All articles from November 27, 2018


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Melania Trump’s White House Christmas decorations include gorgeous 18th century nativity scene

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By Dorothy Cummings McLean

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WASHINGTON, D.C., November 27, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – The First Lady of the United States has once again included a traditional nativity scene in the Christmas decorations at the White House.

Yesterday Melania Trump released photos and videos of her Christmas preparations at the White House. Her theme this year is “American Treasures,” but among the colorful trees, gingerbread cityscapes, and tributes to the First Lady’s “Be Best” initiative rests an antique nativity scene.

The 300-year-old nativity scene first was a 1967 gift to the White House from philanthropist and collector Mrs. Charles W. Englehard, a founding member of First Lady Jackie Kennedy’s committee to restore the aging White House.

Albert J. Menendez, author of Christmas in the White House, wrote that Mrs. Kennedy’s successor, Lady Bird Johnson, asked Mrs. Englehard to find an appropriate manger scene for the White House Christmas collection. After scouring Europe, Englehard found the eighteenth century Neapolitan creche through the Christmas Crib Association of Italy. There are 22 wooden figures in the set, which has a backdrop of wood and terracotta. The figures are ornately dressed and the Three Wise Men ride horses instead of camels.

Baby Jesus is crowned.

According to the White House Historical Association (WHHA), it has been customary for the First Lady to prepare the White House for Christmas since First Lady Lou Henry Hoover decorated an “official tree” in the White House in 1929.

“Since that time, the honor of trimming the Christmas tree on the state floor has belonged to our first ladies,” the WHHA explains on its website. “The tree stands in the oval Blue Room, and elegant space honored as the center of holiday splendor.”

In 1961, First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy began a new tradition of choosing a theme and decorating the White House rooms with the help of staff and volunteers.

“At times certain decorations have been especially popular with visitors and returned each year such as the Cranberry tree in the Red Room that made its first appearance in 1975,” says the WHHA.

“For more than 50 years, White House holiday themes have included largely nostalgic or traditional themes, such as the Nutcracker Suite, early America, American Flowers, an old-fashioned traditional Christmas, antique toys, Mother Goose, family literacy, the Twelve Days of Christmas, Home for the Holidays, and Simple Gifts,” it continues.

“The elegant White House mantels throughout the Ground Level and State Floor become the canvas of some of the most creative and beautiful decorations shaped each year by the theme of the first lady’s holiday décor.”

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Belgian doctors on trial for skipping treatment in favor of euthanasia

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By Society for the Protection of Unborn Children

November 27, 2018 (Society for the Protection of Unborn Children) – In another horrifying example of the consequences of Belgium's euthanasia laws, three doctors are facing trial accused of certifying a woman as autistic so that she could die by euthanasia.

Tine Nys died by lethal injection in 2010, at the age of 38. She had told two doctors and a psychiatrist that her suffering was 'unbearable and incurable' so that she could qualify for euthanasia under Belgian law.

No treatment attempted, just death

However, her family say that her suffering was down to a broken heart after the end of a relationship, not autism. Moreover, they say the law was broken because Ms Nys was never treated for autism and so it had not been established that her suffering was "incurable". She died only two months after the diagnosis of autism was made, and the last treatment she had received for psychological problems was 15 years prior to her death. 

Ms Nys' sisters Lotte and Sophie have accused the doctors of making a rushed decision without treating her for autism. They are facing trial for failing to comply with euthanasia laws and poisoning, in the first such case since euthanasia was legalised in Belgium in 2002. 

No-one is safe

Ghent prosecutors moved just days after a similar case in The Netherlands, another country with notoriously lax euthanasia laws. There, a doctor who secretly drugged a 74 year old dementia patient's coffee before getting her relatives to hold her down while she administered a lethal injection is finally being prosecuted

In a warning to the rest of the world, these two countries provide examples of how the most vulnerable groups in society are put at risk when euthanasia is legalised. In Belgium, three children were killed by euthanasia in 2016 and 2017. In Flanders, 10% of cancer patients are euthanised, some without consent. This year, the Netherlands allowed a 29 year old woman with mental illnesses to die by assisted suicide. 

Alcoholics, sex-abuse victims, and dementia sufferers also qualify and have died in these countries. When these most vulnerable groups are "helped" to die, it is clear that no one is safe.

Published with permission from the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children.

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BREAKING: Twitter restores conservative commentator banned without explanation

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By Calvin Freiburger

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November 27, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – Twitter has reinstated the account of Jesse Kelly, an Iraq veteran and senior contributor to The Federalist, just days after banning him from the platform without explanation.

On Sunday, the social media giant informed Kelly his account was being “permanently suspended” for “multiple or repeat violations of the Twitter Rules,” but didn’t cite any examples. Twitter’s apparent failure to give Kelly an explanation for banning him appears to violate the company’s own policies, which promise to “explain which policy or policies they have violated and which content was in violation” to anyone hit with a “permanent suspension.”

The move provoked a wave of condemnation from Kelly’s friends and fans, as well as from some center-right figures who personally dislike him but were nevertheless concerned about the free speech implications. Kelly also appeared on Tucker Carlson Tonight on Monday to discuss the censorship.

On Tuesday afternoon, the Daily Wire’s Ryan Saavedra announced that Kelly’s account has been reinstated, with his follower count gradually climbing back to its original 80,000.

"The account was temporarily suspended for violating the Twitter Rules and has been reinstated,” Twitter claimed according to BuzzFeed’s Charlie Warzel. “We have communicated directly with the account owner.”

Twitter’s reversal follows not only pressure from conservative media, but multiple members of Congress getting involved. Republican Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska called Kelly’s case a “bad precedent for our free speech society,” while incoming Republican Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri called for an investigation of whether Twitter targets political speech, which would violate its immunity from liability for the content it publishes.

Earlier Tuesday, an aide for the U.S. House Energy and Commerce committee told The Federalist that the committee is reviewing Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey’s September 2018 testimony to determine whether he lied to Congress when he claimed under oath that “we don’t consider political viewpoints, perspectives, or party affiliation in any of our policies or enforcement decisions, period.”

“Twitter has not yet provided responses to members’ questions for the record, despite an October 15th deadline,” the aide added. “It is important that Congress receive this requested information to ensure we are able to properly perform our oversight responsibilities.”

Many found Dorsey’s assurance hard to believe in light of his April endorsement of an article calling Republicans “the bad guys on the wrong side of history” akin to the slaveholding South, who must be “beaten, and badly” by a Democratic supermajority that must dominate American politics for at least a generation, as well as various ongoing controversies about Twitter restricting conservative content and users, including LifeSiteNews.

Twitter insiders have admitted to intentionally targeting conservative accounts and topics, and this summer the company admitted to excluding various prominent Republicans from its drop-down search menu. Kelly himself warned in August that social media giants’ banning of conspiracy theorist Alex Jones was the start of a slippery slope to silencing more mainstream voices.

In fact, Twitter actually wrote “political viewpoints [and] perspectives” into its “hateful conduct” guidelines last month, staking out an ideological position on transgenderism and defining “misgendering” and “deadnaming” gender-confused individuals as potentially warranting suspension.

Despite Kelly’s victory, Hawley and Federalist co-founder Sean Davis agreed that Dorsey still needs to explain his company’s conduct before Congress:

Twitter and fellow social media giant Facebook have reversed numerous high-profile actions against prominent conservatives, typically explaining them simply as “errors.” The fact that such incidents keep happening, however, indicates the root cause remains unaddressed and fuels suspicions that the platforms are deliberately targeting conservative users.

