All articles from January 04, 2018


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German Cardinals Walter Kasper and Reinhard Marx
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German bishops raked in $7.1 billion last year from taxpayers

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GERMANY, January 4, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) — The German Bishops’ Conference received the equivalent of $7.1 billion US from German Catholic taxpayers in 2017.

This is the highest amount of tax revenue the German Catholic Church has received since the church tax was introduced to the constitution of the Weimar Republic in 1919. The clause concerning the tax was included in the new German Constitution after the Second World War.

The church tax, or Kirchensteuer, is levied upon Roman Catholics, “Old Catholics,” Lutherans, two other Protestant communions, and Jews. The revenue was once kept by the German government for the upkeep of religious buildings and payment of ministers’ salaries, but it is now given directly to the governing bodies of these religious communities. Muslim places of worship are self-supporting or receive funds from abroad.

The Kirchensteuer represents 8 percent-9 percent of an individual’s annual income, depending on where in Germany they live. The monthly deduction appears as “KS” on payslips, much to the consternation of foreign employees who do not consider themselves members of these   religious communities but are taxed all the same. According to Handelsblatt, the German business magazine that broke the story of the German Church’s record haul, officials will go so far as to request the baptismal records of foreign nationals.

Germans and foreign residents can opt out of the church tax by going to a government office or courthouse, signing documents stating that they are no longer members of their religion, and paying a fee. German Christians began doing this in large numbers in the 1990s when taxes were significantly increased to rebuild post-reunification East Germany. In some cases, Christians signed the forms and continued participating in their faith communities.

However, the German Catholic bishops shut the door on this option for Catholics in 2012 when they decreed that Catholics who opted out of the Church tax would be socially and spiritually penalized.

Catholics who opt out of the church tax will not be employed by the German Catholic Church or its establishments, including schools and hospitals. They are not allowed to join such Catholic groups as church choirs. They may not be godparents. They are denied the sacraments and a Catholic funeral.

While devout Catholics may be frightened by the thought of being cut off from the sacraments, even the most reluctant of cultural Catholics may think twice before opting out of the church tax: the German Catholic Bishops Conference is the second biggest employer in Germany.

This may be one reason why the 89.8 percent of Catholic Germans who do not go to Sunday Mass continue to pay the tax. However, more and more of the less committed do opt out every year. In 2016, 160,000 Catholics declared that they no longer belonged to the Church.

As only 10.2 percent of Germany’s Catholics go to Mass on Sunday, one may be forgiven for asking exactly what the German Catholic Bishops are doing with the billions of euros they receive every year.

Well, there are salaries, of course. German bishops make more than $12,000 US a month, and then there are all the people working for them, including those who work for Germany’s Catholic charity Caritas, and all the other services run by the Church: museums, hospitals, kindergartens, schools, colleges, and retirement homes.

There are also German Church charities that minister to the poor overseas. According to the UK’s Catholic Herald,  projects in Africa, Asia, Latin America and Eastern Europe received more than €451 million in funding from German Catholic aid organizations in 2015.

Then there is the German Church’s rich architectural patrimony to keep in good repair. The German bishops may not have many priests or Sunday Mass-goers, but they need never close a church, let alone sell it, due to budgetary constraints.

But one thing the German bishops are not doing with their billions of euros: They are not making a dent on the growing secularization of Germany. With all their money, they cannot convince the vast majority of German Catholics -- let alone anyone else -- to embrace the Gospel and worship God on Sundays.

Meanwhile, the attempts of certain German Cardinals to widen the straight and narrow path of the Catholic faith for the greater comfort of unrepentant sexual sinners rankle orthodox Catholics who also pay the Church tax. Cardinal Walter Kasper has advocated for years that  divorced-and-remarried Catholics be permitted the sacraments, and yet any Catholic in Germany who balks at paying 8 percent to 9 percent of his or her income to the German bishops is de facto excommunicated.

“I think it’s scandalous that German bishops deny access to the sacraments to those Catholics in Germany who, for whatever reasons, do not wish to pay into a rather opaque fund,” a church taxpayer told LifeSiteNews.

John Goodall, 28, has been working in Germany for two years. The bishops’ attitude bothers him very much because, he says, they are simultaneously encouraging those who live an objectively immoral lifestyle to receive the sacraments. “It seems like a form of simony,”  said Goodall.

When Goodall first arrived in Germany, he registered at his town hall. There he was asked his religion, and Goodall said he was a Catholic. “Ever since, I’ve had the Kirchensteuer automatically deducted from my salary,” he told LifeSiteNews.

Goodall wonders if it might actually be immoral to pay the tax.

“I have spent ages looking through opinions on the matter because it feels slightly immoral paying (9 percent) to them,” he continued.

“As a traditional Catholic, I ... see traditional and authentic expressions of the faith being undermined by these same bishops. There are also the extravagant salaries of the bishops themselves. I’d much rather pay the money directly to the Old Rite parish I attend. I’d even be happy to pay (the parish) 9 percent directly.”  

He says the only advantage to the church tax that he can think of is that the church buildings are well maintained. “But I’d rather have proper doctrine and discipline than beautiful but empty churches.”

As for the vast network of German Church charities, Goodall has a question:

“Shouldn’t charitable giving be voluntary?”

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Bishop Schneider Interview: Catholics must not “become victims of an insane pope-centrism”

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January 4, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) — Soon after the three bishops of Kazakhstan released their statement critical of Pope Francis’ reading of Amoris Laetitia, Rorate Caeli interviewed Bishop Athanasius Schneider for further explanations as to why the three bishops undertook their bold, public action.

Bishop Schneider began by noting that for Catholics, “the expression ‘divorced and remarried’ is deceptive and misleading.” That is, once validly married, one is always married as long as one’s spouse is alive.

Schneider stated “a certain peak has reached in this process of implicit recognition of divorce in the life of the Church” when Pope Francis ordered formal Church publication and therefore approval of unacceptable norms on marriage similar to those issued by the bishops of Buenos Aires. 

“Divine Revelation,” explained Schneider, “with its absolute disapproval of divorce” and the contradiction of “the teaching and sacramental practice of the infallible Ordinary and Universal Magisterium of the Church” in the pope’s now formalized interpretation, gave the three Kazakhstan bishops no choice in their view.

Schneider states, “We were forced by our conscience, as successors of the Apostles, to raise our voice and to reiterate the immutable doctrine and practice of the Church regarding the indissolubility of the sacramental marriage.”

The norms of the papal interpretation, said Schneider, “would be for our people — and even for the so-called ‘divorced and remarried’ among them — a kind of blasphemy to demand access to Holy Communion while continuing to cohabitate with a person who is not their legitimate spouse.”

“The confusion” that Amoris Laetitia “has caused cannot be questioned,” he pronounced. 

Bishop Schneider also addressed the question of the "necessary attitude" toward the pope by bishops when there is such serious disagreement with the Vicar of Christ.

The outspoken Kazakhstan defender of the true faith stated the attitude “has to be collegial, fraternal, not servile and always supernaturally respectful.”

“One has to continue to profess the immutable faith and pray still more for the Pope and, then, only God can intervene and He will do this unquestionably.”

However, the Bishop was also frank about the limits of obedience to all that a pope says and does. Many faithful Catholics are known to be struggling with the issue during this very controversial papacy. 

Schneider pronounced that Catholics “have to bear in mind that the Pope is not the creator of the truth, of the faith and of the sacramental discipline of the Church. The Pope and the entire Magisterium “is not above the Word of God, but serves it, teaching only what has been handed on” (Second Vatican Council, Dei Verbum, 10). “

“Third”, he emphasized, “the Pope cannot be the focal point of the daily life of the faith of a Catholic faithful. The focal point must instead be Christ.” 

“Otherwise, we become victims of an insane pope-centrism or of a kind of popalatry, an attitude which is alien to the tradition of the Apostles, of the Church Fathers and of the greater tradition of the Church.” 

Bishop Schneider concluded with the "hope that after the current crisis the Church will reach a more balanced and sane attitude towards the person of the Pope and toward his sacred and indispensable ministry in the Church."

Full Text of Interview from by Rorate Caeli:

RORATE CAELI (RC): Your Excellency has personally been out in front in terms of restoration of the traditional liturgy for many years. Now Your Excellency, Archbishop Peta and Archbishop Lenga have come out publicly, and forcibly, in defense of marriage in the aftermath of Amoris Laetitia. Why did the three of you decide now was the time to respond? 

BISHOP ATHANASIUS SCHNEIDER (BAS): After the publication of Amoris Laetitia, several bishops and Bishops’ Conferences started to issue “pastoral” norms regarding the so-called “divorced and remarried”. One has to say that, for a Catholic, there is no divorce because a valid sacramental bond of a ratified and consumed marriage is absolutely indissoluble and even the bond of a natural marriage is per se indissoluble as well. Furthermore, for a Catholic, there is only one valid marriage being his legitimate spouse still alive. Therefore, one cannot speak of a “re-marriage” in this case.

The expression “divorced and remarried” is consequently deceptive and misleading. Since this expression is commonly known, we use it only in quotation marks and with the previous remark “so-called”. The mentioned pastoral norms regarding the so-called “divorced and remarried” — norms masked with a rhetoric bordering on sophism — foresee ultimately the admittance of the “divorced and remarried” to Holy Communion without the requirement of the indispensable and Divinely established condition that they may not violate their sacred marriage bond through their habitual sexual relationship with a person who is not their legitimate spouse. A certain peak has reached in this process of implicit recognition of divorce in the life of the Church, when Pope Francis ordered to publish in the Acta Apostolicae Sedis, his letter of approval of similar norms which issued the bishops of the Pastoral Region of Buenos Aires. 

