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Father Mark Goring YouTube
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Superior orders outspoken priest on sex-abuse scandal to ‘cease and desist’

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By Lisa Bourne

EDITOR'S NOTE: Father Goring's videos were taken down after LifeSiteNews published this story. 

HOUSTON, Texas, January 8, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) — A Catholic priest told to stop speaking out about certain aspects of the Church’s sexual-abuse scandal issued an appeal to Pope Francis for permission to keep talking about the crisis.

Father Mark Goring, a member of the Companions of the Cross priestly community and director of the Catholic Charismatic Center in the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, was told by an unnamed superior to “cease and desist” last Friday. The instruction came after he had posted a YouTube video critical of embattled Cardinal Donald Wuerl, which stemmed from word that Wuerl would likely preside as normal over the archdiocese’s Youth Rally and Mass for Life during the upcoming March for Life.

Goring told viewers in the January 5 video he was asked a day earlier by one of his “legitimate authorities” to “cease and desist.”

His response was “immediate and unhesitant,” he said.

“I am a man of obedience,” Goring stated. “You’ve asked me to cease and desist. So I will cease and desist.”

Goring exhorted viewers to remember that when he was ordained he promised before God to be obedient to his superiors. He said it was never his intention to make their lives difficult.

In his appeal to Pope Francis video posted January 8, Goring said again he was a man of obedience.

He explained the cease and desist had come via a phone call, though not specifying from whom, and he had not been told to remove any of his videos or prohibited from commenting on Church affairs.

Goring said, though, in the January 8 video, because of the cease and desist call, he made the assumption that it was time for him “to enter into the silence of St. Joseph.”

The Catholic Charismatic Center in Houston, where Father Goring is the director, is a mission of the Companions of the Cross, an Ottawa, Ontario-based Society of Apostolic Life focused on Christ crucified, spiritual life and evangelization. Goring is also a host for the Canadian Food for Life television ministry and has hosted a weekly Bible teaching program for Radio Maria in the United States.

As director of an apostolate operating within the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, just as with any religious community performing ministry inside a diocese, Goring is answerable to both his community superiors and the local ordinary.

LifeSiteNews sent inquiries to Father Goring, the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, and the Companions of the Cross but did not receive a response.

Goring posted in the comment section of the January 5 cease and desist video, “I am not available for comments. Please do not give up on Jesus. And do not give up on the Church which He established. Viva Cristo Rey!”

Goring said in the follow-up January 8 video that he was glad to enter into the silence of St. Joseph.

“However, there’s that scripture from Jeremiah,” he said. “I feel like there’s a fire burning in my heart that I can’t contain.”

He cited St. Catherine of Siena saying, “We’ve had enough of exhortations to be silent. Cry out with a thousand tongues - I see the world is rotten because of silence.”

Goring recounted how he presented lots of video talks on silence, but he now found himself in a situation where he didn’t know what to do.

“I honestly don’t know what to do,” Goring said in the subsequent video posted Tuesday. “What I feel like doing is appealing to the pope.”

“And maybe I can do this over YouTube,” he said. “Can I do this? Can I ask, Holy Father, do I have your permission to continue to comment on the situation in the Church?”

“I give you my word that I’ll do my very best to comment on the situation with love,” he added. “I’ll try to not be critical or to let anger come in. I’ll try to be honest, as honest as I possibly can be.”

Pope Francis officially accepted Wuerl’s resignation amid controversy over the cardinal’s role in clergy sex-abuse cover-up in October.

But Wuerl at Francis’ direction remains apostolic administrator of the archdiocese and thus would presumably preside over the archdiocese’s March for Life-related events next week, including the youth rally and Mass, along with the Vigil Mass for Life at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.

Both events typically draw tens of thousands of pro-lifers, and Catholics are understandably incensed at the idea of Wuerl appearing at the pro-life events as though all is well with the sexual-abuse crisis continuing unresolved.

“It communicates the utmost disrespect for the victims of sexual abuse by clergy, that these cases are no big deal and that Church leaders can get away with allowing these situations to be swept under the rug,” Father Goring had said in the initial video, titled “Cardinal Wuerl, Get Out,” and reported on by Church Militant before being taken down from YouTube.

Some of the abuse situations are a mess, Goring told viewers in the most recent video appealing to the pope, with much occurring behind the scenes. He promised in the appeal to look into things as best he can before issuing comment.

“But because we don’t have the full information, does that mean I have to study this thing for five years before I can give a response?” Goring asked.

Goring told viewers not to worry about him.

“My decision to become a priest was a decision to follow Jesus, and I had no illusions,” said Goring in the appeal to Francis. “I was very much aware (of) where Jesus takes us – He takes us to the Passion, the cross and to die, so that we can resurrect to eternal life in Heaven.”

“All I care about is getting to heaven and doing God’s will,” he continued. “And I want to fight for the honor of Holy Mother Church.”

What grieves him most is the trouble created for his superiors, he said. Goring said he loves his superiors, listing his general superior and the bishops, and noting the local  archbishop (Cardinal Daniel DiNardo).

“However, I feel I need to speak,” he said. “So, my question is, Pope Francis, Holy Father, do I have your permission to continue to comment on the situation in the Church?”

Goring has been frank in defense of Church principles in his video commentary in the past. In one instance right before the end of the 2016 primary election season, he laid out in no uncertain terms both the accountability and civic responsibility for Catholics regarding their backing pro-abortion candidates in an election.  

His appeal to Francis for permission to keep commenting on the abuse crisis came as the U.S. Bishops wrapped up a retreat they were directed to undertake by the pope to reflect on the abuse situation.

And it follows months of tension between the U.S. Bishops and Francis after the pope rebuffed their leadership’s request to intervene in the matter of disgraced former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick. The Vatican brusquely quashed their plans to address the abuse scandal within their purview in lieu of his meeting on some aspects of the abuse crisis with the presidents of the Church’s episcopal conferences next month.

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Pro-lifers stand outside Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda, Ireland.
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Catholic hospital may have performed Ireland’s first abortion

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By Martin Barillas

DUBLIN, Ireland, January 8, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – Pro-life advocates assembled outside Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda, a town just north of Dublin, after social media claims that the first abortion was scheduled to take place at the Catholic medical center on Jan. 7. Catholic priests asked for prayers so that the mother of the endangered child might have a change of heart.

Economist and pro-life advocate Ray Kinsella tweeted that an abortion was to be carried out at the hospital on Monday morning, urging followers to pray for the mother. “Please pray hard that the #mother will recognise the #baby as a gift from God,” Kinsella wrote. The Irish Times quoted a Facebook statement by “Pro-Life Ireland” about the demonstration: “The first abortion in our Lady of Lourdes hospital is scheduled for first thing tomorrow morning Monday 7th. The priests in Drogheda have asked for prayers that the woman will have a change of heart overnight and not go through with the procedure. Please spread the word.”

The hospital has a maternity unit that serves much of the northeast portion of the Irish Republic. They held placards saying: “Abortion is murder;” “Let him be born;” “Let her be born;” “Killing in progress.”

According to the Irish Times, protester Charles Byrne said the group was there “merely to show support for that child that is losing their life today.” Standing in front of the main entrance of Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Byrne said his group was there because they “believe hospitals need to be places of care through compassion.” In reference to the 2018 referendum that amended the Irish constitution to allow abortion, Byne said democracy “cannot dictate right and wrong,” while asking the Irish people to reflect whether ending human life is right or wrong.

In June, Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar announced that even Catholic hospitals would be forced to perform abortions or referred women to abortion providers, despite Church teachings. Following the constitutional referendum that allowed abortion, Varadkar said publicly-funded hospitals, “no matter who their patron or owner is,” would not be allowed “to opt out of providing these necessary services which will be legal in this state once this legislation is passed by the Dáil (government) and Seanad (senate).”

In July, the Irish Catholic bishops issued a Code of Ethical Standards for Healthcare that declared that Ireland’s new abortion laws are against the “common good” and therefore do not “command obedience” by physicians and caregivers at the 20 Catholic hospitals in Ireland. “No healthcare facility or practitioner should provide,” said the directive, “or refer a patient for, an abortion, i.e. any procedure, treatment or medication whose primary purpose or sole immediate effect is to terminate the life of a foetus or of an embryo before or after implantation.” It goes on to say, “Such procedures, treatments and medications are morally wrong because they involve the direct and deliberate killing of, or a direct lethal assault on, an innocent human life in the earliest stages of development.”

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that human life must be “respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception,” noting that every person has the right to life from the moment of conception. Citing ancient sources, including the Didache or “Teaching of the 12 Apostles” of the first century, the Catechism states that abortion that is “willed either as an end or a means, is gravely contrary to the moral law.” Catholic hospitals cannot, therefore, licitly offer abortion. According to, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ directive on healthcare, “Catholic health care institutions are not to provide abortion services, even based upon the principle of material cooperation. In this context, Catholic health care institutions need to be concerned about the danger of scandal in any association with abortion providers.”

