Hilary White, Rome Correspondent

Vatican offers friendly hand at international bloggers’ summit

Hilary White, Rome Correspondent
Hilary White, Rome Correspondent
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ROME, May 4, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) – In the last decade, the mainstream media and the world’s political class have acknowledged the power of the “blogosphere” in the daily life of the political debate. This week, the Vatican admitted that while they may have been behind the curve on the blogs, they want to catch up.

As an independent blogger for seven years, I got one of the “golden tickets” inviting me to join 149 other bloggers to attend the first-ever meeting called by the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Social Communications and for Culture, to address the blogging and “new media” phenomenon. They wanted this meeting, they said, to “open a dialogue” between the Church and the bloggers, who are often critical of Vatican actions.

It was perhaps a signal of how much catching up the Vatican has already done that the meeting was fully equipped not only with simultaneous translation for the five languages spoken, but with functioning wifi and electrical sockets for the laptops, iPads and Smartphones. The bloggers spent the meeting tweeting, posting and texting their readers, as well as sending comments and suggestions to each other within the room.

The atmosphere was friendly and cheery, with smiling bloggers, some of them obviously thrilled merely to have been invited, talking and mixing easily with Vatican officials, priests, housewives, journalists, and even one English Benedictine nun in full habit.

When the idea for a bloggers’ summit was announced in early April, the reaction of the Catholic blogosphere was cautious. Most welcomed it, but there was also much speculation on the motives and organizational abilities of the people who had committed so many public media blunders in recent years. The adversarial atmosphere between the official Church and the outside world has created a climate of suspicion and many bloggers were aware of the complaints within bishops’ conferences that the blogs need to be reigned in, controlled or regulated.

From their side of the table, Church officials are deeply wary of an interactive, lightening-speed media that seems to have no boundaries, rules or limitations. A major theme, put forward by Fr. Frederico Lombardi of the Vatican Press Office and American institutional blogger Elizabeth Scalia, continues to be the supposed “lack of charity” shown by bloggers who reveal the failings of Churchmen. 

It was clear, however, that these officials were aware of the problems and genuinely wanted to begin a new, less mutually suspicious relationship. And the bloggers responded eagerly to the extended hand.

Everyone understood that this meeting was only a preliminary step; this new relationship would not be forged in one five-hour meeting. But already two concrete suggestions have come out and they illustrate the sincerity on both sides.

Thomas Peters, the author of the blog “American Papist” and CatholicVote, asked why, since the bloggers who were present are invariably more friendly to the Church’s concerns, they cannot be given access to embargoed information from the Vatican Press Office. This information routinely goes out first to a secular media that is openly hostile to the Church. Peters pointed out that it has been the role of the bloggers, who overwhelmingly see themselves as champions of Catholic orthodoxy, to correct the misrepresentation of the Church’s teaching by sources like the New York Times. If bloggers had first crack at the news, he said, the Vatican would have a less hostile audience being first out of the news cycle gate.

James Bradley, a deacon and blogger who has recently been received into the Church through the Anglican Ordinariate and who runs the Ordinariate Portal, tweeted “Can’t bloggers just apply for [Press Office] accreditation?” Currently the rules for permanent press accreditation with the Sala Stampa require proof of Italian residency, a letter of recommendation from a recognized news service and ten published articles. These rules make it nearly impossible for an independent blogger, living outside Italy, to receive the Vatican’s press materials before they go out to mainstream media sources.

For their part, the Vatican officials suggested the creation of a voluntary organization of Catholic bloggers that could be called upon to respond to the accusations and misrepresentations made against the Church by the secular world. This body, they insisted, would exist not to regulate or control the members, but to form a cohesive response team defending the Church from outside attacks. 

Fr. Lucio Ruiz, who runs the internet service for the Holy See, said, “The Holy See has for some time excluded the idea that one might in some way put a ‘Catholic stamp of approval’ to sites and blogs that present themselves as Catholic ... We are not a sect.”

