Hilary White, Rome Correspondent

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Austrian Priest resigns after overruling by cardinal on homosexual in parish council

Hilary White, Rome Correspondent
Hilary White, Rome Correspondent

VIENNA, April 11, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Coming only a few days after Easter, the resignation of Father Gerhard Swierzek, the pastor of a parish in the Archdiocese of Vienna, has been hailed by homosexualist activists in the Catholic Church as a victory. Fr. Swierzek had refused to allow an active homosexual, Florian Stangl, who is living in a legal registered partnership with another man, to sit on the parish council in the town of Stützenhofen.

The Austrian Independent reported Tuesday that Fr. Swierzek has asked his superiors for another assignment. He said he was “saddened” that the cardinal archbishop of Vienna met with Stangl and his partner but had refused to meet with him about the situation.

The German language Catholic news service Kreuz.net quoted Fr. Swierzek saying “I have a priestly conscience and I respect divine and ecclesiastical law.” He explained that he could not remain active in a parish, whose members “wanted their right at any price”.

He cited the teaching of the Church according to Pope John Paul II and the Catechism of the Catholic Church on homosexual behaviour. “Living in sin is not considered to be the norm in a Catholic Church community,” he said. “It is much more the task of a priest to bring a sinner to penance.”

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Last week, Christoph Schönborn, the cardinal archbishop of Vienna overruled his priest and his own previous position, saying that Stangl’s election to the parish council was upheld.

At first the cardinal had appeared to support his priest, but announced a few days later that, having had lunch with Stangl and his partner, he had changed his mind. Stangl, a 26 year-old social worker, had received 96 out of 142 votes in a recent parish council election. “This man is at the right place,” the cardinal said.

A statement was later posted on the cardinal’s blog, saying, “…There are many parish councilors whose lifestyle does not in every way conform to the ideals of the Church.

“In view of the life-witness that each of them gives taken as a whole, and their commitment to the attempt to live a life of faith, the Church rejoices in their efforts. She does not thereby call the validity of her ideals into question.”

After his lunch with Stangl, Schönborn said he was “deeply impressed by his faithful disposition, his humility, and the way in which he lives his commitment to service.

“I can therefore understand why the inhabitants of Stützenhofen voted so decidedly for his participation in the parish council.”

A visitor at one of the Easter Masses in the tiny town of Stützenhofen told radio station Ö1 that the cardinal’s decision was “proof of the Austrian Church’s willingness to become more modern and open,” according to the Independent.

The head of the outlawed group, New Ways Ministry appears to agree. The renegade priest, Francis DeBernardo, who directs the group, said the cardinal’s position supported their own, “that no one in the church follows all of the church’s principles, and that it is their total life commitment, not their adherence to litmus tests, which qualify them for church leadership”. 

New Ways Ministry encourages homosexual Catholics to maintain their lifestyle and attempts to convince the hierarchy of the Church to accept it.

“He is saying that he will not treat LGBT people any differently than anyone else,” DeBernardo continued. It describes itself as “a gay-positive ministry of advocacy and justice for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Catholics,” that was banned by then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 1999.

The group’s two directors, Fr. DeBernardo and Sr. Jeannine Gramick, were prohibited from engaging in any ministry with homosexuals. Their support for the homosexualist movement within the Church resulted in their being declared “ineligible, for an undetermined period, for any office in their respective religious institutes”.

“By taking this time to meet and listen to a gay man’s experience, the Cardinal is a model for all church leaders.  Personal encounter was the way of Jesus and should be the way of Catholic leaders. It is the best way to break stereotyping and prejudices that may exist in one’s mind,” DeBernardo concluded.

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Lisa Bourne

‘You can’t have’ marriage equality ‘without polygamy’

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By Lisa Bourne

July 3, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) – Motivated by the U.S. Supreme Court ruling legalizing homosexual “marriage,” a Montana polygamist has filed for a second marriage license, so he can be legally wed to two women at once.

"It's about marriage equality," said Nathan Collier, using homosexual advocates’ term to support marriage redefinition. "You can't have this without polygamy."

Collier, who has has appeared on the TLC reality show Sister Wives with his legal wife Victoria, and his second wife Christine, said he was inspired by the dissent in the Supreme Court decision.

The minority Supreme Court justices said in Friday’s ruling it would open the door to both polygamy and religious persecution.

“It is striking how much of the majority’s reasoning would apply with equal force to the claim of a fundamental right to plural marriage,” wrote Chief Justice John Roberts.

Collier and his wives applied for a second marriage license earlier this week at the Yellowstone County Courthouse in Billings, a report from the Salt Lake Tribune said.

Collier, who was excommunicated from the Mormon Church for polygamy, married Victoria in 2000 and had a religious wedding ceremony with Christine in 2007. The three have seven children between them and from previous relationships.

"My second wife Christine, who I'm not legally married to, she's put up with my crap for a lot of years. She deserves legitimacy," Collier said.

Yellowstone County officials initially denied the application before saying they would consult with the County Attorney and get him a final answer.

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Bigamy, the holding of multiple marriage licenses, is illegal all 50 states, but Collier plans to sue if his application is denied. Officials expect to have an answer for him next week.

While homosexual “marriage” supporters have long insisted legalization of same-sex unions would not lead to polygamy, pro-life and family advocates have warned all along it would be inevitable with the redefinition of marriage.

