John Westen

Cardinal Ambrozic 1930-2011: a LifeSiteNews donor, and a complex relationship

John Westen
John Westen
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TORONTO, August 26, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) - It may come as a shock to many that the late Cardinal Aloysius Ambrozic who reigned as Archbishop of Toronto from 1990 till his retirement in 2006 was a staunch supporter of the pro-life cause and a donor to LifeSiteNews.  However, that fact is a good example of the complex relationship which he had with the pro-life movement.  A relationship best characterized in his own words which appear at the conclusion of this reflection.

One of the most difficult stances Cardinal Ambrozic made in support of life was to stand up publicly against Development and Peace and many of his brother bishops represented by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops over the March of Women in 2000.

Very much like the 2008 Development & Peace (D&P) scandal, LifeSiteNews had in 2000 discovered that D&P was funding a pro-abortion and pro-lesbian feminist cause known as the March of Women.  While the March was also in support of legitimate women’s rights such as relief of poverty, oppression, and discrimination against women, the organizers were decidedly pro-abortion and pro-lesbian, and included those motifs powerfully in the March of Women agenda. 

While the US bishops totally boycotted the March for those reasons, LSN was shocked to find D&P and the CCCB backing the March. However, Cardinal Ambrozic led the way for a handful of bishops to publicly object to the participation and funding of the pro-abortion March.

The Cardinal instructed ShareLife to cut funding to D&P by $15,000 in protest to the Catholic agency’s support for the March.  In a letter to all priests in the Toronto archdiocese, Cardinal Ambrozic wrote, “many of our clergy and laity have queried the involvement of Development and Peace.” The letter continued, “the association of D&P with this group is indeed unfortunate and we need to make a definite statement to disassociate our archdiocese with this movement through D&P.” 

It sure wasn’t easy though for Cardinal Ambrozic to bear the criticism he received over his leadership in this regard, especially from his brother bishops.  To indicate how severe the division was it is instructive to recall that despite his public protest, D&P and the CCCB released a public letter of reaffirmation of their support for the March of Women.

Beyond that, six Canadian bishops concelebrated a Mass for the March of Women - all at a time when only one Canadian bishop (a retired one) was celebrating the Mass for the annual March for Life in the national capital. 

Cardinal Ambrozic’s personal positions were not always shared by those within his chancery.  At times communication with the Cardinal was difficult.  He often felt pushed by pro-life Catholics to undertake difficult choices and at times tempers flared.

Back in 2002 LSN blew the whistle on the annual Toronto Red Mass dinner hosted by the Toronto Catholic Lawyer’s Guild. The annual dinner which is followed by the Red Mass - usually celebrated by the Archbishop of Toronto - was having a keynote address by former Prime Minister and Progressive Conservative Party Leader Joe Clark - a Catholic who supported both abortion and same-sex unions. 

As the date for the dinner approached various Catholic lawyers and politicians told LSN they were boycotting the dinner due to the scandalous selection of the keynote speaker.  However, organizers of the dinner were still assuring LSN that the Cardinal was to attend, and celebrate the annual Mass.  The communications office at the Archdiocese refused to answer when we queried several times to confirm.

Then, just a couple of days prior to the event, LSN received a call from Suzanne Scorsone who was at the time the communications director at the Archdiocese.  The information conveyed was that the Cardinal would not be attending the Red Mass dinner.  “He had another commitment,” LSN was told. 

The Cardinal did however say the Red Mass.  With former Prime Minister Clark sitting there front and centre, Archbishop Ambrozic unleashed a homily that likely still remains with many to this day.

Speaking of “the suffering of the babies who are being aborted,” the Cardinal said, “Somehow the people who are pro-abortion ... think that somehow they don’t feel the horrible pain that accompanies every death. I don’t know one piece of living flesh that doesn’t feel the pain when life is being gouged out of it.”

On the family front in the culture war, Cardinal Ambrozic also undertook challenging actions.  His interventions often came at the behest of pro-life activists who sometimes pressed uncomfortable nerves.

