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Donna Durning
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Elderly pro-life woman attacked outside abortion mill hospitalized with broken leg, bleeding head

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By Dorothy Cummings McLean

LOUISVILLE, Kentucky, April 15, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) ― A well-loved pro-life sidewalk counselor was attacked by a woman exiting an abortion mill, leaving her with a broken thighbone and a bleeding head wound. 

Donna Durning, a sidewalk counselor for over 20 years, was outside the E.M.W. Women’s Surgical Center on the afternoon of April 13 when a younger woman who had been inside the abortion mill violently pushed her, causing her to fall on the pavement. She underwent surgery.

Durning told LifeSiteNews that the young woman, who was in her early twenties, had gone out from the clinic to a car that was waiting for her. It was around 4 o’clock in the afternoon. 

“She turned and looked at me,” Durning recounted, “and I gave her a sweet little card... I said ‘Honey, this is for you; if you want to talk to somebody there’s a phone number there.’ She grabbed me by both shoulders and literally threw me to the ground.” 

Durning sustained a head wound and a fractured femur. Fortunately, her skull did not break, and she didn’t suffer any brain injuries. 

“Thank goodness I have good bones,” Durning remarked.

The next day Adele Darnowski, a friend of Durning, took a photograph of Durning’s blood on the sidewalk, posted it on Facebook and remarked “Seventeen mothers walked over it today to go in to have their abortions. Poor dears.”

She also reflected, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.” 

Darnowski told LifeSiteNews that police were already on the scene.

“The police who were in a car across the street immediately entered the EMW and confiscated the surveillance tapes,” she said

Witnesses at the scene recorded the license plate number of the car in which the assailant and her friend drove away.

An ambulance was called while Durning was attended by the other pro-life witnesses outside the clinic. Her blood was still visible on the ground the next day. 

“The picture [see above] does not do justice to it,” Darnowski said.   

Local pro-life lawyer Vince Heuser also spoke to LifeSiteNews, saying that he would make sure the prosecution of Durning’s assailant went forward.  

“Pro-lifers do try to turn the other cheek, but beating up an old lady is not to be tolerated in anyone,” Heuser said, adding that Durning was not going to like being called an old lady. 

“She’s a trouper.” 

E.M.W. Women’s Surgical Center is the last freestanding abortion mill in the state of Kentucky, and it is a hotbed of both pro-life witness and pro-abortion demonstrations. Material help is offered to abortion-minded women in Louisville at a number of pro-life institutions including LifeHouse Maternity and BSideU for Life Pregnancy Center. The latter is right next door to the abortion clinic.  

Darnowski told LifeSiteNews that although Durning has encountered violence outside the clinic before, violence against demonstrators is unusual. However, tensions run high during 40 Days for Life. 

“This past Saturday, one day after the incident, there was a huge amount of activity down there,” she said, to illustrate. 

“Operation Save America was there but not getting arrested that day. Two [police] cars [were] across the street.  One hundred and ten of us pro-lifers including the group from Helpers of God's Precious Infants [were] across the street, and the Catholics praying the rosary, three different Protestant pastors with their megaphones, ten or so pro-aborts taking turns playing carnival music on a boombox ...  By 8:30 PM seventeen women had gone in.”

Donna Durning has been praying and witnessing outside E.M.W. Women’s Surgical Center almost every day for 23 years.  She told LifeSiteNews that she is usually there from 6:30 AM until 9:15 AM, but on Friday she stayed the whole day to help out the less experienced pro-life witnesses from her parish participating in Forty Days for Life.  

On Saturday, Durning’s femur was surgically reconstructed, and she told LifeSiteNews today that she was delighted with the staff at Louisville’s Baptist Health Hospital. 

“There are so many good people in this world,” she enthused. 

Durning is expected to make a full recovery. Tomorrow she will begin five days of rehabilitation at Louisville’s Nazareth Home. 

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Rugby player Israel Folau
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Christian athlete sacked from Australia Rugby team for quoting Bible on homosexuality

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By Martin Barillas

PETITION: Reinstate superstar Christian athlete sacked over accusations of 'homophobia' for quoting Bible. Sign the petition here.

SYDNEY, Australia, April 15, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) -- Star Australian rugby player Israel Folau will not retract statements about homosexuality and sin and it may cost him a multimillion dollar contract with Rugby Australia.

On April 10, Folau posted to more than 340,000 followers on Instagram, "Those that are living in Sin will end up in Hell unless you repent. Jesus Christ loves you and is giving you time to turn away from your sin and come to him."

Quoting St. Paul's letter to the Galatians, Folau posted, "Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these, adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revelings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God." (Galatians KJV 5:19-21).

On April 11, Rugby Australia declared that it was aware of social media posts by Folau.

“The content within the post is unacceptable,” the organization said. “It does not represent the values of the sport and is disrespectful to members of the Rugby community.”

In an April 14 statement, Rugby Australia stated that Folau has 48 hours to appeal a notice of termination. The statement quoted Rugby Australia executive Raelene Castle as saying, "This is an issue of the responsibilities an employee owes to their employer and the commitments they make to their employer to abide by their employer’s policies and procedures and adhere to their employer’s values.”

As it now stands, Folau will not be included on the roster of players for the Rugby World Cup, just weeks before games begin.

Folau has run afoul of the league and LGBTQ campaigners in the past for his defense of Biblical teachings on sexuality and marriage.

“Following the events of last year, Israel was warned formally and repeatedly … with regards to social media use and he has failed to meet those obligations,” Castle said in the release. She added that any commentary “that is in any way disrespectful to people because of their sexuality will result in disciplinary action.”

LifeSiteNews has issued a petition to Rugby Australia’s CEO, asking for Folau’s reinstatement.

On Twitter, Folau responded to news that the state of Tasmania, Australia, will make optional the designation of a newborn’s sex, saying, “The devil has blinded so many people in this world, REPENT and turn away from your evil ways. Turn to Jesus Christ who will set you free.”

In the past, Folau has gotten into hot water because of his support for traditional marriage.

During an April 14 service at the Truth Of Jesus Christ Church in Kenthurst, Australia, fellow worshippers warmly greeted Folau, a sincere evangelical Christian. During the service, references were made to religious persecution in Folau’s case. One speaker praised Folau for his “boldness” for adhering to God’s word.

Folau told the Sydney Morning Herald that he currently has no plans to sue Australia Rugby for religious discrimination. Asked whether he may have to leave professional rugby behind, he told the paper, "Whatever His will is, whether that's to continue playing or not, I'm more than happy to do what He wants me to do." He said he would miss playing football, adding, “But my faith in Jesus Christ is what comes first."

Folau said the furor that emerged about his social media posts has not made him budge. He told the Sydney Morning Herald, "I'll stand on what the Bible says. I share it with love. I can see the other side of the coin where people's reactions are the total opposite to how I'm sharing it.”

"I have love towards everyone that might be saying negative things. ... I choose to love them because God loves me," Folau said.

Fellow footballer Billy Vunipola expressed online support for Folau, garnering a warning from his team in England. Vunipola liked Folau’s post, stating that “there comes a point where you insult what I grew up believing in that you just say enough is enough. What he (Folau]is saying is not that he doesn’t like or love those people. He’s saying how we live our lives needs to be closer to how God intended them to be.”

The management of the Saracens rugby club, based in London, released a statement that stated: “Our sport is open to all and we strive for it to be free from all forms of discrimination.  We recognise that people have different belief systems and we expect everyone to be treated equally with respect and humility.”

Saying the Saracens have responsibilities to the club and society, the release said the player’s “social media posts are inconsistent with this and we take this matter very seriously. It will be handled internally.”


Those that are living in Sin will end up in Hell unless you repent. Jesus Christ loves you and is giving you time to turn away from your sin and come to him. _______________ Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these , adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revelings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. Galatians 5:19‭-‬21 KJV _______________ Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. Acts 2:38 KJV _______________ And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent: Acts 17:30 KJV _______________

A post shared by Israel Folau (@izzyfolau) on

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A candlelight vigil inspired by the movie Unplanned taking place in Billings, Montana.
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Candlelight vigils outside Planned Parenthood inspired by ‘Unplanned’ a huge success

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By Lisa Bourne
Portland, Maine.
Aurora, Illinois.
Colorado Springs, Colorado.

April 15, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) — Organizers are calling the National Pro-Life Candlelight Vigil this past weekend outside abortion mills an outstanding success. The vigils were inspired by the chilling look inside the abortion industry as portrayed in the recently released movie Unplanned, which tells the story of Abby Johnson, a Planned Parenthood manager turned pro-life activist.

Altogether, there were 166 vigils at Planned Parenthood facilities across the nation, in 40 U.S. states in six time zones. The total turnout is estimated to have been more than 10,000, according to local leaders — including many for whom this was their first time taking part in pro-life activism. Those numbers topped original estimates.

Many of the attendees said they were inspired to participate because of having seen the movie Unplanned. The Unplanned movie has seen unanticipated commercial success, despite various efforts to squelch awareness due to its pro-life message.

“Many of them were first timers, inspired by what they saw in the move Unplanned,” said Eric Scheidler, executive director of the Pro-Life Action League. “It really woke them up to the reality of abortion, to come out here and be a part of this pro-life mission.”

The vigils were held outside Planned Parenthood locations throughout the United States on Saturday and were arranged by the Protest Planned Parenthood (#ProtestPP) collaboration of the Pro-Life Action League, Created Equal, and Citizens for a Pro-Life Society, along with more than 75 local, state, and national pro-life groups.

Guest speakers at the vigils included Fairbanks, Alaska’s Bishop Chad Zielinski and Colorado Springs, Colorado’s Bishop Michael Sheridan.

Local clergy spoke at many additional locations, as did post-abortive women who shared their individual accounts of regretting the choice to abort their children.

In Colorado Springs, Bishop Sheridan led some 200 people in prayer. Those present also heard from Sue Thayer, another former Planned Parenthood manager who has become a pro-life advocate.

The Colorado Springs vigil began at 11:24 A.M.., to coincide with the Scripture verse of Mark 11:24, which reads: ”Therefore I tell you, all that you ask for in prayer, believe that you will receive it and it shall be yours.”

The largest reported crowds were 350 in Aurora, Illinois; 2o0 in Marietta, Georgia; and 275 in Kalamazoo, Michigan.

Pro-abortion counter-protesters turned out in a few of the vigil locations as well.

While the vigils overall were a success, there was a tragic incident of violence in Kentucky, where a longtime pro-life advocate was assaulted after offering post-abortion material to a post-abortive mother outside the facility, sustaining serious injury.

According to a social media post from the pro-life advocate’s niece, her aunt reportedly suffered a head injury and a broken femur after being pushed to the ground by the woman to whom she’d offered the information and was taken via ambulance for treatment.

Scheidler said in a video from his location of Aurora, Illinois that organizers hoped people would take what they gained from the Unplanned movie and use it to defend life.

“We’re really encouraging people to take those feelings of sorrow and sadness, what they saw in that movie, and also that feeling of gratefulness to God’s mercy that Abby Johnson was shown, and turn that into action,” he said. “Turn that into going out into the front lines, being part of this movement.”

He listed praying at Planned Parenthood during a vigil, sidewalk counseling, volunteering at a pregnancy center, supporting pro-life groups, getting involved legislatively, talking to neighbors and becoming informed.

“There’s so much that you can do,” Scheidler said, “but do something. Be a part of this movement actively. It’s the only way we’re going end abortion.”

Update (04-17-2019, 09:44 A.M.): Attendance statistics for the candlelight vigils have been updated.

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Jason Kenney
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‘Who am I to judge?’: Alberta Conservative leader flip-flops on pro-life and marriage

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By Lianne Laurence

EDMONTON, Alberta, April 15, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) — Whether United Conservative Party leader Jason Kenney will be Alberta’s next premier will be decided Tuesday.

An April 9 Ipsos poll showed the UCP ahead of Rachel Notley’s governing NDP by eight points, and public engagement in the election is high, with a record number of Albertans — nearly 700,000 — casting ballots in advance polls, as reported by CBC.

But while Kenney’s victory is not yet in the bag, there’s no doubt that the UCP leader’s views have changed since his impeccable pro-life, pro-family voting record as a federal Conservative Member of Parliament, says pro-life lobby group Campaign Life Coalition.

A recent telling example is Kenney’s interview with aggressively liberal Alberta radio talk show host Charles Adler, during which Kenney reiterated that he accepts homosexual “marriage” and quoted Pope Francis’ “who am I to judge” when it comes to abortion. (For full transcript, go here.)

In the April 3 broadcast, Alder accused Kenney as a student in San Francisco 38 years ago of taking part in an campaign to ban homosexual individuals from visiting “their dying lovers, dying of AIDS” in reference to the city’s proposed LGBTQ “spousal” law.

Kenney opposed the measure because he could foresee it leading “to change in the definition of marriage, which ultimately, one would argue, it did. And now I acknowledge that the political and social mores has [sic] changed on those questions,” he told Adler.

“I regret the position I took then, and I’ve said I was wrong to do so,” Kenney said.

Despite Adler’s grilling, Kenney did not say he supported abortion.

“I see it as a difficult choice that women make, and that we should not judge. You know, I’ll quote Pope Francis on this: ‘Who am I to judge?’” he said.

Kenney has stated from the outset as UCP leader, his party would not introduce legislation on abortion. He reiterated this to Adler.

“The law on this question in Canada is settled,” he said. “There hasn’t been a debate in Parliament since, I think, 1988 on restricting access to abortion.”

“It’s really sad to witness this once great Catholic pro-lifer devolve into just another liberal who dutifully repeats the leftist talking points forced on him by the media,” says Jack Fonseca, director of political operations for Campaign Life Coalition.

That was echoed by Campaign Life president Jeff Gunnarson.

“It’s unclear if Jason Kenney is afraid to be criticized by the liberal, pro-abortion media or if he has completely abandoned his faith with regards to life and family issues. I hope it is the former and if it is, he is misinformed and has succumbed to the errant, politically correct state religion that is LGBTQ-plus,” said Gunnarson.