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Amazon UK under fire for listing hardcore porn DVDs in ‘dad gifts’ search

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By Calvin Freiburger

UNITED KINGDOM, November 27, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – Amazon UK users deciding what to get their fathers for Christmas found an unpleasant surprise recently as a simple search for the phrase “dad gifts” turned up hardcore pornography.

The search terms brought up a DVD titled “Dad Is F*****g my Girlfriend” from a third-party seller, The Sun reports, stoking fears that young users could accidentally be exposed to obscene material via innocent searches.

“In amongst the usual stuff like BBQ utensils, car manuals, gardening gift sets and funny T-shirts which say 'Grumpy old git', or 'No 1 dad' novelty mugs was this sex film,” James Lock, a father of two who was exploring gift ideas for his own father, said. “My two kids go on Amazon a lot to look for toys and ideas for presents to write on their letter to Father Christmas. I hate to think what would have happened if they'd found this DVD themselves.”

“Completely gobsmacked that one of the world's biggest retailers sells porn so blatantly,” Gina Morris added on Facebook.

Amazon UK removed the DVD after being contacted by The Sun, assuring customers the “product in question is no longer available” and claiming that pornograpy is “not permitted” on the online marketplace in the first place, let alone accessible via such an innocuous search. But the British paper reports that “thousands” of erotic DVDs still show up just by searching “porn film.”

A search for “dad gifts” on the American version of Amazon’s Movies & TV category simply brings up mainstream films and television series, but a search for “porn” brings up a variety of so-called “adult movies.” Amazon claims it allows “unrated erotic videos and DVDs” but bans “pornography” and “X-rated movies” that “portray nudity in a gratuitous or graphic manner.” It doesn’t explain what distinguishes “erotic videos” from “pornography.”

The Sun notes that ever since a High Court ruling in 2005, sale of porn in the UK has been banned from online and mail-order retailers, and confined to licensed shops that can verify in person that a customer is at least 18 years old.

Last year, Amazon made the National Center on Sexual Exploitation’s “Dirty Dozen” list for selling “hardcore pornographic films and magazines, books featuring collections of eroticized child nudity, sex dolls (many with childlike features), and more.”

The online shopping giant has also flouted traditional morality and pro-family customers by partnering with the left-wing Southern Poverty Law Center to vet charities for “hate,” promoting LGBT Pride Month via its Alexa smart speaker, and producing the pro-abortion film This Is Jane.

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My Pillow founder Mike Lindell gives $1 million to pro-life film about Abby Johnson

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By Calvin Freiburger

November 27, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – Mike Lindell, inventor of the popular My Pillow and founder of the company of the same name, isn’t just one of America’s most well-known names in getting a good night’s sleep; he’s also a pro-life Christian willing to invest money in the pro-life message.

Unplanned is an upcoming film from the creators of Christian hits such as God's Not Dead and I Can Only Imagine, in partnership with 40 Days for Life and And Then There Were None. It tells the real-life story of Abby Johnson, a former Planned Parenthood director who converted to the pro-life cause in 2009. Johnson has exposed numerous details about the inner workings of the abortion industry and now works as a pro-life activist and commentator.  

“We have been given a false narrative by our secular media that tells us that the abortion industry is ‘safe, sanitary and provides high-quality health care for women,’” Johnson told LifeSiteNews in 2016. “The only way to effectively combat that myth is by revealing the true stories and the real horror that is taking place behind those clinic walls.”

Johnson also founded And Then There Were None, which helps abortion workers leave that industry.

Lindell has invested $1 million in the movie, Faithwire reports. He will also have a brief cameo in a scene depicting the bulldozing of a Planned Parenthood facility replaced by the headquarters of the pro-life group 40 Days for Life.

“I’m pro-life and I’m happy to do it,” Lindell said. “I don’t get into things for the money; I get into them if the message is right.” Of his cameo, Lindell added that he had to “get over my shyness” and “spirit of unworthiness” to act on camera.

Lindell is no stranger to right-of-center politics. My Pillow advertises on numerous conservative radio shows, and Lindell refused to submit to left-wing pressure campaigns to boycott figures such as Laura Ingraham. “When they tell me to back down, I double down, and my sales go up,” he explained to The Hollywood Reporter.

He also supports President Donald Trump, a decision he reached through a combination of prayer and meeting with the then-candidate “before he was president and I didn't know a thing about politics.”

“I can pretty much go on any channel and talk about Jesus or Donald Trump, and I don't get attacked like you would think because I'm straightforward and I tell it like it is,” Lindell added, revealing that he doesn’t receive much heat for his stands.

The movie, which follows the pro-life Gosnell and serves as a counterweight to a variety of upcoming pro-abortion moviess, was largely filmed in secret due to its controversial subject matter. Ashley Bratcher, the actress playing Johnson, says she would have been aborted if her mother hadn’t chosen life at the last minute.

“To know you almost didn’t exist is an incredible thing to hear,” Bratcher told The Stream. “I was just seconds away from not existing. I still don’t think I’ve processed it, because I’ve been so busy nonstop doing this film.”

Unplanned is slated for release next March. More information can be found at the film’s website.

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Dylan Pontiff, who performs as Santana Pilar Andrews.
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WATCH: Drag queen admits he’s ‘grooming’ children at story hour events

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By James Risdon

LAFAYETTE, Louisiana, November 27, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – Drag queens are deliberately "grooming" the next generation to accept LGBT ideology when they read to children in public libraries at drag queen “story hour” events, a U.S. drag queen admitted. 

Dylan Pontiff, a drag queen who helped organize one of these story hour events for children as young as three at the Lafayette Public Library in early October, is shown in a video making that shocking admission to the Lafayette City-Parish Council in Louisiana during a Sept. 17 meeting.

"This is going to be the grooming of the next generation. We are trying to groom the next generation," said Pontiff, who when dressed in drag goes by the name Santana Pilar Andrews. 

Pontiff said that as a drag queen he has performed in shows for adults that he compared to an R-rated film. He argued that he should be able to have access to children because, as an adult, he knows how to “filter” himself and make his content PG-rated. 

“I can go in and entertain adults in a club and also entertain a group of students and young children. I’m able to do that because I’m an adult and able to filter myself,” he said.

Citizens of that community in Louisiana shook their heads in bewilderment behind Pontiff as he made these comment. 

"Unfortunately, the Drag Queen Story Hour program is turning public libraries into platforms to advance the transgender revolution, places where pro-homosexual activists are given access to children as young as three," said John Ritchie, director of TFP Student Action, in an interview. 

"Instead of protecting the precious innocence of our children with wholesome stories, libraries are misusing our tax-dollars to harm their innocence," he said. "To attempt to dismantle and destroy the distinction between male and female is not only biologically ridiculous, but also a direct attack against God's plan for us and for the family.  Everyone who loves the family should wake up, pray and push back."

The public meeting by the Lafayette City-Parish Council in September was to consider a motion to denounce the drag queen story hour proposed for the local library on October 6 as not being age-appropriate.

The motion, derided as "hateful" and "discriminatory" by its opponents, would not have been binding on the public library. But it never got that far. The majority of the Lafayette City-Parish Council declined to vote on it, effectively scuttling the motion.  

Leslie Alexander, a member of the community, said that the library should not have approved the drag queen story hour event without consulting the public.

