Hilary White, Rome Correspondent

A strange grief: Losing Pope Benedict XVI

Hilary White, Rome Correspondent
Hilary White, Rome Correspondent
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ROME, February 14, 2013, (LifeSiteNews.com) – If our readers will forgive the self-indulgence, I thought I would talk frankly about my feelings, for a change, since I suspect that I am not alone in them. There have been few newsworthy events of the last ten years over which I have felt more at a loss than Pope Benedict’s announcement that he will renounce the papal throne at the end of the month. Catholics all over the world were as stunned and speechless as were, reportedly, the small group of cardinals to whom he made his brief announcement on Monday morning. 

And, as the world’s news cycle turns back to its daily amusements, there are some of us, perhaps many, who are left as though beached and stranded by this momentous and unprecedented tidal shift. In the last few days, I have found myself among those still grappling with the implications. One of the rules by which we understood the world, or at least the Church that makes up much of our personal world, seems to have been broken. Popes do not resign. There can be no such thing as an ex-pope.

After a few days of putting a brave face on things, trickles of writing, mostly from ‘bloggers, who don’t mind letting the world in, are expressing our shock and dismay, sadness and even anger. Pat Archbold wrote in the Catholic Register, “Orthodoxy aside, there is one thing and one thing only that I would demand from our new pontiff. Holy Father, when you die, you must die as Pope.”

“So my advice to the future Pope is simple. Make it clear early and often that as long as your are able to blink instructions in Morse code, you will not be leaving the Papacy by any means other than [a] sarcophagus. If Popes do not leave town in a coffin, they will eventually be driven out on a rail.”

Since Monday, I have struggled even to understand my own feelings. These have ranged, honestly, from shock to a kind of dread not only at the ominous question of what happens now, what is coming next, but at the very great strangeness of breaking of this ancient precedent. How can it be right? And why now, when the world seems to be sinking into an unimaginable darkness?

Today I put some of these questions to a cleric who has been in Rome and around Vatican circles for many years. He said that, though they would not dare to breathe a word of criticism, many inside are also feeling a gamut of emotions, not restricted to shock and bewilderment but also grief and even anger. In frank and pastoral terms, my wise “source inside” assured me that I and people like me are not over-reacting or “over-thinking”. And that our feelings are natural and even a sign of real fidelity, of genuine Catholicity.

“We normal Catholics are reacting so strongly because, simply, we love him. It’s a very personal and natural thing; we gave him our hearts. How am I to react when our father, or step-father, the one given to us to protect us, says he will leave us?

“And we do love him. We’ve loved him since the day his name was announced. And we feel like our father is leaving us. And we’re completely at wit’s end because even if we don’t want to think ill of Benedict, we still don’t have a natural outlet for our feeling of loss."

He called it a “strange and confusing grief,” because though we have lost him, Benedict is not dead. This is why the situation “for many Catholics is surreal, almost dream-like.”

“When a pope dies we can have a funeral, we can have requiems in black. But in this strange situation, we have no natural way to express the grief we feel at having lost our father. And we have. We’ve lost someone that we love.” 

“The papacy is an absolutely unique institution in this world. In many ways he is like a father, because he is our Holy Father. In some ways it’s like a step-father, because he is there taking care of us when we can’t see our real father, our Heavenly Father. And the papacy, until very recently, until three days ago, was for life, and we trusted it to remain so. And now we say to ourselves, well, he can never stop being a father. So we are confused by our own feelings.” 

The Church makes distinctions for papal infallibility, and Catholics are free to disagree with the pope’s “prudential decision” while remaining perfectly faithful. We can legitimately feel, he said, that the pope is making a prudential mistake. This isn’t a lack of fidelity or love, or even of trust. We have to accept the decision, he said, but we don’t have to agree or like it.

My inside man strongly denied the rumours swirling around the internet that somehow the pope has been forced or coerced into making this decision by dark and nefarious forces. “It’s perfectly in character for him,” he said. “Nothing in Benedict’s character, that we have all observed very publicly for decades, has indicated he would ever bow to such pressure.”

Ruling out a palace coup, he said that we can accept the decision because it was also not immoral. “It was done humbly. It was not an act that is intrinsically evil. He’s doing it because he thinks it’s what God wants him to do. It’s one of the few things he’s done entirely on his own and he’s in complete control. No one can stop him. 

“He is very dedicated to the Church, and he wants to do what is best. And he saw first hand the problems with a largely incapacitated pope, and it may have frightened him. He really does believe that he has a ministry, the Petrine ministry, that is not for himself but for others, for us. And he really believes that if he cannot fulfill that duty he should step down.

“And because the papacy is not precisely fatherhood – it’s an analogy – he sees his own weakness, he sees a way that he can take away his weakness and provide for his children, by letting someone else take up the mantle and take up the sword and the shield.”

