Hilary White, Rome Correspondent

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Catholic ‘Day for Life’ about sports? Really?

Hilary White, Rome Correspondent
Hilary White, Rome Correspondent
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ROME, July 23, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) - If you were to ask the average, ordinary British person, whether Catholic or not, what the most pressing subject matter would be for the Catholic Church’s annual “Day for Life,” what do you think they might say? What do the words “life issues” and “Catholic” usually mean to people who are, well, sane? Apparently, to the English and Welsh Catholic Bishops, firmly ensconced as they would like to become in the country’s ruling liberal elite establishment, it means … wait for it …

the Olympics.

You know, the sporting event. Oh, and the importance of living a “healthier, more balanced and environmentally sensitive lifestyle”. The official theme for this year’s Day for Life, July 29th, is “Use your body for the glory of God.” The front cover of the leaflet shows a woman swimming. Yes, the mind boggles.

Day for Life, “celebrates an extraordinary gift: the human body. It recognizes the marvelous achievements of the human body in events such as the Olympic and Paralympic games to be held in London this year, and the Commonwealth Games to be held in Scotland in 2014.”

In their Message the bishops hint darkly that sometimes, in our otherwise wonderfully enlightened times, people might sometimes have funny ideas about ending the life of bodies before the, ahem, duly appointed time: “Day for Life invites us therefore to show respect for the dignity of our body in every moment of its existence, from conception to natural death… From the first moment of conception, where the unique ‘genetic plan’ of my body is already present, to the moment of natural death, my body is part of God’s eternal plan for me.”

They briefly shave close to the actual issue with: “Where there is a lack of respect for the right to life from conception to natural death, where human conception, gestation and birth are made artificial and human embryos are sacrificed to research, then the conscience of society loses its sensitivity to the ecology of the human person and, with it, to the gift and treasure of Creation itself.” Then they head briskly back to the thicker ice of environmentalism.

The tasteless terms “abortion,” and “euthanasia,” however, do not appear. To find them, we have to rewind to the theme of 2007, “The sacredness of human life,” which offered a little catechism with helpful explanations :

“What does the Church mean by pro-life? To be pro-life means to promote human dignity and development in every sphere of life; to say ‘yes’ to life…

“The Church is opposed to all direct attacks against innocent human life e.g. abortion, abortifacient pills and devices, the abortion pill and the morning after pill, destructive embryo and embryonic stem cell research, genetic engineering, euthanasia, etc. because it believes that every life has purpose, meaning and inherent value.”

But even when the theme was was specifically about abortion, on the 40th anniversary of the nation’s Abortion Act, that was more or less the last we heard of the A-word, which was mentioned a grand total of three times in 2007. Euthanasia, once. After 2007, the themes have been, in order, “mental health,” “suicide,” “the Christian meaning of death” and “happiness”. Isn’t that nice?

Dr. William Oddie, author and columnist for the Catholic Herald doesn’t seem to think so. He called it “the most grotesque and cynical example” of the English bishops “persistent failure” to follow the example of the late Pope John Paul II, who appointed most of them, to “collectively to oppose abortion and euthanasia as they should have been opposed.”

“Year after year,” Oddie said, the Day for Life has “been about anything but what Pope John Paul … intended that it should be about.”

He decried the “breathtaking cynicism,”with which the bishops’ spokesmen have employed a lot of “windy drivel” in order to manipulate the pope’s intentions to actively exclude the “primary purpose” of the day.

Deacon Nick Donnelly, writing on his Protect the Pope blog, suggested that the Vatican take the Day for Life away from the jurisdiction of the bishops and give it over to the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children.

Donnelly said,“It is nothing short of scandalous that the Catholic Church of England and Wales wastes the annual opportunity of the Day for Life” by failing to urge the public to oppose abortion.

Fr. Tim Finigan, the leader of Britain’s independent clerical internet pack, sticks his tongue in his cheek and suggests that the next few year’s Days for Life be devoted to garden allotments, public transport, or the importance of flossing.