“This is not about tolerance or anti-bullying,” she told the Lafayette Daily Advertiser. “It is a direct and intentional effort to create gender confusion and doubt among very young children at the very time they need solid guidance and understanding. The intent is to plant a seed to make children more likely to question their sexuality or gender at a later age."

According to Ritchie, the seeds of this indoctrination of young children in public libraries was sown when marriage was legally re-defined.

"When homosexual 'marriage' was legalized back in 2015, the naive told us not to worry because the decision would never affect us," said Ritchie. "Marriage is just a word, they said. But for those who understand history, the redefinition of true marriage by the U.S. Supreme Court contained a string of ugly consequences." 

"What was unthinkable yesterday is tolerated today: Transgender drag performers are allowed to explicitly target children in public buildings," he said. 

A number of LGBT activists have highlighted in recent years that the movement’s goal is to “indoctrinate” children into accepting the normalcy of the LGBT agenda.

“I am here to tell you: All that time I said I wasn't indoctrinating anyone with my beliefs about gay and lesbian and bi and trans and queer people? That was a lie,” wrote Canadian gay activist Sason Bear Bergman, a woman who identifies as a transgender man, in a March 2015 piece titled “I Have Come to Indoctrinate Your Children Into My LGBTQ Agenda (And I'm Not a Bit Sorry).” Bergman holds nothing back, stating she wants to make children “like us” even if that “goes against the way you have interpreted the teachings of your religion.”

In 2011 U.S. gay activist Daniel Villarreal penned a column for Queerty.com stating that the time had come for the homosexual lobby to admit to “indoctrinating” schoolchildren to accept homosexuality.

“Why would we push anti-bullying programs or social studies classes that teach kids about the historical contributions of famous queers unless we wanted to deliberately educate children to accept queer sexuality as normal?”

“We want educators to teach future generations of children to accept queer sexuality. In fact, our very future depends on it. Recruiting children? You bet we are,” he added.

Homosexual activist Michael Swift wrote in 1987 in the Gay Community News that school children would become explicit targets for homosexual indoctrination. “We shall seduce them in your schools…They will be recast in our image. They will come to crave and adore us,” he wrote at the time. 

RELATED STORIES: 

After pro-family campaign, library drops drag queen storytime for kids

American Library Association doubles down on drag queens reading to kids

The latest LGBT lunacy: ‘Transgender’ puppet to teach kids about ‘gender issues’

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Pro-Islam Pakistani Prime Minister claims history makes ‘no mention’ of Jesus

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By Calvin Freiburger

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, November 27, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan sparked controversy on November 20 by casting doubt on Jesus Christ’s existence and historical significance, as part of his pitch for an international convention against blasphemy.

“There were prophets of Allah other [than Muhammad], but there is no mention of them in human history. There is negligible mention of them,” Khan claimed during remarks on the birthday of Islam’s prophet, according to a translation by the Middle East Media Research Institute. “Moses is mentioned, but there is no mention of Jesus in history.”

“But the entire life of Muhammad, who was Allah's last prophet, is part of history,” he continued, claiming that “Aristotle and Greek philosophies reached Europe through Muslims, and then European civilization rose.”

Khan lamented that Muhammad being “blasphemed against and dishonored” in Western countries provokes Muslims to violently protest, which only reinforces perceptions that Islam is violent. Instead, he wanted a worldwide convention explaining to the West “how much our Prophet resides in our hearts.”

“We want the countries of the world to sign a convention which will be called the International Convention on Preventing the Defamation of Religions, which means that freedom of speech cannot be used as a pretext to hurt the world's 1.25 billion Muslims,” the prime minister announced.

It’s unclear whether Khan was denying Jesus’ existence or simply claiming His life was historically inconsequential, but neither interpretation withstands scrutiny.

Ridley College theologian Mike Bird explains that few historians take seriously the notion that Christ never existed. Written accounts of His life are written as early as twenty years after His death, whereas “there is a gap of over 200 years between the death of Alexander the Great,” whose historicity is generally accepted, “and our first known biographies of him.”

As for the impact Jesus had on history, Christianity has been credited with the spread and development of numerous examples of human advancement, including moral absolutes, human equality, education, scientific progress, mercy, and charity. Christians hold that Jesus is the Son of God who opened up the way to eternal life with God through his sacrifice on the cross. They believe that there is no other name under which man can be saved.  

Khan’s comments sparked numerous critical responses, several of which pointed out that the Koran itself repeatedly mentions Jesus. Pakistan Today reports that some of his defenders claim Khan merely meant Jesus wasn’t mentioned in historical accounts written before His death, but others, including fellow Muslims, challenged both the accuracy and implications of the prime minister’s remarks:

The notion that speech “hurt[ing] the world's 1.25 billion Muslims” with speech critical of their prophet must be restricted in some way also stands in stark contrast to Christianity, which teaches Christians to expect, endure, and even rejoice at not just insults, but persecution for their faith.

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Blind Chinese defector: Vatican’s deal with China is ‘slap in the face’ to millions of Catholics

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By Doug Mainwaring

November 27, 2018, (LifeSiteNews) – In a recently published rebuke to the Vatican for its recent agreement with China’s Communist Party, heroic world-famous blind Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng explained why the Holy See should not cede the selection of bishops in China to the Communist Party (CCP).

Chen, in his article titled “A Pact with a Thief, a Deal with the Devil: The Vatican’s Pending Agreement with China,” said he was shocked and dismayed in seeing the Vatican/China agreement take shape. 

“I have known and worked with countless individuals in China who have been persecuted for their beliefs,” wrote Chen at Public Discourse.  “It has thus been with intense shock and dismay that I have watched the Vatican’s rapprochement with China take shape.”

Chinese Cardinal Joseph Zen said in a recent interview that the agreement "indirectly" amounts to the Vatican "helping the government to annihilate the underground Church that Beijing was not able to crush.”

If anybody has a right to speak out on the current Vatican/China controversy, it’s Chen.

Blind from a young age, Chen Guangcheng gained international prominence more than a decade ago for bravely suing the government over its brutal “one-child policy,” which has resulted in forced abortions, estimated to be in the hundreds of millions.  Chen was imprisoned by China’s communist government for his activism. In 2012 he escaped house arrest and fled to the U.S. Embassy in Beijing. He and his family were later allowed to leave for the United States where he is now a distinguished visiting fellow at the Institute for Policy Research and Catholic Studies at the Catholic University of America and a senior fellow at the Witherspoon Institute. 

“I was born and raised in China under the communist despotism. I personally experienced the brutal torture and persecution that the atheists of the Communist Party committed against dissidents,” explained Chen earlier this year.  “They have no fear of God or any moral bottom line; they have committed innumerable murders with a total disregard for human life for the sole purpose of maintaining their reign.”

'Slap in the face'

Chen suggests that the Vatican has entered into an uneven deal with the CCP, giving up too much authority––most notably regarding the selection of bishops––in order to re-establish diplomatic relations with the communist state.  

“The fact that the Vatican sees these terms as an acceptable basis for reconciliation with a brutal dictatorial regime is a slap in the face to millions of Catholics and other faithful religious people in China who have suffered real persecution under the CCP,” wrote Chen.  “In fact, it is an affront to reasonable and freedom-loving people everywhere. As a self-described atheist regime, the CCP simply cannot claim authority over religious affairs, such as the choice of bishops. And its offering recognition of the pope is as paltry a concession as admitting the sky is blue.”

