John Westen

Who is Pope Francis talking about? ‘Obsessed’, ‘self-absorbed’, ‘sourpusses’

John Westen
John Westen
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In-Depth Analysis

VATICAN CITY, December 3, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) - The 220-page Apostolic Exhortation, entitled “Evangelii Gaudium” (The Joy of the Gospel) released last week gives the world  the first solid glimpse into the heart and mind of Pope Francis, as it comes by his own pen rather than that of a journalist.

The picture that emerges is of a faithful man who loves Christ and His Church. “How good it is to stand before a crucifix, or on our knees before the Blessed Sacrament, and simply to be in his presence!” he writes, for example.

Yet at the same time, as often in his interviews, we find a man whose words lend themselves easily to misinterpretation. His remarks can at times seem hurtful to faithful Catholics – those most committed to proclaiming and defending the truths of their faith, and could even, arguably, be dangerous insofar as they might inadvertently impede those efforts.

Yet clearly this is not his intention. As he himself writes in the text: “If anyone feels offended by my words, I would respond that I speak them with affection and with the best of intentions, quite apart from any personal interest or political ideology.”


Not a ‘Pope of the Left’

When read carefully and fully, The Gospel of Joy completely undermines the paradigm of Francis as the ‘Pope of the Left’, as concocted by the liberal media and Catholic dissidents hoping against hope for a dramatic new direction in the Church especially on key moral issues.

For example, one of the sine qua non causes for liberal Catholics is women priests, yet Pope Francis states unequivocally that that’s “not a question open to discussion.”

Likewise, he firmly shuts the door on campaigns to change Church teaching on the liberal media’s two great cultural fixations: abortion and marriage redefinition.

On abortion, the Pope writes: “The Church cannot be expected to change her position on this question. I want to be completely honest in this regard. This is not something subject to alleged reforms or ‘modernizations’.” And on marriage, he criticizes the notion that it is “a form of mere emotional satisfaction that can be constructed in any way or modified at will.”

“The indispensible contribution of marriage to society transcends the feelings and momentary needs of the couple,” he writes.

 
Is the Pope a Liberal?

While Pope Francis offers some of his clearest comments to date on abortion and homosexual “marriage” – emphasizing, for example, that the unborn are “the most defenceless and innocent among us” and deserving of “particular love and concern” – within the context of the document those issues come across as much lesser concerns compared to fighting poverty and environmental degradation.

The Pope focuses on “two great issues” that, he says, “will shape the future of humanity.” “These issues are first, the inclusion of the poor in society, and second, peace and social dialogue,” he writes.

Yet even though these are often taken as ‘liberal’ causes, his approach to these issues is hardly in line with the typical liberal Catholic.  There is a taste of what was often seen from Pope Benedict XVI – a truly Catholic and evangelistic interpretation of these stereotypically liberal notions (see, for example, Pope Benedict’s frequent appeals for a ‘human ecology’).

Take for instance the exhortation’s approach to poverty.  Liberal Catholics have worked for decades to distance the Church from its traditional approach to charitable works, which, while tending to the poor, gave first priority to sharing the the Good News of the Gospel. 

The modern liberal Catholic approach seeks rather a far more worldly approach. It seeks to change political, social and other “structures” allegedly the cause of poverty and places little, if any emphasis on religious evangelization. It includes often, if not preferably, working through organizations which would undermine or have no appreciation for Catholic moral teaching as long as they satisfy the material needs of the poor.

But Pope Francis instead emphasizes the spiritual needs of the poor. “I want to say, with regret, that the worst discrimination which the poor suffer is the lack of spiritual care,” he writes. “The great majority of the poor have a special openness to the faith; they need God and we must not fail to offer them his friendship, his blessing, his word, the celebration of the sacraments and a journey of growth and maturity in the faith.” 

“Our preferential option for the poor must mainly translate into a privileged and preferential religious care,” the Pope concludes. Many liberal “social justice” clergy, especially among Francis’s brother Jesuits, would vehemently disagree with this pronouncement.

He is also turning the progressives’ own notions against them when it comes to abortion.  Speaking of “unborn children,” he says, “Frequently, as a way of ridiculing the Church’s effort to defend their lives, attempts are made to present her position as ideological, obscurantist and conservative.” He adds: “It is not ‘progressive’ to try to resolve problems by eliminating a human life.”

Whereas the liberal would wish to prevent religious conviction from gaining standing in the public square, Pope Francis says the voice of faith must be rigorous. “No one can demand that religion should be relegated to the inner sanctum of personal life, without influence on societal and national life, without concern for the soundness of civil institutions, without a right to offer an opinion on events affecting society,” he writes.

“This would represent, in effect, a new form of discrimination and authoritarianism,” he adds. “The respect due to the agnostic or non-believing minority should not be arbitrarily imposed in a way that silences the convictions of the believing majority or ignores the wealth of religious traditions.”


And what of doctrine?