Our Lady of Lourdes would not comment. Irish Minister for Health Simon Harris, however, said he found it “extraordinarily unedifying” for people to be identifying hospitals where an abortion was purportedly being carried out. Harris said releasing leaked information about patients is a very serious matter. Dr. Peter Boylan, who advises the Irish Health Service executive on promoting abortion, said he supports having exclusion zones around hospitals and other abortion providers in order to prevent pro-life protests. He said  the only persons who should know about patients and their care are the physicians and nurses involved and the patients themselves. He said it is “pretty darn despicable” that warnings about the upcoming abortion should be aired on social media.

Answering pro-abortion critics who criticized him for a slow rollout of abortion services, which was deplored even by abortion-friendly doctors because of the lack of ultrasound machines and trained personnel, Harris asserted that the number of physicians who had registered to provide abortion had increased to 200. Harris said, “I have always said it was going to take time for these service to embed and evolve and become a part of the Irish health service.”

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Fr. C. John McCloskey
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Opus Dei paid nearly $1 million to settle sexual misconduct complaint against celebrity priest

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By Doug Mainwaring

WASHINGTON, D.C., January 8, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – In 2005, Opus Dei paid $977,000 to settle a sexual misconduct suit against the prelature’s most high-profile priest in the United States at the time, Fr. C. John McCloskey.  

The abuse was reported in 2002 by a woman who told The Washington Post that McCloskey had groped her several times during pastoral counseling sessions regarding her marriage and serious depression.  

While serving as director of the Catholic Information Center (CIC), Opus Dei’s flagship operation in Washington D.C., McCloskey gained celebrity status in Catholic circles, frequently offering commentary on TV, and becoming a familiar face on EWTN.  

Perhaps most significantly, McCloskey is credited with evangelizing powerful men and women and shepherding them into or back to the Catholic Church, including former House Speaker Newt Gingrich; TV and radio host who is now President Trump’s top economic adviser, Larry Kudlow; former U.S. senator and Kansas governor Sam Brownback, now serving as United States Ambassador-at-Large for the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom; “Crossfire” co-host and columnist, Robert Novak, and Fox TV host Laura Ingraham, among many others.

For years, Catholics have wondered what happened to Fr. McCloskey, who at the height of his influence at the intersection of Catholicism and conservative politics and culture seemed to have vanished without explanation from the public eye, leading to much speculation.

In a statement issued by Msgr. Thomas Bohlin, Vicar of Opus Dei in the United States, the chain of events regarding Fr. McCloskey’s ministry after the woman’s complaint to the prelature was revealed.    

McCloskey was directed “to give spiritual direction to women only in a traditional confessional (the norm for Opus Dei priests) and to end his contact with the woman in question.”

“After investigating the complaint in subsequent months, we found the complaint to be credible, and in December 2003, Father McCloskey was removed from his position at the CIC,” said Msgr. Bohlin.  

“In the years since Father McCloskey’s removal from the CIC, his priestly activities with women have been very limited because of the restrictions we placed as well as his declining health,” added Msgr. Bohlin. Fr. McCloskey “had very few assignments in our activities for women (Opus Dei's activities are separate for men and for women) and his contact with individual women was limited to the confessional. Throughout the years, we were careful to ensure that he would not have any opportunities to engage in the kind of actions that led to the complaint.”

The statement from Opus Dei also noted that the prelature is now investigating the report of another woman who may have also suffered from Father McCloskey’s actions at the CIC.

Social media reflected shock at the revelations by many, but not all.

“Whatever happened to Fr. C. John McCloskey, ace recruiter of prominent sometimes rich) conservatives to Catholicism?” asked blogger Rod Dreher in a tweet. “He was everywhere -- in '90s, he tried to talk me into joining Opus Dei -- then suddenly, nowhere. Now we know. It never ends.”

Dreher also noted in a blog posting that when McCloskey was asked years ago in a television interview what percentage of the priesthood he thought was gay, he said just three percent to five percent are — the same percentage of homosexuals in the general population.”

“I knew perfectly well that McCloskey knew better than that,” wrote Dreher, “and that he was propagandizing to protect the image of the Church.”

“This man was a friend and mentor to me,” said Fr. Phillip W. De Vous, a parish priest in Kentucky. “He talked me into going back into seminary when I was working in the think-tank world.   “I’m stunned,” he continued. “Apparently, everyone I’ve ever admired and been inspired by in the Church is deeply compromised and up to no damn good.”

“I knew him very well,” said Fr. De Vous in a separate Twitter statement. “He saved my faith and my vocation. If you knew him you’d be as stunned and breathless at the idea he could ever do something like this. I’ve been associated with OD since seminary and it was nothing but straightforward Catholicism.”

“Fr. McCloskey also was instrumental in encouraging and preserving my priestly vocation,” said another priest. “He helped keep me in seminary during a very dark time when I was all but ready to hang it up. I don't know what to make of this. Except that God can use very flawed instruments to achieve his ends.”

In a twist added to the story last night, Leon J. Podles, author of the landmark 2008 book,  Sacrilege; Sexual Abuse in the Catholic Church, said when he mentioned to McCloskey that he was working on the book, McCloskey strongly advised him to drop the project.  

Father McCloskey now suffers from advanced Alzheimer’s and has returned to his hometown, Washington D.C., to be closer to family.  

“He has not had any pastoral assignments for a number of years,” noted Msgr. Bohlin in his statement, “and is no longer able to celebrate Mass, even privately.”

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Democrats pass LGBT ‘non-discrimination’ rules for US House staff

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By Calvin Freiburger

WASHINGTON, D.C., January 8, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – In another demonstration of the new majority’s priorities, Democrats passed new rules barring “discrimination” against “LGBT” staffers in the U.S. House of Representatives almost immediately after taking office.

Proposed by Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus head Rep. David Cicilline, D-RI, the measure was part of a rules package passed on the first day of the new legislative session, the homosexual site PinkNews reports. The vote fell along party lines, 234 to 197.

“The new requirements closely mirror employment protections that Cicilline has introduced as part of the Equality Act,” a statement from the openly homosexual congressman’s office elaborates, “his bipartisan, comprehensive bill to extend anti-discrimination protections to all LGBT Americans.” The so-called Equality Act would amend the 1964 Civil Rights Act to add “sex,” “sexual orientation,” and “gender identity” to “non-discrimination” categories in “public accommodations,” and forbid employers from “discriminating” based on “sexual orientation” or “gender identity.”

“Government at its best works for the benefit of all Americans, not just the powerful and privileged,” Cicilline declared. “Protecting the rights of LGBT employees is just the right thing to do. After years of Republican mismanagement, Democrats are going to get Congress working again.”

“This historic addition to the House rules will provide crucial job security for LGBTQ staff in the House of Representatives,” the LGBT Congressional Staff Association said in a statement, as well as send a “powerful message about the importance of diversity within the institution we serve.”

The vote partially delivers on promises House Speaker Nancy Pelosi made to LGBT activists both before and after the midterm elections. In October, she said there may be some “collateral damage for some others who do not share our view” as Democrats pursued an agenda she partly described as “respecting the dignity and worth of every person in our country.”

A month later, the victorious Pelosi announced her party would move to establish an “independent diversity office” tasked with ensuring the House employs a “diverse workforce with qualified candidates that is reflective of our Members and the districts they represent.” Her office has also called passage of the full Equality Act a “top priority” that will be introduced “early” in 2019.

House Democrats also used their newfound power to make an early overture to abortion supporters, offering legislation to fully reopen the federal government while at the same time repealing the Mexico City Policy – now called Protecting Life in Global Health Assistance – that bans foreign aid to abortion groups and restoring funding to the pro-abortion United Nations Population Fund.

The House of Representatives voted last week to pass the proposal, but the Trump administration and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell made clear they wouldn’t consider it. The Trump administration’s statement specifically highlighted the abortion provisions among its objections.

The president and Senate have no say over internal House rules, and pro-lifers are largely resigned to two more years without direct legislation to defund Planned Parenthood or otherwise restrict abortion. They remain hopeful, however, that the president will keep pursuing incremental steps for life via executive action, and that Republicans’ expanded Senate majority can confirm more judges with clear pro-life credentials.

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Vatican News pays tribute to Cuba’s brutal communist revolution, then deletes post

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By Martin Barillas
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Screen shot of Vatican News' Jan. 1, 2019 article on Cuba before it was deleted.

ROME, January 8, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – An article at Vatican News, in recognition of the 60th anniversary of the Cuban revolution, disappeared from the Holy See’s website just one day after it appeared on January 1. No explanation was offered for the self-censorship of the article, which marked the rise to power of Fidel Castro and his anti-clerical Marxist government, which has long been marked by grievous human rights violations. 