The problem is that the goals of religion––any religion––are at odds with those of the CCP.  “Religion asks for trust in a higher power—higher still than the Communist Party can claim—and faith in ideas that are beyond the reach of the regime’s clutches.”

“Over the past decade, the CCP has been aggressively attacking underground Catholic and Protestant house churches, first going after banned religious symbols and dismantling crosses,” recounted Chen.  “The CCP has been arresting priests, threatening congregants, and searching churches and places of worship. Many have disappeared and been tortured while under the regime’s control, refusing to relinquish their beliefs to a degraded, intolerant political party, and proving the power of their faith.”

Under increasing CCP influence in Christian churches, including the state-approved Catholic Church, “Congregants are required to sing communist songs and raise the national flag.”  

“The CCP is even preparing its own edition of the Bible, titled ‘The Chinese Christian Bible,’” added the outspoken activist, explaining that the CCP seeks to “force its socialist, secular values into the text while presenting a fiction of religious tolerance to the outside.” 

'Another shameful episode whose stain the Catholic Church will be unable to cleanse'

Chen continued: 

Clearly, the agreement is a blatantly political move designed only to serve the CCP’s interests. Not only does the action of the CCP selecting Catholic bishops represent a major decline for the Vatican, but it is the equivalent of bowing before evil, of selling God to the devil. Does the Vatican not know that the Communist Party controls everything in China? The Vatican ended relations with China in 1951 after the Communist Party had taken over power because the Party wanted to lead everything, including the spiritual realm. Now, after sixty-seven years, the Vatican is throwing away its values and accepting the leadership of the CCP. This will become yet another shameful episode whose stain the Catholic Church will be unable to cleanse.

I am sure that the active members of underground churches in China who have persevered against crippling persecution for so long can only feel betrayed. They must certainly feel that the Vatican is growing further from God and closer to the superficial human world of vice—closer to a Communist Party that is responsible for the deaths of over four hundred million unborn children and hundreds of millions of Chinese people. Can this actually represent the will of the heavens?

Chen’s concluding words were, “[T]he Vatican’s deal with China can only bring shame on its name.”  

Chen’s indictment of the Vatican/China deal demands serious consideration by the Holy See.  

“Every single line in this @PublicDiscourse article by the courageous Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng needs to be read by anyone in the Holy See involved in the Vatican’s agreement with China,” tweeted the Acton Institute’s Samuel Gregg.  “Every. Darn. Single. Line.”

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Conservative order of nuns on verge of destruction following Vatican interventions

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By Matthew Cullinan Hoffman

November 27, 2018 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Almost all of the members of a conservative order of nuns that serve the elderly in French nursing homes have announced that they have asked to be released from their vows following attempts by the Vatican to force them to alter their way of life and to “modernize” their order.

According to their lay supporters, the sisters have been accused of engaging in “too much prayer” and concerns have been expressed that they wear the guimpe, a traditional form of religious head covering used by nuns that is no longer in vogue among the Church’s liberal elite. The sisters say that they are accused of a “deviant authoritarianism,” of being “too classical” in their thinking, and of being guilty of an “immobilism” in their devotion to their institute’s charism.

A total of 34 of the 39 members of the the Little Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Redeemer say they want to quit the order after a Vatican dicastery removed their superior general and attempted to impose three “commissioners” on them who were hostile towards their more traditional practices.

The three commissioners are led by a religious sister and theology professor with a short haircut who does not wear a habit, one who defends Amoris Laetitia and whom the sisters have said does not understand their religious charism.

The sisters say that their protests against the choice of commissioners and their request that they receive someone else more suited to their charism have fallen on deaf ears, leading them to the conclusion that they could no longer carry out their vocation within their institute.

“After having acquired the moral certainty throughout this year that the reception of the apostolic commissioner within our Institute would cause serious and certain harm, both regarding the understanding of the charisma bequeathed by God to Mother Mary of the Cross, our Foundress, and the way of living it, after many times proposing solutions of appeasement without any answer ever having been given to us, after consulting with authorized and competent persons, after having prayed much and always with the desire to remain daughters of the Church, wanting to remain faithful and obedient to the truth, it seemed to us that we had no choice but to renounce our vows,” the sisters wrote in a public statement issued on November 7 (PDF here).

“We are therefore 34 out of 39 Sisters who are members of the Institute, who have asked to be relieved of our vows by the Dicastery for Religious,” the sisters add. “We do not make this sacrifice lightly: we desire to remain in full communion with the Church, but we cannot indicate more clearly, nor more painfully, our impossibility, in conscience, to obey what is imposed.”

The Little Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Redeemer trace their origins back to 1939 when an organization of women was founded by Mere Marie de la Croix (“Mother Mary of the Cross”), according to the lay organization that defends their cause. It began as an association of the faithful and was given the status of an Institute of Consecrated Life in 1989 by the then-bishop of Laval, Louis-Marie Billé.

According to the French Catholic website Riposte Catholique, the Institute currently includes four communities located in the dioceses of Laval and Toulouse, where they supervise four nursing homes for the elderly in the French departments of Haute-Garonne and Mayenne. They also provide catechesis and training in the spiritual life to Catholic families, and open their convents to parish and spiritual retreat groups. Their service to the Catholic faithful, however, will soon come to an end if no resolution to the conflict can be found.

Invasive visitations

The Little Sisters’ travails began in 2016, when the Bishop of Laval, Thierry Scherrer, attempted to separate one of the nursing homes of the sisters from the association that administers them, despite concerns that such a reorganization would cost millions of euros and would endanger the financial viability of the home. The sisters opposed the idea, as did the nursing home’s board of directors, who rejected Scherrer’s proposal.  

In apparent retaliation, Bishop Scherrer ordered a canonical visit of the sisters, sending two representatives to investigate them in late 2016. The result was a highly negative report, made public in June 2017, that asserted the existence of “problems of governance” in the order, a claim vigorously disputed by the sisters, who have issued strong expressions of satisfaction with their superiors. The sisters have called the report a “caricature” of their order, produced as a “pre-judgment” against them.

Both the sisters and Bishop Scherrer then asked the Holy See to resolve the dispute. The Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life responded in September 2017 by removing the superior general of the Institute, Mère Marie de Saint Michel, as well as their mistress of novices, and sending them away from the mother house.

The Congregation then appointed three “commissioners” to oversee the sisters, who refused to accept them on the grounds that they were unsuited to their charism, and asked that other, more suitable commissioners be appointed. When this was refused, the sisters appealed to the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, the highest court in the Catholic Church. The sisters say that in August the Tribunal ruled against them without allowing their canon lawyer to present his arguments, which the sisters denounced as unjust.

Meet the new boss: habitless Sr. Geneviève Médevielle, a defender of Amoris Laetitia

The Vatican is attempting to impose on the order Sr. Geneviève Médevielle, the principal among the three commissioners. Médevielle is a religious sister who dresses in lay clothing and wears a short haircut without a head covering. She is a professor of ethics at the Catholic Institute of Paris and the author of the recently-published book “Migrants, Francis, and us.” Médevielle writes in defense of Amoris Laetitia against “conservatives and traditionalists” who criticize it.

Marcel Mignot, president of the Association of Support for the Little Sisters of Mary, told the French publication La Croix, “The Little Sisters are reproached for praying too much, and they also want them to change their habit. They want to modernize them and make them evolve by taking them away from their roots.”

