All of yesterday's articles

May 23, 2019


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Sen. Mazie Hirono of Hawaii.
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Democrat senator brags about spreading pro-abortion message to 13-year-olds

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By Calvin Freiburger

WASHINGTON, D.C., May 23, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) — As part of her remarks during one of many pro-abortion rallies dotting the country on Tuesday, Democrat Sen. Mazie Hirono of Hawaii took the opportunity to boast about delivering a pro-abortion message to children as young as eighth grade.

Tuesday saw more than 400 #StopTheBans rallies across the United States, organized by Planned Parenthood, NARAL, and the ACLU to protest the wave of strong pro-life laws pushed and enacted in various states over the past year, most recently in Alabama and Georgia.

Hirono spoke at the rally that took place outside the U.S. Supreme Court building, during which she relayed an unusual encounter with a group of Hawaii schoolchildren.

“I just met eighth-graders at a public school in Hawaii, and I told them I was coming for a rally in front of the Supreme Court, and they said, ‘Why?’” she told the crowd. “And I said it’s because we have to fight for abortion rights, and they knew all about it.”

“And I asked the girls of that group of eighth-graders, ‘How many of you girls think the government should be telling us women, when and if we wanna have babies?’” she continued. “And not a single one of them raised their hands. The boys who were there, I said, ‘You know, it’s kind of hard for a woman to get pregnant without you guys.’ They got it. ‘How many of you boys think that government should be telling girls and women when and if we’re gonna have babies?’ And not a single one of them raised their hands.”

The rally attendees applauded Hirono’s tale of asking pre-high-school children to affirm support for abortion-on-demand.

The Daily Wire’s Hank Berrien notes that indoctrinating children is a significant element in the abortion lobby’s strategy to protect and expand legal abortion. “It’s going to be a long war, with changing strategies, so we have to teach our children, too, to be vigilant,” Planned Parenthood board member Audrey Bracy Deegan once said, he notes. “The language of choice has to be part of their everyday vocabulary. That way they can’t be silenced without it feeling unnatural. It was the children that were the turning point in the South in the 60s and in Soweto. It has to be the children who are the turning point in the movement if we are ever to gain the momentum necessary to turn back the opposition.”

The story is nothing new for Hirono, who has developed a reputation as one of the Senate’s most unapologetic abortion advocates. In January, she declared that the Catholic Knights of Columbus held an “alt-right” position on abortion and LGBT issues. Last September, she claimed that then-judicial nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s denial of uncorroborated sexual assault claims lacked “credibility” because he was supposedly “against women’s reproductive choice” and the next month refused to answer whether “run[ning] senators out of restaurants, go[ing] to their homes” is “going too far.”

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Dr. Ben Carson, secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
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LGBT lobby outraged as Trump admin saves women’s homeless spaces for real women

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By Calvin Freiburger

May 23, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) — Pro-transgender activists are up in arms this week as the Trump administration has unveiled a new rule that would ensure that federally funded homeless shelters can refuse to place gender-confused men in close quarters with women.

The proposed rule from the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD) would guarantee that HUD-funded entities with “single-sex or sex-segregated facilities” such as restrooms, showers, and sleeping quarters may consider “privacy, safety, practical concerns, religious beliefs,” and an “individual’s sex as reflected in official government documents” when determining what sex to categorize users as.

The new rule would be a reversal from Obama-era changes that forced such shelters to place “transgender” men claiming to be women with actual women, including abuse or assault victims, without regard to appearance, anatomy, or the “complaints of other shelter residents.”

HUD secretary Dr. Ben Carson told the House Financial Services Committee that he favors greater “local jurisdictional control” in such matters, the Washington Post reports, and that “if you want to do something different about the definition of gender, that is a congressional duty.”

“Yesterday, I asked Secretary Carson directly if he was anticipating any changes to HUD’s Equal Access Rule and he said no,” Rep. Jennifer Wexton (D-Va.) declared. “The announcement today that HUD will now allow anti-trans discrimination in shelters demonstrates that he either lied to Congress or has no idea what policies his agency is pursuing.” The HUD proposal maintains that the proposed rule doesn’t contradict the current policy of “ensuring that its programs are open to all eligible individuals and families regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.”

“It completely guts the Equal Access Rule,” National Center for Transgender Equality executive director Mara Keisling said. “The Trump administration is, once again, targeting the most vulnerable trans people by empowering shelters to turn people away and deny them equal access to services.”

Terry Schilling, executive director of the conservative American Principles Project, had a different takeaway. “The Left has consistently made clear that they value ideology above privacy and safety, to the point of allowing biological men access to spaces set aside for vulnerable women,” he said. “This is exactly what the Obama rule did — and what the Democrats’ recently passed ‘Equality Act’ would mandate nationwide.

“Fortunately, President Trump has made protecting the rights of women, families, and people of faith a high priority of his administration, as this proposed rule illustrates, and we strongly commend him for doing so,” Schilling declared.

“Fifty-one percent of Americans are women. Less than one percent of Americans say they are transgender,” Breitbart’s Neil Munro notes. “The vast majority of men who say they are transgender are also biologically intact, and many seek to sleep with women.”

As LifeSiteNews covered when Obama handed down the previous rule change in 2016, the dangers of diluting sex-segregated facilities is not theoretical. In 2012, Christopher Hambrook assaulted multiple women at a Toronto shelter by claiming to be transgendered. “One of the guests at a rescue mission overheard someone on the street saying, ‘Dude, if you go down to the rescue mission and tell them you’re transgender, you can sleep in the women’s dorm and even shower with them,’” John Ashmen, president of the Association of Gospel Rescue Missions, told LifeSiteNews at the time.

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Archbishop Jesús Carlos Cabrero Romano of the Archdiocese of San Luis Potosí, Mexico. Antonio Gonzalez Loera // Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 4.0
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Activist refers Mexican archbishop to authorities for defending marriage

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By Martin Barillas

MEXICO CITY, May 23, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) — Archbishop Jesús Carlos Cabrero Romero of San Luis Potosí in central Mexico is facing a charge filed by a LGBTQ activist for engaging in alleged “hate speech” after the prelate expressed Christian teachings about homosexuality and the sanctity of marriage.

Paul Ibarra, who directs the Social Diversifiers Network in San Luis Potosí, is charging the archbishop with hate speech in a complaint to the federal Secretariat for Domestic Affairs and its Office for Religious Affairs. Ibarra is demanding that Archbishop Cabrero publicly apologize and retract his statements or face a reprimand or even monetary sanctions.

La Razón newspaper quoted Ibarra, who said: “The archbishop continues with his homophobic remarks, and these cases have been seen elsewhere: that when the Church places itself in opposition [to the redefinition of marriage], there will be seen a string of actions: first threats that then become violence, and we don’t want to reach those extremes.”

