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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A Planned Parenthood facility in Denver, Colorado
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Colorado judge tosses suit alleging Planned Parenthood used state funds to pay for abortions

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By Dustin Siggins

Alliance Defending Freedom "will likely appeal" a Monday court decision dismissing their suit alleging Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains illegally used state funds to pay for abortions, an ADF lawyer told LifeSiteNews.

The ADF lawsuit claims that $1.4 million went from state government agencies to a Planned Parenthood abortion affiliate through Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains.

Denver County District Court Judge Andrew McCallin dismissed the case on the basis that ADF could not prove the funds paid for abortions. But ADF maintains that funding an abortion facility is indirectly paying for abortions, which violates state law.

ADF senior counsel Michael Norton -- whose wife, former Colorado Lieutenant Governor Jane Norton, filed the lawsuit – told LifeSiteNews that "no one is above the law, including Colorado politicians who are violating our state’s constitution by continuing to fund Planned Parenthood’s abortion business with state taxpayer dollars."

"The State of Colorado even acknowledges that about $1.4 million of state taxpayer dollars flowed from Colorado government agencies through Planned Parenthood to its abortion affiliate. The Denver court seems to have agreed with that fact and yet granted motions to dismiss based on a technicality," said Norton.

According to Colorado law, "no public funds shall be used by the State of Colorado, its agencies or political subdivisions to pay or otherwise reimburse, either directly or indirectly, any person, agency or facility for the performance of any induced abortion." There is a stipulation that allows for "the General Assembly, by specific bill, [to] authorize and appropriate funds to be used for those medical services necessary to prevent the death of either a pregnant woman or her unborn child under circumstances where every reasonable effort is made to preserve the life of each."

According to court documents, the Colorado law was affirmed by state voters in 1984, with an appeal attempt rejected two years later. In 2001, an outside legal firm hired by Jane Norton -- who was lieutenant governor at the time -- found that Planned Parenthood was "subsidizing rent" and otherwise providing financial assistance to Planned Parenthood Services Corporation, an abortion affiliate. After the report came out, and Planned Parenthood refused to disassociate itself from the abortion affiliate, the state government stopped funding Planned Parenthood.

Since 2009, however, that has changed, which is why the lawsuit is filed against Planned Parenthood, and multiple government officials, including Democratic Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper.

According to ADF legal counsel Natalie Decker, the fact that Planned Parenthood sent funds to the abortion affiliate should have convinced McCallin of the merits of the case. "The State of Colorado and the Denver court acknowledged that about $1.4 million of state taxpayer dollars, in addition to millions of 'federal' tax dollars, flowed from Colorado government agencies through Planned Parenthood to its abortion affiliate," said Decker.

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"Without even having the facts of the case developed, the Denver court seems to have granted motions to dismiss filed by the State of Colorado and Planned Parenthood on grounds the term 'indirectly' could not mean what Ms. Norton and Governor Owens said it meant in 2002 when they defunded Planned Parenthood."

"That, of course, is the plain meaning of Colo. Const., Art. V, § 50 which was implemented by the citizens of Colorado, and the reason for Ms. Norton’s lawsuit."

Decker told LifeSiteNews that "Colorado law is very clear," and that the state law "prohibits Colorado tax dollars from being used to directly or indirectly pay for induced abortions."

She says her client "has been denied the opportunity to fully develop the facts of the case and demonstrate exactly what the Colorado tax dollars have been used for." Similarly, says Decker, it is not known "exactly what those funds were used for. At this time, there is simply no way to conclude that tax dollars have not been used to directly pay for abortions or abortion inducing drugs and devices."

"What we do know is that millions of Colorado tax dollars have flowed through Planned Parenthood to its abortion affiliate, which leads to the inescapable conclusion that those tax dollars are being used to indirectly pay for abortions."

A spokesperson for Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains did not return multiple requests for comment about the lawsuit.

The dismissal comes as Planned Parenthood fights an investigation by the state's Republican attorney general over a video by Live Action, as well as a lawsuit by a mother whose 13-year old daughter had an abortion in 2012 that she alleges was covered up by Planned Parenthood. The girl, who was being abused by her stepfather, was abused for months after the abortion.

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Fledgling high-tech pro-life group marks 2,000 babies saved: 2-3 saved per day

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Online for Life, the Dallas-based pro-life marketing agency, saved its two-thousandth unborn baby earlier this year and is well on its way to saving its three thousandth by 2015.

“We are getting better all the time at what we do,” says founder Brian Fisher. “It used to be one baby saved every four to six weeks and now its two or three a day.”

But the most significant save? “It was the very first one,” he says, recalling the phone call from a crisis centre a month after OFL’s 2012 startup.  “And for me personally it was just a massive turning point … because [of] all the work and the money and testing and the volunteers and everything that led up to that moment. All the frustration of that was washed away in an instant because a child had been rescued that was about to be killed.”

