Stephanie Gray

A March for the victims — that excludes the victims?

Stephanie Gray
By Stephanie Gray

Note: Stephanie Gray is a co-founder and the executive director of the Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform.

November 30, 2010 ( - Imagine having a march against drinking and driving and telling survivors of such accidents they weren’t welcome because their disfigured bodies were too disturbing?  Or imagine having a march to ensure equal rights for Blacks, but telling African-Americans they may not participate?  On the contrary, in each case we’d place such victims front and centre.

It’s bewildering, then, that some pro-lifers argue—as several have to me recently—that pro-life gatherings, such as marches, should exclude images of the aborted pre-born.

Historically, marches were effective for campaigns like the Civil Rights Movement because the very people being victimized participated.  By their presence they were able to convey their humanity and equality to others. Often at these events they were attacked by racists, and media would capture photos and convey their inhumane treatment.

What makes pro-life marches different is that the very people being victimized, the pre-born, cannot participate.  Due to their age, the pre-born aren’t capable of holding placards conveying that they are human, the way civil rights activists held signs that said “I am a man.”  Pro-lifers, then, must stand in their stead.  We must tell their stories.  When we gather, we must show the public who we’re gathering for and what we’re gathering against—pictures do that.

Are the images disturbing?  Yes.  But it’s not the aborted children’s fault that their deaths were so gruesome.

Would born children encounter these images?  Likely.  But isn’t it more important that a march against killing save the lives of pre-born children rather than spare the feelings of born children?  And sometimes those bad feelings are exactly what one needs to feel in order to act.

Consider Hannah Taylor.  When she was five years old, she saw a disturbing reality: a homeless man eating out of a garbage can.  People did not complain that young Hannah was victimized by seeing such an injustice. On the contrary, they are inspired by her conviction to help the homeless through her Lady Bug Foundation—something she started when she was eight years old.

Something similar happened to young pro-life activist Lila Rose: “I first saw an image of an abortion when I was nine-years-old in an old book in my home. Being nine-years-old and looking at this ten-week-old child, I remember thinking, ‘How could anyone do this to a baby?’” Because of seeing the victim and the victimization she began to speak out against abortion.

And yet, some pro-lifers claim if pictures of the victims are present, they won’t attend a march.  Their lack of participation in a march is then blamed on the images, with some concluding the pictures are divisive because their presence drives people away.

But any effective social reform movement realizes it does not conform its campaign to the participants, or the public, but rather challenges the participants and the public to conform their lives to truth and justice.  It’s not a movement’s fault that some people refuse to be in the presence of victims.  The movement which stands for truth and justice must not be blamed for the cowardice of those who facilitate the cover up.

Lovers of truth unite.  Lovers of comfort divide.  Things eventually get uncomfortable, and if the idea of comfort reigns supreme, lovers of comfort will leave when comfort does as well.  But the pro-life message isn’t about making born people comfortable.  It’s about enabling pre-born people to keep living. 

As J.C. Ryle once said, “Never let us be guilty of sacrificing any portion of truth on the altar of peace.”  For when we do, it’s not real peace anyways—it’s a perversion of peace.

Pictures prevent society from having perverted peace about abortion, and force a debate into the open so there can be peace in the womb.  Pictures are also the evidence to convict people in a way slogans alone do not.  When we tell the culture to “Defend Life,” but do not give evidence for how the pre-born are lives worthy of defense, the public easily ignores the message.  When we tell the culture “Abortion Kills Children,” but do not give evidence of that reality, the public easily ignores the message. 

And the problem with the public ignoring the message is it’s not we who pay the price.  It’s the babies. 

For over forty years, more than 3 million pre-born children have been legally killed in Canada.  Shouldn’t our expression reflect this tragedy?  If we don’t tell the stories of the aborted pre-born, who will?

Consider how the pro-life movement incorporates the stories of post-abortive women.  It doesn’t merely state, “Abortion Hurts Women,” but rather it proves it with the testimonies of women who have been physically, emotionally, and spiritually wounded by abortion.  Would we ever censor the stories of post-abortive women?  Then why would we censor the stories of post-abortive children?  For if those who have participated in the victimization may have their stories told, all the more should we make room for the ones who are the primary victims.

How do we expect Canadians to include the pre-born as members of our society, if pro-lifers exclude them from our own marches?  How can we expect universities to make room for graphic images, if our own pro-life campaigns will not?  How can we expect society to put lives over feelings, if we ourselves put feelings over lives? 