The charge followed the legalization of so-called homosexual “marriage” in the state of San Luis Potosí on May 16. On the same day, the archbishop released a statement declaring that “the fact that a law has been passed by congress does not imply a priori that said law is good or morally right.”

In his statement, Archbishop Cabrero declared, “Ever since the most ancient times, marriage has been understood as being between two different but complementary parties: a man and woman. Never before, until recent years, and we don’t understand why, has this ancient institution been under juridical attack and resulted in seeking its destruction.” He added that “what is objectively ‘marriage’ cannot be destroyed.”

The archbishop said, “Marriage, as it has always been understood, is between two different parties. A law cannot now or ever destroy something so essential.” He invited those who celebrate the approval of gay “marriage” to exercise “true and authentic tolerance” just as do Catholics who “respect their way of thinking, but then we also demand that they sincerely respect what our faith, our way of thinking and believing, invites us to live and express.”

According to Ibarra’s LinkedIn page, his Social Diversifiers Network is a group of young people engaged in strategies to spread “social transformation.” The group seeks to create “discrimination-free zones” for persons other than heterosexuals: gays, lesbians, and transsexuals. The LinkedIn page reads: “Transexuals, transgenders, genderless, queers: we all have a right to decide about ourselves.”

Ibarra told the Pulso news site that Church leaders “sometimes forget that they are also subject to the law and should observe it, and contribute to an environment of healthy coexistence and respect to the rights of everyone.”

Regarding the legislation on gay “marriage,” the archbishop said, “At this point in history in San Luis Potosí we can respect, but we cannot approve something that according to our consciense as a church community we cannot accept.”

In his pastoral statement, Archbishop Cabrero said, “We do not affirm that the Church has lost. To the contrary, its faith and convictions are unchangeable and will not change just because some persons think or believe differently.” Globalization, he said, and the influence of communications and the power and intelligence of a few have had the consequence of introducing values seeking to change the teachings of the Church, which it continues to uphold.

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Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp visits a film production facility in the state.
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Georgia governor scoffs at ‘C-list celebrities’ opposed to state’s heartbeat bill

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By Martin Barillas

ATLANTA, Georgia, May 23, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – Republican Gov. Brian Kemp of Georgia dismissed pro-abortion “C-list celebrities” who have slammed his state and threatened boycotts over its recently passed law banning abortions on most babies with beating hearts.

On May 7, Gov. Kemp signed the heartbeat bill, which has an exception allowing babies conceived in rape or incest to be aborted. There are also exceptions for physical medical emergencies and pregnancies deemed “medically futile.”

Speaking Saturday at the state Republican convention, Kemp said, “I understand that some folks don’t like this new law. I’m fine with that.”

Kemp continued, “We’re elected to do what’s right – and standing up for precious life is always the right thing to do.”

Taking a swipe at outspoken pro-abortion celebrities, such as Alyssa Milano, he said, “We are the party of freedom and opportunity. We value and protect innocent life — even though that makes C-list celebrities squawk.”

Missouri and Ohio have passed similar laws, and Louisiana is expected to follow suit. Alabama passed a law banning nearly all abortions under which doctors could go to prison for up to 99 years if they commit illegal abortions.

Milano, who is filming a series in Georgia, called on women to participate in a “sex strike” in protest against the pro-life legislation. She previously gained notoriety when she showed up at Senate hearings of U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh in 2018, where she spoke out about his presumed views about abortion.

Other Hollywood types — including Alec Baldwin, Don Cheadle, Mia Farrow, Christina Applegate, and Minnie Driver — joined Milano in co-signing a letter to Gov. Kemp and Speaker David Ralston threatening to boycott Georgia, which has become one of the three top states for movie and television production. Director Ron Howard, who played the role of Opie on The Andy Griffith Show in the 1960s, has also threatened to boycott the state.

Kemp has been visiting movie and television production facilities in the state after cancelling a scheduled trip to Hollywood. On Wednesday, he was the Georgia Film Academy and Pinewood Studios, noting that the latter is the second largest film production facility in the country.

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Trump’s health care conscience protections under legal attack from states and cities

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By Martin Barillas

WASHINGTON, D.C., May 23, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) — In addition to Washington, D.C., New York City, Chicago and Cook County, Illinois, 19 states filed suit in federal district court in New York to flout conscience protections for health care providers put in place by Department of Health and Human Services.

In the State of New York v. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the plaintiffs charge that the Trump administration in its Final Rule engaged in an “unprecedented and unlawful expansion of nearly 30 federal statutory provisions,” which they claim would “compel the plaintiff states and local jurisdictions to grant to individual health providers the categorical right to deny lawful and medically necessary treatment, services, and information to patients based on the provider’s own personal views.”

California filed a similar lawsuit separately in State of California v. Azar.

On Tuesday, the Federal Register published the HHR rules. Under guidelines published by HHR:

Conscience protections apply to health care providers who refuse to perform, accommodate, or assist with certain health care services on religious or moral grounds.

Federal statutes protect health care provider conscience rights and prohibit recipients of certain federal funds from discriminating against health care providers who refuse to participate in these services based on moral objections or religious beliefs.

You may file a complaint under the Federal Health Care Provider Conscience Protection Statutes if you believe you have experienced discrimination because you:

Objected to, participated in, or refused to participate in specific medical procedures, including abortion and sterilization, and related training and research activities

Were coerced into performing procedures that are against your religious or moral beliefs

Refused to provide health care items or services for the purpose of causing, or assisting in causing, the death of an individual, such as by assisted suicide or euthanasia.

The New York lawsuit asserts that the Final Rule (which takes effect in July) would “undermine the plaintiffs’ ability to administer their health care systems and deliver patient care effectively and efficiently,” in a reference to services that include abortion.

The plaintiffs assert that the Trump administration is engaging in an “overboard application of federal law” by possible cutting all federal health care funds if HHS determines the plaintiffs “have failed to comply with the Final Rule.

Setting out the bottom line for the states and cities, the lawsuit states, “(T)his financial exposure could amount to hundreds of billions of dollars each year.” Moreover, the plaintiffs charge that the Final Rule not only violates Constitutional safeguards assigning spending power to Congress but also violates the Establishment Clause of the Constitution.

In a statement, New York Attorney General Letitia James declared that the Trump administration is “putting politics over the health and safety of Americans.” James claimed that the federal government is “giving health care providers free license to openly discriminate and refuse care to patients – a gross misinterpretation of religious freedom that will have devastating consequences on communities throughout the country … we cannot rest until this ‘health care refusal’ rule is stopped.”