But he assured me that we have no obligation to think this is a good idea, or even that it will not damage the Church. Popes have made bad decisions in the past, even good popes: “If the Church has or has not done something for 600 years, there’s usually a reason for it. I myself think that popes should stay on until they’re dead, and let God remove them.” 

“I think he has taken into account the wisdom of the world to achieve those otherworldly ends. This is not all bad, but you also have to look to the supernatural considerations. I think it is good for the pope to let God to determine the time when he leaves ministry. Because God is the pope’s only superior.”

Catholics doubting the decision, he said, “may simply not be convinced that he can’t protect us any more.”

“I’m not convinced of this. But we know we must accept the decision, not just because he’s the pope and we have to defer to his judgment, but also because we can’t see inside his soul, and we can’t enter into that decision.”

What aspect of Benedict’s intellect does this decision come from then?

“There is,” he answered, “a very worldly sense that entered into the Church with the ascendancy of the liberal faction in the post-Vatican II era, and Benedict was part of that. He was a centrist liberal, a Catholic liberal and he shifted to the right. But he still embraced a lot of this-worldly prudence from that time. A kind of utilitarian idea that things that are not absolutely essential are ultimately disposable.”

“It’s not absolute worldly prudence because it’s not directed towards worldly ends. But men like John Paul II and Benedict XVI have looked at the supernatural with prudential, pragmatic, this-worldly eyes.” 

“There’s a degree to which this is necessary. You have to be as wise as serpents. But you also have to be willing to lose everything. I think there really is a need for someone with a more otherworldly focus. And someone who is a more of a hero than a manager or even an academic. A paladin.” 

“And we mustn’t forget that there is such a thing as the grace of the state. The pope gets special gifts from the Holy Spirit.”

The reasons people are angry and upset, or at least disconcerted is perhaps an intuitive worry that this decision comes from emphasizing the wrong aspect of the papacy, the institutional character of it at the expense of the fatherly, incarnational, supernatural aspect of it.

The pope’s decision is unsettling those who look upon the papacy as more than merely the function. It has appeared to further that ominous modern tendency to push the papacy down from its supernatural heights, to the level of mere functionalism.

“The papacy has these different layers of meaning, similar to a monarchy, where you have, united in one person, both the natural aspects of being a ruler and a sovereign and a leader, and the supernatural aspects of being a father and a person to love. It’s why the papacy is about more than what the pope can do.”

I said I was confused about the sudden outpouring of hatred for him in the press, now that he is no longer any threat to the “progressive” or “liberal” end of the Church?

“A lot of Catholics, good, bad, indifferent, liberal, traditionalist, charismatic, have a visceral attachment to the pope as a father. That’s why some of them can be dissidents, because they all love their father. They can disagree with their father, but he’s still their father. 

“People can’t leave it alone, they can be overflowing with vitriolic hatred, and people ask them, ‘Why don’t you leave the Church,’ and they can’t. They can’t ever stop being the children of their father.”

As for the sudden explosion of hatred from the non-Catholic, secularist world, he said, the answer is much easier: “The world always hates the popes.”

“Now sometimes that doesn’t show as much, but even with the popes who are well respected by the world, you don’t have to scratch too deep to find that bitter hatred. It’s true of anyone who follows Christ, but even more towards his Vicar. And the more the pope conforms to Christ, the more he will be hated with that blistering hatred that he still inspires in some people.”

And they particularly hate Benedict XVI because whatever the prudential problems with his resignation, he is “clearly not acting from a selfish motive”.

“He’s not seeking self-aggrandizement, he is healthy enough that it’s not something he has no choice about. He could keep going if he chose. And that strikes the world where it hurts, in their pride.

“We live in a world of reality TV shows where fame is so desperately important that you would humiliate yourself for it, and this is a man who is more photographed than anyone on the planet, and three weeks from now, no one is going to see him ever again.

“They all believe, wrongly, that the papacy is this great, powerful Emperor Palpatine sort of position. And the ones who hate him really believe that he is a power-hungry, power-obsessed old man. And here he is, the head of this huge, immensely powerful organisation, voluntarily setting aside that power. Not out of cowardice, but out of humility and meekness. The world hates that. With a passion.” 

“And they hate him, because, quite frankly, he’s one of the best popes we’ve had in the last 70 years. He’s been doing incredible things. Incredible good for the Church. And they hate him all the more because he was a good pope.”

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Christian clerk fights on as Sixth Circuit orders her to issue gay ‘marriage’ licenses

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By Dustin Siggins

ROWAN COUNTY, KY, August 27, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) -- A federal appeals court has ordered Christian clerk Kim Davis to provide same-sex “marriage” licenses, but she’s refusing to give in.

