All articles from October 10, 2017


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California Governor Jerry Brown
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California reduces penalties for knowingly infecting someone with HIV

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October 10, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) — Democratic California Gov. Jerry Brown has signed into law a bill — authored by two openly homosexual legislators — that reduces the crime of a person knowingly infecting another person with HIV from a felony to a misdemeanor.

The bill, SB 239, also removes the felony classification for intentionally donating AIDS-infected blood and makes it a misdemeanor.

Penalties are reduced from a maximum of eight years in a state prison for being convicted of knowingly infecting someone with HIV to “imprisonment in a county jail for not more than six months” under the new law.

The bill was co-sponsored by Sen. Scott Weiner, D-San Francisco, and Assemblyman Todd Gloria, both open homosexuals. Wiener is a far-left LGBT militant who harshly attacked Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ new pro-religious liberty guidance, saying in an Oct. 6 statement: “We will beat back this bigotry, and any other bigotry that comes spewing out of this White House.”

Anderson: Bill undercuts ‘accountability’

Republican Senator Joel Anderson spoke against SB 239 when it was debated on the Senate floor and passed easily along party lines in late May.

"If you intentionally transmit HIV or any other communicable disease that's fundamentally life-altering to the victim, of course you should be charged — you should go to jail," Anderson said.

"How is this different than if I took a baseball bat, beat you with it ... and you had the healthcare costs going forth, you had brain injury. You're never the same. You'll never live your life to the same extent that you did prior to that confrontation."

He said the “critical word” in the legislation is the "intentional" transmission of HIV (or any communicable disease).

"When you intentionally harm others, when you intentionally put others at risk, you should have responsibility," he said.

On the other side, Naina Khanna, who served on President Obama’s Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS, says changes to tough HIV-transmission laws are needed because they actually discourage people from getting tested for HIV as a way not to be prosecuted for intentionally transmitting it.

“(L)aws designed to target people with HIV have been shown to increase stigma, thus reducing testing and engagement in care. You cannot be prosecuted if you don’t know your HIV status and recent studies have found that many people do not get tested out of fear of prosecution. The message these laws send? Take the test and risk arrest,” Khanna wrote in a Huffington Post op-ed that Sen. Wiener reprinted on his website.

Khanna states, “Research now shows indisputably that if a person living with HIV takes medication suppressing their viral load, it is impossible for them to transmit the virus to their partners — even when a condom is not used. That’s why the absolute best way to prevent new HIV infections is to ensure that everyone who is HIV positive knows their HIV status and has quality medical care.”

But Republican Senator Jeff Stone, who opposed SB 239, noted that prescription drug compliance studies show “three out of four Americans do not take their prescription medications as prescribed.”

"And so if you don't take your AIDS medications as prescribed, you can get active virus which can be unknowingly transmitted to a partner," Stone said at a March committee hearing on SB 239.  

"This is not a gay issue," Stone said, noting that he was confronted by a by an openly homosexual man who told him he "is not a felon."

"And I don't believe he's a felon, but I do believe that if you have active HIV and you are communicable and you have risky behavior with another person that causes them to get the disease, I believe that that should remain a crime, and a significant crime," he said.

Stone cited other examples of people subjected to seven years of prison for causing others severe harm, such as DUI and bar brawl arrests.

But under SB 239, “if you knowingly have HIV  virus -- positive — and you don't tell a (sexual) partner ... and they get infected, and that becomes a misdemeanor, I think that's a miscarriage of justice," he said.

The conservative Alliance for Therapeutic Choice and Scientific Integrity, formerly NARTH, responded in an email alert against the newly-signed legislation that there has always been flexibility in the law regarding how people who transmitted HIV are prosecuted.

“Now, even in a case demonstrating the most egregious irresponsibility, jail time has been capped at six months,” stated the Alliance email. “Sadly, the message now being sent to those who are infected with HIV is that you won’t be held as accountable and don’t need to be as concerned about disclosing to others the possibility that you may be exposing them to this deadly infection.

“If you forget or just plain don’t want to let others know you are HIV positive, the worst that will happen is a relatively minor, lightly punished misdemeanor. This is not the message that we need to be sending if we care about the health and well-being of our citizens,” the Alliance said.

The spread of HIV is heavily linked to male homosexual sex. More than 9 in 10 new HIV cases among young men and boys ages 13 to 24 in the U.S. occur among homosexuals and bisexuals, according to a new report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as LifeSiteNews reported in May.

The HIV law is one of a host of pro-LGBT bills that have been enacted in California’s Democrat-dominated legislature in recent years. The organization SaveCalifornia.com and other pro-family groups have attempted to stem the tide of pro-“gay” and pro-“transgender” bills, but have largely been stymied because of overwhelming Democratic legislative and political power in the state.

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‘There was spiritual unity:’ Catholics reflect on Poland rosary crusade  

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POLAND, October 10, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) — By Sunday, the whole world was talking about Poland’s “Rosary to the Borders.”  

On October 7, the Feast of the Holy Rosary — also known as the feast of Our Lady of Victory — more than a million Poles went to the borders and airport chapel of their nation to pray the rosary. A chain of people, in some places three or four rows deep, encircled the entire country.

“From data coming from individual parishes, we conclude that there were about 1,200,000 to 1,400,000 people,” said organizer Maciej Bodasiński. He had gone with his family to the Vistula Lagoon, east of Gdańsk, and then prayed the rosary while sailing along the blue border of the Baltic Sea.

“And considerably larger numbers of people were praying throughout Poland, over the radio, in parish churches, in homes, in the airports, in hospitals, in the streets, by roadside crosses and chapels. Unbelievable!”

“People from the whole world united to the prayers,“ he continued. “Akita in Japan, New Zealand, the village of Stamsund in the Lofoten Island above the Arctic Circle, China, Cambodia, Germany, Great Britain, Norway, Denmark, Czech, Slovakia, Ukraine, Belarus. There were also Polish soldiers praying in the military base in Bagram, Afghanistan. Faithful in Kazakhstan, in the USA. People were writing from everywhere. We even got a message from the beach in Tenerife that they were praying. Alleluia!”

The logistics of transporting hundreds of thousands of people to the borders were not easy.

“Two buses of people traveled from my parish church (in Rrzeszów) to Krempna,” Jacek Kotula told LifeSiteNews. “There was a problem with buses because there were so many groups of people wanting to travel to the border that there weren’t enough buses to rent. From our city alone, 50 buses went (to the border). In that one place in Krempna, there were 2,500 people praying the rosary.”

Kotula said there were many young adults and children there: “About half were young people and families with children.”

The day began with Mass and sermons about the rosary in “every place in Poland,” Kotula continued. “Then the trip to the border and then finally from 2 p.m. until 4 p.m. there were the four parts of the rosary.”

The atmosphere, he said was “uplifting, joyful and pilgrimage-like.”

“We knew that simultaneously a million Poles were encircling our beloved Motherland with the prayers of the Rosary.”