“What this country needs is a leader who will stand up for his principles; who believes that what is good and dignified for its citizens is a critical part in not just winning elections but sustaining that win for many terms,” he told LifeSiteNews.

“To sell one’s soul for a few years of power is a losing deal,” added Gunnarson.

Adler also berated Kenney for attracting “knuckle-draggers” to the UCP and grilled him over remarks by Drayton Valley-Devon MLA Mark Smith that Adler described as “misogynistic crap” and “homophobic sewage.”

Smith was elected in 2015 for the Wildrose Party and is running for re-election for the UCP, which formed in July 2017 when the Wildrose and Progressive Conservative Parties merged.

In a 2013 sermon, posted on the website of Calvary Baptist Church in Drayton Valley, Smith said this:

What is love? You know, it’s all around you. I think there’s a real misguided sense of when we try to understand what love is.

And we were just at the pro-life conference here, and there are some people that would argue that it is a more loving thing to abort your child into bring it in, unloved, into the world. That’s love. It’s loving to abort your child, to kill your child rather than to have it born and maybe not have perfect life. I mean, Robert Latimer — murdered his daughter and called it love.

You don’t have to watch any TV for any length of time today, where you don’t see on the TV programs, them trying to tell you that homosexuality and homosexual love is good love. Heck, there are even people out there, ... I could take you to places on the website, I’m sure, where you can find out that there’s uh, where pedophilia is love[.]

Kenney told Adler he condemned the remarks as “deeply offensive to many people, and I think objectively so” but that Smith has “unequivocally apologized.”

“Smith’s remark was entirely accurate,” Fonseca told LifeSiteNews. Kenney’s reaction “calls into question whether Kenney is even ‘pro-life’ anymore. If you deny that killing babies in the womb is unloving, how on earth can you call yourself pro-life?”

Adler contended that Kenney is supported by several “far-right, pro-life organizations” and “beholden” to the Wilberforce Project, Right Now, Parents for Choice in Education, the Justice Center for Constitutional Freedoms, and Rebel Media.

Kenney dismissed the idea as “completely ridiculous.”

“I get attacked, often viciously, on almost a daily basis, by Rebel Media. I have basically no contact with most of those organizations,” he said. “I am my own person. I am accountable to the members of my party, to my constituents[.]”

The UCP leader “has clearly abandoned his Catholic beliefs on marriage as a the union of one man and one woman, and the entirety of Catholic teaching on the sinfulness of homosexual acts,” Fonseca told LifeSiteNews.

Adler also blasted Kenney for wanting to “out” homosexual students with his plan to scrub NDP’s Bill 24, which forbids schools from telling parents when their child joins a GSA.

Kenney defended his plan, saying that while the UCP supports GSAs, teachers should have the discretion to decide when to tell parents what is happening with their child at school.

When Adler blasted him on having no openly homosexual UCP candidates, Kenney said he has “actively encouraged openly gay Albertans to seek our nominations, including people who work in my office and I’m proud of the effort that they made. ”

He described the UCP as representing “the diversity of today’s Alberta” with “Sikh, Jewish and Muslim and African and Hindu candidates, and yes, we have Christian candidates too.”

If Kenney becomes premier as expected, he will have “tremendous ability to influence public policy and legislation,” Fonseca told LifeSiteNews. 

“It’s going to be very important after the election for pro-life and pro-family supporters in Alberta who have access to Premier Kenney to support and encourage him, and try bringing him back to his moral senses on all these issues,” he said.

“Kenney can be a force for good if he wants to be.”

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California city council to surround local Chick-fil-A with LGBT flags

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By Martin Barillas

SAN JOSE, California, April 13, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) -- Despite having voted last year to allow a Chick-fil-A restaurant at San Jose International Airport, the city council continues to seek ways to appease LGBTQ campaigners.

The San Jose City Council voted unanimously on April 9 to surround the popular chicken chain location at the publicly-funded airport with the multi-hued flags of the homosexual and transgender movements. The Chick-Fil-A location at the airport is currently under construction and scheduled for completion in May.

According to a report in San Francisco Business Times, the ploy was suggested by Santa Clara County supervisor Ken Yeager, a Democrat, “to counter the bigotry of Chick-fil-A and to let people know that even though there’s that restaurant there, the city is showing its support for the LGBTQ community.”

During the meeting, council member Devora Davis, also a Democrat, opposed surrounding the restaurant with the flags, arguing “if we have them next to Chick-fil-A, it might be confusing — people might think Chick-fil-A is supporting and go to that restaurant.”

She advised that the flags be flown at another location at the airport. Democrat council member Raul Peralez offered a provision for a vote that would allow contracts only to those companies open seven days a week. Chick-fil-A locations, in observance of the Sabbath, are always closed on Sundays.

The city council approved a contract in March 2018 that allows several eatery chains, including Chick-Fil-A, Shake Shack and Trader Vic’s, to fill in empty slots at the busy airport. According to a report by the San Jose Mercury News, council member Magdalena Carrasco claimed that the approval of Chick-Fil-A “slipped under everybody’s radar” when the package deal that included the other eateries was approved.

On April 9, council debated a two-year extension of the approval in light of objections by LGBTQ campaigners to Chick-Fil-A in the larger package deal, as councilwoman Magdalena Carrasco put it Tuesday. In a letter to the council, Bay Area Municipal Elections Committee (BAYMEC),- a consortium of six LGBTQ groups, wrote:

“To millions of visitors every year, Norman Y. Mineta International Airport is their front door to this city, and we want all of them to feel welcome. Chick-fil-A does not represent San Jose’s values. It is not worthy of being the company that visitors first see, and it does not make for a more inclusive environment.”

The group demanded that Chick-fil-A leave the airport as soon as possible and “be replaced with an organization that shares our values of inclusivity and diversity, and that welcomes all visitors to San Jose."

In a statement, Yeager, a homosexual, released a statement stating that he was “saddened” when he saw the logo for Chick-fil-A at the airport.

"It sends a signal to visitors that San Jose supports businesses that actively work against equal rights for the LGBTQ community," said Yeager, who is also executive director of the nonprofit BAYMEC Community Foundation.

Based in Atlanta, Chick-fil-A is owned by a Christian family. Through its foundation, Chick-fil-A has long funded pro-family and Christian organizations. For example, tax returns for 2017 revealed that it gave more than $1.8 million in total to Fellowship of Christian Athletes, the Paul Anderson Youth Home, and the Salvation Army.

In a statement to the Bay Area Reporter, the company stated that it is seeking to clarify misperceptions. It noted that the company’s “sole focus” is to sell sandwiches rather than being “a part of a national political conversation. We do not have a political or social agenda.”

It went on to say that among its 145,000 employees are people from various backgrounds, “including members of the LGBTQ community. We embrace all people, regardless of religion, race, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation or gender identity."

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More than 60 groups considering lawsuit against left-wing Southern Poverty Law Center

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By Calvin Freiburger

April 15, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), the far-left attack group accepted as “extremism” watchdogs by much of the mainstream media, has been rocked by a series of scandals over the past year, which may be the tip of the iceberg if recently-reported insider comments open the door to a new round of lawsuits.

Writing last month for The New Yorker, former SPLC staffer Bob Moser admitted many employees found it hard “not to feel like we’d become pawns in what was, in many respects, a highly profitable scam.” He added that embattled SPLC co-founder Morris Dees (who was ousted that month for “inappropriate conduct”) once told journalist John Egerton that he saw (in Egerton’s paraphrasing) “civil-rights work mainly as a marketing tool for bilking gullible Northern liberals.”

Such statements could form the basis for new lawsuits by various conservative and religious organizations that SPLC has targeted, PJ Media reported last week.

"If you're admitting that it's done for purposes of fundraising, false, and intended to deceive older liberals, you've basically admitted all the elements of a Lanham Act and a defamation claim," Liberty Counsel litigator Daniel Schmid said.

The Lanham Act provides that anyone who “uses in commerce” any false or misleading claim or representation which is “is likely to cause confusion, or to cause mistake, or to deceive as to the affiliation, connection, or association of such person with another person,” or “misrepresents the nature, characteristics, qualities, or geographic origin” of one’s goods or services,” is “liable in a civil action by any person who believes that he or she is or is likely to be damaged by such act.”

"I'm pretty sure Mat (Staver, LC founder and chairman) is very close to (a lawsuit) for Liberty Counsel,” he said. “At some point, I believe we'll file one. I'd be shocked if we didn't have one in the summer." According to PJ Media, LC is in contact with approximately 60 groups that could take action against SPLC, with more reaching out on a monthly basis.

SPLC has a long history of labeling mainstream Christian and/or conservative organizations – including Alliance Defending Freedom, Family Research Council, the Ruth Institute, the David Horowitz Freedom Center, and Jihad Watch – “hate groups” to be blacklisted from various online platforms and services. Despite being forced last June to make a public apology and pay $3.4 million in defamation damages to Maajid Nawaz’s Quilliam Foundation, various companies continue to take SPLC’s advice.

Facebook, Twitter, Google, and Amazon all partner with SPLC to varying degrees to help identify and restrict allegedly “hateful” groups and content from their platforms, and the organization has managed to pressure companies like Mastercard and GoFundMe to (at least temporarily, in some cases) deny services to conservative figures and groups. The FBI used SPLC as a resource on hate crimes until 2014, when it was removed during the Obama administration. The Pentagon under President Donald Trump dropped it as a resource in October 2017.

"The SPLC’s 'hate group' accusation is a financial and reputational death sentence, effectively equating organizations to the KKK," Megan Meier of Clare Locke LLP, the law firm involved in the Quilliam case, told PJ Media. "No right-thinking person wants to be associated with the KKK, so the SPLC’s 'hate group' accusation is incredibly effective at shaming organizations and causing them to be shunned by donors, fundraising platforms, service providers, the media, and others. Shaming and shunning are hallmarks of what makes a statement 'defamatory' under the common law."

Earlier this month, Republican U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas called on the IRS to investigate SPLC for $121 million in offshore assets that the organization keeps in non-U.S. equity funds.

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Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas
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Clarence Thomas condemns Democrat attacks on SCOTUS contender Amy Coney Barrett’s faith

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By Calvin Freiburger

MALIBU, April 15, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) — The most conservative sitting justice of the U.S. Supreme Court spoke out this month in defense of a potential future colleague against left-wing criticism directed at Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s Catholic faith.

President Donald Trump appointed Barrett, a Notre Dame law professor, to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in 2017. During her confirmation hearings, several Democrats suggested she could not be trusted to rule impartially due to her deep Catholic faith.

“You are controversial. You have a long history of believing that your religious beliefs should prevail,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said. “When you read your speeches, the conclusion one draws is that the dogma lives loudly within you. And that’s of concern when you come to big issues that large numbers of people have fought for years in this country.”

Justice Clarence Thomas took a question about the exchange and the broader subject of considering judicial nominees’ religious views during his April 4 address to Pepperdine University School of Law’s annual banquet, the Daily Caller News Foundation reports.

“I thought we got away from religious tests,” said Thomas, who is also Catholic. “I don’t think I know a single judge who has allowed religion to interfere with their jobs.”

If anything, he argued that a judge of faith attempting to use the bench to control Americans was less likely than such designs from a judge dominated by other ideologies. “I think if you start the day on your knees, you approach your job differently from when you start thinking that someone anointed you to impose your will on others,” Thomas said.

Despite the uproar over the attacks on Barrett, Senate Democrats didn’t stop viewing conservative Catholicism as a potential disqualifier for judicial nominees. In January, Sens. Mazie Hirono and Kamala Harris questioned whether Trump judicial nominee Brian Buescher could be trusted to hear so-called “reproductive rights” cases “fairly and impatiently,” given his membership in the Catholic charitable organization the Knights of Columbus.

Article VI of the United States Constitution declares that “no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”

As a pro-life originalist and former Scalia clerk who has criticized excessive deference to judicial precedent, Barrett has been a favorite of pro-lifers and grassroots conservatives for the first two SCOTUS vacancies of Trump’s tenure. While the president selected the more moderate Brett Kavanaugh to replace retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy last fall, Axios reported last month that Trump has privately said he’s “saving her” to replace left-wing justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who is 85 years old.

Whenever the next Supreme Court vacancy comes, the 70-year-old Thomas has no intention of being the one to leave anytime soon. “I’m not retiring,” he said at the Pepperdine event.

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TOPSHOT-FRANCE-FIRE-NOTRE-DAME TOPSHOT - Smokes ascends as flames rise during a fire at the landmark Notre-Dame Cathedral in central Paris on April 15, 2019 afternoon, potentially involving renovation works being carried out at the site, the fire service FRANCOIS GUILLOT/AFP/Getty Images
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Paris’ Notre Dame cathedral goes up in flames (Updated)

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By Calvin Freiburger

PARIS, April 15, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – Paris authorities are battling a fire in the city’s Notre Dame cathedral that broke out Monday, producing massive plumes of smoke billowing from the historic Catholic site.

Authorities have cleared the area surrounding the cathedral as they battle flames “leap[ing] out besides its two bell towers,” NBC News reports. Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo has requested that passersby steer clear of the vicinity until further notice.

A cause for the fire has not yet been confirmed, but local media reports that police are currently treating it as an accident, potentially related to renovations currently underway. "Notre-Dame was in the midst of renovations, with some sections under scaffolding, while bronze statues were removed last week for works," NBC reports.

“So horrible to watch the massive fire at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris,” U.S. President Donald Trump said in response to the news. “Perhaps flying water tankers could be used to put it out. Must act quickly!”

While details are currently scarce and there’s no known evidence the fire was intentional, it comes two days after 22-year-old Ines Madani was sentenced to eight years in prison for her involvement in a 2016 plot to detonate a car packed with gas canisters near the cathedral.

