Margaret Somerville

Amour: does old age have any honour left?

Margaret Somerville
By Margaret Somerville

Amour     
Directed by Michael Haneke      
Starring Jean-Louis Trintignant, Emmanuelle Riva, Isabelle Huppert     
127 minutes, French with subtitles 
   

January 28, 2013 (Mercatornet.com) - It is a drastic understatement to observe that Austrian director Michael Haneke’s film Amour (Love) is harrowing and heartbreaking. I sat there just wanting it to be over. Yet I couldn’t leave. I felt like an animal caught in a hunter’s spotlight – unable to move, mesmerized.

Amour has been heaped with praise and is an Oscar nominee in five categories, including best film, best director and best foreign film. It is insightfully and accurately described by Francine Prose, of the New York Review of Books blog, as “a masterpiece you might not want to see”. This warning is merited: the film is intensely distressing. Paula Span, in the New York Times, under the banner of the “new old age”, calls Amour “the brutal truth”. Some people will see it as a clarion call for the legalization of euthanasia. I’d suggest, however, that it’s equally, if not more so, a clarion call for our responsibilities as families and a society to correct the circumstances in which many old and vulnerable people find themselves.

Anne (played by Emmanuelle Riva) and Georges (Jean-Louis Trintignant), the two main characters in the film, are such people and live in such circumstances. They are financially secure, upper middle-class, retired musicians, living in a classic, elegant apartment in Paris. They have one child, Eva (Isabelle Huppert), who is around 50 years old and visits them occasionally. She has two young-adult children who have left home, is in a troubled marriage, and preoccupied with her own problems. The acting is superb: it is difficult to believe these are not real life events, which adds to the serious emotional distress the film elicits.  

It opens with firemen and a plain clothes detective breaking into an apartment and finding the decomposing body of a clothed, dead woman, with a crucifix on her chest. She is laid out on a bed, surrounded by wilted flowers which have been cut from their stems.

The story then shifts to a concert hall, where Anne and Georges are attending a performance of a Schubert piano concerto by Alexandre (the French pianist Alexandre Tharaud, who plays himself), who, as a 12-year-old, was Anne’s pupil. They are delighted by the performance, but come home to find an attempted break-in to their apartment. Anne suggests calling the police, but Georges refuses. This is the beginning of Haneke’s brilliant portrayal of what proves to be their increasingly vulnerable state and the unavailability of help, and of their, especially Georges’, refusal to accept it or lack of capacity to seek it.

Next morning, Anne and George are eating breakfast and Anne temporarily loses consciousness and is unresponsive to Georges’ questions about what is wrong. She regains consciousness but has no memory of losing it. She pours some tea, which spills because she cannot control her movements. The rest of the film documents in graphic detail both Anne’s physical and mental decline as a result of failed carotid artery surgery, strokes and dementia and Georges’ efforts to care for her, almost entirely without assistance.

We learn that Dr Bertier, Anne’s physician, and a hairdresser come once every two weeks. A nurse whom Georges hires comes three times a week. A second nurse is incompetent and abusive and is fired by Georges. The janitor helps Georges to carry in groceries and the janitor’s wife vacuums the rugs. Both offer whatever other help they can give, but Georges does not take up their offer. They are obviously curious about Anne’s condition and try to linger and talk, but Georges always promptly ushers them out.

Neuroscientist Dr Tiffany Chow, who has just written a book, The Memory Clinic: Stories of Hope and Healing for Alzheimer’s Patients and Their Familiestold the Globe and Mail: “The number one mistake that caregivers make is thinking ‘I can do all this myself’. That’s a guaranteed recipe for burnout. Caregiving has to be done with some allies, whether it’s your personal friends, neighbours, other family members or professional care providers.”

Eva pays the occasional visit to her parents, once accompanied by her husband Howard, who suggests Anne be placed in a nursing home, a proposition Georges adamantly refuses. He has promised Anne, who is frightened of doctors and hates hospitals, to keep her at home.  The only other visitors are Alexandre and a stray pigeon which flies in through an open window.

Meanwhile, we see in great detail Georges helping Anne in and out of her bed and her wheelchair, off the toilet, and, eventually, checking her diapers when she is bedridden; trying to get her to take water from a sipping cup and food from a spoon, both of which she refuses; reading to her; and trying to sooth her when she screams “mal” (hurt) over and over.