“I offer these suggestions since it seems that the theme for the Day for Life in England and Wales is to be about anything except what Blessed Pope John Paul called for when he proposed a Day for Life in his encyclical letter Evangelium Vitae.”

“Last year,” Fr. Finigan notes, “the theme was ‘Happiness’. As you might have guessed, I’m not happy. Many priests and active pro-life lay people are not happy either. It is estimated that by the 50th anniversary of the Abortion Act, nine million children will have been killed before birth in our country.

“We pioneered the legalisation of embryo research and we are giving the Dutch lessons in how to do euthanasia more politely by means of continuous sedation.”

Fr. Ray Blake, the pastor of St. Mary Magdalen parish in Brighton, and the number two Catholic clerical blogger in the realm, wryly quoted the great early 20th century clerical blogger and wit Ronald Knox, who rhymed, “When suave politeness, tempering bigot zeal, corrected ‘I believe’ to ‘one does feel’ “.

Fr. Blake said there is something “more than mealy mouthed” about the leaflet, saying it is “unfocussed, diffuse” and “lite”. “It is like so much material produced by Catholic Justice and Peace organisations that worry about curtains and flower arrangements rather than the crumbling foundations of the house.”

If it seems surprising that a Catholic bishops’ conference would be so keen to avoid a difficult but pressing topic, (the abortion rate in England and Wales hit 200,000 per year recently and is still climbing,) let us examine the record. We have for years been subjected to the spectacle in Britain of Catholic bishops desperate to please their zealously anti-Christian masters by scrambling away from any guilt-by-association with the pro-life movement; being the first to bravely lead the way in concern for all the warmest, cuddliest and most fashionable left-liberal topics.; in the forefront of the fight for the environment; boldly declaring the awfulness of bigotry and discrimination; taking care to be seen courageously wringing their hands over immigration control and cuts to state benefits.

Abortion and homosexuality, the demonic twins of the Culture of Death, seem to be the English bishops’ most vexed topics. Most scandalous to lay Catholics is the openness of their closeness to the homosexualist movement, dating back decades. The same political juggernaut that resulted in the secularisation or outright closure of all of the country’s Catholic adoption agencies.

Perhaps we need only look to the thunderous, glowering silence from his brother bishops when one of their own, Bishop Patrick O’Donohue, wrote a series of booklets saying, with unusual lack of politesse, that their Church institutions, both schools and parishes, are not “fit for mission,” having failed broadly to further, pursue or really to have anything whatever to do with the aims and intentions of the Catholic Church, one, holy and apostolic, founded by Jesus Christ.

Admittedly, there have recently been a few little glimmers in the England/Wales Catholic scene as the light of The Real World comes glittering through, piercing the liberal gloom.

A bishop attended a highly public demonstration against abortion in London a while back, despite a brief spate of rumours that his ecclesiastical superiors, fearful of upsetting their political superiors, would prevent him.

More recently, the newly appointed bishop of Shrewsbury declared to the astonishment of all that a study of the Holocaust should generate “profound reflection” on abortion and euthanasia.

This evening, I got a call from an English priest who lives in Germany and teaches at the seminary of the Fraternity of St. Peter, the organisation for priests who prefer the traditional liturgy, who pointed me to the Catholic Herald article on the new nuncio Archbishop Antonio Mennini and the appointment of Philip Egan to Portsmouth.

It has been said many times that the solution to the problems of a local Church is in the appointments of bishops. I hope that I was mistaken in my somewhat grim-faced in response to his hope that the new guys are a sign that the days of the greying “Magic Circle” leftists are at last numbered, and there are better things to come. always lies in improvements of the episcopal stock.

With the appointment of Egan by Pope Benedict’s ally and supporter Mennini, could we be looking at the start of an upswing in Britain? Egan surely annoyed the Magic Circlers earlier this month when he said Pope Paul VI’s encyclical Humanae Vitae was infallible.