“The next court cases coming will push for polygamy, as Chief Justice John Roberts acknowledged in his dissent,” said Penny Nance, president of Concerned Women for America, after the Supreme Court ruling. “The chief justice said “the argument for polygamy is actually stronger than that for ‘gay marriage.’ It’s only a matter of time.”

In a piece from the Washington Times, LifeSiteNews Editor-in-Chief and the co-founder of Voice of the Family John-Henry Westen stated the move toward legal polygamy is “just the next step in unraveling how Americans view marriage.”

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Chris Christie: Clerks must perform same-sex ‘marriages’ regardless of their religious beliefs

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By Ben Johnson

TRENTON, NJ, July 3, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) – Chris Christie is not known for nuance. This time, he has turned his fiery personality loose on county clerks and other officials who have religious objections to performing same-sex “marriages.”

In a tone usually reserved for busting teachers' unions, Christie told clerks who hold traditional values, “You took the job, and you took the oath.” He would offer no exemption for an individual whose conscience would not allow him to participate in a union the vast majority of the world's religions deem sinful.

“When you go back and re-read the oath it doesn’t give you an out. You have to do it,” he said.

He told a reporter that there “might” be “individual circumstances” that “merit some examination, but none that come immediately to mind for me.”

“I think for folks who are in the government world, they kind of have to do their job, whether you agree with the law or you don’t,” the pugnacious governor said.

Since the Supreme Court voted 5-4 to legalize homosexual “marriage” last Friday, elected officials have grappled with how to safeguard the rights of those who have deeply held religious beliefs that would not allow them to participate in such a ceremony.

Christie's response differs markedly from other GOP hopefuls' responses to the Supreme Court ruling. Mike Huckabee, for instance, has specifically said that clerks should have conscience rights. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal signed an executive order granting such rights and ordered clerks to wait until a pending court case was fully adjudicated before any clerk issues a marriage license to a homosexual couple.

Christie gave up a legal appeal after a superior court judge struck down his state's voter-approved constitutional marriage protection amendment. New Jersey is the only state where such a low court overturned the will of the voters.

The decision to ignore conscience rights adds to the growing number of Christie's positions that give conservatives pause.

The natural locus of support for a Christie 2016 presidential run is the Republican's socially liberal donor class, for personal as well as political reasons. His wife works on Wall Street, and some of the GOP's high-dollar donors – including Paul Singer – have courted Christie for years.

However, this year Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, and to a lesser degree Scott Walker have eclipsed Christie as the preferred candidates of the boardroom donors – who sometimes prefer Democrats to Republicans.

Christie also used language during a speech before the Republican Jewish Coalition last year, which concerned some major GOP donors.

Christie is reportedly spending this weekend with Mitt Romney and his family at Romney's New Hampshire home. Romney declined to enter the 2016 race himself and may be able to open his donor list to Christie's struggling campaign.

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After having a girl with Down syndrome, this couple adopted two more

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By Ben Johnson

LINO LAKE, MN, July 3, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) – For most people, having five biological children would have been enough. In fact, for many Americans, large families are treated as a scandal or a burden.

But one family made the decision, not just to have a large family, but to give a home to some of the most vulnerable children in the world: Girls born overseas with Down syndrome.

Lee and Karen Shervheim love all seven of their children, biological or otherwise. Undeterred by having twin boys – Daniel and Andrew, 18 – they had Sam four years later.

They now have three daughters who are all 11 years old. All three have Down syndrome.

And two of them are adopted.

About the time their eight-year-old son, David, was born, Lee and Karen decided to adopt a child with Down syndrome to be a companion to their daughter, Annie.

They made the further unexpected choice to adopt a child from Eastern Europe with the help of Reece's Rainbow, which helps parents adopt children with Down syndrome.

“Between my wife and I, we couldn’t get it out of our heads,” Lee told the Quad City Press. “So many children need families and we knew we could potentially do something about it.”

After originally deciding to adopt Katie, they spent six weeks in Kiev, visiting an orphanage in nearby Kharkov. While there, they decided they may have room in their heart, and their home, for another child.

When they saw a picture of Emie striking the same pose as their biological daughter in one of their photographs, they knew they would come home with two children.

Both girls were the same age as their Annie. She would not lack for companionship, as they worried.

Lee said after the Ukrainian government – finally – completed the paperwork, they returned to the United States, when the real challenges began.

“The unvarnished truth,” Lee told the Press, is that adopting the Russian-speaking special needs children “was really disruptive to our family. They came with so many issues that we had not anticipated.”

After teaching them sign language and appropriate behavior, they moved to Lino Lake, Minnesota and found a new support group in Eagle Brook Church. There they found personal assistance and spiritual solace.

Every year in the past seven years has been better and better, they say.

“I think my girls can do almost anything they want to do,” he said, “and that’s what I want to help them become.”

The family's devotion is fueled by their faith, and it informs the sense of humor Lee showed in a tweet during the 2014 midterm elections:

It takes a special person to believe in the potential of the “mentally retarded,” as they were once labeled. Today, 90 percent of all babies diagnosed with Down syndrome in the womb will be aborted. The percentage is higher in some countries. Some have even spoken of "a world without people with Down syndrome."

Their God, and their experience, tell them that every child has infinite worth and potential, Lee told local media, and he would encourage anyone to follow his footsteps and adopt a Down syndrome child – or two.

“The message is that it really doesn’t matter where you started or where you came from,” Lee said. “There are endless opportunities for everyone, whether they have disabilities or not. They deserve a shot.”

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