ROME (LifeSiteNews) — Seated on an Aer Lingus flight from Dublin to Rome in May 2018, I never dreamed that while covering that year’s Rome Life Forum that Pope Francis would compel me – a former gay man – to criticize him for telling a young man that “God made you gay.” I had no inkling that I would bump into future conservative Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, or that I would meet the daughter of a saint, or photograph a prelate soon to become world-famous, or – unbelievably – that I would accidentally portray to the world LifeSiteNews’ co-founder and Editor-in-Chief, John-Henry Westen, as one of the “Blues Brothers” and not get fired.
The 2018 Rome Life Forum was held at the prestigious Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas, better known as the Angelicum. One phenomenal talk followed another. All centered on the theme of “True and false conscience” and were offered by the likes of Cardinal Raymond Burke who declared Catholics must let Christ reign as King in face of ‘apostasy’ within Church, and Bishop Athanasius Schneider who exhorted, “Catholics are called to combat heresy inside Church.”
Professor Stéphane Mercier, a young academic who had recently been fired by the Catholic University of Louvain in Belgium for asking his students to consider arguments against abortion and gender ideology, urged all to “Defend truth even if ‘spineless shepherds’ won’t.”
Former Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, sat in on the opening session and never left.
None of us had any idea that he would reach hero status just a few weeks later by publishing his extraordinary testimony about Pope Francis’ refusal to answer the charge that he knew of Cardinal Theodore McCarrick’s sexual abuse and yet made McCarrick one of his principal agents in governing the Church.
At the end of the Rome Life Forum, Viganò stated, “I have been one of you, during these two days, listening attentively and certainly I have been struck by the great quality of bold intervention and the witnesses.”
“I can say that I found [in] those who come in particular from the Anglo-Saxon [world] – the United States, Australia, and Britain – a great desire to be witness of the truth that has been preached by the Church all along the centuries.”
I later wondered if the witness of the heroic pro-life activists from around the world at the Rome Life Forum had emboldened Archbishop Viganò to step forward to speak out about the prevarication at the highest levels of the prelature – including Pope Francis himself – covering up homosexual predation within its ranks.
Following the conclusion of the Rome Life Forum, there was no time to relax.
The forum’s participants joined about 5,000 others in the Piazza della Repubblica to march for life and an end to abortion, which had been legalized in Italy 40 years before.
I snapped hundreds of pictures of the impressive, joyous event. Along the way I was delighted to meet Gianna Emanuela Molla, daughter of St. Gianna Molla, who was carrying one end of a banner for an organization bearing her mother’s name: “St. Gianna Physician’s Guild; Reviving the Spiritual Heartbeat of America.”
A little later I noticed a group wearing sashes striped with the colors of the Italian flag was attracting quite a stir. I couldn’t understand a word that anyone was saying, but I thought I should take a picture of the woman who seemed to be the center of attention.
It wasn’t until 11 months ago, reading the results of Italy’s national election, that I realized I had come face-to-face with the country’s new conservative – and first woman – prime minister, Giorgia Meloni.
The first annual meeting and first conference of the John Paul II Academy for Human Life and the Family followed quickly on the heels of the March for Life. This lay-founded organization had been formed to continue the work of the original Pontifical Academy for Life founded by St. Pope John Paul II but gutted and radically changed by the Francis papacy.
Steve Jalsevac had been managing the livestream coverage of the talks using his iPhone mounted on a tripod at the front of the room. At one point Steve needed to leave and so asked me to man the livestreaming. I had never used a phone to livestream before, but after a short lesson from Steve, I thought I was good to go.
I was wrong.
As the next speaker took to the podium, I tapped a few screen buttons to begin the live video coverage. That was easy enough, but then I noticed something had gone incredibly wrong. To my horror, the phone had given the distinguished speaker a black fedora and sunglasses, making her appear like one of the “Blues Brothers.” I couldn’t believe my eyes. How could this be happening?
Steve was out of the room, so he couldn’t rescue me. I shot a panicked look at the only other seasoned LifeSiteNews journalist present, John-Henry Westen, pleading with my eyes for help.
To him the problem was obvious. His recent Jimmy Olsen hire had inadvertently hit a novel “filter” button on the phone, not only rendering the video in black & white but also outfitting the subjects with Blues Brothers garb. I had no idea such a thing was possible.
John-Henry swung the phone around to remedy the situation, and in so doing, LifeSiteNews fans around the world were treated to John-Henry as Jake and Elwood Blues’ long-lost brother.
I was relieved to see John-Henry smiling!
I am happy to report that five years later, I am still employed by LifeSiteNews. I didn’t get fired for this. Praise God.
The Rome Life Forum 2013 will take place at the A. Roma Hotel on October 31 and November 31, 2023. Speakers will include Cardinal Gerhard Müller, Bishop Joseph Strickland, Reggie Littlejohn, and John-Henry Westen among others. For more information about the two-day event and to buy tickets, please visit RomeLifeForum.com.