Finally, Georges tells Anne a story from his childhood – about being sent away to a summer holiday camp and letting his mother know through a prearranged signal of drawing stars on the weekly postcard he sent home, that he was desperately unhappy there, in part because, like Anne, he refused to eat, in his case, rice pudding. He completes the story, grabs the pillow from his side of their bed and suffocates Anne, whose struggles to escape slowly subside.

Georges goes out to buy flowers from which he cuts the stems and then chooses a dress from Anne’s closet. Our thoughts flash back to the opening scene of what we now realize was Anne’s body on the bed. We then see George using wide adhesive tape to seal the doorway into the bedroom.

In a following scene, the pigeon returns and one can’t be sure, at the time, whether Georges smothers it, as he did Anne, in the blanket in which he caught it, or cuddles and strokes and then releases it. In a letter which we subsequently see him writing, presumably a suicide note, we learn that it was released. This comes as a tiny affirmation of hope and respect for life. But in this unrelentingly depressing and joyless film, which resonates with a “culture of death" and makes death seem vastly preferable to life, it is a hugely welcome one.

So what can we learn from this film?

First, Amour shows us the impact, not only of the presence of love, but also of its absence.

It captures Georges’ and Anne’s love for each other, and Georges’ love as portrayed in his care for Anne. Flowers and music are often associated with love and appear frequently in the film, which is rich with symbolism, allusion and innuendo – for instance, in looking at the family photo album, Anne seems to look only at photos in which she is present.

It also merits noting that Haneke makes powerful use of silence, sometimes to express positive emotions and closeness; sometimes negative ones and alienation. And when Anne and Georges are listening to the CD Alexandre had given them of the concert they had attended, Anne abruptly says, “Stop the CD”, which Georges does. Music seems to represent the thread of life for this couple.

In contrast, the stark absence of love is seen in the almost total lack of any loving support from family, friends or community. Eva sums up her feelings in this regard, “I can’t believe that these days there's no way of handling this [Anne’s illness and Georges’ situation] efficiently.” Efficiency is a bureaucratic, emotionally detached value. From this perspective, the film can be viewed as a tragic commentary on the dissolution of families and the values of mutual support and responsibility for family members, especially when they are vulnerable, because they are old, sick and dying.

Likewise, it can be seen as an indictment of the community’s and society’s failure to provide palliative and hospice care and other support, including respite care, for those who try to look after their loved ones at home. Like Anne, most people want to die at home but can’t because of lack of support for their carers.

When Anne is bedridden and her dementia has become very advanced, she constantly cries out, repeating one word, “Mal” (hurt).  It seems reasonable to interpret this as an indication of pain. Yet, we do not see her being given any pain relief treatment and, as noted already, the doctor visits only once every two weeks. Inadequate pain relief, or fear of being left in pain, is a reason people ask or advocate for euthanasia.

Another reason, and one of the main ones, is that they see themselves as a burden on others, especially their families. Other reasons are loss of control and the feeling that they are losing their dignity. They confuse being independent with having dignity and, therefore, perceive dependence as the loss of dignity. All of these are piercingly and powerfully communicated in Amour. But what can be done to address and eliminate those reasons is nowhere to be found.

In this latter respect, Intimate Death, a book by French psychologist Marie de Hennezel, who specializes in the care of dying people, could not be in starker contrast. In moving and poetic vignettes about dying people, and without denying suffering or romanticizing or glamourizing it, she tells us stories that allow us to see that dying can be the last great act of living.

Essential ingredients for that to be the case are the presence of hope; the sense that our life had meaning and can still have meaning, even when we are dying; the realization that we can still learn and even teach; that we have something to give others; and that we can leave a legacy. None of these features of a “good” death is present in Anne’s and Georges’ situation.

Early in the film, when Anne is wheelchair-bound, but not demented, Pierre, one of her and Georges’ friends, dies and Georges attends the funeral without her. When he returns she asks him about the service. Here’s what he says:

“It was rather bizarre. The priest was an idiot. Then one of Pierre’s co-workers made a speech that was embarrassingly emotional. His old secretary came with a radio cassette player and after the speech she put on “Yesterday” by the Beatles. You can’t imagine. Everybody turned round to look at her. Apparently, it wasn’t planned. His grandchildren were there. Of course they giggled as soon as the music began. Then the urn was put on a huge stretcher that was obviously designed for a coffin, and out we went into the rain. They placed the urn on a small electric cart that crawled along for what seemed like an eternity to the tiny hole they had dug. A lot of people had to stifle their laughter. It must have been terrible for Jeanne [Pierre’s widow].”