The Vatican News article, in Spanish, was titled “Cuba celebrates 60th year of the Revolution.” It read, “The historic anniversary was celebrated with an official ceremony in which the former chief of state and Communist Party leader Raul Castro participated in addition to current President Miguel Díaz-Canel." It was penned by María Cecilia Mutual. Vatican News describes itself on its website as the “information system of the Holy See.”

When clicking on the original URL, a message now appears: “404 - PAGE NOT FOUND. The page you requested was not found. You could have typed a wrong address or a deleted page or the page could have moved to a new address.”

Screen grabs of the article flew around on social media before it was erased. 

Monica Showalter at American Thinker commented that the article amounted to the Vatican celebrating a "catastrophe."

"Castro runs an atheist regime.  It's not just atheist in foundation; it requires atheism for membership (and the nomenklatura perks) of its ruling Cuban Communist Party," she wrote. 

Castro shut down churches.  He expropriated all church property.  He shut down Catholic schools.  He expelled priests and, as Pajamas Media's Debra Heine notes, even a bishop.  Castro killed priests, and his regime banished Christmas. [...] The Cuban revolution, so vaunted by the left, left Cuba's people morally and spiritually wasted, with all the social ills that come of being deprived of any contact with religion.  The religion there is the state.

And now the Vatican is jumping up to celebrate that catastrophe?  Not only is Cuba the hellhole that was impoverished by this so-called revolution, going from the most prosperous state in Latin America to its most impoverished, but its revolution came to and looted Venezuela, left it a nightmare husk, and created a refugee wave the likes of which this hemisphere has never seen, and it still rules the place.  Cuba is the country that turned Chile into a socialist hellhole in the 1970s and left it on the brink of civil war.  It turned all of South America into a battlefield around the same time, and it sold itself to the highest bidder in geopolitical power games to keep itself afloat.  Its vile propaganda amounts to the Black Legend of modern times.

"The Vatican wants to pay tribute to this?" she added.

The disappearance of the article came one day after an appearance of the Cuban National Circus at the Pope VI hall in the Vatican, where jugglers, contortionists, and clowns performed for Pope Francis and a large audience. Speaking in Italian, Francis said on January 2, “I want to say hello and thank the artists from the Cuban circus,” adding, “With this show, they bring beauty. A beauty that requires so much effort to do it. We have seen it. So much training, so much going on. But beauty always raises the heart, beauty makes us all better.” The pope did not use the occasion to mention Cuba’s human rights record.

Some Cuban-related media outlets wondered about the appearance of the article celebrating Cuba’s Marxist revolution on the Vatican’s news site. Panam Post, for example, noted that the revolution compelled at least one-sixth of Cuba’s people to escape the island at the risk of their lives. CubaNet observed of the Vatican’s report: “The text does not mention the enrichment of the Castro leadership at the expense of the Cuban people and neglects to mention, curiously, the regime’s murderous persecution of Catholics.” 

Following the revolution in 1959, scores of Catholic activists were tortured and lost their lives in Cuban prisons. Some cried out “Long live Christ the king!” before firing squads killed them. In addition, Catholic seminaries and other religious institutions were seized by the Marxist government. 

Marking the January 1 anniversary in Santiago, Cuba, Vatican News reported that a ceremony was held at the Santa Ifigenia cemetery where Fidel Castro and other communists are buried, some 5,000 miles away from the Vatican. Santiago is known as the “cradle of the Revolution” because it was there that Fidel Castro declared victory when his revolutionary forces overthrew the government of right-wing dictator el dictador Fulgencio Batista. Castro died in 2016, and was replaced briefly by his brother and fellow revolutionary, Raul. At the ceremony, Raul Castro reaffirmed that Cuba’s government will remain Marxist despite recent easing of relations with the United States. He deplored what he called U.S. “encirclement of leftist Latin American governments.” 

It was Pope John Paul II who made the first official papal visit to Cuba in 1998. It was there that he was applauded by faithful Catholics when he called on “Cuba to open itself to the world and the world to open up to Cuba.” Following the visit, Christmas was again observed as an official holiday, and the government allowed priests and religious sisters to enter the country. In 2011, Pope Benedict XVI went to the island to mark 400 years of Our Lady of Charity as patroness of Cuba.

Pope Francis traveled to Cuba in 2015, where he held a private meeting with Fidel Castro. He visited a second time in 2016, and met with Kirill II, the Orthodox Patriarch of Moscow. The pope praised the diplomatic rapprochement on the part of the United States and Cuba during President Barack Obama’s administration. Upon touching down in Cuba in 2015, he said that the “process of normalization of relations” between the two countries is a “sign of the victory of the culture of encounter, of dialogue, of a ‘system of universal growth...in place of the system of dynasty and groups that is now dead forever’ as said [Cuban writer and patriot] José Martí.” The pontiff went on to say then that the relations between the U.S. and Cuba were an “example of reconciliation” to be followed by the whole world, which he said, “needs reconciliation in this Third World War atmosphere that we are living in.”

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Tashlan comes to town: Vatican releases combined cross and crescent logo for Pope’s trip to Morocco

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By Diane Montagna
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Official logo of Pope Francis’s Apostolic Visit to Egypt, April 28-29, 2017
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(Above) Illustration of the Calormenes from the original Narnia books.
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(Above) Illustration of Tash, the god of the Calormenes, from the original Narnia books.
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(Above) Illustration of the donkey dressed in a lion skin (left) which the treacherous ape Shift (right) uses to impersonate Aslan/Tashlan, from the original Narnia books.

ROME, January 8, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) —The Vatican has released a new symbol of “interreligious encounter between Christians and Muslims” in advance of Pope Francis’s upcoming visit to Morocco: a logo featuring the crescent encompassing the cross.

But some regard the development as reminiscent of C.S. Lewis’s final Narnia book ‘The Last Battle,’ where the true religion is synthesized with the worship of the militant warrior culture of Calormene to the south of Narnia.

Cross and crescent

The official logo for the Pope’s apostolic visit to the cities of Rabat and Casablanca on March 30-31, 2019 (pictured below) was chosen from among 50 competition entries, a Jan. 7 statement released by the Vatican said.

The Vatican explained the logo’s symbolism in this way: “A cross and a crescent: the Christian cross and the Muslim crescent = the dimension of an interreligious encounter between Christians and Muslims, the meeting of Pope Francis and the Commander of the Faithful in Rabat, 800 years after Francis of Assisi’s meeting with the Sultan.” 

The papal visit to the Muslim-majority nation is taking place at the invitation of King Mohammed VI of Morocco and the country’s Catholic bishops. According to the Moroccan constitution (art. 19), the king is the “Amir al-Mumineen” (Commander of the Faithful) and the defender of the [Muslim] faith.

The colors of the 2 countries are also used in the logo: green and red for Morocco, and yellow and white (the background) for the Vatican. 

According to the Jan. 7 statement, the logo’s caption — “Servant of Hope” — indicates that “the Holy Father is the Servant of the Servants of God,” but adds that it is also the title of the pastoral letter which the Regional Episcopal Conference of North Africa (CERNA) gave to Pope Francis during its last ad limina visit in 2015.

Morocco’s name is written at the bottom of the logo in Arabic to “honor the country” hosting the Holy Father, it said. 

Symbolic syncretism

But a number of observers in Rome see the logo as “problematic,” with one source telling LifeSite it “seems to imply that the two religions are perhaps equal — or that there can be some syncretism between them.”

“While one might argue that the cross is on top of the crescent (a sign of victory), the crescent is enveloping the cross, and so visually suggests syncretism,” another observer noted.  

Readers may recall that Pope Francis’s January 2016 prayer intention video received similar criticism. 

“The nature of a religious symbol is that it summarizes the essence of a religion; it provides a visual image that recalls a core belief and provides a call-to-action that is paradigmatic of that religion,” a source in Rome explained. “The cross tells us we are to imitate Christ’s sacrifice for the salvation of the world. But the crescent recalls Muhammed’s Hijra [migration] from Mecca to Medina.”

However, the source added, “in typical club-footed Vatican work, they have overlooked the fact that the symbol has had more of a Islamic-nationalistic use, especially during the Ottoman empire which tried to conquer the Christian West.”

“It’s as if the organizers are saying, ‘Francis is a servant of non-Christian hope,’ because he represents hope that is not founded in Christ’s saving work, but in a secularized peace through political acceptance.”

By way of comparison, the observer said the logo for the Pope’s apostolic visit to Egypt is “better” because “it doesn’t meld the religious symbols.”   

Just hours before the logo was released, Pope Francis spoke of his upcoming visits to the predominantly Muslim countries of Morocco and the United Arab Emirates. In an address to the Holy See’s diplomatic corps on Jan. 7, he said the visits “represent two important opportunities to advance interreligious dialogue and mutual understanding between the followers of both religions, in this year that marks the eight-hundredth anniversary of the historic meeting between Saint Francis of Assisi and Sultan al-Malik al-Kāmil.” 

Additionally, Pope Francis has said in past statements that interreligious dialogue should be built on openness, not a “superficial syncretism.” 

