Kathleen Gilbert

That ‘Catholic’ gay debate at Georgetown: the unanswered question

Kathleen Gilbert
Kathleen Gilbert

December 10, 2010 (LifeSiteNews.com) - On Wednesday evening I attended a debate on gay “marriage” proudly hosted by Catholics for Equality at Georgetown University. Broadcast as a “family conversation,” the gig pitted Maggie Gallagher of the National Organization for Marriage against Atlantic writer and gay Catholic Andrew Sullivan.

By the end, moderator E.J. Dionne politely concluded that dialogue had been successfully engaged. I doubt that most people in the audience agreed.

That’s because the event wasn’t about marriage, and it wasn’t about homosexuality, either.

The entire setup was not for the sake of dialogue, but was simply one of the nascent group’s first forays into mushing together the ideas of Catholicism and the gay agenda, and making them stick, inside young brains.

The tone for a not-so-honest discussion was set even before the fact. Another illegitimate gay “Catholic” group, the Rainbow Sash Movement, had proudly tooted the event’s horn in a press release claiming that Cardinal Wuerl had a “change of heart” by allowing the group on campus. The archdiocese angrily denied the claim.

Of course, the battlefield was largely won to begin with. The room at the Intercultural Center was full of mostly Georgetown students, the vast majority of whom, when polled on their support for same-sex “marriage,” shot up their hands. The cheers and howls that ensued trended decidedly in Sullivan’s favor.

The debate was mostly civil, and completely disjointed. Gallagher explained the rational basis for legal marriage as a manifestation of the state’s interest in procreative unions, a point altogether undermined by Sullivan’s heartfelt plea for a truly Catholic and inclusive love for gays, which delighted his audience.

In fact, Sullivan’s talking points were very similar to the position of the Church, whose teachers have held that a sincere love for gay persons is the only proper response to them. However, the Church’s view is that such love also forces us to confront homosexual activity as truly degrading and harmful to those who practice it - a notion too large to do justice to here.

The Atlantic writer’s intent, on the other hand, was not to agree with Catholic teaching, but to redefine it, and in so doing he offered a description of his personal “conversion” to the lifestyle as a prayerful Catholic experience.

“The first person I came out to was God,” said Sullivan, who also declared that, “I’m openly gay because I’m a Catholic.” After all, the Church, he said, was always in pursuit of “new data” and a truly dynamic church would recognize that “the world is bigger and wider than we once believed.” He ended by “prais[ing] God for the great phenomenon of homosexuality” and condemning discrimination against homosexual relationships, a deed he called “wicked.”

It was only when Sullivan talked about any Catholic other than himself that the warm rhetoric surrounding Catholicism began to grow ice cold.

The vast majority of the Catholic hierarchy, Sullivan asserted, cruelly suppress homosexuals (and “the reason they’re not OK with gay people is because they’re gay.”) Thanks to them, the hierarchy is rife with pedophiles - which, Sullivan acknowledged, were homosexual priests with a more twisted appetite.

As for the pope, words appeared not to be strong enough to express Sullivan’s anger. “The current pope, knowing that a child under his auspices had been raped by a priest under his authority, covered it up and sent that rapist to go rape other children,” he stated, referring to media accusations against Joseph Ratzinger regarding Rev Huellerman of Munich. The room, in a moment that will forever blacken the history of Georgetown, erupted in applause.

In any event, the lesson appeared to be that the pope, hierarchy, and the dogma they taught were far less Catholic than Sullivan himself.

I wondered what it was that defined Sullivan’s idea of “Catholicism.” It was unlikely to be the Bible, given Paul’s statement to Roman Christians that God punished mankind with “degrading passions” in which “their females exchanged natural relations for unnatural, and the males likewise gave up natural relations with females and burned with lust for one another.”

So who decides what Catholicism is? After reducing the name “Catholic” to a mere shell (not unlike “marriage,” which Sullivan tellingly asserted “is what you believe it is”), why even keep the name? That, it seems, was the unasked question at the crux of the show.

The answer is easy from a historical point of view, as this same drill has been acted out over and over by upstart social movements since the turn of the 20th century or so. Social reformers, such as those behind liberation theology and feminist theology, understand the power behind the name “Catholic:” fusing a new idea to the old Catholicism, or replacing one with the other, is now an almost textbook procedure for gaining trust on a large scale. 

In a relativistic world, what was once a measure of truth works awfully well as a hollow stamp of approval. It was only a matter of time before the gay rights movement became “Catholic.”

I ran into the same train of thought at the Women Deliver conference in June, when Elfriede Harth of Catholics for the Right to Decide explained with great ease how abortion is not only permitted by the God of Catholicism, but that a woman should feel guilty for not aborting her child if it would threaten the wellbeing of herself, a child of God, in any way.