Daria Pietrzak of Częstochowa went to Turza Śląska with, she told LifeSiteNews, about 3,000 other people.

“The majority were over 50 years of age,” she said. “But there were a lot of young people, too.”  

She attended Mass in Turza Śląska’s Shrine of the Mother of God in Fatima (i.e. Our Lady of Fatima). Not all 3,000 people could fit in the church.

“Despite the rain, they prayed outside,” she said. “There were moments when the sun shone and the rain fell at the same time. Apparently in many places rainbows appeared after 2 p.m.”

Pietrzak described the mood as “focused.”

“We felt that we were doing something very important, that it was a historic event,” she said. “We were very proud as Poles that the initiative had gathered a million Poles to the borders of all Poland. There was a fantastic feeling of connection, that at that moment, all of Poland was encircled by a rosary. There was spiritual unity.”

Jacek Kotula called worries that the Rosary at the Borders was xenophobic or anti-Muslim “nonsense.”

“It’s complete nonsense. There wasn’t a single anti-Islamic act! We wanted to apologize and do penance with our rosaries for the great blasphemies and insults committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary. We prayed to Mary for the salvation of Poland and the world.”

“This is not a one-time-only event,” Kotula continued. “Millions of Poles pray the rosary every day, and this is something ordinary. But what is extraordinary is that we have united ourselves in the “Rosary to the Borders” and have joined together our prayers and strengths.”

Organizer Maciej Bodasiński told LifeSiteNews that he hadn’t witnessed miracles during the Rosary to the Borders, but that various people had sent him photos of the rainbows they witnessed during the prayers.

“The rainbow is a sign of the covenant,” he said. “Miracles are not the most important, but (most important is) the presence of people, the presence of the Mother of God and the great communal prayer, which is a blessing for Poland and the whole world.”

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Prof. Claudio Pierantoni
Diane Montagna

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Amoris Laetitia uses orthodoxy as ‘mask’ to conceal moral errors: Catholic philosopher

Diane Montagna

ROME, October 10, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) — Italian philosopher and former friend of Pope John Paul II, Rocco Buttiglione, last week attacked the authors of the “Filial Correction,” criticizing them for standing as “judges over the Pope,” of not discussing but “condemning,” and of being unfaithful to the the text of Amoris Laetitia.

In the October 3 interview with Vatican Insider’s Andrea Tornielli, one of Pope Francis’ closest media advisors, Buttiglione critiqued the seven heresies the Correctio authors and signatories accuse Pope Francis of propagating, arguing that in each case the correctors did not understand what the Pope was trying to say. Buttiglione also accused the authors and signatories of “isolating Pope Francis by opposing him to his predecessors,” and cast them as mostly fringe academics. Yet he acknowledged that the Correctio document has had “a great echo in the media.”

Now an acquaintance of Buttiglione, and one of the shapers of the “Filial Correction,” Italian philosopher and Church historian Claudio Pierantoni is responding to Buttiglione’s criticisms. Pierantoni, professor of Medieval Philosophy at the University of Chile, says to accuse the signatories of standing as judges over the Pope is “false and tendentious” and a surprising “act of calumny.” He also takes on Buttiglione’s attempt to rebut the correctors’ charges of spreading heresy.

In this interview, Pierantoni explains how Amoris Laetitia Chapter 8 skillfully interweaves the authentic Catholic doctrine about extenuating circumstances with the heterodox concepts of situational ethics, according to which there are “no intrinsically evil actions” and, in some situations, “what is normally evil may be the right choice, so it can objectively be a good act.” The doctrine of extenuating circumstances, Pierantoni argues, is being used here as “a mask to conceal situational ethics.”

As to the other heresies being challenged, Pierantoni regards Buttiglione’s rebuttal as “extremely rushed and superficial,” and says it does not do justice either to the complexity of the issues raised, or to the extensive bibliography that has appeared on the subject.

“A person of Buttiglione’s intellectual and moral standing” would never defend “such an indefensible text,” Pierantoni concludes, if he were not doing so “in order to defend a preconceived position, an ideological choice ultimately based on a false concept of the papacy.”

Here below is our interview with Professor Pierantoni. The authorized Italian text can be found here.

LifeSite: Professor Pierantoni, how do you know Rocco Buttiglione? Have you spoken with him in the past about issues surrounding Amoris Laetitia?

Prof. Pierantoni: I met Rocco Buttiglione a decade ago here in Santiago de Chile as a student of Josef Seifert’s International Academy of Philosophy (IAP). For many years, Buttiglione has been one of the most qualified teachers of the academy, and has held various executive positions. Within this circle of friends of the IAP, I participated in an ongoing debate via email among the members or ex-members of the Academy, since the day, you might say, when Amoris Laetitia was issued. We have exchanged dozens of emails on the topic, always on very warm and friendly terms, despite our differences of opinion.

In his October 3 interview with La Stampa, Rocco Buttiglione seems to think there is no real difference between accusing the pope of spreading heresy and accusing him of being a heretic. Is that fair?

No, it seems to me that this isn’t fair at all. There is a clear difference between “material heresy” (which refers objectively to the content of what the Pope is being charged with propagating through his words, deeds and omissions) and “formal heresy,” which would refer subjectively to his person and to his personal imputability. Now, this is very clearly excluded in the Correctio Filialis (CF). After defining what the crime of heresy consists in, we specify: “The above descriptions of the personal sin of heresy and of the canonical crime of heresy are given solely in order to be able to exclude them from the subject of our protest. We are only concerned with heretical propositions propagated by the words, deeds and omissions of Your Holiness. We do not have the competence or the intention to address the canonical issue of heresy” (Elucidation, pg. 12, emphasis added). There is, therefore, an obvious difference between what is said about the content and what is stated about the person. It’s rather hard to imagine that Buttiglione has overlooked or doesn’t understand this difference.

It is equally false and tendentious to say that we are setting ourselves up or acting as judges of the Pope or as Tribunal of the Holy Office, when, to the contrary, we clearly state, in the very first pages: “As subjects, we do not have the right to issue to Your Holiness that form of correction by which a superior coerces those subject to him with the threat or administration of punishment (cf. Summa Theologiae 2a 2ae, 33, 4). We issue this correction, rather, to protect our fellow Catholics and those outside the Church, from whom the key of knowledge must not be taken away (cf. Lk. 11:52) - hoping to prevent the further spread of doctrines which tend of themselves to the profaning of all the sacraments and the subversion of the Law of God” (CF pg. 2).

In light of this should we assess Buttiglione’s completely unfounded statement: “Here a group of men stand as judges over the Pope. They do not raise objections, they do not argue. They judge and condemn.”                

Let us leave aside the fact — perhaps Buttiglione forgot — that objections, discussions, questions and the ‘dubia’ were submitted to the Pope for 17 months, and none of them received a response. But to reach the point of saying that we are judging or even condemning the Pope is a real act of calumny that I would have never expected from him.

Buttiglione seems to deny this distinction when he goes on to lay such a stress upon the difference between the objective gravity of adultery and the subjective guilt of the adulterer. Is there a significant difference between adultery and heresy in this regard?