But some, taking a more pessimistic view, think the Morocco logo represents “Francis’s capitulation to Islam and his desire to replace Christian civilization with a non-religious world order.”

“Just as Muhammed’s ‘migration’ to Yathrib changed the city’s name to ‘Medina’ and represented his conquering spirit, so the ‘migration’ of Muslims to the West will inevitably change our place-names and open the door for them to conquer what remains of Christian civilization,” one source said.

Tashlan comes to town

Some, however, have compared the cross and crescent logo to the religious deception central to C.S. Lewis’s final Narnia book ‘The Last Battle,’ where the true religion is synthesized with the worship of the Calormene culture to the south of Narnia modelled on the Islamic Ottoman Empire.

It mirrors “the syncretism of Aslan and Tash invented by the Narnian version of the Antichrist,” one source told LifeSite. 

The Chronicles of Narnia is a series of seven fantasy novels for children and is considered a classic of children’s literature. Written by C.S. Lewis and first published in London between 1950 and 1956, it presents the adventures of children who play central roles in the unfolding history of the fictional realm of Narnia, a place where animals talk, magic is common, and good battles evil. Aslan the lion, who represents Christ, is the central character of the series.

“In Lewis’s fiction, in a tableau intended to parallel the End times of Christian Scripture, the people of Narnia are encouraged to welcome the migration of the Calormenes into Narnia and are told by a treacherous Narnian ape who preaches a new faith to worship a composite deity of Aslan and Tash, the god of the Calormenes, represented by a donkey dressed in the skin of a lion,” the source explained.  

The treacherous ape (called Shift) reinforces his claim that Aslan and Tash are really two different names for the same person by naming the new composite deity Tashlan.

How is the cross and crescent logo for the Pope’s upcoming visit to Morocco similar to Tashlan?

The source replied:

The logo combines the life giving Cross of Christ with the symbol of a man Christians hold to be a false prophet and an enemy of the faithful in seeming defiance of St. Paul’s words “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God (2 Cor 6:14-16).”

“Traditional Muslims would also reject harmonization of this kind and find it offensive,” the source added. “Lewis himself recognizes the good intentions and will to worship God of those Calormenes who reject syncretism. After the defeat of the false religion in the story, a Calormene who rejected it in favor of the creed he falsely supposed to be true encounters Aslan at the end: ‘I overcame my fear and questioned the Glorious One and said, Lord, is it then true, as the Ape said, that thou and Tash are one? The Lion growled so that the earth shook (but his wrath was not against me).’”

Vatican II allows for the possibility of such extraordinary revelations as the righteous Calormene receives in Lewis’s story. According to its decree on the mission activity of the Church, “God in ways known to Himself can lead those inculpably ignorant of the Gospel to find that faith without which it is impossible to please Him” (Ad Gentes, 7). 

However, the Church is equally clear that the followers of other religions do not have the faith without which it is impossible to please God. “The distinction between theological faithand belief in the other religions, must be firmly held. If faith is the acceptance in grace of revealed truth, which ‘makes it possible to penetrate the mystery in a way that allows us to understand it coherently,’ then belief, in the other religions, is that sum of experience and thought that constitutes the human treasury of wisdom and religious aspiration, which man in his search for truth has conceived and acted upon in his relationship to God and the Absolute” (Dominus Iesus, 7).

In other words, God can lead the inculpably ignorant through mysterious means to the true faith, but adherence to Islam or any other non-Christian religion cannot constitute this faith.

The Church teaches that Muslims as such do not have supernatural faith. “When St. Francis went to visit the Sultan 800 years ago,” the observer therefore remarked, “he did so to convert him to the Gospel.” 

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20 Latin American leaders criticize Pope’s call for ‘reconciliation’ with brutal communist regimes

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By Martin Barillas

COSTA RICA, January 8, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – Twenty former presidents of Latin American nations sent an open letter on Jan. 5 to Pope Francis in which they criticized his call for “harmony” in socialist Venezuela and “reconciliation” in Nicaragua where Marxist governments have ruined these countries' national economies and subjected citizens to torture and summary executions. 

Led by Nobel Prize-winner and former president of Costa Rica Oscar Arias, the letter to the pontiff said, “We are concerned that the call for harmony on the part of your Holiness in which, given the current context, can be understood by the victimized nations that they should come to agreement with their victimizers. In particular, in the case of Venezuela, the government has caused the flight of 3 million refugees, which the United Nations predicts will reach 5.9 million in 2019.”

The letter writers were reacting to the Pope’s Dec. 25 Christmas message in which he referred to Venezuela and Nicaragua.

“May this blessed season allow Venezuela once more to recover social harmony and enable all the members of society to work fraternally for the country’s development and to aid the most vulnerable sectors of the population,” he said. 

As for Nicaragua, the pope stated: “Before the Child Jesus, may the inhabitants of beloved Nicaragua see themselves once more as brothers and sisters, so that divisions and discord will not prevail, but all may work to promote reconciliation and to build together the future of the country.”

The letter co-signed by Arias and nineteen other Latin American leaders noted that Venezuelans are the “victims of a militarized narco-dictatorship, which has no qualms about systematically violating the rights to life, liberty and personal integrity.”

The following is a translation of the letter:

***

We the undersigned, as former chiefs of state and government, have signed statements concerning Venezuela and Nicaragua that stem from the Democratic Initiative of Spain and the Americas (IDEA), and therefore come to you regarding your recent Christmas message in which you call for “harmony” among the peoples of both nations.

As we expressed in a previous message to your Holiness, we understand your concern for the suffering that today, without distinction, all Venezuelans and now Nicaraguans face. The former are victims of oppression by a militarized narco-dictatorship, which has no qualms about systematically violating the rights to life, liberty and personal integrity and, as a result of deliberate public policies and unbridled corruption, has scandalized the world and that have subjected them to widespread famine and lack of medicine. The latter case, in the middle of the year, there were 300 killed and 2,500 wounded in a wave of repression.

We are concerned that the call for harmony on the part of your Holiness which, given the current context, can be understood by the victimized nations that they should come to agreement with their victimizers. In particular, in the case of Venezuela, the government has caused the flight of 3 million refugees, which the United Nations predicts will reach 5.9 million in 2019.

The expression used by His Holiness, who we know which was in good faith and guided by his pastoral spirit, is being interpreted in a very negative way by the majorities of Venezuela and Nicaragua. Above all, there is currently, in these countries, a political dispute that demands understanding, tolerance between conflicting forces with different narratives within a normal or deficient democracy that today unfortunately does not exist there. Their entire populations are subjected to suffering by their governments, under regimes that serve a lie, and social and political leaders, opinion leaders and the press, who suffer jailings, persecution and death, as demonstrated by European and American human rights organizations.

Your Holiness:

The encyclical Ad Petri Cathedram declares that the call to harmony must be made, fundamentally, "to those who govern the nations." "Those who oppress others and strip them of their due liberty can contribute nothing to the attainment of this unity” for the intelligence, of the spirits, of the actions, as your predecessor, St. Pope John XXIII, reminds us, and for which we  long for the dear people of Venezuela and Nicaragua may regain, based on truth and justice, so that they may enjoy a just peace.

We wish your Holiness a very happy Feast of the Nativity. We look forward to meeting with you at an appropriate time.

Cordially, 

Oscar Arias, Costa Rica

Nicolás Ardito Barletta, Panamá

Enrique Bolaños, Nicaragua

Alfredo Cristiani, El Salvador

Felipe Calderón, México

Rafael Ángel Calderón, Costa Rica

Laura Chinchilla, Costa Rica

Fernando De la Rúa, Argentina

Vicente Fox, México

Eduardo Frei, Chile

César Gaviria T., Colombia

Osvaldo Hurtado, Ecuador

Luis Alberto Lacalle, Uruguay

Jamil Mahuad, Ecuador

Mireya Moscoso, Panamá

Andrés Pastrana A., Colombia

Jorge Tuto Quiroga, Bolivia

Miguel Ángel Rodríguez, Costa Rica

Álvaro Uribe V., Colombia

Juan Carlos Wasmosy, Paraguay

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Texas asks federal court to dismiss suit against decades of pro-life laws

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By Calvin Freiburger

AUSTIN, Tesas, January 8, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – Attorneys for Texas and for state abortion companies and activist groups appeared in federal court Monday to argue for and against dozens of pro-life laws challenged in a wide-ranging lawsuit.

In June, attorneys representing the infamous Texas abortion provider Whole Woman’s Health filed a lawsuit against the state’s pre-abortion ultrasound requirement, informed consent, parental consent, 24-hour waiting period, licensing standards, requirement that abortions be committed only by doctors rather than clinic staff, mandatory reporting of complications, and more.

They argued the laws, some of which have been on the books for up to 20 years, were unconstitutional for the same reason the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the state’s admitting privileges and building standards mandates in 2016: that all are allegedly burdensome and medically unnecessary.