This act was followed by a declaration that this papal approval would belong to the authentic Magisterium of the Church. In view of such pastoral norms which contradict Divine Revelation with its absolute disapproval of divorce and contradict also the teaching and sacramental practice of the infallible Ordinary and Universal Magisterium of the Church, we were forced by our conscience, as successors of the Apostles, to raise our voice and to reiterate the immutable doctrine and practice of the Church regarding the indissolubility of the sacramental marriage.

RC: Has the Kazakh conference officially released an interpretation of Amoris Laetitia? Do they plan to do so, or does this letter mean that the conference believes Amoris Laetitia cannot be understood in an orthodox way or is in any way compatible with the Catechism and with Scripture and Tradition?

BAS: The text of the “Profession of truths” is not a document of the Bishop’s Conference of Kazakhstan, but a document only of those bishops who signed it. Our Bishop’s Conference considered it not necessary to issue pastoral norms as an interpretation of AL. Even though in our society the plague of divorce is widespread, a consequence of 70 years of Communist materialism, and we have also in our parishes cases of so-called “divorced and remarried”, yet the same “divorced and remarried” would not dare to ask to be admitted to Holy Communion, since the awareness and conscience of sin is, thanks be to God, very deep routed in the souls, and even in the civil society.

In our country people commit sin as elsewhere, but our people still acknowledge that sin is sin, and therefore for such sinners there is hope for conversion and Divine mercy. It would be for our people — and even for the so-called “divorced and remarried” among them — a kind of blasphemy to demand access to Holy Communion while continuing to cohabitate with a person who is not their legitimate spouse. Therefore, our Bishops’ Conference did not see the necessity to issue relevant norms.

RC: We’ve had the famous dubia sent to the Pope and a filial correction – mostly by laymen – sent as well. Neither have garnered a response. However, many feel Francis has already responded in a sense, when he officially endorsed the Buenos Aires bishops’ apparently heretical instruction to the divorced, remarried and still cohabitating. Should we still expect anything more from Francis on this matter?  

BAS: The Buenos Aires bishops’ instructions do not express directly a heresy. Yet they allow, in individual cases, “divorced and remarried” people to receive Holy Communion in spite of the fact that they do not want to stop sexual relationships with their non-conjugal partner. In this case the mentioned pastoral instructions deny in practice, and hence indirectly, the Divinely revealed truth of the indissolubility of marriage. The sad circumstance is that the Pope approved such instructions. By this way the Pope gave, in my opinion, directly an answer to the first point and indirectly to the four other points of the dubia. We can only expect through our appeals, prayers and sacrifices, that Pope Francis may answer in a most unequivocal manner to the five points of the dubia according to the relevant teaching of the Ordinary and Universal infallible Magisterium.

RC: The threat to the Faithful has been clear, not only since Amoris Laetitia was promulgated, but just from the discussions alone at the synods. The confusion it has all caused cannot be questioned. However, much like the usefulness of Humanae Vitae was lessoned due to how long it took for it to be published, is all this now too late to stop the damage, especially when the Pope has now officially given permission for some divorced and remarried to receive Holy Communion?  

BAS: We have to bear in mind that the Church is not in our hands, and not even in the hands of the Pope, but in the almighty hands of Christ, and therefore we cannot say that all this is now too late to stop the damage. We can also apply the following affirmation of Saint Paul to our situation inside the Church: “Where sin increased, grace abounded all the more” (Rom. 5:20). God had permitted this current extraordinary doctrinal and moral confusion in the Church for the aim that, after this crisis, the truth will shine brighter and the Church will become spiritually more beautiful, especially in the married couples, in the families and in the popes. 

RC: We have heard now, for over a year, that a formal correction coming from the cardinals is imminent, yet nothing has happened. What do you believe is the hold up? 

BAS: In the face of the current temporal and partial eclipse of the function of the Papal Magisterium concerning concretely the defense and practical enforcement of the indissolubility the marriage, the members of the episcopal and of the cardinalitial colleges have to assist the Pope in this Magisterial duty through public professions of the immutable truths which the Ordinary and Universal Magisterium — that means what all the Popes and the entire episcopate during all times — have taught concerning the doctrine and the sacramental practice of the marriage. 

RC: If a formal correction is made by a number of cardinals, and Francis continues to officially approve of bishops’ conferences giving Holy Communion to some divorced and remarried, then what?  

BAS: There exists the following principle of the traditional Catholic doctrine since the first centuries: “Prima sedes a nemine iudicatur”, i.e., the first episcopal chair in the Church (the chair of the Pope) cannot be judged by anybody. When bishops remind the Pope respectfully of the immutable truth and discipline of the church, they don’t judge hereby the first chair of the Church, instead they behave themselves as colleagues and brothers of the Pope. The attitude of the bishops towards the Pope has to be collegial, fraternal, not servile and always supernaturally respectful, as it stressed the Second Vatican Council (especially in the documents Lumen gentium and Christus Dominus). One has to continue to profess the immutable faith and pray still more for the Pope and, then, only God can intervene and He will do this unquestionably.

RC: For the typical Catholic, who goes to Mass but maybe doesn’t follow the politics of the Church like Rorate readers do, the casual Catholics whom hear the Supreme Pontiff saying numerous confusing things over the past few years, things that appear contrary (hopefully) to what they’ve been taught their entire lives, what does Your Excellency say to them? And how do serious Catholics push back when, at every turn, they’re asked by modernists if they think they’re “more Catholic than the Pope”? 

BAS: First, these faithful have to continue to read and study the immutable Catechism, and especially the great doctrinal documents of the Church. Such documents are theme here, e.g., the Decrees of the Councils of Trent about the sacraments; the encyclicals Pascendi from Pius X.; Casti connubii from Pius XI; Humani generis from Pius XII; Humanae vitae from Paul VI; the Credo of the People of God from Paul VI; the encyclical Veritatis splendor from John Paul II; and his Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris consortio. These documents do not reflect a personal and short-lived meaning of a Pope or of a pastoral synod. Instead, these documents reflect and reproduce the infallible Ordinary and Universal Magisterium of the Church.

Second, they have to bear in mind that the Pope is not the creator of the truth, of the faith and of the sacramental discipline of the Church. The Pope and the entire Magisterium “is not above the Word of God, but serves it, teaching only what has been handed on” (Second Vatican Council, Dei Verbum, 10). The First Vatican Council taught that the charism of the ministry of the successors of Peter “does not mean that they might make known some new doctrine, but that, by the assistance of the Holy Spirit, they might religiously guard and faithfully expound the revelation or deposit of faith transmitted by the apostles” (Pastor aeternus, chap. 4).

Third, the Pope cannot be the focal point of the daily life of the faith of a Catholic faithful. The focal point must instead be Christ. Otherwise, we become victims of an insane pope-centrism or of a kind of popalatry, an attitude which is alien to the tradition of the Apostles, of the Church Fathers and of the greater tradition of the Church. The so called “ultramontanism” of the 19th and 20th centuries reached its peak in our days and created an insane pope-centrism and popolatry. To mention just an example: There had been in Rome in the end of the 19th century a famous Monsignor who led different pilgrim groups to the Papal audiences. Before he let them enter to see and hear the Pope, he said to them: “Listen carefully to the infallible words which will come out of the mouth of the Vicar of Christ”. Surely such an attitude is a pure caricature of the Petrine ministry and contrary to the doctrine of the Church. Nevertheless, even in our days, not so few Catholics, priests and bishops show substantially the same caricatural attitude towards the sacred ministry of the successor of Peter. 

The true attitude towards the Pope according to the Catholic tradition has to be always with sane moderation, with intelligence, with logic, with common sense, with the spirit of faith and of course, also, with heartfelt devotion. Yet there has to be a balanced synthesis of all these characteristics. We hope that after the current crisis the Church will reach a more balanced and sane attitude towards the person of the Pope and toward his sacred and indispensable ministry in the Church.

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The 10 most popular news stories on LifeSiteNews in 2017

The Editors

January 4, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) -- The following are the most popular LifeSiteNews news pieces of 2017. A list of the most popular opinion pieces and editor’s picks of the most important LifeSiteNews stories for 2017 will also be published.

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Scripture is ‘the only source material’ for new film about St. Paul

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Update: “Paul, Apostle of Christ” has subsequently been rated PG. The film will be released on March 28, 2018.

HOLLYWOOD, January 4, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – The upcoming movie about St. Paul of Tarsus, featuring famed Passion of the Christ actor Jim Caviezel as St. Luke, won’t disappoint Christian filmgoers looking for both a well-financed film and an accurate portrayal of St. Paul’s life.

Paul, Apostle of Christ is being produced by Sony Pictures’ “Affirm Films” label. Moreover, writer-director Andrew Hyatt, 35, states in an early advertisement for the film that the only source material was Christian Scripture.

“Always the first step [in creating a biblically based screenplay]...is study Scripture. We just stay with Scripture as the only source material. And then when we start to bring the humanity side of it, it just comes very naturally because we’ve done all the research and we’ve gotten all the experts to sign off.”

One example of the film’s fidelity to Scripture is the prominence of St. Luke in the film.

