John-Henry Westen

From the desk of the editor.

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This Monday marked the second time in a couple of weeks Pope Francis has raised the specter of Christian persecution in the West. Shutterstock

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Is Pope Francis hinting at Christian persecution in America?

John-Henry Westen John-Henry Westen Follow John-Henry

This Monday marked the second time in a couple of weeks Pope Francis has raised the specter of Christian persecution in the West. As you’ll read below, Pope Benedict XVI did the same even more blatantly at the conclusion of his pontificate.  The sense of this reality is in the air, we can all feel it; heck there’s even a new movie about it.  On July 18 the film PERSECUTED will open in theatres across America.

Monday June 30, 2014, Pope Francis spoke in his homily about Christian persecution, noting there are more martyrs today than ever before in Christianity’s 2,000 year history.  While news of those remarks made headlines everywhere, there was a line in the homily missed by most. It referenced a different kind of persecution, an ‘elegant’ forcing out, or ‘white glove’ persecution, which the Pope said, is “persecution” nonetheless.

To discover his meaning, we can turn to Francis’ speech to the International Congress on Religious Liberty from June 20, 2014.  In it he warned that “in the name of a false concept of tolerance,” those “who defend the truth about man and the ethical consequences” end up being persecuted.

He spoke of ‘religious liberty’ as a ‘fundamental right’ beyond mere ‘private worship’.  “It is freedom to live according to ethical principles consequent upon the truth found, be it privately or publicly,” he said.  Maintaining such liberty he said forms “a great challenge in the globalized world, where weak thought  -- which is like a sickness – also lowers the general ethical level.”

And how do we know that Francis’ concerns are specific to America? Well, that’s easy. The Vatican made sure to specify that in the first meeting between the Pope and President Obama back in March, the Pope raised concerns about “the exercise of the rights to religious freedom, life, and conscientious objection.”

Pope Benedict on Persecution

The statements echo those of Pope Benedict, who in an address to the Bishops of America in January of 2012 warned: “it is imperative that the entire Catholic community in the United States come to realize the grave threats to the Church’s public moral witness presented by a radical secularism which finds increasing expression in the political and cultural spheres.”

“The seriousness of these threats needs to be clearly appreciated at every level of ecclesial life,” said Pope Benedict XVI.

Like Pope Francis, Pope Benedict referenced the need for freedom of religion rather than mere freedom of worship. He also expressed grave concern about the denial of “the right of conscientious objection on the part of Catholic individuals and institutions with regard to cooperation in intrinsically evil practices.”

Pope Benedict’s assessment of the threats to America was ominous indeed. “To the extent that some current cultural trends contain elements that would curtail the proclamation of these truths,” he warned, “they represent a threat not just to Christian faith, but also to humanity itself and to the deepest truth about our being and ultimate vocation, our relationship to God.”

Solution for the Crisis

Benedict XVI’s solution for the crisis was to underscore the faith formation of the laity.

He spoke of the “need for an engaged, articulate and well-formed Catholic laity endowed with a strong critical sense vis-à-vis the dominant culture and with the courage to counter a reductive secularism which would delegitimize the Church’s participation in public debate about the issues which are determining the future of American society.” 

He added, “The preparation of committed lay leaders and the presentation of a convincing articulation of the Christian vision of man and society remain a primary task of the Church in your country.”

However, Pope Benedict did not leave it at the laity alone.  In another address he noted the coming persecution, stressing this time that bishops must lead the way in confronting it with courage.

The Bishop as the example

In January 2013, Pope Benedict spoke of what kind of a man a bishop should be.

“The courage to contradict the prevailing mindset is particularly urgent for a Bishop today,” he said. “He must be courageous.” Seeking the “approval of the prevailing wisdom,” added Benedict, “is not a criterion to which we submit.”

“Today’s regnant agnosticism has its own dogmas and is extremely intolerant regarding anything that would question it and the criteria it employs,” Pope Benedict warned. “The courage to stand firm in the truth is unavoidably demanded of those whom the Lord sends like sheep among wolves.”