There is certainly an important difference, because in the case of material heresy, the heretical statement can be understood in itself, independently of the person who made the statement. The act of adultery, because of its nature, has no existence independent of the agent, even though it can be considered in the abstract. But there is also a clear analogy between them, because in both cases the objective element (i.e. what is said about either the actual fact, or the actual sentence he expresses) is opposed to the subjective element (i.e., what is said of his personal guilt). So it’s strange, as you say, that Buttiglione does not take this opposition into account, which is precisely the main point of his argument against us.

Rocco Buttiglione also seems to suggest the signatories of the correction deny the need for full knowledge and full consent for a grave sin to be mortal. Is this fair?

More precisely, Buttiglione says that the critics of Amoris Laetitia on this point have changed their minds: “Critics began by arguing that under no circumstances can the remarried-and-divorced be in God’s grace. Then someone (I, for example) reminded them that to commit a mortal sin, not only is grave matter necessary (and adultery is certainly a grave matter of sin) but also full knowledge and full consent of the will. Now they seem to be backtracking: they have also understood that in some cases a person who is divorced and remarried may not be at fault due to subjective extenuating factors (lack of full knowledge and full consent of the will). What do they do to cover up their retreat? They attribute to the Pope the affirmation that the divorced/remarried person who remains in his situation with full knowledge and full consent is nevertheless in a state of grace.” (emphasis added).

This “backtracking” or “retreat,” which Buttiglione attributes to us, is completely invented by him. His suggestion that dozens of colleagues were suddenly hit by a case of amnesia when Amoris Laetitia came out, and that they all simultaneously forgot such an obvious aspect of moral doctrine, seems rather improbable, not to say frankly absurd.

Of course, this is not the case: we all already knew about the existence of the doctrine which considers full knowledge and deliberate consent essential for imputability. Therefore, it’s obvious that we took it as a given. Indeed, if Amoris Laetitia chapter VIII were only dealing with this, as Buttiglione claims, no one would have been scandalized. On the other hand, if it was only for the sake of repeating something that is already so widely known, none of the editors would have taken the trouble of writing this famous Chapter VIII of AL. The fact is that, albeit skillfully interwoven with many statements on subjective responsibility and full knowledge, AL VIII contains several very clear affirmations of “situational ethics.” According to this doctrine, absolute prohibitions don’t exist, and there are situations in which the violation of a negative command can be a morally good act. This doctrine was vigorously condemned by Pope St. John Paul II in the encyclical Veritatis Splendor which, not coincidentally, is never cited in Amoris Laetitia. This has already been highlighted in dozens of articles, which Buttiglione cannot ignore, particularly because the main arguments have already been repeated in a number of letters both by Professor Seifert and by me and others.

Buttiglione has not been able to respond effectively to these arguments, and has limited himself to repeating that there is nothing more in AL VIII than the traditional doctrine regarding subjective extenuating circumstances. It must be accurately emphasized that, as much as the text of AL tries to mix the doctrine of extenuating circumstances, which in itself is orthodox, with situational ethics, which on the other hand is heretical, we are dealing with two entirely different things. The first argues that, although an action may in itself be evil, there can be elements, such as a state of serious psychological impairment, or ignorance, which diminish, or even annul, subjective guilt.

Instead, situational ethics states that there are absolutely no intrinsically evil actions and that, in some situations, what is normally evil may be the right choice, so it can objectively be a good act. I will cite a crystal clear passage in this regard, Amoris Laetitia paragraph 303, which states: “Naturally, every effort should be made to encourage the development of an enlightened conscience, formed and guided by the responsible and serious discernment of one’s pastor, and to encourage an ever greater trust in God’s grace. Yet conscience can do more than recognize that a given situation does not correspond objectively to the overall demands of the Gospel. It can also recognize with sincerity and honesty what for now is the most generous response which can be given to God, and come to see with a certain moral security that it is what God himself is asking amid the concrete complexity of one’s limits, while yet not fully the objective ideal.”

Why is this passage especially relevant?

As Professor Seifert explained in a now famous article, which cost him the chair in Granada (and as I then sought to clarify in a subsequent article in defense of Seifert: “Josef Seifert, Pure Logic and the Beginning of the official persecution of Orthodoxy within the Church”), Amoris laetitia affirms, regarding a situation that “does not correspond objectively to the overall demands of the Gospel” (viz. the prohibition of adultery), that one may “come to see with a certain moral security that it is what God himself is asking amid the concrete complexity of one’s limits” (AL 303). This is an extremely problematic claim. In the first place, AL distorts reality when it calls what is actually a commandment to be strictly observed, a mere “ideal” (Latin “exemplar”). Note that in the same sentence it calls it “demand” (“mandatum”). But there is something worse: we realize that here it is said that “a given situation [that] does not correspond objectively to the commandment of the Gospel” would be “what God himself is asking.” (emphasis added). This implies, just as situational ethics holds, that there are not absolute commandments. The text in question does not speak of a decrease in guilt, or of ignorance, but instead says that the subject discovers, based on “the development of an enlightened conscience, formed and guided by the responsible and serious discernment of one’s pastor” that the action is good: it is nothing less than “what God is asking.”

Now Buttiglione defends even this truly indefensible passage very cleverly, but to do this he is obliged to introduce an element that doesn’t appear in the text at all. Indeed, Buttiglione states: “The Pope does not say that God is happy with the fact that divorced-and-remarried continue to have sexual intercourse with each other. The conscience recognizes that it is not in conformity with the law. However, the conscience also knows that it has begun a journey of conversion. One still sleeps with a woman who is not his wife but has stopped taking drugs and going with prostitutes, has found a job and takes care of his children. He has the right to think that God is happy with him, at least in part.” (emphasis added.)

For Buttiglione, then, God would be happy, with the person in question, not in relation to the situation that does not correspond objectively to the commandment of the Gospel (the adulterous situation), but with other (good) things. And really, if AL said this, no one would object. Unfortunately, however, the text does not say this, since it does not refer to other aspects, but it says loud and clear, to quote it once more, that “a situation that does not correspond to the commandment of the Gospel” — this situation, not something else — is “what God himself is asking.” So AL 303 says something completely different from what Professor Buttiglione would like it to say. And yet Buttiglione claims that it’s us who are making the Pope say what he didn’t really say.

Rocco Buttiglione seems to be saying that a priest can advise a penitent to receive Communion, even if he is an unrepentant adulterer, so long as he lacks full knowledge and full consent. But wouldn’t the priest be obliged to form the penitent’s conscience so that he did have full knowledge and full consent, and so either had to stop committing adultery or abstain from receiving Holy Communion?

And here we come to the most obvious contradiction of the text under consideration: in fact, in addition to what we have already illustrated about the presence of “situational ethics,” recourse to the issue of diminished awareness or of ignorance directly conflicts with the main theme proposed by Amoris Laetitia VIII: “to accompanying, discerning and integrating fragility.”