Across social media, users are highlighting and lamenting the artistry and architecture being lost with various photos:

LifeSiteNews will continue to update this breaking story as developments unfold.

UPDATE, 1:20 PM CST: The cathedral's spire has collapsed entirely from the flames, CNN reports.

"Notre Dame of Paris in flames. Emotion for a whole nation," French president Emmanuel Macron declared. "Thoughts for all Catholics and for all French. Like all our countrymen, I'm sad tonight to see this part of us burn." Interior Minister Christophe Castaner assured the public that an "exceptional force" has been deployed to combat the blaze.

UPDATE, 1:46 PM CST: Video from the scene captures the fall of the spire amid the flames and the anguished reaction of witnesses:

"Notre Dame is an iconic symbol of faith to people all over the world – and it is heartbreaking to see a house of God in flames," U.S. Vice President Mike Pence responded. "Our thoughts and prayers are with the firefighters on the scene and all the people of Paris."

UPDATE, 2:47 PM CST: "The horrific fire that is engulfing the Cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris is shocking and saddens us all, for this particular cathedral is not only a majestic Church, it is also a world treasure," Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said in a statement. "Noble in architecture and art, it has long been a symbol of the transcendent human spirit as well as our longing for God.

"Our hearts go out to the Archbishop and the people of Paris, and we pray for all the people of France, entrusting all to the prayers and intercession of the Mother of God, especially the firefighters battling the fire," he continued. "We are a people of hope and of the resurrection, and as devastating as this fire is, I know that the faith and love embodied by this magnificent Cathedral will grow stronger in the hearts of all Christians."

UPDATE, 3:06 PM CST: "The Holy See has learned with shock and sadness the news of the terrible fire that has devastated the Cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris, symbol of Christianity, in France and in the world," the Vatican said in a statement. "We express our closeness to the French Catholic and to the people of Paris. We pray for the fire fighters and for all those who are doing everything possible to face this dramatic situation."

UPDATE, 4:18 PM CST: While two-thirds of the cathedral's roof have been destroyed, French Interior Ministry official Laurent Nunez says that "both towers of the cathedral are safe" and work is ongoing to preserve the structure's remaining art, CNN reports. One firefighter has been seriously injured so far.

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Calvin Freiburger Calvin Freiburger Follow Calvin

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Teachers unions collude with Planned Parenthood to fund abortion with forced dues, pro-life teacher warns

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By Calvin Freiburger

April 15, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – Union dues to the United States’ most powerful teachers unions subsidize abortions and finance Planned Parenthood’s indoctrination of children, according to a leading figure in the fight for teachers’ conscience rights.

On Sunday, Fox News published a column by Rebecca Friedrichs, who spent 28 years teaching in California public schools and was the lead plaintiff in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, a 2016 Supreme Court case concerning forced union dues that was poised to strike a blow against forced union dues until the death of Justice Antonin Scalia led to a tied ruling that failed to set precedent. The column was adapted from Friedrichs’ 2018 book Standing Up to Goliath.

“Years ago, as a California teacher, I was shocked to learn that state and national teachers’ unions collude with Planned Parenthood,” Friedrichs wrote. “They use teacher dues money and resources — behind our backs and against our wills — to bring the abortion industry into our schools. Many of our nation’s public schools require teachers to instruct children as young as 12 on how and where to obtain birth control — including the morning-after pill and abortions — without parental knowledge or permission. If teachers refuse to teach this, the law mandates ‘experts’ like Planned Parenthood take over the classroom.”

She goes on to detail how the California Teachers’ Association (CTA) and the National Education Association (NEA), which advocates and donates heavily to a wide range of left-wing causes including abortion and transgenderism, work with far-left groups such as the Women’s March, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network (GLSEN), and Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS) to “push a radical sexual agenda onto our kids and to punish teachers, parents and students who dare to speak out against it.”

Friedrichs cites the case of Judy Bruns, a Christian teacher in Ohio who took the opportunity at a NEA representative meeting to ask whether the phrase “reproductive freedom” in the group’s resolutions included support for abortion up to delivery and/or partial-birth abortions. Bruns was “mocked and shunned” by the Ohio Education Association’s leaders but got the answer: “We have no restrictions (or limitations).”

“David Schmus, a former teacher and executive director of Christian Educators Association International (CEAI), did some detailed research showing nearly $800,000 of roughly $1 million in donations by the NEA to a 2014 PAC was directed to Planned Parenthood,” Friedrichs noted.

“I’ve always been pro-life, but holding the lifeless frame of my miscarried niece or nephew vividly reinforced that belief,” Friedrichs concluded. “The on-screen testimony of a Planned Parenthood clinic director-turned-pro-life-advocate (in Abby Johnson’s Unplanned) confirmed what I already knew — abortion painfully, violently and permanently ends a baby’s life and scars even more. That’s one reason I sued the unions. So, pro-life teachers, abort your unwanted union membership. Our values and our children are at stake.”

While Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association ultimately failed to change the legal landscape, the Supreme Court ruled last year in Janus v. American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees that it was unconstitutional to force public-sector employees to pay union dues regardless of whether they wanted to join or supported their union’s political positions.

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Martin M. Barillas Martin M. Barillas Follow Martin

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Leaked emails show Planned Parenthood pushed California to force churches to fund abortion

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By Martin Barillas

SACRAMENTO, April 15, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) — Email exchanges showed Planned Parenthood pressuring California authorities to issue a 2014 ruling that forced churches and religious organizations to pay for elective abortions in their health care plans.

Alliance Defending Freedom, a nonprofit law firm that represents the churches, filed an appeal against the ruling, arguing that it violates constitutional protections of religious freedom and conscience. In the April 4 filing in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit on behalf of Foot Hill Church, Calvary Chapel Chino Hills, and Shepherd of the Hills Church, ADF asked the court to reverse a 2016 Obama administration ruling that requires churches and religious organizations to provide abortion coverage in their employees’ health plans.

ADF has submitted emails exchanged by Planned Parenthood, the California Department of Managed Healthcare (DMHC), and the California Health and Human Services Agency that reveal how the abortion-provider asked state authorities to “fix” the “issue” of churches and religious organizations who were originally exempted from the abortion mandate.

“The government shouldn’t be forcing churches to pay for abortion, and it is shameful and inappropriate that the government did so in this case at the bidding of Planned Parenthood,” said ADF Legal Counsel Jeremiah Galus in a statement. Galus said, “California officials are required to follow the law and legal precedent, not the dictates of groups that have an axe to grind against religious organizations that don’t share their views on abortion. We are asking the 9th Circuit to strike down this obviously unconstitutional mandate.”

The emails from Planned Parenthood lobbyists specified Catholic universities among the institutions targeted to provide abortion coverage. Under rules in place in March 2014, employees of Loyola Marymount University had been able to obtain third-party coverage for abortion services, while Santa Clara University intended to come to a similar arrangement, according to an email from Planned Parenthood that was addressed to staff at California HHS.

Another email between a Planned Parenthood lobbyist and a staffer at HHS noted that a March 13, 2014 meeting with HHS deputy secretary for the Office of Legislative Affairs Donna Campbell served to “explore whether there is a regulatory/administrative fix” to prevent churches and religious groups from retaining an exemption from covering abortions. According to the email, the lobbyist and Campbell discussed whether “legislation is needed” in order to address the exemption. In any case, the email noted that Planned Parenthood had suggested legislation it had already drafted.

An email on March 17, 2014 to Campbell from the lobbyist said the abortion provider would prefer to “see [religious exemptions] resolved without legislation.” It expressed concern that HHS was not ready to make the changes demanded. In a political strategy move, Planned Parenthood offered that it would not have the new legislation introduced if the state agencies could rescind their approval of health care plans that were exempt from the abortion mandate. 

“Simply saying that [employer] healthcare plans only need to cover ‘medically necessary’ abortions has been the source of the issue and [this] does not solve the problem,” the email said.

The lobbyist for Planned Parenthood offered a deal to the California state functionary:

[O]ur folks would feel positive about pursuing an administrative solution, in lieu of legislation this year, if the Administration would agree to:

– Going forward, DMHC [Department of Managed Health Care] will not approve any further plans that exclude coverage for abortion or other reproductive health care service. This includes a clarification that there is no such thing as an elective or voluntary abortion exclusion. Simply saying that plans only need to cover “medically necessary” abortions has been the source of the issue and does not solve the problem.

– DMHC will rescind their approval of the Anthem Blue Cross & Kaiser plans (along with any other plans that include an abortion exclusion) so that those two providers cannot offer plans to employers in the future that will exclude abortion.

– DMHC will find a solution to fix the already approved plans being offered to employees of LMU for 2014 and SCU for 2015.

After a Planned Parenthood lobbyist emailed Campbell in late April 2014 to “check in on” the progress of HHS and CDMHC in finding a “solution” to the abortion-provider’s demands within six weeks, Campbell responded, “We are still working with DMHC on the legal and practical issues related to the ‘updated’ interpretation, if you will.” Having thanked Planned Parenthood for “checking in,” Campbell offered a “more thorough progress report for [Planned Parenthood] in mid-May.” By August of that year, DMHC ruled that no health care plans in the state were exempt from covering abortions. DMHC would soon thereafter declare that abortion is health care in a missive to Blue Cross of California.

Joining ADF and the Life Legal Defense Foundation, the Catholic bishops of California filed complaints with the federal government against the California ruling. They cited the Weldon Amendment, which denies federal funding to states and local jurisdictions that discriminate against health care entities that refuse to provide coverage for abortions, refer for them, or pay for them. However, the Obama administration’s Office for Civil Rights of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services rejected the complaints in 2016, finding “no violation of the Weldon Amendment” and “closing this matter without further action.”

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Lisa Bourne Lisa Bourne Follow Lisa

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New crowdfunding site WonderWe reaches out to Christians banned by GoFundMe

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By Lisa Bourne

Start your WonderWe campaign by clicking this link*: Fundraising Software

April 15, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) — A GoFundMe campaign to solicit money for a surgical abortion underscores the ongoing need for principled crowdfunding options.

While GoFundMe has helped people to raise funds for various good causes, the campaign shows a bias toward abortion, at the same time the site has demonstrated bias against people of faith who believe in biblical marriage.

Other crowdfunding sites have banned conservative and pro-life initiatives as well.

“It’s a recurring problem,” Dominic Ismert, founder of WonderWe, told LifeSiteNews, regarding people of faith or who hold traditional values being banned by other crowdfunding sites. “That’s a main reason I built WonderWe.”

WonderWe, a crowdfunding platform focused on faith, family, and friends, seeks to meet the needs of users who, because of the values they hold, may be facing censorship from more secular platforms.

Launched in 2016, WonderWe upholds traditional values, according to the group’s information, and it is pro-life, pro-freedom, and pro-family.

Crowdfunding works and is here to stay, Ismert says, and people like it. Other sites have made a name for themselves, he adds, offering great products with great technology, but WonderWe is different, both in technology and approach.

“We matched that tech — and improved upon it,” he said.

The improved technologies he refers to include peer-to-peer fundraising, video share asking, a group feature, and an organization portal, plus a zero-fee model.

While GoFundMe and other crowdfunding platforms charge 5% or more for each campaign, WonderWe’s individual fundraising campaigns are free. The only charge users see is the third-party processing fee. This means beneficiaries get to keep more of what’s raised.

“WonderWe is about the ‘We,’ not the fee,” according to the company’s tagline.

Organizations have a basic option where the standard 5% fee applies or a monthly membership with no donation fee.

Users can create their own domain name for their campaign, design their campaign with their own branding using customized templates, and have multiple administrators.

People who support a cause can endorse a goal and share it through social media. Allowing people to endorse causes helps establish a campaign’s legitimacy and prevent fraud, Ismert said, and to also spread the word.

Ismert and his team are also behind the platform VolunteerMark, which offers software for scheduling and managing volunteers and creating reports about programs.

While neither product is exclusively Catholic, Ismert said, the products adhere morally and ethically to the Catechism as a guide and governance mechanism. 

This standard should appeal to anyone seeking to support well-intentioned causes, said Ismert, and many good people who are not Catholic will find these products perfect for themselves. 

“They are intended to be culturally aligned and open to Christians and all people of like mind and good will,” he told LifeSiteNews.

Start your WonderWe campaign by clicking this link*: Fundraising Software

Some of the campaigns to find support through WonderWe since its inception are a pediatric nurse from Illinois who lost her job because of her commitment to protecting life; the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles, in Gower, Missouri, who are raising funds to build a new church; an earthquake-stricken hospital in Ecuador; a Kansas couple facing the loss of one of their unborn twins; a Swedish midwife fighting a government ruling that she must perform abortions; and Center for Medical Progress journalist Sandra Merritt for legal fees for her part in exposing Planned Parenthood’s illegal sale of fetal body parts.

The “Safe and legal abortion” campaign currently on GoFundMe describes an apparently desperate mother in crisis pregnancy asking for donations for a late-term abortion because the pregnancy occurred in negative circumstances and she feels she has no support.

“My decision to terminate has made my family and some friends to not want to help because they are against abortion,” it states, “but they are not thinking about how having the baby affects me.”

As of press time, the “Safe and legal abortion” campaign had raised $1,230 of its $1,400 goal in 10 days with funds coming from 35 donors. One commenter pleaded in the campaign comments with the pregnant mom for her to consider adoption in place of abortion.

The campaign is not the first instance where GoFundMe has allowed campaigns to raise funds for an abortion.

A 2014 GoFundMe campaign to raise money for a woman’s abortion was pulled by the company, with the explanation that it was not appropriate for the site. However, it has allowed other abortion fundraising campaigns since. The company’s terms and conditions page does not mention abortion specifically.

The crowdfunding site also has shut down Christians who were being sued, fined, or forced out of business for declining to take part in homosexual “wedding” ceremonies.