  • As early as 1999 he spoke out against a Supreme Court ruling granting spousal benefits to practicing homosexual couples warning presciently that it would “serve to undermine our traditional understanding of marriage and family, and the nature of spousal and conjugal relationships.”
  • By 2003 as the same-sex ‘marriage’ battle was in full swing he sent a letter to all Toronto parishes urging priests, “It is imperative that we speak publicly and clearly about what is referred to as the ‘same-sex marriage’.” 
  • In 2005, he wrote the Prime Minister asking for legislation to protect traditional marriage and warning that public schools would be forced to teach children that homosexual ‘marriage’ was equivalent to traditional marriage.
  • He had priests read out a message at all Masses encouraging the Catholics to take political action on the issue.
  • He backed the now famous marriage rally in Ottawa which saw 15,000 Canadians make a last ditch effort to protect marriage.

More troubling though than merely having to take part in the culture war in the public square was having to clean up the mess in-house.

Weeks after LSN revealed that a Toronto priest had filed an affidavit in support of same-sex ‘marriage’, Cardinal Ambrozic suspended Fr. Tim Ryan’s priestly faculties.

Another Toronto priest, Fr. Karl Clemens, announced on television he was ‘gay’ and thereafter attempted to run for Catholic school trustee.  Cardinal Ambrozic put out a release to Catholic voters noting that in addition to the fact that Fr. Clemens, was not permitted to say Mass in public, had no permission to run for elected office.

Cardinal Ambrozic again found himself bearing the rage of homosexual activists for refusing to confer a degree on a nun whose doctoral thesis celebrated lesbianism.

Another powerful example of the cardinal’s leadership on the life and family issues took place at World Youth Day in 2002. Cardinal Ambrozic received thunderous applause as he responded to a question on abortion in a Catechesis session. Asked about abortion and embryonic stem cell research the Cardinal said, “the Church will forever be opposed to it. I don’t feel the Church has any choice in the matter” - a response which elicited heartfelt approval from his the several hundred youth in attendance.

Responding bluntly on the issue of embryo research he said: “You don’t have to produce babies and kill them in order to experiment.” Buoyed by the supportive youth, the Cardinal made some of his most outspoken remarks calling the media “pro-abortion” for their slanted coverage of life issues.

While he may have appeared rough around the edges to many a pro-life leader, at heart Cardinal Ambrozic held them in very high esteem.  His own words, penned in 1993 give the strongest evidence of that, acknowledging too the challenges that pro-life activists were for him at times.  His contributions to LifeSite came in the form of $500 cheques accompanied by little encouraging notes, all in his own hand. 

The following is the last paragraph of the April, 1993 statement penned by Cardinal Ambrozic, titled, “Never Cowed by the Threats of the Wicked”,

Who might be closest to martyrdom in our own situation? Would it be those who struggle for the life of the unborn? They may at times be carried away in their zeal appearing to claim that “it is either their way or no way”. If it were not for them, however, our Church would be as mealy-mouthingly ineffective on pro-life issues as is many another Christian community. Our pro-life people are not daunted by the haughty disdain of the media, nor are they afraid of being branded as zealots. We may be tempted to seize upon one or another tactic of theirs as an excuse for not speaking out more often, failing to consider the possibility that our silence is forcing them to be more vocal. We ought to ask ourselves whether our “reasonableness” might be due to our fear of public opinion. Were it not for our sisters and brothers in the pro-life trenches, we, the “sensible ones”, would become the object of attack-if our politically correct media should think us worth attacking.

May God bless you Cardinal Ambrozic. We pray you rest in peace.

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TLC pulls ‘19 Kids and Counting’ from schedule following Duggar molestation allegations

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By Ben Johnson

SPRINGDALE, AR, May 22, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The television network TLC has removed the Duggar family's reality show, “19 Kids and Counting,” from its schedule, at least temporarily.

Multiple news outlets have confirmed that the show, featuring the large and expanding evangelical Christian family, will not be on the air until the network makes a final decision about the program's fate.

The network had previously removed “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo” from its network after “Mama June” Shannon had been seen associating with convicted child molester Mark McDaniel, possibly exposing her children to a sexual predator. Shannon has told the entertainment news outlet TMZ that she would sue the network for unfair and inconsistent treatment.

TLC has not made a final determination as of yet and aired a Duggar marathon Thursday evening as the controversy brewed.

Friday's move comes after media outlets obtained police records showing Josh Duggar, as a young teenager 12 years ago, inappropriately touched as many as five girls, often while they were sleeping. The police records show the incidents began in March 2002, the month the oldest Duggar child turned 14. He admitted the incident to his parents that July, but another incident took place in March 2003. At that time, the family sent him to a program that required counseling and hard physical labor.