The two sides squared off before U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel on Monday, Dallas News reports. The suit backed by Whole Woman’s Health, Planned Parenthood Texas Votes, Davis’ Deeds Not Words, and the Dallas-based Afiya Center argued, “Abortion patients and providers now face a dizzying array of medically unnecessary requirements that are difficult, time-consuming, and costly to navigate — sometimes prohibitively so.”

“These are laws that have been on the books for years and are common across states. It’s absurd that these laws cause substantial burdens,” state attorney Beth Klusmann responded. “There are no sufficient facts to explain why the laws are burdensome. It would be a large waste of time and resources for the state to continue this case.”

State Attorney General Ken Paxton has also called on the court to toss the lawsuit, releasing a statement declaring it “outrageous that these activists are so dedicated to their radical pro-abortion agenda that they want the courts to repeal laws enacted by the Texas Legislature to protect the health of women getting abortions.”

He pointed out that several of the laws in question have already been upheld by the Supreme Court, and that they are common across the nation – 40 states forbid non-physicians from committing abortions, all but six have some form of parental involvement requirement, and 29 require women to be given information prior to abortion.

While modern Supreme Court precedent falsely asserts that the Constitution contains a right to abortion, the court has also repeatedly recognized a legitimate state interest in protecting both prenatal life and women’s safety. Among the pro-life laws upheld since Roe v. Wade are 24-hour waiting periods, bans on non-physician abortions, parental notification and consent, excluding abortion funding from state Medicaid programs, and informed consent.

Yeakel, an appointee of former President George W. Bush, reportedly took issue with aspects of both sides’ presentations, questioning why the state needed 73 pages to make its case and why the abortion lawyers didn’t have any detailed allegations from women attesting that they’ve been harmed by the requirements. After a 30-minute argument from each side, Yeakel concluded the session and said they would re-convene if the record so far was insufficient to make a ruling.

Despite being at the center of nationally-watched legal battles over the years, Whole Woman’s Health’s own record on health and safety tends to be overlooked in most media coverage. Pro-lifers argue the organization’s history of health and safety violations demonstrates the necessity of the laws it opposes.

Last year, a Texas Department of State Health Services report identified numerous offenses at the chain from 2011 to 2017, including rusty equipment, failing to properly disinfect and sterilize instruments between use, lacking proper written operation procedures, improper storage of hazardous chemicals, unsanitary surfaces, failing to follow up with patients, holes in the floor, and more.

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California governor’s wife to go by ‘first partner’ instead of ‘first lady’

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By Martin Barillas

SACRAMENTO, California, January 8, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – The wife of newly minted California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D), Jennifer Siebel Newsom, announced on the governor’s official website that she will be known as “first partner” instead of the traditional “first lady.” “First partner” Siebel Newsom is an actress and activist who has made two documentary films in a trilogy on gender.

The former Republican, who is now registered as an independent, released “Miss Representation” in 2011, which examines whether media contribute to supposed underrepresentation of women in positions of influence. In 2015’s “The Mask You Live In,” Siebel Newsom probed traditional definitions of masculinity and whether they are harmful. Both of the films were featured at the Sundance Film Festival. A third film, “The Great American Lie,” is in progress. 

“We're going to have a female governor someday soon,” Siebel Newsom told Politico during the gubernatorial campaign. “I think that [the title] partner is kind of cool because also it opens the opportunity for any couple to step in and that’s exciting to me.”

Siebel Newsom founded The Representation Project, which uses “film and media as catalysts for cultural transformation.” It serves as a platform for social media campaigns and political activity.

She has rallied with abortion chain Planned Parenthood; her husband is also vocally pro-abortion.

Gov. Newsom and Jennifer Siebel married in 2008 and have four children. Gov. Newsom, who was raised Catholic, was previously married to Kimberly Guilfoyle, a former San Francisco prosecutor and Fox News commentator. Guilfoyle is now dating Donald Trump, Jr., who is also divorced.

Gov. Newsom has said he supports a bill forcing all state universities to dispense abortion drugs to students. His predecessor, ultra-liberal Jerry Brown, vetoed it, but it may be reintroduced in the state legislature.

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Radical LGBT activist leaves civil rights post after GOP senator blocks her reappointment

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By Calvin Freiburger

WASHINGTON, D.C., January 8, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – Pro-LGBT activist Chai Feldblum’s almost nine-year tenure at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) came to an end last week after Senate Republicans blocked her reappointment from coming up for a vote.

Feldblum’s nomination to a third term died last week when Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-KY, rejected a vote to break a hold placed on her confirmation by Sen. Mike Lee, R-UT, the Washington Blade reports.

Social conservatives have objected to Feldblum since her appointment by former President Barack Obama, and his successor Donald Trump surprised and angered social conservatives last year when he renominated her. Lee was at the forefront of the opposition, citing the former ACLU attorney and open lesbian’s history on LGBT issues.

He pointed to her past comments that she is “not sure marriage is a normatively good institution” and that society must “acknowledge the wide array of non-marital social structures,” warning Americans to not “think for a second that Feldblum’s derogatory views about marriage will stay private” as a regulator.

“Feldblum has described modern-day politics as a ‘zero-sum game,’ where rights for LGBT Americans are secured only by curtailing the rights of religious Americans,” Lee argued, quoting her opposition to “individual exceptions based on religious” convictions on the grounds that homosexual “rights” cannot be “adequately advanced if pockets of resistance … are permitted to flourish.”

Feldblum was a signatory of the 2006 “Beyond Marriage” declaration, which endorsed “committed, loving households in which there is more than one conjugal partner” and “queer couples who decide to jointly create and raise a child with another queer person or couple,” among other arrangements (she distanced herself from the document in 2009). She also contends that “sex discrimination covers discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity,” and used her position to sway the EEOC in favor of transgender bathrooms.

Last month, Lee objected to the Senate approving Feldblum by unanimous consent, raising the possibility of an extended confirmation process that could have delayed the EEOC’s convening on schedule in 2019. Feldblum responded with two Medium posts in which she denied having ever said “Gays win; Christians lose” and claimed to recognize “some situations in which the rights of religious liberty for organizations who believe homosexuality is sinful will conflict with and should prevail over the rights of LGBT people.”

Feldblum told the Blade she believes there were at least 60 votes in the Senate that would have confirmed her if the vote had been allowed to take place. “Today at noon my commission on the EEOC expires. What a wonderful almost nine-year run I have had!” she announced on Facebook January 3. “Now is the time to fight even harder for diversity, safety, and equity.”

Pro-homosexual activists are incensed at the outcome, with LGBTQ Victory Institute senior communications director Elliot Imse flatly telling the Blade, “Mike Lee is a bigot, period, and his actions must be condemned by all members of Congress who believe LGBTQ Americans have the right to work free of discrimination.” But social conservatives welcome the news.

“It’s not the job of the EEOC to fight for abstractions like ‘diversity, safety, and equity.’ The EEOC’s job is to enforce federal employment discrimination law,” PowerLine’s Paul Mirengoff said. “Non-discrimination will produce greater diversity, safety, equity in some cases, but these aren’t the touchstones of federal law. The touchstones are the words of the relevant statutes.”

Mirengoff went on to explain that the EEOC now lacks a quorum that will most likely prevent it from undertaking new actions, which will require the Trump administration to put forth a trio of new nominees (at least one of which must be selected by the Senate’s Democrat minority).

That nominee “will likely be roughly as radical as Feldblum, but without the paper trail,” Mirengoff predicted, though he or she will also be “far less effective for radicalism” because he or she “almost certainly won’t have anything approaching Feldblum’s knowledge of how the EEOC works and how to get one’s way there [...] That’s one reason why blocking Feldblum was worthwhile.”

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Europe’s Court of Human rights to hear precedent-setting euthanasia case

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By LifeSiteNews staff

January 8, 2019 (Alliance Defending Freedom) – This week, the European Court of Human Rights agreed to consider the case of Tom Mortier. Belgian authorities have refused to pursue Mr Mortier's case meaning the Court is now his only chance to seek justice for the loss of his mother. The doctor who administered a lethal injection to Mortier's mother without informing her family has been one of the most outspoken proponents of euthanasia.

"We welcome this decision of the Court to hear this precedent setting case on the right to life – particularly as it relates to the most vulnerable in society. International law has never established a so-called 'right to die.' On the contrary, it solidly affirms the right to life – particularly for the most vulnerable among us. A look at the sad facts of this case exposes the lie that euthanasia is good for society," said Robert Clarke, Director of European Advocacy, who represents Tom Mortier before the Court.

The slippery slope of euthanasia laws

Tom Mortier's mother was euthanized in 2012. Without any prior consultation, Mortier was informed one day later with the explanation that she had been suffering with 'untreatable depression'. These events happened in Belgium, where euthanasia is legal. The law specifies that the person must be in a 'medically futile condition of constant and unbearable physical or mental suffering that cannot be alleviated, resulting from a serious and incurable disorder caused by illness or accident.' Tom's mother was physically healthy, and her treating psychiatrist of more than 20 years confirmed that she did not satisfy the requirements of the Belgian euthanasia law.