There’s a loss of solemnity and respect, a trivialization of the momentousness of death and the losses it involves, a failure to express grief and to mourn and, a lack of opportunity for healing. The secular music, the Beatles’ song “Yesterday”, represents the antithesis of hope. Hope requires a sense of connection to the future; this song implies that only a sad connection to the past is possible.

Having a sense of connection to the future when one is dying does not have to involve religion, although of course it can. One other way is to be aware of leaving a legacy. Canadian psychiatrist Dr Harvey Max Chochinov and his colleagues have been researching how to help dying people. They have developed what they call “dignity therapy”. Part of this is helping dying people to see what they can leave as a legacy to those they love and to other people.

Anne’s legacy was in her students, represented by Alexandre. But she refused to listen to the CD he gave her of his critically acclaimed concert. She refused to allow hope to creep in, to have a moment of joy. In fact, a dominant feature of Amour is that there are no moments of joy.

I began this review saying I sat through Amour just wanting it to be over. Both dying people and those who love them can also feel that way about death. But wanting it to be over is very different from wanting to be killed and the impact of each – that is, allowing to die, as compared with killing – is very different at institutional, societal and even global levels.

Some people will see Amour as an argument for legalizing euthanasia. The strongest case for this is the situation in Amour - an individual who is suffering and dying and wants to die.

But we must also consider the effect of legalizing euthanasia on other people, especially the possibility of elder abuse; on the medical profession and medicine’s millennia-old guiding principle, “curing where possible, caring always, never killing”; on the law as a primary institution upholding the societal value of respect for life; on other healthcare professionals and healthcare institutions; and on society’s most important values, especially that of respect for life.

Amour brings to mind lines from Alfred Lord Tennyson’s poem “Ulysses:

The long day wanes: the slow moon climbs: the deep
Moans round with many voices.

It leaves us, however, with no sense that

Old age hath yet his honour and his toil;  
Death closes all: but something ere the end,  
Some work of noble note, may yet be done,  
Not unbecoming men that strove with Gods.

Margaret Somerville is director of the McGill Centre for Medicine, Ethics and Law in Montreal. This article reprinted under a Creative Commons License from Mercatornet.

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‘Every life matters’: Rick Santorum announces new bid for president

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By Ben Johnson
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CABOT, PA, May 27, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Many questions surrounded today's announcement that Rick Santorum is running for the Republican presidential nomination, but none of them were about where he stands. Santorum, who is well known as a rock-ribbed social conservative, emphasized the value of life and family in a campaign kickoff that played up the senator's blue collar economic message.

Surrounded by his wife, Karen, and six of his seven living children, Santorum began by introducing “our sweet daughter Bella, who just turned seven a couple of weeks ago.” Bella, who has beaten the life expectancy of a child born with Trisomy-18, smiled broadly as the audience applauded her.

The senator still spoke about life and faith, issues that came to define him in 2012. “As president I will stand for the principle that every life matters – the poor, the disabled, and the unborn,” he vowed. Touting his record, he said, “I went [to Washington] to end partial birth abortion, and I delivered.”

Taking aim at Barack Obama's reduction of the First Amendment to a “freedom of worship,” Santorum said, “I will also fight for the freedom for you to believe what you are called to believe, not just in your places of worship but outside your places of worship, too.” The message comes amid a brewing controversy over religious business owners being forced to participate in homosexual “weddings” or be sued, perhaps prosecuted by the state. Some of his fellow Republicans have shied away from backing religious freedom legislation to ensure those rights.

The message was further driven home by the speech's backdrop. Penn United Technologies, an oil and gas manufacturing company, was founded as a “Christian company” and proclaims, “We exist to glorify God.”

Standing before his hometown of Cabot in western Pennsylvania, Santorum promoted “stronger families” through better schools. “Every child deserves her birthright to be raised by her parents in a healthy home,” he said. “The first step in that process is to join with me to drive a stake in the heart of Common Core.”

 

Yet everything about Santorum's message sought to broaden his support beyond social issues by placing economic populism at the heart of his message. 