“Well, in 2 Timothy when Paul is writing from the Mamertine prison, there’s this tiny little bit right at the top of the letter that says ‘Only Luke is here with me.’ And so it just starts to build this beautiful palette that is 100% scripturally accurate. You are filling in the details, but it’s all there.”

St. Paul will be played by “Game of Thrones” star James Faulkner.

Caviezel, a devout Roman Catholic, sometimes displays a Pauline missionary zeal.

In the film’s first trailer, Caviezel sits in costume beside James Faulkner, who plays Paul, and considers the saint’s famous name-change.

"The name Saul means great one, and Paul, the name, just by one change of a letter, means little one,” he says. "In order for us to be great in the eyes of God, we have to become very small."

In December Caviezel discussed the new film with National Catholic Register and explained how he prepared to play St. Luke: “I read the Acts of the Apostles and started lifting little clues [about him] here and there, and I went to Mass and prayed on them. And then we see how he wrote, how Paul sees [Luke], and I started cross-examining him — and there is a lot of cross-examining and asking him about it — and, slowly, it starts to all come together.”

Caviezel drew upon St. Luke’s former life to create a backstory in his mind.  

“I think one part of it is that he was a physician, and he had this particular lifestyle,” Caviezel told the Register. “He was wealthy, and he left it all. Why? He saw Paul speak. Was it Paul who spoke, or was it Christ speaking through him? I believe it was the latter, and that changed his life. So that’s kind of where I started.”

The film focuses on Paul as an old man awaiting execution in a Roman prison, dictating letters that Luke transcribes and smuggles out to the fledgling Christian communities.  “It will be a very beautiful, emotionally moving film, with a rather wonderful ending,” star James Faulkner says in the promotional spot. “ And redemption is offered and is clear.”

Caviezel told the Register that he expected Paul, Apostle of Christ to have an “R” rating because it shows some of the brutality the Romans visited upon Christian believers.

The Passion of the Christ, which was released in 2004, also had an “R” rating, thanks to the faithful depiction of the harsh realities of life in the Roman Empire.  The Passion is currently the fifth-highest grossing “R” film in Hollywood history. It was nominated for three Academy Awards.

Paul, Apostle of Christ will be released in cinemas on Wednesday of Holy Week, March 28, 2018.

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Passion of the Christ actor: We must be ‘warriors’ ready to risk our lives for the Gospel

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CHICAGO, Illinois, January 4, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – Catholics must be ready to risk their lives and reputations to defeat evil in the world, Passion of the Christ star Jim Caviezel told a gathering of Catholic college students this week.

Only through the faith and Christ’s wisdom can we be saved, Caviezel said, but it will also take people who are prepared to fight, sacrifice and suffer.

Citing St. Maximilian Kolbe, Caviezel said that indifference was the greatest sin of the 20th century, and still is in the 21st century.

“We must shake off this indifference, this destructive tolerance of evil. But only our faith and the wisdom of Christ can save us,” he said. “But it requires warriors, ready to risk their reputations, their names, even our very lives, to stand for the truth.”

“Set yourselves apart from this corrupt generation,” the actor challenged those in attendance. “Be saints. You weren’t made to fit in. You were born to stand out.”

The Passion of the Christ star and veteran of numerous other film and television productions made a surprise appearance Wednesday evening at the SLS18 (Student Leadership Summit 2018) conference sponsored by The Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS).

The event is running January 2-6 in Chicago, and geared to form Catholic college students to be missionaries in their lives, in particular on campus.

Caviezel’s message, captured on video and posted to Facebook by Father Brian Buettner, Vocations Director at Archdiocese of Oklahoma City, was enthusiastically received.

He prefaced his talk with his forthcoming movie Paul, Apostle of Christ, sharing how the filmmaking experience showed him that to be great in the eyes of God, we must first be small and accept Him entirely, allowing Him to guide us.

Caviezel also spoke of the significance of suffering, and decried the prevalent misunderstanding that Christianity is merely about “happy talk.” See the talk which begins at 1:50 in the video below .

It was not by chance that he was called to acting, he said, sharing how earlier roles lead to his being tapped to play Christ in Mel Gibson’s epic film of Christ’s Passion and Resurrection.

Caviezel told those at the FOCUS conference that likewise, their lives were not just comprised of coincidence.

“Some of you may be miserable right now, confused, uncertain of the future, hurting,” he said. “This is not the time to back off or to give in.”

He recounted how completing the role of Christ entailed great trial and suffering for him, including physical aspects of scourging, being crucified, struck by lightning, and open-heart surgery after five-plus months of hypothermia.

Caviezel’s shoulder was also separated while carrying the cross during filming, which he continued to withstand to finish the film. This was like a penance, he said.

“When I was up there on the cross I learned that in His suffering was our redemption,” Caviezel shared. “Remember the servant is no greater than the master.”

“Each of us must carry our own cross,” he continued. “There is a price for our faith, for our freedoms.”

He told the crowd that the suffering made his performance, “just as it makes our lives.”

Caviezel went on to stress that the resurrection, and indeed our salvation, comes at a price.

“Some of us now, you know them, embrace a fake Christianity, where its all happy talk - I call it ‘happy Jesus’ - and glory.”

“Guys, there was a lot of pain and suffering … before the resurrection,” Caviezel stated. “Your path will be no different. So embrace your cross, and race toward your goal.”

Caviezel has spoken openly about his faith and pro-life convictions in the past, and shared how his experience making The Passion of the Christ has affected him spiritually. He has also advocated for adoption, and been open about his and wife Kerri’s experience as adoptive parents.

He challenged those at the Catholic gathering to publicly live their faith.

“I want you to go out to this pagan world,” Caviezel stated, “I want you to have the courage to step into this pagan world and shamelessly express your faith in public.”

“The world needs proud warriors, animated by their faith,” he added. “Warriors like St. Paul, and St. Luke, who risked their names, their reputations, to take their faith, their love for Jesus into the world.”

“God is calling each one of us – each one of you – to do great things,” he said.

We often fail to respond, dismissing God’s call, Caviezel told the Catholic crowd. And it is now time for this generation to accept that call, ourselves entirely to Him, he said, returning to prayer and fasting, scripture and the sacraments.

“But you first must make the commitment to start praying,” Caviezel said, “to fast, to meditate on the Holy Scriptures and to take the holy sacraments seriously.”

We are a culture now in decline, he added, and our whole world is entrenched in sin, freedom has been replaced with license.

“For in our country now we are only too happy to go with the flow,” Caviezel stated. “We have a shrine to freedom now where all choices are equal no matter what the consequences are. Do you honestly think this is true freedom?”    

Citing Pope Saint John Paul the Great, Caviezel explained how society cannot exclude moral truth and reasoning. Every generation of Americans needs to know that freedom exists not to do what you like, he said, but having the right to do what you ought.

“That is the freedom that I wish for you,” he told the conference, “freedom from sin, freedom from your weaknesses, freedom from this slavery that sin makes out of all of us. That is the freedom that is worth dying for.”

In closing Caviezel recounted the scene in Gibson’s Braveheart film with William Wallace challenging his men as they faced certain defeat, telling them their enemies may take their lives, but they'll never take their freedom.

Caviezel quoted the line from the scene that, “Every man dies, not every man truly lives.”

“You, you, you,” he exclaimed - pointing to individuals in the audience, “we all must fight for that authentic freedom and live, my friends.”

“By God, we must live,” Caviezel concluded, “and with the Holy Spirit as your shield and Christ as your sword, may you join St. Michael and all the angels in sending Lucifer and his henchmen straight right back to Hell where they belong!”

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Viral video: Woman explains why she left ‘super wild’ lesbian lifestyle to follow Christ

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TEXARKANA, January 4, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) -- Immersed in the gay lifestyle from age fifteen, Emily Thomes’ life was transformed when she encountered the real God.

Rebellious from an early age, Emily’s actions led her into immoral choices.  “I met my need for attention by constantly ‘going against the grain,’” she explains online and in a viral video released last week.  

“I partied, slept around, and by fifteen I came out as a lesbian to some friends,” Emily continued in the Anchored North-produced video.  “I cut my hair short, wore boy clothes, and used men’s bathrooms and dressing rooms.”

She figured God was okay with her doings, because “God being love meant God was nice.”  Her view of God was one of benevolent all-acceptance.  “God was chill with what you were cool with,” she thought.

As she became more and more openly gay, she delved deeper and deeper into perversion.  “I enjoyed the thrill of doing and being what was outside the norm—trying harder drugs, exploring even more taboo sexual acts, and getting a couple of regrettable tattoos.”

But despite an outward facade of happiness, Emily describes herself at the time as having “hollow eyes and hopeless heart.”

At age 22, a co-worker invited her to a Bible Study.  Because her aunt was involved Emily went, but she planned to quit as soon as the topic of homosexuality came up.

The Christian women in the study shared positive experiences about God.  “I had nothing like that, and it bugged me,” Emily admitted.  

“I couldn’t stop questioning,” she said, “because I (didn’t) feel okay anymore.”

Emily was quite surprised --and not a little frightened-- that the real God was not the all-approving one she had imagined.

“I knew what the Bible said about homosexuality,” she now says, “but I hadn’t cared before (because) I had little understanding of the God I was sinning against.”

Emily began reading the Bible on her own.  She felt “struck by lightning” when she grappled with First Corinthians chapter six.

Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the Kingdom of God...

