Ben Johnson

Author: I was ‘blown away’ by Pope Paul VI’s accurate predictions about the sexual revolution

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April 12, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Author Mary Eberstadt recently released her book Adam and Eve After the Pill, a study of the effects of the sexual revolution. LifeSiteNews recently spoke to Eberstadt about the book. You can also find a LifeSiteNews.com review of her book here.

BJ: Your book, Adam and Eve After the Pill: Paradoxes of the Sexual Revolution, could not have come at a more opportune time. How did you manage to orchestrate the national debate on contraception to coincide with your book’s release?

EB: If it is timely, it is probably the only timely thing I’ve ever done, and it’s got nothing to do with my calculations. I’ve actually been working on the book on-and-off for four years, and I had no way of knowing it would coincide with a truly important moment in time.

BJ: It certainly underscored the importance of everything you’re talking about. Your book does not discuss health care but renders a more valuable service, which is to talk about the ramifications of widespread recreational sex and its effects. You pick up the baton from none other than Pope Paul VI, as you mention. You flesh out the predictions of his encyclical Humanae Vitae in your book’s last chapter very well. What did you find prophetic about it, and were you surprised it was as indicative as it turned out to be?

EB: I was indeed surprised. I did not read Humanae Vitae until just a few years ago, just a few years shy of its 40th anniversary, and when I finally read the document through I was just blown away by its understanding of what the world would look like if the sexual revolution proceeded.

The main thing that surprised me was its understanding of what would happen to the relation between the sexes. Humanae Vitae predicted that in a world of contraceptive sex, men and women would not get along as well, that once you sever procreation from recreational sex men would look down on women. He also advanced the idea that there would be a lowering of standards of conduct between the sexes. All of this, I argue, has come true, and yet the secular world has refused to acknowledge its truth. That to me is a paradox, because if you were to ask which document of modern times was the most unwanted and reviled document it would have be Humanae Vitae, right? Across the world, it is seen as a laughingstock in some places, as a profoundly undesired testament in others, yet this document contains more truth about the sexual revolution and the world it would usher in than any other document. We’re left here with a great paradox – I really believe that – that something that contains great truths has been almost universally reviled. And that in itself was justification enough to undertake this book.

BJ: Speaking of paradoxes, you point out in what I consider the most powerful two chapters of the book that we live in a world that is bathed in sexual images yet devoid of actual sex within marriages. What has ubiquitous porn use done to intimacy, particularly between married couples?

EB: This is a great paradox. In the chapter called “What is the Sexual Revolution Doing to Women?” In that chapter, I went through a bunch of sources in the secular world, primarily .... fashionable literature, much of it consumed by women and made for women. What I am pointing to in that chapter is the level of unhappiness that comes through these accounts. I have in mind several articles in The Atlantic magazine that are dissected in some detail, one article arguing that marriage is over, that it’s impossible to put the sexes back together again – a very sad piece by a very talented writer. What strikes me is that the women making these complaints seem never to connect the dots between our post-sexual liberation world and the unhappiness they describe.

What I’m arguing is that sexual liberation contributes to this unhappiness in several different ways. First of all, we live in a world where pornography is supposed to be off limits for discussion, at least in the secular world. Many people are laissez-faire about it. They don’t think there is any proof of negative consequences from it. I disagree with that for reasons cited in the book that have to do with social science studies. But pornography is obviously something that gets in the way of intimacy between the sexes. If you live in a world that says pornography is victimless and harmless, you then bring a great deal of confusion to the question, Why am I not happy in my relationship?

These are the kinds of paradoxes I’m trying to unearth in my book, because I think there’s a great deal of misunderstanding – including willful misunderstanding – about what the sexual revolution has wrought.

BJ: You also focus on what has happened to men, which I thought was an interesting coin-flip. I read recently from someone more on the Left that – with static wages that have not increased in real terms since 1972, men’s declining prospects both educationally and commercially in terms of their value in the workplace – the rootless lifestyle of someone who has children by several women but doesn’t support or live with any of them was a rational undertaking. If intimacy has broken down, men would not work to support a promiscuous woman he does not love. If sex is simply recreational, there is no need to engage in an extraordinary undertaking with his declining commercial value.