Three years later, a letter containing details of the molestation was found, and its recipient notified police, who launched an investigation.

One of his victims told police, after Josh returned in July 2003, he had clearly “turned back to God.” No further incidents have been alleged.

Duggar's wife of six-and-a-half years, Anna, said Josh revealed the painful episode to her two years before they got engaged.

Since the allegations have been made public, Josh Duggar admitted his long ago wrongdoing, calling his teenage actions “inexcusable.” He also resigned his job at FRC Action, a pro-family lobbying organization.

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Some figures have offered the Duggars their reassurance that, whatever sins Josh committed as a teen, he can be – perhaps has been – forgiven by God.

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, now a presidential hopeful, said that Josh “and his family dealt with it and were honest and open about it with the victims and the authorities. No purpose whatsoever is served by those who are now trying to discredit Josh or his family by sensationalizing the story.”

He said those who leaked the story were motivated by “insensitive bloodlust” to destroy the Duggar family. “There was no consideration of the fact that the victims wanted this to be left in the past, and ultimately a judge had the information on file destroyed—not to protect Josh, but the innocent victims.”

God, Huckabee said, forgives all sins.

“In my life today, I am so very thankful for God’s grace, mercy and redemption,” Josh wrote.

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Rebecca Kiessling of Save the 1 - United States Steve Jalsevac/Vatican City
Rebecca Kiessling

I told her I was conceived in rape. She told me to prove I shouldn’t have been aborted.

Rebecca Kiessling
By Rebecca Kiessling

(Savethe1) - Why should I have to prove my worth and my right to life? When I first learned at the age of 18 that I was conceived in rape, I instantly felt targeted and devalued by our society because I’d heard what people said about pregnancy “in cases of rape.” Right away, I felt I was in a position where I would have to justify my own existence – that I would have to prove to the world that I shouldn’t have been aborted and that I was worthy of living.

I’ve since found my own value, identity and purpose in Christ, being created by God, in His image, and for a purpose, so I no longer feel I need to prove my worth to others in order to feel worthy. Instead, I share my worth out of gratitude for my own life being spared and in order that others may see the value of those who are still at risk – those who are in harm’s way as yet unborn and being targeted for abortion in the clinics, in legislation, and in people’s hearts and minds.

Whenever I speak, I share this aspect of my journey, but people are shocked to hear that I actually do get challenged to prove my value, to demonstrate my positive contribution to society and to justify my right not to have been aborted. This recent e-mail is a case in point. It was a tough inquiry to receive, but you’ll see my hopefully patient (and prayerful) responses below, and the ultimate outcome of the exchange:

I’m feeling sad and skeptical about rape babies.  I’d love to consider myself pro-life due to biblical reasons, but I just don’t really see what good can ever come out of a rape baby. I still think that it sometimes furthers the victimization of a rape victim. And it’s also because I’m very sad and disturbed by your blog.

I just think sometimes that it would be better if these babies never existed -- that every single one would naturally be miscarried by God’s will, so no one could bully them for their skeleton in their closet. Like I said, the subject manner disturbs me to the point where I vomit. I wish that every child was conceived in love and not violence because that's the way it should be. And I'm sad to say that the only way I could fully believe all of you rape mothers and children is if you were to pray for the peace of God that transcends all my futile understanding and my volatile, overly-sensitive emotions. 

There is no story in the whole world that can fully change my mind. The only way I could ever is if I were to befriend a victim or become the Bride of a man whom was the product of abuse. I'm so sorry to be brutally honest; it's just that my heart grieves to the point where I feel the struggle to overcome the sin of prejudice. I'm so angry at God that he allows this to occur.

Dear __, I appreciate you going to our blog and taking the time to reach out to us.  Your concerns are the most common, but research shows that rape victims are four times more likely to die within the next year after the abortion vs. giving birth. Dr. David Reardon's book Victims and Victors: Speaking Out About Their Pregnancies, Abortions and Children Resulting From Sexual Assault explains this.  So it's a myth which gets perpetuated -- that a rape victim would be better off after an abortion, that her child would be a reminder of the rape, and that she would even see her child as a "rape baby," as you put it.

