Michael Bradley

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Marriage and witness: What’s going on at Notre Dame?

Michael Bradley
By Michael Bradley
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May 28, 2014 (Public Discourse) - In October of last year, I wrote here at Public Discourse about the University of Notre Dame’s unfortunate decision to participate in National Coming Out Day. I noted that, by encouraging celebration of identities rooted in proclivities toward acts that violate the truth of marriage, Notre Dame was failing in its pastoral duties to guide its students in love and in truth. These duties are rooted in its institutional vocation as a Catholic university, as articulated by the school’s Mission Statement.

Several events on campus this spring have confirmed and deepened my belief that Notre Dame is failing to fulfill its pastoral duty to bear witness to the truth.

Students for Child-Oriented Policy

In January, a small group of students gathered to form an organization that aims to assess how public policy affects children’s well-being. I am one of the founding members of this group, which calls itself “Students for Child-Oriented Policy,” or SCOP.

SCOP came together as Notre Dame’s home state of Indiana was engrossed in a debate on the definition of marriage. In anticipation of its first annual conference, and in conjunction with a St. Patrick’s Day panel on marriage and Catholicism, SCOP published an open petition addressed to university president Fr. John Jenkins, calling on him and other administrators to take up a vocal defense of marriage at this pivotal moment.

Swiftly, a cohort of irritated students penned and began circulating their own counterpetition, which, in addition to demanding that the university refuse to recognize SCOP as a student club, makes claims such as these:

SCOP [incorrectly implies] that same-sex parenting is damaging to children – this blatantly ignores all empirical data in this field of the social sciences (summarized below) that actually indicates the opposite is true . . .

The counterpetition mischaracterizes SCOP’s petition, which centrally affirmed that every child has a right to the care of his or her mother and father. Further, the counterpetition’s empirical claims will confuse anyone familiar with social science findings on family structures and children’s well-being. The studies on which the American Psychological Association based its 2005 brief declaring “no difference” in well-being outcomes for children raised by same-sex couples are inconclusive, and the burden of available data suggests that children fare best when raised by their married biological parents. The anti-SCOP petition betrays either bad faith or an astonishing failure to look into even the most readily available research on this topic.

And those signatories have been gratified. On April 30, the university rejected SCOP’s request to become an officially recognized student club, citing a “recommendation” by a group of student government officials who judged that “there was not a need” for SCOP’s presence on campus. The official reason given for rejecting SCOP’s application is “redundancy,” a transparent reason for rejection that even a momentary glance through the names of some of the more than 500 recognized student clubs punctures. Additionally, when pressed to identify the groups the missions of which allegedly make SCOP’s acceptance redundant, the president of the aforementioned student government group listed several groups that don’t at all claim to advocate for child-oriented public policies.

Notre Dame’s decision to deny SCOP’s application is rooted in either culpable ignorance of SCOP’s mission and purpose or barely veiled hostility toward SCOP’s true mission and purpose.

Furthermore, the rejection letter came from the same Student Activities official who told SCOP leaders in early April that the SCOP petition was “inaccurate” and suggested that its language would make some members of the Notre Dame community feel “unwelcome.” She further intimated concerns that the petition’s authors were misquoting their sources, and took twice as long as official Student Activities Office policy standards dictate to return a request (which was filed on behalf of a recognized student group) to publicize the petition in Notre Dame’s student center.

But most indicative of Notre Dame’s pedagogical missteps is the endorsement of the counterpetition by several members of PrismND and the Fire Starters. These two campus entities were created with the explicit purpose of advancing campus conversation on sexuality in harmony with the teachings of the Church and the natural law.

Prism’s Outing

Notre Dame’s gay-straight alliance has not taken long to go astray. In December of 2012, Fr. Jenkins announced the creation of a new pastoral plan to provide support services to the LGBTQ community. The plan, entitled “Beloved Friends and Allies,” offers a holistic summary and explanation of the Catholic Church’s sexual and marital ethics.

“Beloved Friends and Allies” outlined the creation of an official student organization “designed to provide peer‐to‐peer support, direct service opportunities, and friendship for GLBTQ students and their heterosexual allies.” The pastoral plan also states that “the organization’s purpose arises directly from the University’s Catholic mission,” and one of the organization’s missions is to engender a campus environment in “which we aspire to an even deeper understanding and appreciation of Catholic teaching.”