From a dais surrounded by industrial equipment, Santorum held up a large piece of coal and an American flag as symbols of the nation's one-time industrial might and her enduring freedom.

His grandfather emigrated from Italy to mine coal and seek freedom. “My dad grew up in a coal town, actually a company town, with no indoor plumbing,” he said.

Men like his grandfather “built this nation” through selfless toil. But the Rust Belt suffered “economic devastation...particularly in the area of manufacturing, as a result of the excesses and indifference of Big Labor, Big Government, and yes, Big Business.”

An outsourcing economy left American workers bloodied by a steady erosion of jobs, and “both parties left them behind on the economic battlefield,” he said. “They had no plan, and they provided no hope. And to that I say: No longer.”

He proposed an economic plan to revive American manufacturing, the heart of the middle class for much of the last century. He also pledged “to give America a simple, fair, flat tax.” He is scheduled to unveil his “20/20” economic proposal shortly.

The former senator from Pennsylvania opposes free trade agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), backs policies to revive U.S. manufacturing industries, and supports a modest increase to the minimum wage.

To massive cheers, he also promised that, as president, he “will revoke every executive order and regulation that costs American jobs,” such as Barack Obama's carbon emissions standards, which threaten to shutter the nation's traditional, coal-burning energy plants.

As manufacturing jobs have been exported, low-wage workers have arrived on American shores to take the remaining jobs, he said. “Over the last 20 years, we’ve brought into this country – legally and illegally – 35 million mostly unskilled workers. And the result? Over that same period of time, workers' wages and family incomes have flatlined.”

“Hillary Clinton and Big Business” – names booed almost as harshly as Bella had been cheered – “have called for a massive influx in unskilled labor,” Santorum said. “Their priorities are profits and power. My priority is you, the American worker.”

Santorum's immigration plan calls for reducing legal immigration from the record-high level of one million a year to 750,000 annually. NumbersUSA, an immigration reform group, gave Santorum a B-minus for his overall Congressional record.

“We can't succeed unless we strengthen the first economy, the American family,” he said.

Santorum also burnished his hawkish foreign policy credentials. “As you've seen, commander-in-chief is not an entry-level position,” he said, underscoring his commitment to maintaining a close relationship between the United States and Israel. He has not feared to propose new wars, including sending 10,000 ground troops to the Middle East to fight the Islamic State (ISIS). Santorum said if Islamic fundamentalists “want to return to a 7th Century version of Islam, then let’s load up our bombers and bomb them back to the 7th Century.”

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The emphasis, if not the issues, are different than his last race four years ago against Mitt Romney, when the 57-year-old won contests in 11 states and received nearly four million votes.

Despite a vote count marred by irregularities that included county vote totals mysteriously going missing, Rick Santorum actually won the 2012 Iowa caucuses by a razor-thin, 34-vote margin. However, the results were not announced for more than two weeks, which prevented him from becoming the anti-Romney candidate during the early weeks of the race.

“You gotta do well in Iowa,” Santorum told George Stephanopoulos today. “You gotta win on election night, as opposed to two weeks later.”

This time out, he will vie for their support against fellow Iowa caucuses winner Mike Huckabee, as well as Ted Cruz, Bobby Jindal, Dr. Ben Carson, and Rick Perry.

That backing will be vital, since the first GOP presidential debate will be limited to the top 10 candidates in the polls. With today's announcement, Santorum became the seventh Republican to officially announce that he is running for president. However, many others are expected – including an announcement on Thursday from former New York Gov. George Pataki, who calls himself a “pro-choice” Republican.

Although the Republican Party often rewards those who run a second or third time – such as Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, Bob Dole, John McCain, and Mitt Romney – Santorum's polling numbers leave little room for anything but improvement. Yet he rests with confidence in his positions, his hard-working campaign style, and in his Catholic faith.

The conclusion of his speech came full-circle, as he asked his supporters to intercede for divine guidance. “There's much that we can do, but first we need to pray for the same kind of Great Awakening that inspired our founders to come to this country, and heal our land,” he said.

“Karen and I have learned a lot in our lifetime. If there's one thing we have learned it is that man is limited, and God is not,” he said.

“The last race we changed the debate. This race, with your help and God's grace, we can change this nation.”