At the same time, the Pope offers strongly-worded criticisms against “defenders of orthodoxy” that appear directed at faithful, tradition-minded Catholics.

The exhortation repeats the phrase from the famous Jesuit interview about avoiding being “obsessed with the disjointed transmission of a multitude of doctrines to be insistently imposed.”

Further, Francis writes: “A supposed soundness of doctrine or discipline leads instead to a narcissistic and authoritarian elitism, whereby instead of evangelizing, one analyzes and classifies others, and instead of opening the door to grace, one exhausts his or her energies in inspecting and verifying.”

Yet it is clear from a full reading that he means to stick to the doctrines of the Church.

For instance, the Pope makes his own the observations of the US Bishops, noting that “while the Church insists on the existence of objective moral norms which are valid for everyone, ‘there are those in our culture who portray this teaching as unjust, that is, as opposed to basic human rights.’” He adds, “’Such claims usually follow from a form of moral relativism that is joined, not without inconsistency, to a belief in the absolute rights of individuals. In this view, the Church is perceived as promoting a particular prejudice and as interfering with individual freedom.’”

“In response,” says the Pope, “we need to provide an education which teaches critical thinking and encourages the development of mature moral values.”


Francis the Pessimist?

Another disturbing example is the soon-to-be-famous first-ever use of the term ‘sourpusses’ in a papal document.  “One of the more serious temptations which stifles boldness and zeal is a defeatism which turns us into querulous and disillusioned pessimists, ‘sourpusses’,” he writes.

The line could easily be taken to be directed at tradition-minded Catholics, as they are often falsely caricatured as ‘defeatists’ by dissidents and opponents of Christianity whenever they present a realistic appraisal of the rampant moral corruption in today’s world.

But such appraisals are most often offered in hope rather than pessimism. These Catholics’ fidelity, especially found in the pro-life and pro-family movements, allows the most ordinary persons to do extraordinary things for the benefit of society and the Church. These faithful also tend to have far larger families, resulting in much joy and active involvement in their civic and Church communities.

In fact, that same realistic observation of moral decay in the current world that would lead to the castigation of faithful Catholics as pessimists and defeatists can be found in The Gospel of Joy itself.

Pope Francis expresses a deep concern about what he calls “veritable attacks on religious freedom or new persecutions directed against Christians.”

He laments: “New patterns of behaviour are emerging as a result of over-exposure to the mass media. … As a result, the negative aspects of the media and entertainment industries are threatening traditional values, and in particular the sacredness of marriage and the stability of the family.”

“The process of secularization tends to reduce the faith and the Church to the sphere of the private and personal,” he says.  “Furthermore, by completely rejecting the transcendent, it has produced a growing deterioration of ethics, a weakening of the sense of personal and collective sin, and a steady increase in relativism.”

The Pope recognizes that “the family is experiencing a profound cultural crisis,” which, he notes, “is particularly serious because the family is the fundamental cell of society, where we learn to live with others despite our differences and to belong to one another; it is also the place where parents pass on the faith to their children.”

And in The Gospel of Joy, Pope Francis decries abortion, saying that “a human being is always sacred and inviolable, in any situation and at every stage of development. Human beings are ends in themselves and never a means of resolving other problems.”

Francis warns:“Once this conviction disappears, so do solid and lasting foundations for the defence of human rights, which would always be subject to the passing whims of the powers that be.”

If that’s not strong enough, he warns also of Divine retribution because of abortion.  “Reason alone is sufficient to recognize the inviolable value of each single human life, but if we also look at the issue from the standpoint of faith, every violation of the personal dignity of the human being cries out in vengeance to God and is an offence against the creator of the individual.”


What about all that judgment and condemnation?

The Gospel of Joy was penned by the same Pope who famously said “Who am I to judge?” when speaking about “a person [who is] gay and seeks God and has good will.”  And for that reason many will marvel that the exhortation has quite a few uncomfortable references that seem to judge harshly and even condemn faithful, or traditional Catholics.  Here’s a sampling:

Spiritual worldliness, which hides behind the appearance of piety and even love for the Church, consists in seeking not the Lord’s glory but human glory and personal well-being. It is what the Lord reprimanded the Pharisees for…

Since it is based on carefully cultivated appearances, it is not always linked to outward sin; from without, everything appears as it should be. But if it were to seep into the Church, it would be infinitely more disastrous than any other worldliness which is simply moral.

… the self-absorbed promethean neopelagianism of those who ultimately trust only in their own powers and feel superior to others because they observe certain rules or remain intransigently faithful to a particular Catholic style from the past.

In some people we see an ostentatious preoccupation for the liturgy, for doctrine and for the Church’s prestige, but without any concern that the Gospel have a real impact on God’s faithful people and the concrete needs of the present time.

For defenders of orthodoxy are sometimes accused of passivity, indulgence, or culpable complicity regarding the intolerable situations of injustice and the political regimes which prolong them.

So many and so strong are his condemnations of a particular type of Catholic it seems almost as if the Pope had someone particular in mind as he was penning his words.