The officials recognized the role of the Catholic bloggers who have worked to defend the Church. Fr. Lombardi complimented the bloggers for their help, alluding to their role in clarifying Church teaching during the controversy over remarks made by Pope Benedict on condoms in the book, Light of the World. Lombardi thanked bloggers for offering quick clarification in the case.

For the bloggers present who focus on the Church, these interventions illustrated perhaps the most important message of the evening: that the institutional Church and the Catholic blogosphere are not, in fact, in an adversarial relationship. The Vatican said, in essence, let us figure out a way to work together because we are all on the same side.

The meeting’s organizer, Richard Rouse of the Pontifical Council for Culture, addressed the bloggers’ reservations in his opening remarks. The meeting, he said, was “not a simple publicity stunt.”

It was “not setting stage for drawing up an official moral code, although we will have some witness of efforts to disagree without being disagreeable…”

Rouse said he was glad that the meeting has already encouraged “ecclesial authorities around the world to engage with the blogging community (with all its issues of fear, familiarity, wisdom, courage, prudence, coping with being misinterpreted).”

Later, both Rouse and Fr. Ruiz made a point of speaking to me separately, both taking pains to assure me that at the Vatican level at least, there is no intention or desire to regulate or control bloggers’ content.

Overall, the Vatican blogger summit highlighted the fundamental difference between the secular world and the Church. In the secular world, there is a vast gulf between the rulers and the ruled, and it is only too easy, with the Church’s current manifold difficulties, to presume that the same gulf exists between the general laity and the mysterious “Vatican insiders” who give quotes in the press.

The presumption of an adversarial relationship is perhaps natural. The whole Catholic world is reeling from sex abuse scandals of the last few years, and for nearly 50 years, the crisis in the Church has continued with what many believe has been very little concrete action from Rome. For many of us who work to bring about reform in the Church, the mistrust of hierarchy and of the official Church has become almost habitual.

But in the last 24 hours, reports have appeared from some of those attending and one of the more common themes from bloggers has been a rather sheepish apology for their previous skepticism. The meeting has been universally acclaimed as a success, with barriers and suspicion dropping away and hopes raised of more to come.

After reading the many blogger reports and following the various live Twitter feeds coming from Rome, Fr. Tim Finnigan, the widely read first priestly blogger in the UK, commented on his blog The Hermeneutic of Continuity, “I was rather cynical about the meeting when I heard about it, so I am also very glad that it all seems to have gone so well.”

“This week has been quite a landmark for Catholic blogging, I think. Very positive all round.”


Read other bloggers on the meeting:

Fr. Tim Finnigan, at the Hermeneutic of Continuity

Anna Arco, at the Catholic Herald

Our Sunday Visitor

Elizabeth Scalia, the Anchoress and First Things magazine


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Medical staff arrested in India after accidentally aborting baby at 8 months

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By Thaddeus Baklinski

A doctor and a nurse at a prominent private hospital in India have been arrested after they allegedly administered abortion drugs to a eight-months pregnant accidentally, resulting in the death of her unborn child.

"We have immediately registered a case and arrested the doctor, whose negligent act has caused this," said South Jammu Superintendent of Police Rahul Malik, according to the Hindustan Times.

The woman's husband, Rakesh Sharma, told the paper that the doctor mistook Shruti Sharma for another patient who was scheduled for an abortion at the JK Medicity Hospital in Jammu on Friday afternoon.

Shruti had gone to the hospital after her gynecologist advised a routine medical examination to safeguard her and her baby's health.

Rakesh alleged that the doctor gave his wife the abortion pills without consulting her medical records. “Doctors and paramedical staff instead of administering glucose, gave her abortion medicine, which was actually meant for another patient,” he said.

"It is the worst case of negligence. I feel strongly that such hospitals should be closed. If this has happened to me today, tomorrow it can happen to any body else," Rakesh said.

While the JK Medicity's administration said it has launched an inquiry into the incident, a report from the Jagran Post stated that the district government has revoked the hospital's license.

