Fr. Peter West

A Benedictine response to the Culture of Death

Fr. Peter West
By Fr. Peter West
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July 10, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) - On July 11, we celebrate the Memorial of Saint Benedict of Nursia – the founder and patron of Western Monasticism.  St. Benedict (ca. 480 to 547 AD) was born in the small village in the high mountains northeast of Rome. His parents sent him to study in Rome, but he fled the city to live in the remote area of Subiaco because he was disgusted by the decadence of his fellow students. 

Soon after, St. Benedict was discovered by a group of monks who asked him to be their leader. He reluctantly accepted, but his leadership was too rigorous for the lukewarm monks. They even tried to kill him by offering him a pitcher of poisoned wine; but as the story goes, when he prayed over it, the pitcher miraculously shattered in his hands. St. Benedict left the “unruly” monks and went on to establish twelve other monasteries in the area before moving to Monte Cassino on a hilltop between Rome and Naples in 529 A.D.  There he destroyed a pagan temple dedicated to Apollo and built the monastery where he wrote his Rule and lived until his death. The Rule of St. Benedict is still used in many monasteries and convents today.

Pope Gregory the Great in his Dialogues presented St. Benedict as a “luminous star” who led humanity out of the “black night of history.”  St. Benedict lived in a time when the Roman Empire had collapsed.  Civilization was in ruins. It is said that the Benedictine monks brought civilization to Europe through “the cross, the book and the plow.”  Benedictine monks built monasteries where learning and ancient manuscripts were preserved for the ages. What we think of as the Christian culture of Europe is very much indebted to these monks whose monasteries were centers of piety and learning in medieval times.

In our times we might be able to identify with a civilization in ruins, or at least a civilization that appears to be hurtling toward ruin. Many, including and perhaps especially such Catholics as Melinda Gates, have abandoned the Christian faith and culture that St. Benedict was so essential to spreading, and human life is under attack in unprecedented ways. In these times, we need to call on St. Benedict’s intercession and ask for his intercession to point us out of the darkness of the culture of death and help us reform society.

Pope John Paul II said that St. Benedict’s vision for the reform of society included three main ideas: the value of the individual, as a person; the dignity of work, understood as service of God and brothers; and the necessity of contemplation, that is of prayer: having understood that God is the Absolute, and we live in the Absolute, the soul of everything must be prayer: “Ut in omnibus glorificetur Deus.” [That in all things God may be glorified.] 

The challenges are great. Europe is dying in large part because it has abandoned the Christian culture on which it was founded and has embraced a neo-pagan ideology.  Fewer and fewer Europeans are having children. Even worse, Europeans are trying to spread their anti-natalist ideology around the world. 

Case in point: a summit will be held in London today sponsored by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, who are announcing a massive project to spread contraception in the developing world.  It is clear that while Melinda Gates has called her campaign “No Controversy,” many other countries, especially Catholic and Islamic countries, think her campaign is very controversial. 

Many Muslims, like many Christians in the developing world, justly see population control as a new form of imperialism. Indeed, early in the population control movement, before the destructive ideology was wrapped in the language of “reproductive health” and “sustainability,” population control advocates were much more open about their aims. In 1929, British atheist philosopher Bertrand Russell wrote in his book Marriage and Morals: “It cannot be expected that the most powerful military nations will sit still while other nations reverse the balance of power by the mere process of breeding.”

There are too many examples of such blatant eugenic imperialism to list here, although now the same practice is ironically cloaked in the more deceptive language of “justice” and “women’s health.”

In the face of such challenges, we need to embrace the Benedictine motto Ora et Labora [Pray and Work] as we seek to restore that a Christian civilization of life and love.

St. Benedict wrote in his Rule “Whenever you begin any good work you should first of all make a most pressing appeal to bring it to perfection.”  He said that nothing should be preferred to Opus Dei [The Work of God], which is what he called the Liturgy of the Hours or the Divine Office. 
Both prayer and work are essential in rebuilding Christian culture and overcoming the culture of death. 

The Founder of Human Life International was Father Paul Marx, O.S.B. – a Benedictine monk who also was called to evangelize. As both a scientist and a man of faith he pointed out, even at a time when many clergy were in open rebellion against Humanae Vitae, that a contraceptive mentality inevitably leads to abortion and other assaults on life.

Fr. Marx in his 1993 book The Warehouse Priest laid out the case for supporting the Holy Father’s prophetic encyclical, saying that the Church must:

consistently proclaim that abortion is the fruit of contraception, that foresight contraception often leads to hindsight abortion, and that massive contraception has caused increasing abortion worldwide. Having visited and studied eighty-five countries, I challenge any bishop, priest, professor, or scientist to show me the contrary. Abortion is the end point of the abuse of sex, which begins with the unleashing of the sexual urge by contraception. (Page 262)

In 2004, Father Marx said that euthanasia is now following abortion just as surely as the latter followed contraception: “If you can be killed before birth, why not after?”  Noting that pro-lifers have been dismissed as foolish for making those claims, he continued: “It becomes more evident every day that you’re right… Europe is dying out. The United States is growing only because of immigration.”

