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Vatican’s handling of Pope’s interview “another public-relations debacle”?

Steve Jalsevac

It has been a wild ride for the pro-life, pro-family movement since the release last Thursday of the lengthy Jesuit magazine interview with Pope Francis. Most of the world's secular media have taken the most self-serving interpretations of what the pope said. And those reports have just kept coming and coming.

One particular AP story was picked up by many news outlets. Friday morning I sat down to read a national newspaper, and had to endure the following disturbing, front page intro to that article which I knew millions of others were likely also reading:

"Pope Francis has warned that the Catholic Church’s moral structure might “fall like a house of cards” if it doesn’t balance its divisive rules about abortion, gays and contraception with the greater need to make the church a merciful, more welcoming place for all.

But his vision of what the church should be stands out, primarily because it contrasts so sharply with many of the priorities of his immediate predecessors, John Paul II and Benedict XVI. They were both intellectuals for whom doctrine was paramount, an orientation that guided the selection of a generation of bishops and cardinals around the globe" - blah, blah; blah.

Another AP story noted:

"But in blunt terms, in an interview published Thursday in 16 Jesuit journals worldwide, the new pope Francis called the church’s focus on abortion, marriage and contraception narrow and said it was driving people away. Now, the U.S. bishops face a challenge to rethink a strategy many considered essential for preserving the faith.

“I don’t see how the pope’s remarks can be interpreted in any other way than arguing that the church’s rhetoric on the so-called culture war issues needs to be toned down,” said John Green, a religion specialist at the University of Akron’s Bliss Institute of Applied Politics. “I think his language calls for less stridency on these issues.”'

And Time wrote:

"And he may have won over a whole new crowd who have grown disillusioned with organized religion, after he chastised the Roman Catholic Church for being "obsessed" with abortion, contraception, and gay marriage. Francis' remarks, published in 16 Jesuit journals worldwide, have rocked the Catholic world.

As recently as last year, Pope Benedict XVI called gay marriage a threat to "human dignity and the future of humanity itself." Compare that to Pope Francis, who said in Rio de Janeiro this summer, "If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?"

The article then went on to urge that the Pope's new way of thinking needs to be taken up by the Republican Party that should change its strong pro-life, pro-family platform.

That is just a tiny preview of numerous similar articles and television and radio reports and commentaries that were issued in response to the published Jesuit magazines' interview. They have been very distressing for many who have been giving their lives to the cause of life and family at this time when their struggles have become more difficult than ever.

Some in the orthodox Catholic and pro-life world really lost their cool over all this and unfortunately pounced on Pope Francis for what he said. Not good. We had to remove more than a few rather hysterical or nasty comments from imprudent individuals from under our two reports related to the interview.

Most however, took the pope at his word that he is obviously one with the Church's teachings. However, they had to spend some time trying to figure out exactly what Francis really said and meant by his not necessarily clear remarks as I mused about in my Friday blog.

As it turns out there appears to have been a major failure to communicate beforehand with certain Vatican parties so that quick clarifications would be immediately available when the inevitable flood of misrepresentations or highly selective quoting from the document would begin.

Well respected Catholic commentator Phil Lawler of Catholic Culture noted today that this was "Yet another Vatican PR debacle":

"Whether you think The Interview was a coup or a disaster—or something in between—we should all be able to agree that the Vatican’s handling of the Pope’s blockbuster was another public-relations debacle.

Ironically, the Pontifical Council for Social Communications was meeting in Rome when the news broke. Greg Erlandson, the publisher of Our Sunday Visitor, who was at the meeting, observes that Church leaders had no warning about the interview."

So, huge problems resulted, calling for major damage control.

There were some faithful Catholics who respectfully expressed sincere concerns, not about Pope Francis's fidelity, but rather the wisdom of his strategy in the interview. They tended to be roasted over the coals by fellow Catholics who tolerate zero questioning of anything any Pope would say.

In his National Catholic Register blog today, Pat Archbold refers to this troublesome intolerance.

In his article, "The Loyal Opposition" Archbold writes, "It seems to me that we have arrived at the point where mere disagreement on tactics is viewed as akin to treason."

