Hilary White, Rome Correspondent

Western Civilisation End Game: what the World Meeting for Families is up against

Hilary White, Rome Correspondent
Hilary White, Rome Correspondent
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ROME, May 23, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The 7th World Meeting of Families is set to begin next week in Milan, and the Vatican, from the pope down to his officials in the curia, is trying to warn the world that with the ongoing destruction of the traditional family, Western civilisation could be facing its end game.

Since his election in 2005, Pope Benedict XVI has given prominence to the rifts, the deep fractures in modern western societies where the family used to take precedence in law and social custom. He has told the world again and again that the family is the foundation of our society, without which our entire civilisation would, or will, collapse. And while he was saying it, the family, as the primary institution of human societies, continues to be attacked by governments that have adopted what the pope sees as an essentially anti-human ideology.

A look at the global situation, the jurisdiction of the Vatican, shows a dismal vista for the family based on marriage. Marriage is under massive pressure from two directions. In the West, the growth of a relativistic philosophy and radical secularism have resulted in the state chipping away at the rights and legal protections of the family on one side and the meaning and nature of marriage in law on the other.

From the East, the pressure comes from a totally different, non-Christian paradigm of marriage that does not hold the same foundational concept, that of a monogamous relationship of love and mutual fidelity between one man and one woman - persons of equal dignity - for life. In many countries of what used to be called the Orient, including the Middle East, South and West Asia and the Far East, a more commercial and materialistic foundation is considered the norm, and in Islamic countries, these differences become radical.

It may be that Pope Benedict is increasing the volume of the Vatican’s responses to the crisis because he is aware, as few others are in a position to be, that the great societal shift in the western world is in its end stages. No one disputes the observation that legal “gay marriage” and civil unions are only the last of a long series of changes that have totally reshaped the modern world.

Since Benedict’s election in 2005, eight governments of formerly Christian countries have legalised “gay marriage” by simply re-writing the legal definition of marriage. This number does not include the many jurisdictions, like the UK, that have compromised and granted more or less identical legal privileges to same-sex partnerings as “civil unions”. Argentina, Portugal and Iceland: 2010. Sweden and Norway: 2009. South Africa: 2006. Canada and Spain: 2005.

These, together with the pioneers Belgium and the Netherlands, 2003 and 2001 respectively, make ten countries around the world. Mexico City and some of the US states also allow the practice and other places - Israel and some of the Netherlands’ overseas holdings as well as all states of Mexico - recognize same-sex “marriages” conducted elsewhere. Ten more countries are considering changing their laws.

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Legal changes making divorce easier and marriage less secure started the process in the late 19th century. Many in the life and family movement believe that divorce is a lost cause, with every nation in the formerly Christian world except the Philippines and the Vatican City itself allowing some form of divorce. Indeed, it is difficult to answer the rejoinder from the other side of the marriage debates: if there was so little interest among traditionalists in defending marriage against divorce, why is it suddenly so important to oppose “gay marriage” now.

The ultimate result is that in places where divorce rates are finally dropping, experts believe it is only because of the increasing number of people not bothering to get married at all. Nearly all countries outside the Middle East have no laws prohibiting cohabitation, instead granting these “de facto unions” many of the same rights and privileges as marriage.

Divorce may have been the key that opened the Pandora’s Box, with all other legal changes to the protections of the family following in succession culminating in the nearly global legalization first of artificial contraception, then of abortion; the widespread social acceptance of sexual activity outside marriage; and the incredible proliferation of the pornography industry and what is now politely referred to in the mainstream press as the “sex trade,” that together are fuelling the international trafficking of human beings, including children.

Out of about 196 countries in the world, give or take Taiwan, there is only a tiny handful where abortion is still completely outlawed, and of the 17 countries of the western world that retain realistic abortion restrictions, only three are in Europe, including the Vatican city state.

Behind the primacy of the family lies a uniquely Christian idea. The reason the family is so important a defining feature of our societies is that it is founded in the concept of the equal moral dignity of all persons. The reason family traditionalists are nearly always also pro-life, the reason that the two go hand in glove, is that the two proposals, the primacy of the family and the right of the unborn and vulnerable to life, are founded on the same principle: that all human beings, regardless of their age, abilities, social status, anticipated income, nationality or state of “wantedness,” are persons entitled to precisely the same protections under the law. 

Pansexualists, those who believe that there ought to be no definitions or limitations on human “sexual expression,” accuse those of us who defend the traditional family, and Pope Benedict particularly, of irrationally clinging to a dead past, an outmoded or retrograde concept of society that has already gone extinct. 

Taking the longer historical view, however, the idea that the pro-life and pro-family point of view is “retrograde” is heavily ironic. We in the Western World have been Christianised for so long that we have unconsciously subsumed these civilisation-building principles without being able any longer to articulate and define them. We have had our civilisation for so long that we have forgotten the barbarism it defeated and tamed. The result of this societal amnesia is that we are increasingly condemning as “retrograde,” or “oppressive” the very concepts that built, nurtured and protected our society.

So immersed are we in these foundational ideas, we have little insight to imagine a society not run on Christian moral principles. Beginning history students, even those who regard themselves as “emancipated” and secularised, are often shocked by the ideas that were considered normal in the ancient world.

In the world before Christianity, the idea that all human beings are equal under a divinely authored Natural Law was a wild innovation, an unprecedented and revolutionary novelty in an ancient world that had, since the dawn of history, universally accepted slavery, women and children as chattel and routine infanticide at the whim of parents.

On the other hand, nearly all the ideas so frequently championed by our philosophical opponents were part of the normal fabric of life in the ancient world; violent, brutal and arbitrary as it was. The notion that one spouse could dispose of the other at whim by a “no fault” system of divorce; that one parent, without being obliged even to consult the other, could decide which child would live and which would be “exposed”; that merely being human was not sufficient grounds to bestow the legal protection of the state: all were among the uglier aspects of Roman law. The notion that a man’s wife and children, slaves and dependent “clients” were possessed of exactly the same dignity and legal status as he was, would have shocked a Roman patrician of the 2nd century. As it would an Indian Brahmin of the 10th or a Confucian scholar-official of the 12th.

Only Christianity, and Christian philosophy and jurisprudence, has ever proposed to treat financially or physically or socially unequal human beings equally in law. The very concept of “person” in law did not exist until it was developed by Christian philosophers who also developed the notion of “human rights” based on nothing more than membership in the species, made in the image of the author of all creation.

And now Pope Benedict is sounding the alarm that those Christian concepts of law and philosophy are being rejected by governments, on so fundamental a set of priorities as the nature of the family. What is to stop our societies from sliding all the way back to our retrograde, and violent, pagan past?

Benedict’s papacy, including the mega-projects like the World Meeting of Families, can be described as a salvage operation, a mammoth project to revivify the Catholic institutions that have languished and declined since the cultural revolutions of his youth, and to redirect them toward their original task of evangelising the Christian message to the world.

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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.

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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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