Perhaps the most common question asked in response to the pope’s harsh criticisms of this type, is “Who is he talking about?” Many faithful Catholics and Christians of other denominations are confounded by these statements castigating persons or groups unknown to them, wondering what would justify such strong emphasis.

One clue comes courtesy of Professor Scott Nicholson, of Our Lady Seat of Wisdom Academy, an Ontario Catholic college renowned for its faithfulness to Catholic teaching. It is to be remembered that in the same city as the Pope’s own former Archdiocese of Buenos Aires was located a seminary of the schismatic traditional Catholic group the Society of St. Pius X. Moreover, the rector of that seminary duing Archbishop Bergoglio's time was none other than Bishop Richard Williamson. 

Yes, that same Bishop Williamson who, according to many, scuttled Pope Benedict’s attempts at uniting the SSPX into the Catholic fold. The same one who made controversial statements to the media that led to his being accused of denying the Jewish Holocaust, for which the SSPX expelled him from the Society and the Government of Argentina urged his departure.

Despite appearances, it’s clear that the Pope’s condemnations are not directed at faithful, tradition-minded Catholics because his descriptions of his target include key factors that eliminate them. Those whom he is condemning, he writes, are not “really concerned about Jesus Christ or others” and have a “self-centredness cloaked in an outward religiosity bereft of God.”

However, it seems rather obvious that Pope Francis would benefit from more personal experience with faithful, tradition-minded Catholics of many varieties. Those who, while having a desire for orthodoxy in doctrine and liturgy, also naturally have a great love for Christ and their fellow man, and live their whole lives with that love as their primary motivation.

That he may have a substantial misperception concerning faithful or traditional Catholics would not be surprising considering his very-likely disturbing experiences in Buenos Aires. Adding to this would be many distorted perceptions he has received as Pope from the more liberal bishops around the world who disdain Catholics who are enthusiastically and uncompromisingly pro-life and pro-family.

One further consideration in all this is Pope Francis’ native language of Latin-American Spanish which has a tendency to the superlative, to exaggerated expressions or hyperbole.  

 
So what exactly is he saying?

One of the primary messages that reads loud and clear from Pope Francis is he feels the need for the Church to express her teachings, especially her moral teachings, in a positive light. 

“As for the moral component of catechesis, which promotes growth in fidelity to the Gospel way of life, it is helpful to stress again and again the attractiveness and the ideal of a life of wisdom, self-fulfillment and enrichment,” he says. “In the light of that positive message, our rejection of the evils which endanger that life can be better understood.”

This is a message we can all take to heart, although, as witnessed by the life of Christ and all the saints, there is also a constant need for the proclamation of truth that some will always see as being deeply offensive and negative despite the love behind the message. All parents are familiar with this syndrome.

The pro-life movement, particularly in North America, has shown the way on the effectiveness of  loving, positive approaches in responding to personal crises related to abortion.  The focus on loving the mother and child, on providing aid unconditionally to women in crisis pregnancy situations, and even being there to pick up the pieces after the tragedy of abortion, are an awesomely powerful and positive witness to love and truth.

But in the other main moral battle of our day, namely same-sex ‘marriage’, we still may have a way to go before getting to that positive point.

Sadly, the typical response to homosexual activists offered by Catholic and pro-marriage leaders comes off as lacking any true concern for the men and women immersed in the homosexual lifestyle.

We are often confronted with the argument: ‘How can you be against the love between me and my same-sex partner?’

And the typical response from Catholic bishops and pro-marriage organizations completely ignores the homosexual desire for love, and focuses rather on the wonderfulness of natural marriage and how same-sex “marriage” would be bad for heterosexual married couples, children, and society.

There is a much more effective response, however. One which is rarely heard in this debate.

The response should be that we love our brothers and sisters actively involved in the homosexual lifestyle enough to let them know, no matter what the cost, that the sexual behaviours they engage in are deadly to their body, mind and soul.  We fear for them. We are ready to suffer ridicule, unpopularity, and one day perhaps even loss of freedom because this message of love must be preached and acted upon.

Perhaps that would be Pope Francis’ way of confronting same-sex ‘marriage’.  He seems to be a person who would disregard any personal cost to himself and would most willingly embrace the Cross in order to save others with the truth.

Back in his native Argentina, then-Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio fought a same-sex ‘marriage’ proposal by telling religious, "Let's not be naive, we're not talking about a simple political battle; it is a destructive pretension against the plan of God." He added, “We are not talking about a mere bill, but rather a machination of the Father of Lies that seeks to confuse and deceive the children of God."

While that may be read as harsh by some, we must recognize that he was speaking to protect “the children of God,” which includes also those who are in homosexual relationships. He was expressing his concern for their welfare and the confusion of the devil that would lead them to heartbreaking self-destruction.