So imagine a march, where amidst the slogans about life there is signage showing the wonder, dignity, and beauty of the pre-born child.  Imagine a march, where amidst the slogans about killing there is signage showing the dismemberment, decapitation, and disembowelment that is abortion.  Imagine a march, where amidst the slogans about women, there are those courageous souls who share their testimonies of pain and redemption.  That is a message which is holistic.  That is an approach which is evidence-based.  That is a march which will rock the culture.

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Cardinal George Pell Patrick Craine / LifeSiteNews
Andrew Guernsey

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Cardinal Pell bets against the odds: insists Pope Francis will strongly reaffirm Catholic tradition

Andrew Guernsey
By Andrew Guernsey


ROME, November 25, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) -- Contradicting the statements of some of the pope’s closest advisors, the Vatican’s financial chief Cardinal George Pell has declared that Pope Francis will re-assert and “clarify” longstanding Church teaching and discipline that prohibits Communion for the divorced and civilly remarried in public adultery without sacramental confession and amendment of life.

In a homily on Monday, Pell stressed the importance of fidelity to the pope, especially today as “we continue to look also to the successor of St. Peter as that guarantee of unity in doctrine and practice.”

Pell was offering Mass at the Basilica of San Clemente in Rome on the feast of Pope St. Clement I, notable in history for being one of the first popes to exert Roman papal primacy to correct the errors in the doctrine and abuses in discipline which other bishops were allowing.

Turning to address the issues at the Synod on the Family, Pell rebuked those who “wanted to say of the recent Synod, that the Church is confused and confusing in her teaching on the question of marriage,” and he insisted that the Church will always remain faithful to “Jesus’ own teaching about adultery and divorce” and “St. Paul’s teaching on the proper dispositions to receive communion.” Pell argues that the possibility of Communion for those in adultery is “not even mentioned in the Synod document.”

Pell asserted that Pope Francis is preparing “to clarify for the faithful what it means to follow the Lord…in His Church in our World.” He said, “We now await the Holy Father’s apostolic exhortation, which will express again the Church’s essential tradition and emphasize that the appeal to discernment and the internal forum can only be used to understand better God’s will as taught in the scriptures and by the magisterium and can never be used to disregard, distort or refute established Church teaching.”

STORY: Vatican Chief of Sacraments: No pope can change divine law on Communion

The final document of the synod talks about the “internal forum” in paragraphs 84-86, refers to private discussions between a parish priest and a member of the faithful, to educate and form their consciences and to determine the “possibility of fuller participation in the life of the Church,” based on their individual circumstances and Church teaching. The selective quoting of John Paul II’s Familiaris Consortio that omitted his statement ruling out the possibility of Communion for those in public adultery has given liberals hope that this “fuller participation” could include reception of Communion.

Pell’s prediction that the pope will side with the orthodox side of this controversy lends two explanations. On one reading, Pell is uncertain what the pope will do in his post-synodal exhortation, but he is using such firm language as a way of warning the pope that he must clearly uphold Church teaching and practice, or else he would risk falling into heresy at worst or grave negligence at best in upholding the unity of the Church.

On another reading, Pell may have inside information, even perhaps from the pope himself, that he will uphold Church teaching and practice on Communion for those in public adultery, that the pope’s regular confidants apparently do not have.

This hypothesis, however, is problematic in that just last week, Pope Francis suggested that Lutherans may “go forward” to receive Holy Communion, contrary to canon law, if they come to a decision on their own, which suggests agreement with the reformers’ line of argument about “conscience.” And earlier last month, the pope granted an interview to his friend Eugenio Scalfari, who quoted the pope as promising to allow those in adultery back to Communion without amendment of life, even though the Vatican refused to confirm the authenticity of the quote since Scalfari does not use notes.

If Pell actually knew for certain what the pope would do, it would also seem to put Pell’s knowledge above that of Cardinal Robert Sarah, who in what could be a warning to Pope Francis, declared last week in no uncertain terms that “Not even a pope can dispense from such a divine law” as the prohibition of public adulterers from Holy Communion.

STORY: Papal confidant signals Pope Francis will allow Communion for the ‘remarried’

Several members of the pope’s inner circle have said publicly that the controversial paragraphs 84-86 of the Synod final document have opened the door for the Holy Father to allow Communion in these cases if he so decides. Fr. Antonio Spadaro, SJ, a close friend of Pope Francis and the editor of La Civita Catholica, a prominent Jesuit journal in Rome reviewed by the Vatican Secretariat of State, wrote this week that the internal forum solution for the divorced in adultery is a viable one:

The Ordinary Synod has thus laid the bases for access to the sacraments [for the divorced and civilly remarried], opening a door that had remained closed in the preceding Synod. It was not even possible, one year ago, to find a clear majority with reference to the debate on this topic, but that is what happened in 2015. We are therefore entitled to speak of a new step.