Throughout this process of accompaniment and discernment, which should culminate in sacramental confession, it is logical to expect that the person is brought to know the truth of his situation: sacramental absolution then will only be possible to give to those who, once conscious of their sinful situation, repent of it. It’s unthinkable that, in a process of discernment of his adulterous situation, the penitent confess only his other sins, those he would “be aware of,” while he would not be aware of the adultery, which is precisely the matter about which he is being accompanied and discerning.

In general, this contradiction means that the doctrine of extenuating circumstances is not used correctly in the document; in fact, if the main theme of the text is “accompanying and discerning,” i.e. helping someone become aware and take stock, it doesn’t make sense to then invoke, in this same context, the lack of awareness.

And so Buttiglione’s claim that we are unfaithful to the text, in his initial example, also falls apart. He says: “Let’s take an example: in their second proposition they attribute to the Pope the statement that the remarried divorcee who remains in this state with full knowledge of the nature of their act and full consent of the will, is in God’s grace. Whereas the Pope says something else: in some cases, a person who is divorced and remarried who remains in that state without full knowledge and full consent of the will can be in God's grace.” Now, it’s true that the Pope refers to extenuating circumstances, but the fact is that this reference conflicts with what is supposed to be taking place, which is discernment. It is, in fact, contradictory to claim “to discern” and yet be “without knowledge.” So these “few cases” in which full knowledge is lacking certainly exist, but you cannot pretend that they belong to the subject under consideration. From this observation, one realizes that the doctrine of extenuating circumstances is used here only as a mask to conceal situational ethics.

St. John Paul II says: “It would be a very serious error to conclude that the Church’s teaching is essentially only an ‘ideal’ which must then be adapted, proportioned, graduated to the so-called concrete possibilities of man, according to a ‘balancing of the goods in question’. But what are the ‘concrete possibilities of man’? And of which man are we speaking? Of man dominated by lust or of man redeemed by Christ? This is what is at stake: the reality of Christ’s redemption.” Are the signatories saying that (if Pope Francis is acting with full knowledge and full consent) he is guilty of this “very serious error” and implicitly denying “the reality of Christ’s redemption”?

In AL VIII the frequent reference to “the limits of the situation,” which supposedly hinder the observance of the commandment, is implicitly, but clearly, proof that the text is materially in conflict with the canons of the Council of Trent which condemn the statement that it is impossible for a man who is justified to observe the commandments. However, I must again emphasize that we absolutely make no judgement on the issue of whether the pope is personally guilty of this error. On the contrary, we explicitly deny both to have the intention and the power to do it. In this, we clearly distinguish ourselves from Buttiglione, who instead takes the liberty of harshly judging us, even attributing to us “great malice” (in his commentary to our fourth censure).

In general, what do you think of Buttiglione’s rebuttal of your propositions?

It seems clear to me that it’s an extremely rushed and superficial rebuttal: the very fact that Buttiglione thinks he is refuting us with these few sentences is frankly surprising to see in such an intelligent and reflective person. As we have seen from the few examples cited from the Correction, each sentence deserves a long treatment, and a rich bibliography has already appeared about each one. And, as I’ve already said, Buttiglione is not ignorant of this. And so this attitude rather reveals a certain nervousness, a certain anxiety to hurry away from a much more complex situation than Buttiglione is willing to admit. I sincerely hope that he comes back and reflects more seriously about this whole situation.

How far is the neo-conservative movement in the Church responsible for creating this crisis by confusing (over many years) ultramontanism for orthodoxy?

Certainly there is some responsibility: far too often it’s been the case that many people say that something is true “because the pope said it,” avoiding the trouble of studying the sources of the Tradition and Scripture, and also the difficulty of thinking through the philosophical foundations of ethics. This is definitely something we need to correct: the papacy is an immense gift for Catholics, but it shouldn’t be turned into an incentive for ignorance and laziness, as when people adopt the Pope’s position uncritically, without really examining or understanding the issues.

In the present case, I am compelled to point out that a person of Buttiglione’s intellectual and moral standing would never defend such an indefensible text, if he were not doing it in order to defend a preconceived position, an ideological choice ultimately based on a false concept of the papacy.

Do you think Pope Francis knows full well the rule that he is supposed to teach orthodox doctrine, but has great difficulty in understanding ‘its inherent value’?

I have taught for a decade in a theological faculty here in Latin America, where I have gotten to know many Jesuits, both as colleagues and as students. In light of this experience, I have come to the conclusion that, unfortunately, Pope Francis has deeply absorbed, both within the Company of Jesus, as well as from certain German universities (which in turn have profoundly influenced theology here in Latin America), more than one idea that has little to do with Catholic orthodoxy.  One of these ideas is the sovereign contempt for everything that is “doctrine” (and for those who dedicate themselves to defend it). Such contempt is summed up in his famous maxim: “Reality is superior to ideas” (which we already discussed in our previous interview).

Providentially, however, this same disdain for “doctrine” prevents him from presenting as genuine magisterium (which precisely would be “doctrine”) the opinions that he holds as a private teacher.

Read More: LifeSite’s September 29 interview with Prof. Pierantoni on the Modernist roots of the present crisis.

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Progressive Conservative Party leader Patrick Brown
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Pro-life leader slams abortion bill, calls on Conservatives to defend free speech

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TORONTO, October 10, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) —  After Ontario Liberals rejected a Conservative motion last week to fast-track a sweeping law criminalizing pro-life activities outside abortion centers, critics and media accused them of playing politics with abortion eight months before a provincial election.

But Campaign Life Coalition senior political strategist Jack Fonseca warns MPPs not to lose sight of the fact that Bill 163 violates the Charter and should be opposed regardless of one’s view on abortion.

“This is fundamentally a free speech issue,” he told LifeSiteNews.

“As such, the proposed legislation strikes at the heart of our democracy, our western civilization. If we don’t have free speech, we are not a free people. Period.”

Introduced by Attorney General Yasir Naqvi on October 4, Bill 163, or the Protecting a Woman’s Right to Access Abortion Services Act, outlaws all pro-life activity, including sidewalk counselling, within 50 meters of Ontario’s eight abortion centres — a distance that can be increased to 150 meters on request.

It also automatically establishes 150-meter zones around the homes of abortionists and abortion center staff, which will move with abortion providers to protect them wherever they are, Naqvi told reporters in an October 4 press conference.

Moreover, any healthcare facility that commits abortions can apply for “safe access” zones of up to 150 meters under the bill.

That includes pharmacies, which under Ontario’s health insurance plan can now dispense the abortion pill for free.

Brown supports abortion and Liberal bill

The Liberals are pushing the bill as necessary to protect women by promoting the false narrative that pro-life advocates intimidate women outside abortion facilities.

It’s a narrative the media uncritically repeat as fact, as do some Conservatives -- including leader Patrick Brown.

“Let me be very clear: I am pro-choice. That includes protecting women exercising their rights from intimidation or harassment,” Brown said in a statement released just before Naqvi announced the bill.