My hope for Pope Francis

Pope Francis has the heart of a liberal, and this time I’m not speaking here of ‘liberal’ in the pejorative sense, but in the positive sense - a generous and child-like heart.  With this heart and his mandate to care for souls, Pope Francis can perform miracles, even the miracle of halting the downward spiral of the Catholic Church in the West.  It will take radical action to achieve that miracle, and it is just such a heart that is needed to take such radical action.

In addition to having the heart for action, realistic perception is required, to see the varied needs and realities of the Church all over the world. Those who advise the Pope on the status of the situation globally aid in this monumental task.  This role is principally, but not exclusively, taken up by clergy from all parts of the globe who have regular meetings with the Pope to advise him.

However, it seems that he has had some very questionable advice. Let us pray for good advisors to the Pope so that he might discern what is best for the Church and how he can best use his influence for the good the whole world. 

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Topless activists cleared after raid in Paris cathedral, security guards fined

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Femen activists protest in Paris' Notre Dame Cathedral on February 12, 2013. Facebook / Femen France

French judges on Wednesday acquitted nine Femen activists who staged a topless protest in Paris's Notre Dame Cathedral last year, but gave suspended fines to church security guards for "manhandling" the activists as they removed them.

The Femen protesters entered Notre Dame on February 12, 2013 dressed in long coats, which they removed once inside, revealing anti-church and anti-pope slogans painted on their upper bodies.

They began screaming "Pope no more!", "No more homophobe," and "Bye bye Benedict!" – reportedly in response to Pope Benedict's resignation announcement – while using sticks to hit one of the huge bells, on display for the 850th anniversary of the cathedral.

The activists were quickly herded out of the church by security guards as shocked and outraged worshippers and tourists looked on.

However, since the self-professed "sextremists" were charged with property damage to the bell, rather than with obscene acts in a public place or incitement to religious hatred, the judges found insufficient evidence that the scratches on the gold covered bell were caused by the actions of the protesters, since pictures of the attack appear to show the ends of their sticks covered with felt.

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The prosecutor had requested fines of 1,500 euros against each activist on charges of damaging property, but, according to Italian news source Tempi, in throwing out the case the judges ordered that the protesters be compensated with 1,500 euros each.

Moreover, the three guards who escorted them from the church were charged with using excessive force and convicted of "mild violence." They were given suspended fines of 1,000 euros (about $1,300), 500 euros, and 300 euros.

Inna Shevchenko, the head of the Femen movement in France, said she was "very happy, very satisfied" with the verdict.

"The Femen will continue, that's for sure," Shevchenko told French news service The Local.

The lawyer for Notre Dame, Laurent Delvolvé, said prosecutors will appeal the ruling.

"Notre Dame is a place that is open to all, but must be respected by all. It is not a place of demonstration,” he said, according to the Associated Press.

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Pamela and PJ Lewis spending precious moments with Gianna who only had hours to live. Elsie Rogers from Tiny Lights. Photos used by permission.
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They begged God for just one day with their newborn girl. He heard their prayers.

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By Pete Baklinski
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Gianna Lewis dressed in her white bunny sleeper. Elsie Rogers from Tiny Lights. Photos used by permission.
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Gianna receiving the sacrament of Baptism. Elsie Rogers from Tiny Lights. Photos used by permission.
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Pamela, grieving, cuddles Gianna for the last time. Elsie Rogers from Tiny Lights. Photos used by permission.
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'Gianna highlighted for us the awe and beauty of the miracle of life,' Pamela related. Elsie Rogers from Tiny Lights. Photos used by permission.

For the next long while, Pamela Lewis, 35, knows she will most likely be that person who will randomly start crying when encountering something unexpectedly like a rainbow, an empty carseat, or perhaps a baby blanket without a baby all snugly wrapped up. 

But she knows it’s OK to cry. She knows her entire family, including her husband Paul Joseph, 36 — nicknamed PJ — and her three young children all under the age of 10, have somehow been profoundly touched by what they have experienced in the last couple of months. 

That experience includes all the joyful moments of anticipation, mixed with the awful dread of what the future might bring. And of course it includes the little miracle they prayed so hard to happen, and that did happen. And it also includes the sorrow-filled ‘good bye’ they knew they must say after much too short a visit. 

Despite the fear, uncertainty, and roller-coaster-ride of emotions, deep down inside the Catholic family knows that God was looking after all of them the entire time, and leading them in the strange and mysterious ways of his goodness and mercy. 

‘God, you are all Good’

It all started in February 2014 with Pamela’s first scheduled ultrasound in her hometown of Mission, British Columbia. Pamela suspected something was amiss when her sonographer remained silent during her baby’s 15-week scan. Days later, Pamela’s doctor confirmed her worst fears, telling her that her baby had a fatal chromosomal abnormality. 

“You will more than likely have a miscarriage. If you do make it to term, you will most likely have a super short life with the child, and the child will be severely deformed with cleft palate and brain damage,” the doctor said, according to Pamela in an interview with LifeSiteNews. 

Abortion was recommended as a solution to the problem. 