GoFundMe shut down a campaign to assist prominent Islam scholar and jihad critic Robert Spencer as well, after Patreon dropped Spencer’s campaign, the explanation referencing “hate, violence, racial intolerance, terrorism, the financial exploitation of a crime.” The removal was an apparent response to pressure from MasterCard to cut off the scholar’s campaign.

GoFundMe also pulled a campaign supporting Father Paul Kalchik, the Chicago priest removed from his parish by Cardinal Blase Cupich, an apparent reprisal for Kalchik’s having overseen his parishioners’ disposing of a homosexualist “rainbow pride flag” by burning it. The flag had been used by the parish under previous leadership to promote the homosexual agenda. The campaign to support Fr. Kalchik was reportedly deemed “homophobic” and thus a violation of the company’s terms.

In 2014, Kickstarter banned fundraising for the Gosnell film, at the same time it funded the After Tiller pro-abortion documentary.

Some of the crowdfunding shutdowns of traditional value-oriented causes have resulted in extremely successful replacement campaigns — suggesting a significant potential market for WonderWe.

The makers of Gosnell went on to raise record crowdfunding totals on another site.

And in just the first three hours of a subsequent campaign, Father Kalchik’s supporters had easily raised the same $16,000 amount that GoFundMe had refunded to initial Kalchik donors. To date, that subsequent campaign has raised $113,726.

Click here for more information on WonderWe.

*Note: LifeSiteNews is now connected as a pro-life affiliate of WonderWe. Campaigns started using the Fundraising Software link in this article will help benefit LifeSiteNews. 

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Cardinal Vincent Nichols
Tom Rogers

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How top Catholic leaders betrayed parents and children by promoting sex ed

Tom Rogers
By Tom Rogers

April 15, 2019 (Calx Mariae) — Sacred Scripture has a great deal to say about education, which starts within the relationship between parent and child, and, in order to be purposeful and true, must also begin with knowledge and fear of the Lord (Prov. 1:7–8, Deut. 11:19, 32:46, Eph. 6:4). This principle of the parent as “primary educator”, who has both the God-given role and responsibility to teach a child “in the way he should go” (Prov. 22.6), has consequently been an established and consistent tenet of authentic Catholic teaching. It is the father and mother, through their participation in God’s work of creation, who have conferred life on their children and have the closest natural relationship with them.

The Church affirms that this God-given parental right and duty is, in the words of Pope John Paul II, “irreplaceable and inalienable, and therefore incapable of being entirely delegated to others or usurped by others”.1 They have the “right to educate their children in conformity with their religious and moral convictions” and “should also receive from society the necessary aid and assistance to perform their educational role properly”.2 This is even more so the case with “Relationships and Sex Education” (RSE), as the government now refers to this most intimate area of our children’s learning and development, especially given the potential influence of such learning not only on children’s health, well-being, purpose, and fulfilment in this life, but their vocation in the Spirit and eternal salvation in the next life.3 Consequently, Pope John Paul II insisted that “sex education, which is a basic right and duty of parents, must always be carried out under their attentive guidance, whether at home or in educational centres chosen and controlled by them. In this regard, the Church reaffirms the law of subsidiarity, which the school is bound to observe.”4 In The truth and meaning of human sexuality, the Pontifical Council for the Family explained: “Other educators can assist in this task [of education for chastity] but they can only take the place of parents for serious reasons of physical or moral incapacity.” (Section 23)


Catholic parents worldwide therefore have been severely challenged by the march of the comprehensive sex education agenda, and, in many countries, the growing imposition, if not virtual takeover, by the state in this sacred area of parental responsibility. Equally disconcerting has been the more than just apparent shift of the Holy See in this important area during the pontificate of Pope Francis. His controversial post-synodal apostolic exhortation Amoris laetitia (2016) overlooks the Church’s previously clear teaching on the matter in its section entitled “Yes to Sex Education” (translated in the English version as “The Need for Sex Education”) (Ch.7). This section does not make any reference to the role of parents in educating their children in the area of sexuality, but only refers instead to the role of “educational institutions”. Pope Francis reaffirmed his position in a recent interview on the plane returning from World Youth Day in Panama (28 January 2019). He stated:

I believe that we must provide sex education in schools. [...] But we need to offer an objective sexual education, as it is, without ideological colonization. [...] Sex as a gift from God must be taught, not with rigidity. [...] I don’t say this without putting myself in the political problem of Panama. But they need to have sex education. The ideal is to start from home, with the parents. It is not always possible because there are so many different situations in families, and because they do not know how to do it. And so the school makes up for this, because otherwise it will remain a void that will then be filled by any ideology.5

The Pontifical Council for the Family also no longer abides by the Church’s perennial teaching. After the promulgation of Amoris laetitia, it published its own sex education programme, titled “The Meeting Point,” in 2016. This programme, which is intended to be taught in schools, in mixed classrooms, and not by parents, has been widely criticised by Catholic and pro-life commentators for its failure to adequately convey Catholic moral teachings, for its secularising approach, and use of inappropriate images. Psychiatrist Rick Fitzgibbons MD, who has worked extensively with Catholic youth harmed psychologically by family breakdown, sexual abuse, pornography, and other consequences of the permissive society, has described the programme as being, “in my professional opinion, the most dangerous threat to Catholic youth that I have seen over the past 40 years”; it “reveals an ignorance of the enormous sexual pressure upon youth today and will result in their subsequent confusion in accepting the Church’s teaching”.6


The Bishops of England and Wales, via the Catholic Education Service (CES), have been even more advanced in this agenda. From 1999 until 2008 the Chairman of the CES was Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Birmingham (now Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster). Under the chairmanship of Archbishop Nichols the CES developed a policy that resulted in providing children in Catholic schools, including adolescents under the legal age of consent, with access to abortion and contraception services without parental knowledge or consent, through a state-run confidential advice agency, named “Connexions”.

Also under his chairmanship the CES joined the Sex Education Forum and agreed to policies directly contrary to Catholic teaching and the natural law. Membership of the forum required agreement with the Sex and Relationships Education Framework (2003, reissued 2005), which, for instance, “welcomes” the “diversity of society” in the area of “sexuality”, regards sex education as “an entitlement for all boys as well as girls; those who are heterosexual, lesbian, gay or bisexual”, and requires that children should be given “relevant information” which “is accurate and non-judgmental” about “the potential consequences of unprotected sex” including “abortion”.

In April 2010 the CES, now under the chairmanship of Malcolm McMahon (then Bishop of Nottingham, now Archbishop of Liverpool), appointed as deputy director, Greg Pope, a former Labour member of Parliament, who had an extensive anti-life, anti-family voting record. Pope remained in that post until his promotion, in 2017, to be the Assistant General Secretary of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales.


For Catholic parents in England recent developments are bringing the threatened state takeover of their God-given role to a critical new reality, and the conduct of the Catholic Education Service, which should be at the vanguard of protecting their rights, as well as the God-given rights of all parents, has instead been, in certain specific ways, complicit in their betrayal.

In March 2017, Parliament passed the government’s Children and Social Work Act (2017) which made the new subjects of Relationships Education compulsory in all primary schools in England, and Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) compulsory in all secondary schools in England, including faith and independent schools. It was announced that the required content of these new subjects would be subject to public consultation, although from the outset government spokespersons, including the Prime Minister, stated that Relationships Education would be “LGBT” inclusive.7 The government stated that parents would be able to withdraw their children only from the “sex education” parts of RSE at secondary school.

Archbishop Malcolm McMahon, chair of the Catholic Education Service for England and Wales, issued a statement welcoming the government’s announcement that it was acting to change the law:

Relationship and Sex Education (RSE) forms part of the mission of Catholic schools to educate the whole person. Our schools have a long track record of educating young people who are prepared for adult life as informed and engaged members of society, and high quality RSE plays an important part of this.

We welcome the government’s commitment to improving Relationship and Sex Education in all schools. Catholic schools already teach age-appropriate Relationship and Sex Education in both primary and secondary schools. This is supported by a Catholic model RSE curriculum which covers the RSE curriculum from nursery all the way through to sixth form.

We additionally welcome the government’s commitment to protect parental right of withdrawal and involve parents in all stages of the development and delivery of RSE in all schools. It is essential that parents fully support the school’s approach to these sensitive matters. The experience of Catholic schools is that parental involvement is the basis for providing consistent and high quality RSE at home and at school.

We look forward to working closely with the government to shape any new guidance to enable Catholic schools to continue to deliver outstanding RSE, in accordance with parents’ wishes and Church teaching.

Despite the apparently strong statements with regard to parental involvement, it is telling how much the statement conforms, not to established Catholic teaching on the matter, but to the new secular “orthodoxy” and government policy regarding this area of a child’s learning. It is now the “mission” of the school to “educate the whole person” — rather than this principally being the parents’ mission and responsibility. The parent is simply granted an “involvement” in the process, because “it is essential that parents fully support the school’s approach”. There is no reference to the fact that the “right of withdrawal” at this time was only for the “Sex Education” parts of RSE, and, in any case, the government’s actual distinction between “sex” and “relationships” education is still very much unclear. There are echoes of all the key buzzwords of the sex education lobby in the statement — the changes are all about “improvement” and providing “high quality RSE” (by whose criteria?), which is essential to prepare them “for adult life as informed and engaged members of society”, or as the Department for Education puts it, “to support all young people to stay safe and prepare for life in modern Britain”.8 After all, who wouldn’t want our children to be “safe” and “prepared for life in “modern Britain”? Except do we serve them best by preparing them to either counter or conform to those aspects of “life in modern Britain” which are opposed to the Gospel? What will keep them the safest: following the true teachings of the Church in the area of sex and relationships, or following instead the new secular moral code of the LGBT and sex education lobbies?

Leaving aside for a moment the assumption that all Catholic schools in England and Wales offer genuine “Catholic teaching” in every respect, what about the 90 per cent of children, including many Catholic children, who do not attend a Catholic school? Should we be concerned at all for their temporal and eternal welfare? Does the Church not have any kind of mission to evangelise the nation, to shine the light of God’s truth into every corner of public policy?

There is a submissive ghetto mentality here reminiscent of the bishops’ role in the issue over adoption by homosexual couples. The bishops of England and Wales appeared to take the line that, of course we accept that same-sex couples should be allowed to adopt because that was in the Labour government’s manifesto, but we are just requesting a “bit of diversity in the system”, and requesting an opt-out for Catholic adoption agencies when it comes to same sex adoption — even though Archbishop Nichols admitted that Catholic adoption agencies had been giving up children for adoption by single (but active?) homosexuals and also by unmarried but cohabiting heterosexual couples. Moreover, the bishops had no objections to allowing Catholic adoption agencies to refer homosexual applicants to agencies that would place children with homosexual couples.9

Naturally in both practising and freely admitting this highly compromised position there was no witness whatsoever as to why deliberately denying an adopted child the natural situation of having a father and mother was wrong, or why the homosexual lifestyle was wrong. The government regarded such a weak, compromised, and contradictory stance with absolute contempt, brushing it aside and insisting it would be done regardless. All but one of the twelve diocesan adoption agencies either voluntarily closed themselves down or cut their ties with the Church — exactly what the enemies of the Church wanted in the first place.10 This should also perhaps serve as a forewarning to us of what will happen to Catholic schools when the government wants to drive the LGBT juggernaut over a red line that is too far even for the Bishops of England and Wales.


The government announced a public “Call for Evidence” in December 2017, which closed in February 2018, concerning what should be the content of the new compulsory subjects. Seeing as this was a public consultation, where numbers clearly matter, one would have thought it might have been a good idea to encourage Catholics, especially Catholic parents, to participate and make submissions? The message from the CES, however, seemed to be that we can just trust and leave everything to them, that everything is and will be fine with Catholic schools, and that everything the government is doing with regard to RSE is positive and can be perfectly compatible with the Church’s teaching. A number of pro-life and pro-family organisations, including SPUC, did, however, campaign hard to rally parents and their supporters to respond to the “Call for Evidence”. This helped contribute to an impressive 23,000 submissions. The government’s reporting on the results of that consultation, however, has been highly inadequate, and what it had produced showed no evidence whatsoever for any claims of consensus, especially from parents, for the agenda it is pursuing.

In July 2018 the government issued its Draft Guidance and Regulations regarding the proposed content and delivery of the new subjects, and simultaneously launched a second public consultation on their acceptability. There was some evidence of the positive impact of campaigning by the pro-life and pro-family lobby. There was an acknowledgement that parents are the primary educators in certain of the matters covered by the new subjects, and that it would be mandatory for schools to consult with parents on RSE policies and programmes. However, where do the parents stand when, following the consultation, they are still unhappy about what the school proposes to teach? Overall the Draft Regulations and Guidance seriously undermine parental rights, and also present a completely one-sided view of human sexuality, marriage, and the family which is contrary to what the Catholic faith teaches.

The children’s programme of study is required to be “LGBT inclusive” throughout and present homosexual relationships and family structures in a positive manner. In primary school, children must be made to understand and accept that families “sometimes” look different from their family, but that they should respect those differences and know that other children’s families are characterised by “love and care for them”; also that marriage, including same-sex “marriage” and civil partnerships, represents “a formal and legally recognised commitment of two people to each other which is intended to be lifelong”.11 In other words, primary school children will have to demonstrate “respect” for the idea and practice of homosexual relationships and not just for the people involved in them, and will be expected to agree that such relationships, including when they have children, are just as valid, positive and beneficial as those based on real marriage.

In RSE at secondary school teenagers will be further encouraged to “explore” their developing “sexual orientation” and “gender identity”. It presents dangerous and immoral lifestyle choices as equally valid as marriage. Abortion is presented simply as one of the available options during pregnancy and pupils will be signposted to contraceptive and abortion services, without any parental knowledge or consent.