And Conservatives present at Queen’s Park the next day promised unanimous consent, with MPP Lisa MacLeod putting forward a motion to pass the bill the same day with no debate.

The Liberals rejected the motion, with Naqvi’s office releasing a statement that abortion advocates should have a chance to “provide input to strengthen the bill during the committee process,” reported the CBC.

In the ensuing press excoriation of the Liberals for delaying the bill to divide the Tories, pundits reflexively painted pro-lifers as villains.

“In the weeks and months ahead, women seeking abortions in Ontario may continue to be harassed by protesters seeking to humiliate them,” wrote the Globe’s Adam Radwanski.

“They may be yelled at, personally insulted, accused of being murderers. They may find their paths toward clinics obstructed as gruesome images are waved in their faces. They may be spat at.”

Echoing this was Andre Marin, the unsuccessful PC Party candidate for Ottawa-Vanier in the November 2016 by-election who called for Brown to declare war on social conservatives.

“Harassers have been in plain view with big, screaming anti-abortion placards dishing out obscenities and insults at whoever gets close to the clinic doors,” he wrote in the Toronto Sun.

Liberal line a lie: Campaign Life

This is a “bald-faced lie,” says Fonseca.

“As a rule, pro-lifers at abortion facilities are peaceful and prayerful,” he told LifeSiteNews.

“Offering a woman a pamphlet is not an act of violence. Offering a woman information about the development of her baby in-utero that she may never have seen before is not assault,” he said.

"Offering support and help to a woman who thinks the violence of abortion is her only option is not harassment, but a loving response to a woman in a difficult situation,” added Fonseca.

“In fact, it may save her from post-abortion trauma, higher risk for suicidality, and serious adverse medical complications such as perforations, sepsis, infertility) that are so common in women who’ve aborted,” he said.

Moreover, to offer such information is “legitimate free expression on a public sidewalk that nobody should ever think of banning as criminal acts.”

Will Brown whip vote?

Despite the inflammatory rhetoric surrounding Bill 163, and Brown’s hostility to social conservatives, the Tory leader hasn’t said publicly if he’ll whip the vote.

Brown whipped the vote for Bill 28, which legally redefined the family to appease LGBTQ activists.

He also whipped second reading vote on Bill 89, which enshrined the LGBTQ agenda in the province’s child welfare and adoption services.

But when a handful of MPPs refused to vote for Bill 89 on third reading, Brown agreed to caucus voting against it. Brown also faced pressure on Bill 89 from Campaign Life, Parents As First Educators (PAFE), and the Association for Reformed Political Action (ARPA), noted Fonseca.

Fonseca hopes caucus and the party grassroots will similarly pressure Brown to allow a free vote on Bill 163.

“There are certainly many PC MPPs who can’t possibly agree with this unconstitutional legislation,” he said.

Fonseca also hopes pro-life government MPPs will vote against the bill, as well as those concerned about free speech.

“Maybe you’re pro-abortion, and would love to stick it to pro-lifers because you dislike their views,” he said.  

But there’s a “bigger issue at stake here than the politics of abortion,” added Fonseca.

“Do you really want to grant the state the power to deny some Canadians their fundamental constitutional rights, on the basis of their ethical, religious or political opinions?” he said.

“Today it’s those pesky pro-lifers. Tomorrow it could be a different group that shares your values. It might even be you.”

Campaign Life asks concerned individuals write their MPPs to oppose the bill. To find out who your MPP is, go to Campaign Life’s website here.

Campaign Life also asking people to sign the petition opposing Bill 163, found here.

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Canadians push back against law that jails pro-life witness outside abortion clinics

BREAKING: Ontario to ban pro-life witness outside abortion clinics

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Stephen Black
Fr. Mark Hodges Fr. Mark Hodges

News

Former homosexual to keynote conference exposing LGBT lies 

Fr. Mark Hodges Fr. Mark Hodges

NAPERVILLE, Illinois, October 10, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) — Americans for Truth about Homosexuality (AFT) is holding its annual two-day Banquet and "Teach-In" later than month.

"If you have a loved one or friend who was caught up in the homosexual or transgender lifestyle, this is the conference for you," AFT founder Peter LaBarbera told LifeSiteNews. "If you want to learn how to refute the lies of so-called 'Gay Christianity,' then come to this conference."

The featured speaker is ex-gay author Stephen Black, who lived the gay lifestyle for eight years but since has repented. The conference is scheduled for Oct. 20-21 at Grace for Life Bible Church in Naperville.

Black is now a Christian family man and the director of First Stone Ministries, which helps people overcome homosexuality. First Stone Ministries also works with people of all backgrounds toward healing and restoration from any sexual brokenness, including sexual abuse, pornography addiction, and homosexuality.

Another featured presenter is Denise Shick, founder and executive director of Help 4 Families Ministry.

Black is also the author of a forthcoming book, "Freedom Realized", and board chairman of Restored Hope Network, the largest umbrella group of ex-gay Christian ministries. He served as chairman of the Ministry Council of Exodus International, which later collapsed after other leaders rejected the organization's mission to heal homosexuals. Restored Hope Network was formed in the wake of Exodus International's collapse.

Black's story is a testimony to both the power of Jesus’ love and that homosexuality is curable.

"Our keynote speaker, Stephen Black, is living proof that homosexuality is not 'who you are' or how you were born but a lifestyle that can be overcome through the grace of Christ," LaBarbera, who also writes for LifeSiteNews, said.

"I am so excited that Americans for Truth can give voice to people like Stephen who testify to God's power to change people caught up in sin, even politically correct sins like homosexuality."

Molested and bullied as a boy, Black came to believe that he was “gay.” Still unhappy after eight years of the gay lifestyle, Black ultimately found salvation through Christ, walked away from homosexual sin, married a wonderful woman and had children (he's a grandfather now, too).

He has now lived 35 happy years free of the despair and agony of homosexuality.

His book, "Freedom Realized: Finding Freedom from Homosexuality & Living a Life Free from Labels", testifies to the truth, ignored by the media, that many men and women have found freedom from homosexuality through Jesus Christ.

"Stephen’s powerful testimony and bold defense of biblical truth is a rebuke to the timidity and shallow, defensive thinking on homosexual sin that pervades the evangelical church today," LaBarbera wrote.

Shick will speak at the "Teach-In" on the second day of the conference on October 21. Help 4 Families is a Christian ministry that helps families understand the emotional and spiritual issues that they face when a loved one is gender confused.

When Shick was only nine, her father told her he wanted to become a “woman.” He told her to keep it a secret from her own mother. You can read more of her deeply moving story here.

Shick is the author of three books dealing with “transgender” issues, including “My Daddy’s Secret”, “When Hope Seems Lost”, “Understanding Gender Confusion — A Faith Based Perspective”, and other publications.

She has published articles in The Federalist, American Thinker, The Daily Signal, and Barbwire. She serves on the testimonial council with the International Children’s Right Institute.

"If you are sick of the media's lies about the LGBTQ movement, then this conference is the antidote," LaBarbera concluded.