Joining the state of New York in the lawsuit are the City of New York, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Hawai‘i, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Wisconsin, the city of Chicago, and Cook County, Illinois.  

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Cory Booker proposes creating special White House office to promote abortion

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By Calvin Freiburger

May 23, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – As the numerous Democrats vying for the party’s 2020 presidential nomination compete to stake out the most pro-abortion position possible, Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey has pledged to create a White House office exclusively dedicated to protecting so-called abortion “rights.”

Booker laid out a comprehensive pro-abortion plan Wednesday in a Medium post pledging to hold a pro-Roe v. Wade litmus test for judicial nominees, support codifying a “right” to abortion in federal legislation, repeal the Hyde Amendment restricting taxpayer funding of abortion, and reverse numerous pro-life executive actions taken by President Donald Trump. But the most unique element of his plan was the creation of a “White House Office of Reproductive Freedom.”

“On Day One, I will create a White House Office of Reproductive Freedom, charged with coordinating and affirmatively advancing abortion rights and access to reproductive health care across my Administration ,” Booker wrote, “addressing all barriers to full reproductive autonomy, such as access to health care, including maternal and infant health, quality, affordable child care, and comprehensive paid family leave.”

Such an office would presumably function in a similar manner to the Trump administration’s White House Faith and Opportunity Initiative, in that it would not directly make policy but devote manpower exclusively to monitoring specific policy areas on a deeper level and proactively keeping the president appraised of opportunities for potential action.

Booker hopes the proposal will distinguish him from a Democrat field in which every contender is running as uncompromisingly pro-abortion, most of the candidates have already endorsed a federal law mandating legal abortion in all 50 states, and every candidate currently in the U.S. Senate has voted against giving basic medical treatment to infants who survive failed abortions.

Booker has previously signaled his fealty to the abortion lobby by declaring that “abortion is health care” and that he “believe[s] very strongly in Roe v. Wade as the law of the land.”

Expressing skepticism that the new plan will significantly help Booker with Democrat primary voters, The Daily Wire’s Emily Zanotti writes, “a recent series of polls put his unfavorability at an astounding negative 7 points. Booker hasn't cracked 5 points in any national poll and is mired at around 3% in polls across the board — and that's the best case scenario. At least one poll has him under 1%.”

Abortion is traditionally a significant issue in presidential races, due chiefly to the potential for judicial nominees to expand or contract the range of pro-life laws states can enact, but has taken on special urgency for both sides this election cycle. Trump has named two new justices to the U.S. Supreme Court and is widely expected to get at least one more vacancy should he win another term. Furthermore, numerous states have passed a wave of pro-life laws meant to provoke a direct challenge to Roe’s viability cutoff, meaning the next president’s judicial picks may have a tremendous impact on the abortion debate sooner rather than later.

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Recordings of priest grooming teenage boy for sex published, show homosexuality’s role in abuse crisis

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By Dorothy Cummings McLean

SAGINAW, Michigan, May 23, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – Recordings of a priest convicted of multiple counts of sexual assault on males have been released, providing incontrovertible evidence of homosexuality as a factor in clerical sexual misconduct.

Through a Freedom of Information Act request, the Catholic media group Church Militant obtained and published secret recordings of the Diocese of Saginaw’s Father Robert DeLand Jr., 72, attempting to seduce a high school student.    

DeLand was caught in a sting operation after the parents of the 17-year-old boy he was grooming went to the police.

According to Church Militant, the popular priest was working as a hall monitor at Michigan’s Freeland High School when he first singled out the young man, who had gotten into trouble with the law for underage drinking and was grieving the recent suicide of a friend.

The friend who committed suicide, Michael Dennis, had spent a lot of time with “Fr. Bob.”

“It started with DeLand offering to pay for [the victim’s] grief counseling sessions and then suggesting that he complete his community service hours at his condo, where the priest could get him alone,” explained Church Militant CEO Michael Voris in a special report yesterday.

“His parents, alarmed by the priest's latching on to their son, went to the police, who launched a secret investigation, wiring the victim so he could record his interactions with DeLand.”

The teenager also pretended to experience same-sex attractions, and the recordings Church Militant has published show that the priest seized upon this theme.

“Look. If you're gay, I don't care,” the priest said to his intended victim. “And I have a feeling that there's some gayness in there. And you know what? I love you as you are. And so if you're gay, you're gay. Bring home a boyfriend, I'm gonna love him just as I love you.”

He also encouraged the boy to cultivate and act out these homosexual desires.

“I mean, do you have any curiosity about doing it for real?” he asked the boy.

“Well, I think you ought to try to find somebody. [...] You think you can? There are certainly guys right around schools. [...] Attracted to anybody at school? [...] When was the last time you found yourself attracted to other guys? [... ] I think you would know how to investigate,” DeLand continued.

DeLand also encouraged the boy to smoke against his parents’ wishes, to drink alcohol, and to use drugs. Detective Brian Berg, who led the investigation into the abusive priest, told Michael Voris these are typical tactics sexual predators use to build trust.

The priest had many other male teenage victims, and Berg estimates that within a 33 year period, up to five suicides may be attributed to DeLand.

Unaware he was being recorded, the priest encouraged the young man to watch gay porn, to masturbate, and to tell him all about it. DeLand often told his intended victim how good looking he was, how good he was, and how much DeLand loved him. He even suggested that the young man’s dead friend, Michael Dennis, had done a “good thing” in bringing them together through his suicide.

In one part of the recording, DeLand asks the minor if he thinks he would prefer anal or oral sex.

Ultimately, on February 25, 2018, when he thought the teenager was high on ecstasy, DeLand touched him inappropriately and the boy fled his condo. Minutes later, the priest was arrested.

The 14 hours of recordings were not played at the trial.

According to Michigan news site mlive.com, in March 2019, DeLand pleaded “no contest” to the charges of second-degree criminal sexual conduct, gross indecency between two males, and “manufacturing or distributing an imitation controlled substance.” DeLand faced three trials for various charges, but avoided the third one by pleading “no contest.”

Before his arrest, DeLand served on the board of an anti-child abuse organization, the CAN Council Great Lakes Bay. In a 2010 interview, the priest revealed he was the Diocese of Saginaw’s vocations director for five years, something the diocese neither confirmed nor denied when LifeSiteNews asked about it following DeLand’s arrest.

‘Excruciating’ to listen to the records of ‘perverse predator’

Church Militant editor-in-chief Christine Niles told LifeSiteNews that she found listening to recordings of the priest “excruciating.”

“As producer and writer of this special report, it was excruciating for me to sit through hours of DeLand's audio recordings to find the clips we would use,” she said via social media.