"The big problem in our society is that apparently we have lost the meaning of taking care of each other," said Tom Mortier.

"My mother had a severe mental problem. She had to cope with depression throughout her life. She was treated for years by psychiatrists and eventually the contact between us was broken. A year later she received a lethal injection. Neither the oncologist, who administered the injection nor the hospital had informed me or any of my siblings that our mother was even considering euthanasia."

Precedent-setting case at European Court of Human Rights

"The slippery slope is on full public display in Belgium, and we see the tragic consequences in this case. According to the most recent government report, more than six people per day are killed in this way, and that may yet be the tip of the iceberg. The figures expose the truth that, once these laws are passed, the impact of euthanasia cannot be controlled. Belgium has set itself on a trajectory that, at best, implicitly tells its most vulnerable that their lives are not worth living," said Paul Coleman, Executive Director of ADF International.

Published with permission from the Alliance Defending Freedom.

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Abortion facilities closed ‘faster than they can open’ in 2018: Operation Rescue report

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By Operation Rescue staff
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January 8, 2019 (Operation Rescue) – The number of abortion clinics in America continued to decline in 2018, following a trend that has seen an overall decrease of 159 abortion facilities since 2012.

Overall, in 2018, 40 abortion facilities closed or no longer qualify as abortion clinics.

Today, there are a total of 697 abortion centers left in America – seven fewer than there were at the end of 2017.

That total includes 467 facilities that conduct surgical abortions – down dramatically from the high-water mark of 2,176 surgical facilities documented in 1991. This represents a massive 79 percent decrease in the number of surgical abortion facilities over the past 27 years.

The data was compiled by Operation Rescue, which conducted a survey of all abortion facilities in the U.S. from November 26 through December 14, 2018.

Each year, Operation Rescue conducts a nationwide survey that involves contacting each abortion business in the U.S. The information gathered about the abortion clinics and their practices represents the most accurate data available.

Operation Rescue defines "abortion clinics" as those businesses that conduct abortions outside a hospital setting. There are two categories of abortion clinics:

  • Surgical Abortion Clinics: These offices conduct surgical abortions. Almost always, surgical facilities also distribute abortion-inducing drugs.
  • Medical Abortion Clinics: These offices supply abortions through the administration of drugs (pills) or other chemical means. They do not conduct surgical abortions.

At the end of 2018, there were 23 fewer surgical abortion clinics than at the same time last year. Thirty-two surgical abortion facilities closed or no longer meet the definition of a surgical abortion facility.

Clinics that offered abortion drugs only, such as abortion pills or other chemical means, increased in number by 17 facilities to a total of 230. However, 12 of those added clinics were not new. They were surgical facilities that reduced services to provide only medical abortions. In 2018, eight medical abortion facilities closed permanently. 

Although the number of medical abortion facilities has increased, they merely occupy a larger piece of an ever-shrinking pie. Unable or unwilling to meet new surgical facility safety regulations, some have resorted to dropping surgical abortions as perhaps their only means of staying open – especially in states that do not regulate medical abortion clinics or that allow non-physicians to dispense the drugs.

Planned Parenthood

Planned Parenthood, now under the direction of new CEO Leana Wen, continues to undergo a reorganization of facilities and staff, while attempting to expand abortions primarily through the use of abortion drugs.

There are currently 358 Planned Parenthood facilities that conduct abortions. Of those, 160 are surgical abortion facilities and 198 offer pill abortions. However, many of Planned Parenthood's pill clinics only offer abortions on a limited or part-time basis.

While Planned Parenthood's surgical facility numbers remain unchanged in 2018, abortion pill facilities have increased by 11 over 2017 numbers – a modest increase despite almost-desperate efforts to expand abortion availability.

Nevertheless, the few additional Planned Parenthood abortion facilities do not represent an increase in total clinic numbers, which continue to decline nationwide.

Planned Parenthood locations now represent 51 percent of all abortion facilities in the U.S., gaining two percent in 2018.

But that does not mean that Planned Parenthood is doing more abortions than the 49 percent of clinics that are not affiliated with it. On the contrary, a report released in November 2018 by the Abortion Care Network claims that independent abortion facilities conduct 60 percent of all abortions in the U.S., while Planned Parenthood facilities account for only 35 percent.

"We cannot afford to forget about the non-Planned Parenthood abortion facilities because they do the vast majority of abortions," said Newman. "Independent clinics generally tend to be for-profit businesses, and that motivates them to conduct as many abortions as possible."

Closed Clinics Mean Fewer Abortions

According to the Centers for Disease Control's recent abortion surveillance report, the number of abortions decreased by 2 percent in 2015, the latest year for which statistics are available. The abortion rate (number of abortions per 1,000 women aged 15-44 years) and the abortion ratio (number of abortions per 1,000 live births) also decreased by 2 percent, according to the CDC.

Operation Rescue's 2015 abortion facility survey report showed that the number of abortion facilities decreased by about the same amount (2 percent) in 2015.

This demonstrates that a direct correlation exists between the number of abortion facilities and the number of abortions.

"When abortion clinics close, lives are saved," said Operation Rescue President Troy Newman. "Our data, when compared to the CDC's data, is compelling evidence of that fact. Based on that, we can expect to see abortion numbers continue to decline."

Reasons for Closures

A number of factors have led to the closure of abortion clinics in America. Some facilities that have not been able to compete in an ever-shrinking abortion market have been forced to shut down for economic reasons.

Other factors that contribute to clinic closures include:

  • Successful pro-life activism.
  • New state laws.
  • Failure to comply with existing laws and safety regulations.
  • Loss of tax funding in several states.
  • Loss of abortion provider.
  • Unwillingness of landlords to continue leases with abortion businesses.

Notable Closures in 2018

There were several noteworthy facilities that closed or halted abortion services in 2018.

EPOC, located in Orlando, Florida, was once a high-volume abortion facility specializing in late-term abortions, owned and operated by abortionist James Scott Pendergraft, IV. It closed after the Florida Medical Board made it clear that it intended to revoke Pendergraft's medical license after six suspensions and, finally, an arrest and conviction for dealing illicit drugs in South Carolina, where he was also conducting illegal abortions out of his van.

American Family Planning in Pensacola, Florida was shut down by the state for licensing issues. It is affiliated with the notorious and disgraced New Jersey abortionist Steven Chase Brigham.

Two Planned Parenthood abortion facilities in Kansas City and Columbia, Missouri were forced to halt abortions. New licensing regulations and a failed health inspection – where authorities found mold in the suction abortion machine – contributed to ceasing abortions at the Columbia facility. These facilities are significant because they were part of Planned Parenthood's failed attempt to expand abortions in Missouri, which is now left with one abortion clinic in the entire state.

Women's Center, and Planned Parenthood's abortion facility in Nashville, Tennessee, made national headlines since halted abortions at these two clinics left Nashville as the largest abortion-free city in America. However, now Planned Parenthood has said it will reopen for abortions in January 2019, but until it does, this clinic will remain listed as inactive.

Carafem in Augusta, Georgia closed its doors after having opened in March 2017. It offered third-world-style manual aspiration abortions and abortion pills, presumably to keep overhead down. Carafem is a chain of abortion facilities that received national headlines when it burst on the scene in 2015 with controversial bus ads in the Washington, D.C. area. Media hailed it as a bold new abortion business that rapidly expanded to four facilities in three states. However, the closure of the Augusta facility now puts its corner-cutting business plan in doubt.

The closure of Whole Women's Health, located in San Antonio, Texas, has been an irony. The Whole Women's Health chain of abortion businesses fought to stay open after the 2013 passage of HB 2, a sweeping abortion licensing law that shut down 20 Texas abortion facilities. It sued to block the law all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court in the Whole Women's Health v. Hellerstedt case, which struck down some provisions of the law. But that ruling did little over the long haul to help the organization keep its San Antonio abortion business open.

Conclusions

While the abortion cartel is highly motivated to expand, especially through the use of the abortion pill, its plans are being thwarted by pro-life activism, new pro-life laws, and even its own bad behavior.

Chronic difficulty keeping clinics staffed with abortionists continues as a trend.

While the number of medical clinics represents a growing percentage of all abortion clinics, surgical facilities still dominate the dwindling industry.

With the pro-life Trump Administration set to cut Title X funding to Planned Parenthood and other abortion businesses next spring through a rule change, it can be expected that the slight increase in Planned Parenthood abortion facilities will not continue into 2019.

Also, President Trump has appointed of a record number of conservative judges to the Federal bench and two new Supreme Court Justices – with the possibility of more in the near future. It is likely that there will be more favorable rulings on pro-life cases from a more conservative federal judiciary in the coming years, which could also help in closing even more abortion facilities.

