech at the conference: “It’s often said and believed that God will never give us a problem that’s too big for us to handle. But my youth pastor took that and he dared to disagree. He said ‘No! God always gives us a problem that’s way, way to big for us to handle, but not too big for us to handle together with Him.’

“So here we are, with this, massively huge conflict and battle laying before us, but an even bigger God behind us, backing us up and watching over us. As someone wiser than me once said, ‘All it takes for evil to prevail, is for good men to do nothing.’ In this conflict, let’s not be guilty of doing nothing. Stay strong, and do what you can; every little thing counts.”

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Cardinal Dolan: Debate on denying Communion to pro-abortion pols ‘in the past’

Lisa Bourne
By Lisa Bourne

As America heads into its 2014 midterm elections, a leading U.S. prelate says the nation’s bishops believe debate over whether to deny Communion to pro-abortion Catholic politicians is “in the past.”

The Church’s Code of Canon Law states in Canon 915 that those “obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to Holy Communion.” Leading Vatican officials, including Pope Benedict XVI himself, have said this canon ought to be applied in the case of pro-abortion Catholic politicians. However, prelates in the West have widely ignored it, and some have openly disagreed.

John Allen, Jr. of the new website Crux, launched as a Catholic initiative under the auspices of the Boston Globe, asked New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan about the issue earlier this month.

“In a way, I like to think it’s an issue that served us well in forcing us to do a serious examination of conscience about how we can best teach our people about their political responsibilities,” the cardinal responded, “but by now that inflammatory issue is in the past.”

“I don’t hear too many bishops saying it’s something that we need to debate nationally, or that we have to decide collegially,” he continued. “I think most bishops have said, ‘We trust individual bishops in individual cases.’ Most don’t think it’s something for which we have to go to the mat.”

Cardinal Dolan expressed personal disinterest in upholding Canon 915 publicly in 2010 when he told an Albany TV station he was not in favor of denying Communion to pro-abortion politicians. He said at the time that he preferred “to follow the lead of Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI, who said it was better to try to persuade them than to impose sanctions.”

However, in 2004 Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who became Pope Benedict XVI the following year, wrote the U.S. Bishops a letter stating that a Catholic politician who would vote for "permissive abortion and euthanasia laws" after being duly instructed and warned, "must" be denied Communion. 

Cardinal Ratzinger sent the document to the U.S. Bishops in 2004 to help inform their debate on the issue. However, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, then-chair of the USCCB Task Force on Catholic Bishops and Catholic Politicians, who received the letter, withheld the full text from the bishops, and used it instead to suggest ambiguity on the issue from the Vatican.

A couple of weeks after Cardinal McCarrick’s June 2004 address to the USCCB, the letter from Cardinal Ratzinger was leaked to well-known Vatican reporter Sandro Magister, who published the full document. Cardinal Ratzinger’s office later confirmed the leaked document as authentic.

Since the debate in 2004, numerous U.S. prelates have openly opposed denying Communion to pro-abortion Catholic politicians.

In 2008, Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley suggested the Church had yet to formally pronounce on the issue, and that until it does, “I don’t think we’re going to be denying Communion to the people.”

In 2009, Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington D.C. in 2009 said that upholding of Canon 915 would turn the Eucharist into a political “weapon,” refusing to employ the law in the case of abortion supporter Rep. Nancy Pelosi.

Cardinal Roger Mahoney, archbishop emeritus of Los Angeles, said in a 2009 newspaper interview that pro-abortion politicians should be granted communion because Jesus Christ gave Holy Communion to Judas Iscariot.

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However, one of the Church’s leading proponents of the practice, U.S. Cardinal Raymond Burke, who is prefect of the Vatican’s Apostolic Signatura, insists that denying Communion is not a punishment.

“The Church’s discipline from the time of Saint Paul has admonished those who obstinately persevere in manifest grave sin not to present themselves for Holy Communion,” he said at LifeSiteNews’ first annual Rome Life Forum in Vatican City in early May. "The discipline is not a punishment but the recognition of the objective condition of the soul of the person involved in such sin."  

Only days earlier, Cardinal Francis Arinze, former prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, told LifeSiteNews that he has no patience for politicians who say that they are “personally” opposed to abortion, but are unwilling to “impose” their views on others.

On the question of Communion, he said, “Do you really need a cardinal from the Vatican to answer that?”

Cardinal Christian Tumi, archbishop emeritus of Douala, told LifeSiteNews around the same time that ministers of Holy Communion are “bound not to” give the Eucharist to Catholic politicians who support abortion.

Pro-life organizations across the world have said they share the pastoral concern for pro-abortion politicians. Fifty-two pro-life leaders from 16 nations at the recent Rome Life Forum called on the bishops of the Catholic Church to honor Canon 915 and withhold Communion from pro-abortion politicians as an act of love and mercy.

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‘His bones are basically like paper’: Parents refuse to abort baby with rare condition

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By Kirsten Anderson

At just 11 weeks old, little Layton Diven is not like other babies. Every time his parents pick him up or cuddle him, there is a chance they will break his bones. In fact, Layton has already suffered more than 20 fractures in his short life – beginning at the moment of his birth.