Médevielle denies the claim that she wants to transform the Institute, responding to La Croix, “I want to respect them, not to transform them! If there are changes, they absolutely will not concern their charism.”

However, according to the sisters’ Association of Support, “the commissioners have likewise announced the general outline of their project of reforming the congregation. The Little Sisters, have, in effect, clearly seen the evolutions that await them, towards a supposed modernity, made of progressive trivialization if they allow Sr. Medevielle take the reins of their institute, with the support of the Dicastery.”

“The latter has stated, following a meeting, ‘We won’t touch your charism at all, but rather your way of living it.’ That says it all!” the sisters’ lay supporters add.

“The goal that is sought is not to establish the truth and to allow the Little Sisters to continue their mission for the benefit of all, with respect for their charism,” the sisters’ supporters write. “The only goal of Rome is to complete the project of Bishop Scherrer: to gain control over the Institute to make it evolve in accordance with his views, whether it be in defiance of the truth, whether it be in defiance of the rights of the defense, whether it be by recourse to lying. It is, at least, unworthy of the values promoted by the Holy Father whenever he speaks publicly.”

In the meantime, the commissioners insisted that they would conduct a visitation, despite the appeal, and threatened to remove the sisters from the Institute if they refused to allow them entrance. They dismissed the fact that the sisters were in the process of appealing the commissioners’ appointments, claiming that it did not provide them any legal relief from the obligation to obey. The sisters then relented and allowed the visitation, which seemed to confirm their worst fears.

‘Intimidation, threats, and manipulation’

According to the sisters’ Association of Support, the three commissioners sought to meet with each sister individually to pit the sisters against one another, suggesting that if they cooperated they could have positions of importance in the new reorganized Institute.

“The visits have been carried out under duress, in the form of an individual interview with the Little Sisters, who were alone facing two commissioners...the latter, based on the profile of the sisters, would try to reassure some, while seeking to lure others with ‘good positions’ within the future organization of the congregation...As if the principal objection of this operation were to open a breach within the unity of the Little Sisters, in the hope of dividing them, while there prevails a beautiful communion  among them.”

“The methods used, a mix of intimidation, threats, and manipulation, feel like moral harassment to many sisters,” they add.

Sisters exonerated – but Vatican refuses to lift penalties

Following the visitation by the commissioners, a new report was issued on the state of the Institute in June of this year. According to the sisters’ Association of Support, the second report recognized that “many important elements in the first report of the canonical visit of 2016, on the basis of which the sanctions would be imposed, did not reflect reality.”

“They admit that the sisters constitute dynamic communities and that the spirit that reigns is positive. They only highlight some some rather banal criticisms, which don’t compare to the complaints made in the initial report,” the sisters’ supporters write.

Despite being vindicated in the second report, however, the sisters have been told that the sanctions placed on them by the dicastery will not be lifted. “The Little Sisters are stupefied!” writes the Association of Support. “They do not cease to express their indignation in the face of this fallacious report, demanding that justice be done for them, that all of the baseless and degrading sanctions be lifted.”

The sisters complain that while the accusation against their superiors of being too heavy handed is contradicted by the testimony of the sisters themselves, the Vatican itself has been extremely authoritarian in the way it has treated the sisters.

“Even though the superiors would be accused of a ‘deviant authoritarianism,’ as the first report says, here is obedience suddenly brandished as a duty without appeal, without the concern of a right conscience having a say in it, without ever having been explained to us the least objective foundation of all these Roman measures,” the sisters write in their most recent public statement. “So would there be two weights, two standards in this affair?”

In addition, the nuns write that one of their houses in southern France has been targeted by the Archbishop of Toulouse, Robert Le Gall, who has prohibited them from attending their more traditional form of Mass in their community chapel. This appears to be the same house that has refused to participate in Le Gall’s Mass at the local nursing home, presumably because of differences over liturgical practice. The house is located in Castelnau-d’Estrétefonds, to the north of Toulouse, in Haute-Garonne, and is led by Sr. Marie-Liesse Laplace.

Vatican sends ultimatum: submit or be dismissed

Finally, in September, the Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, João Braz de Aviz, sent an ultimatum to the sisters, requiring them to accept Sr. Geneviève Médevielle as their authority “without reserve” or face dismissal from the Institute. The vast majority have asked to be released from their vows, rather than submit to Médevielle. No announcements have yet been made regarding the response of the Holy See.

The sisters passed through a similar trial in the 1970s, when officials of the Holy See attempted to force them to join other institutes. The sisters resisted and expressed their preference for losing their status as religious rather than entering another institute, according to the Association of Support. However, their congregation survived the ordeal.

The sisters have stated publicly that they wish to see the public alerted to their situation, and to come to their aid in resisting what they regard as a grave injustice against their institute and its charism of aiding the suffering at the end of life. Contact information for those interested in supporting and defending the Little Sisters can be found at the bottom of this article.

The apparent persecution of the Little Sisters has garnered much media attention in France, and has been covered on television as well as in print media. The mayor of Saint-Aignan-sur-Roe, where the mother house of the sisters is located, is publicly supporting the sisters.

“I have trouble understanding this power struggle,” Mayor Loïc Pène told the newspaper Haut Anjou. “The Sisters have my full support because I know what they represent for the town. They are well integrated and it is of local interest that they remain present. I am well aware of everything they bring. All they do besides, they do well. I only hope for a happy ending to this conflict and that the nursing home does not end up being weakened.”

A representative of the Diocese of Laval told the same newspaper that the sisters have caused their own suffering by resisting the authority of Rome. She also claimed that the reform measures the commissioners are seeking to impose were already in the works years earlier.

“The situation is difficult, it is true, so much so that it is now in the hands of Rome. But from the beginning we have been involved in adjustments and recommendations and not at all in conflict or grievances,” said diocesan spokeswoman Véronique Larat. “The adjustments, by the way, had already been proposed by Bishops Billé and Maillard, the predecessors of Bishop Scherrer. He simply took a position in continuity with them.”

“The Sisters are very troubled by this situation due to [their] disobedience, [and] many people are suffering,” Larat added. “We are still calling for reconciliation and for them to allow the pontifical commissioner appointed by Rome to join them.”

Commenting on the impending destruction of the order, Risposte Catholique wrote in September: “Everywhere these nuns are very much loved by the clergy and the people. What will become of the forty or so nuns who will no longer be? What are we going to do with their retirement homes, the elderly they welcome, the staff who are employed there? We thus see bloodless dioceses amputate their last living forces, in a sort of self-annihilation of moribund churches.”

Institute of Franciscan friars destroyed in a similar way

The destruction of the Little Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Redeemer follows a pattern similar to the Vatican-induced collapse of the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate (FFI), an order of Franciscans that followed a more traditional pattern of community life and that made free use of the traditional Latin Mass in accordance with the rites prevailing in 1962. Although the friars were within their legal rights to use the traditional form of the Mass in accordance with the papal motu proprio Summorum pontificum, their order came under attack for such practices by Bishop Braz de Aviz and others who frowned upon them. Among them, it seems, is Pope Francis himself.

Just as in the case of the Little Sisters, Braz de Aviz brought about the removal of the superiors of the FFI from their positions, and even the founder, Fr. Stefano Maria Manelli, was sent into house arrest at the age of 81. Five years later, he remains under house arrest. Other superiors were sent to remote houses of the order.