Ora et Labora. We have to continue to pray as if everything depended on God and work as if everything depended on us. Melinda Gates’ new eugenics campaign is a challenge to all of us, we must spend time in prayer and allow Him to form our hearts and minds, so that we may think and respond in accordance with His will.

St. Benedict, pray for the conversion of those who have rejected their faith and are working to promote a culture of death.  You destroyed the Temple of Apollo and built the magnificent monastery of Monte Cassino. Help us to follow your example of work and prayer. Pray that the defenders of life and family will be successful in our mission to defeat the culture of death and build a culture of life!

Father Peter West is vice president for missions of Human Life International, the world’s largest international pro-life organization.

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Indiana Gov. Mike Pence signs the state's Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
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Indiana faces backlash as it becomes 20th state to protect religious liberty

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By Ben Johnson

INDIANAPOLIS, IN, March 27, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) – On Thursday, Indiana became the 20th state to prevent the government from forcing people of faith to violate their religious beliefs in business or the public square.

Gov. Mike Pence signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (SB 101) into law, saying the freedom of religion is a preeminent American value.

“The Constitution of the United States and the Indiana Constitution both provide strong recognition of the freedom of religion, but today, many people of faith feel their religious liberty is under attack by government action,” Pence said.

Gov. Pence, a possible dark horse candidate for president in 2016, cited court cases brought by religious organizations and employers, including Catholic universities, against the HHS mandate. “One need look no further than the recent litigation concerning the Affordable Care Act. A private business and our own University of Notre Dame had to file lawsuits challenging provisions that required them to offer insurance coverage in violation of their religious views.”

The new law could also prevent Christian business owners from being compelled to bake a cake or take photographs of a same-sex "marriage" ceremony, if doing so violates their faith. In recent years, business owners have seen an increased level of prosecution for denying such services, despite their religious and moral beliefs.

The state's pro-life organization applauded Pence for his stance. "Indiana's pro-life community is grateful to Gov. Mike Pence for signing the Religious Freedom Restoration Act into law,” said Indiana Right to Life's president and CEO Mike Fichter. “This bill will give pro-lifers a necessary legal recourse if they are pressured to support abortion against their deeply-held religious beliefs.”

“RFRA is an important bill to protect the religious freedom of Hoosiers who believe the right to life comes from God, not government,” he said.

The state RFRA is based on the federal bill introduced by Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-NY, and signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1993. The Supreme Court cited the federal law when it ruled that Hobby Lobby had the right to refuse to fund abortion-inducing drugs, if doing so violated its owners' sincerely held religious beliefs.

In signing the measure – similar to the one Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed – Pence and the state of Indiana have faced a torrent of venom from opponents of the bill, who claim it grants a “right to discriminate” and raises the spectre of segregation.

"They've basically said, as long as your religion tells you to, it's OK to discriminate against people," said Sarah Warbelow, legal director of the Human Rights Campaign, a national homosexual pressure group.

The Disciples of Christ, a liberal Protestant denomination based in the state capital, has said it will move its 2017 annual convention if the RFRA became state law. The NCAA warned the bill's adoption “might affect future events” in the Hoosier state.

Pence denied such concerns, saying, "This bill is not about discrimination, and if I thought it legalized discrimination in any way I would've vetoed it."

The bill's supporters say that, under the Obama administration, it is Christians who are most likely to suffer discrimination.

"Originally RFRA laws were intended to protect small religious groups from undue burdens on practicing their faith in public life,” said Mark Tooley, president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy. “It was not imagined there would come a day when laws might seek to jail or financially destroy nuns, rabbis or Christian camp counselors who prefer to abstain from the next wave of sexual and gender experimentation. And there's always a next wave.”

The bill's supporters note that it does not end the government's right to coerce people of faith into violating their conscience in every situation. However, it requires that doing so has to serve a compelling government interest and the government must use the least restrictive means possible. “There will be times when a state or federal government can show it has a compelling reason for burdening religious expression – to ensure public safety, for instance,” said Sarah Torre, an expert at the Heritage Foundation. “But Religious Freedom Restoration Acts set a high bar for the government to meet in order to restrict religious freedom.”

Restricting the ability of government to interfere in people's private decisions, especially their religious decisions, is the very purpose of the Constitution, its supporters say.

"Religious freedom is the cornerstone of all liberty for all people,” Tooley said. “Deny or reduce it, and there are no ultimate limits on the state's power to coerce."

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Fight pornography. Beat pornography. And join the ranks of those who support their fellow men and women still fighting.
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Porn is transforming our men from protectors into predators. Fight back.