Pamela left the doctor’s office, tears streaming down her face. How could she end the life of her very own baby growing inside her? How could she, who was nurturing this new life, have anything but love for this baby, especially since the baby now needed someone to depend on more than ever? Abortion was simply unthinkable. 

What Pamela remembers most about this moment is the resounding “No” that surged through the core of her being when offered that choice.

But Pamela was scared by the diagnosis. She turned to God in prayer. “God, you are all Good – Your will be done. Just give us the strength to get through this,” she prayed at the time. 

One of Pamela’s good friends gave her some advice that helped her tremendously: “Pamela – how lucky that your baby has you for parents. Most women in fear would have aborted their child. You have preserved her life and kept her safe and will love her until God takes her back,” Pamela remembers her friend Roxanne saying. 

A second ultrasound at a different clinic in Surrey, BC, showed, to Pamela’s great relief, that the first diagnosis was wrong. But the relief was short-lived. Doctors wanted a third ultrasound performed, which revealed that the baby’s arms and legs where not straight as they should be, but had a concerning bend to them. Pamela braced herself for more bad news. 

A group of specialists and genetic counselors told Pamela and PJ their baby, who was a girl, had a rare disorder called Campomelic Dysplasia, a condition that inhibits the proper development of the body’s bones and cartilage. They were told that many babies with this condition don’t make it to birth. The ones that do make it usually die within days. 

Abortion was once again offered as a solution. 

What Pamela remembers most about this moment is the resounding “No” that surged through the core of her being when offered that choice. How could her baby’s problems be solved by abortion? Was not this baby a member of her family? Now was the time the baby needed to be loved the most, not to be discarded like garbage. Abortion could never be the answer. 

Bittersweet

Pamela and PJ named their baby Gianna Seraphina, meaning “God is gracious” and “fiery one.” As the weeks progressed, the baby’s diagnosis only worsened. Doctors said if Gianna made it to birth, she would not be able to breathe because her lungs would be incapable of expanding. Her thorax was underdeveloped, putting massive strain on her developing organs. Her bone structures, including her skull, were extremely fragile. Doctors gave her about a 3 percent chance of surviving the birthing process, saying that if she were to survive, she would likely die shortly afterwards. 

The parents told their other children Veronica, Anastasia, and Macarius that their little pre-born sister was sick and needed a miracle from God to even be born alive. Pamela recounted how the children would come and kiss her belly, showing their love and affection for their sister. They would put their hands on her belly to feel Gianna moving around inside. Together the family prayed for a miracle of healing, but first and foremost they prayed to be docile to God’s plan, whatever it might be. 

Pamela was now experiencing a bittersweet mix of emotions. Inside her womb, Gianna was protected and safe. But being outside her womb would put Gianna’s life in grave danger. Wasn’t a mother to look with joyful anticipation toward the birth of her child? But Pamela could only look on that fast approaching day with fear and uncertainty. Pamela tried to focus on the joy Gianna brought her when her little baby responded to her voice with movement and gentle kicking. But she knew every new day brought both of them closer and closer to that defining moment that threatened to bring their shared joy to an end. 

Pamela also struggled with the ethical questions involved in caring for Gianna if she made it through the birth. What if Gianna needed to be intubated so she could breathe, but the procedure caused her immense pain and suffering? What if forgoing the procedure caused their daughter to die from asphyxiation? Pamela was beset with ghastly images of worst-case scenarios. 

A friendly priest, Fr. John Horgon, helped put her fears to rest. He first advised Pamela to simply love Gianna right then, in the present moment. She should sing songs to her, pray with her, take her daily vitamins. 

“This may be the only time you can hold Gianna, as she is…growing in your belly. You are not a mother after labor, you are a mother now,” she remembers him saying. 

Fr. John then said that Gianna should receive everything medically necessary to be given the chance at life that every child deserves. If intubating her so she could breathe would help her to live, then it should be done. She should not be denied nourishment and hydration. She should be offered the gift of human touch as soon as possible. If she was beyond medical help, then she should be held and loved until her last breath, Pamela remembers him saying. 

‘God, give us one day with her’

With 10 weeks to go before the due date, Pamela continued to work as a waitress at Olive Garden. With Gianna not being able to swallow, Pamela had built up an excess of amniotic fluid, making her belly’s protrusion very noticeable. “I really liked working, but as a server, I think I was scaring the patrons. People kept asking me if I was going into labor,” she recounted.

Ultrasounds every two weeks only showed more clearly Gianna’s arched neck, bent bones, small jaw, and poor lung formation. The scans also showed her full head of hair and her enthusiastic movements. 

Once while visiting the Neonatal Intensive-Care Unit in preparation for the big day, doctors showed Pamela the ventilator, which at that moment housed a preemie baby who had been intubated. The reality of what was about to come suddenly flashed before Pamela’s eyes. 