Likewise, a commissioner was placed over the order, Fr. Fidenzio Volpi, who seemed implacably hostile to the order’s charism and its works in general. Under his leadership, the FFI’s seminary was completely shut down, as was its book publishing service. A majority of the brothers left and were incardinated in other dioceses, and at least 15 cloisters of the order reportedly have closed their doors. The Traditional Latin Mass was only permitted by special permission from the commissioner.

Moreover, just as in the case of the Little Sisters, the members of the FFI never were given any specific reason for the imposition of the commissioner, except vague hints that they were too “traditional” for the tastes of the Vatican authorities, including, presumably, Pope Francis, who has refused to accept appeals from the order’s members. Within a few years, a thriving and beloved institute of Franciscans had become a shell of its former self.

Contact the author at [email protected].

Contact information:

Association of Support for the Little Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Redeemer

Main webpage in English: https://www.soutienpsm.com/severedifficulties

(You may also select French, Italian, or Spanish at upper right of webpage.)

Chez Mr Marcel MIGNOT
1 Avenue de Montréal
Résidence Montréal 2
72000 Le Mans
​Email: [email protected]

To sign the petition of support: https://www.soutienpsm.com/signer-la-petition-anglais

Click here for links to coverage by the French blog Riposte Catholique (can be translated to English easily with Google Translate – in Chrome browser right click on webpage and select “Translate to English”).

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Cdl. Joseph Zen in Hong Kong, China, Aug. 18, 2018. Paul Yeung/Bloomberg via Getty Images
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Cdl. Zen: Vatican is helping China’s Communist govt. ‘annihilate’ underground Church

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By Maike Hickson

November 27, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – In a recent interview with the French website La Croix International, Cardinal Joseph Zen has renewed his resistance against the 22 September 2018 “provisional” agreement between the Vatican and Communist China on the appointment of bishops, whose full content, however, is still largely unknown. But it will readmit “to full ecclesial communion the remaining ‘official’ Bishops, ordained without Pontifical Mandate.” The agreement is now being used to coerce the Underground Catholics to join the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association under Communist rule, as the Cardinal explains. He recently hand-delivered to the Pope a seven-page-letter, not trusting the reliability of the Pope's entourage.

In the 22 November interview, Cardinal Zen makes it clear that he considers the 22 September agreement to be destructive of the faithful Underground Church in China. He says that “the Pope didn’t get anything from this agreement, it’s a 'fake,' an illusion, and Beijing made him lose his authority.” The “Chinese authorities still consider they are in charge of the Chinese Church and they will still choose the bishops. The Pope will only have the last word,” Zen explains. 

Zen particularly points out that the agreement is of a secret nature and thus it can be manipulated by the Chinese Communists: “As this agreement is secret, the Chinese think that all the process now is legalized and they can choose the bishops. They think the Holy See signed a white paper (blank check) and that they can do what they want.” As a consequence of this agreement between Rome and China, the Communists will now approach all the faithful Catholics in China to tell them now that they have “to come out and leave clandestinity to join the Catholic Patriotic Association from the official Church. 'Come out, come out, the Pope [has made it] ok,' they will tell them,” the Cardinal states.

Pope Francis is now in the course of removing the excommunication of the bishops of the Patriotic Association which is under Communist control, thus further promoting a certain development in China that weakens the faithful Catholics. Zen explains the situation to be as follows: “Certainly, it’s only the beginning but we can clearly see where it is going. The Pope suspended the excommunication for seven bishops and gave jurisdiction of one diocese to Bishop Guo in Chengde. The Pope is going to wait before legitimizing the other six. It’s only a matter of time.” 

With this papal support and leniency toward the Communist-linked bishops, Cardinal Zen adds, “indirectly, the Vatican is helping the government to annihilate the underground Church that Beijing was not able to crush.”

Zen also asks whether one can speak of unity when “they force the underground to enter the bird cage?”

Zen describes how the good bishops in China are now even more marginalized since the Vatican agreement, but that they continue to fight. “Now the regime is destroying the underground Church and disappointing the few good bishops in the official Church. They resist. They do what they can, but they are marginalized.”

Cardinal Zen also announces that, should Pope Francis also legitimatize the remaining six bishops of the Patriotic Association, he shall fall into silence and go into a monastery: “I can’t fight against the pope. But when he legitimizes the six bishops, I will retire to a convent to pray. And I will not talk to journalists anymore. I will remain silent.”

Only a short while ago, Cardinal Zen personally gave Pope Francis his seven-page letter, saying “I wanted to be sure he gets my seven-page letter because I don't trust the people around him.” Speaking about the content of his letter, Zen says “I asked him to stop the negotiations with Beijing,” adding “the pope doesn't know the situation of the Church in China.” He also cautions the Pope not to visit China, because he would only be “manipulated by the regime whereas it would be good for President Xi Jinping for his international credibility.” 

Cardinal Zen had for years warned against such a Vatican agreement with China. In 2016, when speaking with the German bishops' website Katholisch.de, he warned against a possible agreement with China, saying “First, we should agree upon the question 'what is a Communist regime.' It is a totalitarian regime which wants to control everything. Also the Church. But this we may not allow – the Church may not be controlled by a government, by a regime.” 

He then made it clear that the recent years of the Vatican trying to make compromises with Communist China have only weakened the Church: “All these years of compromise have weakened the position of the Church. The Church [, on the contrary,] should encourage the faithful to be strong, to practice resistance.” 

Already in 2016, Cardinal Zen announced that he will fall silent, should there be an agreement with China. “If Francis comes to an agreement with Beijing, I will stop speaking. I will disappear. […] I will read my books and I will never appear publicly again. That is what I have also said to my brethren: retreat quietly and wait until better times come.” 

It is to be hoped that Cardinal Zen will change his mind and continue to speak in public for his suppressed people and to remain a prophet for his people, or in his words “I am someone crying in the desert.”

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Jesse Kelly
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Prominent conservative pundit booted from Twitter after calling out social media censorship

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By Calvin Freiburger

November 27, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – Jesse Kelly, a conservative pundit and Marine Corps veteran who served in Iraq, is the latest prominent right-of-center figure to be silenced by the social media giant Twitter.

Kelly is a senior contributor to The Federalist and a radio host on Houston’s KPRC 950. He also ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 2012. On Twitter he had amassed an 80,000-strong following for his fiery, irreverent commentary on the issues of the day, but found his account suspended Sunday evening, with a message that claimed “multiple or repeat violations of the Twitter Rules,” but didn’t cite any examples.​

The Daily Wire’s Ryan Saavedra shared that Kelly “has no idea what happened” and “says he never received any messages from Twitter notifying him of any kind of violation of the platform's terms of service.” Saavedra also reported that a Twitter spokesperson promised to look into the case, but came back with a statement simply that “We have nothing to share on this account.”

Twitter’s apparent failure to give Kelly an explanation for banning him appears to violate the company’s own policies, which promise to “explain which policy or policies they have violated and which content was in violation” to anyone hit with a “permanent suspension.”

Kelly, who warned in August that social media giants’ banning of conspiracy theorist Alex Jones was the start of a slippery slope to silencing more mainstream voices, discussed the implications of his case Monday at The Federalist.

“Now, I don’t really care because I’m just going to start a new account and it will be even better than my last one (if that’s possible),” he said. “This isn’t about me. This is about what kind of country we have become and what kind of country we want to be.”

“The American spirit of free speech has been replaced by people who want uncomfortable speech censored,” he lamented. “Nowhere is this more apparent than the social media world.”