"We are very encouraged by the results of our 2018 survey. Abortion facilities are closing faster than they can open, and that means there are fewer women and babies being put at risk," said Newman. "America is rejecting abortion in favor of life, and we expect that trend to continue until all of our nation is finally abortion-free."

Published with permission from Operation Rescue.

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Church petitions British Columbia’s top court to overturn city’s ban on youth conference

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January 8, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – A Christian church in British Columbia has petitioned the province's top court to reverse a city's 2018 decision to cancel the church's booking of a city-owned center for a youth conference after the city took issue with one of the event's Christian speakers. 

Grace Chapel is a parish of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, located in downtown New Westminster. Part of Grace Chapel’s vision is to “build a multi-ethnic, diverse church where people of every nation in our community will worship God…” Grace Chapel does not have a church building of its own. Church events are held in rented spaces, including the municipally-owned and managed Anvil Centre.

As explained in a recently filed affidavit, on May 25, the City of New Westminster signed a contract with Grace Chapel to rent a portion of the Anvil Centre. The rental was for a youth conference to be held on July 21, 2018. 

On June 21, 2018, a media article was published which included a picture of a poster for the conference. The Get-A-Grip 2018 conference in New Westminster was on the theme of “LGBT” — only in this case, the acronym stands for “Let God Be True.”

That same day, Grace Chapel received an email from Anvil Centre Director of Sales & Marketing, Heidi Hughes. Ms. Hughes stated that the Anvil Centre was reneging on the contract and cancelling the rental, on the basis that “one of [Grace Chapel’s] event speakers / facilitators, Kari Simpson...vocally represents views and a perspective that run counter to City of New Westminster and Anvil Centre booking policy.”

One of the speakers is Kari Simpson, controversial and well-known free speech and parental rights’ advocate, sex-ed critic and executive director of Culture GuardMost recently, Simpson has become an outspoken opponent of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity, or SOGI 123 — the pro-gender identity curriculum rolled out across BC in September of 2017.

Ms. Hughes did not explain how or why any of the speakers at the conference caused Grace Chapel to “promote racism, hate, violence, censorship, crime or other unethical pursuits”, or how it is possible that this speaker’s “views” or “perspective” could contravene the Anvil Centre Booking Policy.

The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms has filed a petition with the Supreme Court of British Columbia on behalf of the church, after the City of New Westminster cancelled the church’s booking to host a conference at the City-owned Anvil Centre.

Grace Chapel’s court petition seeks to quash the City’s decision, and seeks a Court declaration that the decision to cancel Grace Chapel’s contract was procedurally unfair, biased, unreasonable, and unjustifiably infringed the freedoms of conscience, religion, thought, belief, opinion, expression, and association and right to be free from discrimination on the basis of religion as protected by sections 2(a), 2(b), 2(d) and section 15(1) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. This court application further seeks a Court order prohibiting the City from denying the use of its facilities to this church on the basis of the ideas, views, opinions, perspectives, values or beliefs of Grace Chapel or of speakers selected by the Grace Chapel.  

“As a government facility that is regularly used by diverse parties for expressive and associative activities, such as conferences, the Anvil Centre cannot deny use of its facilities in a manner that violates rights and freedoms protected by the Charter,” explained lawyer and Justice Centre president John Carpay.

In a July 6, 2018, letter to the City of New Westminster, the Justice Centre explained that the Charter protects the right to receive expressive material as much as it does the right to speak. By cancelling the rental, the Anvil Centre unjustifiably infringed the constitutional right of those intending to listen and consider diverse opinions on topics of interest to them. 

A hearing of this petition has not yet been scheduled. 

Related:

Church may sue city for pulling venue on “LGBT: Let God Be True” teen conference

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Court orders student to pay for vandalizing, stealing pro-life signs

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INDIANA, January 8, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – A Monroe County judge has ordered Indiana University student Thomas Metcalf to pay the pro-life group Created Equal for damaging its equipment.

Last fall, Created Equal’s Road Trip for Life faced shocking vandalism at Indiana University (IU, Bloomington) when a pro-abortion student first stole its signs before returning to vandalize and destroy others showing pictures of aborted babies. The student, Metcalf, was arrested later that same day.

Metcalf is a member of Young Democratic Socialists at IU and Black Lives Matter. Metcalf spray painted and broke signs while the Created Equal team was engaging in peaceful pro-life outreach on IU’s campus. He also threw bungee cords and metal rods from Created Equal’s equipment, which were never recovered.

The judge gave Metcalf several other orders, including paying court costs and filing fees, completing community service hours within 60 days, and writing an essay for the City Prosecutor on the topic of the First Amendment and the right of individuals to exercise free speech.

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‘I f***ing hate you’: Student vandalizes, tries to steal pro-life signs

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Phil Lawler

Opinion ,

2018: The year the media stopped covering for Pope Francis

Phil Lawler
By Phil Lawler

January 8, 2019 (CatholicCulture.org) – "It was not a good year for Pope Francis," says Sylvia Poggioli of NPR. Nicole Winfield of AP is a bit more forceful: "It has been a wretched year for Pope Francis..."

At last, reporters for the secular mainstream are waking up to the reality that this Pope, whose first weeks in office provided such exciting prospects for reform, has failed to deliver. In fact, on the question that secular reporters generally (and rightly) consider most important, the response to sexual abuse, things at the Vatican are much worse now than they were when Pope Francis was elected.

It's taken a while – long enough for me to write two different books about the wreckage caused by this disastrous papacy. But a reasonably objective reporter cannot ignore evidence forever.

In Lost Shepherd I quoted one reporter from a mainstream newspaper, who observed that most of his colleagues were sympathetic toward Pope Francis, supported his efforts to change Church policies, and were therefore loath to write critical stories. "I can't imagine what it would take" to turn the media against the Pontiff, he said. Well, maybe now we know. It would take a full year of revelations about prelates who were tainted by the abuse scandal, but still protected (if not promoted) by the Vatican. It would take months of stonewalling by Vatican spokesmen, including the Pope himself. It would take dozens of promises, promises, promises – without any effective action. It would take an unprecedented volley of criticism from a former Vatican diplomat, and impatient statements from scores of American bishops. Then finally, looking back across 2018, reporters would have no choice but to observe that it wasn't a good year – it was a wretched year – for the Pope.

"If he had judged his advisers more scrupulously at the start of his pontificate on their abuse and cover-up records, he might have retained more credibility in 2018," writes Winfield. Yes, but it wasn't just at the start of his pontificate. And it isn't just a matter of their records on abuse; there's the moribund "reform" of Vatican finances to consider as well. Not to mention (because the secular media won't mention it) the burgeoning homosexual scandal and the theological question marks that are now sprinkled across the annals of this pontificate.

But take another careful look at Winfield's last sentence, and her reference to how the Pontiff "might have retained more credibility in 2018." That certainly implies that he lost credibility this year. Can he regain it in 2019? Will secular reporters be willing to clear the slate and give the Pontiff another chance to restore their confidence? Or will Pope Francis be subject to a steady barrage of the critical coverage that, to date, he has mostly escaped?

The answer, I suggest, will be clear in February, when the Vatican brings together the presidents of the world's episcopal conferences to discuss the sex-abuse scandal. If that meeting does not produce clear and decisive action – statements won't do the trick – the patience of the Vatican-watching media corps will be exhausted.

Published with permission from CatholicCulture.org.

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K.V. Turley

Opinion

Irish citizens protest country’s first legal abortion, proving abortion debate is far from over

K.V. Turley
By

ANALYSIS

January 8, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – On a Monday morning when the rest of Ireland was returning to work and school after the Christmas break, a group of  “concerned citizens” stood outside Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda, County Louth. They were there to witness to a life about to be taken.

They held placards saying: “Abortion is murder”; “Let him be born”; “Let her be born”; “Killing in progress”.

The Irish Times reported one of the group, Charles Byrne, as saying: “It is a quiet protest. We are not going to leaflet people: we had the leaflets in the referendum; this is merely to show support for that child who is losing his or her life today.”

Byrne went on to say: “I am here because I deeply and profoundly care about the right to life of every human being. I believe that every single human being is precious... Each individual is a unique person. We are here because we believe hospitals need to be places of care through compassion.”

Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital has a large and busy maternity unit serving a wide geographic area. The Irish Times also reported that another member of the group, Anne Trainer, told of how she had had all four of her children at the hospital. She spoke of the high level of medical care available to mothers there. She expressed concern about what medical staff are being ordered to perform now. Mrs Trainer also talked of her third child who has Downs Syndrome, and of how that child would have been targeted for destruction under the new abortion regime that is now being established in Ireland. 

On Sunday night, a social media post from “Pro-Life Ireland” alerted the country to the fact that: “The first abortion in our Lady of Lourdes Hospital is scheduled for first thing tomorrow morning, Monday 7th. The priests in Drogheda have asked for prayers that the woman will have a change of heart overnight and not go through with the procedure. Please spread the word.”