“I just stared at this baby like I had already given birth, and this was my Gianna – so incredibly weak and helpless and fully reliant on God and her parents for life. I bit my lip so hard I almost bled. I needed to leave before I started to fight to hold this baby that wasn’t mine. It was then that my desire for Gianna to make it was the strongest.”

Doctors asked Pamela to temporarily move closer to the hospital in Vancouver two weeks before the due date so they could better monitor her and the baby. Pamela and PJ settled in the Easter Seals house, a special place near the hospital so parents can stay close by their sick children. To pass the time the couple played crib and other board games. They went to daily Mass. They prayed the Rosary. They relaxed in the gardens. They were grateful that PJ's sister Sheena was able to watch the other children.  

Pamela and PJ were still praying for a miracle of healing, but were resigned to accepting whatever God allowed to happen. They began to see death, even the possible death of their daughter, as something that could be made holy. They began to pray earnestly for Gianna to live even for a short time so they could hold her, love her, baptize her, and be able to say ‘good-bye’ to her. They realized that if their daughter lived for even a short time, it would be a “wonderful and gracious blessing that God has allowed us.”

“Our prayer was always the same. ‘God, give us one day with her. We understand that we may not get to keep her, but let us have time with her to say good bye,’” Pamela said. 

With the help of their faith, Pamela and PJ understood that Gianna’s early death would not be the end of their dreams and plans for her, but really just the beginning. If she died, she would go to heaven to be “babysat” by Jesus, until that day when they would be all reunited once again.  

“We realized she would be with family, with the Saints, with her Grandpa and her Great Grandparents…. and of course with God. And of course, God willing, eventually with us in the future. It was bittersweet – but way more sweet,” said Pamela. 

“Our prayer was always the same. ‘God, give us one day with her. We understand that we may not get to keep her, but let us have time with her to say good bye.’”

Pamela strove to be positive and upbeat for the sake of her baby, especially after a friend visiting her in the Easter Seals house spoke about how the baby in the womb feels to some degree what the mother herself is feeling. A baby can hear a mother laughing or crying, the friend said. If mother is stressed, baby becomes stressed. If mother is joyful, baby is happy. 

Pamela would sometimes shower at night, watching the water trickle off her full belly. Gianna would respond with vigorous kicking. She loved her daughter regardless of her condition, and deep down she sensed Gianna felt that love and returned it. 

‘Thank you soooo much, God’

Doctors had decided earlier on that Pamela should be induced about two weeks before her due date to give Gianna, who would be smaller than if she were born at full term, an easier time traveling down the birth canal. Doctors began inducing Pamela on Monday, August 11 by means of a Foley Catheter, which once inserted is inflated with water to begin stretching the cervix. By Tuesday morning, Pamela was more dilated. She was given an epidural before a nurse broke her waters. Pamela was then put on the oxytocin drip to increase her contractions. 

Labor began to move along quickly. Pamela did not have to tell nurses when she was having a contraction since every time one happened, Gianna would push visibly up on her belly. The contractions were so unusually visible that random nurses would peak into the delivery room just to see them.

“It looked like a mini-mountain on my right side at every contraction,” Pamela said. 

Now Gianna’s head could be seen peaking out. The time came to push her out. But no matter how hard Pamela pushed, Gianna would not budge. Despite the baby’s fragility, the lead doctor suggested that a vacuum suction was needed to help the baby out. The plan worked and Gianna was born minutes later at 5:50 p.m. 

But she was blue all over. “Is she dead? Did she die? Is she breathing?” Pamela remembers frantically yelling. 

A team of waiting specialists whisked Gianna away to an adjoining room in an attempt to revive her. PJ accompanied them. While Pamela wanted nothing more than to hold her sweet little baby, staff kept telling her to “just wait.” The next 15 minutes seemed like an eternity for Pamela as she pleaded with every saint in heaven she could think of for Gianna’s life. 

“I was demanding a chance this time – I wasn’t asking,” she said. 

And then the little miracle Pamela and her family had so desperately been praying for happened. PJ returned with the news that Gianna was alive. She had been successfully intubated and was breathing with the help of the ventilator. 

“I just cried and sobbed. ‘Thank you soooo much, God’ was all I could pray,” Pamela said.

A nurse wheeled Pamela into the room where Gianna was being kept alive by a breathing tube. Numerous wires monitored her vitals. By now she had pinked-up, a sign that the blood is circulating. Pamela marveled at Gianna’s beautiful head of dark hair and her full lips. She weighed a little under five pounds. 

Pamela was finally able to reach out for the first time and touch her living daughter. 

“She’s my baby and she’s beautiful,” Pamela remembers thinking. “What a fighter you are!”  

A priest came to baptize the little girl into the Christian community. Pamela and PJ’s other children arrived just as the ceremony began. 

“It was a beautiful and Holy-Spirit-infused moment,” she said. 

After the ceremony, the children began to weep. 

“Although they were happy to see Gianna alive, I think the mixture of the hospital setting, the power of the sacrament of baptism, and the flood of their child-like feelings was all too much for them to contain. But it was all good. They were hugging us, sobbing, and then laughing when the littlest one Macarius, who is 3, told them to ‘be quiet’ and ‘shushed’ them so they wouldn’t wake up Gianna,” she said. 