Davis, a Democrat, says that her Christian beliefs will not allow her to issue licenses for same-sex “marriages.” Despite pressure from Democrat Gov. Steve Beshear, a lawsuit from the ACLU, and two federal court rulings, Davis has refused to issue any licenses while the matter is still working its way through the courts.

However, the Sixth District Court of Appeals said Davis must issue the licenses.

While critics say Davis must follow the law as a public employee, she says the First Amendment protects her decision even as a government worker. In addition to being sued by the ACLU, she has pro-actively taken her case to court.

Click "like" if you want to defend true marriage.

Beshear told all government employees that "you can continue to have your own personal beliefs, but, you’re also taking an oath to fulfill the duties prescribed by law, and if you are at that point to where your personal convictions tell you that you simply cannot fulfill your duties that you were elected to do, then obviously an honorable course to take is to resign and let someone else step in who feels that they can fulfill those duties.”

The initial court decision against Davis was stayed 10 days ago. Liberty Counsel's Mat Staver, whose organization represents Davis, told CNN that they might appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court and are hoping the high court would issue a stay of the Sixth Circuit ruling in the interim.

A poll of Kentucky voters that was released last month found that 50 percent of the state backs natural marriage, while only 37 percent supported its redefinition. 

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Christians at Duke U refuse to read lesbian porn novel assignment

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By Steve Weatherbe

DURHAM, NC, August 27, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) -- Christian freshmen at Duke University are refusing to read an assigned graphic novel depicting masturbation and homosexual intercourse. The university says the assignment was optional and won’t discipline the holdouts.

Brian Grasso emerged as the spokesperson for the dissenters after he posted his decision on the Class of 2019’s closed Facebook page. Opponents have done their best to mock and deride the holdouts as ignoramuses who don’t belong at Duke, but Grasso has addressed all their jibes, first to Duke’s student paper and then in an op-ed in the Washington Post, intelligently and engagingly.

The book at issue is Fun Home, a fictional depiction by lesbian artist Alison Bechdel of growing up with a homosexual, suicidal dad and discovering sex with other girls. “After researching the book’s content and reading a portion of it, I chose to opt out of the assignment,” Grasso told Post readers, explaining he was not opposed to learning about homosexuality any more than he would be with the ideas of “Freud, Marx or Darwin,” though he might find them immoral too.

“But in the Bible,” he went on, “Jesus forbids his followers from exposing themselves to anything pornographic. ‘But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart,’ he says in Matthew 5:28-29. ‘If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away.’” He then cited St. Paul to support his argument.

Grasso knew Christians would be in the minority at Duke, he admitted, but what surprised him was that Duke would blithely assign something so obviously offensive to this minority. “Duke did not seem to have people like me in mind. It was like Duke didn’t know we existed, which surprises me.”

But Patrick Reilly, the president of the Cardinal Newman Society, an organization devoted to promoting American Catholic orthodoxy at Catholic universities, isn’t surprised. “American society has been moving away from Christian values or even neutrality, especially at secular institutions but even at Catholic and other Christian schools,” Reilly told LifeSiteNews. He urged Catholic and other Christian parents and high school students to choose their universities carefully.

Other freshmen have supported Grasso: Bianca d’Souza said the novel’s ideas were important but the salacious content unnecessary and offensive. Jeffrey Wubbenhorst wrote, “”The nature of ‘Fun Home’ means that the content that I might have consented to read in print now violates my conscience due to its pornographic content.”

But others from the class of 2019 responded, “Reading the book will allow you to open your mind to a new perspective and to examine a way of life and thinking with which you are unfamiliar.”

In the same vein students wrote the Duke student newspaper Chronicle, mocking the dissenters with references to a Dr. Seuss children’s book. “Mermaid Warrior,” for example, wrote, “I’m sure there are people who think Cat in the Hat sends bad messages. That’s a big problem I have with complaints like these, ‘I shouldn’t be expected to read stuff I disagree with!’ It’s like, guess what, there’s no way to find something that everyone will agree with.”

But Grasso makes clear his issue isn’t with disagreeable ideas at all. “I think there is an important distinction between images and written words. If the book explored the same themes without sexual images or erotic language, I would have read it. But viewing pictures of sexual acts, regardless of the genders of the people involved, conflict with the inherent sacredness of sex. My beliefs extend to pop culture and even Renaissance art depicting sex.”

Inevitably, Duke itself weighed in. The book was selected for summer reading by the freshman class, explained Duke’s vice president or public affairs, Michael Schoenfeld, “because it is a unique and moving book that transcends genres and explores issues that students are likely to confront.”