The conference begins with a banquet on Friday, October 20, at 6 p.m., with Black as the keynote speaker. The conference continues the following day with a "Teach-In" at 9 a.m. A casual lunch will be served, at which attendees may meet the presenters. The conference ends with Black, Shick, and Diane Gramley of American Family Association of Pennsylvania in Q&A sessions Saturday afternoon.

Grace for Life Bible Church in Naperville is just west of Chicago at 78201 S. River Road (the corner of River Road and Aurora Avenue).

Conference registration and meals are $25 per person. A table of 10 at Friday's banquet is available for $250. For more information, visit Americans for Truth about Homosexuality.

Black's book, “Freedom Realized”, is available here.

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Greece Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras addresses Parliament.
Fr. Mark Hodges Fr. Mark Hodges

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‘Monstrous’: Orthodox leaders slam LGBT law that lets teens ‘change gender’

Fr. Mark Hodges Fr. Mark Hodges

ATHENS, Greece, October 10, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) – Greece has passed a controversial sex-change law that Orthodox leaders say will destroy mankind.

The “Change of Sex” bill passed overwhelmingly, by 171 votes, in Parliament with strong support from Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras. It grants legal recognition to sex changes without any requirement other than the desire of the applicant, allowing anyone age 15 or older to legally change gender.

Tsipras spoke against what the country’s dominant Orthodox Church calls “Holy Tradition” and the Church’s teaching on the family in heated words to Parliament.

“Absolutely no Tradition, no perception of family, calls for people to be sidelined or tossed aside into a social and institutional abyss,” the Greek Prime Minister said.

The proposal was adopted by the Greek Parliament upon its first reading and immediately drew fire from Orthodox Church leaders, who unanimously condemned the law as “immoral” and “monstrous.”

Greece was thrown into upheaval last week when the Leftist Syriza party proposed making sex change a matter of personal choice completely unrelated not only to biology but to any medical or psychological diagnosis confirming gender dysphoria. The unconditional choice law even goes so far as to make sex change legally recognized without therapy, testing, counseling, hormones, or surgery.

Greek law previously required legal gender changes to be after a diagnosis of gender identity disorder and concrete steps to change gender have taken place, such as sex “change” surgery. But homosexual groups argued that anyone at any time for any reason should be able to demand that the legal system recognize them as the opposite sex.

The new law makes legal gender identity change by simple declaration up to two times back and forth, and applies to minors as young as 15.

"I can’t wait!” 40 year-old Raffaela told Reuters before the final vote. “The moment the bill passes, I’m changing my identity!”

The Holy Synod, an official gathering of Orthodox bishops in Greece, warned that the proposed law is an “affront to society” and a threat to “the sanctity of family.”

“The proposed bill … attacks the sacred institution of the family, contradicts good morals and common sense and destroys man,” the bishops unanimously stated. “Instead of diminishing confusion and mental disorders, it will increase them and give rise to a dangerous social phenomenon.” They added that it will create “an explosive situation in schools as well.”

The bishops issued a joint document delineating the Christian view of sex. Male/female gender is “the basis of psychosomatic complementarity in the mystery of life and love,” the hierarchs explained. One’s gender “is not eligible to be changed, but is a Divine gift to man to be used in his sanctification.”

“Gender is neither freely chosen nor altered at will,” the Synod asserted, and Greek law must not be subject to “the scientifically unsubstantiated statement of the citizen, which may later be changed.”

The Orthodox leaders warned that compassion for “the afflicted and wronged fellow man” is not behind the proposal but instead the coercion of powerful lobbying groups, which result “in the dissolution of social cohesion and the spiritual death of man.”

The prelates called upon parliament to “withdraw the bill” and for the world to stop “strengthening tension, division and absurdity, to contribute to the spiritual uplifting of our citizens.”

The Synod concluded by reiterating that Christians love the sinner, and part of that love is to tell the truth about harmful behaviors like sodomy. “The Church surrounds all people with love and understanding indiscriminately, but always desiring their salvation must demonstrate the failure of critical decisions.”

Individual Orthodox leaders spoke out against the bill as well. “You are promoting a bill which denies the Triune God and Creator and casts blasphemy upon Him,” Metropolitan Kosmas of Aetolia wrote to Parliament. “This new law is unnatural, it encroaches upon the psychosomatic identity of the person, fosters depravity, and aims to thwart a person on his (spiritual) path.”

“The bones of our saints and heroes are trembling!” Kosmas said.

“We expect that you (Parliament) will raise your voice against this bill,” the Metropolitan urged before the vote. “The people are searching for role models, Greek leaders, who will save the Motherland and the people.”

“Today they tell us that God did not create man and woman, driving the idea from the minds of our children. Every man can easily become a woman, and every woman a man,” Metropolitan Nicholas of Phthiotis argued in a sermon. “Do you know why they are doing this? They want to ensure, at any cost, that homosexuals will be able to adopt children.”

“Do you see how far these Greek Orthodox deputies have sunk?” Nicholas preached.  “They have brought blasphemy upon the human body ... It is madness for any reasonable person, and a satanic deed from the point of view of God’s law. But some people are trying to make our state a state of sin.”

“Gender is sacred,” Bishop Nicholas of Mesogaia said in a TV interview. “It is a precious thing for a woman to know about her feminine nature, and for a man to be aware of his male nature.”

“Independent Greeks” Deputy Kostas Katsikis took a bold step contrary to his party by opposing the sex change law. Katsikis called the law “a threat to the avaton of the Holy Mountain,” which keeps Mount Athos, a reclusive monastery-only island, exclusively male populated.  

The leading monks on Mount Athos wrote to the Ministers of Justice and Education and Religious Affairs as well as Parliament, stating their concern for “the Orthodox faith of the Fatherland” in light of the sex change law. “We wonder what is left for our future,” the monks confess.

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Liberty Counsel's Jonathan Alexandre (center) testifies in Miami during a debate on a reparative therapy ban. Liberty Counsel
Lisa Bourne Lisa Bourne Follow Lisa

News,

Florida county rejects ban on therapy for gender-confused children

Lisa Bourne Lisa Bourne Follow Lisa

October 10, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) — The Miami-Dade County Board of County Commissioners voted 7-4 last week to reject a proposed ban on assisting minors who experience unwanted same-sex attraction or gender confusion.

After more than five hours of debate and more than 70 people speaking against the reparative therapy ban, Miami-Dade commissioners voted it down on October 3, a Liberty Counsel release said. The statement picked up by Christian Newswire said the ban failed because of its targeting speech with which its proponents disagreed.

The ban’s supporters misrepresented their actual goal, according to Liberty Counsel, which was to prohibit not only licensed counselors but pastors, teachers and parents from talking to any minor about the child's unwanted same-sex attractions or gender confusion.

The ban would have prohibited anyone from telling a minor that same-sex activity or identifying as the opposite sex is harmful, wrong, or should be resisted, it said.