Pamela and PJ were eventually left alone with the newest member of their family. “We just sat in the room with our newly born angel. We sang to her and talked to her and simply touched her,” she said. 

Even with the ventilator helping her out, Gianna was still struggling to breathe. Her fragile broken body was making it difficult for her to stay alive. While she wasn’t in any immediate pain, doctors said no more could be done for her. Pamela and PJ were asked to decide when to take Gianna off the ventilator. They decided to sleep for a few hours and then wake up early to spend the entire day with their daughter before saying their first and last ‘good bye.’  

“I didn’t want to be an emotional wreck from not sleeping, and my body was still shaking from birth,” Pamela recounted. 

They spent all of Wednesday with Gianna. 

“I let daddy hold his little girl,” Pamela said. “I sat next to him and watched this tiny person in her daddy’s big arms. I was able to kiss her around her tubes. Her skin was like silk. Her fingers gripped around my pinky.”

An ambulance arrived at 2:00 p.m. that afternoon to transfer Gianna and her parents to Canucks Place, a quiet homelike place where parents can peacefully spend the last moments with their children. The other children arrived to say a final farewell. 

At six that evening, after Gianna had lived one full day, her tubes were removed. 

“I held Gianna in my arms, as PJ stood beside me. We were alone with only the medical staff. They warned us it could take minutes or hours, but assured us there would be no pain, since she had been given morphine.”

Gianna took one last breath and then she died. 

“And we grieved…we grieved hard,” Pamela said. 

Gianna’s body was then gently washed in a bath. She was dressed in her white bunny sleeper and swaddled in her special baby blanket. 

“We rocked her and walked with her, and held her — and she was at peace. She looked so much like a healthy, sleeping, beautiful baby — which actually made it harder,” Pamela said. 

“One is never quite ready for certain moments in life. Have you ever held a dead child that was your own? My heart goes out to any who have. Time stops. And when you meditate on what this unit of measurement means — seconds, minutes, years, eternity — it suddenly becomes impossible to wrap one’s mind around it.” 

Staff from the funeral home arrived and laid Gianna’s body on a stretcher. Her body was covered with a cloth. It was finished. Pamela remembers being consumed by an overwhelming feeling of emptiness. The next morning Canucks Place staff placed Gianna’s name on a special mantel with a lit candle as a remembrance to her life and death. 

She was buried the following week. A Knights of Columbus honor guard was unexpectedly present at the funeral. The Knights told the parents that Gianna’s story exemplified what it means to protect life.

‘We treasured everything’

Pamela and PJ said they are “blessed” for the time spent with her daughter and would not trade it for anything in the world. 

“Everything about her, including her club feet, her fragility, her brokenness, was all part of who she was. We treasured everything. We saw how broken she was and yet how beautiful she was in her brokenness. She highlighted for us the awe and beauty of the miracle of life,” said Pamela.

PJ said Gianna has had a “tremendous impact” on all of them. “My life and the lives of all our family have certainly been enriched by our time with Gianna,” he said.

PJ related how Gianna brought joy into their family at the news of her conception and now in the realization she is with God in heaven. She taught them to be patient as they learned little by little about the condition she struggled with. She helped them grow in faithfulness to God as they were forced to deepen their trust in him. She helped them learn to let go and humbly accept God’s will in their lives, trusting that “God will turn all things to good according to His will.”

PJ will always remember Gianna for her tremendous strength against all odds.

“We were told that she likely wouldn't make it to term, and if she did, that she likely wouldn't survive birth, and if she did that she may only live minutes. The 24 hours we spent with her after birth were both a gift and an example of her tremendous strength. Her strength inspired us to be strong too,” he said.

What the family will cherish the most about Gianna is the love they shared together.

“Pamela, myself, and our children have been touched by Gianna's love, and we love her dearly. We rejoice in that our little girl knew nothing but love.”

“We certainly wish we could have had more time with her. But as short as it was, it was long enough for her to have enriched our lives, for she taught us so much,” PJ said.

‘God gives us pathways to heaven’

Some people have asked the parents why God would allow this to happen to ‘good’ people who try their best to walk in God’s ways. How could a good God send them such a big problem?

“I understand these sentiments and that those who share them mean well,” said PJ. “However, through the grace of God, I thank God that Gianna was given to us, because so many people in this world would not have given a child like Gianna a chance. Thank God she was ours to care for.”

Pamela said she has never been angry once with God for all that happened. 

“I have always had a childlike relationship with God. And I know He would never seek to hurt me. Whatever struggles He places in my life are for purposes He alone knows the reasons for.”

"Perhaps after hearing about her life, people will think twice when faced with the ‘choice’ we faced."

“It is through our trials and tribulations that God gives us pathways to heaven. No matter what God sends along our way, He will never give us a cross we can’t handle. He will help us if we embrace whatever suffering comes our way,” she said.