"Jammu and Kashmir Government has ordered sealing of the private clinic after suspension of its license to operate in the wake of the incident," said Minister for Health and Medical Education Taj Mohiuddin according to the report.

National media have reported that the incident has brought illegal abortion practices in India to the attention of both the public and government officials.

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According to the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, abortion is legal in India up to 20 weeks. However, the opinion of a second doctor is required if the pregnancy is past its 12th week, and abortion-inducing drugs such as mifepristone and misoprostol are allowed only by prescription up until the seventh week of pregnancy.

Moreover, abortions can be performed only in government licensed medical institutions by registered abortionists.

Indian Express reported that the accused in the incident, Dr Amarjeet Singh, practices ayurvedic medicine (traditional Hindu medicine) and is "unsuitable for carrying out abortions."

A video posted by IndiaTV shows the parents surrounded by family members and relatives at a protest outside the JK Medicity hospital where the group is demanding punishment for those involved in the death of the child.


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News editor fired for criticizing ‘gay Bible’, files complaint

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By Kirsten Anderson

The former editor-in-chief of Iowa’s Newton Daily News has filed a religious discrimination complaint after he was fired over a post on his private blog criticizing the pro-gay Queen James Bible.

The Bible revision was produced by homosexual activists who claim to have edited the eight most commonly cited verses against homosexual behavior “in a way that makes homophobic interpretations impossible.”

On his private blog, which has since been deactivated, Bob Eschliman wrote in April that “the LGBTQXYZ crowd and the Gaystapo” are trying to reword the Bible “to make their sinful nature ‘right with God.’”

After public outcry from homosexual activists, Shaw Media, which owns the paper, fired him on May 6.

In a statement the day of his firing, Shaw Media President John Rung said Eschliman’s “airing of [his opinion] compromised the reputation of this newspaper and his ability to lead it.”

“There will be some who will criticize our action, and mistakenly cite Mr. Eschliman’s First Amendment rights as a reason he should continue on as editor of the Newton Daily News,” Rung said.  “As previously stated, he has a right to voice his opinion. And we have a right to select an editor who we believe best represents our company and best serves the interests of our readers.”

Rung said the company has a duty “to advocate for the communities we serve” and that “to be effective advocates, we must be able to represent the entire community fairly.”

Eschliman, who has been writing professionally since 1998 and became editor-in-chief of the Newton Daily News in 2012, says that the company was aware of his personal blog when he was hired and never indicated it would be a problem for him to continue sharing his personal political and religious views.

Click "like" if you want to defend true marriage.

In his religious discrimination complaint against the company, filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), he says that he believes he was singled out for termination because of his Christian views concerning homosexuality and same-sex “marriage.”

“As a lifelong writer, I have maintained a personal blog on the Internet with some personal thoughts and writings,” Eschliman wrote. “Newton Daily News, my employer, never had a policy prohibiting personal blogging, Twitter, Facebook, or any other social media. In fact, my employer encouraged us to engage in social media on a personal level and I am aware of several employees of Newton Daily News who continue to blog and are still employed with Shaw Media.”

“There is no question that I was fired for holding and talking about my sincerely held religious beliefs on my personal blog during my off-duty time from the comfort of my own home,” Eschliman wrote. “Shaw Media directly discriminated against me because of my religious beliefs and my identity as an evangelical Christian who believes in Holy Scripture and the Biblical view of marriage.

“Moreover, Shaw Media announced that not only were they firing me based upon my religious beliefs, but that they would not hire or allow anyone to work at Shaw Media who holds religious beliefs similar to mine, which would include an automatic denial of any accommodation of those who share my sincerely held religious beliefs,” he added.

Neither Shaw Media nor the Newton Daily News have been willing to provide further comment to the press on the matter, citing pending litigation.

Matthew Whitaker, an attorney with Liberty Institute who is assisting Eschliman with his complaint, said the law is on his client’s side.

“No one should be fired for simply expressing his religious beliefs,” Whitaker said in a statement. “In America, it is against the law to fire an employee for expressing a religious belief in public.  This kind of religious intolerance by an employer has no place in today’s welcoming workforce.”