Certainly it is on record that Cardinal Cormac Murphy O’Connor, formerly of Westminster and still the leader of the Magic Circle, was said to have been furious at having missed a plane, and therefore his chance to veto Mark Davies appointment to Shrewsbury.

My friend in Germany expressed the hope that the new men are a sign that the days of the greying Magic Circle leftists are at last numbered, and there are better things to come. Though the cynic in me fears the cavalry has come over the hill thirty years and one papacy too late, and my acquaintance with the priorities of the Vatican have not filled me with confidence … I say, maybe. I think it will take a lot more than this, but stranger things have happened than the conversion of an entire nation.


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Growing ‘Women Against Feminism’ movement draws fury

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By Hilary White
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Critics of feminism have long said that it is entering the final stages of its long career, with more of its assertions about the nature of human sexual and social relations being contradicted by the evidence and fewer young people following its dictates every decade. But in the last few weeks, it seems that feminism’s last gasp is being used to direct insults at young women who are lining up to publicly reject and ridicule it.

The Tumblr site Women Against Feminism has started a social networking trend in which thousands of young women photograph themselves holding signs bluntly denouncing feminism, giving a sharp indication that the feminist brand has become poison to young, hip, and internet-savvy women.

Mainstream and journalistic feminists have lashed out at the site and its followers, entering into an online spat over the increasingly popular photos. The signs say, “I am not a victim,” and “This is what an anti-feminist looks like.”

They continue: “I am an adult who is capable of taking responsibility for myself and my actions. I define myself and derive my value by my own standards. I don’t need to be ‘empowered’. I am not a target for violence and there is no war against me. I respect me and I refuse to demonize them and blame them for my problems.”

The messages held by the women pinpoint with pithy and acerbic precision exactly the reasons given by many critics that the movement has lost favour with young people. They call it a creed of double standards that promotes victimhood and endorses bullying of anyone who critiques it.

The site’s explanatory page, which was taken down for unknown reasons in the last two days, said, “Feminists are the only people who lose their minds with rage when you tell them that women already have the same exact rights as men. That’s not good enough. They want more. They desperately want to be victims. They want a privileged social position.”

The author goes on to accuse feminism in general of systematic censorship, discrimination, elitism and “policing other women” who do not toe the line – as well as baseline misandry. The anonymous creator denounced feminism’s adoption of “abortion as ‘empowerment’”:

This opinion is unpopular, but I don’t agree that I need to have my baby scraped out of my uterus in order to feel empowered. But the abortion industry (i.e. Planned Parenthood) makes a ton of money off this perversion of empowerment. ‘Abortion as empowerment’ teaches women to see their wombs as nothing but garbage bins full of disposable waste.

One of the contributors wrote, “I don’t need feminism because my self-worth is not directly tied to my victim complex. As a woman in the western world I am not oppressed, and neither are you,” says one. Another: “I don’t need feminism because I don’t need to bully someone to share my opinions with others.”

Some come right out and say that feminism promotes exactly the evils it purports to fight against: “I don’t need feminism because I believe in equality, not entitlements and supremacy.”

Although the site and its contentious photos have been running around the internet for many months, arguments among journalism’s feminists started breaking out this week after a mocking Buzzfeed feature helped the site gain momentum on social media outlets.

Some feminist journalists simply flung insults. Lillian Kalish sniffed on Ryot, “These Women Who Think They Don’t Need Feminism Don’t Know What Feminism Is.” “Did these posters ever think to look up the actual definition of feminism?”

Nuala McKeever, in the Belfast Telegraph, called the women posting the photos “silly, ignorant, vacuous wee girls with absolutely no thoughts beyond their own self-absorbed inanities.”

Time Magazine’s Sarah Miller said, “I Really, Truly, Fully Hate ‘Women Against Feminism’—But…” Miller wrote, “[T]he tendency to see sexism everywhere is proof that feminism is healthy and vigilant, and that is not necessarily a bad thing, because misogyny is insidious and rampant… We need feminism.”

But Miller added, “Still, the pain that we experience as women—even physical—does not give us the right to tell people there’s one way to think or feel, or to assume that we have some god-like understanding of everyone’s motivations.”