Penalties for violating the proposed therapy ban would have been $500 for the first violation and $1,000 for subsequent offenses. Each therapy session with a minor would mean a violation. The proposed ban would have affected unincorporated parts of Miami-Dade County.

The majority of commissioners voted to reject the “poorly-drafted speech ban” as a violation of First Amendment free speech, religious exercise, and parental rights, and also on the grounds that government should not insert itself between a client and a counselor.

"We commend the majority of Miami-Dade County Commissioners who voted for the First Amendment," said Liberty Counsel founder and chairman Mat Staver. "Municipalities have no authority to invade the counselor-client relationship.”

“The speech ban's attempted reach beyond 'licensed' professionals to anyone and everyone else, including pastors counseling church members and parents counseling their own minor children, was an egregious First Amendment violation,” Staver said. “Licensed counselors and unlicensed persons all have First Amendment rights to counsel minors against the harms of homosexuality and gender confusion, for secular, scientific, and religious reasons.”

The legal non-profit worked with the Christian Family Coalition to provide information and support to commissioners on the issue. Its director of public policy was part of last Tuesday’s testimony against the ban.

Florida proponents of reparative therapy counseling bans have focused their efforts on municipal governments, trying to accomplish at the local level what they have failed to do statewide, according to Liberty Counsel, which would violate the jurisdiction the Florida Legislature holds over licensed professionals who practice there.

Miami Beach, Miami, Wilton Manors, West Palm Beach, and Bay Harbor have all banned reparative therapy.

The county’s Public Safety and Health Committee had given unanimous approval of Proposed ordinance 17-1359 in July.

Reparative therapy, often termed conversion therapy, helps individuals in resisting, acting upon, minimizing or changing unwanted same-sex attraction.

LGBT advocates criticize the practice for its repudiation of the principle that sexual attraction is immutable. There is political divide in the mental health field on the therapy.   

Several U.S. states and at least one Canadian province have banned reparative therapy.

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Alex Schadenberg Alex Schadenberg Follow Alex

Opinion

Canada reports nearly 2,000 assisted suicide deaths in first year of legalization

Alex Schadenberg Alex Schadenberg Follow Alex

October 10, 2017 (Euthanasia Prevention Coalition) — The data from Health Canada's second Interim Report on assisted dying states that there were 1982 reported assisted deaths (1,977 reported euthanasia deaths and five reported assisted-suicide deaths) in the first year (June 17, 2016-June 30, 2017) since legalization.

There were 167 reported euthanasia deaths in Québec prior to the federal government legalizing assisted death, therefore as of June 30 there have been (1,982 + 167) 2,149 reported assisted deaths in Canada.

Canadian governments have established a self-reporting system, meaning the doctor who carries out the death is the same doctor who reports the death (no oversight of the law) therefore it is possible that under-reporting and abuse of the law occurs. Based on the first Québec government euthanasia report 14 percent of the assisted deaths did not comply with the law.

There have been several stories indicating that there are problems with Canada's euthanasia law. For instance, Candice Lewis was pressured by doctors to die by euthanasia. Now she is feeling much better.

In late September 2016, Dr. Will Johnston reported on two British Columbia deaths that appear to abuse the euthanasia law.

In November, I was contacted by a man who stated that his Aunt, who died by euthanasia, may only have had a bladder infection.

Canada's euthanasia law does not protect conscience rights for medical professionals. The Coalition for HealthCare and Conscience launched a legal challenge to the Ontario College of Physicians policy that forces physicians, who oppose killing, to "effectively refer" their patients to a physician who will kill.

Effective referral is defined as referral for the purpose of the act. The court case was heard (June 13-15) in an Ontario court.

A Canadian bioethicist published an article promoting euthanasia/organ donation and a study was published stating that up to $138 million can be saved by euthanasia.

Meanwhile, a Toronto study that was published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that requests for euthanasia are based on existential distress and not physical pain.

To make matters worse, in June an Ontario judge extended euthanasia to non terminal people by redefining the phrase "natural death must be reasonably forseeable" in his decision and Canadian euthanasia doctors are demanding more money to kill.

The number of Canadian euthanasia deaths is high when compared to Belgium, where there was 235 reported assisted deaths in the first year (2003), 349 in the second year and 393 in its third year after legalization. In 2015, there were 2021 reported Belgian assisted deaths. Belgium has approximately one-thirdof Canada's population.

Data from a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine (March 2015) indicates that more than 40 percent of the assisted deaths in Belgium were not reported in 2013.

In the Netherlands, there were 6,091 reported assisted deaths in 2016 representing 4 percent of all deaths. Data from a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine indicates that 23 percent of the assisted deaths in the Netherlands were not reported in 2015.

Based on the number of reported assisted deaths, it is possible that Canada will quickly surpass the Netherlands and Belgium.

The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition continues to oppose euthanasia.

  • EPC has successfully produced the Euthanasia Deception documentary focusing on personal stories by people with direct experience with euthanasia,

  • EPC is distributing the Caring Not Killing pamphlet explaining why euthanasia and assisted suicide are not necessary and what you can do to make a difference,

  • EPC is working with the Compassionate Community Care service that offers advice and direction for family and friends of people who are considering dying by assisted death or people facing difficult end-of-life decisions. Contact CCC at: 1-855-675-8749. 

The euthanasia debate must go beyond theory and buzz words and focus human reality. People usually ask for euthanasia when they are emotionally or psychologically distraught by their medical or personal situation. Euthanasia abandons people at the most vulnerable time of their life.

The answer to euthanasia is to care for people and not to kill people.

Reprinted with permission from the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition.

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The SPUC staff in Scotland SPUC
Dorothy Cummings McLean Dorothy Cummings McLean Follow Dorothy

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‘So inspiring’: Scottish conference promotes the culture of life

Dorothy Cummings McLean Dorothy Cummings McLean Follow Dorothy
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8

GLASGOW, Scotland, October 10, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) — Glamorous Glasgow was wet with rain, but the historic center was crowded with cheerful pedestrians. Memory guided me to St. Vincent Street, where I found the shiny black building in which Scotland’s Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC Scotland) was holding its annual conference.

Having been on pilgrimage in Edinburgh that morning, I was late. I missed both the first talk, “Dictatorship of Relativism” by Irish journalist David Quinn, and morning tea. The crowd of participants — about 180 people — had moved from the snazzy post-modern antechamber back into the wide lecture room. I hastily gave my name to the two pre-teen girls manning the registration desk, and Timothy Keohane of the Tradition Family Property Association (TFP) found me the right door.

“The speaker is their mother,” he had said, nodding at the girls.

A slender woman with black mid-heeled ankle boots was at the front of the inner chamber, describing the psychological and physiological state of women in crisis pregnancies. This was Claire Bremner of Scotland’s Abortion Recovery Care and Helpline (ARCH). ARCH is a call-in counseling service run by volunteers since 1998. From 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. every evening, one of a rota of trained volunteers, called Befrienders, sign into the phone system from home and wait for the inevitable calls. There were several Befrienders in the audience.