“They [the hierarchy] are always trying to say we’re not real Catholics, which is wrong, because the criterion to say you’re Catholic is that you’re baptized. That’s all,” she explained. “And I don’t accept that other people pretend that they define what is Catholicism. You know? The way the Vatican presents Catholicism is incomplete.” I could easily imagine these words at last night’s “family conversation.”

After Wednesday’s event concluded, I had only one thought. I approached the stage to offer Sullivan, as a journalist and a fellow Catholic, more information on the media accusations against the Holy Father. Sullivan’s presentation had been even-tempered and rational for the most part, so I expected a polite, if not enthusiastic reception.

I was wrong. In a bizarre exchange, I found myself defending against, among other things, the accusation that I denied that the sex abuse scandal ever occurred, which of course I don’t. Why Mr. Sullivan appeared so defensive against an exchange of information I honestly couldn’t conceive.

“I don’t believe, I know,” he told me firmly of his conviction of the Holy Father’s guilt. Respectfully, and especially since nothing but circumstantial evidence was ever brought against the pope in the case, I was forced to wonder how the New York Times ended up more infallible than Sacred Scripture.

I hope that one day, someone will get a straight answer from Catholics for Equality and their ilk about exactly why they cling to the name “Catholic” while emptying it of recognizable meaning. They might learn a lesson about honesty from the 16th century Protestant reformers.


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African denounces Western elites pushing population control in his country

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By Ben Johnson

An op-ed in one of the leading publications in Uganda has denounced the promotion of IUD use and other long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARCs) in the nation as a colonialist form of population control.

An article published in New Vision, which bills itself as “Uganda's leading daily,” and which was posted online after being translated into broken English, contradicts the frequent claim that there is a desperate cry from Africans and brown people generally to provide the “unmet need” for contraception in the Third World.

Programs to convince African women to use the IUD or other forms of contraception “are projects of multibillion international agencies distributing them under the guise of helping the poor countries to control birth rates,” Stephen Wabomba wrote.

The use of the IUD leads to an increase in “the spread of STIs/HIV/AIDS, infections or increased rates of Pelvic Infection Diseases (PID),” and other maladies, he said. The IUD, which is inserted into the uterus and may work for years at a time, offers no protection against sexually transmitted diseases and often does not prevent fertilization.

Western governments and NGOs are very much “aware of the side effect[s] but still force them on us through sensational marketing strategies by claiming that there is unmet need” for contraception “in Uganda,” he wrote.

He instead suggested the use of Natural Family Planning methods as the “best alternative” for married couples, as well as increased “funding of chastity and abstinence education in Uganda.”

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He called on every citizen of Uganda “to stand up and be counted as a lover of life” and become a “protector of the voiceless and defenseless unborn children being aborted every day.”

Wabomba is heeding his own advice by acting as director of the Pregnancy Help Center in Jinja, the second largest city in Uganda. The town of 87,000 is perched on the shores of Lake Victoria.


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UN tells Chile and Peru to legalize abortion

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By Guilherme Ferreira Araújo

On July 7 and 8, the United Nations Human Rights Commission (UNHCR) discussed Chile’s abortion laws and issued a report asking for liberalization of those laws.

According to the report, Chile “should establish exceptions to the general prohibition of abortion, contemplating therapeutic abortion and in those cases in which the pregnancy is a consequence of a rape or incest.”

Chile is one of the few countries that prohibits abortion in all cases.  So far, the country has managed to stand against internal and external pressure to legalize abortion.

But during her campaign, President Michele Bachelet promised to make the legalization of abortion a priority.  Indeed, last May she stated that her intention was to reopen the debate so that the government could approve therapeutic abortion before the end of this year.  The U.N. report also said that Chile “should make sure that reproductive health services are accessible to all women and adolescents."

One of the reasons the UN is using to pressure Chile’s government to change their abortion laws is the high number of clandestine abortions allegedly taking place in Chile. The UNHRC points to “official data” showing 150,000 annual clandestine abortions. However, not only is it impossible to corroborate that figure, but other sources show that this number could be exaggerated by a factor of 10.  According to an article published in the Chilean news publication, Chile B, the annual number of clandestine abortions in Chile may vary between 8,270 and 20,675.

Inflating the number of illegal abortions and maternal mortality is a common tactic of the pro-abortion movement’s effort to legalize the deadly practice. Dr. Bernard Nathanson, founder of the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL), famously admitted the tactic after becoming pro-life.

“We claimed that between five and ten thousand women a year died of botched abortions,” he said. "The actual figure was closer to 200 to 300 and we also claimed that there were a million illegal abortions a year in the United States and the actual figure was close to 200,000. So, we were guilty of massive deception."

Chile has also been used as a prime example that legalized abortion does not reduce maternal mortality.

A study published in 2012 by Plos One Institute found that since 1989 when Chile banned abortion, there has been an annual decrease in maternal death. That study, and others compiled and published by the Chilean MELISA Institute strongly challenge the myth that abortion is safe or even necessary to increase maternal health.