Non-Catholic Peter LaBarbara of Americans for Truth about homosexuality also expressed concerns  about last week's published interview and the spontaneous press conference on the airplane coming back from Brazil. He wrote:

"...the great fear that I and many like-minded pro-family advocates share (including several Catholic friends with whom I’ve spoken) is that the pope is naive about the aggressive homosexualist agenda. Pro-”gay” ideologues are cunning and tactical — they are already using the pope’s words to advocate ideas that he surely condemns. While laying claim to the Gospel and noble concepts like tolerance and equality, they have brought corruption and destruction to many institutions, of which the Catholic Church is but one.

We understand that the pope is not embracing a change in Church doctrine, and that he truly wants to help homosexual strugglers come to God. But at the same time we recognize that words matter in this debate — indeed, they often drive it."

Lastly though, Fr. Frank Pavone, the Director of Priests for Life and one of the world's foremost pro-life evangelists and activists, was fortunate to be in Rome these past few days. He is there at the invitation of the Vatican to speak, as he wrote today, "about the Church's defense of the unborn child, and about the clear and strong position of the Church, expressed in many documents, that the right to life is our first right and the foundation and condition for all the others."

Fr. Pavone went on:

"I was asked by many alarmed and confused people these past few days about the reported comments of the Pope that the Church should not be "obsessed" with this issue, and that there should be "balance" and "context.

Is the pope saying we should talk less about abortion? Is he saying that the emphasis the Church has placed on this issue has been a mistaken emphasis?"

Amazingly, Fr. Pavone continued:

"When I first received these inquiries via emails and text messages, I was actually in the presence of Pope Francis, in the dining room of his residence.

So the news came to me with more than a little irony, and I immediately began to tell worried pro-life warriors that they had no reason to think that the Pope no longer wanted the Church to focus on abortion.

Pope Francis preaches on pro-life in a very integral way. He gives strong and clear messages that derive from the very substance of the Faith and a very broad vision of the demands that Faith places upon us. The conclusions and applications for the pro-life movement are undeniable, even if he does not use the specific words “pro-life movement” and “unborn.”

You can read the full letter from Fr. Pavone here where he expands on his comments.

But to finish I quote perhaps the key paragraph in Fr. Pavone's letter stating that the Holy Father's "approach radically strengthens the Church's opposition to abortion, because the Pope is saying not simply that it breaks the Fifth Commandment ("You shall not kill"), but that more fundamentally it breaks the First Commandment ("You shall not have other gods besides me") and that to disrespect life is to abandon God himself."

That is actually the direction that many in the pro-life and pro-family movements have been going for years, but something really got lost in the translation, so to speak, over this Jesuit magazine interview.

So, that is the latest that I am aware of. There will certainly be much more written and said about this issue in the days and weeks to come and hopefully there will be much more clarification for the world's media and the dissenting Catholics who have also been exploiting the Pope's off-the-cuff interviews with glee.

It will be extremely difficult to undo all the negatives that have been written, but given the massive popularity of this charismatic Pope, we might actually end up better off in the near future in this great battle of life vs Death, once all is said and done.



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Former Navy Seals and Marines depicted attempting to save US ambassador Stevens and his staff in Benghazi, Libya on Sept. 11, 2012 Frame from trailer of movie 13 Hours

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U.S. Marines, Navy Seals, Benghazi and the LifeSite mission

Steve Jalsevac Steve Jalsevac Follow Steve
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2015 and some previous years' John Cardinal O'Connor award recipients. From left: Jim Hughes, Wesley Smith, Dr. Angela Di Franchi, Fr. Frank Pavone, Kathy Di Fiore, Cynthia Perez, Janet Morana, Gemaine Wensley.
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Bonnie and Steve Jalsevac, Tom Monaghan, John-Henry and Diane Westen and Jim Hughes, who initially introduced John-Henry and Steve and their wives to the Legates.
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David Daleiden accepts Legatus’ Courage in the Marketplace Award from Legatus Founder Tom Monaghan

February 9, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) - That title likely seems very puzzling to you, but read on and it will be explained.

As John-Henry Westen noted in his recent blog post, we were both presented with the Cardinal John J. O’Connor Pro-Life Award by the Catholic CEOs and executives organization, Legatus, on January 29 at their annual Summit in Orlando, Florida.