According to Whitaker, if the EEOC rules in Eschliman’s favor, Shaw Media could be forced to give him back pay, front pay, and a monetary settlement.


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If you find this filthy book in your home, burn it

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By Jonathon van Maren

I don’t believe in book-burnings, but for the 50 Shades of Grey Trilogy, I’ll make an exception. I prefer charred books to scarred people.

The 50 Shades of Grey Trilogy, for those of you living outside “civilization,” is a repulsive and poisonous stack of porn novels that celebrates the seduction and manipulation of an insecure girl by a powerful businessman who happens to like spending his recreational time engaging in what is now popularly known as “BDSM.” For those of you who are fortunate enough never to have heard of this glorification of sexual assault, the acronym stands for bondage, domination, sadism, and masochism. In 50 Shades of Grey, the man in question inflicts all sorts of pain on the girl, because he is a sadist, which used to be a bad thing. (How utterly confusing it is to see the “feminists” of Planned Parenthood and elsewhere celebrating this phenomenon—wasn’t domination something they sought to subvert? Didn’t bondage used to be something one wanted to be freed from? And sado-masochism—I could vomit.) And now this trash has been developed into a film, the trailer of which is all over Facebook.

50 Shades of Grey and the new “BDSM” phenomenon are nothing more than the celebration of pain, rape, and destruction.

A lot of people seem to be taken with these books, especially based on the number of people I’ve seen unashamedly reading it at airports. These porn novels are “hot,” many reviewers tell us confidently. Yes, hot as Hell and halfway there, I think.

Consider this, for just a moment: In a culture where broken families are often the norm, we have a generation of girls often growing up without fathers, never receiving the paternal love and affection that they need. Thus the famous “Daddy Issues” that so many comedy sitcoms repulsively mock, as if hurting girls seeking love and affection in all the wrong places is some sort of joke. Conversely, boys are also growing up without fathers, never having a positive male role model in the home to teach them how to treat women with love and respect. And what is teaching them how to treat girls? At an enormous rate, the answer is online pornography, which increasingly features vicious violence against girls and women. The average first exposure of boys to pornography is age eleven. It is an absolutely toxic mess—insecure and hurting girls seek love from boys who have been taught how to treat them by the most vicious of pornography.

Introduce into this situation a book, written by a woman, glorifying the idea that girls should expect or even enjoy pain and torture inside of a sexual relationship. How does a girl, insecure and unsure, know what to think? The culture around her now expects her not to need a safe relationship, but a “safe word” to employ in case her sadist partner gets a bit too carried away in the pain-making. Boys who might never have dreamed of asking a girl to subject herself to such pain and humiliation are now of course emboldened to request or even expect this fetishized sexual assault as a matter of course in a relationship. After all, much of pornography now features this degradation of girls and women, and a woman wrote a book celebrating such things. It might seem sadistic and rapey, but hey, sexual freedom has allowed us to celebrate “bondage” and sexual liberation has allowed us to liberate our darkest demons from the recesses of our skulls and allow them out to play in the bedroom. Boys used to get taught that they shouldn’t hit girls, but now the culture is telling them that it’s actually a turn-on.

I genuinely feel sorry for many teenage girls trying to navigate the new, pornified dating landscape. I genuinely feel sorry for the legions of fatherless boys, exposed to pornography before they even had a chance to realize what it was, enfolded by the tentacles of perverted sexual material before they even realize what, exactly, they are trifling with. It brings to mind something C.S. Lewis once wrote: “Wouldn't it be dreadful if some day in our own world, at home, men start going wild inside, like the animals here, and still look like men, so that you'd never know which were which.”

50 Shades of Grey and the new “BDSM” phenomenon are nothing more than the celebration of pain, rape, and destruction. Find out if the “sex educators” in your area are pushing this garbage, and speak out. Join campaigns to make sure that promotion of this filth isn’t being funded by your tax dollars. And if you find these books in your home, burn them.


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