“My only consolation was knowing that the victim was in on the plot and aware of what the priest was trying to do. But how many thousands of victims of so many predator priests just like DeLand have had their lives destroyed, a number of them committing suicide, as a result of the same kind of grooming?” she continued.

“These audio recordings give a unique and crucial inside look into how these perverse predator clergy operate, and how they groom vulnerable young men by using homosexuality to lure them into abuse.”

Michael Voris told LifeSiteNews that he finds the hard truths about clerical sexual grooming and assault “disgusting and revolting.”

“It is disgusting and revolting to know that this is business as usual, only this occasion [it] was caught on police audio recordings,” he stated. “That the bishops continue to know and cover this up is damnable.”

In a blogpost published this morning, Father John Zuhlsdorf said that the priest’s encouragement of the boy’s feigned homosexuality sounded familiar.

“One thing that this perverted, twisted, probably possessed priest said rang in my ears as familiar. To wit: Some of the manipulations that this sicko used on this young man sounded very much like the homosexualist propaganda of a certain highly visible Jesuit. ‘You’re okay! It’s okay to feel this way! Doesn’t it feel better to say it? Be who you are! I love you anyway’.”

Niles concurred and told LifeSiteNews that DeLand was a “big fan” of celebrity priest and LGBT activist Fr. James Martin.

“The rhetoric used by Fr. DeLand towards the victim is the same heard by priests like Fr. James Martin – that God made them gay, that gay is good, that they should explore their homosexuality and be comfortable with it, etc.,” she wrote.  

“In fact, Fr. DeLand was a big fan of Fr. Martin, and was angry when one of Martin's talks that DeLand had planned on attending was canceled owing to Church Militant's reporting.”

Michael Voris added, “Of course they are all cut from the same cloth: the homoheretic crowd that is seeking to destroy the Church.”

The 2004 John Jay Report acknowledged that 80 percent of clergy sexual abuse victims are male and that the vast majority of them were post-pubescent. This and other reports have led many experts, including Elizabeth Yore, whom Voris interviewed for the special report, to insist that what is referred to as the Church’s pedophilia problem is more broadly a crisis involving homosexual attraction of clerics to teenage boys.     

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Trump judicial pick pressed on accusing Christian farm of ‘discrimination’ against same-sex ‘weddings’

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By Calvin Freiburger

WASHINGTON, D.C., May 23, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – Republican Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri scrutinized another of President Donald Trump’s judicial nominees Wednesday for an apparent disconnect between his record and the conservative legal philosophy the president pledged during his campaign.

The Senate Judiciary Committee was questioning Michael Bogren, Trump’s nominee to be a federal district judge for the Western District of Michigan, the Detroit Free Press reports. Hawley, a conservative freshman, used his opportunity to question Bogren on his role as an attorney for the City of East Lansing during a 2017 religious liberty dispute.

As LifeSiteNews covered at the time, the city was trying to bar Steve and Bridget Tennes, owners of Country Mill Farms in Charlotte, from its local farmers’ market due to the Christian family farm’s refusal to host same-sex “weddings.” A district judge granted a preliminary request to let the Tennes family in while their lawsuit progressed, and last month the family’s attorneys appeared before the Western District Court to make their case.

Representing the city’s efforts to keep the family out, Bogren wrote a brief in 2017 arguing that “discriminatory conduct” being “based on sincerely held religious beliefs does not insulate that conduct from anti-discrimination laws,” noting that members of the Nation of Islam or Ku Klux Klan who opposed interracial marriage “would not be able to ... avoid the anti-discrimination provisions of federal, state and local laws that apply to public accommodations if interracial couples were refused service."

“The message isn’t Catholics need not apply,” but that “discriminators need not apply,” he also said at the time. “The fact that the plaintiff says, ‘My religion compels me,’ does not protect him. There’s a difference between belief and act." During his questioning this week, Hawley argued that Bogren’s comparison demonstrated “impermissible hostility” toward religious beliefs.

“You think those things are equivalent,” Hawley said. “You think that the Catholic family's pointing out the teachings of their church is equivalent to a KKK member invoking Christianity [...] The Masterpiece Cakeshop case turned on these issues, it turned on this kind of animus. The fact that you stand by these comments is extraordinary to me.”

“I stand by those comparisons,” Bogren declared, arguing he was merely defending his client’s (the city’s) position to the best of his ability and making the point that a religious motivation is immaterial to whether an act is discriminatory. “From a legal perspective, senator, there is no difference,” Bogren said.

The incident has alarmed various conservatives, who noted that Bogren appears to be a far cry from the conservative jurists Trump campaigned on appointing.

“Folks, that is the whole enchilada of what we are fighting in the courts today,” Conservative Review’s Daniel Horowitz warned. “Governments are codifying the homosexual – and now, the transgender – agenda into civil rights, thereby trampling the foundational freedom of religion in this country. Once we accede to the point that sexual behavior is just like race, that would mean that even private businesses who are not seeking government work but just merely want to be left alone would also be forced to directly serve homosexual weddings.”

Bogren isn’t the first Trump judicial nominee to concern social conservatives. Last year, he nominated assistant U.S. Attorney Patrick Bumatay and Illinois Magistrate Judge Mary Rowland to the federal bench, both of whom belonged to or worked for LGBT legal organizations that have staked out left-wing stances on homosexuality and religious liberty issues.

Elected in November, Hawley ruffled feathers earlier this year when he joined a Republican-controlled Senate accustomed to approving such judges with little scrutiny. In February, he was criticized by some for questioning D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals nominee Neomi Rao over her pro-life credentials and judicial philosophy (though he eventually supported her after a follow-up meeting satisfied his concerns).

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Cardinal Cupich’s cathedral promotes Elton John biopic ‘Rocketman’ despite gay sex scenes

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By Martin Barillas
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Screenshot of Holy Name Cathedral's bulletin with the advertisement for a trip to see 'Rocketman' highlighted, accessed online May 23, 2019 at 12:25 p.m. EST.

Learn more about Cardinal Cupich’s views and past actions by visiting FaithfulShepherds.com. Click here.

CHICAGO, Illinois, May 23, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – The parish bulletin of Holy Name Cathedral in the Chicago archdiocese advertised that a group of parishioners is getting together to watch the pornographic film Rocketman.

Father Greg Sakowicz serves as rector of the cathedral, which is the see of Cardinal Blase Cupich. The bulletin of the parish he serves lists a number of different activities involving parishioners, including a Shabbat service at a Chicago synagogue, a book group, “Centering Prayer,” and an “Afternoon Movie Group.”