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Maike Hickson

Criticisms of Pope Francis from within the Vatican Curia made public

Maike Hickson
By Maike Hickson

May 27, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) -- The prominent German monthly journal, Cicero, a secular-intellectual publication, has entitled its May issue “The Struggle for Rome” (“Der Kampf um Rom”) and has dedicated it to the papacy of Pope Francis. In it, Guiseppe Rusconi, the well-respected Swiss Rome-Correspondent and journalist  for  Inside the Vatican, reports on the internal criticisms of Pope Francis as they were privately and candidly disclosed to him from within the Roman Curia itself.

Rusconi's revelations caused an immediate stir in Rome, since he simultaneously posted the Italian version of his article on his own website, rossoporpora.org, where he summed up and specifically quoted forthright comments made by high-ranking clergymen from the Roman Curia who also openly revealed to him the atmosphere within the Vatican. They spoke with the explicit request that they should remain anonymous.

Rusconi starts his article with the stunning quote from one of his sources: “Francis has remained with his heart and mind the Archbishop of Buenos Aires. That would also be fine, if he were not, for two years now, the Bishop of Rome and therewith Pope of the Universal Church.”

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As Rusconi says, many Curial members are still indignant about Pope Francis' last Christmas address in 2014 to the Roman Curia:

The large stomach of the Vatican still has not yet digested the last address of Pope Francis to the Curia on December 22 of last year. […] The address still burns under the skin of many Curials. 'If someone would have had the courage to get off his chair and to leave the Sala Clementina while the Pope was presenting his list [of reproaches and accusations], then, I think, all – or nearly all – would have left: right-wing or left-wing, young or old,' comments which came from my first interlocutor with the bitterness of a man who feels wounded. And he earnestly requested once more: 'That my name will not be made public! Can I rely on that?'

Rusconi describes the atmosphere within the Curia, as follows: “The Curia finds itself in an uncomfortable, even insecure situation.” He describes the intensification of conflicts in Rome:

Today, with the distance of two years, some of those wearers of the purple color who were then joining in jubilation might regret to have given their own vote to the then-76-year-old Archbishop. A struggle for Rome has started, and it is not  at all clear who stands where – also because Francis himself speaks in a contradictory way. But there is already taking place  a wrestling [a grappling]. And from October 4 on when between 200 and 300 bishops will meet in Rome for the [2015] Synod in order to speak about family questions, it could come to even harder fights.

Rusconi also reveals how Curial members have expressed compassion with faithful Catholics who feel themselves insulted by the pope:

The men of the Church who speak with me under the condition of anonymity give examples. For example, my first interlocutor says: 'Ideally, a family should have three children? That is what he [Pope Francis] said, during the press conference on the flight back from the trip to the Philippines. I am not astonished that many good Catholics felt offended.'

Pope Francis' expression of “Who am I to judge?” also finds much criticism:

With this renunciation to judge, this 'sentence which has been abused by many media, Pope Francis did damage to the Church,' stressed another interlocutor from the Vatican with whom I met for lunch in Trastevere. 'He has, without intending it, favored the advance of the homosexual lobby which he claims to fight.'

Concerning the question of the family, many members of the Curia do not understand Pope Francis' intentions. As one source says to Rusconi: “One simply does not understand what Pope Francis' aims are. After a very firm principled declaration, he follows up with words and gestures that cause insecurity and confusion among orthodox Catholics.” In the eyes of this man, Pope Francis is tempted “to want to win the hearts of those who are, according to the current teaching, living in an irregular situation [i.e., remarried couples].”

Rusconi discusses some of those Cardinals who push for a liberalizing agenda with respect to the Church's moral teaching, namely, Reinhard Cardinal Marx and Walter Cardinal Kasper, both of whom are now meeting with resistance and adverse criticism. For example, he says about Cardinal Marx himself:

The President of the German Bishops' Conference [Cardinal Marx] does not have an easy status and standing in Rome these days, since he has claimed for the German Church the right to go its own pastoral ways with respect to the problem of the remarried divorcees, and independently of any majority of the Synod. 'We are not a subsidiary of Rome,' Marx has declared. The Swiss Curial Cardinal, Kurt Koch, promptly felt reminded of the 'German Christians' who bowed down to the Nazis during the Third Reich. In the same way, the German Curial Cardinal, Paul Josef Cordes, also disapproved of the ideas of Marx. He declared in the newspaper Die Tagespost: 'As a social ethicist, Cardinal Marx might have some knowledge about the [commercial-financial] dependencies of subsidiaries toward their mother company. But, in the context of the Church, such comments should rather be left to the village pub.'