EB: That’s very well put, and that is an insight that I think was overlooked by our intellectuals and social scientists for the most part. There were a few exceptions. There were a couple of people who early on predicted if the sexual revolution took hold, what would happen was that men would be marginalized from family life. If you give women full reproductive power, the result will be that men – who are generally speaking less attached to the domestic unit than women are – would become even more so. They would become marginalized, and their interest in providing a home or their stake in keeping a family going would be commensurately less. George Gilder said this, and the sociologist Lionel Tiger said this. Most of conventional social thinkers and social scientists did not take them up on this challenge. Again we live in a world where, for the most part in the secular realm, the sexual revolution is seen as beyond criticism. But I think Gilder and Tiger and some other people I mention in the book, who are perfectly secular social thinkers, were perfectly right as Humanae Vitaewas right about what would happen in the world once contraception was the coin of the realm. Those consequences, some of them, have been pretty dark, and I think it’s time we turn our attention to that side of the record, as well.

BJ: In researching Adam and Eve After the Pill, you encountered some hopeless-looking data. I know this can be a challenge, because we deal with similar material at LifeSiteNews. Are you tempted to despair or are you driven more to find a solution?

EB: No, I think there are grounds for hope. First of all, let’s put this in historical perspective. The sexual revolution when put against the sweep of human history has not been with us very long. It’s been 50-plus years into this experiment, and the fallout is only just beginning to be assessed. I wanted to write this book because I wanted to be part of that assessment. I wanted to push the idea that we need to assess this fallout going forward. But once people see and understand better the consequences of this social experiment, I think they are more likely to take a different view, a dimmer view of what sexual revolution has done to the world.

I’ll give you an example, Ben, not from the religious world at all but from the point of view of demography. We all know that in Western Europe today, especially if we read the financial pages, there’s a crisis –  it’s a crisis of employment and it’s a crisis of the welfare states, which are vast and can’t be supported by the younger workers. Why? Because of the sexual revolution. Because there aren’t enough younger workers to support the older workers. Now I’m not saying people should have babies to support the advanced Western welfare state. But what I am saying is that in Western Europe you see on a very grand scale – financially, socially, and otherwise – what has happened because of the sexual revolution.  It’s entirely thinkable that down the road Europeans will go back to the family unit, as the welfare state’s inability to replace the family unit becomes more and more evident. So that’s a reason why knowing what’s going on out there I think points toward an ultimate diagnosis for hope and not despair.

BJ: You also deal in your chapter entitled “Toxic U” about what’s going on on college campuses. Anyone who has not spent time on campus does not understand these are centers of the revolution broadly speaking – not simply the sexual revolution but also the left-wing revolution, the identity politics revolution, and so on. To the extent anyone is going to have an identity as someone on the Left, or a raging secularist, this is where one is going to develop it. You go through the initiation rituals that one can slip into and, with great practice, slip out of, that permanently scar young people (binge drinking, STDs, etc.). If someone were going to college, what is the best way he or she could avoid falling into these pitfalls?

EB: Usually I get questions regarding the parents, what would you tell the parents? But I think directly addressing the young people involved is probably a better idea.

I think if I were a young person going to college now, I’d want to know what’s going on with sexual assault on campus and I devote several pages of the book to looking at studies discussing that topic. I think the problem is there has been a tendency to dismiss it and to say it’s just a matter of sowing wild oats: Boys will be boys and girls will be girls. What do you expect? But actually the Department of Justice commissioned a study of many thousands of college women, and one in five claims to have been sexually assaulted on campus. As you would expect, usually alcohol or drugs are involved. It usually takes place at night between people who know each other. There’s a lot of gray area in encounters like that, obviously. To me the meaningful statistic is that number, one in five, which is horrendous if you think about it. Even if everybody does not completely agree about what you mean when you say “sexual assault,” it means there’s a whole lot of unwanted or retrospectively unwanted sexual activity going on that people regret and would take back if they could.

What would I want to know if I were going to college? I’d want to know that almost everyone who says something like that happened to them say that it happened in their freshman or at the latest their sophomore year. Which is to say that they have to be extra vigilant during the first year of college. I think that’s important statistical information to have. It was amassed by secular social researchers.  Again, we’re talking about the fact that secular social science confirms and validates and confirms things that people in the Judeo-Christian tradition have been saying for many years.