Cathy Young, however, responded in Time, saying, “Stop Fem-Splaining: What ‘Women Against Feminism’ Gets Right.” She writes, “The charge that feminism stereotypes men as predators while reducing women to helpless victims certainly doesn’t apply to all feminists—but it’s a reasonably fair description of a large, influential, highly visible segment of modern feminism.”

The site, Young says, “raises valid questions about the state of Western feminism in the 21st Century — questions that must be addressed if we are to continue making progress toward real gender equality.”

Sarah Boesveld wrote in the National Post on Friday that the site shows that feminism has become “complicated” and “sometimes alienating.” She quotes an email sent to the paper by 22 year-old Australian Lisa Sandford, who “believes in equality for the sexes” but firmly rejects feminism as “rude and nasty” and intends to be a stay-at-home mother. 

Sandford wrote, “If feminism really accepted equality, they would not tell me my views are wrong, they would accept it and let me be.”

Browse the 'Women Against Feminism' archives here (warning: occasional strong language).


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Steven W. Mosher and Anne Roback Morse

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Welcome Baby Filipino 100 Million!

Steven W. Mosher and Anne Roback Morse
By Steven W. Mosher and Anne Roback Morse

Population Research Institute welcomes the birth of little Chonalyn Sentino. Baby Chonalyn was born this past Sunday to parents Clemente and Dailin, and was feted in the Philippines as “Baby 100 Million.” PRI welcomes Baby Chonalyn as well, saying that she will be a blessing to her family, her community, and her nation.

The Philippines is one of the largest Catholic countries in the world, and its people value children. For this reason, it has been a target of the population controllers for decades. It was one of the countries singled out by Henry Kissinger’s National Security Council in 1974 for special “attention” and, more recently, has been bullied by the Obama administration into passing its first population control law. 

The bill, which was touted as being all about promoting “reproductive health,” was actually intended to drive down the birth rate. For example, section 15 requires that all couples receive a “Certificate of Compliance” from the local Family Planning Office before becoming eligible for a marriage license.

Some in the Philippines are decrying Chonalyn’s birth, repeating USAID’s talking points about the “dangers” of overpopulation. They welcome Chonalyn as an individual little girl, while simultaneously calling for future little girls and boys to be removed from existence.

The Philippine Star wrote that the birth symbolized a “large population that will put a strain on the country's limited resources.” Another paper cited the executive director of the official Commission on Population who bluntly said “We'd like to push the fertility rate down to two children per (woman's) lifetime.” And the Global Post cited “concerned advocates” who thought the current population was not a “complement with the country's economic growth.”

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But many other Filipinos aren’t buying into the anti-people hysteria. Francisco Antonio, a Filipino Chemical Engineering graduate student at Yale, adamantly rebutted the notion that there are too many Filipinos, saying: “I celebrate life because population control is defeatism disguised as pragmatism. And because human creativity holds more potential for protecting this planet and its inhabitants than any other resource I know of.”

A Filipina currently living in California told PRI that she welcomed the transition of her country to 100 million persons: “Filipinos are not a burden to the world population, because we not only care for our own but also for others in the world. One of the greatest and most sought after exports of the Philippines is our skilled, motivated, and exemplary workforce. And these workers tirelessly cultivate their family and community abroad and in the Philippines. We are a very social and civic minded people. We care and share because it is part of our culture and we do it with a smile.”

 Ed, a Filipino accountant, also celebrated the birth of Baby Chonalyn: “The typical Filipino does not associate a baby with ‘cost’ or ‘expense’ but rather as a ‘blessing’ and a ‘gift.’ This is because Filipinos recognize that true happiness does not come from the accumulation of material wealth or prestige, but rather, from true, genuine, and strong relationships with other people. [Filipinos] value life, not because the Church says or the Pope says so, but because they recognize it to be true. And the truth about the value of life, will continue to shine, long after the debates are over.”