One of Rusconi's interlocutors criticizes Pope Francis for trying to fight material poverty while omitting to speak about the danger of spiritual poverty, and even the loss of Faith. He says:

But the Church is universal, and the greatest poverty is the spiritual poverty, as one sees it especially in the Occident, where the number of Catholics is continually dwindling. Unfortunately, the Pope has very little interest in Europe.

The same source, as presented by Rusconi, comments on the Synod of the Family:

I think, he [Pope Francis] wants to lead the forthcoming Synod on the Family in October onto a certain path so that the Synod Fathers feel urged to choose [putatively] merciful solutions – which would be, in my eyes, not be a true mercy – especially with regard to the question whether remarried people shall be admitted to Holy Communion.

The journalist Rusconi concludes his very important synopsis of some of the internal criticisms from within the Curia with these words: “The dispute in the fall, however, could turn out just the same: sour and sharp.”

Not a pretty picture; and not an edifying example or ethos, is it?

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Strong winds blowing from the UN to change climate at the Vatican

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By Maria Madise

Editor’s note: Voice of the Family’s Maria Madise gave the following talk at the Rome Life Forum on May 8.

ROME, May 26, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) -- On Tuesday last week, a symposium was held at the Pontifical Academy of Sciences called “Protect the Earth, Dignify Humanity. The Moral Dimensions of Climate Change and Sustainable Development.” This workshop featured two of the world’s leading population control advocates Ban Ki Moon, the UN Secretary General, and Professor Jeffrey Sachs, Director of the Earth Institute. The event was jointly hosted by Pontifical Academy for Sciences (PAS), Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) and Religions for Peace in anticipation of the new papal encyclical on the environment.

The desired outcome of the last week’s symposium was a joint statement on the moral and religious imperative of sustainable development, highlighting the intrinsic connection between “respect for the environment and respect for people.”

This declaration of an intrinsic connection is very deceptive and links a real human crisis of poverty and modern slavery with certain theories about climate change. The participants in the Vatican workshop aimed to “raise awareness and build a consensus that the values of sustainable development cohere with values of the leading religious traditions, with a special focus on the most vulnerable.”

We in the pro-life and pro-family lobby are entitled to ask the question, what are the implications of this “special focus on the most vulnerable”? Pro-life and pro-family advocates who lobby at the UN, several of whom are present here today, know all too well how environmental issues have become an umbrella to cover a wide spectrum of attacks on human life and the family. These attacks pose an immediate threat to the lives of the most vulnerable – the unborn, the disabled and the elderly – as well as grave violations of parental rights as the primary educators of their children.

In light of the attacks on innocent human life witnessed at the UN under the guise of environmental concerns, it is very troubling to note the desire as stated in the agenda of this workshop “to help build a global movement across all religions for sustainable development and climate change throughout 2015 and beyond.”

It is even more troubling that this timetable exactly coincides with the negotiations of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at the UN, which include these very attacks on the most vulnerable members of the world’s population. The SDG negotiations that will culminate in June and July will determine the direction and financial aid for the third world countries for the next 15 years. By the time of these negotiations we should have a papal encyclical on – environmentalism.

Understandably the population control, pro-abortion lobby must be feeling very much empowered by the influence being exercised in the Vatican by two of the culture of death’s leading figures, Ban Ki Moon and Professor Jeffrey Sachs, especially just before the publication of an encyclical on the environment. The UN must eagerly await the papal encyclical on environment and hope that it will help to provide moral justification for imposing the Sustainable Development Goals on the world. If the encyclical remains silent on the hidden UN agenda, one can be quite certain that the UN and Obama administration will find ways how to use the encyclical to promote the sustainable development goals.

Who are the people advising the guardians of the Church teaching, whose job it is to guide and protect the faithful in the loving truth of Christ?

Ban Ki-Moon has on many occasions promoted the “right” to abortion worldwide. He also issued a controversial report this year on sexual violence in conflict zones, which was critical of the lack of so-called “safe abortion” in many conflict situations. The directive openly defies the consensus at the UN that abortion is an issue that should be left to individual nations.