This courage, the pope said, does not consist “in striking out or in acting aggressively” but in “in allowing oneself to be struck and to be steadfast before the principles of the prevalent way of thinking.”

“Inevitably,” the pope said, faithful bishops will be “beaten by those who live lives opposed to the Gospel, and then we can be grateful for having been judged worthy to share in the passion of Christ”.



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Pope Francis seems out of touch with the reality of modern Catholicism

John-Henry Westen John-Henry Westen Follow John-Henry

April 27, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation, Amoris Laetitia, his final word on the two Synods on the Family, shows a remarkable depth of knowledge about the struggles of families, their joys, and sorrows, their struggles and their triumphs. Much of the 250+ page document can be read with interest by couples discerning marriage to see what they are in for and garner a good amount of sage advice, especially psychological advice on how to have a happy and lasting union.

That same keen insight however seems lacking when Pope Francis assesses the modern Church. The exhortation gives evidence that the Pope is misinformed about the interior life of parishes.  While getting very detailed information on the realities of family life, the Pope proffered what seems like pure fantasy as he suggested that when presenting marriage, pastors often do so with “an almost exclusive insistence on the duty of procreation,” overshadowing love, mutual assistance and unity.  

As the countless Catholic couples in Catholic marriage prep classes over the last 40 years will attest, the opposite is true. The duty of procreation is given a nod if mentioned at all. You’d never guess that procreation is the primary end of marriage as the Church actually teaches.

It is almost as if the Pope seems to be envisioning the Church today as if it were the liberal perception of 1950s Catholicism.  As New York Times columnist Ross Douthat mentioned in a conference speech the other day: “The idea that there is this glorious future church waiting to be born as long as we get rid of the dead hand of 1950s Catholicism that the pope seems to perceive everywhere he looks, is nuts! It’s just nuts. That’s not where Catholicism in the West is right now.”

In another example from the exhortation, Pope Francis claims the Church has failed to encourage an openness to grace and is simply “stressing doctrinal, bioethical and moral issues,” as if that would be “providing sufficient support to families, strengthening the marriage bond and giving meaning to marital life.”  Once again, the couples in marriage prep and those in most parishes would wonder how they totally missed this supposed stress on doctrinal, bioethical, or moral issues.

It is reminiscent of the first year of his papacy when Pope Francis suggested that Catholic clergy were over-focused on “abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods,” causing many to wonder, as did Santa Rosa Bishop Robert Vasa, where exactly those preachers obsessed on those issues might be hiding.  Vasa suggested rather that the “vast majority” never talk about those matters.  Francis’ suggestion was a marked contrast to Pope St. John Paul II’s admonition to propose those same truths “constantly and courageously” (Evangelium Vitae 82).

“We also find it hard to make room for the consciences of the faithful,” says the Pope in Amoris Laetitiae, “who very often respond as best they can to the Gospel amid their limitations, and are capable of carrying out their own discernment in complex situations.” In the exhortation the Pope also repeats his stern warning from his 2013 Gospel of Joy, that priests are not to treat the confessional as “a torture chamber” or reserve Holy Communion as “a prize for the perfect.”

If such a form of Catholicism ever existed among the majority of priests, it is long dead.  I’m sure there are some such priests alive today, but they are the tiniest minority. The pendulum has swung so far to the opposite extreme, that in the vast majority priests say hardly anything about the duty of procreation in marriage, and we’ve had virtual silence from most pulpits on abortion, contraception, and homosexuality.  

When is the last time you saw any priest anywhere denying someone Holy Communion for not being perfect? If you have heard something of it, it was so rare as to make the national news.  For crying out loud, what part of 1950s Catholicism can remain alive if Catholic abortion-pushers like Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden are not denied Communion but rather invited to give talks at the Vatican!?



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Upcoming Sony film RISEN promotes belief in the resurrection of Christ

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February 3, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – Set to open on 2,700 screens across North America on February 19, Risen, starring Joseph Fiennes of Shakespeare in Love fame, begins where Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ concluded: the crucifixion. Seen through the eyes of Clavius, an ambitious Roman tribune (Fiennes) charged with guarding the body of the crucified Jesus of Nazareth, the story is told from the vantage point of an unbeliever on a desperate mission to crush the "rumor" of the Messiah's resurrection.