It goes without saying that we at the Population Research Institute also welcome Chonalyn’s birth. We need more Filipinos, not fewer. 

Reprinted with permission from Pop.org.


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Two very different ways to respond to Pope Francis’ unrecorded interviews

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By John-Henry Westen

In the last few weeks another series of interviews with Pope Francis surfaced and have again left many Catholics scratching their heads.  Headlines all over the world had the Pope saying that two percent of priests are pedophiles, but is that what he said?  Even though the Vatican spokesman did issue a clarification, that question and others remain unanswered.

Critical reactions to these interviews have been interesting not even so much for their contents as from whom they arise.  These are the observations of some of the most faithful Catholic Church watchers today.  The folks pointing out these concerns are not, as many would assume, ‘“far right-wing-holier-than-the-Pope” types, but mainstream Catholics known for their loyalty to Pope Francis.

Phillip Lawler is the founder of Catholic World News, the first Catholic news service operating on the Internet. In part of his criticism of the most recent interview, he states: “Why was Pope Francis speaking with Scalfari without having first established clear ground rules for the conversation—rules that would certainly include recording and verification of any quotes?”

(To comprehend the situation accurately it is necessary to have an understanding of the man whom the Pope has allowed to interview him.  Eugenio Scalfari is relatively unknown in the West even after the fanfare of his papal interviews. LifeSiteNews has produced this piece to assist that understanding.)

Lawler recalls: “Back in October the Vatican had been embarrassed by an ‘interview’ in which [Scalfari’s] reconstructed quotes caused an uproar, and the Vatican press office was forced to issue an awkward ‘clarification’ which only added to the confusion.”

In addition to that clarification of the October Scalfari interview, the confusion and uproar got so bad that the Vatican removed the interview from their website, where they had it posted in the section containing the Pope’s speeches. Interestingly, that interview resurfaced two weeks ago on the Vatican website only to be removed again after a new round of criticism.

A blogger at the EWTN-owned National Catholic Register offered an observation similar to Lawler’s but with a little more bite. Pat Archbold writes, “The internet is once again abuzz with the second-hand hearsay of an unrecorded Papal interview.” Archbold advises his readers with characteristic sarcasm, “So pay no attention to those crazy and outlandish anti-Catholic headlines tearing up your RSS feed.  Just ignore them and hope they will soon go away, just like unrecorded Papal interviews.”

A second unrecorded conversation with the Pope makes news

Another write-up of an encounter with Pope Francis also caused a stir.  Brian Stiller, an Evangelical leader from Toronto was part of a delegation of Evangelical Christians who met with Pope Francis earlier this month. In his July 9 account, Stiller puts in quotes this statement he attributes to the Pope: “I’m not interested in converting Evangelicals to Catholicism. I want people to find Jesus in their own community.  There are so many doctrines we will never agree on. Let’s not spend our time on those. Rather, let’s be about showing the love of Jesus.”

That led noted priest-blogger Father Dwight Longenecker to first caution that the quotes are “Brian Stiller’s memory of the conversation.” 

Then with the caveat of not actually knowing the whole conversation, Fr. Longenecker says “it would not be unusual for a Catholic priest of Pope Francis’ generation to feel that way.”  He explains that he has “heard from numerous convert clergy over the years who said when they went to their local Catholic priest and expressed the wish to become Catholic the priest told them it wasn’t necessary and that they could do much more good to Christ’s kingdom and the Catholic church by staying where they were and evangelizing within their own denomination.”

“Now this strikes me as rather troublesome on several levels,” says Longenecker. He notes he had himself once used that line with a Protestant friend, to which his friend replied, “You don’t want to convert me? Why not? I don’t have much respect for your religion if you think so little of it that you don’t want me to share it!”

“He basically called me out on what was a little lie on my part. I wanted to be nice to him [so] I said I didn’t want to convert him. He said our discussion would be much better if I admitted that I did want him to become Catholic. He was right. I did. I still do.”