“That day it was like my eyes were really opened,” Emily shared.  “Suddenly I could no longer argue.  It was clear.  I was in the ‘Will Not Enter the Kingdom of God’ lineup … It scared me really, really bad.”

And then Emily made the discovery that has transformed millions of lives the world over: she read the next verse.

...and such were some of you.  But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.

The light of new hope went on in Emily’s heart.  She understood that God heals and transforms people from sins just like hers.

“My whole life changed that day,” Emily proclaims.  “I grasped His hand by faith ... I was amazed at the grace He showed me.”

Emily’s video has so far been seen by over 1.5 million people.

Now married for two years and expecting her first child, Emily shares her story to give hope to others like her.  

She tells fellow strugglers that the path from homosexuality to wholeness in Christ is not always simple or easy, but it is healing.

“It’s not gay to straight. It’s lost to saved,” she says. “God calls us not to heterosexuality, but to holiness.”

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Archbishop explains why he signed profession affirming Church teaching on marriage

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ROME, January 4, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) — “There is confusion. It exists, and it’s serious. No reasonable person can deny this,” a signatory to a profession upholding the “immutable truths about sacramental marriage” has said.

Archbishop Luigi Negri, who has joined a former U.S. nuncio and three Kazakh bishops in putting his name to the profession, explained in an interview today with the Italian Catholic agency La Nuova Bussola why he signed the profession.

In a broader conversation about the current confusion in the Church, the emeritus archbishop of Ferrara-Comacchio in northern Italy also said the Martin Luther who has been presented during the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation “doesn’t exist,” and that we need to work so that “the splendor of tradition” returns and bears fruit in the lives of Christians.

Here below is the interview with Archbishop Negri translated and published with the kind permission of La Nuova Bussola.

 

Bishop Negri, what led you to sign the profession [of the three Kazakh bishops]?

Faced with the grave confusion in the Church regarding the issue of marriage, I believe it is necessary to put forward again the clarity of the traditional position. It seemed right to me to sign because the content of the [document’s] position is what I have widely presented over the past years — not only in recent months – at every step of the efforts I dedicated to the theme of the family, life, procreation, and the responsibility to educate and form young people. These are issues of absolute importance which the Catholic world as a whole does not seem to be very aware of.

Some would say that you have spoken far too much about family and life…

To imagine a Church without an explicit, systematic, and I would say daily concern for the defense and promotion of the family and its mission to evangelize and educate suggests a Church that is seriously and heavily conditioned by a worldly mentality. Such a mentality, which largely dominates our societies, holds that all “morally sensitive” issues, to use what’s become a commonly used expression, are the responsibility of political and social institutions, first and foremost among States. In accord with the Church’s social doctrine, I hold that the issue of the person and the development of his identity and responsibility in the world are a specific, principal, indispensable task of the Church.

A battle is being fought between the mentality of the world — what Pope Francis in the first months of his pontificate called “the dominant single-way of thinking” — and the Christian idea of life and existence. If the Church does not fully engage in this confrontation, it will end up essentially reducing itself to a position of substantial self-marginalization from societal life.

The Profession of the three Kazakh bishops spoke a lot about the current confusion in the Church. You have also noted it, and yet there are some who deny that this confusion exists, and say that it is only a matter of resistance to a path toward the Church’s renewal.

There is confusion. It exists, and it’s serious. No reasonable person can deny this. I recall the forceful but terrible words of Cardinal Caffarra some time before his death, when he said: “A Church that pays little attention to doctrine isn’t a more pastoral Church but a more ignorant Church.” This ignorance breeds confusion. Again I quote Cardinal Caffarra, who said that “only a blind man can deny that there is great confusion in the Church.” And I can testify to it from what I have seen especially in the last months of my episcopate in Ferrara-Comacchio. I spoke daily with good Christians whose consciences were filled with very great disappointment, and who were suffering greatly. I say this quite clearly: it was a greater suffering than that of so many ecclesiastics and of so many of my brother bishops. It is the suffering of a people who don’t feel cared for any more, or supported in the basic demands of truth, goodness, beauty and justice which constitute the deepest heart of man, and which only the mystery of Christ profoundly reveals and brings about in an extraordinary way.

I don’t want to enter into polemics with anyone, but I cannot omit saying that we need to work so that the splendor of tradition returns to being an experience for the Christian people, and a proposal which the Christian people make to all men.

Speaking of confusion, in recent days a new controversy has arisen with accusations of doctrinal errors that were never corrected being levelled against Pope Benedict, and the “dance of Vatican II” is being talked about again.

I don’t want to get lost in quick and ideological re-readings of foundational moments in the life of the Church, like the Council for example: it was an extraordinary and complex experience … with aspects that are not always clear. Or the great and unforgettable magisterium of St. John Paul II, and his commitment to re-proposing to the world the proclamation of Christ as the only possibility for salvation, and so re-proposing the Church as the sphere where one experiences a renewed life, as he would say. These are milestones along a journey which then found in the great magisterium of Benedict XVI a point of synthesis, the strong call to that continuity in the transition from the pre-conciliar reality to the reality of the Council and post-Council: it was an extraordinarily important formulation which the Church is still living.

John Paul II and Benedict XVI have elevated the Catholic magisterium to a level of extraordinary breadth. It is absurd to bend the interpretation of these great figures in the life of the Church to shop interests. But it is also absurd to compare the pontificates of John Paul II and Benedict XVI with the magisterium of Pope Francis. In the history of the Church each pope has his role. Francis’ role is certainly not to re-propose the fullness and breadth of the Christian message but to draw certain necessary consequences on the ethical and social planes.

Speaking of confusion, this year marked the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. In the Church we saw and heard things that were frankly shocking.

The [current] doctrinal and cultural confusion has some aspects that people with common sense and adequate cultural formation find hard to believe. This matter regarding Luther is incredible. This Luther that’s being talked about so much doesn’t exist. This reforming Luther, this evangelical Luther, this Luther whose presence was positive and beneficial for the Church has no historical and critical basis.

It is quite another matter if, at a time of serious attack on religious tradition in the West, it is necessary that all religious men understand that the time has come for a new and great common effort. Of course, we have to work together. But in order to work together we don’t need to water down our own identity or think that the existence of an identity is an obstacle to our efforts. It’s just the opposite: those who enter into religious dialogue, into ecumenical dialogue, into dialogue with society with their own precise identity make an extremely important contribution. You can’t collaborate and dialogue when you begin with confusion. You dialogue by starting with identity, and the Catholic identity, if it is lived out fully, has a unique and irreplaceable contribution to make to the life of a society.

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U.S. Mennonites split up over same-sex ‘marriage’

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LANCASTER, Pennsylvania, January 4, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – The largest conference of Mennonite congregations in the U.S. has officially split from the Mennonite community Monday over concerns that the wider church is beginning to affirm LGBT lifestyles.

The Lancaster Mennonite Conference (LMC) had voted to leave the Mennonite Church USA (MC USA) in 2015, and the decision became effective January 1, 2018.

The LMC, comprised of 179 congregations in New York, Pennsylvania and Ohio, left over the definition of marriage and the sinfulness of homosexuality, according to a report from Religion News Service.

A pastor for one of the LMC congregations told NPR back when the vote to split took place it was actually the MC USA that had departed from Biblical teaching.

“We are in a sense not really leaving,” said Steve Olivieri, pastor of Cornerstone Fellowship of Mill Run in Altoona, Penn. “They are the ones that essentially have left true biblical Christianity in this respect.”

“I don’t want to do some of the things the Bible says sometimes, lot of times — but I still have to do it,” Olivieri said. “We understand that whenever a passage says, ‘The following shall not inherit the kingdom of God,’ and it lists homosexuals, we believe that’s a lifestyle choice that you make.”

Mennonite teaching says homosexual activity is a sin, and also defines marriage as a lifelong covenant between one man and one woman.

The U.S. Mennonite Church has reprimanded and fired pastors who have defied the church’s doctrine and conducted “LGBT weddings,” a Daily Caller report said, but individual pastors have advocated for change. This push led the Mennonite U.S.A denomination to implement hiring and other official policies that the LMC saw as affirming LGBT lifestyles, resulting in the split.

Donald Krabill, an Elizabethtown College professor who studies the Mennonites and their Protestant counterparts, the Amish, said at the time of the 2015 LMC decision that it usually takes considerable time, longer than just a couple years, to affect social change in a healthy way.

“Typically, when you have social change, it may occur over one or two generations,” Krabill said. “To put it in a fast track and to try to make decisions about it in a matter of two or three years can be very dangerous for the health of a community.”

Both the Mennonites and the Amish are Anabaptists – a derivative of Protestantism espousing that baptism is valid only when conferred upon adults. The two denominations share common historical roots and similar beliefs, but differ on how those beliefs are practiced.

Mennonites generally embrace technology, higher education and the outside world in contrast to the Amish, along with missionary activities.

A smaller branch of Protestantism, the Mennonite denomination has about 2 million members worldwide.

In Canada, similar splintering over doctrine along with dropping membership has led to the formation of regional groups of congregations sharing similar views, according to RNS.

And as of 2016, there were roughly 78,000 members of the Mennonite Church USA. That number was down from about 133,000 in the 1990s, RNS said.

The LMC’s exit reduces overall MC USA membership by about a sixth, Christianity Today reports, taking about 14,000 of that total number.