The Sony Pictures film is reminiscent of the 1985 film The Fourth Wise Man, starring Martin Sheen in that the ever so familiar events are retold from a fresh perspective, making the narrative all the more convincing. Rich Peluso, senior vice president of AFFIRM Films, a division of Sony Pictures Entertainment, spoke of it as the "intersection of Scripture and historical fiction," which allows for a "refreshing and exciting way to relive this story that I know and love so well with different eyes."

Peluso, who after working 15 years in Christian music joined Sony to "utilize corporate worldly resources to tell stories that point to Jesus," told LifeSiteNews in an interview last week that Clavius is a composite character of many who must have taken the news of the resurrection back to Rome.

How is it, said Peluso, that the "dominant empire in the world, focused on crushing Christianity, gets flipped in a number of generations into a Christian empire?" Obviously, the truth of Christ's resurrection witnessed by the Jews and Romans had a transformative effect.

Peluso said that Risen has had incredibly positive feedback from the Christian leaders who screened the film.

The epic production has a realistic feel and a compelling story. The biblical violence is not nearly as severe as that of Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ. While the portrayal of Jesus doesn't equal Jim Caviezel's masterwork, the resurrected Jesus has only a very small part in Risen, as the focus is on Clavius's journey to seeing and believing. Risen's presentation will assist many who don't see Him to come to believe in Christ and His Resurrection.



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

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The battle for life and family is raging and you have been summoned to the fight

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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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Vatican’s ‘climate change’ light show skipped the most endangered species of all – the unborn child

John-Henry Westen John-Henry Westen Follow John-Henry

December 8, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) – I just watched the rather spectacular light show at the Vatican featuring some of the most dazzling graphics imaginable broadcast onto the façade and dome of St. Peter’s Basilica.  It’s hard to criticize something with so much artistry and beauty. It was a parade of the most endangered species and habitats on the planet in bright color and an impressive sound track to accompany it.

One of the big problems, of course, is that it’s an inappropriate venue for such a show. Just as you wouldn’t store coloring books in the tabernacle or use a chalice to drink your coffee, the façade of a Church consecrated to the worship of God is not the place for a – albeit beautiful – work of political advocacy.

Even if we ignore the difficulty of mixing the sacred with the profane and we turn to the message itself, how could the Catholic Church countenance a display of the world’s endangered animals and habitats and fail to include the most endangered of all – the unborn child?  The habitat of the womb, which was revered as a sacred place of nourishment and care, has become one of the most deadly places on the planet. Wanton dismemberment of innocent human beings takes place by the tens of millions around the globe each year.

STORY: Vatican, World Bank partner to launch Year of Mercy with St. Peter’s ‘climate change’ light show

But those endangered lives, and that habitat, does not fit within the agenda of the Vatican’s partners in the climate change push.  The World Bank, the major financial backer of the venture, is actually on the other side, pushing for the extinction of the right to life for unborn children and to make the habitat of the womb forever hostile to the inviolable protection for God’s children being knit together in the wombs of their mothers.

As the Year of Mercy launches with this show, it makes me wonder if we’re testing God’s mercy rather than celebrating it.



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John-Henry Westen

John-Henry is the co-founder and editor-in-chief of LifeSiteNews.com. He and his wife Dianne and their eight children live in the Ottawa Valley in Ontario, Canada.

He has spoken at conferences and retreats, and appeared on radio and television throughout North America, Europe and Asia. John-Henry founded the Rome Life Forum an annual strategy meeting for pro-life leaders worldwide. He co-founded Voice of the Family and serves on the executive of the Canadian National March for Life Committee, and the annual National Pro-Life Youth Conference.  

He is a consultant to Canada’s largest pro-life organization Campaign Life Coalition, and serves on the executive of the Ontario branch of the organization.  He has run three times for political office in the province of Ontario representing the Family Coalition Party.  

John-Henry earned an MA from the University of Toronto in School and Child Clinical Psychology and an Honours BA from York University in Psychology.

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