The right of parents to withdraw their children from the “sex education” parts of RSE, which the government had promised to retain, has now been removed and replaced only by a “right to request” withdrawal, with the final decision going to the headteacher. Even this much compromised parental right is withdrawn altogether when the children reaches 15, when they will be allowed to overrule their parents’, as well as their headteachers’, wishes if they choose, as they are being given the right to have sex education provided to them by the school. Moreover, it is a statutory requirement for schools “to have regard” to the final published Guidance when delivering the new subjects, which means they have to deliver the required content unless they have a “good reason” not to. The experience of a number of independent faith schools, particularly independent and Orthodox Jewish schools, who have been failed or severely penalised by OFSTED (England’s schools inspection agency)12 for not teaching LGBT issues in a satisfactory way, shows that the fact that LGBT ideology is against the tenets of the Christian, Jewish, or Islamic faith is not considered a good enough reason.


The CES were one of the favoured selected groups listed who had been involved in the deep consultation process with the Department for Education, though that is not to say that they necessarily agreed with all of the resultant Draft Guidance. However, their public statements so far have expressed only support for the government’s plans.

Following the publication of the Draft Regulations and Guidance in July 2018 the CES issued another press release again stating that the Catholic Church “welcomes” the government’s moves to “improve” Relationships and Sex Education, as well as how “the government had used the Catholic model curriculum as examples of best practice”. It also “welcomes” how “the recommendations are clear that the right for parents right of withdrawal [sic] will be maintained”, even though the Draft Regulations only allow parents the right to request withdrawal, with a right to refuse being given to the headteacher. It also welcomed that “schools with a religious character” will be able to deliver RSE “within the tenants [sic] of their own faith”.13 However, the Children and Social Work Act (section 34:3(b)), as well as the Draft Regulations, only stipulate that “the education is appropriate having regard to the age and the religious background of the pupils”, which is open to interpretation and a much weaker requirement than such teaching needing to be in line with the “tenets” of a particular faith. A school may “have regard” for the fact that a pupil comes from a Catholic family, but still deem it necessary to teach the pupil things that do not conform to the tenets of the Catholic faith. The Draft Guidance uses similarly vague language and also adds that “schools must ensure they comply with the relevant provisions of the Equality Act (2010)”. OFSTED inspections have interpreted that to mean a school must clearly teach about active homosexuality and transgenderism in a positive light, so that children who may identify themselves by one of the “protected characteristics” do not feel marginalised or discriminated against, and that children are adequately prepared for “life in modern Britain”. For instance, in May 2017 Vishnitz Girls School, an Orthodox Jewish primary school, failed its third OFSTED inspection in a year specifically because the school acknowledged that it did not teach its young children (aged 3–11) about homosexuality and transgenderism. The original report stated that “the school’s approach means that pupils are shielded from learning about certain differences between people, such as sexual orientation. [...] They acknowledge that they do not teach pupils about all the protected characteristics [of the Equality Act 2010], particularly those relating to gender re-assignment and sexual orientation. This means that pupils have a limited understanding of the different lifestyles and partnerships that individuals may choose in present-day society.”14

Christian schools have also been targeted by OFSTED. Pupils at Grindon Hall Christian School and Durham Free School faced intrusive questioning on transsexualism, homosexuality and same-sex “marriage” by OFSTED inspectors, who then claimed that they found evidence of “homophobic behaviour” in both schools — a claim rejected by staff, pupils, and parents. Despite the outcry, The Durham Free School was closed down in April 2015 and Grindon Hall — one of the best performing schools in the North East — was rated “inadequate”, and was forced by the Department for Education to be taken over by a secular trust.15

A further public consultation (July–Nov 2018) was announced regarding the Draft Regulations and Guidance for the new subjects. However, rather than initiating a campaign to encourage Catholics, and others who attend Catholic schools, to participate in this consultation, so that protections for parents could be genuinely safeguarded, the CES had already embarked on a mini-PR campaign in support of government policy, with an article which appeared on the CES website and the Catholic press informing us that the government’s proposals were only to be welcomed, that there was nothing to worry about, that Catholic schools already do a fantastic job teaching RSE (in line with the Church’s teaching), and, falsely, that the government is committed both to allowing faith schools flexibility to teach according to the tenets of their faith, and protecting the parents’ right of withdrawal.16

Given the content of the government’s Draft RSE Guidance it is very hard to conceive of how a Catholic school can deliver the subjects in a way which “has regard to the Statutory Guidance” whilst still in conformity with the tenets of the Catholic faith. The CES’s current “model policy for RSE”, which the CES boasts has been praised by the Department for Education, features an uncomfortable mix of Catholic teaching with elements of the statutory SRE Guidance (2000) and contemporary secular sex education programmes shoehorned into it. So at Key Stage 1 (ages 5–7) children are to be taught to “identify and correctly name their ‘private parts’”; and at KS 2 (ages 7–11) they are taught “that similarities and differences between people arise from several different factors (see protected characteristics of the Equality Act 2010, part 2, ch. 1, sections 4-12)”. In other words, they are taught about “sexual orientation” and “gender reassignment” (LGBT issues).17

The ambiguity of elements of the policy at the very least allow scope for teaching which is not in accordance with the faith. For example, the RSE secondary school policy stipulates teaching children about “recognising and valuing their own sexual identity and that of others”, or to “ensure RSE is sensitive to the different needs of individual pupils in respect to [...] their own sexual orientation”.18 This is especially the case when we have had the scandal of homosexual lobby-group Stonewall being invited into Catholic schools and colleges to train teachers on how to deal with “homophobic bullying”.19

Although the model RSE policy stresses that “teachers will be expected to teach RSE in accordance with the Catholic Ethos of the school”,20 and the CES proclaims its confidence that authentic Catholic RSE is and will continue to be taught in Catholic schools, even after 2020; it is not clear, judging by some of the recent publications of the CES, that the CES has the same idea as many Catholic parents, or the perennial teachings of the Catholic Church, about what exactly the “tenets” of the Catholic faith are when it comes to human sexuality and the teaching of RSE.


An RSE guide for Catholic educators published by the Catholic Bishops of England and Wales in 2017, entitled Learning to Love, declares its admiration for Pope Francis’ Amoris laetitia, as “an inspirational document, rich with insights and fresh descriptions of the Church’s teaching on this vital subject”.21 On the subject of homosexuality, the Bishops’ Learning to Love offers its own “fresh description” of the Church’s teaching:

Here we would like to emphasise that this exalted form of love exists just as powerfully in relationships between people of the same sex as it does in heterosexual relationships. We applaud the great progress that has been made in countering all forms of discrimination against homosexuality in recent times, and wish to collaborate with efforts to make such discrimination obsolete. (p.17)

Note that we are now talking about “discrimination against homosexuality” as something that should be countered, as opposed to “unjust discrimination” against homosexual persons as the Catechism states (2358). “Homosexuality” itself has now been transformed from an “inclination, which is objectively disordered” to what can be an “exalted form of love”; and what does it mean “to collaborate with efforts to make such discrimination obsolete”? To actively promote the LGBT and Pride agenda? To shut down freedom of speech on the issue and persecute Christians and others who try to speak the truth about homosexuality?

An even more pernicious document is Made in God’s Image: Challenging homophobic and biphobic bullying in Catholic schools, a joint publication by the CES and St Mary’s University, Twickenham — first published in 2017 and which has even been given a second edition, without any major alterations, despite its deep and scandalous conflicts with the Church’s teaching being widely pointed out by commentators.22

Under the guise of “guidance” for the “pastoral care of pupils”, Made in God’s Image is designed to intimidate Catholic schools into introducing a concerted LGBT indoctrination programme for children, in the form of an eight-lesson scheme of work. The sum of the message that children will take away from this is that being “lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender” is part of their God-given purpose and identity, an integral part of being Made in God’s image, something that must be celebrated, and that any true Catholic should act to report and help robustly stamp out any sign or attitudes of disapproval. An example from the introduction illustrates the strategy being taken:

The Church teaches that homosexual persons ‘must be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity’ (Catechism of the Catholic Church 2358). The School should be mindful that the Church teaches that homosexual inclinations are not sinful. For older pupils who may publicly identify themselves as such, Church schools should be havens of respect and custodians of the true dignity of each human being. They should be as attentive to the possibility of homosexual pupils being marginalized and bullied as they are to discrimination based on religion, gender, race or disability.23

Although the Church does indeed teach that involuntarily experiencing same-sex attraction is not itself a sin, the Catechism also adds that the inclination itself is “objectively disordered” (2358), and that authoritative Catholic teaching has also always declared that “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered”, “basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity” (2357). The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has instructed bishops that “although the particular inclination of the homosexual person is not a sin, it is a more or less strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil; and thus the inclination itself must be seen as an objective disorder.”24 There is no mention of this in the document, or indeed any mention whatsoever of Catholic doctrine on marriage, or any attempt to present the true meaning and purpose of human sexuality between man and woman. Indeed the only thing presented as sinful (although it does not directly employ the term “sin”) is the new sin of “homophobia” which “should have no place among Catholics. Catholic teaching on homosexuality is not founded on, and can never be used to justify homophobic attitudes”. In one of the word games that children are encouraged to play “homophobia” is defined as:

A range of negative attitudes and feelings toward homosexuality or people who are identified or perceived as being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT). It can be expressed as antipathy, contempt, prejudice, aversion, or hatred, may be based on irrational fear, and is sometimes related to religious beliefs. (p.16)

Notice again how, as with Learning to Love, it is negative attitudes towards “homosexuality”, and not just “homosexual persons”, that is condemned here. And “homosexuality”, according to the Catechism at least, refers to “relations” between same-sex attracted men or women, including “homosexual acts”. Conveniently, if not outrageously, the actual word of God on the subject of homosexuality is never quoted or referred to.

It is undeniable that a deliberately misleading sleight of hand is in play throughout, with the document’s omissions and selective quotations from both Catholic documents and the Bible. That such a secular and distorted presentation of human sexuality, saturated with LGBT ideology, is being presented to children is hardly surprising when, as has been widely pointed out on Catholic blogs and by at least one English bishop, much of the material has been lifted directly from pre-existing propaganda programmes from Stonewall and LGBT Youth Scotland.25

Chillingly, Made in God’s Image even offers lesson material which encourages children to judge and challenge their own parents’ and families’ attitudes, based on provided examples of expressions of “homophobia”, including typical comments made whilst watching television programmes. It is ironic that a document purported to be concerned with “anti-bullying” engages in a highly pernicious form of bullying against faithful Catholic children and their parents by labelling them “homophobes” and “bigots”.

The pro-LGBT Made in God’s Image programme is said to have been prompted by a survey conducted by the CES on “homophobic” bullying in Catholic schools. However, the small print reveals that only 12 per cent of Catholic schools responded to this survey — the whole justification of this programme therefore being based on completely unrepresentative data (p. 31). Catholic headteachers would have been rightly reluctant to respond as the survey itself was ideologically loaded and intimidating (employing the un-qualified terms “homophobic” and “transphobic” throughout), with questions posed in a way that would make it very difficult for a faithful Catholic to respond, without compromising Christian truths on issues of sexuality.


So where does this all leave us for the future if this agenda remains unchallenged? Scotland and Wales already show where the direction of travel is going in the immediate future. As a statutory part of Wales’s new curriculum which will be in place from 2022, the Welsh government announced that it is introducing “LGBTQI+ -inclusive Relationships and Sexuality Education” for all learners aged 5–16. Kirsty Williams, Welsh Education Secretary, has stated: “The days of traditional sex education are long gone; the world has moved on and our curriculum must move with it. [...] Of course, thirty years on from the introduction of Section 28, we will also ensure that RSE is fully inclusive of all genders and sexualities and meets the needs of LGBTQI+ learners.”26

The Welsh government is adopting the recommendations of a specially commissioned report on the future of SRE in Wales produced by an “SRE Expert Panel”, headed by Prof. Emma Renold of Cardiff University, a sociologist whose research on child sexuality, as her university profile informs us, is characterised by “feminist, queer and post-humanist approaches”. Neither the Catholic Church, nor any other faith groups, were represented in the “expert panel” — no doubt they were not invited to be. The Catholic Bishops of England and Wales have issued no response to what is an all out assault on the childhoods of all Welsh children, including those of Catholic families.

“Post-humanism”, by the way, is one of the latest pseudo-intellectual fads of western academia. In the same way that “gender” and “sexuality” are regarded as mere social constructs, and therefore open to deconstruction, so now too is the very notion of what it is to be a “human being”. The “natural” distinctions between human, animal and machine are also regarded as arbitrary boundaries to be explored, redefined and transgressed. It should not be too hard to envisage the even more disturbing future of “sexuality” once such last remaining taboos have also been removed.

The Scottish government has so far gone the furthest in Britain along this trajectory, having proudly announced recently that Scotland will become “the first country in the world to have lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) inclusive education embedded in the [whole] curriculum” — not just in relationships and sex education.27 Naturally if ideological indoctrination is to be truly effective then thought must be controlled at all times, and not just within the confines of certain lessons. Unbelievably this development was also “welcomed” by Scottish Bishops, who added that they hope the “impact of these recommendations will be positive for all.”

So how should parents respond in the face of this situation? For times like this God tells us to “rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer” (Rm. 12:12). We should hold on more strongly than ever to the fact that God Himself has still ordained us to be the primary educators of our children, a right which as Pope John Paul II reminds us “is irreplaceable and inalienable”; that the right of parents to bring up their children to know, love and serve Him is His holy will. Scripture tells us to “be strong and courageous”, to “not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you” (Deut. 31:6). “Where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more” (Rm. 5:20), and we are now seeing encouraging signs of a strong and powerful parents’ rights movement rapidly rising up to confront what Church officials have been unwilling to confront.

This is an issue which unites many people of different faiths and none. For instance, a Parliamentary petition concerning the parental right of withdrawal from RSE recently gained in excess of 100,000 signatories, which resulted in a Parliamentary debate on the petition in February 2019. Many Muslim parents, in particular, have provided an example of peaceful, but vocal and resilient parent power, with hundreds of parents witnessing weekly outside Parkfields Primary School, Birmingham, where their children were being subjected to an LGBT propaganda programme called “No Outsiders”.

