Ben Johnson

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Breathing with both lungs: Eastern Orthodox make strong showing at March for Life

Ben Johnson
Ben Johnson
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WASHINGTON, D.C., January 27, 2014 (LifeSiteNews.com) – March for Life President Jeanne Monahan addressed concerns that the annual pro-life walk was too heavily Catholic, reaching out to evangelical Protestants. But based on the participation of Eastern Orthodox Christians in this year's events, marchers may have been forgiven for believing the whole march breathed with the other lung.

Every major event, and several minor ones, featured distinguished clergy from the world's second largest Christian denomination.

Archpriest John Jillions, the chancellor of the Orthodox Church in America (OCA), represented his church at the “National Memorial for the Preborn and their Mothers and Fathers,” an annual interdenominational prayer service held at Constitution Hall.

The most visible participation came as Orthodox clergy filled the stage at the March for Life, which began with an invocation given by Bishop Demetrios (Kantzavelos), the Greek Orthodox bishop of Chicago.

He prayed that the public witness would reach “civil authorities who have legislated against the rights of the unborn, jurists who have adjudicated against life, physicians who have not healed but have brought harm and death, parents who have made choices to end life in the womb – some callous and self-interested, others tragic and conflicted,” and “young persons raised in a culture that espouses a right for some to kill.”

Bishop Demetrios, who also participated in the 2014 Chicago March for Life, said that supporting the right to abortion is based in “profound ignorance.”

“Forgive them, Lord, for they know not what they do,” he said.

He was joined on stage by the ruling hierarchy of the OCA (Metropolitan Tikhon, Bishop Melchisedek, Bishop Mark, Bishop Michael), as well as representatives of the Romanian Orthodox Church, Antiochian Orthodox Church, Armenian Orthodox Church, Syriac Orthodox Church, and a representative of the U.S. Catholic bishops.

Metropolitan Tikhon (Mollard), the leader of the OCA, offered the invocation at the annual Rose Dinner at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill the evening of the March. His words focused on the Epistles of St. Paul to St. Timothy, most poignantly the charge, “Let no man despise thy youth.”

Like the rest of the March, the Orthodox delegation heavily featured young people. The nation's major Orthodox seminaries – St. Vladimir's Seminary in New York, Holy Cross in Boston, St. Tikhon's in Pennsylvania, Holy Trinity in New York, and others – sent delegations.

Gabriel Monforte, a young seminarian at St. Tikhon's, was proud that Orthodox bishops “are standing by the official position of the Church that all life is sacred, and as future stewards of the church it's our duty to be here for them and for all those gathered here, as well.”

He said the Eastern embrace of human life grows out of its key doctrinal belief: that God is love.

“Everything has to be done in love, especially trying to convert the hearts of those who don't view life as being sacred, as we do.” He said they learn they must “show love to those who have unfortunately chosen, or been forced to choose, abortion.”

“It's not just about shouting and getting hyped up – although it is about making our voice heard – but it's also about demonstrating God's love to a cold world,” he said.

Bishop Demetrios said the presence of so many young people of all backgrounds gave him hope.

“It is inspiring to see that, after four decades and counting of legalized infanticide, the March for Life was joined by so many young women and men from all across our nation, and there are those who feel deeply that we must protect all human life, from the preborn to those on death row and everywhere in between as we prayed in our memorial vigil,” he said. “Though this battle will not be complete until we repeal certain laws and reverse court rulings, abolishing abortion on demand as well as capital punishment, we are advancing in our fight for hearts and minds. Virtuous hearts will always win the day.”

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Of course, not all participants were young, or new to the event.

Dr. David C. Ford, Associate Professor of Church History at St. Tikhon's, said he has been coming with his students since 1988. “It's a highlight of the year to be here as a group and standing up for the sanctity, the dignity of all of human life,” he said.

Marching for him is “a public witness for our church's historic support for all of life, born and unborn, ever since Jesus Christ established His Church,” he said. “It's an honor; it's humbling to carry on that tradition, that legacy.”

He said the highlight for him was the Orthodox prayer service for the unborn. “It's beyond words how important that is,” he said.

Prominent Orthodox clergy and laity joined the annual event, as well. The chancellor of St. Vladimir's Seminary, Fr. Chad Hatfield, was present. He marched near Fr. John Kowalczyk, a leading voice on the issue and the author of two books on abortion: An Orthodox View of Abortion and Church Fathers and Abortion.

Shortly before the pro-life event, the Republican National Committee announced it would postpone its annual winter meeting so delegates could attend the March. RNC Chairman Reince Priebus is Greek Orthodox.

Dr. Ford said he would encourage any Orthodox Christian – or anyone else – who has doubts about taking part to come to the March for Life. “It's a life-changing event,” he said. “It's so powerful.”

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

Dustin Siggins Dustin Siggins Follow Dustin
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

Steve Weatherbe
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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John Jalsevac John Jalsevac Follow John

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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