The “Afternoon Movie Group” announcement in the May 19, 2019 bulletin notes that the parish group will meet on June 2 to watch Rocketman at a place to be determined. The R-rated movie is described in the bulletin as depicting the “the fantastical journey of transformation” of the young Englishman who would become known worldwide as the homosexual celebrity singer Elton John. It said, “An inspirational story set to Elton John's most beloved songs tells the universally relatable story of how a small town boy becomes one of the most iconic figures in pop culture.”

Left unsaid in the bulletin is that Rocketman is rated R for its pornographic depictions of homosexual activity and themes. In Rocketman, according to the Hollywood Reporter, Paramount Pictures becomes the “first major studio to depict gay male sex onscreen.” The Hollywood Reporter noted, “There were multiple scenes that included men kissing, simulated oral sex and a steamy bedroom scene with both [male actors] Egerton and Madden unclothed.”

An email to the contact person listed in the bulletin went unanswered. LifeSiteNews contacted the Archdiocese of Chicago’s media relations office. Javier Garcia, administrative assistant for the archdiocesan Department of Media and Communications, told LifeSiteNews via telephone that an emailed request for further information had been referred to others in the office. LifeSiteNews did not receive a response from the archdiocese by the time of publication.

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Democrats yet again sue Little Sisters of the Poor for contraception coverage

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By Doug Mainwaring

May 23, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) — The Little Sisters of the Poor are once again the target of liberals in government who believe that the sisters must be strong-armed into violating their consciences by providing contraceptives and abortifacients to their employees, or face extinction.

After fighting a lengthy battle against the Obama administration to defend their religious liberty, their ministries to the poor and elderly, and their very existence, the sisters had finally found relief when the Trump administration granted them an exemption.

Pennsylvania attorney general Josh Shapiro now wants to take that exemption away from the Little Sisters of the Poor and again force them to comply with the Health and Human Services (HHS) birth control mandate. If Shapiro prevails and the sisters resist, they will be forced to pay tens of millions of dollars in fines.   

“Despite a 2016 victory at the U.S. Supreme Court, an Executive Order, and a new rule that protects the Little Sisters of the Poor and other non-profit religious groups from the unconstitutional HHS mandate, the Little Sisters are still in court,” notes a statement by Becket Law, the attorney group representing the Little Sisters of the Poor. “In November 2017, after the federal government issued their new rule protecting religious groups from the mandate, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and several other states sued in federal court to take away the nuns’ hard-won religious exemption.”

“This lawsuit, and the one similarly perpetuated by California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, exists solely to stomp on the religious liberties of a group of women serving the poor and needy,” wrote Washington Examiner commentator Nicole Russell. “It has nothing to do with anyone’s violation of the law.”

The Obama administration “never should have targeted nuns to provide birth control because there are so many other viable ways to retrieve it,” said Russell. “It’s like suing Alcoholics Anonymous for refusing to pay for their employees’ vodka while the local liquor store sits open down the street.”

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit heard arguments this week in the case, known as Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Trump.

“To say the nuns have to give [contraceptives and abortifacients] out is, and always has been, preposterous,” said Becket Law attorney Mark Rienzi after Tuesday’s hearing.

“Sadly,  Josh Shapiro and Xavier Becerra think  attacking nuns is a way to score political points,” Rienzi had noted previously. “These men  may think their campaign  donors want them to sue nuns, but our guess is most taxpayers disagree.”

“No one needs nuns in order to get contraceptives, and no one needs these guys reigniting the last administration’s divisive and unnecessary culture war,” added Rienzi.

“It is utterly incomprehensible that in a free country like the United States, Catholic nuns who care for the elderly poor are being harassed with new lawsuits to force them to provide contraceptives and abortifacients,” remarked Maureen Ferguson, senior policy adviser for the Catholic Association, when Pennsylvania A.G. Shapiro first launched his legal action. “The Little Sisters of the Poor finally received relief from the federal government’s executive order on religious liberty, yet now the politically motivated state attorneys general of Pennsylvania and California are on the attack.”

The Washington Examiner’s Nicole Russell continued:

The government should never have taken upon its shoulders the significant task of ensuring birth control is available to everyone, to say nothing of the concept that every religious group in the country provide it against their wishes. But because the government did so, and because liberal politicians love nothing more than to force religious people to align to the government’s whims, however absurd, the Little Sisters of the Poor cannot be left alone to care for the poor and needy as they desire.

Instead, they must spend time and resources battling the authoritarian proclivities of a few politicians who, rather than addressing other local issues certainly of higher concern, such as crime, the economy, and education, want to force nuns to provide birth control.

The three-judge panel that heard the oral arguments presented on Tuesday consisted of  U.S. circuit judges Patty Shwartz, Theodore McKee, and Julio Fuentes.

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Diane Montagna Diane Montagna Follow Diane

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‘The victim is still alive and breathing’: Expert exposes China’s ‘horrific’ organ harvesting program

Diane Montagna Diane Montagna Follow Diane
By Diane Montagna

ROME, May 23, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) — The Chinese government is harvesting organs from prisoners while they are still alive to supply its lucrative organ transplant industry, a leading expert on China has told LifeSiteNews. 

He is therefore calling on the Vatican to speak out.

Steven Mosher, founder and president of the Population Research Institute, sat down for an interview in Rome this week with LifeSiteNews editor-in-chief John-Henry Westen (see full video below). 

Westen spoke with Mosher at the May 20-21 John Paul II Academy for Human Life and the Family conference on “Brain Death: A Medicolegal Construct: Scientific & Philosophical Evidence.

Mosher said that China — the world’s leader in organ transplants — has moved to a “more advanced” version of its decades-long practice of executing prisoners for their organs, and is now “paralyzing their victim” in order to extract their organs while they are still alive.

China’s policy of executing prisoners for their organs “began in earnest in the 1990s, when the Buddhist sect known as Falun Gong were being arrested by the hundreds of thousands,” he said. “We began to get horrific first-person testimony of how some prisoners were being taken out and executed specifically for their organs.” 

“In the early days, it was done rather crudely,” Mosher explained. “They would force the prisoner to kneel down, shoot them in the back of the head, and then they would have an emergency vehicle right there with an operating table, and they would extract the organs — the heart, the corneas, all of the valuable organs that could be sold for tens of thousands of dollars.” 

The organs were then put in cold-packs and taken to operating rooms where they could be transplanted, he said.

Mosher explained that, more recently, China has moved to a “more advanced version” by simply paralyzing their victim. “The victim is still alive and breathing but can’t move because the muscles are paralyzed, and they extract the organs while the individual is still living — the heart, the liver, the kidneys, anything you can imagine that has monetary value is being taken out.”

“There is a tremendous amount of money, of course, in organ transplants” he said, “and China does more organ transplants than the rest of the world put together.”