This is a time for faith, not fear or compromise. In that spirit SPUC Safe at School has recently launched a major campaign in defence of the parental right to withdraw their children from Relationships and Sex Education and it has already gained tremendous support from parents from different backgrounds and communities. To find out how you can become involved visit:

Dr Tom Rogers is the SPUC Education Manager. He has been working full-time for the pro-life cause since 2016. An academic and educationalist, he previously lectured in English literature at University, and has also taught in the secondary and further education sectors. He is the author of God of Rescue: John Berryman & Christianity (2011). He is married with two children.

This article was originally published in Calx Mariae, Voice of the Family’s quarterly magazine. To order copies or subscribe, please visit this website.


  1. John Paul II, Apostolic exhortation Familiaris consortio, 22 Nov 1981, 36.
  2. Charter of the Rights of the Family, presented by the Holy See, 22 Oct 1983, Article 5.
  3. Familiaris consortio, 37.
  4. Familiaris consortio, 37; Charter of the Rights of the Family, Article 5, c.
  5. Diane Montagna, “Pope Francis: ‘We must provide sex education in schools’”, LifeSiteNews, January 28 2019;
  6. Rick Fitzgibbons MD, “Psychiatrist: The Vatican’s sex ed is the most dangerous threat to youth I’ve seen in 40 years”, LifeSiteNews, 2 September 2016; https://www.
  7. For instance, Nick Gibb MP, stated in response to a Parliamentary question (3 July 2017) that “we expect schools to ensure that all pupils, whatever their developing sexuality or gender identity, feel that relationships and sex education is relevant to them and sensitive to their needs. As part of our engagement programme, we will consider ways to ensure that our guidance and regulations are inclusive of LGBT issues. We plan to work closely with organisations such as Stonewall and the Terrence Higgins Trust, amongst others.” Prime Minister Teresa May affirmed her support for ‘LGBT inclusive’ RSE in English schools in her speech at the Pink News LGBT Awards 2017.
  8. Department for Education, “Policy Statement: Relationships Education, Relationships and Sex Education, and Personal, Social, Health and Economic Education”, March 2017, (p.1).
  9. The then Archbishop of Birmingham, Vincent Nichols, made these comments and admissions over two interviews with Jon Snow (Channel 4 News) and Jeremy Paxman (BBC 2 Newsnight) on the evening of 23 January 2007. See also “Birmingham Archbishop: ‘Oh by the way,’ Britain’s Catholic Adoption Agencies Already Adopt to Gay Singles”, LifeSiteNews, 29 Jan 2007; https://www.; “UK Catholic Bishops Compromise on Gay Adoption Leads to Charges of Hypocrisy”, LifesiteNews, 23 March 2007;
  10. Only Leeds-based Catholic Care in the diocese of Lancaster continued until forced to shut down. See Hilary White, “UK Catholic Church Agency to Cease Adoption Work As government Forces Homosexual Adoption”, LifeSiteNews,July27,2007; https://www.lifesitenews. com/news/uk-catholic-church-agency-to-cease-adoption-work-as-government-forces-homos
  11. See learning outcomes on pp.16-17 in Department for Education, “Draft Statutory Guidance on Relationships Education, Relationships and Sex Education and Health Education”, July 2018;
  12. The Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills is a non-ministerial department of the UK government, reporting to Parliament.
  13. Catholic Education Service, “Catholic Church welcomes move to improve Relationship and Sex Education in all schools”, Press release, 19 July 2018:
  14. OFSTED, “Vishnitz Girls School: School Progress Monitoring Inspection Report”, 10 May 2017 (ref. 138516). Note, following the justifiably negative publicity on publication of this report, OFSTED subsequently replaced the original report with a redacted version (ref. 138515_5) on its website — one which had removed any direct references to ‘sexual orientation’ and ‘gender reassignment’, hence attempting to conceal the real reason why the school was failed.
  15. For a summary and further details of these and similar cases, see The Christian Institute, “OFSTED and ‘British Values’”, June 2017; available online at: https://www.
  16. Catherine Bryan, “Why Relationship and Sex Education is a must for all Catholic schools” [online article], Catholic Education Service, 20 June 2018; The same article also appeared in “The Catholic Times”, 15 June 2018, (p.28).
  17. See learning outcomes (p.7) and (p.4) in Catholic Education Service, “A model Catholic Primary RSE curriculum”, Autumn 2016; http:/catholiceducation.
  18. Catholic Education Service, “A model Catholic Secondary RSE curriculum”, Autumn 2016 (pp.3-4);
  19. For instance, it was reported that St Mary’s Catholic Primary in Wimbledon invited Stonewall to train staff on homophobic bullying “in order to comply with OFSTED requirements”, and subsequently became a Stonewall “Primary School Champion”. “Gay rights group called in to advise primary teachers”, Evening Standard, 15 May 2013; https:/ html. It has also been reported that students training to be teachers were subjected to a Stonewall-run session on ‘homophobic bullying’ at the Catholic St Mary University, Twickenham; https://spuc-director.blogspot. com/2013/06/stonewall-scandal-at-catholic.html
  20. CES, “Model Catholic Secondary RSE curriculum”, 2016 (p.7).
  21. Learning to Love: An Introduction to Catholic Relationship and Sex Education (RSE) for Catholic Educators” (2017), Department of Catholic Education and Formation and Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales; Learning2love.pdf.pdf
  22. Catholic Education Service, “Made in God’s Image: Challenging homophobic and biphobic bullying in Catholic schools”, 2018 edn; images/CES-Project_Homophobic-Bullying-Booklet_ JUN18_PROOF-9.pdf. For comment see, for instance, Deacon Nick Donnelly, “UK bishops’ group pushing radical LGBT propaganda in Catholic schools”, LifeSiteNews, 18 May 2017; uk-bishops-group-pushes-radical-lgbt-materials-in-catholic-schools. Also, Bishop Egan of Portsmouth has commented on the ‘ideological colonisation’ at work in our schools, including the influence of Stonewall and LGBT Youth on the CES’s “Made in God’s Image” document. Deacon Nick Donnelly, “Interview: UK bishop questions LGBT involvement in Catholic schools’ sexed program”, LifesiteNews, 22 May 2017; https://www.lifesitenews. com/news/interview-english-bishop-questions-lgbt-involvement-in-catholic-schools-sex
  23. CES, “Made in God’s Image” (2018), section 2, (p.5).
  24. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (signed by Cardinal Ratzinger), “Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of the Homosexual Persons”, 1 October 1986; cfaith_doc_19861001_homosexual-persons_en.html
  25. As pointed out, for instance, in three 2017 blog posts by the “Counter Cultural Father”: https://ccfather.blogspot. com/search?q=Made+in+God%27s+Image; See also Bishop Egan’s comments in an interview in LifesiteNews, 22 May 2017;
  26. Welsh government, “Kirsty Williams announces focus on healthy relationships in major reforms to ‘Relationships and Sexuality’ education”, Press release, 22 May 2018; kirsty-williams-announces-focus-on-healthy-relationships-in-major-reforms-to-relationships-and-sexuality-education/?lang=en
  27. Scottish government, “LGBTI education: Scotland will lead the way in inclusive education”, Press release 8 Nov 2018;
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German bishop pushes diocese toward adopting ‘blessing’ for homosexual couples

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By Maike Hickson

April 15, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – German Bishop Georg Bätzing, of the Diocese of Limburg, is inviting Church representatives, Catholic youth and lay organizations, as well as diocesan members to a discussion forum on 4 May in Wiesbaden to deal with the matter of a “Church's blessing” for “couples who cannot marry in the Catholic way,” including homosexual couples. Also in view are “remarried” divorcees and cohabiting couples. The diocesan website states that a blessing of a homosexual couple has already taken place in the past.

LifeSiteNews was able to obtain a letter dated March 29, 2019, signed by Dr. Beate Gilles, the diocesan official dealing with children, youth, and family matters. In her letter, Gilles makes it clear that the invitation directly stems from Bishop Bätzing: “Bishop Georg  Bätzing asks that this important question [of a Church blessing for couples who cannot marry in the Catholic Church] be discussed in the Diocese of Limburg in an open and uncontroversial manner. He has established a process group in order to accompany and structure this discourse,” she writes. 

The Diocese of Limburg confirmed to LifeSiteNews the upcoming May 4 event.

According to Gilles, this debate is about couples “who do not (yet) wish – or cannot – marry, about those who are civilly remarried or those who ask, as homosexual couples, for a blessing.”

The Dean of the Catholic Church of Frankfurt/M., Dr. Johannes zu Eltz, has prepared a plan “to make possible such a blessing for these couples,” Gilles further states.

The discussion group is to speak about the “tension” that exists in the Catholic Church between the “life reality” and the “teaching of the Church.” “We wish to hear from people,” Gilles adds “who ask the Church for a blessing for their partnership.”

Dr. Gilles also reminds the addressees of her letter that last year in February, a similar discussion forum has already taken place, but that this upcoming event is to reach out to an even larger audience. 

Homosexual acts are traditionally described as one of the four sins that cry to heaven for vengeance. Basing itself on Scripture and the natural law, the Catholic Church teaches that homosexual acts are “acts of grave depravity” and are “intrinsically disordered.” Such acts are "contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved,” states the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The Church teaches, moreover, that the homosexual inclination is “objectively disordered” and constitutes for most a “trial.”

In a 1986 letter to bishops, the Church said that “special concern and pastoral attention should be directed toward those who have this condition, lest they be led to believe that the living out of this orientation in homosexual activity is a morally acceptable option. It is not.”

The Church calls for “respect, compassion, and sensitivity” for persons struggling with same-sex attraction while teaching that such “respect for homosexual persons cannot lead in any way to approval of homosexual behaviour or to legal recognition of homosexual unions.”

Attached to this letter is a page with a set of proposals concerning such a possible blessing of homosexual and other couples, written by Dr. zu Eltz in January of 2018. The good that is to be found in such couples who are not open to, or cannot receive the “high form of a Sacrament [of marriage].” Where there is good to be found in a relationship, the author explains, and “where there is Faith,” it is “worthy of being blessed.” The goods that he means here are “fidelity, care, responsibility, and commitment.” 

So that the Church can bless such a relationship, the prelate explains, a “binding declaration of the partners is needed that the partnership is meant to be for life.”

“In a blessing ceremony,” he continues, “one asks for God's blessing for a successful future of that which exists already.” Thus a blessing “does not constitute a sacramental bond between these two persons.”

In order to avoid confusion with the Sacrament of marriage, zu Eltz proposes not to bless the rings, not to ask the couple whether they are willing to marry each other, and other “symbolic acts” from the normal marriage ceremony. Nevertheless, such a Church blessing is a “liturgical action.”

During such a proposed ceremony, prayers could be said for reconciliation and penance, “with view of one's own life history,” but also “in view of wounds that the Church has caused (for example by degrading homosexual partnerships),” zu Eltz adds.

According to this plan, such a Church blessing would take place during a word liturgy. Thereby, “next to priests and deacons, also men and women with an episcopal liturgical mandate could preside over such a ceremony.”

“Nobody shall be duty-bound to lead such a ceremony,” he concludes at the end. 

The Diocese of Limburg has 630,000 Catholics.

On its website, the diocese has published a report on this discussion of blessings for homosexuals and other couples with the title “Blessing for all?” Here, a lesbian is describing her own path of finding a pro-LGBT Catholic group. She comments: “It was very liberating to speak there about topics that are important to me: my life in the Faith and my lesbian life. I became more and more confident: God wants me as a whole person, and that means to be lesbian and to be Catholic.”

A homosexual man, Thomas, describes how he met his partner at an LGBT Mass in Frankfurt/M. in the 1990s. The diocesan report explains: “After many conversations, their partnership has been blessed by a priest.” The report then quotes Thomas as saying: “Our  request for a blessing has been quickly fulfilled at the time, and it was also very important for our surrounding and for my Catholic parents-in-law.”

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Flames and smoke are seen billowing from the roof at Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris on April 15, 2019. FOUAD MAGHRANE/AFP/Getty Images
Jeanne Smits, Paris correspondent


Notre Dame: An unrepeatable treasure of faith and culture lost to the flames

Jeanne Smits, Paris correspondent
By Jeanne Smits
TOPSHOT-FRANCE-FIRE-NOTRE-DAME TOPSHOT - Smokes ascends as flames rise during a fire at the landmark Notre-Dame Cathedral in central Paris on April 15, 2019 afternoon, potentially involving renovation works being carried out at the site, the fire service FRANCOIS GUILLOT/AFP/Getty Images

April 15, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – Paris is in shock. As I start to write, the cathedral of Notre Dame is in flames, and has been burning for two and a half hours. It is the heart and soul of Catholic France, a shrine of incredible beauty built 850 years ago for the glory of God. Whatever the cause of the fire – and an investigation has already been launched – the French are devastated.

Those who believe are praying, and considering the terrifying symbol of the destruction of one of the most important places of worship of the “Oldest daughter of the Church,” at the beginning of Holy Week.

Notre Dame is not the geographical center of France, but it is from here that all distances are calculated on the road network. It is here that the precious Relics of the Passion brought to France by Louis the IXth have been kept since 1806. It was the cathedral of the kings of France when they still had their main residence in the medieval palace of the Louvre. It is… it was a living symbol of French history that is so intertwined with the history of Salvation: here, throughout the centuries, the Sacrifice of the Mass was offered, and the Blessed Sacrament kept. When the fire broke out, Mass was being said at the main altar.

Even those who do not believe are deeply touched and saddened. Not even the French Revolution was able to destroy Notre Dame de Paris – although the sanguinary Robespierre would have liked to pull it down. Later, it would survive the Second World War, when Paris was preserved from the bombings that obliterated so many towns and historic buildings in Europe.

The bishop of Paris, Mgr Michel Aupetit, tweeted two hours after the start of the fire: “Firefighters are still battling to save the two towers of Notre-Dame de Paris. The frame, the roof and the spire have burnt down. If you wish, you can ring the bells of your churches to call to prayer.”