Spadaro’s predictions and interpretation of the Synod are consistent with the public statements of liberal prelates, some of whom are close confidantes to Pope Francis, including Cardinal Schönborn, Cardinal Wuerl, Cardinal Kasper, Cardinal Nichols, and the head of the Jesuit order, Fr. Nicolás. Fr. Nicolás, in particular, first confirmed that there would be an apostolic exhortation of the pope, and said of Communion for those in public adultery:

The Pope’s recommendation is not to make theories, such as not lumping the divorced and remarried together, because priests have to make a judgment on a case by case and see the situation, the circumstances, what happens, and depending on this decision one thing or the other. There are no general theories which translate into an iron discipline required at all. The fruit of discernment means that you study each case and try to find merciful ways out.

Although in the best analysis, Pell’s prediction about what Pope Francis may do in his post-synodal apostolic exhortation remains just that-- a prediction—he is drawing a line in the sand that if the pope chooses to cross, would bring the barque of Peter into uncharted waters, where the danger of shipwreck is a very real threat.


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Paul Stark

A pro-life conversation guide for the holidays

Paul Stark
By Paul Stark

November 25, 2015 (NationalRighttoLifeNews) -- The holiday dinner table offers a natural forum for congenial (hopefully!) conversation about current events and issues. Defenders of unborn human life should be prepared to take advantage of opportunities when they arise. Here are some suggestions to help you effectively discuss abortion with family members and friends who may not share the pro-life view.

(1) Know how to clarify the issue

When faced with an argument or reason for abortion, ask yourself whether it works to justify killing obvious examples of rights-bearing human beings, such as newborn babies, toddlers, teenagers and adults. If not, it assumes that the being killed by abortion, the unborn (i.e., the human embryo or “fetus”), is not an intrinsically valuable human being, like toddlers and teenagers—that is, it simply assumes the very conclusion it must defend.

For example, a woman should not have a “right to choose” to drown her toddler in the bathtub. The question at hand is whether the unborn, like a toddler, deserves full moral respect and ought not be killed for the convenience or benefit of others. If so, killing the unborn by abortion, like killing a toddler for the same reasons, is a serious moral wrong.

(2) Know how to articulate the pro-life argument

The pro-life position is that elective abortion unjustly takes the life of an innocent human being. This position is supported by modern science (showing that what abortion kills is a human being, a member of our species) together with a foundational moral principle (the equal fundamental dignity and right to life of every member of the human family).

The science of embryology tells us that the unborn from conception is a distinct, living and whole human organism—a member of the species Homo sapiens, the same kind of being as each of us, only at a much earlier stage of development. This fact is uniformly affirmed by embryology textbooks and leading experts.

Morally, no relevant difference exists between human beings before and after birth. Unborn humans differ from older humans, such as newborns, in their size, level of development, environment and degree of dependency—remember the helpful acronym SLED—but none of those differences are significant in a way that would justify killing the former. For example, a five-year-old child lacks the physical and mental abilities of a 10-year-old, but she is no less valuable and deserving of respect and protection.

Each of us has a right to life by virtue of what (i.e., the kind of being) we are, rather than because of acquired characteristics or abilities that only some human beings have and others do not. So all human beings, including the unborn, are equal in having basic dignity and a right not to be killed without just cause.

(3) Know how to respond to common objections

Claims by abortion advocates about the number of women who died from illegal abortions are wildly overstated, as NARAL co-founder Dr. Bernard Nathanson frankly admitted. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 39 women died from illegal abortion in 1972, the year before Roe v. Wade, while 24 died from legal abortion (abortion had been legalized in some circumstances in some states). Maternal mortality improved in the decades preceding Roe as a result of advances in modern medicine having nothing to do with legal abortion.

If you cannot answer a challenge, don’t let it fluster you. Be honest and say you will get back to the challenger after thinking and reading more about the issue.

(4) Know facts about fetal development

In addition to knowing that the life of a human organism, a human being, begins at conception (see above), it is useful to know some details about the development of human beings in the womb. These facts bring home for many people the humanity of the unborn child. For example, the heart begins to beat about three weeks after conception, before many women even know they are pregnant. At about six weeks, brain waves can be detected. By 20 weeks, a wealth of evidence indicates that unborn children can experience excruciating pain.