Since 2015, 29 congregations have joined the Lancaster conference, the report said. Roughly half of them came from the nearby Franklin Conference, which had also voted to split from MC USA over the homosexuality issue.

LMC moderator L. Keith Weaver told Lancaster Online that 14 Mennonite congregations in the Dominican Republic would soon join the Conference.

The MC USA had voted against a proposal to affirm gay marriage, but in 2015 passed a resolution to offer “grace, love, and forbearance toward conferences, congregations, and pastors in our body who, in different ways, seek to be faithful to our Lord Jesus Christ on matters related to same-sex covenanted unions.”

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Dubia Cardinal urges faithful: Hold fast to tradition amid Church confusion

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ROME, January 4, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – Dubia Cardinal Walter Brandmüller is urging Catholics to hold fast to the Church’s unchanging Tradition amid today’s crisis of confusion.

In a December interview with Armin Schwibach of the German website kathnet, translated into English by Michael J. Miller for Catholic World Report, the cardinal candidly answered Schwibach’s questions about Martin Luther, the Dubia, same-sex “marriage”, transgenderism and the growing confusion in the Catholic Church.

‘A perverse rebellion’

When his interviewer asked about new challenges to the natural law, the cardinal didn’t pull any punches. Brandmüller called belief in same-sex “marriage” and transgenderism “a perverse rebellion.”

If someone thinks that homosexual persons enter into a ‘marriage’, or that by means of surgery one can undertake sex changes and other interventions into the nature of a human being, then this is a downright perverse rebellion against the order of creation, against the nature of the human being as willed and created by God,” he stated. “To act in a way that contradicts this nature is the self-destruction of the human being.”

The cardinal said it was “worrisome” that subjectivism has been taken to such extremes, and that such an ideology was a rejection of creaturehood and a usurpation of God’s reign. “Man on God’s throne,” he exclaimed. “A grotesque, absurd, apocalyptic notion.”

On the Confusion in the Church Today

The cardinal agreed with Schwibach’s assessment of a Church in turmoil and said it was foreseen by Saint Paul. His advice was to “take our bearings” from the Tradition of the Church.

“In this situation, which was foreseen by Saint Paul—see the Letters to Titus and Timothy—the important thing is to take our bearings from the Tradition of the Church, which is guided by the Holy Spirit and has found its concrete contemporary expression in the Catechism of the Catholic Church,” said Brandmüller.

“Whatever contradicts this catechism—regardless of the source of the contradiction—is not Catholic truth. Anyone who believes with the Catechism and lives accordingly is on the right path.”

But despite the confusion, Brandmüller does not believe that the contemporary Catholic Church finds itself in a “historically unique situation.” He cited the Arian crisis.

“At the time of the Arian crisis—the Arians did not believe that Jesus is of the same nature as God the Father—the overwhelming majority of the bishops in the Eastern half of the Roman Empire had fallen into error. Only through the Councils of Nicaea and Chalcedon would this lethal threat to the faith be overcome: The Lord was and is still today in the boat—even though He seems to be asleep.”

Cardinal Brandmüller has been among the leading voices critical of novel doctrines that have been been proposed to Catholics since the Extraordinary Synod on the Family. Before he signed the Dubia regarding Amoris Laetitia, he was one of five cardinals who contributed to the book Remaining in the Truth of Christ, which opposed Cardinal Walter Kasper’s proposal to permit those in irregular sexual unions to receive Holy Communion.

On the Dubia

The interviewer also asked the cardinal about the substance of the Dubia, the questions the German cardinal and three other cardinals sent to Pope Francis following the publication of Amoris Laetitia. Brandmuller listed them and explained which answers would be in harmony with the foundations of Catholic faith and morals.

“1. Can a person bound by an existing bond of marriage who lives together as husband and wife with a new partner (AL 305, footnote 351) receive “absolution and Communion” in certain cases?

2. Are there absolute moral commands or prohibitions that oblige without exception and under all circumstances? (e.g. the killing of an innocent person)?

3. Is it true now as before that someone who persistently lives in adultery is objectively in a state of serious sin?

4. Are there situations in life that diminish moral responsibility to such an extent that immoral activity (in this case: adultery) can thereby be morally excused, or even justified?

5. Can a personal decision of conscience allow exceptions to the absolute prohibition of actions that in themselves are immoral?”

“As you see,” the cardinal continued,  “these questions concern the foundations of the faith and of moral teaching. If we follow that teaching, then questions 1, 4 and 5 would have to be answered with an unambiguous No, and questions 2 and 3 with Yes.”

On Lutheran-Catholic dialogue

Speaking at the end of the “Luther Year 2017”, the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, Brandmüller said that there was no need for a Catholic “reevaluation” of Luther; both Catholics and Lutherans worked out an objective way of discussing him over 60 years ago.

“At the very latest by the end of the Nazi dictatorship ... [German Catholic and German Protestant] scholars …  found a way of writing about Luther or the Reformation that relied on an objective, sober depiction of the facts, based on the historical sources and the critical interpretation thereof,” the cardinal said. “To talk about the need on the Catholic side to reevaluate Luther therefore shows plain ignorance of the actual state of the scholarship or of the relevant literature.”

Brandmüller explained that Luther’s 95 theses could be understood in a Catholic way, as the “protest of a committed priest against misunderstanding and abuse of indulgences.”

In 1520, however, Luther made his break with “elementary tenets” of the Catholic Christian faith absolutely clear. Cardinal Brandmuller found the idea that Luther could be called the “Doctor of the Church of authentic reform” questionable. Luther, he said, didn’t want to reform the Church but intended “a radical upheaval.”

“In his treatise, ‘To the Nobility of the German Nation’, [Luther] announced that he would tear down three walls,” the cardinal continued.

“He sees the first wall as the priesthood founded on Holy Orders, the second as the Church Magisterium based on a mission from Jesus Christ, and the third as the existence of the papacy. The fact that these ‘walls’ rested on a firm biblical foundation was of no interest to the angry Augustinian friar. Once he has torn down those three walls, Luther sees the collapse of the whole structure of the papal Church.”

Brandmuller called claims that this break with the Catholic Church was a work of the Holy Spirit “utterly fantastic” and can be explained only by an “absolute ignorance of the documents and the facts of history.”

He also upheld the dignity of the Council of Trent, saying that “It was and remains an Ecumenical Council, and this is, with and under the Pope, the highest-ranking organ of the Church’s Magisterium; its definitively promulgated teaching is infallible…. Its doctrinal decrees are valid forever.”

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President Trump named ‘pro-life person of the year’ for 2017

LifeSiteNews staff

January 4, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) – The pro-life group Operation Rescue has named President Donald Trump as their 2017 “pro-life person of the year.”

The Malachi Award is given by Operation Rescue every year to recognize individuals who sacrificially work to advance the cause of protecting the pre-born.

“Operation Rescue is grateful to Pres. Trump for having the courage to keep promises made during the campaign that provide greater protections for the pre-born and deny Federal funds from those who commit abortions,” said Operation Rescue President Troy Newman. “He has proven to be the most pro-life president we have had in modern history and has backed up his pro-life rhetoric with action like no other before him.”

According to Operation Rescue, after one year Trump has already accomplished more for the pro-life agenda than any other president.

They offer the following examples of Trump’s pro-life actions:

  • Trump appointed conservative, pro-life Justice Neil Gorsuch to the U.S, Supreme Court.
  • He has effectively denied public money to those who commit and promote abortions around the world.
  • The Trump Administration Department of Justice has launched a formal investigation into Planned Parenthood’s illegal baby parts trafficking scheme.
  • He has actively supported pro-life legislation, such as the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which is currently held up in the U.S. Senate.
  • He supports legislation to defund Planned Parenthood in the U.S., and removed an Obama-era mandate that forced states to continue funding Planned Parenthood.
  • He has worked to fill his administration with pro-life people and put them in places where they can do the most good.
  • Trump’s administration has taken active steps within the Health and Human Services and other agencies to establish pro-life policies that protect the pre-born.
  • He has provided protections for those of religious and moral convictions from paying for abortifacient drugs through Obamacare, and continues to work to repeal and replace it.

“We are proud of President Trump and his bold willingness to advance the cause of life. There are more battles ahead, but under the Trump administration, we can now finally see progress within our government toward restoring the sanctity of life and the protections of personhood to the pre-born,” said Newman. “This makes Pres. Trump a deserving recipient of the 2017 Pro-Life Person of the Year Malachi Award.”

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Opinion

My father was a sperm donor. Here’s why I hate my conception

Ellie

January 4, 2018 (Them Before Us) – My biological father sold his sperm when he was in medical school.  He was told what a wonderful, altruistic act he was doing, and praised for being so generous to a poor, infertile family.  He was also promised anonymity.  My parents bought that sperm and a doctor used it to inseminate my mother.  I’m the child of a stranger, who altruistically sold me, his biological daughter, to a family he would never meet.  He signed away his rights to be a father to me, and my parents gladly bought the gift that would give them a child.  They were ecstatically happy when my mother became pregnant, but no one considered how I would feel about the transaction that took place, how I would feel about having no right to a relationship with my biological father, no access to my paternal family, not even medical information.  

Now it is my turn to speak.  I hate my conception.  

How can anyone sell a person?  Sure, at that point it was just sperm, but it was sperm being sold with the intention of becoming a child.  Why is it legal for a doctor to allow a child to be created with the purpose of being cut off from biological family to make the recipient parents happy?  The process commodifies real human beings.  