Why the low wait-time?

Mosher noted that there has always been “something peculiar” about the organ transplant industry in China. In the West, he said, “you can wait six months or a year or forever for a tissue match for a kidney or a heart.” But in China, “you are tissue typed as soon as you arrive” and “generally within the week and sometimes as soon as 24-48 hours you have the heart the kidney the liver that you’ve been waiting for.” 

“The only way that can happen is by having a million people on death row in China who’ve already been tissue typed,” said Mosher. “They put the tissue of the prospective buyer of the organ into the computer and when a match comes up that person is executed, and their organs are taken out and immediately transplanted into the buyer.”

Denial and coverup

Mosher said the Chinese government has “gone to great lengths” to deny this is happening. 

In 2010, he said, the regime created a program to suggest that “voluntary organ donations are increasing dramatically” and are legally acquired “from people who give their informed consent.”

But Mosher, who first exposed China’s one-child policy, pointed out that there are questions about what “informed consent” actually means in China. He said that under the one-child policy China forced women to abort their children “at seven months of pregnancy,” while claiming they had their “informed consent.”    

He said the Chinese government’s new claim that there has been a “straight-line increase” in voluntary organ donation is “clearly fabricated” propaganda. “It is clearly a cover story propagated by the doctors in charge of the organ transplant program … to convince the world that, yes, we have millions of Chinese who have now voluntarily donating their organs.”

Will the Vatican speak out?

Mosher said the Chinese government has also made considerable efforts to convince the Chinese Academy of Sciences that it is serious about ending abuse in the organ transplant program. 

“It would [therefore] be very helpful if the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, headed by Archbishop Marcello Sorondo, would actually speak out against the continuing practice of organ harvesting in China from people who are executed for their organs,” he said.

In February 2018, Archbishop Sorondo drew sharp criticism after he praised the Chinese Communist regime for being “the best implementer of Catholic social doctrine.” The Chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences added in the same interview that “China has defended the dignity of the human person.”  

Mosher told LifeSite he has sent Archbishop Sorondo a recent study showing that China’s data has been fabricated, along with stories of victims. “Well,” he added, “you can’t really talk about victims in this case, because the victims are all dead, but witnesses who’ve testified to the fact that the killing of prisoners still continues.”

“If you put it all together — the speed at which you can get a transplant, the fabricated data, the reports of consent being extorted from individuals — it’s not a pretty picture,” he said. “We still have massive human rights violations in China. This is a question of literally killing people for their organs to make a profit off them.”  

Mosher also noted that, last month, the United States called for an investigation into the problem of executing prisoners for their organs, and he invited the Vatican to do likewise. 

“I think a lot of people are speaking on this with the same voice, and it would be helpful if Archbishop Sanchez Sorondo added his voice to the people who are demanding China stop this horrible human rights abuse,” he said.

“This is big business,” he said. “It’s business that Communist Party officials are probably profiting by, and it’s a business that they’re unlikely to want to give up unless there’s tremendous international pressure.” 

Yet, he added, for China this is par for the course. “Remember, this is a government that that specializes in violations of human rights.” He explained:  

If you name a human right China is probably violating. It executes more people every year than the rest of the world combined. It forcibly aborted hundreds of millions of women under the one-child policy that ran for 35 years. It’s imprisoned between 1 and 3 million Uyghur and Kazakh Muslims in the Far West just over the last few years, forcing them to eat pork and drink alcohol and recite the sayings of Xi Jinping. They’re tearing down Catholic churches left and right, destroying Protestant churches, so this fits the pattern of a regime that is driven by a lust for power and a lust for money.

“I think that the Catholic Church should add its voice to a number of us human rights critics of China’s violations and help to get this stopped,” Mosher said.

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Roberto Marchesini

Opinion, ,

Priest resurrects World War II–era ‘gun metal’ rosary to encourage men to pray

Roberto Marchesini
By Roberto Marchesini

May 23, 2019 (La Nuova Bussola Quotidiana) — The idea of introducing quotas for women [in church positions of influence] triggered quite a variety of reactions across the board. In the United States, for example, any discussions on the "feminisation" of the Catholic Church, meaning the difference between men and women (in terms of presence, participation, and influence) are without exception always to the disadvantage of men.

In the aftermath, a number of books were dedicated to the subject, and two in particular worth noting are The Church Impotent by Leon J. Podles (available for free on the author's website) and Why Men Hate Going to Church by David Murrow. Podles's analysis might lack rigour but he deserves merit for addressing the issue head on in his book. It is also interesting he pinpoints that the heart of virility is found in battle. This gives rise to the questions: is the Church perceived as an army at war? Does it offer men a reason to fight and die? Murrow's thesis shares similarities with Podles's. He identifies man fundamentally as a fighter attracted by courage (the virtue of fortitude) and ready to sacrifice himself for "greatness" (i.e., for something of considerable value).

In 2015, Cardinal Burke was interviewed on the same subject (sparking furious reactions); here is the first part, here the second part, and here the third part of that interview. According to Burke:

The radical feminist movement strongly influenced the Church, leading the Church to constantly address women's issues at the expense of addressing critical issues important to men; the importance of the father, whether in the union of marriage or not; the importance of a father to children; the importance of fatherhood for priests; the critical impact of a manly character; the emphasis on the particular gifts that God gives to men for the good of the whole society. ...

Young men and men respond to rigour and precision and excellence. When I was trained to be a server, the training lasted for several weeks and you had to memorise the prayers at the foot of the altar. It was a rigorous and a carefully executed service. All of a sudden, in the wake of Vatican II, the celebration of the liturgy became very sloppy in many places. It became less attractive to young men, for it was slipshod.

The introduction of girl servers also led many boys to abandon altar service. Young boys don't want to do things with girls. It's just natural. The girls were also very good at altar service. So many boys drifted away over time. I want to emphasise that the practice of having exclusively boys as altar servers has nothing to do with inequality of women in the Church.

I think that this has contributed to a loss of priestly vocations. It requires a certain manly discipline to serve as an altar boy in service at the side of priest, and most priests have their first deep experiences of the liturgy as altar boys. If we are not training young men as altar boys, giving them an experience of serving God in the liturgy, we should not be surprised that vocations have fallen dramatically. (….) I have been very struck by the number of young men who were attracted to the Extraordinary Form of the Mass. This is not because the Extraordinary Form is more valid than the Novus Ordo, the Ordinary Form. Men are attracted because the Extraordinary Form is very highly articulated; it demands a man's attention to what's happening."