Abortion recovery helpline

Bremner argued that so many women in crisis choose abortion because, in their panic, they can’t see any other way out of their “dark tunnel.” Pregnancy hormones combined with the adrenaline triggered by fear rob many women of their critical faculties. Their worries are exacerbated by negative messages from people around them, including the devastating “You’d be selfish to have this baby.”

“The (false) light at the end of this tunnel is, ‘You can have an abortion,’” said Bremner.

Once the woman has an abortion, the threat is over, so her crisis feelings subside and she often feels relief. She can then realize “the obvious,” Bremner continued. “It all comes crashing down.” Many post-abortive women experience grief, guilt, anger, self-loathing, suicidal impulses, fear of punishment, fear that they will never be forgiven and, oddly enough, a passionate desire to get pregnant again.

“I’ve never heard of any abortion provider pointing out that reality,” Bremner said.

She ended her speech with the story of Ellie, a Glasgow woman who wanted her baby but a combination of pressures led her to aborting the child after 16 weeks instead. Midway through describing Ellie’s ordeal at the hands of the National Health Service, Bremner broke down and had a sip of water while struggling to compose herself.

“They didn’t ask her how she was getting home,” said the counselor. “In the 21st century, is this good healthcare for any woman?”

During the lunch break, which featured such Scottish delicacies as fried “haggis bon-bons,” I chatted with two young SPUC staffers and then John Mason, a pro-life Member of Scottish Parliament. Mason, a member of the Scottish National Party, is the MSP for Glasgow Shettleston, one of the poorest areas in Scotland.

Pro-life member of Scottish Parliament

Mason vehemently disagrees with British politicians, including from his own party, who want to decriminalize abortion. “I want to get the time limit reduced,” he told me. Currently in the UK unborn babies can be aborted up to 24th week if they are deemed a threat to their mothers’ health.

The MSP says the pro-life movement in Scotland is waiting to see what develops in the pro-abortion drive to decriminalize before it moves forward. If pro-lifers act prematurely, “there could be a reaction and that would make things worse.”

Mason believes that Scotland is a more conservative country than England, which is why some pro-abortion activists did not want the issue of abortion devolved from Westminster to the Scottish Parliament. He doesn’t think the secular humanism of most of Scotland’s MSPs reflects “the true range of public opinion in Scotland.” Nevertheless, Mason, a member of the Baptist community, says there are a “core” of Scottish MSPs that he can depend on to support him in his work for pro-life, pro-family causes.

This was Mason’s first SPUC conference, and he said he’d like to see more MSPs there. He suggested that other MSPs fear they’d be criticized if it became widely known that they opposed abortion. Mason said he’s “used to the flak,” and that being known as pro-life hasn’t done him any harm.

“People like the fact that (some politicians) have values,” he said. “They know where you stand.”

Asked what help a pregnant teenager could expect from his constituency, Mason pointed to the welfare state’s wide-ranging benefit system and also a provision of nursery care for the children of the most vulnerable citizens. He said his party is opposed to changes that will bundle child credit payments — which currently go straight to mothers — with disability support and other benefits into one family welfare payment.

SPUC Scotland’s initiatives

After lunch a bespectacled man in a grey suit — SPUC chief executive John Deighan — talked to the crowd about building a culture of life in the face of 57 million annual abortions worldwide. Pro-lifers getting to know each other and working together is “key,” he said.

SPUC Scotland initiatives include education in Catholic schools and parishes, “White Flower appeals,” parliamentary engagement, media monitoring, resisting the decriminalization of abortion with a “Scottish Grassroots Tour,” the youth-run Project Truth, the ARCH service and its own “charity shop,” i.e. used good store. Charity shops are a fundraising staple in the UK.  

Deighan encouraged the crowd to take a break before the keynote address to talk to SPUC staff, and also asked them to join the UK’s political parties, so as to bring a pro-life presence to mainstream politics.

‘Abortion: from controversy to civility’

Speaking at the SPUC conference was a homecoming for Canadian Stephanie Gray, whose father is from Barrhead, 13 miles southwest of Glasgow. Wearing a black shift dress and candy red killer heels, tall, whippet-thin Gray modeled competence and professionalism as she taught a master class in debating strategy.

“Good arguments need good arguers,” she said. The goal of the good arguer is “to win the person along with the argument.”

Gray advocates a strategy that is deeply rooted in patience and charity for whomever one is addressing or debating. She stressed the importance of prayer beforehand “so that the inspiration of the Holy Spirit can flow into our encounters.” During the conversations, pro-life advocates should “ask a lot of questions and tell a lot of stories.”

A question is a great starting point for a conversation about abortion, Gray maintained, because it means the person you are speaking to has to stop and think. For example, it is better to ask a person “What do you think about abortion?” rather than “Do you support abortion?”

When an abortion advocate tells the pro-lifer what he or she thinks, the pro-lifer should try to find some common ground so as to “build a bridge.” For example, if your conversation partner asserts that poverty makes pregnancy difficult, you can say “I agree with you that to be pregnant and poor would be difficult.” But then you can make a point with a story (or “parable”) and another question — like “What if a rich woman had a baby and became poor two years later; could she kill her baby?”

Step by step, Gray took her audience through a typical debate with a pro-abortion advocate and showed how the conversation could be shifted from the circumstances around a crisis pregnancy to the humanity — and therefore the human rights — of the unborn child.

Rational argument is not always enough. Sometimes a pro-abortion advocate is arguing from not from the head but from the heart. “If they ask about rape, they’re not asking if the fetus is human,” said Gray. “They’re asking if we (pro-lifers) are human.”

Gray showed a clip of a young woman on a college campus arguing that she was right to have an abortion after she was raped at 13. The audience shivered with embarrassment at a pro-life man’s inability to acknowledge the horror of what had happened to the girl.

When it is clear that someone is not arguing intellectually but emotionally, it is a good idea to go back to asking questions, Gray advised. Such questions might include “Where does your passion come from?” “Do you know someone who has had an abortion?” “How are they doing?” and “What does someone who thinks like you want someone who thinks like me to think about?”

After Gray’s talk and the traditional SPUC raffle, the participants went out to the antechamber for cakes, coffee and chat. The crowd included such familiar faces as Sister Roseann Reddy of the Sisters of the Gospel of Life and David Kerr, the director of communications at the Archdiocese of St. Andrews & Edinburgh. There was also a sprinkling of children and babies.

Margaret Akers, the most recent addition to the SPUC Scotland staff, enthused over Gray’s presentation:

“I thought Stephanie’s speech was so great, so inspiring and so practical,” Akers said. “You could really put (her ideas) into practice.”

Another participant told me that she had been a member of SPUC Scotland since 1972 and had been to several annual conferences. She lowered her voice to tell me that the 2017 conference had “the best speakers I’ve ever heard in one room.”

I left the happily chatting, pastry-munching throng to catch my train back to Edinburgh, very glad to have had the chance to catch up with old friends and to meet so many other wonderful people active in Scotland’s pro-life movement.

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