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Notwithstanding the empirical data, the United Nations is also hard at work to pressure Chile’s neighbor to the North, Peru, to liberalize its own abortion laws.  In the case of Peru it is the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) that has issued the report, not the UNHRC.  CEDAW representatives examined Peru’s case on July 1 and suggested that Peru should legalize abortion in case of rape and severe abnormalities of the unborn child.

The organism suggested that the government eliminate all laws that punish women who abort and asked that Peru “urgently” adopt a law to fight violence against women, a notion often used as a euphemism for legalizing abortion.  

The CEDAW commission presented the conclusions of the report on July 22 and put special emphasis on the abortion issue. This happens despite the strong opposition to abortion in Peru. A recent survey showed that 79 percent of Peruvians support the Catholic Church’s position on abortion.

The CEDAW pressure on Peru is not new. In 2011, after the UN sanctioned Peru for denying an abortion to a teenager, Carlos Polo, Director of the Population Research Institute’s Latin American office, stated that the UN organism doesn’t have the right to force Peru to approve abortion.


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People ask me all the time, “How do you live with your past?” My answer is silly, but it is a true story. Youtube screenshot
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I helped so many women abort their babies. Now how do I live with that?

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By Abby Johnson
Abby Johnson business card Planned Parenthood

I have many memories of my time with Planned Parenthood. I spent eight years of my life there. Some memories are good, some are not. But they are contained in my mind. It’s easy to forget them. I have forgotten so much about my time there in just four and a half short years. 

I found my old business card the other day. That is a tangible memory for me. It made me think of the day that I heard I had been promoted to direct the clinic. I was so happy…hugging and jumping up and down with my supervisor. She was so proud of me.

I thought about the day I moved everything into my new, big office. I put pro-choice stickers all over my file cabinet. I called my parents to share the news. They were, of course, proud of me, but hated my work. I can’t imagine how conflicted they were in their minds and hearts. Human resources sent me my new paperwork. There was my new title, my new and amazing salary. 

A few days later, my new business cards came. I remember putting them in my new business card holder on my desk. I filled up the business card holder that I kept in my purse. I had already become used to hearing myself say my new title.

I was proud of myself. I was proud of the hard work I had put in to earn that new title. I worked so many hours, sacrificed so much time from my family. But I knew it would be worth it. And now I had the job title to prove it.

I remember proudly passing out my new business cards to anyone that would take one. Being pro-choice was not just a movement to me; it was a lifestyle. I wholeheartedly embraced that lifestyle and loved being a part of it. 

These tangible reminders that I occasionally find are sometimes hard to work through. I remember receiving the records from my medication abortion. That tangible reminder of my past was difficult to manage. I look at my “Employee of the Year” award that I received from Planned Parenthood and think back to the night I received it. I ended up putting that old award on my desk as a reminder of where I came from and how much my life has changed. Seeing that plaque no longer brings back those tangible memories. 

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One of the reasons I was so taken aback when finding my old business card was not just because it was a reminder of how proud I had been to run an abortion clinic…something I find deplorable now. It was because of the things I took part in while I had that big title.

The memories of handing women small monetary checks in order to pay for their silence after we had left them with a serious infection after their abortion. The memories of watching women bleed out on our abortion table and being instructed not to call the ambulance because we didn’t want to let the pro-lifers know that we had a medical emergency. The memories I have of “joking” about the babies that died in our facility by abortion. The memories I have of training our abortion facility employees on the “normalcy” of abortion and how to convince women that abortion is the best choice for them.

Part of being a former abortion clinic worker is learning how to deal with your past sin. It may be the lady who came to your clinic for an abortion that you bump into at the store. It could be standing in front of your former abortion facility and remembering all of the damage your words and actions did to so many women. It could be finding that old business card that reminds you of the pride you felt when you became the director of an abortion facility. 

People ask me all the time, “How do you live with your past?” My answer is silly, but it is a true story. 

One day I was watching the kid’s movie “Kung Fu Panda” with my daughter. In the film there is a wise, old tortoise named Oogway. He is talking to one of his students who is frustrated with his current situation. Oogway asks his student, “Do you know why today is called the present? Because it is a gift.”

That little line by an animated tortoise hit me like a ton of bricks. Today is a gift. There is absolutely nothing we can do with our past. And there is very little we can do to control our future. We live NOW. We serve NOW. We choose to move on from our past NOW. 

I don’t know what your past sins are. And I don’t know how frequently you are reminded of them. But as someone who has to face their past sins on pretty much a daily basis, I can tell you that you can be free from their burden. Being reminded of your past doesn’t mean that you have to live with constant grief. It simply means that you have been given the opportunity to transform your past into something positive…maybe you can help others make different choices than you did, maybe you can help others heal from the same struggles that you lived through. I don’t know what you are being called to do, but as the saying goes, “God can turn our mess into a message.” 

Carrying around past burdens doesn’t help us in any way. Know that you can be forgiven. Accept that forgiveness. Use your life to help others. The present is indeed a gift.

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