I’ve been involved in the state foster care system for about two decades, a system which encourages keeping families together and tries to support keeping children with their blood relatives unless there is a severe safety issue.  Children thrive best with their biological families, even when those families need extra help, something our government recognizes within the foster system.  Unfortunately, I was born as the result of a profit-driven medical clinic selling parental rights without regard for what is best for the end product, the child produced.  

There aren’t any laws or even suggested best practices for my situation.  Anonymous arrangements sell best, are least complicated, so here I am, the daughter of my mother and a stranger she hoped never to meet, being raised by a man who had enough money to purchase my existence.  My birth certificate is false, listing the father who raised me, a man I’m not related to, not giving any indication that there was another party involved in my conception.  It would have been completely legal for the parents who raised me never to tell me the truth, to lie to me about my origins and allow me to believe that I had accurate family medical history.

My father who raised me died when I was a teenager, before I knew the big lie.  I loved him to pieces.  He was the rock who held our family together.  I wish so much that I could know his feelings about my conception.  I remember many times as a child when his friends would jokingly say something to the effect of, “She can’t really be yours, you ugly old dog.  She’s too pretty.”  I was always embarrassed and looking for an escape.  I wish I’d watched his face.  I wonder if that gutted him?  If I’d have known, I would have hugged him and told him that I’ll always be his.  

In the confusion and grief that followed his death, my mother decided to tell me the truth about my conception.  She had no qualms about having kept such a big secret from me my whole life, as it protected a fact that was extremely embarrassing to her… The father who raised me was sterile.  She told me they had used donor sperm and that she thought I already knew how different I was from the rest of the family.  

My world fell apart.  I spent several days under a blanket in bed, crying hysterically.  When I was able to regain my composure, as I was going about my morning routine I caught sight of myself in the mirror and came to the realization that I had no idea who I was anymore.  The nose I thought had come from my dad wasn’t his.  That round nose that I thought connected me to family was suddenly hideous.  The shape of my fingers, so similar to my dad’s, now looked alien and terrifying.  There were several years in my mid twenties when I couldn’t look at myself in a mirror without bursting into tears, so I avoided mirrors.  

I don’t know how to express with words how distressing it is to have half of your identity ripped away in a moment like that.  You know there are some types of grief that everyone feels in life, death of loved ones, betrayed friendships, goals that cannot be achieved, but I had no idea that something could happen that would disrupt the identity I had created for myself like that.  There isn’t a handbook on how to rebuild your sense of self when you discover that your non-identifiable father sold you.  Of course I had questions for my mom about who he was, but the arrangement had been anonymous and the only information I had was that he might have been a med school student or resident at the time.  I called the clinic where I was conceived to try to figure out something about myself, my family health history, my genetic heritage, even just a physical description.  The office manager said all the records over 10 years old had been destroyed.  Why would there be no system to keep those records?  What 10 year old is going to ask for paternal health information?  Those records, especially the health related ones, should be kept for much, much longer than 10 years.

My situation grieved me deeply, and so I spent money to go to a counselor to help me sort through my feelings.  Alas, the counselors I saw hadn’t dealt much with persons who have been conceived apart from biological family the way I had, and they told me that I got to choose who my “real” father was.  I guess they thought it would be comforting to me to have the power to choose, but their comments made me feel like I must not love the dad who raised me enough for his love to be enough to quell the hurt in my heart.  I was at a painful dead end with no place to turn for more information, so I gave up.  It hurt too much to keep thinking about my new reality, so I buried it as deeply as I could and threw myself into raising a family of my own, one that was biologically related to me.  I knew I could do better for my own children.  I knew that both of their parents would love them, and that I wouldn’t ever lie to them.  I’m so averse to lying that I was never able to play the Santa or Tooth Fairy game with them.  The pain, the grief kept coming back in little waves, in places where I least expected it.  At family reunions where I wasn’t really one of them.  During holiday gatherings where little girls looked just like their daddies.  I still didn’t know who I was, who my family was, and it hurt.  

Ten years later commercial DNA testing was finally starting to look promising, and was now affordable enough for me to get my hands on.  My sweet husband encouraged me to go ahead and purchase an Ancestry DNA test.  The results came back confirming that I was not related to the dad who raised me.  My closest matches were 4th cousins, too far away to make any quick determinations.  But I was determined, and I spent 4-5 hours per evening over the next 6 months comparing the public family trees of those 4th cousins until one night I figured out a single couple from the 1800’s who was repeated in several of those distant trees.  I built their family tree, with all 20 of their children and their descendants, down to present day.  I looked for someone who was in that tree who had also attended medical school in the city where I was conceived.  

Eventually I found a possibility.  I looked for a photo of him on social media and saw an older version of my son’s face staring back at me.  My adorable son whose features no one could ever quite place.  I had finally found the other half of me.  The tears this time were tears of joy.

How does the daughter of a man who sold his sperm anonymously reach out to her  biological father without making him angry or scaring him away?  It took an enormous amount of courage on my part.  I had been told by several people that I should just leave him alone, as contacting him would “ruin his life.”  That did nothing for my self worth, to think that perhaps just hearing from me, his daughter, could possibly ruin his life.  But I did have to consider his feelings and try to approach him respectfully.  It would be his choice if he wanted to ignore me, or file a restraining order against me, or to tell me that he’d never donated and that I should get lost, or to be kind and share family medical history, or to accept me as his own.  He’s my biological father, and because of the way I was conceived any of these situations could be expected.  Should I call him, write him at home or work, show up at his door, or make an appointment at his office?  Which way would he be most likely to communicate with me?  

It took me months to write and rewrite a letter, and then work up the courage to mail it.  In the end he was shocked, but kind.  He never expected to hear from one of his donated kids.  He never expected any of our parents to tell us at all.  I empathize with his situation as well.  It isn’t something he ever told his own family, and he didn’t want them to find out.

My biological father was able to give me that missing family medical history.  There are genetic diseases that are passed along to children who will never be able to piece together exactly why they are sick, or who won’t be screened for the right cancers in time to help.  I’ve heard people say that you can simply have your doctor run a genetic screen for diseases, but in my case my biological father had a disease with no symptoms that I never would have been screened for.  Only a health history of my paternal family was able to show me where my own health issue was coming from.  It turns out a lot can change in 40 years, and even if the clinic had kept the records for me to find, they no longer would have been accurate.  A big shock for was that his grandmother died of breast cancer at a very young age, and so now I know that’s something I need to be screened for earlier than is routine.  I suppose I assumed that a clinic probably wouldn’t use the sperm of someone with a family history of an aggressive form of cancer.  

Receiving information about my biological family has been bittersweet, the joy of getting to know more about them mixed with the sadness that my bio father not willing to let me get to know that family.  I’m hopeful that one day, if I continue to be respectful and kind to him, that he’ll change his mind and I’ll get the chance to have a relationship with my siblings and grandparents.  It would mean the world to me.  I was also shocked to find out what a huge number of donor conceived half siblings I probably have living near me.  At least 20, maybe over 50.  It is painful to know that I likely won’t ever even know most of their names, let alone get to meet them.  They are unlikely to have been told they were donor conceived.  I love them and miss them without even knowing them.  I’m grateful that I didn’t accidentally marry one of them, and I worry that my own children will accidentally enter into a romantic relationship with one of their many (hundreds, maybe?) of cousins.  They won’t know they are related without DNA testing.  Can you imagine having to screen dates for potentially being your unknown cousin?  What if cousins do end up together, and they figure that out via DNA, and the date’s parent (my sibling) doesn’t know he/she is donor conceived?  It makes me nervous to think about the complexity of it all for my children.

We, the donor conceived, are being denied some pretty basic human rights.  We are commodified, existing only because our biological parent was willing to sell genetic material in order to make someone else a parent.  We aren’t given access to information about who our biological parent is, with clinics protecting the anonymity of their donors over the rights of the children produced.  We are at the mercy of the adults who created us as to whether they even tell us that we aren’t biologically related to them.  We are denied medical family histories, histories that might one day save our lives, as well as genealogical histories that would help us piece together our identities.  We live in a time when it is possible to track down our missing families, if we know they are missing, but when donors have been promised anonymity our contact may not be welcome.  It seems incredibly irresponsible on the part of the fertility industry to give any illusions to donors in this day and age that they might be able to maintain anonymity, perhaps even dishonest.

Donor conception has caused this donor conceived person enough grief that I actively speak out against any donor conception to friends considering this route as a way to solve their own infertility grief.  It doesn’t resolve the grief, but rather passes that pain on to the next generation by denying them access to their missing biological family.  I would encourage people not to use any donor conception, but rather to open homes to parent the hundreds of children waiting in the foster system whose parental rights have been terminated or to find other ways to navigate through infertility grief.  

If donor conception must be allowed to continue to give parents the children they desire, then anonymous donation should be more carefully scrutinized and seen for the illusion that it is.  There is no more anonymity with commercial DNA testing, and it should not be offered as an option either for donors or recipient parents.  I can imagine it is only a matter of time before that matter ends up in a courtroom when someone like me finds a biological parent who was told they would never be found.  There should be no states with laws allowing anonymous donors when the donors can be found.   

Furthermore, anonymity causes pain and identity confusion for the children produced.  Medical records on the donors should be kept current and easily available for the lifetime of the child produced.  Finally, birth certificates should be updated to keep up with reproductive technology.  There should be space for both legal and biological parents on birth certificates, in order to be accurate and to allow donor conceived people to know their true origins.  Australia, a country which is miles ahead of the US when it comes to rights of the donor conceived, provides a birth certificate with an asterisk, and the asterisk indicates that an addendum is on file, containing the full name of any donors involved in a person’s conception.