Pamela believes that difficult times, trials, and suffering are essentially a call from God for a person to grow spiritually in love and compassion. She already sees how Gianna has changed her life. She doesn’t stress out as much over small things. She finds herself more easily accepting the things she can’t change. 

“You become a different person, more compassionate, more patient, more loving, kind, caring, and understanding,” she said. 

Pamela said that some people have related to her that what she and PJ did for Gianna was brave, but she disagrees.

“It didn’t seem brave. I don’t know why people kept on telling us that. It just seemed that what we were doing was the common sense thing to do, honestly,” she said.

“Having a child who would be disabled, who would suffer, and who could die was scary, I’m not going to lie. As excited as we were to have Gianna, the scariness of it all, of living in that fear of the unknown, was sometimes overwhelming. But life is sacred in all its forms. Her life was sacred. Knowing this helped us to overcome our fears.”

It was people’s prayers, PJ said, that sustained them. 

“We could almost physically feel the infusion of grace into our lives from the prayers of so many family, friends, religious, and even strangers.”

“We were coasting on grace,” Pamela added.

The parents believe the story of Gianna’s life is not yet a closed book. 

Pamela originally wrote a blog about her experiences for her Olive Garden co-workers, but many other people discovered it and were touched by what they read. Complete strangers began contacting Pamela through social media, relating how they were moved by the story of Gianna’s life.

“In the end, we believe that God’s plan came through for our Gianna, even if that plan was only for one day. But perhaps the plan is still unfolding? Just look how she is touching lives by her story. Perhaps after hearing about her life, people will think twice when faced with the ‘choice’ we faced,” Pamela said. 

Pamela and PJ will hold their little daughter in their hearts forever. The family will treasure the memories of Gianna’s life. Together they loved. Together they lost. Together they grew in an understanding of the mysterious workings of God. 

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Lisa Bourne

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Catholic League pulls out of NYC St. Patrick’s Parade

Lisa Bourne
By Lisa Bourne

After initially defending the organizers’ decision to allow a homosexual group to march in the 2015 New York St. Patrick’s Day Parade, a leading Catholic group has announced it will not take part.

The Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights (Catholic League) issued a statement this morning saying that for the first time in 20 years it will not march in next year’s parade.

It is the latest development in an ongoing controversy since parade organizers’ September 3 announcement that for the first time it would allow a homosexual activist group to march in the parade with a banner identifying itself.

“Prior to the announcement that a gay group would march under its own banner in the 2015 parade, I was consulted by parade organizers about their plans,” Donohue said.

Donohue explained that he told the parade committee he could only support the decision to allow the homosexual group to march if there were a formal revision in the parade's rules governing marching units.

“To be specific, I asked them to pledge that a pro-life Catholic group would also be permitted. I was told that a formal change in the rules had been approved and that a pro-life group would march,” said Donohue in his statement. “Now I am being told that the list of marching units is set and that no pro-life group will march in next year's parade. Accordingly, I have decided to withdraw our participation.”

Controversy has followed the parade for decades, with homosexual activists pushing for identifiable inclusion in the parade since the early 1990’s. For years parade organizers resisted a change allowing specific groups, and Church leaders were known for standing firm on Church teaching and supporting the parade committee’s decision to try and keep politics out of the parade.  

The controversy has continued this year with the parade committee giving in to homosexual activist pressure to allow a homosexual group to march with its banner, and New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan saying he thought the decision was “wise” and agreeing to be the 2015 parade’s grand marshal.

Donohue said that he had been the most vocal defender of the parade’s rules for the past two decades, having insisted repeatedly that homosexuals have no more been banned from marching in the parade than have pro-life Catholics.

“Why?” asked Donohue. “Because the parade is not about gays or abortion, or anything other than St. Patrick.”

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Donohue said there will be attempts to pit him against Cardinal Dolan resulting from the decision for the Catholic League to pull out of the parade, and called any suggestion that he is at odds with the cardinal “false” and “despicable.”

“Cardinal Dolan has no more rabid supporter than Bill Donohue,” he said. “And nothing that has transpired recently changes anything.”

Donohue stated his reasons for withdrawing from the parade have nothing to do with Cardinal Dolan or with homosexuals, rather it has to do with being betrayed by the parade committee.

After telling him one thing and then doing another, the parade committee included a homosexual group that is neither Catholic nor Irish while stiffing pro-life Catholics, Donohue said, calling this “stunning” and “indefensible.”

Cardinal Dolan’s handling of the parade has yielded widespread criticism from Catholic leaders.

“Next year there will be only one story-line of interest to the reporters who cover the annual parade in the world’s media capital: the triumph of the gay activists,” Catholic World News editor Phil Lawler wrote. “Photographers will be competing for the one 'money' shot: the picture of the contingent from OUT@NBCUniversal marching past the reviewing stand at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, under the benign smile of Cardinal Timothy Dolan.”

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