Inside the Vatican

Vatican journalist Edward Pentin has reported that unnamed “Vatican officials are uneasy and perplexed” about the interview. Pentin began reporting on the Vatican as a correspondent with Vatican Radio in 2002 and has since covered the pope for a number of publications, including Newsweek and The Sunday Times.

“The officials’ discomfort also extends to the Pope’s spontaneous telephone calls to strangers, a couple of which implied he deviated from Church teaching but, being private and unrecorded conversations, are difficult to verify,” he wrote for Newsmax.

From the outset of the Francis pontificate, there were these unrecorded and yet published interviews – the first was from a meeting with Latin American religious leaders in June 2013.  That was the one that had Pope Francis speaking of the existence of a “gay lobby” in the Vatican and also about being concerned about Catholics who would count rosaries to offer prayer bouquets.

At the time LifeSiteNews published nothing on that first unrecorded interview even though almost all other news services did.  Shortly thereafter I was at the Vatican inquiring about that unrecorded but reported-on encounter and was assured by various Vatican insiders that the communication was not accidental but intended – to me at the time a rather startling revelation.

But that same assessment came later from another Vatican quarter, a man who speaks German as does the pope and also shares the pope’s religious order.  “Francis knows exactly how power is spelled,” said Bernd Hagenkord, a Jesuit who is in charge of German programming for Vatican Radio in a May interview with The Atlantic. “He’s a communicator in the league with Mother Teresa and the Dalai Lama. They say he’s being unclear, but we know exactly what he means.”

Two different ways to respond

One of the most disturbing outcomes of these ‘interviews’ is that the words and interpretations of what is being said by the Pope, while they may be clear for the German Jesuit, are remarkably unclear for the vast majority of Catholics.  Catholics who know well their faith, its moral teachings, and the reason for them are few and far between. They are able to discern that the Pope cannot mean to undermine Church teaching; that those teachings are unchangeable.

But most people are taken in by the media’s false interpretation that ‘who am I to judge’ involves a new acceptance of homosexuality; the false possibility for legitimately-married Catholics to divorce and remarry outside the Church and still receive Communion; the idea that the Church should quiet down on her teachings on abortion, contraception, and same-sex “marriage.”  All of those false conclusions were drawn from previous Francis interviews.

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There are two ways forward for faithful Catholics in such a situation.  One way – a way that is most tempting - was recently recognized as a growing tendency by blogger Father Ray Blake. “Most Catholics but especially clergy want to be loyal to the Pope in order to maintain the unity of the Church,” he said.  “Today that loyalty is perhaps best expressed through silence.”

In leading up to that observation, Blake noted that in the previous pontificate “there was a solidity and certainty in Benedict's teaching which made discussion possible and stimulated intellectual honesty, one knew where the Church and the Pope stood.”  He added, “Today we are in less certain times, the intellectual life of the Church is thwart with uncertainty.”

However, Vatican Cardinal Raymond Burke suggested a different approach recently. According to Burke, who serves as head of the Vatican’s highest court, the Apostolic Signatura, the pope has made a strategic decision to focus on making the Church appealing, and thus bishops and priests “are even more compelled to underline these teachings (on life and family) and make them clear for the faithful.”

He told EWTN’s Raymond Arroyo, “The Holy Father has said on different occasions that he expects that bishops and priests are doing this teaching while he’s trying to draw people closer and not have them use [these doctrines] as their immediate excuse for not coming to the faith.”

Cardinal Burke’s strategy confronts the culture head-on even on the most difficult issues.  He sees that the often-used but failed tactic of avoiding difficult situations, of obfuscating or compromising on moral issues as worse than useless.

When truth is pushed aside for political correctness, to fulfill ideals of civility or to achieve false unity and false peace, the world is harmed by the lack of truth the Church is called to bring to it.

When truth is boldly proclaimed and held to, despite persecution, even the enemies of truth are forced to see that the opponents of their secular or liberal ideologies truly believe their teachings and are willing to suffer for them. This eventually generates a degree of respect from some of the critics and an openness to re-consider their own flawed positions.


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