After touting its artistic value and noting that a Broadway adaptation won the Best Musical award for 2015, he noted that the book was not a requirement and there would be no examination or grading. He expressed the hope that Duke’s 1,750 freshmen would arrive with open minds willing to “explore new ideas.”

But for all that, Schoenfeld did not explore the issues raised by Grasso: morality, pornography and the sexualization of relations.

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Aborted babies’ hands too disturbing? Solution: chop them off before shipping the bodies

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By John Jalsevac
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August 26, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) - As if we needed more evidence that many of those in the abortion industry know perfectly well what they are doing, along comes the latest undercover video from the Center for Medical Progress (CMP).

The video includes disturbing undercover footage of a conversation with Cate Dyer, the CEO of StemExpress, a biomedical firm that acquires the bodies of aborted babies from Planned Parenthood clinics.

During that conversation Dyer infamously jokes with an undercover investigator about the need to warn lab techs ahead of time when a fully “intact” aborted baby's cadaver is being shipped to them.

But there it is: that hand, in all of its beauty, and its horror. Beautiful, as every hand is beautiful. Horrific, in that it is attached to a dismembered arm, yanked out of its socket, and swimming in a pool of the baby’s intestines and other body parts, to be bartered over and sold. 

“If you have intact cases, which we’ve done a lot, we sometimes ship those back to our lab in its entirety,” she says. "Tell the lab it's coming, so they don't open the box and" scream. "Their lab techs freak out and have meltdowns."

"Academic labs cannot fly like that, they are just not capable," Dyer adds condescendingly. "It's almost like they don't want to know where it comes from. I can see that."

But don’t worry, Dyer makes it clear she knows exactly where fetal tissue comes from, and isn't bothered in the least.  However, she agrees with a joke made by the undercover investigator, that if you’re going to be shipping the intact body of an aborted baby, it would be best to always make sure that the “eyes are closed.”

But surely the saddest part of the conversation comes when Dyer reveals how some of those squeamish lab techs manage to get around their natural repugnance at receiving little, perfectly-formed babies’ bodies in the mail, which they will then slice and dice – all in the name of “medical progress,” of course.

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She says that she often receives instructions from scientists who experiment on aborted babies that, "We need limbs, but no hands and feet need to be attached."

A curious request, no? But then again, there is something especially pesky about those tiny hands and feet, isn’t there?

Human hands are, after all, a true marvel of nature – so far surpassing in dexterity the appendages of any other mammal, the unparalleled tools that have enabled human beings to build empires, create art of breathtaking beauty, and to express themselves in myriad different ways. So marvelous, in fact, that Isaac Newton is reported to have said, “In the absence of any other proof, the thumb alone would convince me of God’s existence.”

Not only are hands and feet useful, but they knit human beings together in intimacy: lovers will hold or squeeze their beloved's hands, and friends will soothe their friends in time of sorrow by taking their hands. And then there is the case of new parents, who will go into raptures over the hands and feet of their newborn babies, and speak, using the foolish language of love, of wanting to “eat” them. Mothers will shower their newborn babies’ feet with kisses, and tickle them, and will study and fall in love with every dimple, every crease.

Perhaps that is why so many people found the fifth (or was it the sixth? I’m losing track of the horrors) video so disturbing: that footage inside the lab, when the man behind the camera uses his tweezers to delicately lift up a dismembered arm, with the hand still attached.

That arm, it is true, would not have been half so disturbing, were it not for the hand. But there it is: that hand, in all of its beauty, and its horror. Beautiful, as every hand is beautiful. Horrific, in that it is attached to a dismembered arm, yanked out of its socket, and swimming in a pool of the baby’s intestines and other body parts, to be bartered over and sold. 

Before this, we have heard the lab techs on camera identifying the baby as a twin, at about 20-weeks gestation. In other words, a baby on the very verge of viability.

But no mother will gaze in raptures at those hands and those feet. Instead, Planned Parenthood will discuss how much they can “get” for each "specimen." And perhaps Cate Dyer will instruct her staff to cut off the hands or the feet before shipping the limbs to those too-tender-hearted lab techs who might “freak out” and “have a meltdown” at being forced to see too much of the truth.

But what does it say about us, and our politicians, that the videos with those pesky hands and feet are out there circulating, watched by millions, and yet we are not “freaking out” or having any meltdowns?

Instead, our politicians are dismissing the video as being "highly edited," as if David Daleiden of CMP is a CGI wizard who can conjure up dismembered limbs at will, and even though even Planned Parenthood has never denied the existence of those dismembered arms and legs, but has only implausibly denied that they are illegally "profiting" from the sale of the appendages - as if illegally profiting from the sale is somehow worse than the fact that they have dismembered the babies in the first place. 

If the dismembered hands and feet aren't enough to awaken our consciences, and to force our politicians to stop the massacre, what will be? I fear the answer to that question. 

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