I hope that’s what’s new about this book: that it brings social science research to bear on all these questions, so the questions get taken out of this realm in which it’s just religious folks talking to religious folks, and we finally have a way of translating them to the public square for everybody to debate.

BJ: What has happened since the book’s publication that you feel has most vindicated or authenticated your book? What has given you the greatest sense of happiness for having written it?

EB: Happiness is too strong a word. I don’t attach any feeling of happiness to this book. It is not altogether a dark book, but but a lot of it deals with difficult stuff. But that said the fact that we’re having this ongoing discussion about the HHS mandate is itself a kind of vindication of the book’s thesis.

The book’s thesis is that the legacy of the sexual revolution, contrary to what secular thinkers say, is not settled in the mind of the West. We have not reached some kind of consensus about this. It’s still on the table. The question of whether it’s been good for society or bad for society is still up for grabs. I think the fact that we’re having a national argument about funding birth control goes to show that we haven’t settled this question at all.

To the extent that the book means to put that question about the sexual revolution and its legacy back on the public table, I think this is a good moment to do it and that the HHS debate goes to show as much.

BJ: I’m certainly grateful someone has marshaled the data and made such a compelling case, as you have in this book. Thank you for your outstanding work. I hope it continues to be successful.

EB: Thank you very much, and best with your own very important work. I know LifeSiteNews, and it’s great.

BJ: Thank you. We’ll see one another out on the front lines.

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Federal court says NY allowed to ban ‘Choose Life’ plates as ‘patently offensive’

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By Ben Johnson

ALBANY, NY, May 26, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The pro-life message can be classified as “patently offensive,” a federal appeals court ruled last week. The new opinion came as a three-judge panel ruled that New York state was right to reject a “Choose Life” license plate on the grounds that it may grate on New Yorkers' political sensibilities.

The judges split on whether New York could deny a pro-adoption group the right to have its own license plate, although the state has in the past allowed plates endorsing political causes associated with the liberal viewpoint, such as environmentalism.

Judge Rosemary Pooler, who was appointed by President Clinton, wrote that the state's denial did not harm anyone's right to freedom of expression, because drivers “may display a ‘Choose Life’ bumper sticker — or even cover every available square inch of their vehicle with such stickers. That message will resonate just as loudly as if vehicle displayed a ‘Choose Life’ license plate.”

Judge Debra Ann Livingston, a President George W. Bush appointee, wrote in her dissent that “a proposed custom plate depicting a sun and two smiling children, and bearing the words, ‘Choose Life’ [thought] to be ‘patently offensive’” was “surprising.”

“Pro-adoption organizations should have the same speech rights as any other organization. While the district court affirmed this basic freedom, the circuit court denied free speech in favor of government censorship,” said Jeremy Tedesco, senior counsel at ADF. “The state doesn’t have the authority to target The Children First Foundation specialty plates for censorship based on its life-affirming viewpoint.”

The ruling is the lastest round in a legal battle that has raged for more than a decade and, pro-lifers say, seen state officials repeatedly suppress their First Amendment rights.

The Children First Foundation applied for the specialty license plate in 2002, but state officials say the message and design was “too controversial.” In 2004, the Alliance Defending Freedom filed a lawsuit on CFF's behalf.

New York's Department of Motor Vehicles repeatedly denied the “Choose Life” license plates on the grounds that the message was “patently offensive.”

The same appeals court rejected an effort to suppress the plates made by then-Attorney General Eliot Spitzer and agreed that Albany officials denied the plates based on viewpoint discrimination.

In 2006, a three-judge panel of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals noted that CFF “specifically alleges that defendants denied the picture-plate application ‘based on their disagreement with [the] life-affirming viewpoint expressed on the plate.’”

“On a motion to dismiss, we must accept this allegation, and all reasonable inferences drawn from it, as true,” the judges ruled.

Spitzer, a Democrat who strongly supported abortion-on-demand and gay “marriage,” served as governor beginning in 2007 but resigned his office in the midst of a prostitution scandal only 15 months later.

In November 2011, a federal court ruled that “New York has run afoul of the First Amendment by giving the Commissioner unbridled discretion to engage in viewpoint discrimination.”

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Yet the case has dragged on through the appeals process.