Others were honored with various awards during the Summit with its gutsy, timely 2016 theme, “No More Comfortable Catholicism.” It was especially impressive to see that Legatus also gave special recognition to today’s most prominent pro-life hero, David Daleiden.

John-Henry and I, along with our wives, received the award from Legatus founder and president, Tom Monaghan. It was an emotional experience for all of us. After that, we gave separate remarks to the large luncheon crowd.

The Summit theme, and especially the powerful opening night speech by Professor Robert George, providentially set the stage for what we had already planned to say. George’s very frank talk, warning of the great challenges all faithful Christians must now face, and to not be ashamed to publicly be a Christian, was echoed by other speakers. By the time my turn came to speak, the Legates were prepared to hear the additional frankness that I had previously written.

The full text of that presentation is published below and in it, among other things, I explain the relevance of the movie 13 Hours and the sacrifices and efforts of the former Marines and Navy Seals in Benghazi that fateful September 11, 2012, to the work that our entire team does every day for LifeSite.

Both John-Henry and I were surprised by the many people who thanked us for our comments from that time onwards during the rest of the conference. Some especially appreciated the emphasis that we each placed or our wives’ support and sacrifices that have enabled us to do this work for all those years. Also, surprising was the apparently large percentage of Legates who had seen the movie 13 Hours and understood what I had tried to convey. That is a rough, violent, but also historically accurate movie to watch. Clearly, Legates are no wimps.

The exceptional quality and fidelity of the speakers we have heard at the four Legatus Summits we have attended so far have greatly impressed us. I would highly recommend membership in that organization for any Catholic CEO or business executive who meets the membership qualifications.


Steve Jalsevac remarks to Legatus Summit, January 29, 2016

I am grateful to you, Mr. Monaghan, and to the members of Legatus for this recognition of our work for the past 18 years.

I’ve looked at the long list of persons who received this award before and am humbled and greatly honored to be listed among those individuals who have all been my heroes.

Last year, I noticed at least two of the recipients were in tears when they were given the award. I understood. Most people don’t realize the intense dedication and personal sacrifices involved in pro-life work, the loneliness that often accompanies it and the many disappointments, criticisms, hatred, spiritual attacks and even betrayals that are endured. It’s often brutally difficult in today’s culture.

Few of the pro-life and pro-family leaders that I know look for personal recognition. And so, when they suddenly receive an award like this, it can be somewhat of a shock. We’re often exhausted, emotionally drained and not used to being recognized and thanked in such a big way. Hence the tears and emotional reactions.

The fact that you present these awards every year is a credit to Legatus. John-Henry and I have been impressed with the heart and the fidelity of Legatus members. You are a special group of men and women, and I sincerely mean that.

We saw that last year when two prominent invited speakers cancelled because of intimidation by gay activists, and yet, you had an all time record attendance. In that way, you proclaimed you are with the Church, you are with God, and you will not be intimidated. We loved reporting that on LifeSite.

Five of our board members are also Legatus members. Solid, faithful people who fit in well with our team of 25 staff in 6 nations. We are blessed to have them with us.

Both John-Henry and I feel we are accepting this award on behalf of our whole team. We call ourselves the lifeSite family. We also call our work a mission – a mission to especially serve all the pro-life and pro-family groups and leaders around the world, and a mission to, above all, serve the will of God.

LifeSite was started specifically to overcome the bias and shutdown of pro-life news by the mainstream media.  We have greatly succeeded in going around them directly to the public with over 30 million unique readers in the last year alone.

I must confess that I could not possibly have continued my pro-life work for over 35 years now, and done it with such intensity and endured the constant financial insecurity, the many trials, disappointments, intimidation lawsuits, threatening, vulgar emails and comments, and more, without the support of my wonderful wife Bonnie. Thank you my love. This award is even more for you than for me.  

Bonnie is my rock, keeping me steady and sane. She spends much time every day in prayer, prayer for me and for this work, and she prays for our 8 children and so far 16 grandchildren and for many others. She has had to have the patience of Job.

I must also thank John-Henry for being such an inspiring and capable partner in this humanly impossible task of managing and developing the world’s largest international news service on life, family and related culture issues. We are both different in many ways, but because of that, we have made a very effective team since LifeSite was founded in September, 1997.