Twitter’s move provoked a wave of condemnation from conservatives who attacked both the legitimacy and the consistency of Kelly’s banning, citing cases of hateful and violent speech from non-conservatives Twitter has declined to punish:

Some center-right figures such as Weekly Standard deputy online editor Jim Swift tacitly endorsed Kelly’s banning, sparking blowback and prompting the Standard’s editor-at-large Bill Kristol, a notorious “NeverTrump” personality, to mildly dissent.

Kelly’s banning is the latest of many ongoing controversies about Twitter restricting conservative content and users, including LifeSiteNews.

Last month, the company defined “misgendering” and “deadnaming” gender-confused individuals as “hateful conduct” potentially warranting suspension. Twitter insiders have admitted to intentionally targeting conservative accounts and topics, and this summer the company admitted to excluding various prominent Republicans from its drop-down search menu.

In light of Kelly’s ban, several Twitter critics have recalled CEO Jack Dorsey’s April endorsement of an article calling Republicans “the bad guys on the wrong side of history” akin to the slaveholding South, who must be “beaten, and badly” by a Democratic supermajority that must dominate American politics for at least a generation.

Nevertheless, Kelly expressed optimism that Twitter’s censorship efforts would ultimately fail in the long run.

“Voices break out. They cannot be contained. Twitter banning me from their platform only hurts them in the long run. They’ll continue to marginalize themselves, and I will continue to grow,” he wrote.

“What happens to the voices that are silenced? Are we doing ourselves a favor by forcing conformity to doctrines that are antithetical to the core values of many Americans?” he asked. “We’ll figure out the answers to these questions. We’ll solve these problems,” because “America is better than Twitter.”

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The late Bishop Morlino offered Mass ad orientem. Watch him explain why

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By Claire Chretien

November 27, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – Offering Mass ad orientem “enhances beauty” and “enhances reverence,” Bishop Robert Morlino, who died Saturday, told LifeSiteNews two years ago. LifeSiteNews releases footage of those comments for the first time today.

In 2016, Morlino became the second U.S. bishop to officially adopt the ad orientem posture facing the altar with the people while offering Mass at his regular cathedral parish. He said his flock received this well because he made catechesis on the liturgy a focus of his episcopate.

“The particular community that worships with me have been made aware and catechized about the meaning of ad orientem for years now,” he said. “When I announced to them that I would begin to celebrate in the ad orientem in the Ordinary Form, they smiled and nodded yes.”

Offering Mass this way “enhances beauty, it enhances reverence, and it enhances that feeling of comfort, that predictability that somehow the priest is much less likely to share off-the-cuff when he’s celebrating ad orientem,” said Morlino.

Before the promulgation of the Novus Ordo Mass by Pope Paul VI, Masses were offered with the priest facing the tabernacle along with his congregation. The rubrics of the post-Vatican II Mass suggest that liturgy should still be offered ad orientem, a fact often ignored by liturgical innovators and left-wing clerics.

Morlino, who the Catholic blogosphere fondly nicknamed the “Extraordinary Ordinary” because he offered Mass in the Extraordinary Form and allowed it to flourish in his diocese, explained to LifeSiteNews that “predictability” in the liturgy allows people to worship without worrying and wondering about what will happen next.

“St. Ignatius said repetition is the mother of studies, and we know from the Church fathers and many others that repetition is a key to prayer,” said Morlino. “So there must be a certain predictability in the liturgy so people can relax and not wonder, ‘what’s going to happen next and how exactly am I gonna respond to it?’ That approach is I think what’s harmed the Church so much — particularly maybe in the United States since the [Second Vatican] Council – that the participation in the Eucharist became unpredictable.”

Morlino’s diocese experienced a surge in vocations to the priesthood while many dioceses in the West have struggled to recruit men to become priests. Morlino said he thanks God every day for the seminarians of his diocese, who are “tremendous,” “wonderful,” and “terrific.”

“Seminarians in liturgy want really a couple things,” he said. “The most important thing is they want reverence… generally, the young men who are coming forth to be seminarians want reverence, they want beauty, and they want to relax so that they can participate. They want to know what’s going to happen next” rather than having to wonder what liturgical innovations will be introduced.

‘You have shepherded your flock well’

Bishop Morlino was well-known for his defense of orthodoxy and the pro-life and pro-family causes, in addition to his reverent Masses and focus on sacred liturgy.

On Monday, Dan Miller of Pro-Life Wisconsin wrote that Morlino made an enormous difference for the state’s pro-life movement and inspired his flock by joining them at prayer vigils outside abortion centers:

Pro-Life Wisconsin is so blessed to be a part of your community. Bishop Morlino, what you have done here is beyond a mere mortal’s words. Your leadership has inspired people to make great sacrifices to end abortion. You have shepherded your flock well. Look at the time your sheep have given! Thousands of cumulative hours spent out in front of Planned Parenthood making a difference. Your prayers. It wouldn’t surprise me if there were more than a million rosaries prayed throughout the years in front of Planned Parenthood to end abortion. Your finances. Millions of dollars you have sacrificed so that our brothers and sisters in Christ may have a better chance of making it out of the womb ALIVE! If the life of the pro-life movement is any indicator of a faithful Bishop, you are absolutely guilty of leading your flock well! Thank you! You are a sign that the hope of Christ is alive and well. Let us rejoice and be glad for your steadfast love for Christ, your vocation and for the people you serve and have served so well.

“The death of Bp. Morlino of Madison has had the effect of demonstrating that he truly deserved the nickname [the] Extraordinary Ordinary,” Father John Zuhlsdorf wrote on his well-trafficked blog. “I have received a flood of emails and text messages from all over the world expressing sorrow at his passing, admiration for his work and for his sheer goodness, and hope with prayers for him and for the continuation of what he set in motion.”

Zuhlsdorf shared a few of those messages, some of which were from priests telling him they would be offering Masses for the repose of the bishop’s soul.

“Bishop Morlino did more than encourage speaking truth to power[;] he modeled it,” Madison priest Father Richard Heilman wrote of his late ordinary. “His Sunday homilies were, classically, a refutation of what was on the news that previous week. He was not going to let them get away with manipulating his flock. He was shockingly to the point. But, while clear and unambiguous in his teachings, he remained charitable in his approach. He spoke these words whenever he could, ‘Truth with love.’”

“Bishop knew that a strong force of believers would not come from a soft Catholicism,” Heilman continued. “Moreover, Bishop understood that a strong Catholicism cannot emerge from a weak liturgy. Bishop was an avid disciple of Pope Benedict XVI, and he agreed with the holy pope who wrote about what laid at the very heart of the crisis in our Church: ‘I am convinced that the crisis in the Church that we are experiencing today is, to a large extent, due to the disintegration of the liturgy.’

RELATED:

US Catholics pay heartfelt tribute to the late Bishop Morlino

Beloved US Bishop Robert Morlino unexpectedly dies

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Trump admin asks Supreme Court to hear arguments on transgender military ban

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By Calvin Freiburger

WASHINGTON, D.C., November 27, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – The Trump administration is asking the United States Supreme Court to take up the case of its ban on transgender soldiers in the military, skipping appeals courts in the interest of a speedier resolution.

Finalized in March, the policy disqualifies “transgender persons with a history or diagnosis of gender dysphoria,” specifically those who “may require substantial medical treatment, including medications and surgery,” except in “certain limited circumstances.” It was developed after “extensive study by senior uniformed and civilian leaders, including combat veterans,” according to the White House and as detailed in a memo from Defense Secretary James Mattis.