Several hours later, at 11 pm French time, official statements from the Interior ministry and the firefighters of Paris – truly an élite corps – said the structure of the cathedral “is safe and has been preserved in its totality.” Mgr Aupetit said the courage of the firefighters, who risked their lives throughout the operations, the two towers and the façade were saved. But the 700 year-old wooden frame that supported the roof has been destroyed.

My daughter was a direct witness to the beginning of the fire, happening to be across the Seine on the Left Bank when the first flames showed at the base of the XIXth century spire built to replace the original medieval spire that was brought down during the Revolution. The base of the spire was surrounded by scaffolding; first reports say the fire was probably set off accidentally during renovation works.

She described to me the shock of the onlookers, many of whom were crying or looking on in dismay. As the fire slowly spread to the whole of the roof, thousands of Parisians and tourists converged to the banks of the Seine to witness the disaster. Groups formed and started singing canticles or praying the rosary. They are still there as I write. Every church in Paris opened this night for prayers.

One horrified message followed the other on my cell phone. “Smoke and flames coming from the spire.” “It’s burning all over now.” “Everywhere.” “You can see right into the choir now,” wrote my daughter.

She said the moment the spire fell over was almost too much to bear and even frightening.

A daily mass takes place on weekdays at 6:15 pm at the main altar, the new altar facing the faithful from the middle of the transept, directly under the spire where the fire broke out. The cathedral was evacuated at first when a fire alarm went off, after which the public returned, thinking it was a false alert, my daughter told me, having spoken to a person who assisted at that mass. Then the reality of the alert became apparent and all were again requested to leave the building.

It was on this very altar that Dominique Venner, a pagan “new right” historian committed suicide six years ago, allegedly to call attention to the destruction of Western civilization. It was a sacrilege as Notre Dame has known during its long history, when it was turned into a Temple of Reason in 1793…

But mainly, Notre Dame is known for the role it played in France’s Catholic history, with its Te Deums, its glorious Masses, the coronations of several French kings but also of Napoleon.

The sight of the magnificent building convinced a French traditional artist and sculptor brought up in secularism, Henri Charlier, then an atheist, that the Middle Ages were not Dark Ages, but a time of great beauty and civilization. This set him on his road to conversion.

A century later, no one would nowadays dare question the sheer artistic value of the medieval cathedral. It was always a sign of the importance of God, pointing to heaven and reminding passers-by that there is a reality beyond that which can be seen. Saint Louis, king of France, Saint Albert the Great, Saint Thomas Aquinas and so many others knew the building as it stands now, lovingly built by masters of the building arts.

Were the Blessed Sacrament and the Holy Crown of Thorns and the many treasures kept there saved? Reports say they are “safe.” But it was only a few hours after the start of the fire that my daughter heard that the Treasure of the Cathedral was being evacuated. Now night has fallen witnesses say that they can see lights from the inside of the building, which seems to indicate that firefighters are within the building. Pictures were taken of the salvage.

French president Emmanuel Macron was to have given a national speech on television following the yellow vest crisis. He decided to postpone his speech and a form of miracle occurred when he spoke of the sadness of Catholics “at the beginning of this Holy Week,” adding that the rebuilding of Notre Dame is a duty born of France’s “profound destiny.”

Since the separation of Church and State in 1905, church buildings in France belong to the State and are conceded to the Catholic Church to be “used for religious purposes.” It can only be hoped that the medieval splendor of Notre Dame will not be spoiled by modernist reconstruction projects.

The renovation project is thought to be responsible for the fire of Notre Dame – which bears similarities with those of the cathedral and Saint-Donatien church in Nantes in 1972 and 2015, both linked to renovation works, as well as that of the historic Parliament of Brittany in 1994. In all these cases, a fire was accidentally set off and then smoldered unnoticed before breaking out with such force that it was too late to quench it.

Many French church buildings are in a sorry state of repair as cultural budgets are used for contemporary art projects.

The cathedral of Paris badly needed renovation but the budget set aside for it was hopelessly inadequate. Several dozen million euros would have been necessary; current works were being done for 2.5 million euros.

A wave of desecrations and attacks against Catholic churches and buildings over the last 18 months, including the desecration of the basilica of Saint Denis which was the necropolis of French royalty and arson at Saint-Sulpice in Paris a month ago have lead to speculation that the fire at Notre Dame was criminal and perhaps even terrorist in nature. The supposed starting point of the fire, in the roof space under the “forest” of the roof frame at the base of the spire, has not been open to the public for many years. An accidental origin appears to be more probable at this point.

Perhaps the flames of Notre Dame will rekindle the faith of the French people, who have felt in their very flesh what it means to lose the treasure of Christianity!

Katy Perry greets Pope Francis, Paul VI Hall, Vatican, April 28, 2018
Katy Perry greets Pope Francis, Paul VI Hall, Vatican, April 28, 2018 Screenshot - Katy Perry, Twitter Page


Liberals demand female Church leadership from Pope Francis to solve abuse crisis

By Dr. Joseph Shaw

April 15, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) — An open letter to Pope Francis published last week by two prominent Swiss Catholic leaders urgently asks that the pope take decisive steps against the “heresy of clericalism” as the “origin of sexualised power and its cover up.”

The letter hovers uneasily between adulation and criticism of the Holy Father. The authors are Zürich’s vicar general, Josef Annen, and the synodal president of the Catholic Church in Zürich (whatever that might be), Franziska Driessen-Reding.

The April 4 letter,  published in several Zürich dailies, states that the “Catholic Church is ablaze.”

“The terrible thing is that shepherds who were appointed to serve the Gospel Message are responsible for this firestorm,” the letter states, adding that Catholics in Zurich are leaving the Church feeling “alienated, indignant and bitter.”

According to The Tablet, the authors write, “Your clear words (on the subject) are important for us but they are not enough.” They perceive a parallel with the eve of the Protestant Revolt, when, according to them, the Church was “unwilling and incapable of introducing reforms”.

Again, they protest, on the one hand, that “We support you and favour a Church that excludes no one”, but on the other hand, “Time is running out”.

The historical claim of course is nonsense: a huge amount of reform was successfully undertaken in the decades before Luther’s heresy was promulgated. Two of Oxford’s greatest colleges are permanent reminders of this phase of reform, since they, like new institutions all over Europe, were founded to employ the underused resources of earlier religious institutions which had fallen into decay: Magdalen College (1458) and Christ Church (1525). That being as it may, what do these prominent Swiss Catholics think Pope Francis should be doing?

The Tablet summarizes their demands as “independent courts in the Church where Catholics can sue for basic rights; appointing women to leading positions in the Church; and synodal processes through which admission to Church offices can be decided regionally.”

I confess I have some sympathy for the first of these, although I may be understanding the idea somewhat differently from the Zürich writers. Canon law forbids the abuse of power in many ways but grants ordinary Catholics, both laity and clergy, very limited, if any, avenues for legal redress. If your bishop has wronged you, there is usually simply no way to sue for your rights in Church courts.

Were things different, it is certainly not only liberals who would benefit. For example, Fr Nicholas Rynne, the traditionalist Tasmanian priest I reported about here, has now been dismissed from his parish following criticisms from laity whose dispute appears really to be with the teaching and discipline of the Church, and without even having the chance to discuss the matter with the bishop. This is a pattern of behaviour, defying common sense as well as natural justice, which we have seen again and again.

It is less clear, however, what the other two Zürich demands mean. What “leading positions in the Church” do the authors have in mind, for example, when they demand that women be “appointed” to them, and what difference do they think it will make? It is presumably a roundabout way way of calling for the ordination of women to the priesthood, called for openly at almost the same time by a German Benedictine prioress, which would enable women to be bishops, cardinals, and prefects of Curian departments, or indeed pope. This suggests, however, that they are seeing Holy Orders primarily as a means to wielding power, an example of the clericalism which they claim with such earnestness to oppose.

One may also ask why they think women, if they were somehow to be elevated to these positions, would magically lead to a more just Church. Perhaps they cling to an outmoded and patronising view of women an angels who are incapable of sinning — a view taken from secular Romanticism and far from being the teaching of the Church. If so, they should consider the ecclesial bodies, and indeed the secular institutions, which have women in leadership positions, which amply demonstrate that women, like men, have inherited Original Sin.

The third demand, for local autonomy, may be a reaction to the apparent incongruity of Pope Francis praising “synodality” and local solutions to local problems, and then preventing the bishops of the United States from taking collective action against clerical sex abuse. On the other hand, the main effect of the modern experiment with permanent bureaucratic structures for national “bishops’ conferences”, has been the leaching away of bishops’ responsiveness to truly local needs, with power being accumulated by faceless functionaries sitting in committees in national capitals.

The authors of this letter apparently want such committees to monopolise power over appointments in the Church, which sounds like a way of preventing any diocese stepping out of line, and imposing a sclerotic consensus completely insulated from its consequences in parishes.

The relationship between bishop and diocese was compared by the Fathers of the Church to that of a husband and wife: it involves responsibility as well as authority. Today, however, secretariats of bishops’ conferences have arrogated to themselves power over every aspect of Church life. Thus Bishop Patrick O’Donoghue of Lancaster, in England, who set out a programme for renewing his dioceses’ schools, noted later that he had been criticised by colleagues because he hadn’t been given that particular responsibility by the Bishops’ Conference.

If Pope Francis hasn’t yet implemented the kind of program envisaged by the authors of this letter, we have something to be grateful for.

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Teen girls stage school walkout to protest boys in their bathroom who claim to be ‘girls’

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By Jonathon Van Maren

April 15, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – The backlash against the relentless assault on nearly every civilizational institution by transgender activists seems to be slowly increasing as ordinary men and women realize the implications of the transgender agenda and the abolition of gender. Muslim parents in the UK pulled hundreds of children out of school, forcing a shutdown of recently-implemented LGBT programming. And as I reported back in February, students are pushing back, signing petitions demanding the return of their gender-segregated bathrooms and even suing their high schools in order to retrieve their right to privacy.

Last week, the debate erupted again in Council Bluffs, Iowa. Two groups of students staged a walkout at Abraham Lincoln High School over bathroom privacy, with the protest being sparked by a girl who stated that her privacy was violated by a biological male who “recently began to identify as a girl” using the female bathroom. She was joined by about twenty other high school girls who left the school at 10:30 AM and began “chanting for privacy in restrooms, saying they don’t want boys transitioning into being girls to be in the restroom with them.”

It is worth noting that much of the transgender ideology is so new that if someone had predicted high school girls would be fighting to keep biological males out of their bathrooms ten years ago, LGBT activists would have accused those making these predictions of fearmongering, bigotry, and deceit. Now, of course, if you defend the right of young girls to be uncomfortable with penises in their bathrooms and change rooms, you are guilty of transphobia. Some trans activists have gone so far as to say that girls uncomfortable changing in the presence of biological boys need to get over their internalized transphobia.

The 20 girls demanding privacy were confronted by nearly 40 students of mixed gender chanting in favor of state law, which requires schools to allow students to use whichever bathroom they feel most comfortable with, irrespective of the feelings of female students. Many of the girls made their feelings crystal clear.

“We felt very uncomfortable with a male who’s not doing anything to be transgender going into female restrooms,” said Elana Owens. “I believe if you have the male parts you go to the males’ bathroom and if you have the female parts you go to a ladies room and that’s just the way I was raised,” added Brandi Scherlund, almost in tears. Those supporting the so-called right of biological males to use the female bathroom stated that the law is on their side.

In response to the student walkouts, Superintendent of the Council Bluffs Community School District Dr. Vickie Murillo stated that, “According to the U.S. Department of Education, which Iowa has adopted that same language and is now part of our state law, our students who are transitioning into a new gender have the right to use the restroom that they identify with. So it is our obligation to allow that to occur.”

Murillo did not address the contention of one female student, who noted that there was a biological male making no effort to physically transition joining them in their bathroom. Abraham Lincoln High stated that no students would be punished for the walkout.

We’re going to see a lot more of these scenarios unfold as the ideology of transgender activists collides with the simple realities of human nature, including the fact that many teenage girls do not want to change in the same room with biological males, and that most people simply do not buy the idea that there are thousands of "girls" with penises inhabiting American high schools.

People are also getting fed up with the new “hierarchy of feelings” where transgender students cannot be asked to use single-stall bathrooms if they are uncomfortable using the one that matches their sex, but that instead the privacy and feelings of the girls must be sacrificed for the feelings of a few students who have been persuaded that this is their inalienable right.

Jonathon’s new podcast, The Van Maren Show, is dedicated to telling the stories of the pro-life and pro-family movement. In his latest episode, he interviews world-renowned author and philosopher Gabriele Kuby who exposes the LGBT agenda not only as a "lie,” but something "diabolical." You can subscribe here, and listen to the episode below: 

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New book on Pope Francis’ election reveals the main kingmakers

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By Maike Hickson

April 12, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – Gerard O'Connell's new book The Election of Pope Francis, based on many sources, describes in detail the time from the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI up until shortly after the election of Pope Francis. This study also confirms the key role played by some “kingmakers,” especially Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, but also Walter Kasper and Oscar Maradiaga. Most importantly, O'Connell reveals for the first time that there was a private meeting on the eve before the conclave, at which the supporters of Bergoglio realized that he had a real chance of becoming the next Pope.

The Election of Pope Francis – which will be released on May 3 – is a detailed sort of diary, in which O'Connell describes the atmosphere of that 30-day period – 11 February-13 March 2013 – and how the cardinals, caught off guard by Benedict's unexpected resignation, tried to discern whom they could and should elect. The author adds information to this diary that he later learned from many different sources since that historic 13 March 2013, when the Argentine prelate Jorge Bergoglio was elected Pope. O'Connell, as the husband of the Argentine journalist Elisabetta Piqué and as a personal friend of the current Pope, has had an especially good access to sources. Bergoglio also baptized two of his children, and he met with the O'Connell family just ahead of the conclave. O'Connell is the Rome Correspondent for the Jesuit magazine America having Father James Martin, S.J. as editor at large.