The man who really got this started way back then, and who then did not even know “what an Internet was”, but just that he was told he had to have a website, is Jim Hughes. He was our boss when we were then working for Campaign Life Coalition in Canada (CLC). Jim asked me to set up a CLC website which soon became LifeSite. CLC fully funded LifeSite for its first several years until our size and expenses outgrew what they could afford.

So, we went out on our own, incorporated in the US and Canada, set up an office in Front Royal, Virginia and hired our own staff. Thank you Jim for the support, encouragement and the freedom that you gave us to do what we knew we had to do. LifeSite would never have existed without you.


13 Hours and the work of the LifeSite team

It seems almost impossible to explain to anyone what we do every day and all that is involved in running LifeSite. It’s an incredible, on-going experience.

Two weeks ago I saw the movie 13 Hours. It’s the true story of the attempt by 6 heroic ex Marines and Navy Seals working as security operators for the CIA in Benghazi, Libya, to save the lives of US ambassador Christopher Stevens and his staff in a nearby compound.

I have to warn you, it’s a rough, realistic movie. I was shaken by it.

The security resources for the ambassador were pathetic. When they first visited the ambassador’s compound, the six operators saw that the mission was frighteningly vulnerable to an attack from Islamist militants.

But, no one would believe them. Everyone shrugged it off and said things would be ok and that the operators were being too negative, too pessimistic, too sensationalist. However, they were being realistic, based on their years of experience and what they knew, what they could see as people whose job it was to know and see these things, and to warn people about what was likely to happen.

Well, you know the story. The ambassador’s compound was overrun by a large group of heavily armed Al Quida militants. The CIA operators were located a mile away and repeatedly ordered to "stand down" while they saw this certain disaster unfolding. Despite lacking sufficient numbers and firepower and any US military support, they eventually ignored the orders, risked their lives and did what needed to be done. However, it was too late for ambassador Stevens and an assistant. In the end, those six brave men, all with wives and children back home, saved the lives of 36 persons from both locations. Unfortunately, two of them were killed and one was severely wounded.

Now why did I tell you all this? Believe it or not, I was overcome by how, in so many ways, this felt like what we experience everyday doing the work of LifeSite. We are truly in a vicious daily war, but we don’t use military weapons or engage in violent fights or use profanities. Our weapons are prayer and truth.

However, we do confront terrible evils and violence, every day, all day. And these dramatic news stories often happen suddenly and must be quickly responded to so others can take critically needed action. We don't have anywhere near the resources that our opponents have, but we do battle anyway with what we have and often achieve spectacular results. Some of our team have become wounded by stress and exhaustion and have had to leave the work.

The LifeSite team also reports many heroic and inspiring actions of selfless life and family heroes – that most people would otherwise never hear about. Our experience gives us an unmistakable, often unique view of the implications of most of these developments that we desperately try to warn others about – just like those CIA operators in 13 Hours.

The killings and threats to life and to our Christian civilization now are far, far greater than what happened in Benghazi. We are daily observers of horrible obscenities, the killing of millions via abortion, euthanasia, infanticide - and the deliberate corruption of cultures to facilitate all of this - and of a worldwide, historically unprecedented demographic collapse.

We publish professionally researched and written reports documenting what is turning out to be the collapse of our civilization. But, just as those Marines and Navy Seals experienced, despite the strong evidence we always provide, many do not believe us, say we are "too negative", we need to be "more positive", we are "sensationalizing" things, we are being "disrespectful". How I wish that were all true.  We would gladly take that blame.

The reality is that we put our whole heart and soul, at considerable personal cost, into this mission to provide the truth about the most crucial developments in the world today. It is often the truth that no one else, or few, will take the risks to report or have the freedom to report.

Many think everything is fine. We’ll be ok. They do not want be disturbed by the articles on LifeSite or a talk such as we heard last night from Robert George.


The essential role of prayer

The LifeSite staff have a prayer conference call every morning. We all realize that our only real hope is in Jesus Christ and his Church. Anything can be overcome through union with Christ.  The greatest power in the world is belief in and fidelity to Christ. That keeps us going. Facing uncomfortable truths is obligatory, in our view, so that we can become armed with the truth needed to make the best decisions.