The ban has been challenged in court since before it was even finalized, and in July the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the administration’s request to lift a temporary injunction against enforcing it.

On Friday, the administration petitioned the nation’s highest court to hear case instead of waiting for it to work its way through lower courts whose outcomes would almost certainly be appealed anyway, Jurist reports.

The Supreme Court’s rules allow it to fast-track cases that haven’t yet reached it if they’re shown to be “of such an imperative public importance as to justify deviation from normal appellate practice and to require immediate determination in this court.” The administration argues that a dispute over the “authority of the U.S. military to determine who may serve in the Nation’s armed forces” qualifies.

Pro-LGBT attorneys challenging the policy, such as Lambda Legal’s Peter Renn, told NPR that the Trump administration simply “can't wait to discriminate.”

But numerous military veterans and experts, such as Heritage Foundation defense expert and retired Lieutenant General Tom Spoehr and former Army drill instructor John Burk, endorse Defense Secretary James Mattis’s conclusion that gender dysphoria in the ranks harms “healthcare costs, readiness, and unit cohesion,” and therefore presents “considerable risk to military effectiveness and lethality.”

Center for Military Readiness (CMR) leader Elaine Donnelly argues that the policy’s foes are attempting to stigmatize something that was a consensus view before LGBT activists took yet another left turn. “In June 2017, for example, AP reported that three of four military service leaders wanted one or two years more time before implementing Obama-era transgender mandates,” she wrote.

If four Supreme Court justices agree to hear the case early, the policy’s fate would likely be revealed sometime in summer 2019.

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God speaks to us through creation. Are iPhones blocking his voice?

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By Dr. Peter Kwasniewski

November 27, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – One morning, in the middle of a winter in Austria, I leaned out of my office window and looked out upon the surrounding mountains, the silent trees, the snow hidden in clefts of rock, the solitary raven perched on a high branch. As my ears grew attuned to the quiet of the world, I heard the chirping of unseen birds and the faint sound of the wind blowing across the field. I saw four sparrows flying in perfect formation, a leaf skimming along the ground. The sky was grey. Things were somehow still and in motion, restless and at peace. It was for me a moment of wonder: so beautiful, so inexhaustible are these things—every single one of them speaking of God.

This, I imagine, is the sort of experience that prompted Gerard Manley Hopkins, SJ, to write one of his most famous poems:

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs —
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

It is no secret that theology has suffered a tremendous decline in modern times. Yes, there are very fine individual teachers and authors, but as a discipline it has lost its queenly place among the sciences, its grandeur, its profundity, when we compare it with the great Fathers and Doctors of the Church. The same may be said of Catholic spirituality: were we to place most of the popular spiritual books published today in a balance, with the classics of mysticism in the other tray, no one can truly be surprised at how the balance will tilt. (In the following, I will speak of “theology” but I intend it to include spirituality as well.)

Can we explain this decrepitude? Generalizations are risky, but I nevertheless believe it to be true that theology is moribund because metaphysis or the study of being is moribund; metaphysics is moribund, because the philosophy of nature is moribund; the philosophy of nature is moribund because natural history, that is, carefully paying attention to natural things in their natural environments, is moribund; and this is so, because men are no longer looking and listening to the world, but watching television, reading newspapers, bending like slaves over the work desk or popping instant dinners into the microwave.

The only way that richly Catholic, profoundly speculative, affective theology will once again blossom is by a renewed immersion in the good and beautiful creation of God.

This is what Saint Augustine did: think of the famous passage in the Confessions where he poses his deepest questions to the world around him, and that world gives him an answer, because he is truly listening to it. This is what Saint Thomas Aquinas did, too. St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (the religious name of Edith Stein) says that God is the primary theologian and the world is His theological Summa. In like manner Ronald McArthur, one of the founders of my alma mater Thomas Aquinas College, claims that Augustinian interiority is fundamentally different from Cartesian interiority because Augustine looks upon himself, as upon the world, with the warm wonder of a lover seeking his lost beloved, not with the cold gaze of rationalism that freezes whatever it looks at. Augustine, in other words, is looking for truth and understanding, Descartes for mastery and power.

Especially nowadays, people, in addition to living cut off from a “naked” experience of reality, can also make themselves blind to that which is to be seen or heard when they adhere to preconceived theories that render the mind incapable of making sense out of what the outer and inner senses present to it by way of experience. Put differently, it is possible for pseudo-science and ideology to paralyze or impede the intellect’s progression to the natural judgments on which the upward progress to theology relies.

That such a blindness can happen was obvious even to the pagan Greeks. In Book IV of his Metaphysics, Aristotle refutes the relativist who says—and maybe even convinces himself that he really thinks—that something can both be and not be at the same time and in the same respect, thus undermining the possibility of any meaningful discourse, dialogue, and learning. Descartes might be taken as a vibrant example of this mental obtuseness (unless, of course, he was merely playing with his readers as a cat plays with a mouse) when he says in his Meditations that the people walking around the street outside the window might actually be automatons dressed up as men… for how could one really know otherwise?

This is the kind of swamp of confusion into which the undisciplined—or, as with the founder of analytic geometry, hypertrophically over-disciplined—intellect can sink. The typical modern man on the street has an undisciplined mind: he has been so brainwashed by errors, by swallowing contradictions of first principles, that he is not capable, in any habitual way, of making intellectual progress by a series of disciplined judgments and inferences. 

A Descartes (or, to choose a more recent example, a Stephen Hawking) has, on the other hand, an unnaturally “disciplined” mind: so exclusively and narrowly is he trained in a certain way of thinking or a certain body of data, that he can no longer evaluate the full range of reality as it is given in spontaneous consciousness and apprehended by many different kinds of soul-acts. This is something Aristotle points out in Metaphysics, Book II, chapter 3. Once again, Aristotle is far ahead of us moderns, and that is one reason, among many, why liberal arts students should study Aristotle consistently and well.

Josef Pieper reminds us that creatures bear within themselves a trace of the incomprehensible mystery, the unfathomable depths, of their Creator. Gerard Manley Hopkins knew this and expressed it in brilliant verse. William Wordsworth knew it, too:

It is a beauteous evening, calm and free, 
The holy time is quiet as a Nun 
Breathless with adoration; the broad sun 
Is sinking down in its tranquility; 
The gentleness of heaven broods o’er the Sea; 
Listen! the mighty Being is awake, 
And doth with his eternal motion make 
A sound like thunder—everlastingly. 

Dear child! dear Girl! that walkest with me here, 
If thou appear untouched by solemn thought, 
Thy nature is not therefore less divine: 
Thou liest in Abraham’s bosom all the year; 
And worshipp’st at the Temple’s inner shrine, 
God being with thee when we know it not. 

It’s not for nothing that students at Wyoming Catholic College memorize so many poems like these, while also spending so many weeks of their college career in the backcountry, in rugged and truly awesome wild places. It is part of the renewal of the ability to see, hear, and touch, to become aware of the world that has been pushed away from us through our windows, screens, and phones—this world that streams forth from the fingers of God at every moment, whether we know it or not.

Poets desire to have knowledge of singulars as such, of the very individuality of things in their real existence. They express this knowledge in descriptions and metaphors which, while being in tension with the goal of singling out unrepeatable experiences, nevertheless bring home to us the message and meaning of the world as a sequence of intelligible words that God is speaking to me, to you, at this very moment.

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