“The state has wrongly gotten away with speech discrimination against our client for more than 10 years,” Tedesco said after last week's ruling.

He said ADF is considering its next legal move.

As of this writing, “Choose Life” license plates are available in 25 states and the District of Columbia.

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Michael Coren stands outside St. James Anglican Cathedral as he prepares to be received into the Anglican Communion on April 19, 2015. Anglican Diocese of Toronto / Facebook
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‘Official’ Catholic newspaper defends running pro-abortion piece by Michael Coren

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MUENSTER, Saskatchewan, May 26, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) -- The Prairie Messenger, described as the "official Catholic newspaper for western Canada," is defending the publication of a piece last week in which ex-Catholic author Michael Coren openly advocates for abortion in the case of rape while saying the notion of “criminalizing abortion” is “repugnant.”

In his piece titled "Seamless garment," Coren — who recently left the Catholic Church to join the Anglican Communion over Catholic teaching on homosexuality — writes that the 10-year-old Paraguayan girl who seized international headlines after becoming pregnant by rape should be legally allowed to abort her baby.

“A terrified little girl victimized by those around her and forced by a government to give birth to the child of her rapist? That is not justice, that is not life, that is not right. God must be weeping,” he writes.

Criminalizing abortion, Coren writes, would “give state legitimization and authority to a minority view and what is to a very large extent a particular religious teaching.”

The Catechism of the Catholic Church takes a different position, however. In paragraph 2273, it states that “as a consequence of the respect and protection which must be ensured for the unborn child from the moment of conception, the law must provide appropriate penal sanctions for every deliberate violation of the child's rights." Catholic teaching holds that every human life is sacred since it comes from God. There is no exception for rape. 

For many years, Coren was one of the most prominently pro-life broadcasters in Canada. Calling himself a “journalist for life,” he wrote a column for The Interim, Canada’s life and family newspaper, and was a frequent paid speaker at pro-life events. The Prairie Messenger column appears to be the first time that he has publicly renounced his pro-life position.

Prairie Messenger: “We live in a diverse society where the challenges of daily living cause people to be confronted with difficult circumstances in a world where nothing is black and white."

Rebecca Kiessling, founder of Save The 1, told LifeSiteNews that she was disgusted to see an article in a Catholic newspaper that supports abortion. Kiessling, who was conceived by rape, is a public advocate for those targeted for abortion because they were conceived in rape.

“We are also told in Deuteronomy not to punish a child for the sins of the father and we are not to shed innocent blood. Doing so goes against every concept of justice. I did not deserve the death penalty for the crimes of my biological father. There is a misplaced compassion when anyone wants to kill the innocent child. Punish rapists, not babies,” she said.

Monica Kelsey, who was also conceived in rape, told LifeSiteNews that she was “deeply saddened to hear about Christians standing for the killing of an innocent child.”

“We all agree that this is a situation that deeply saddens us all, but killing this young woman’s child is not going to unrape her. It will further victimize her and, in the process, kill an innocent child.”

“As a child conceived through a brutal attack and rape where my birth mother almost died, I am deeply saddened that Mr. Coren is making an exception for this precious child's life, simply because his father is a rapist. God can get this 10-year-old child through this tough time, but why compound the issue with an abortion? This girl needs us to walk beside her, loving her and helping her make an adoption or parenting plan,” she said.

"This is a life, this is justice for this child. Saving this pre-born child's life is the right thing to do,” she added.

Dolores Castellanos, the doctor who is monitoring the 10-year-old girl in Paraguay, has confirmed that the pregnancy is developing without affecting the health of the infant or the little girl. Nevertheless, the international abortion lobby has latched onto the case as an opportunity to force the small South American country to change its pro-life constitution which currently protects life from the moment of conception.

Prairie Messenger is a weekly Catholic newspaper published by the Benedictine monastic community at St. Peter’s Abbey in Muenster, Saskatchewan. The Diocese of Saskatoon, the Archdiocese of Saint Boniface, and the Archdiocese of Regina are among those that promote the newspaper.

When LifeSiteNews asked Prairie Messenger News Editor Rev. Peter Novecosky, OSB, why it ran a piece from an ex-Catholic who advocates for positions at extreme odds with clear Catholic teaching, spokesperson Maureen Weber responded: “Because we have much to gain by listening to the voices of others.”