If you read Lifesite everyday for many years, like NFL great Matt Birk, who revealed that fact to John-Henry last week in Washington, you will be especially well informed and better able to determine what you must do.

We love our work. We love it because we believe it pleases God. We are doing what He inspires us to do. Who could wish for anything better, regardless of all the crosses that come with it? We embrace those crosses. That is how Christianity has always changed the world. We offer our very lives to this.

Thank you again for this award. It means a lot to us and it will encourage our LifeSite family members to continue to persevere.

God bless you all and thank you.



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John-Henry Westen giving his speech upon receiving the John Cardinal O'Connor Award.

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Editor's Note: This speech was given by LifeSiteNews Editor-in-Chief John-Henry Westen to members of Legatus on January 29, 2016 upon receiving the John Cardinal O'Connor Award.

February 2, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) -- Thank you Tom and all of Legatus for this incredible honor. I have often looked up to you Tom as a hero in the faith, so coming from you this means a great deal to me. This award, like so much in my life since my reversion to the Catholic faith in my early twenties is a testimony to the awesome generosity and mercy of God even to those who have abandoned Him.

You see, both Steve and I left the practice of faith in our youth. We were on the other side, even of the culture of life. He was a member of Zero Population Growth and I lived a life of hedonism. But God in His mercy brought us back to Himself and has since showered us with blessings, crosses too of course, but many blessings.

Jim Hughes and Steve Jalsevac have been mentors to me in the movement for life. In fact, they, like so many of the soldiers in the work for faith, life and family are the best people anyone could know.

What began as a humble tiny enterprise with a few recipients has grown into an international news service with 60 million page views from 30 million users last year alone. LifeSite, launched in 1997 by Campaign Life Coalition has since launched other organizations including the Rome Life Forum, Voice of the Family with SPUC, and just last September we began a Catholic Magazine called Faithful Insight. Copies of Faithful Insight are available here and we pray you will choose to subscribe to it and that it may be a blessing to you, your family and your friends.

For me none of this would be possible without my faithful wife Dianne.

  • she left her teaching career so she could home school our 8 children
  • she converted to the Catholic faith with our third child after the Bible convinced her of the truth of Christ’s True Presence in the Eucharist
  • she was open to life even after three miscarriages
  • she permits me to go and speak wherever I’m called all over the world and bears the long hours needed for this mission
  • she has never balked at the hardships that have come with it

I wasn’t kidding when I said I’ve been showered by blessings.

I had a saintly father who raised me, a mother who bore me and another mother who sacrificed herself to help raise me.

I have a heavenly Mother who through True Devotion showed me the way to Her Son. And an awesome God who nearly every day since my return to Him in 1993 has given Himself to me Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

What greater joy and blessing can there be anywhere than the life of Christ available even to the poorest of sinners?!!

Like Professor George said yesterday, there is no more comfortable Catholicism. In truth, there never has been. The devil has from the beginning of time gone about like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. But in our day he seems to have been unleashed like never before in history.

58 million innocent American children have been killed in their mother’s wombs on American soil in the last 43 years. Where has there been a holocaust like this before?

Yet there is an even greater tragedy in the loss of countless souls. Our Lady of Fatima warned in the early 1900s that more souls go to hell for sins of impurity than for any other reason. At no other time in human history has there been the impurity we see in our world today.

Yesterday Professor George reminded us that life is very short even if we live 90 or 100 years. Compared to eternity, life is but a blip of time and yet in that tiny time we must decide for all eternity to take either the wide and easy way that leads to perdition or the narrow road, strewn with crosses that brings us to eternal life.

Click "like" if you are PRO-LIFE!

You are amazing people dear Legates.

Some of you were soldiers, you are all warriors.

Some of you are bankers, you are all wise investors.

There is no greater battle, there is no sounder investment.

We must fight the greatest enemy mankind will ever know.

We must secure the only treasure that will ever satisfy.

Rise up you warriors for the soul of America. The battle for life and family is raging and you have been summoned to the fight.

Never, be ashamed of the Gospel, said Professor George yesterday.

Or as Christ Himself put it in Mark 8:38 “For he that shall be ashamed of me, and of my words, in this adulterous and sinful generation: the Son of man also will be ashamed of him, when he shall come in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”

And his promise in Matthew 10:32 “Every one therefore that shall confess me before men, I will also confess him before my Father who is in heaven.”