Though increasing market savvy has led Online for Life to expand offline, the core of the non-profit, donor-financed operation remains SEO -- search engine optimization -- targeting young women who have just discovered they are pregnant and gone onto the Web to find the nearest abortion clinic.

Instead, they find the nearest crisis pregnancy center at the top of their results page. Since OFL went online it has linked with a network of 41 such centers, including two of its own it started this year, in a positive feedback loop that reinforces effective messaging first at the level of the Web, then at the first telephone call between the clinic and the pregnant woman, and finally at the first face-to-face meeting.

“Testing is crucial,” says Fisher. “We test everything we do.” Early on, Online for Life insisted the clinics it served have an ultrasound machine, because the prevailing wisdom in the prolife movement was that “once they saw their baby on ultrasound, they would drop the idea of having an abortion.” While the organization still insists on the ultrasound, its own testing and feedback from the CPCs indicates that three quarters of the women they see already have children. “They’ve already seen their own children on ultrasound and are still planning to abort.” So ultrasound images have lost their punch.

OFL has had to move offline to reach a significant minority who have neither computers, tablets, or cell phones.  Traditional electronic media spots as well as bus ads and billboards carry the message to them.

As well, says Fisher, “unwanted pregnancy used to be a high-school age problem; now that’s gone down in numbers and the average age of women seeking abortion has gone up to 24.” By that age, he says, they are “thoroughly conditioned by the abortion culture. Even before they got pregnant, they have already decided they would have an abortion if they did get pregnant.”

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What they need—and fast, in the first two minutes of the first phone call—is sympathy, support, and a complete absence of judgement. Online for Life is always gathering information from its network on what responses are most effective—and this can vary city to city. The organization offers training to clinic volunteers and staff that stresses a thorough knowledge of the services on tap. “Any major city has all sorts of services—housing, education, health—available,” says Fisher.

The problem that OFL was designed to address was the crisis pregnancy centers’ market penetration. Three percent of women with unwanted pregnancies were reaching out to the CPCs, and seven per cent of those who did reach out were having their babies. “So about 2.1 children were being saved for every 1,000 unwanted pregnancies,” says Fisher. “That’s not nearly enough.”

So Fisher and two fellow volunteers dreamed of applying online marketing techniques to the problem in 2009. Three years later Fisher was ready to leave his executive position at an online marketing agency to go full-time with the life-saving agency. Now they have 63 employees, most of them devoted to optimizing the penetration in each of the markets served by their participating crisis centers.

The results speak for themselves. Where OFL has applied its techniques, especially with its own clinics, as many as 15-18 percent of the targeted population of women seeking abortions get directed to nearby crisis pregnancy centers. “It depends on the centres’ budgets and on how many volunteers they have to be on the phones through the day and night,” he says. “But we are going to push it higher. We hope to save our 2,500th child by the end of the year.”

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Shock: UK mom abandons disabled daughter, keeps healthy son after twin surrogacy

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By Pete Baklinski

A UK woman who is the biological mother of twins born from a surrogate mom, has allegedly abandoned one of the children because she was born with a severe muscular condition, while taking the girl's healthy sibling home with her.

The surrogate mother, also from the UK — referred to as "Jenny" to protect her identity — revealed to The Sun the phone conversation that took place between herself and the biological mother over the fate of the disabled girl.

“I remember her saying to me, “She’d be a f****** dribbling cabbage! Who would want to adopt her? No one would want to adopt a disabled child,’” she said.

Jenny, who has children of her own, said she decided to become a surrogate to “help a mother who couldn’t have children.” She agreed to have two embryos implanted in her womb and to give birth for £12,000 ($20,000 USD).

With just six weeks to the due date, doctors told Jenny she needed an emergency caesarean to save the babies. It was not until a few weeks after the premature births that the twin girl was diagnosed with congenital myotonic dystrophy.

When Jenny phoned the biological mother to tell her of the girl’s condition, the mother rejected the girl.

Jenny has decided along with her partner to raise the girl. They have called her Amy.

“I was stunned when I heard her reject Amy,” Jenny said. “She had basically told me that she didn’t want a disabled child.”

Jenny said she felt “very angry” towards the girl’s biological parents. "I hate them for what they did.”

The twins are now legally separated. A Children and Family Court has awarded the healthy boy to the biological mother and the disabled girl to her surrogate.

The story comes about two weeks after an Australian couple allegedly abandoned their surrogate son in Thailand after he was born with Down syndrome, while taking the healthy twin girl back with them to Australia.

Rickard Newman, director of Family Life, Pro-Life & Child and Youth Protection in the Diocese of Lake Charles, called the Australian story a “tragedy” that “results from a marketplace that buys and sells children.”

“Third-party reproduction is a prism for violations against humanity. IVF and the sperm trade launched a wicked industry that now includes abortion, eugenics, human trafficking, and deliberate family fragmentation,” he said. 

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