Dr Jeffrey Sachs is a well-known international proponent of population control and abortion. He is the man sowing panic and fear that the world is overpopulated and that fertility rates must be lowered. In 2007 Sachs claimed “we are bursting at the seams.”

Last week I had a pleasure of hearing an excellent briefing by Elizabeth Yore, a noted children’s rights advocate, on the genesis and development of his agenda. She explained how Sachs’ forerunner Paul Ehrlich offered “solutions” from birth control in drinking water to coercive sterilisations to control population growth. She also discussed how, despite the fact that Ehrlich’s doomsday prophecy was a fraud, the UN began on its course of world wide reproductive edicts to reduce fertility, including contraception, sterilization and abortion.

In a recent article on a well known Italian site La Bussola, Riccardo Cascioli writes: “I got to meet Sachs a few years ago at [a] Meeting in Rimini, where he was one of the speakers, and [when a] question arose on this issue, he replied with a smile: ‘I have spoken with many bishops on birth control and they have told me in private that they agree with me though for obvious reasons cannot say openly.’” The “obvious reasons” are, of course, the Magisterium of the Church, the doctrine that holds every human life sacred without exception.

Dr Sachs is one of the architects of the millennium development goals and a member of the Executive Board of the Sustainable Development Solutions Network. Continuing Paul Ehrlich’s line of overpopulation he uses human trafficking, and climate change to justify the urgency of abortion and sterilization tools to achieve the UN proposed SDGs. The Network to which Sachs belongs has proposed draft Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which contain provisions that are radically antagonistic to the right to life from conception to natural death, to the rights and dignity of the family and to the rights of parents as the primary educators of their children.

These meetings that are happening in the shadow of the family synod, aim to bring the language of the papal documents in line with the UN directives. The language that we are opposing at the UN, with the Holy See being the only delegation clearly rejecting the UN’s population control plans for 20 years, is now being given some credence before the publication of a new papal document.

The final document of SDGs at the UN is going to be signed in September. Pope Francis is going to address the UN General Assembly in September on - environmentalism. Very sadly, it is all too obvious that his address could be seen as providing acceptance or validation by the Catholic Church of the global population-control agenda. Pope Francis is already on record as saying that humanity and mankind are behind 99% of the climate change.

Without prejudice to the validity or otherwise of the many theories about climate change, they should not be exploited to bring into question or deny the inviolability and the sanctity of each and every human life, unborn or born, healthy or sick any more than they can justify the rethinking of marriage, the family and parents’ rights or the absence of 200 million Asian girls.

Most of you present know, how laws and practices are formed and manipulated through language.

Environmental issues in international negotiations are not about planting trees, but killing babies, the infirm and the elderly. There is no poor family in the world, whose happiness index arises, when they get rid of their babies and grandparents. The human drama and despair that this language is ultimately bound to bring is unspeakable. Yet these ambassadors of the culture of death are welcomed to advise our pope.

The holding of this vitally important conference in the Vatican at this crucial time in- between the two family synods and in the lead-up to the publication of the Sustainable Development Goals, and with the participation of these leading international pro-abortion advocates, is all the more worrying in the light of the most recent statement of Hillary Clinton saying, effectively, that opposition to abortion must cease to exist, even in the teaching of the Church.

Earlier this year the Obama Administration’s Environmental Protection Agency’s Secretary, Gina McCarthy visited the Vatican to coordinate the their environmental agenda with the upcoming papal environment encyclical. Upon her arrival at the Vatican, McCarthy acknowledged that the Obama administration is “aligned with Francis on climate change.”

Liz Yore writes in the Remnant Newspaper that Tim Wirth, former Clinton State Department population control chief “who proudly displayed a tree made of condoms in his office,” has been among the Vatican’s invited guests this year.

To sum up, the thought that the UN and Obama administration foresee a shared solution with the Vatican for the problems troubling the modern world should set alarm bells ringing for everyone in the pro-life and pro-family movement. It is a schizophrenic situation, where collaboration is pursued between those who see life as gift from God and those who see it as a burden on the planet.

We must remain strong and faithful in the loving truth of Christ also in this storm. We must not despair or be afraid, but we must strengthen ourselves and those close to us to face this turbulence prayerfully and courageously and to insist with all the means at our disposal that any discussion on the environment must stem from understanding that the family, defined correctly, is the key to sustainable development, particularly at this time when the Synod on the Family has been called by Pope Francis to consider problems facing the family.

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