And later in Matthew 25:34: “Come ye blessed of my Father, possess the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”



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All black lives don’t matter: Congressional Black Caucus slams pro-life Congressman Sean Duffy

Ryan Bomberger Ryan Bomberger Follow Ryan
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January 14, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) -- Racism. It’s the go-to for liberals. Every institution of American life is touched by it according to the racialists. Well, almost every one. Somehow, the industry that kills, disproportionately, black human beings for a profit isn’t racist. It’s “reproductive justice”!

Enter Congressman Sean Duffy, a Republican from Wisconsin. On the House floor he gave a powerfully disturbing speech about the alarming levels of abortion in the black community and wondering why the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) has been silent.

But they haven’t been silent. They’ve been complicit.

The CBC, like every other black-led liberal “civil rights” group, is pro-abortion. The NAACP recently just lost a major free speech lawsuit, trying to sue The Radiance Foundation because we called them the “National Association for the Abortion of Colored People”. These groups actively partner with the nation’s largest abortion and aborted baby parts trafficking chain, Planned Parenthood. Last fall, the CBC sponsored a forum featuring the abortion giant. Keep in mind, abortion occurs up to 5 times more in the black community. In NYC, as Rep. Duffy alluded to, more black babies are aborted than born alive. For every 1,000 born alive, there are 1,180 are aborted. Where are all the cries that #BlackLivesMatter? Where are all the protests? Where are all the die-ins?

There are none. Because liberals don’t believe that all black lives matter. And the Congressional Black Caucus leads this hypocrisy.

The CBC says it’s the “conscience of the Congress”. This is a joke, right? This is the same body that accepted huge donations (over $250,000) annually from the tobacco industry even though the black community suffers higher rates of cancer. Despite health advocates decrying alcohol and tobacco companies disproportionately targeting urban areas with ads, the CBC had no problem taking this money. They even handed out free cigarettes at meetings.

The former chair of the CBC, Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, was given an award by Planned Parenthood for his “tireless work on behalf of millions of women…who faced the most aggressive attacks on women’s health and rights in a generation.” The aggressive attacks are on the most defenseless among us…especially the unarmed black lives in the womb. Cleaver used to be prolife before he ran for national office, as we’ve highlighted in our TooManyAborted.com abortion awareness campaigns. He was an advisor to Missouri Citizens for Life. Cleaver is yet another liberal black leader trading principle for personal political power.

The current chairman, pro-abortion Congressman G.K. Butterfield (D-NC), was unsurprisingly endorsed by Planned Parenthood during election season. He’s repeatedly voted against defunding Planned Parenthood, even after the horrific videos from the Center for Medical Progress revealed the organizations depraved practice of harvesting aborted babies’ organs and bodies. Congressman Butterfield just endorsed the most radically pro-abortion candidate in the Presidential race, Hillary Clinton. The Planned Parenthood-endorsed candidate was given the abortion chain’s highest award—the Margaret Sanger award. In her acceptance speech, Clinton praised the anti-human Planned Parenthood founder, saying: “I admire Margaret Sanger enormously. Her courage, her tenacity, her vision.”

Her vision? You mean her vision to use birth control to eliminate defectives? This is how Sanger described birth control in Chapter 18 of her book Women And The New Race: “Birth control itself, often denounced as a violation of natural law, is nothing more or less than the facilitation of the process of weeding out the unfit, of preventing the birth of defectives or of those who will become defective.”

Those words just resound with equality, don’t they?

According to leftist Politico (which didn’t bother to post the video of the speech), Rep. Butterfield found Rep. Duffy’s honest words “disgusting”. What’s disgusting is the racist propaganda that so many liberal black organizations like the CBC peddle. Everyone is racistEverything is racist. Well, except the one industry that kills for a living.

In the end, the CBC, NAACP, National Action Network, Rainbow PU$H Coalition, and the National Urban League don’t believe that we’re all created equal. Their undying support for Planned Parenthood, the leading killer of our future generation, is beyond reprehensible. The CBC wants the House to vote on a resolution to condemn Congressman Duffy’s words. The condemnation should be for those who enable the violent social injustice of abortion while pretending that somehow, they–not the slaughtered millions–are the victims.



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