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By Jonathon van Maren

Since I’ve gotten involved in anti-pornography work, I’ve met countless men who struggle, fight, or have beaten pornography. Each person seems to deal with the guilt and shame that accompanies porn use in a different way—some deny that it’s “all that bad,” others pretend that they could “stop whenever they want,” many insist that “everyone is doing it,” and most, when pressed, admit to a deep sense of self-loathing.

One worry surfaces often in conversation: What do my past or current struggles with pornography say about me as a man? Can I ever move past this and have a meaningful and fulfilling relationship?

I want to address this question just briefly, since I’ve encountered it so many times.

First, however, I’ve written before how I at times dislike the language of “struggling” with pornography or pornography “addiction,” not because they aren’t accurate but because too often they are used as an excuse rather than an explanation. It is true, many do in fact “struggle” with what can legitimately be considered an addiction, but when this language is used to describe an interminable battle with no end (and I’ve met dozens of men for whom this is the case), then I prefer we use terminology like “fighting my porn habit.” A semantic debate, certainly, but one I think is important. We need to stop struggling with porn and start fighting it.

Secondly, pornography does do devastating things to one’s sense of masculinity. We know this. Pornography enslaves men by the millions, perverting their role as protector and defender of the more vulnerable and turning them into sexual cannibals, consuming those they see on-screen to satisfy their sexual appetites.

What often starts as mere curiosity or an accidental encounter can turn into something that invades the mind and twists even the most basic attractions. I’ve met porn users who can’t believe the types of things they want to watch. They haven’t simply been using porn. Porn has actively reshaped them into something they don’t recognize and don’t like. 

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Porn is this generation’s great assault on masculinity and the role of men in society. It is essential that we win this battle for the sake of society’s survival. Contrary to what the gender-bending and family-morphing progressive elites claim, good husbands and good fathers and good church leaders are necessary for a healthy society. But pornography is destroying marriages, creating distant and disconnected fathers, and, metaphoricaclly castrating men, hindering their ability and desire to make a positive difference in the society around us.

So, with this sobering set of facts in mind let’s return to the question: what do pornography struggles, past and present, say about a man?

The proper way to respond is with everything that is good about masculinity. We have to fight pornography as men have fought countless evils throughout the ages. We need to fight pornography to protect women, and wives, and children, and our society at large. This is how pornography threatens society, by castrating men, and turning them from protectors into predators. Rooting out the evil in our own lives allows us to better fulfill the role we are called to perform in the lives of others. Battling our own demons enables us to battle the wider cultural demons. Every day without porn is another bit of virtue built. Virtue is not something you’re born with. Virtues are habits that you build. And one day without porn is the first step towards the virtue of being porn-free.

Many men ask me if men who have had past porn addictions are cut out for being in a relationship or working in the pro-life movement or in other areas where we are called to protect and defend the weak and vulnerable. And the answer to that is an unequivocal yes. Our society needs men who know what it means to fight battles and win. Our society needs men who can say that they fought porn and they beat porn, because their families and their friends were too important to risk. Our society needs men who rose to the challenge that the evils of their generation threw at them, and became better men as the result. And our society needs men who can help their friends and their sons and those around them fight the plague of pornography and free themselves from it, too—and who can understand better and offer encouragement more relevant than someone who has fought and been freed themselves?

So the answer to men is yes. Fight pornography. Beat pornography. And join the ranks of those who support their fellow men and women still fighting. Lend them support and encouragement. We cannot change the fact that porn has left an enormous path of destruction in its wake. But we can change the fact that too many people aren’t fighting it. We can change our own involvement. And we can rise to the challenge and face this threat to masculinity with all that is good about masculinity.

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Red Alert!

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By John-Henry Westen

I don’t like having to do this, but we have always found it best to be totally upfront with our readers: our Spring fundraising campaign is now worrying us! 

You see, with just 6 days remaining, we have only raised 30% of our goal, with $125,000 still left to raise. That is a long ways to go yet.

We have no choice but to reach our minimum goal of $175,000 if we are going to be able to continue serving the 5+ million readers who rely on us every month for investigative and groundbreaking news reports on life, faith and family issues.

Every year, LifeSite readership continues to grow by leaps and bounds. This year, we are again experiencing record-breaking interest, with over 6 million people visiting our website last month alone!

This unprecedented growth in turn creates its own demand for increased staff and resources, as we struggle to serve these millions of new readers.

And especially keep this in mind. As many more people read LifeSite, our mission of bringing about cultural change gets boosted. Our ultimate goal has always been to educate and activate the public to take well-informed, needed actions.

Another upside to our huge growth in readers is that it should be that much easier to reach our goal. To put it simply: if each person who read this one email donated whatever they could (even just $10) we would easily surpass our goal! 

Today, I hope you will join the many heroes who keep this ship afloat, and enable us to proclaim the truth through our reporting to tens of millions of people every year!

Your donations to LifeSite cause major things to happen! We see that every day and it is very exciting. Please join with us in making a cultural impact with a donation of ANY AMOUNT right now. 

You can also donate by phone or mail. We would love to hear from you!

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