Based on published and private sources, O'Connell describes how until the conclave, neither the cardinals themselves, nor the media and general public, saw one single candidate standing out, as had been the case in 2005 with Joseph Ratzinger. None of the more prominent candidates – Cardinals Angelo Scola, Odilo Scherer, and Marc Ouellet – seemed to have sufficient support.

While O'Connell insists, by quoting several sources – among them the involved cardinals themselves –  that Jorge Bergoglio had not given his consent to the work of the group called “Team Bergoglio” (Cardinals Godfried Danneels, Walter Kasper, Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, and Karl Lehmann), he still describes the work of some of them in detail. O'Connell suggests that the term "Team Bergoglio" might not be correct.

As can be seen, Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor played one of the leading roles in promoting the election of Jorge Bergoglio ahead of the conclave. Murphy-O’Connor himself, having passed the age of 80, was not able to participate in the election itself, but in his last intervention during the General Congregations (secret pre-conclave assemblies of cardinals) in the days leading up to the conclave starting on 4 March he reminded the 115 electors that the next Pope could very well come from the Americas. He told his fellow cardinals: “We need a pope who goes out to the world, and not just one who is looking in on the situation in the Church,” adding that “if you don't see a candidate here in Europe, don't be afraid to go to another continent, to cross the Atlantic to the Americas […] and don't let age be a barrier to your choice.” As O'Connell puts it: “Many understood he was referring to Bergoglio.”

As the author explains, during this time period of thirty days, there took place “informal gatherings of cardinals” at different locations in Rome, “far from the public eye. Some of these gatherings proved decisive in moving the 115 cardinal electors in conclave to elect the first-ever Jesuit pope.” In the public discussions, however, Jorge Bergoglio did not play much of a role. Even though he had been one of the favorite candidates in 2005, he had turned already 76, was ready for retirement, and thus for many no longer a candidate. As O'Connell describes it, the so-called Sankt Gallen Group had “decided to support him in the [2005] election.” At that time, Cardinal Carlo Martini – who died in 2012 – led the group of progressivist cardinals, among them Godfried Danneels, Walter Kasper, Karl Lehmann, Murphy-O’Connor, Basil Hume and Achille Silvestrini. They had a final meeting at Silvestrini's apartment on the eve of the 2005 conclave that then proved to be unsuccessful for them. “This conclave tells us that the Church is not yet ready for a Latin American pope!” was then the comment of Cardinal Danneels.

In 2013, some of them tried it again. They again met on the eve of the conclave, on 11 March, this time in Cardinal Attilio Nicora's apartment. We shall later come back to this “crucial meeting of cardinals,” as O'Connell puts it.

However, O'Connell claims “there was not even the semblance of a campaign” – also due to the short period of time between the sudden resignation of Benedict and the new conclave – and he also calls “incredible” Austen Ivereigh's claim that the four Cardinals of the “Team Bergoglio” – Danneels, Murphy-O’Connor, Kasper, and Lehmann – “had obtained Bergoglio's prior consent” for such a campaign. Bergoglio did not give his consent, O'Connell says, nor did the four cardinals campaign for him. “There was no such campaign,” Murphy-O’Connor told him. Ivereigh retracted the statement about Bergoglio's consent after it created a firestorm.

How this set of claims is to be reconciled with the other proposed facts that O'Connell now describes in his book in detail is left up to the reader's own final assessment.

As O'Connell says, Murphy-O’Connor had made up his mind on Bergoglio already in 2001, when the Argentine prelate played a significant role during the Synod of Bishops on the role of bishops. “Immediately after the conclusion of the synod, Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor told me, 'You should watch this man!' It was clear that he had put the archbishop of Buenos Aires on his short list of papabili to succeed the Polish pope [John Paul II].”

Later in the book, O'Connell himself describes Murphy-O’Connor as a possible “kingmaker”: “Cardinal Cormac – as he is popularly known – may not be an elector at this conclave but, given his network of contacts in the Vatican and worldwide, he could be one of the kingmakers.”

Explaining the word “kingmaker,” O'Connell says later when describing private gatherings of cardinals ahead of the conclave: “It is in these small groups that certain cardinals, known as 'kingmakers', can play a highly important role in promoting or gathering support for a candidate.”

Such “kingmakers” were to be found in 2013, according to O'Connell. He makes out several of them, among them: Cardinals Sodano and Battista Re on the one side, and on the other Cardinals Maradiaga and Murphy-O’Connor, “who has many friends not only in the Roman Curia, but also in Europe, Asia, the Americas, and Africa.”

What the distinction is between “kingmakers” and a “campaign” might not be so clear, and most probably not even for many journalists in Rome. Because a campaign as such is forbidden by the Church's law. According to the Apostolic Constitution Universi Dominici Gregis, “Cardinal electors shall further abstain from any form of pact, agreement, promise or other commitment of any kind which could oblige them to give or deny their vote to a person or persons.” Such conduct would bring down upon the violator the penalty of excommunication latae sententiae. The “exchange of views concerning the election,” however, is permitted.

As O'Connell explains to LifeSiteNews in an e-mail, “Such pre-conclave gatherings of like-minded cardinals have been a normal practice in all the 20th and 21st centuries, and I expect also of future conclaves.”

Such a meeting of cardinals took place, for example, when Cardinals Bergoglio and Murphy-O’Connor met on 1 March, three days ahead of the pre-conclave General Congregations. They both knew each other since February 2001, when they both were made cardinals by Pope John Paul II. During the 2005 conclave, they happened to sit together, along with three other cardinals, two of whom O'Connell identifies in an e-mail to LifeSiteNews as Policarpo da Cruz (Lisbon, also a member of the Sankt Gallen Group) and Severino Poletto (Turin). They called each other as “quadra,” and when the cardinals met Bergoglio in 2013 shortly after his papal election, he asked Murphy-O’Connor to gather the rest of the “quadra” for a picture.

In any event, Bergoglio and Murphy-O’Connor “have had meals together on previous occasions,” explains O'Connell in his book. At that 1 March 2013 dinner in a restaurant, they talked about “the sort of person we felt the cardinals should elect,” but they did not, according to Murphy-O’Connor's own account, then identify Bergoglio as the best candidate, and mostly so because of his advanced age. “Bergoglio never considered himself as a candidate to be pope,” the English cardinal explains three months later. However, he told O'Connell also that, after speaking with Bergoglio that night, he did come to the conclusion that “this man could be pope.” “He told me,” continues the author, “that subsequently, on occasions when he was with fellow cardinals discussing possible candidates to succeed Benedict, he introduced Bergoglio's name as a possibility, just as other cardinals suggested the names of different cardinals they thought could fill that role.”

Another person playing a somewhat important role in this time period ought to be mentioned here, as well. Andrea Tornielli – today the Pope's editorial communications director – met Bergoglio the day the prelate arrived in Rome – 27 February – for dinner at the house of some friends, as well as on the eve of the conclave, 11 March.

Tornielli also published, two days before the General Congregations, an article in the Italian newspaper La Stampa. In that article, he quotes a friend of Bergoglio as saying that “Four years of Bergoglio would [have been] sufficient to change things.” As O'Connell later reveals, another friend of Bergoglio's, Cardinal Errazuriz, happened to say exactly the same words to Mathilde Burgos, a Chilean journalist. O'Connell quotes Errazuriz' words as told to him by Burgos: “Four years of Bergoglio would be enough to change things!”

Pope Francis later called Errazuriz into the Council of Nine Cardinals (a position from which Errazuriz recently resigned due to accusations of his cover-up of sexual abuse.)

Tornielli, in his La Stampa article, predicted that Bergoglio would be “one of the key figures” during the upcoming conclave, even if he would not be a forerunner.

In that same article, Tornielli also quoted Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio – a friend and once a subordinate of the then-deceased Cardinal Martini – who said: “In my view the moment has come to look outside Italy and Europe and, in particular, to consider Latin America.”

Cardinal Coccopalmerio later related to O'Connell that Murphy-O’Connor himself hosted a gathering of about ten “like-minded” cardinals on 6 March at the Venerable English College in Rome. “This like-minded group”, he added, “expanded further and were maybe fifteen to twenty persons, I can't remember exactly, but there still wasn't a precise candidate.” The idea that Bergoglio would be a good candidate “was not there at the beginning but matured as the days went on,” he explained. At that gathering were also present Cardinal Kasper and another cardinal of the 2005 “quadra,” Cardinal Poletto.

Another of such gatherings was organized on behalf of Murphy-O’Connor by the British ambassador to the Holy See, Nigel Baker, on 7 March. Present were cardinals of the Commonwealth, among them Cardinals Turkson and Gracias. Bergoglio's name was mentioned, according to O'Connell, but in the end “there was still no clarity among them.”

On 5 March, during the General Congregations, it was Cardinal Walter Kasper who proposed in an interview with La Repubblica Communion for the “remarried” divorcees, and a more “horizontal” Church, adding that “the Curia must be revolutionized.” This prelate concluded with the words “nobody is to be excluded. We must be open to everyone, of whatever nationality or ecclesial geography.”

Cardinal Oscar Maradiaga is also described by O'Connell as someone “who played an important role in getting cardinals to opt for Bergoglio.”

Cardinal Karl Lehmann himself told O'Connell years later that “Bergoglio had not appeared on Lehmann's radar in the 2013 conclave until after the second ballot.”

Many of these early supporters of Bergoglio have been later called by Pope Francis to play important roles in his pontificate.

Murphy-O’Connor's further initiatives can be seen in the book's description of a meeting of sixteen English-speaking cardinals, among them also Theodore McCarrick. As Murphy-O’Connor later told O'Connell, he himself introduced the name of Bergoglio into the discussion, but the cardinals present merely “said he is a good man but there was no enthusiasm.” His advanced age was raised again.

Bergoglio's own short speech during the pre-conclave meetings made an impression upon the cardinals and seems to have increased his esteem among them. O'Connell calls this speech a “blueprint for his papacy.” Toward the end of these meetings, says the author, people started to think more seriously about electing Bergoglio.

But let us now also return to the above-mentioned “crucial meeting” at Cardinal Nicora's apartment on the eve of the conclave, on 11 March. Nicora himself had been for many years the auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of Milan before coming to Rome, so he worked many years with Cardinal Martini. At this gathering, there were “around fifteen or more [cardinals] from many countries and different continents, including Roman Curia cardinals and Italians,” O'Connell explains. “All, it turned out, were supporting Bergoglio's candidacy,” he adds. Among them were Cardinals Coccopalmerio, Nicora, Kasper, Murphy-O’Connor, Maradiaga, Turkson, Gracias, and Tauran. The author continues saying: “During the meeting, each one confirmed or revealed that he had decided to support Bergoglio on the first ballot, and also mentioned other cardinals that he believed were thinking along the same lines and could vote for him then.” Coccopalmerio, keeping a tally of the promised votes, came up with “at least twenty-five votes” for Bergoglio.

As Murphy-O’Connor later told O'Connell: “It was crucial that he had that support in the first ballot.” Continues the author: “Indeed, no fewer than three participants confirmed to me that 'this was the decisive meeting.'” Cardinal Kasper, too, spoke with the book author about this crucial event, saying that only then he realized that Bergoglio had a chance: “two days before the conclave, there was a small group from different countries, not just Italians, but also some from the Vatican, and they said we should go for Bergoglio. Then it was clear for me. Beforehand it was very unsure, but his intervention in the pre-conclave meetings had been very important; his speech made a great impact.”

O'Connell relates that, according to his sources, Bergoglio was not informed about any of these pre-conclave gatherings here mentioned.

Murphy-O’Connor, who pulled many strings in the background, told O'Connor later: “The key was getting the Asians and Africans to support Bergoglio.” He added that “when the history of the conclave is written it will be shown that over the week of the General Congregations, a small minority helped lead the cardinals to understand that the front-runners (Scola, Scherrer, and Ouellet) were not the men to lead the Church at this time in history, and that the only candidate was Bergoglio.” Just before the conclave began, the English cardinal spoke with Bergoglio when coming out from St. Peter's after Mass, and after a small conversation, he told the Argentine prelate: “'Stai attento!' (Watch out!). He nodded, 'Capisco!' (I understand!).” But Murphy-O’Connor insists that nobody knew who would come out of the conclave as the new Pope. O'Connell later spoke with the English cardinal about this story as revealed by Murphy-O’Connor himself in his memoir, and the prelate then told the journalist his “impression that Bergoglio 'had accepted in his heart that he could be pope.' ” “Indeed,” the author continues, “he felt the Argentinian knew he could be elected. He revealed, moreover, that at one stage during the General Congregations, he went up to Bergoglio and said, 'I think we need this and this kind of pope.' When Bergoglio responded, 'I agree,' Murphy-O’Connor told him, “You are the man!”

Bergoglio is then quoted as saying to friends: “I never thought I would be elected.”

As it turned out, Bergoglio received 26 votes in the first ballot during that 2013 conclave, with Scola having merely four more votes. Due to the fact that the Italian episcopate – which had as a block the largest number of votes (28) – was divided over whom to elect, and due to other factors, Scola's chances were sinking. Bergoglio's candidacy, after the first encouraging ballot, kept getting stronger. By the second ballot, he had more votes than Scola (45 over 38), and then kept gaining votes until he was elected in the fifth ballot. (Please see here an excerpt of the book on the different ballots.) He received the support from a variety of countries and continents, such as Europe, Asia, and Africa. Additionally, Cardinals like Maradiaga, Gracias, Turkson, Tauran, and Kasper “did not disguise their backing for him.”

Pope Francis was later to say that his election was a “complete surprise” for him.

But when he met Murphy-O’Connor after his election, he told him: “You are the one to blame (Sei il colpevole): you told me I would be pope.”

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