“To carry only Catholic columnists who repeat the catechism would mean never hearing and acknowledging the voices of those who are living the hard realities of life on the peripheries, as Pope Francis puts it. Other columnists present other viewpoints that reflect these difficult life issues. Our readers can address these issues when they are presented and, as thinking adults, they need to do more than repeat rote answers.”

Weber said that the editors of Prairie Messenger “refuse to see abortion as a single issue, but rather, as a seamless garment of protection for all of life, both the unborn and the born, support for women, for work toward alleviating the poverty that leads so many women to make desperate decisions, restorative justice rather than harsh sentences with no possibility of rehabilitation, defence policies, health care, policies on the disabled, the aged, euthanasia and assisted suicide.”

“We live in a diverse society where the challenges of daily living cause people to be confronted with difficult circumstances in a world where nothing is black and white,” she said.

Cardinal Gerhard Müller, prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, criticized in 2013 those who champion the Church’s moral vision as a “seamless garment” while ignoring actual occasions of real injustice.

“The ‘seamless garment’ image was used to great effect to root the Church’s response to various moral issues — from nuclear proliferation to poverty — within the overarching teaching on the sanctity of human life, from natural conception to natural death,” he said.

“Unfortunately, however, it is also true that the image of the ‘seamless garment’ has been used by some theologians and Catholic politicians, in an intellectually dishonest manner, to allow or at least to justify turning a blind eye to instances of abortion, contraception, or public funding for embryonic stem cell research, as long as these were simultaneously accompanied by opposition to the death penalty or promotion of economic development for the poor - issues which are also part of the fabric of Catholic moral teaching,” he said.

The Prairie Messenger, which acts as the newspaper for a number of dioceses in Western Canada, has faced criticism in the past for opposing Catholic teaching.

In a July 2004 Catholic Insight article titled “A flawed stewardship,” Joe Campbell of Saskatoon, SK, called the Prairie Messenger’s editorial stance “disappointing” for taking what he called a “cafeteria approach to teachings on faith and morals, accepting some while rejecting others.”

Campbell criticized then-editor Rev. Andrew Britz, OSB, for failing to support Church teachings on issues such as the male priesthood, contraception, fornication, and homosexuality.

“Not only has Fr. Britz failed to support certain teachings, but he has repeatedly challenged them. He has managed this in three ways: through his editorials; through regular columnists he has retained; and through unbalanced coverage of certain events and issues,” he wrote at that time.

Jim Hughes, national president of Campaign Life Coalition, told LifeSiteNews that a Catholic publication should publish what the Catholic Church teaches.

“Why they would allow this to be published is certainly beyond me. I think it behooves a Catholic publication to stand-up for what the Church actually teaches. Without some counter argument in defense of Church teaching right along side this piece, I think it's wrong to run something like that,” he said.

Contact info for respectful communcations:

Diocese of Saskatoon (home of Prairie Messenger) 
Bishop Donald Bolen
Ph: 306-659-5824 ext. 824
Email: [email protected]

Prairie Messenger 
Rev. Peter Novecosky, OSB
Ph: 306-682-1772
Email: [email protected]

Archdiocese of Saint Boniface
Most Rev. Albert LeGatt, DTh
Ph: 204-237-9858
Email: [email protected]

Archdiocese of Regina
Archbishop Daniel Bohan
Ph: (306) 352-1651
Director of Communications
Bobbi Yanko - ext 230
Email: [email protected]

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BREAKING: Dutch bishops’ aid group funding Planned Parenthood, Marie Stopes

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By Lisa Bourne

May 26, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Cordaid, the Dutch arm of the Vatican’s charitable umbrella Caritas Internationalis, is openly promoting contraception and says access to birth control is vital for the good of women in developing countries. The group has also given money to leading international abortion providers Planned Parenthood and Marie Stopes International.

Cordaid defended itself when questioned by LifeSiteNews. Calling itself a “proud member” of Caritas Internationalis, a representative said that “access to affordable and good-quality family planning and sexual and reproductive healthcare are crucial to strengthening the position of women in developing countries and to lowering the rate of unwanted pregnancies.”

A new report by the Lepanto Institute details evidence of numerous violations of Church teaching from Cordaid's own website.