This organization, called PrismND, was inaugurated this fall. As a student organization (not a club), it enjoys more permanence and structural continuity than most student groups. It is also overseen by an appointed advisor. Maureen Doyle, Notre Dame’s Assistant Director for LGBTQ Student Concerns, who serves as the official liaison between Prism and the administration, emphasized in an August interview that the students are functionally autonomous; her job is simply to help them achieve whatever goals they choose. Christine Caron-Gebhardt, director of the Gender Relations Center (GRC), said in that same interview, “It’s not like, ‘let’s discard [our Catholic identity],’ but let’s really put it in the place where it belongs. It doesn’t need to become our driving factor. The people need to become the driving factor.”

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While some of Prism’s programs and actions may arise from a sincere effort to facilitate a deeper student engagement with the moral principles that Notre Dame institutionally affirms, others constitute a serious departure from Catholic teaching. Forty percent of Prism’s elected student officers have signed the anti-SCOP petition, including the officer that Prism’s organizational bylaws task with handling media and press relations. The organization’s very constitution employs the pronouns “ze” and “zer”—meant to indicate persons who reject identification as either male or female. Contrast this with Catholicism’s emphasis on the beauty and harmony of man and woman’s identities as essentially different, deeply complementary, and inextricably intertwined with each person’s unique identity.

The Gender Relations Center

In addition to the elected Prism officials who have signed the anti-SCOP petition, more than one third of the GRC’s student representatives, called “Fire Starters,” affixed their names. The mission of the Fire Starters, according to the GRC website, is to “promote open and inclusive discussion” and serve as “peer educators who assist in developing and implementing programs for the campus community that foster dialogue on issues of identity, gender and healthy relationships.” The 2013 student chair of Notre Dame’s gender issues committee also signed the petition.

How is it that so many of the university’s official (and officially trained) gender relations peer educators can endorse a petition as riddled with empirical and moral error, and misrepresentations, as the anti-SCOP petition?

Unfortunately, the GRC’s own programming and language obscure, rather than clarify, the proper understanding of the human person. Without this understanding, the orthodox Christian teaching on marriage and sexuality is unintelligible.

For example, earlier this semester, the GRC hung up a batch of rainbow-colored posters reading: “Gender What? A glimpse into the wonderful world of Gender Identity, and what it all means.” The posters seek to normalize and familiarize various terms that assume and perpetuate a sexual anthropology antithetical to the Church’s teachings. One line on the posters counsels, “It is best simply to ask someone how they prefer to be identified in regards to gender.”

In October, Assistant Director Doyle spoke of her desire to “celebrate the multitude of identities that make each of us unique and beautiful individuals,” referring precisely to acts of auto-identification as gay, lesbian, or transgender. The students who signed the anti-SCOP petition may well have adopted a rhetoric and ideology that they learned from adult pastoral figures.

Accountability, Transparency, and Pastoral Duties

In March 2014, when Fr. Jenkins announced a new strategic plan for the university, he boldly claimed that the plan’s top priority was to “ensure that our Catholic character informs all our endeavors,” in part by increasing administrative “accountability” and “transparency” over the next ten years.

When I contacted Ms. Doyle in late March and requested a twenty-minute meeting with her to discuss my concerns with Prism’s programming and language, she informed me that her schedule for the next six weeks did not admit of such an opening. When I contacted the university Vice President for Mission Engagement and Church Affairs with similar questions and concerns, he declined a meeting as well. My inquiries to Prism’s president regarding the aforementioned events were also deflected, and my request for a personal meeting was unreturned.

When essential truths are at stake, administrators and GRC officials stand silently by as the student “peer educators” tasked with facilitating informed, civil discussion of tough issues routinely oppose student efforts to affirm orthodox Christian teaching on marriage and sexuality. Attempts to tackle these issues head-on are met with calls for disbandment, and such calls are heeded by university officials. Notre Dame administrators then wield politically correct rhetoric as a weapon against students who are concerned that all the emphasis on campus “inclusion” has caused important, loving truths about the human person to be lost. These truths compose the good of those students perhaps least inclined to feel “welcomed” by them.

Notre Dame’s pastoral ministry must be rooted in the truths of human nature and human goods, and man’s supernatural end. Pope Saint John Paul II once said that “pastoral concern means the search for the true good of man, a promotion of the values engraved in his person by God.” Unfortunately, it seems that Notre Dame has firmly, if quietly, commenced its slow surrender to a sexual ideology that, once internalized, will ensure that students at Notre Dame wander as sheep without their shepherds.

Reprinted with permission from Public Discourse


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Hilary White Hilary White Follow Hilary

Growing ‘Women Against Feminism’ movement draws fury

Hilary White Hilary White Follow Hilary
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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John-Henry Westen John-Henry Westen Follow John-Henry

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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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