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The stunning complexity of prenatal human development is “beyond any comprehension of any existing mathematics today,” says renowned medical imaging expert and mathematician Alexander Tsiaras.

(5) Know how abortion can hurt women

The health risks of abortion, both physical and psychological, are very well documented. Familiarize yourself with a few facts.

For example, many studies suggest that abortion can increase a woman’s risk of breast cancer. Moreover, while no one ultimately regrets not having an abortion, many, many (though of course not all) women now deeply regret their decision in favor of abortion. A 2011 meta-analysis published in the prestigious British Journal of Psychiatry—"the largest quantitative estimate of mental health risks associated with abortion available in the world literature”—found an 81 percent increased risk of mental health problems among women who have had abortions.

(6) Know about alternatives to abortion and compassionate support for women

Both motherhood and adoption are ethical, life-affirming options. Some 3,000 pro-life pregnancy care centers across the United States stand ready to help pregnant women in need. Many programs are available to help women and others deal with the aftermath of abortion.

(7) Be winsome

Pro-lifers must be kind, respectful, fair-minded and willing to listen and respond thoughtfully to those who disagree. Don’t call someone “pro-abortion” in conversation, since it is usually inconsistent with how he sees his position and can turn him off to productive dialogue. Show compassion toward pregnant women facing difficult circumstances and women who have undergone abortions.

(8) Ask questions

Instead of relying just on blunt assertions—and putting the burden of proof on yourself—ask strategic questions to poke holes in someone’s position and get him thinking. Make him defend his claims. For example, if he says a baby becomes a person after birth, ask how a mere trip through the birth canal, a shift in location, can change who/what someone is or whether or not she has a right to life. If a pro-choice advocate says he is personally opposed to abortion but thinks it should remain legal, ask why he is opposed; note that the reason for personal opposition (abortion kills a human being) is precisely the reason abortion should not be permitted under law. (I recommend the “tactical approach” developed by Greg Koukl and used in Ch. 9 of Scott Klusendorf’s The Case for Life.)

You probably won’t change someone’s mind on the spot. But you can have a friendly conversation and give him or her something to think about. That should be your goal.

Reprinted with permission from National Right to Life News

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Phil Lawler

Father Rosica on Islam: 180º from reality

Phil Lawler
By Phil Lawler

November 25, 2015 (CatholicCulture) -- "'Allahu akbar' was never a call to violence & destruction."

That astonishing quote comes from the Father Thomas Rosica, the English-language attaché of the Vatican press office, in response to the terrorist attacks in Paris.

What is “astonishing” about the statement? Simply that it is so clearly wrong, so blatantly at odds with the facts. Does Father Rosica expect his readers to forget the many times in recent years when we have heard those words, ”Allahu akbar,” invoked precisely as a celebration of violence and destruction?

Father Rosica’s statement is obviously false. And he knows it’s false, because in the blog post from which it is taken, he goes on to talk about the proper response to Islamic extremism. “Muslim leaders and moderate Muslims need to condemn acts of violence and terror,” he says, and on that we can all agree.

The danger confronting our world is Islamic terrorism. It obfuscates the issue to speak of terrorism in generic terms, as the Obama White House does. It muddies the waters to remark, in the context of the deaths in Paris, that all religious faiths have been tainted by violence. (Are you worried about Presbyterian terrorists?) Nor is it helpful to observe that most Muslims are peaceful. Of course the terrorists are a minority, but they are a very dangerous minority, and we cannot ignore their appeal. Why are so many Muslims tempted toward violence?

Even before asking that question, let alone resolving the answer, some people—like Father Rosica, like President Obama—seem determined to believe (or to pretend) that there is no link between Islam and terror. Is it a coincidence, then, that so many terrorists have recruited their troops from the ranks of Islamic zealots (perhaps the same sort of coincidence as the 80 consecutive years of bad weather that resulted in disappointing harvests in Russia under Communism)?

Apparently many people in the West are loath to link Islam with terrorists for fear of offending moderate Muslims. But any peace-loving Muslims should be as worried as we are by the prospect of Islamic terrorism—more worried, indeed, because their faith is being abused and disgraced. Responsible Muslim leaders should be anxious to join in any effort to root out the problem.

The reality is 180º removed from Father Rosica’s statement. “Allahu akbar” has become a call to violence and destruction. That’s a very large problem for the West, but it’s also a problem for moderate Islam. If some Muslims deny the problem—if they take offense when the problem is mentioned—then they’re part of the problem.

Reprinted with permission from Catholic Culture

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