The pro-life witness and the prayers called for found little support from the Catholic Archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin. Speaking to the Irish State broadcaster on Sunday night, he told those involved in any vigil to be “particularly cautious”, while making clear that he was “not a person for protest.” 

“I would be particularly cautious about protesting against GPs because everybody is going there, and people go there for all sorts of reasons,” he said.

“I’m not a person personally for protest, what the Church should be doing is strengthening its resolve to help women in crisis and to educate people,” he added.

As reported earlier by Lifesite, these peaceful and dignified pro-life protests are beginning to spring up across Ireland. They are causing concern to the current pro-abortion Minister for Health, Simon Harris. The Irish Times reported that the minister found it “extraordinarily unedifying” for people to be identifying hospitals where abortions were purportedly being carried out. He described the pro-life posts on social media, such as those about abortions at Our Lady of Lourdes as “despicable”. The Minister said if information regarding a patient had been leaked from the health service it would be very serious.  One thing is certain: his concern for patients and human dignity and attendant hand ringing do not stretch to the child in the womb of that “patient”. 

What Harris’ and others’ rhetoric is really about is closing down any debate on the subject of abortion. No one on social media or elsewhere mentioned any patient by name. It would be incredible – and wrong - if it had been.  The pro-life campaigners were simply present at the hospital gates to alert people to what is taking place in their midst at a local and well-regarded maternity hospital. The demonstration that ensued was, as it had been earlier in Galway, dignified and peaceful, solemn even. 

In reaction, though, Minister Harris has once again threatened legislation to introduce censorship zones around abortion facilities. The Irish Times went on to quote him as saying: “I am absolutely committed to safe access zones and I have a Government decision supporting the introduction of them.”

In the short term, with such looming political issues such as Brexit, it may be that the Irish government and parliament decide to spend time protecting the Irish economy rather than pandering slavishly to the abortion lobby and its never-ending demands to silence witness to the reality of abortion which has now come to Ireland. 

The Irish Times confronted Charles Bryne outside the hospital with the reality of the referendum result, reminding him that a majority had voted in favour of removing the constitutional ban on abortion.  The response they received to this from him was unexpected. Byrne told the reporter: “Justice does not come by majority. If hundred per cent of people voted for anything, that does not make it right or wrong. Democracy is a very useful tool but it cannot dictate right and wrong. Is ending a human life right or wrong? That is my question to people.”

With answers like this, I predict that the Irish media will soon start to ignore the pro-life protests that are currently gaining momentum across Ireland.  We will see censorship of the subject of abortion extended from the streets, to the airwaves, and the newspapers, because what the pro-abortion lobby in Ireland cannot afford is another debate on abortion, especially when abortion’s hideous truth is becoming all too apparent. 

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Peter Kwasniewski Peter Kwasniewski Follow Dr. Peter

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What would it look like if we tithed our time for the Lord?

Peter Kwasniewski Peter Kwasniewski Follow Dr. Peter
By Dr. Peter Kwasniewski

January 8, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – Many Christians, Catholic and Protestant, are already accustomed to tithing (take 10 percent of) their incomes for the Lord. Once upon a time this took the simple form of giving 10 percent to the local parish or church. Today, with so much evidence of money being channeled either to organizations that do not adhere to Church teaching or simply to payoffs for mishandling of abuse, laity are understandably skeptical about earmarking their tithe for such dubious purposes. Instead, they will give to charities that unambiguously follow Church teaching and have a record of good and scandal-free management.

But have you ever asked yourself what it would look like if we tithed the commodity that is really most precious to us, far more precious than any gold or silver – namely, our time? Though some glibly say “time = money,” in fact time is far more important than money. The real equation goes like this: “time = life.” What we spend our time on, we spend our life on. Each moment God gives to us has to be spent on something, and once it is spent, it cannot be taken back. Even if most of our time will be spent on such mundane activities as sleeping, working, caring for our dependents, eating, washing, and driving, we also know, from Scripture and from Catholic Tradition, that we owe time to God each and every day – indeed, the best time should be given to Him. By this, I mean the first portion of each day, as well as the last moments before we go to bed.

Now, if God is the source of our very life, if He is our happiness, the very end we are striving for during our earthly pilgrimage, and the Judge who will ask us to give an account for “every idle word we speak” (cf. Mt 12:36), it follows that the more time we can spend on God Himself, the better. And what I mean by spending time on God is, quite simply, prayer. Prayer includes the four classic acts of prayer – adoration, contrition, thanksgiving, supplication – as well as meditating on Scripture, doing spiritual reading, and any other activity that has God as its raison d’être. (Put it this way: any activity that would make no sense if God did not exist is an activity that is about God; any activity that you would do whether God existed or not is a worldly activity.)

If we decided to take the next big step beyond tithing our money, namely, tithing our time – or, to be fair to human nature, our time awake – what would it look like? Well, if there are 24 hours in a day, and we assume 8 hours for a night’s sleep, a tithe of the remaining 16 hours would be 1.6 hours, or 96 minutes. That sounds like a great deal more time than most people, even Christians who pride themselves on being “practicing Christians,” spend on daily prayer.

However, if we look to former centuries, when Christian practice was much stronger, we see something exactly like this tithe expected of both Catholics and Protestants. Since I am much more familiar with the Catholic side, I will focus on that.

A Catholic who assists at a daily Mass lasting thirty minutes, with ten minutes of thanksgiving after; who prays a Rosary lasting about twenty minutes; and who spends about a half-hour at one or two other points in the day doing lectio divina, spiritual reading, mental prayer, or some part of the Divine Office (such as Prime or Compline) – such a Catholic will have given to the Lord 90 minutes of his day, which is almost exactly a tithe of his waking hours. It can indeed be done, and it should be done. The fruits are apparent to those who try it; and these are fruits that benefit far more than the one undertaking this prayer regimen.

It goes without saying that, short of receiving an especially powerful grace that prompts us all at once to embrace such a program in full, it is more prudent to build up to this level, putting in place one good habit at a time, rather than trying to do too much at the start and falling flat on our faces. We can start with daily Mass, daily Rosary, or daily Divine Office, and once this is solidly established, go on to add another commitment, until we are leavening the day with prayer.

To the obvious objection “But I’m too busy to devote so much time to prayer – I’ve got work to do, and my family obligations,” etc., the response is twofold. First, we need God’s grace more than God needs our works, and our works will not be fruitful without turning to Him regularly. It’s said that whenever a Missionary of Charity would tell Mother Teresa that she was “too busy” to do a daily Holy Hour, Mother would assign her a second daily Holy Hour, with the remark: “The one who has more responsibilities has greater need for prayer, not less.” Second, to paraphrase the Marian Catechist Apostolate: “If your work is so much that you do not have time for prayer and meditation, then you have to cut back your work. There is no other way.” I would add that it is particularly important that mothers not neglect their own spiritual needs; their husbands should offer to take the children from time to time, or their older children should be placed in charge for a certain time, so that mothers may give the Lord His due and give their own souls rest and refreshment in Him.

Religious – monks and nuns who are consecrated by their state to public liturgical prayer throughout the day and to a life of recollection and mortification – ought to be giving much more than a tithe of their waking hours, just as they make a vow of poverty to give up all their possessions and not just 10 percent of their income. The goal of the religious is to pray without ceasing, as St. Paul urges us all to try to do to the best of our ability (cf. 1 Thes 5:17); in order to live a life that is given over totally to the activity that is most proper to the baptized, the religious cuts away everything that would distract or deter him or her from pursuing it. In this life we cannot perfectly surmount the daily grind, but we can simplify more and more so as to open up space and time in our day for God. This is the total offering of self that the monk, nun, sister, brother, makes before God and for God. And this is why the religious life is the very heart of the Church: it is the guarantee that somewhere, in some people, the absolute primacy of God and of His Kingdom are being realized here and now, the sign that some Christians are staking everything on the divine promises and thus fulfilling the command of the Lord: “Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness” (Mt 6:33).

What happens if we tithe our time as well as our money? We say to the Lord: “You are first and last in my life, so I will make a point of giving you a significant part of each day, just as I make a point of giving you a significant part of my income. You have given me all that I am and all that I possess; I therefore wish to make a return to you of a portion of each that cuts into my life and my pocket, that hurts me in my attachment to my own projects and desires – at least until you have converted me and I look forward to giving you as much as I can.”

For ultimately the goal of all tithing is to habituate ourselves to a spirit of generosity, and to prepare ourselves for the consecrated life of heaven, when God will be “all in all” (cf. 1 Cor 15:28). At the time of my death, in my particular judgment, I will either be ready and eager to give myself wholly to Him in the ecstasy of heaven, or I will flee from Him into the cold and dark pit of selfishness in which hell consists. If we do not train ourselves in this life to give, to give a lot, to give until it hurts, to give until we love to give, we should not expect an easy transition to an afterlife of adoring abandonment in which we “have nothing and yet possess all” (cf. 2 Cor 6:10).

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