The picture that emerges from these extracts clarifies that the matter is far more complex than just the feminisation of the Church. On the one hand, there is a process underway that is cancelling all traces of "masculinity" from the Church. Since the Second Vatican Council, the Church no longer calls the faithful to fight against the world, but to dialogue with it (see the conciliar constitution Gaudium et spes); it seems to have renounced its hierarchy (see Lumen gentium).

Moreover (as Cardinal Burke states), the post-conciliar liturgical reform removed from the Mass all those solemnities, gravities, and severities that are so much akin to virility; and liturgical chants resemble less and less military marches and are more and more melodic or childish songs (at the best of times). Over time, the Church's pastoral work has also abandoned an immense repertoire of military references: the confirmed person is no longer a "soldier of Christ" and during the sacrament, no-longer receives the "alapa militaris," but a gentle caress. Altar boys are currently prevented from keeping their hands together, a gesture that recalls the ritual of knightly homage. All reference to Christian people as the "Church militant" has disappeared and spiritual life is no longer "combat". We could continue, but the obvious question that arises from this state of affairs is: if Christian life is no longer "militia super terram"...can it still attract men?

On the other hand, the Church is undergoing a definite process of "feminisation." Almost everything is being done to put women in the presbytery (which, if you call it that, there must be a reason) and let them act "like a priest," as has been seen in parishes in Italy and elsewhere. Is there a funeral, and is the priest busy? A woman celebrates it. Is there a line for Communion? Here are the "extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist", which in the meantime have become ordinary. At the moment, women cannot consecrate, but the problem will soon be circumvented by eliminating the consecration. Finally, there is the combination of the two phenomena, exemplified by what Cardinal Burke says about servers: the alter girls arrive and the altar boys leave (as well as many possible future vocations).

All is not lost though, thank God; someone has finally addressed the problem constructively and put forward an interesting proposal. Father Richard Heilman, a priest from the diocese of Madison (Wisconsin), wondered about the ever increasing distance men are taking from forms of devotion (see here). He found an answer by observing rosary beads and noted that: "Most rosaries looked like female jewels or toys for children." He set about searching for a manly rosary and in the process made an extraordinary discovery. During the First World War, at the request of its own soldiers, the United States government provided a "rosary for combat" (service rosary). It was composed of brass marbles; sufficiently sturdy for use in extreme situations and with a decidedly virile appearance. It was accompanied by an image of the Madonna and by the Crucifix of the Forgiveness of Saint Pius X, linked to particular indulgences.

Father Heilman decided to reproduce and distribute this rosary again, with the express purpose of drawing men back to devotion. He replaced the Marian medal with the Miraculous Medal and added the Medal of St. Benedict. The result was a real "assault weapon" that no man would be ashamed to hold in his hand: robust, heavy, austere. He even sent 150 of these combat rosaries to the Vatican Swiss Guards. Here is the video in which the commander shows "the most effective weapon on the market" (see from the minute 20:20). Let's hope it is only the beginning of a clearly defined much needed pastoral care for boys, men, husbands and fathers.

This article is translated by Patricia Gooding-Williams and published here with permission from La Nuova Bussola Quotidiana.

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Tony Perkins Tony Perkins

Opinion,

Breath of fresh air: Dunkin’ Donuts insists on staying out of politics

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By Tony Perkins

May 23, 2019 (Family Research Council) — When shoppers are barraged with Converse's 11-year-old drag kid and Target is busy funneling money to an LGBT indoctrination factory, it's a relief to see that some companies refused to get caught up in radical politics. Over at Dunkin' Donuts, executives have decided to distinguish themselves another way: by staying neutral.

"We are not Starbucks," Dunkin' Brands Vice President Drayton Martin told a group over lunch at the International Trademark Association. "We aren't political." That'll come as a breath of fresh air to fans of the chain, who are sick and tired of being told that their conservative politics aren't welcome at a certain Seattle franchise. Of course, conservatives have known about Starbucks' ultra-liberal ties dating back to 2012, when then-CEO Howard Schultz told shareholders that redefining marriage really is "core to the Starbucks brand." The company went on to sign a string of legal briefs for LGBT causes, arguing at one point that customers who didn't like it could take their business elsewhere. Some did.

Others broke their Starbucks habit a few years ago when 2nd Vote released a list of more than three dozen companies who've been contributing to Planned Parenthood — either directly or through an employee matching gift program. After intense public pressure, some of the brands dropped their partnership: AT&T, Coca-Cola, Ford, Macy's, and Xerox. Starbucks, one of the most politically liberal companies on the market, refused.

"Great American brands distinguish themselves by creating exceptional products and putting customers first. Everything else is a distraction," expert Adam Johnson points out. Like us, he's watched the fall of household names like Kellogg'sNikeTargetGrubHubPenzey's SpicesLevi'sand others because they decided to focus on politics, not products. At a time when some CEOs seem more preoccupied with pushing their brand of morals than merchandise, we applaud companies like Dunkin' for making the choice to do business — not politics.

Published with permission from the Family Research Council.

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Jonathon Van Maren Jonathon Van Maren Follow Jonathon

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No, Canada’s abortion debate is far from ‘settled’

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By Jonathon Van Maren

May 23, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – Let’s run a little thought experiment.

Suppose I told you about a social and political issue so explosive that it brings the largest number of people each year to Parliament Hill to protest, with more than 10,000 gathering in Ottawa this year to express their discontent with the government while thousands more rallied in provincial capitals across the country.

Suppose I told you that Members of Parliament and Members of Provincial Parliament walked out of government buildings to tell the crowds that they would work hard to keep the issue alive inside the halls of power, and promised to continue fighting to see these concerns addressed.

Suppose I told you that this same issue animated the passions of so many Canadians that dozens of organizations across the country exist for the sole purpose of electing politicians to take action on that issue, to talk to and persuade Canadians on the issue, to assist men and women impacted by the issue in some ways.

Suppose I told you that the prime minister himself constantly brings the issue up, condemning organizations that disagree with his position on the issue, insisting that members of his party have to vote with his conscience on the issue, and reworking entire federal programs to target Canadians who do not hold his position on the issue.

Suppose I told you that in response to the growing number of politicians willing to speak out on the issue and the growing number of Canadians doing the same, those on the other side of the issue started up a counter-protest organization based on a dystopian TV show and playing dress-up, launching twelve chapters across Canada and recently attempting to swarm a politician they fanatically dislike.

Suppose I told you that each time the issue came up, newspaper columnists from both the Left, Right, and Center remind their readers that this issue is still unresolved, and that politicians have not only the right but a Court-mandated duty to pass legislation on that issue.