This article is reprinted with permission from Them Before Us, the only organization solely committed to giving children voice in discussions on family structure.  Them Before Us (TBU) exists to advance social policies that encourage adults to actively respect the rights of children rather than expecting children to sacrifice their fundamental rights for the sake of adult desires. TBU focuses the discussion on family structure around those who are hit hardest by non-marital childbearing, who are the casualties of no-fault divorce and the redefinition of marriage, or who are intentionally subjected to motherlessness or fatherlessness through reproductive technologies – the children.

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Jonathan Weiss / Shutterstock.com
Cheryl Sullenger

Opinion

Abortion prices went up, wait times went down in 2017: report

Cheryl Sullenger

January 4, 2017 (Operation Rescue) – Across America, the amount of time women waited to have an abortion dropped, while the average price of an abortion rose. These trends were documented during an annual survey of abortion facilities conducted by Operation Rescue.

The survey took place from November 27-December 15, 2017. Using a number of investigative methods, each abortion facility was directly contacted. Facility personnel voluntarily verified that abortions were available, and shared information on abortion pricing and wait times, although they were not aware the information was going to Operation Rescue.

Wait times decreased

Despite dire predictions from the Abortion Cartel that pro-life legislation would result in increased wait times for abortions, the opposite is actually true. In 2017, the national average time a woman waited to get an abortion was 7.7 days. That represents a decrease from 2015, when the national average time waited for an abortion was 8.5 days.

Wait times were measured from the day a caller initially contacted an abortion facility for an appointment, until the day when the abortion would have taken place.

This year, at surgical facilities, women waited an average of 6.85 days for a surgical abortion, and 6.38 days to get a medication abortion at a surgical facility.

In contrast, women were required to wait 9.33 days — nearly three days longer — to get a medication abortion at facilities that offered only that type.

Two states with the longest waiting times for abortion appointments were West Virginia at 25 days, and Montana at 23.5 days. This likely reflects that low demand for abortion in those states, making it unprofitable to schedule abortions with greater frequency.

Two states with the shortest wait times were Vermont, which would conduct an abortion on a woman the day after her initial phone call, and Nevada, with an average wait of 1.2 days.

Many abortion facility scheduling receptionists – primarily with Planned Parenthood affiliates — refused to answer questions about the abortions or inform callers when abortion appointments were available. Instead, the schedulers insisted that women go through a lengthy phone interview that required providing detailed personal and health information. After the interview, women would then be given a preliminary appointment.

Women were told that they would have questions answered at the preliminary appointment. Only then would they be told when their abortions were scheduled.

This convoluted appointment practice had the effect of keeping abortion customers in the dark. It demeaned the callers by treating them with suspicion, and denied them information that was important for decision-making. One scheduler admitted that the extra appointment and level of secrecy was to prevent pro-life protesters from finding out when abortions were taking place.

“As much as the abortionists complain about state mandated reflection periods and other pro-life laws, Planned Parenthood facilities across the nation are actually the ones making women jump through a complex series of hoops before they can even receive answers to their questions about abortion. This paranoia actually works in our favor, and likely helps save lives,” said Operation Rescue President Troy Newman.

Abortion prices rose

Operation Rescue has included first trimester abortion pricing in its survey for the past three years. Overall, the national average cost of an early abortion has steadily increased since 2015. In 2017, women paid an average of $595.67 for a first trimester abortion. This this reflects a three percent price hike over what women paid just two years ago.

Surgical abortions up to 12 weeks were the costliest of early abortion methods, averaging $616.16 nationally in 2017. Yet, that price was down about 2% since last year.

Medication abortions, (generally done through 9-10 weeks), received at clinics that also conducted surgical abortions have held firm in price at $579 since 2015.

However, there has been a dramatic price increase for medication abortions received from facilities that only dispense abortion drugs. In 2017, the national average cost of an abortion at a medication-only facility was $592, up about 6% since 2015.

This means that medication abortion facilities not only make women wait longer for their abortions, but also charge them more.

This price increase was ironic since, in many states, the abortion pill-only facilities have lower overhead and are able to avoid licensing requirements that may drive up prices. Some states, such as California, have attempted to reduce costs even farther by allowing non-physicians to prescribe abortion drugs. Medication abortion-only facilities have been favored by abortion businesses, particularly Planned Parenthood, as a stated means of keeping abortion costs down, but data shows that these facilities are actually driving up the price of an abortion.

Abortion prices varied, sometimes greatly, from state to state.

The two states with the highest average price for a first trimester surgical abortion were Massachusetts and Wyoming. Massachusetts’ average surgical abortion cost $1,223.30, while in Wyoming, the average surgical abortion fee was $1,099.00. The two states with the lowest price for surgical abortions were the District of Columbia at $410, and Maryland at $419.

The two states with the highest average cost of a medication abortion at a medication-only facility were Alaska at $800, and Colorado at $791.20. Missouri had the lowest average price for a medication abortion in the nation at $384.80, followed by Pennsylvania at $445.

“This is another case where Planned Parenthood is ‘talking north and walking south.’ There is obviously exploitative profit-taking occurring at the medication abortion-only facilities, where overhead is the lowest,” said Newman. “For Planned Parenthood, it is always about the money.”

Conclusions

Operation Rescue’s 2017 survey results reveal new insights into abortion trends.

The new data shows that abortion facility numbers continue to shrink at the same time that abortion wait times are dropping. This debunks the notion that fewer abortion facilities will lead to higher wait times.

Meanwhile, the price of an abortion is rising most in the area where there is the least overhead. This shows clearly that pro-life legislation is not necessarily the lone factor in driving up abortion prices. In fact, according to the new data, greed is a primary factor that is driving up prices and increasing profits for abortion businesses.

“Our data reflects the most accurate numbers available for abortion costs and wait times,” said Newman. “The data exposes the deceptive rhetoric of the Abortion Cartel, which has resorted to lies and exploitation to keep their failing businesses afloat. The truth is that more and more women are rejecting abortion in favor of life – and that has the Abortion Cartel running scared.”

Read Operation Rescue’s Special Report “2017 Abortion Facility Survey: Abortion Clinic Numbers Keep Dropping.”

This article is reprinted with permission from Operation Rescue.

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Esfahan, Iran, November 12th, 2016, Editorial: Oil painting of Christianity in the historic buildings of Gate of Vank cathedral, Isfahan, Iran Shutterstock
Dr. Michael L. Brown

Opinion,

What No One Is Telling You About Iran

Dr. Michael L. Brown

December 20, 2017 (AskDrBrown) — It’s true that CNN and the New York Times, among other liberal outlets, have rightly been called out for their failure to report accurately on the protests in Iran. But there’s something that not even the conservative media is telling you today, an important backstory that might be playing a role in this rising protest movement.

As for the leftwing media, Caroline Glick noted in her article in the Jerusalem Post that, “Given the earth shattering potential of the protests it is extraordinary to see the liberal media in the US and Europe struggle to downplay their significance.” And here in the US, “the US, former members of the Obama administration and the liberal media have determinedly downplayed the importance of the protests.”

Similarly, writing for the Daily Wire, Ryan Saavedra stated that, “The media initially ignored what was going on in Iran, likely because it reflected negatively on former President Barack Obama, whose Iran nuclear deal was supposed to help Iran's economy, and because the Trump administration's response was night-and-day better than Obama's response in 2009.

“CNN and The New York Times did a terrible job of covering the protests, while ABC News' Matthew Dowd declared that the U.S. did not have the moral authority to talk about Iran because ‘we’ don't talk about Russia.

So, again, the liberal media has been taken to task for its unfair coverage of the Iranian protests, and rightly so. In fact, it would be hard to find a greater contrast than that between the courageous protesters and the cowardly media.

But there’s something else going on in Iran that could well be playing an important role in the rising Iranian discontent.

It’s something that has been building and growing under the surface and behind closed doors. And it remains one of the best kept secrets in the world, despite occasional media reports in the last few years: Iranian Muslims are converting to Christianity at an unprecedented pace.

I’ve heard this firsthand from Iranian converts. I’ve heard it firsthand from Christian leaders who have worked with these converts inside and outside of Iran. And I’ve heard it from missiologists whose job it is to track such things.

RELATED: The Joy (and Cost) of the Gospel for young former Muslim, Nabeel Qureshi

And it’s reminiscent of the conversion of tens of millions of Chinese behind the cover of the Bamboo Curtain. Missiologists were reporting it for years before the rest of the world found out about it. Now, it is an open secret, leading to headlines like this, from April 14, 2014, in the UK Telegraph: “China on course to become 'world's most Christian nation' within 15 years. The number of Christians in Communist China is growing so steadily that it by 2030 it could have more churchgoers than America.”

When it comes to Iran, already in 2006, Reza Safa could write a book titled The Coming Fall of Islam in Iran: Thousands of Muslims Find Christ in the Midst of Persecution.

The website of Safa, himself a former Iranian, Shiite Muslim but now an evangelical pastor, declares, “Despite severe persecution by the Iranian government against underground churches, God’s Word is spreading like a wildfire all over Iran. Pastor Safa believes that Iran will be the first Islamic nation to convert to Christianity.”