Layton has Osteogenesis Imperfecta (OI), a rare disease that makes his bones brittle and prone to breakage. There are several types of OI, and Layton’s type, OI Type III, is the most severe type found among infants. Most babies born with the disease, like Layton, are born with multiple fractures, especially along the rib cage. Many struggle to breathe or swallow. The incurable disease is progressive, so it will get worse as he gets older.

Layton was diagnosed with OI in the womb, but abortion wasn’t an option for his parents, Chad and Angela Diven, who considered their baby a gift from God, no matter his condition.

“We weren't going to have an abortion, so he was born with the disease,” Angela Diven told KSLA. “God chose me for him, to be his mom, so I have to take that huge responsibility and do what's best for him.”

That responsibility comes with a heavy price. Layton requires 24-hour care, but both Angela and Chad have full-time jobs. He can’t go to regular daycare, because it’s not safe for him.

“You can't just pick him up like a normal baby,” Diven said. “You can't dress him like a normal child; his bones are basically like paper. He can't go to daycare because of his condition. He's medically fragile, and a daycare can't handle him."

Childcare costs are just the beginning, though – the treatments Layton will need throughout his life are expensive and may not be covered by insurance.

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Layton is currently receiving pamidronate IV therapy, which will help to strengthen his bones. But in order to be able to stand or walk, he will need metal rods implanted in his legs – an operation that will cost the Divens $80,000. The OI specialist coordinating Layton’s care is in Omaha, Nebraska, while the Divens live in Louisiana. As he grows, Layton will also require special equipment, such as a wheelchair, along with extensive physical therapy.

Despite the hardships they knew would come, the Divens stepped out in faith to bring Layton into the world. Now, they are reaching out to the internet for help to shoulder the financial burdens that came with their baby blessing. The family has set up both a GoFundMe and a Facebook page called “Lifting Up Layton Diven,” where people can receive updates on Layton’s condition and contribute to the cost of his care.

To donate to baby Layton’s medical trust fund, click here.

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Sources confirm Cardinal Burke will be removed. But will he attend the Synod?

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By John-Henry Westen

Sources in Rome have confirmed to LifeSiteNews that Cardinal Raymond Burke, the head of the Vatican’s highest court, known as the Apostolic Signatura, is to be removed from his post as head of the Vatican dicastery and given a non-curial assignment as patron of the Order of Malta.

The timing of the move is key since Cardinal Burke is currently on the list to attend October’s Extraordinary Synod on the Family. He is attending in his capacity as head of one of the dicasteries of the Roman Curia, so if he is removed prior to the Synod it could mean he would not be able to attend.

Burke has been one of the key defenders in the lead-up to the Synod of the Church's traditional practice of withholding Communion from Catholics who are divorced and civilly remarried.

Most of the Catholic world first learned of the shocking development through Vatican reporter Sandro Magister, whose post ‘Exile to Malta for Cardinal Burke’ went out late last night.

If Burke’s removal from the Signatura is confirmed, said Magister, the cardinal “would not be promoted - as some are fantasizing in the blogosphere - to the difficult but prestigious see of Chicago, but rather demoted to the pompous - but ecclesiastically very modest - title of ‘cardinal patron’ of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, replacing the current head, Paolo Sardi, who recently turned 80.”

At 66, Cardinal Burke is still in his Episcopal prime.

The prominent traditional Catholic blog Rorate Caeli goes as far as to say, “It would be the greatest humiliation of a Curial Cardinal in living memory, truly unprecedented in modern times: considering the reasonably young age of the Cardinal, such a move would be, in terms of the modern Church, nothing short than a complete degradation and a clear punishment.”

On Tuesday, American traditionalist priest-blogger Fr. John Zuhlsdorf also hinted he had heard the move was underway. “I’ve been biting the inside of my mouth for a while now,” he wrote. “The optimist in me was saying that the official announcement would not be made until after the Synod of Bishops, or at least the beginning of the Synod. Or at all.”

“It’s not good news,” he added.

Both Magister and Zuhlsdorf predicted that the controversial move would unleash a wave of simultaneous jubilation from dissident Catholics and criticism from faithful Catholics. The decision to remove Cardinal Burke from his position on the Congregation for Bishops last December caused a public outpouring of concern and dismay from Catholic and pro-life leaders across the globe.

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Both men speculated on the reasons for the ouster. 

Magister pointed out that Burke is the latest in a line of ‘Ratzingerian’ prelates to undergo the axe.

“In his first months as bishop of Rome, pope Bergoglio immediately provided for the transfer to lower-ranking positions of three prominent curial figures: Cardinal Mauro Piacenza, Archbishop Guido Pozzo, and Bishop Giuseppe Sciacca, considered for their theological and liturgical sensibilities among the most ‘Ratzingerian’ of the Roman curia,” said Magister.

He added: “Another whose fate appears to be sealed is the Spanish archbishop of Opus Dei Celso Morga Iruzubieta.”

Fr. Zuhlsdorf observed that Pope Francis may also be shrinking the Curial offices and thus reducing the number of Cardinals needed to fill those posts. He adds however, “It would be naïve in the extreme to think that there are lacking near Francis’s elbows those who have been sharpening their knives for Card. Burke and for anyone else associated closely with Pope Benedict.” 

“This is millennial, clerical blood sport.”

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