Hilary White, Rome Correspondent

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Westminster Archbishop reaffirms ‘intention and purpose’ of gay Masses

Hilary White, Rome Correspondent
Hilary White, Rome Correspondent

LONDON, March 5, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) – In a statement released late last month the Catholic archbishop of Westminster “reaffirmed” the “intention and purpose” of the 2007 Pastoral Provision for ministry to homosexuals while suggesting that the way it is being carried out may be under review. The Provision established the notorious “gay” Masses, held at a parish in the Soho district of London that have drawn heavy criticism for the past five years.

Archbishop Vincent Nichols wrote in the statement that the foundations of the Pastoral Provision are “the moral principles concerning chastity and the Church’s teaching on sexual activity, and the pastoral care of Catholics who are of same-sex orientation.”

However, while expressing support for the idea behind the masses, he said that currently “consideration is being given to the circumstances in which these Masses are celebrated to ensure that their purpose is respected and that they are not occasions for confusion or opposition concerning the positive teaching of the Church on the meaning of human sexuality or the moral imperatives that flow from that teaching, which we uphold and towards which we all strive.”

The statement has received a mixed reception among Catholics who have campaigned against the Masses. Critics have complained repeatedly to the archdiocese and have sent written and photographic evidence to Vatican officials that Catholic teaching on sexuality is ignored or openly contradicted at the Masses. Participants at the Masses, they say, make no secret of their lack of interest in giving up homosexual activity.

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Daphne McLeod of the campaign group Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice told LifeSiteNews.com that the scandal of the Soho Masses is the worst-kept secret in the British Church, and participants at the Masses, “don’t even pretend to be chaste.” She said members of her group regularly attend the Masses and have spoken with participants who say that they have never heard from the pulpit that they should not indulge in homosexual activity.

The criticism has stung Catholic leadership in England, and publicly both Nichols and his predecessor Cormac Cardinal Murphy O’Connor have insisted that the Masses are aimed to welcome those who struggle with same-sex attraction and intend to live chaste lives according to the teaching of the Church. In a BBC interview in 2010, Bernard Longley, a former auxiliary of Westminster and now archbishop of Birmingham called the objectors “judgmental” and Archbishop Nichols said that they should “hold their tongues”.

But McLeod defended her group’s position, saying, “We are just reacting to the facts we’ve been given” by regular participants at the Masses. “They walk up to communion hand in hand. They never hear from the pulpit they shouldn’t do it. They have talked to us and said, ‘We don’t know it’s wrong, the priest never tells us’.”

“We’re not being judgmental,” she added. “They tell us quite openly what they’re doing.”

Some prominent British Catholic bloggers and commentators have praised the statement, calling it “good news.” Joanna Bogle, an author and well-known Catholic personality wrote on her popular blog that the statement indicates that Archbishop Nichols may be coming around.

“A new approach seems to have been signaled about something in London which has been all wrong for too long,” she said. “Things look set to change… This is good news and what happens next needs our prayers.”

Deacon Nick Donnelly, who runs the “Protect the Pope” blog, also welcomed the statement, calling it “good news” and saying that it “signifies an important shift in [Nichols’] position on the Soho Masses.”

“Before the Holy Father’s visit the archbishop expressed, in intemperate language that those Catholics concerned about public dissent at the Soho Masses should ‘hold their tongues’. Now 18 months later Archbishop Nichols has admitted the concern that the Soho Masses could be occasions for confusion and opposition to the Church’s teaching and needs investigating. This is exactly the claim made by Daphne McLeod and Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice,” Donnelly wrote.

But McLeod said that so far there is no concrete indication in the statement of any plans to change the current situation.

The organizers of the Soho Masses, who are open about their goals to change Catholic teaching and accept homosexual behaviour as normal, have also warmly welcomed Nichols’ statement.

Quoting New Testament passages on “speaking the truth in love,” Terrence Weldon, a member of the Soho Mass Pastoral Council, wrote in a piece for the liberal Catholic magazine The Tablet, “These verses epitomise the importance of the Soho Masses. For this reason I am glad that the Archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols, has this week reaffirmed his support for the Masses and also comfortable with his reminding that they must not oppose or confuse church teaching.”

“Gay men and lesbians know the benefits to mental health of living the truth, by coming out honestly in the truth of their lives. The closet is a lie. We need to be honest, and that includes honesty in Church,” Weldon wrote.

He denied that the Mass is used as an occasion for “sexual hook-ups,” but admitted that “the question of celibacy is not directly discussed or even raised.” There is only, “a tacit understanding of the Church’s teaching, including its teaching on conscience.”

On the comments section of the article, Martin Pendergast, a former priest currently living in a civil partnership with another man also commented, “Those of us who have been long-committed members of the Church, and are involved in other parishes, find our participation in the Soho Masses community a source of nourishment for our other commitments.”

Pendergast is another member of the Soho Masses Pastoral Council and is a well-known figure in the homosexualist activist community whose “partner” is the former head of the Catholic bishops’ charitable organisation CAFOD. Pendergast is a founding member of the “Cutting Edge Consortium,” a political lobby group that opposes opt-outs from Equality legislation that would allow churches to refuse to ordain or hire active homosexuals. 

Despite her group’s misgivings, McLeod told LSN that some of the wording in the statement is clearly intended to be conciliatory. She said that although it has seemed their efforts have been fruitless, the statement’s language possibly indicates that Nichols is under some pressure from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to clean up the scandal.

“We all wondered about it,” she said, “and we can only think that he’s under pressure from Rome. This makes us very hopeful.”

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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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