This may sound like a pipe dream, but consider that a 2012 Pew Research reportclaimed that, “The share of the population that is Christian in sub-Saharan Africa climbed from 9% in 1910 to 63% in 2010.” And much of this growth occurred in the midst of Muslim-majority populations. 

The same thing is happening throughout the Muslim world, confirming an article on the National Catholic Register which claims that, “Muslims Are Converting to Christianity in Record Numbers.” This too has been an open secret for many years now.

RELATED: A wonderful talk on how to celebrate Christmas by a former Muslim Imam

When it comes to Iran, the article repeats the claim that there are now three million Iranian Christians, which would mean a massive jump from the numbers posted in the respected prayer guide, Operation World. It claimed a total of 384,897 Christians from all backgrounds in Iran (compared to 74,054,491 Muslims), with just 117,678 listed as evangelicals. Getting from here to three million is extraordinary.

That’s why Mohabat News (the Iranian Christian News Agency), reportedin August, 2017, that, “Christianity has been growing at an exponential rate in the last couple of decades in Iran, causing the Islamic government a great deal of concern. In a most recent expression of their distress, one of the high profile Islamic seminary officials, Ayatollah Alavi Boroujerdi, stated ‘accurate reports indicate that the youth are becoming Christians in Qom and attending house churches’.”

And, the article continues, “this is not a new development. Earlier reports had also shown a surprising rise in the number of Iranians turning away from Islam and converting to Christianity.”

That’s why Fox News could report in 2016 that, “The number of Muslim converts who are risking prison or death by secretly worshipping as Christians in Iran’s house church movement has grown to as many as 1 million people, according to watchdog groups.”

Something powerful is happening in Iran, despite the intense persecution Christians are facing. 

My sources have been telling me that: 1) it’s only a matter of time before the number of these conversions reaches a critical mass, allowing these new Christians to emerge from the underground into the public eye; and 2) it is the Iranian regime that is our enemy, not the Iranian people, many of whom love America and hate what the radical Islamic leadership has done to their country.

We should pray for these courageous Christians, and, more broadly, stand with these Iranian protesters. It could well be that there are many secret converts among them. And we should applaud our government for letting Iran know that we are watching them carefully right now.

It could be time for this great, hidden story to be known to the whole world.

This article was published on the website of Dr. Michael Brown and is re-published with permission.

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Doug Mainwaring Doug Mainwaring Follow Doug

Blogs

Military transgenderism push threatens to undermine the U.S. Constitution

Doug Mainwaring Doug Mainwaring Follow Doug

WASHINGTON, D.C., January 4, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – In an underreported and startling turn of events, the power of the Commander-in-chief — the President of the United States – is quietly being eroded, ceded to unelected members of the judiciary.  

In August, President Trump issued a directive to halt the recruitment of transgender individuals by the U.S. military. The President’s orders have been met with stiff opposition within and outside the government bureaucracy. Individuals and groups have filed lawsuits in federal courts aiming to overturn Trump’s suspension of Obama-era guidelines welcoming transgenders into the military. In each case, judges have ruled against the administration’s effort to temporarily keep gender-dysphoric individuals from the ranks of the military.

Six national security leaders have written to President Trump, advising him to take a strong stand against judicial usurpation of his powers as Commander-in-chief granted by the U.S. Constitution, Article III. They urged him to seek a stay of the lower court rulings from the Supreme Court and, in the absence of such a stay, to issue a new directive to the Pentagon and Department of Homeland Security, according to a statement published by the Center for Security Policy.  

The signatories include Former Attorney General Edwin Meese, former Commander-in-Chief Pacific Fleet Admiral James “Ace” Lyons, former Deputy Under Secretary of Defense Lt. Gen. William “Jerry” Boykin, former Assistant Air Force Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Thomas McInerney, former Assistant Secretary of Defense (acting) Frank Gaffney, and former member of the Presidential Commission on the Assignment of Women in the Military Elaine Donnelly.

“At issue is whether the President of the United States will continue to be responsible for the composition, readiness and disposition of the U.S. military, or whether federal judges will be allowed to have the final say on such matters,” say the national security experts.

“If Donald Trump accedes to the precedent that judges – not the Commander-in-Chief – can determine who will serve in the U.S. armed forces, they will presumably in the future also assert the right to dictate what those they allow in will do, or not do, while in uniform,” they warn. “For example, injunctions might be issued if troops don’t want to go to war or otherwise be put in harm’s way. This is, of course, a formula for completely breaking the only military we have.”

The six proposed to President Trump the issuance of a new directive that “would make the court-ordered recruitment of self-described transgender individuals subject to a ‘conditional accession’ in light of the ongoing dispute over whether they can be enlisted at all.” This would give the Departments of Defense and Justice time to settle the as yet unresolved court cases now slowly making their way through various federal courts.

“President Trump has a responsibility to our armed forces and to the nation to protect the powers vested in him as Commander-in-Chief,” said Frank Gaffney, president of the Center for Security Policy. “Just as ‘hard cases make bad law,’ the decision to do so in the context of the transgenders in the military issue may obscure what is fundamentally at stake. But it is his sworn duty to ‘preserve, protect and defend the Constitution.’”

The President “must use whatever tools are available to him to prevent federal judges from countermanding his direct orders to those below him in the chain of command,” Gaffney continued, “including by seeking a Supreme Court stay with respect to this instance of reckless judicial overreach and, failing that, by requiring that any transgender individuals enlisted until the matter is resolved be given a conditional accession.”

Judges are now the commanders-in-chief of the U.S. military

In an interview conducted on SiriusXM’s Breitbart News Tonight, Gaffney explained:  “The idea was, the president said, we’re not going to bring in more people who have a psychological disorder that is clinically known as gender dysphoria, and it is a problem that can create erratic behavior, I’m told. It is a problem that, at the very minimum, requires lots of medical treatment; that treatment can make people unable to do things like deploy for months and months and months on end, to say nothing of the costs that the Pentagon will have to cover for these medical procedures.”

“So, for all these reasons, the president was right to say we’re not going to do that,” averred Gaffney. “And yet several federal district court judges and two appellate court panels have decided that actually judges are now the commanders-in-chief of the United States military and they can tell the president to get stuffed on things they don’t agree with.”

President Trump was “elected on a platform of ending political correctness in the military, and of rebuilding the military,” concluded Gaffney. “The president has a duty, in my view, to resist these kinds of activities.”

Who Gets to Decide?

“Under Article III of the U.S. Constitution, the federal courts have no authority to make policy regarding the military,” said Elaine Donnelly, president of the Center for Military Readiness. “The Department of Justice (DoJ) should have protected the constitutional rights of President Donald J. Trump by filing an emergency appeal with the Supreme Court immediately after the District of Columbia and Fourth Circuit Courts of Appeals denied requests for stays of lower court preliminary injunctions.”

“The issue is not the military transgender policy alone, but who gets to decide what the policy will be,” underscored Donnelly. “By failing to petition the Supreme Court to stay the lower court orders, the DoJ has tacitly conceded that federal judges can make military policy and establish medical standards for enlistments.”

Donnelly concluded her statement: “The most important question is:  How does any of this improve mission readiness and combat lethality?”

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Fr. Mark Hodges Fr. Mark Hodges

The Pulse

Billboard campaign spins abortion as a ‘good parenting decision’ and ‘a blessing’

Fr. Mark Hodges Fr. Mark Hodges

CLEVELAND, Ohio, January 4, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) — Ohio’s largest abortion business wants to improve its product image without showing its product.

“Abortion Positive” billboards are going up all over Cleveland, the home of abortuary Preterm. The lucrative business is launching a media campaign to portray aborting a baby as a beneficial thing for families and children.

The ads position abortion as something to be celebrated and affirmed. Each ad begins with “Abortion is … ” and fills in different words or phrases.

 

  • “Abortion is a family value.”

  • “Abortion is a blessing.”

  • “Abortion is hope.”

  • “Abortion is a parenting decision.”

  • “Abortion is life-saving.”

  • “Abortion is good medicine.”

  • “Abortion is healthcare.”

  • “Abortion is necessary.”

  • “Abortion is safer than childbirth.”

  • “Abortion is normal.”

  • “Abortion is liberty.”

  • “Abortion is a second chance.”

  • “Abortion is right for me.”

Preterm’s website adds, “Abortion is gender equality,” and “Abortion is sacred.”

None of the billboards show a picture of an abortion or what is done in an abortion. None of them give a simple definition of abortion.

“We want to push people to think about abortion in new, diverse ways with these billboards,” Preterm’s Nancy Starner said. The idea is to mask any stigma of abortion or any concern the mother might feel toward her baby.

Truth Revolt’s Amelia Hamilton sees through the doublespeak. “This desperate attempt at rebranding abortion suggests that Preterm knows how Americans feel about abortion.”

Preterm promotes the incongruent message. Its website teaches, “To a parent struggling to make ends meet, abortion may be the best way to love and care for your family. To a young person, abortion may be the chance to graduate. To all of us, abortion is foundational to a just society.”

The truth is, abortion is murder. Abortion is dangerous. Abortion is death.  

Pro-life organizations offer hope to women who realize what they have done, in a safe and loving environment. There is grief in the path to healing from abortion, but Jesus offers forgiveness and hope.

The billboard campaign follows pro-life Gov. John Kasich’s signing a prohibition against aborting babies because they may have Down syndrome. The law was signed last month and is scheduled to go into effect in March.

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