In 2012 Cordaid started a program called “Making sexual and reproductive health services work for the next generation” in Burundi, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Cordaid: “Access to affordable and good-quality family planning and sexual and reproductive healthcare are crucial to strengthening the position of women in developing countries and to lowering the rate of unwanted pregnancies.”

“There is a clear need for sex education and contraception in the African Great Lakes region,” Cordaid wrote of the program. “Its aim is to provide a better future for young generations, reduce childbirth mortality among women through more effective family planning and alleviate poverty among families.”

It began another contraception program the following year in Burundi, Congo, and Rwanda. A Cordaid program distributed condoms in the Congo in 2012, and another worked to provide condoms and other contraceptives in Malawi in 2013, while a third provided condoms in Sierra Leone in 2011 and 2012.

The Cordaid website also shows that it gave the Philippines Planned Parenthood affiliate €220,491 in 2013 for a teen sex ed program, and partnered with another affiliate in Sierra Leone in 2013 and 2014. Cordaid gave a Marie Stopes affiliate over half a million Euros in 2013 to provide birth control, including sterilization.

Cordaid is not only a member but also a co-founder of Caritas Internationalis, the Vatican’s coalition of Catholic relief, development, and social service organizations. There are 165 members in some 200 countries and territories across the world, and Cordaid is Caritas Internationalis’ local affiliate for the Netherlands.

The head of Caritas Internationalis was released from her position in 2011 amidst internal changes requested by the Vatican, prompted by concerns over the development agency’s Catholic identity. The following year Pope Benedict XVI ordered a reform of Caritas Internationalis.

The Lepanto Institute’s Michael Hichborn criticized Cordaid’s open flaunting of its membership in Caritas Internationalis while obviously disobeying Church teaching.

"With Cordaid boasting its proud membership in Caritas Internationalis while simultaneously fully admitting to dispensing contraception and funding Planned Parenthood and Marie Stopes International, Caritas has an obligation to expel Cordaid from its rosters," he told LifeSiteNews.

Responding to LifeSiteNews’ inquiry into the report’s specifics, in addition to stating that women benefit from “family planning” services and expressing importance in reducing “unwanted pregnancies,” Cordaid insisted it is not involved in providing abortion.

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“Cordaid's instruments of family planning and sexual and reproductive healthcare do not include abortion,” the relief group said.

Cordaid also said it had the esteem of those with whom it collaborates. “Our partners, governments and our funding partners respect the way we, as a proud member of Caritas Internationalis, fulfil our role to build bridges between faith based and non-faith based organizations in north and south.”

“The catholic social teachings are the fundament of our identity and work,” the group added. “The fundamental elements of the catholic social teachings, subsidiarity, solidarity, bonum com unum and human dignity, inspire and guide us in our mission to build flourishing communities in the world’s most fragile and conflict affected areas.”  

LifeSiteNews sent inquiries to Caritas Internationalis regarding Cordaid’s activities in conflict with Church teaching, and did not receive a response before press time.

Hichborn decried the thought of Catholics in the Netherlands funding anti-Catholic initiatives. "Are the bishops of the Netherlands aware of what Cordaid is doing?” he asked. “Do Catholic parishes in the Netherlands take up collections for Cordaid? The Catholic faithful need to be made aware of what is happening in our Church."

Cordaid’s full statement to LifeSiteNews:

As a Catholic organization, Cordaid has long experience in healthcare in developing countries, especially sexual and reproductive healthcare.

In our programs one of our aims is to build bridges between citizens and governments, partners in the North and partners in the South, and bring together both religious and non-religious organizations.

Our long experience has taught us that good, complete and timely information and access to affordable and good-quality family planning and sexual and reproductive healthcare are crucial to strengthening the position of women in developing countries and to lowering the rate of unwanted pregnancies. Cordaid's instruments of family planning and sexual and reproductive healthcare do not include abortion.

Our partners, governments and our funding partners respect the way we, as a proud member of Caritas Internationalis, fulfil our role to build bridges between faith based and non-faith based organizations in north and south. The catholic social teachings are the fundament of our identity and work. The fundamental elements of the catholic social teachings, subsidiarity, solidarity, bonum comunum and human dignity, inspire and guide us in our mission to build flourishing communities in world’s most fragile and conflict affected areas.   

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