Hilary White, Rome Correspondent

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Vatican threatens ‘radical feminist’ nuns’ group with de-recognition

Hilary White, Rome Correspondent
Hilary White, Rome Correspondent
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ROME, June 22, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) – If they are not prepared to assert a more distinctly Catholic identity, the Vatican is prepared to oust the largest umbrella group of American nuns and sisters as the official representative and liaison with Rome, one of the pope’s closest advisors said in a rare interview.

If the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) refuses absolutely to cooperate with the Vatican’s attempt at reform, said William Levada, the cardinal prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, they will force Rome to reconsider their position in the Church.

“If you look at the church as a hierarchical structure—whether you see that as benign, or something else—ultimately, the pope is the superior,” Levada said.

“I suppose if the sisters said, ‘OK, we’re not cooperating with this,’ we can’t force them to cooperate. What we can do, and what we’d have to do, is say to them, ‘We will substitute a functioning group for yours,’ if it comes to that.”

Levada told US journalist John Allen that it is “premature” to imagine that the current LCWR leadership is to address the “substantive issues” brought up by a doctrinal assessment issued in April.

Allen stressed the point, asking, “So if the response is not satisfactory, the result could be decertification of LCWR?”

“It could be,” Levada responded.

LCWR is the organisation, founded in the 1950s, that officially represents about 80 percent of the 57,000 religious sisters in the U.S. Their membership is not growing, however, and the average age of most of the sisters in the US is about 74 with many of the LCWR-represented groups amalgamating or shutting down altogether.

Levada, an American prelate with decades of experience in US Catholic politics, knew that in addressing the National Catholic Reporter (NCR), the leading journalistic organ of the American Catholic left, he was directly addressing LCWR and their lay supporters.

Despite their claim to be “stunned” by it, the CDF’s doctrinal assessment, he said, was not sprung on them unawares. The CDF’s process started four years ago and LCWR’s leadership have been in close contact with Rome throughout.

In general, the assessment focused on what the CDF sees as LCWR’s conscious and determined movement away from the basics of Catholicism. The religious life in the US, it said, is in a state of crisis, facing “serious doctrinal problems”. Long before getting to doctrinal and disciplinary issues such as abortion, contraception and homosexual “marriage,” the CDF said the underlying problem is the group’s refusal to adhere to foundational dogmatic beliefs. These are the teachings like the existence of a personal, transcendent God, the divinity of Christ and the nature and place of the Catholic Church and its teaching authority in the economy of salvation.

The assessment particularly expressed concern that LCWR continued to stress “radical feminism” while remaining “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”.

“Issues of crucial importance in the life of the Church and society, such as the Church’s Biblical view of family life and human sexuality, are not part of the LCWR agenda in a way that promotes Church teaching,” the assessment said.

The characterisation of the affair in the mainstream and leftist Catholic media – particularly in NCR  - of the Vatican “attacking” all the female religious in the US, is unjust, Levada said.

“For the record, let me say again this is not about a criticism of the sisters. No sister will lose her job in teaching or charitable work or hospital work as a result of this assessment, as far as I know This is about questions of doctrine, in response to God’s revelation, and church tradition from the time of the apostles. We take that seriously.”

“I admire religious life, and I admire religious men and women,” he said. “They’re a great grace in and for the Church. But if they aren’t people who believe and express the faith of the church, the doctrines of the church, then I think they’re misrepresenting who they are and who they ought to be.”

Following closed-door meetings with the CDF, LCWR issued a formal statement rejecting the assessment’s conclusions and indicating they have no intention of cooperating. The assessment, they said, is “based on unsubstantiated accusations” and used “a flawed process that lacked transparency”. They said it has “caused scandal and pain throughout the church community, and created greater polarization.” The Vatican has yet to publicly respond.

Asked by NCR what the cardinal thought a “functioning group” that could replace LCWR might look like, Levada said, “I hope it would look like a conference that focuses on the priorities of religious life, the life of holiness, which is the fundamental call of all of us in the church, and the good that can come through the apostolic works that many of these orders are committed to and the prayers that others are committed to.

“I would like to see religious as champions of the mission of Jesus Christ in the church and the world.”

A second group, whose constitutional documents closely mirror the cardinal’s description, already exists and has received formal recognition by the Vatican, a development that infuriated LCWR when it happened in the 1990s. One of the religious communities associated with the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious (CMSWR), has publicly taken LCWR to task for misrepresenting their life.

The Religious Sisters of Mercy of Alma, Michigan (RSM), many of whom work directly in health care as doctors, said that LCWR has substituted an impoverished “language of politics” for “the language of faith”.

In a statement the RSM sisters said, “There is no basis for authentic dialogue between these two languages. The language of faith is rooted in Jesus Christ, His life and His mission, as well as the magisterial teaching of the Church.”

“The language of politics arises from the social marketplace,” they said. “The Sisters who use political language in their responses to the magisterial Church reflect the poverty of their education and formation in the faith.”

LCWR has “taken this into the public political arena” which has no regard for legitimate religious authority, they said. “It no longer stays in the dialogue of faith. Representation is always possible, dialogue is always possible, but it’s with the reverence towards the hierarchical Church.”

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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 more than $400 million 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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