Now, does any of that sound like an issue that is “settled”? As you might have guessed, every example I cited is a real one, and the issue I am referring to is abortion. Yet, abortion activists and progressive politicians insist that this issue, which still has the capacity to animate the passions of Canadians like almost no other, is a “settled” one that will not be “revisited.” They say this, of course, while revisiting it and appearing quite unsettled about it.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and others of his ilk go as far as lying about the issue, insisting that the Supreme Court found a Charter right to abortion (it didn’t) and that Canada’s lack of laws on abortion is due the 1988 R v. Morgentaler decision (it isn’t), when in fact the Supreme Court directed Parliament to legislate on abortion, something it has yet to do. In fact, the abortion issue is by very definition an unsettled issue in Canadian politics, as Parliament has failed to fulfill the directive of the Supreme Court some 30 years on.

But we are entering federal election season again, which means we will be treated to several fresh rounds of doublespeak about abortion being a “settled issue” even as it simultaneously becomes an “election issue.” We will have to again endure the spectre of politicians promising not to reopen a debate they are quite literally having in that moment, and others insisting that “Canadians don’t want to talk about” something Canadians are talking about.

We will see some politicians act out of malice, others act out of cowardice, and most refuse to recognize that the reason Canadians are still talking about abortion 50 years after its decriminalization is because it is a horrifying act of violence against the youngest members of our human family, and that every advance in science, medical technology, and embryology has confirmed that further.

Abortion is not a settled issue now, and it never will be – because the questions surrounding how a society is to treat its children will always be with us.

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Peter Kwasniewski Peter Kwasniewski Follow Dr. Peter

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There’s no such thing as ‘self-image.’ Only the image of God

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By Dr. Peter Kwasniewski

May 23, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) — Is not “self-image” something we hear about all the time? Is it not what modern man seems to want most — a new self-image, a better one, handsomer, richer, or whatever quality is most prized? Billions of dollars are spent every year advertising and experimenting with new self-images, a problem only compounded by confusions in “sexual orientation” and “gender identity.”

But can there really be a self-image? Of course, one can form an “image of oneself,” in the sense of a conception of who or what one sees oneself to be, or of what one wishes to become. The rational creature cannot have itself as a model (you can’t imitate yourself!), but it can represent itself to itself — if not fully adequately, then at least in reference to aspects that catch attention.

What deserves to be denied is that there is, at rock bottom, a “self-image” in the sense of a complete idea of oneself within oneself that suffices as the map of one’s journey, the pattern of one’s destiny. The better acquainted a man is with himself, the more he stands humbly before an unknown abyss, looking up toward God who alone defines him. He says, with Socrates, “I know that I do not know”; he says, with St. Paul, “I judged not myself to know anything among you, but Jesus Christ, and Him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2), “I am not conscious to myself of anything” (1 Cor. 4:4).

To try to make or re-make oneself according to an image projected by oneself is to enter a house of distorting mirrors with no hope of finding an exit.

In reality, man is made to the image of God. I exist as the image of another, who is therefore more myself than I am. If I wish to be myself, I must become increasingly like Him; the image is only as real as its active imaging. If we would know ourselves, then, we must come to know God; if we would be ourselves, we must become like Him.

No one has expressed the abounding paradoxes of our condition better than Etienne Gilson:

If man is an image of God, the more like God he makes himself, the more he fulfils his own essence. Now God is the perfection of being, Who knows himself integrally, and loves himself totally. If man is fully to realise his virtualities and become integrally himself, he must become this perfect image of God: a love of God for God’s own sake. ... Whatever of amour propre [self-love] he retains, makes him to that extent different from that love of God which is God; and all love of self for the sake of self that he abandons, makes him, on the contrary, like to God. But thereby also it makes himself like to himself. As image, the less he resembles, the less he is himself; the more he resembles, the more he is himself; wherefore to be is, for him, to distinguish himself as little as possible [from his model], to love himself is to forget himself as much as possible.

Because this is the case, growth in spiritual being — esse spiritualis, as St. Thomas calls it — presupposes and demands alienation from or disintegration of the “self” we, or our world, have created.

Great masters of the spiritual life — among them Dionysius the Areopagite, Augustine, Bonaventure, the anonymous author of The Cloud of Unknowing, Denys the Carthusian, John of the Cross — understand the total transcendence and intimate immanence of God to entail a surprising result in one’s own identity: the more God is allowed to take over, the more one starts to lose (track of, hold of) oneself. The old self disintegrates, and a new self is forged in a crucible of mental emptiness and suffering, in which one can only mutter: “Who am I? What am I?”

As Augustine cries out, “O Lord, I am working hard in this field, and the field of my labors is my own self! I have become a problem to myself, like land which a farmer works only with difficulty and at the cost of much sweat” (Confessions 10.16).  And the eventual result, if one does not reject God’s grace, is the beginning of permanent self-transcendence, the foretaste of unconditional rapture in the beatific vision, when we see God face to face — and see ourselves for the first time, because we are seeing Him for the first time.

God wants the self as we (poorly) understand it to disintegrate; this is why he allows us trials and sufferings throughout our lives, repeated opportunities to lose our grip on “reality” in order to gain a deeper grip on the one reality that decisively matters. We have to be decentered in order to be recentered on Jesus, and this Jesus, whom St. Catherine of Siena did not hesitate to call “drunk” and “mad,” is altogether “eccentric”: as God, He receives all that He is from the Father, and as man, He looks only to the Father’s will. Christ is never folded back upon Himself, to unearth His identity from within His own essence; He is constituted as a Person by relation-to-another. He is anointed savior by His submission. He triumphs through self-surrender.

The Christian’s progressive decentering is inescapably painful; many who start on the path give up before they attain the hidden center where joy and peace are to be found, or settle for a self-induced “peace of mind” that is not the gift Jesus came to give us. Moreover, it is never as if the disciple definitively attains this new center — not in this life, for the disciple is not yet grown to his Master’s full stature (Jn. 13:16; Eph. 4:13). Rather, we are forever centering and decentering, drawn downward (or outward, as Augustine would say) with the gravity of fallen nature, drawn upward (and inward) by the levity of divine grace.

This very disorientation, this unpredictable and, at some level, unavoidable swirl of setback and progress, is part of the process of disintegration, blessed loss and gain.

The next time you are wondering: Why is life so difficult — on the material plane, the psychological, or the spiritual? Why so many challenges, misunderstandings, setbacks, contradictions, temptations, sicknesses — the whole panoply of life in a fallen world? Why so much confusion in the Church, so much corruption? The sins of the human race cause these troubles, and God knows that we will benefit from bearing our crosses, if we freely take them up. It all serves as a “severe mercy” to break down our sinful self-love, our inadequate self-image; it urges us to throw ourselves upon the Lord, to find ourselves in Him, to lose ourselves in His love, which is the only reality that can never fail, never disappoint, never run out.

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