I understand a lot of what you're saying.  You would definitely feel differently if you knew someone personally.  I wished I wasn’t conceived in rape, but I do believe now that God definitely brings good out of evil, and uses tragic situations to bring healing.  He doesn't intend the evil of course, but his trademark is redeeming really awful situations.

-- Rebecca

Her reply (again, challenging for me to read, but I think she candidly articulates a lot of what most people really wonder or think):

What has God done in your life personally besides this blog that has made your tragic family life worth the pain? Tell me what you have been doing: like marriage, dating, children, jobs, friendship, volunteer work; any of that. I am curious to see how God has given your life joy and purpose. I'm sorry if I have ever been difficult to handle. I'm emotionally impulsive when I hear something sad.

First of all, my birthmother and her husband legally adopted me 3-1/2 years ago because my adoptive family was really screwed up (long story of abuse and abandonment.) My own adoption by my birthmother was our fairy-tale ending.  She says I'm a blessing to her, I honor her and I bring her healing! I love adoption -- my two oldest are adopted (very open adoption,) and we adopted a baby with special needs -- Cassie -- who died in our arms at 33 days old. It was an honor to take care of her and was definitely one of the most important things I'd ever done in my life. She died because of medical malpractice.

Married for nearly 17 years, we have 5 children now – two adopted sons and our three biological daughters.  Here's my son's story. He wrote it last September at 12 years old.

Besides being the president and founder of Save The 1, I also co-founded Hope After Rape Conception. I'm a family law attorney, though I closed my law practice to have my children and to home school until 2-1/2 years ago.

I make baby quilts which I donate to pregnancy resource centers and I give to moms in unplanned pregnancies. My birthmother taught me to sew! I also taught my children to quilt, as well as many of my friends and their children. I've volunteered with orphan care, Sunday school, feeding the disadvantaged, free legal work, volunteer work for a maternity home, and helping in various ways with pregnancy resource centers. I changed the hearts of Gov. Rick Perry and Newt Gingrich on this issue during their presidential campaigns!

A large part of what I do is helping others to understand their value, identity and worth because lots of people struggle with these issues -- not just those conceived in rape. I hope this helps!  -- Rebecca

Her final response – from someone who said “there is no story in the world that can fully change my mind”: 

Dear Rebecca, thank you so much for your time to straighten out my emotional acting out -- I'm really glad you told me about your life. I really think I'll be okay now. I still wish that men wouldn't rape, but at least the world knows a lot more than they used to and I can say that I'm pro-life to my college professors without paranoia or anxiety. I even talked about helping people like you with my mom and dad. They told me I'm too sensitive in personality to be involved directly in domestic politics; yet, I'm praying about being a free English tutor for troubled families as well as being an anti-pornography informant or activist. After all, the porn industry has been statistically linked to the sexual violence pandemic. I'm so glad that you are living life well and to the best of your ability; keep telling people that just because your birth father was an evil scumbag doesn't mean that you are. Thanks Rebecca, you have really touched and strengthened my heart. With much sincerity.

 

BIO: Rebecca Kiessling was conceived in rape and nearly aborted, but legally protected by law in Michigan pre-Roe v Wade.  She's an attorney, pro-life speaker and blogger, and President of Save The 1. Her own website is www.rebeccakiessling.com

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Boy Scouts president: We need to allow open homosexual leaders

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By Dustin Siggins

May 22, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Boy Scouts of America president Robert Gates says the youth organization must change with the times and allow open homosexual men to serve as Scout leaders.

Gates, the former U.S. Secretary of Defense and CIA Director, said in a speech at the 2015 Boy Scouts of America (BSA) National Annual Meeting Thursday that the Boy Scouts would have to adjust to "the social, political, and juridicial changes taking place in our country -- changes taking place a pace this past year no one anticipated."

According to Gates, the way to balance the religious affiliations of "some 70% of our scout units" and avoid "a broad [court] ruling that could forbid any kind of membership standard" is to offer individual troops a flexible membership policy. 

"For me, I support a policy that accepts and respects our different perspectives and beliefs, allows religious organizations -- based on First Amendment protections of religious freedom -- to establish their own standards for adult leaders, and preserves the Boy Scouts of America now and forever."

"I truly fear that any other alternative will be the end of us as a national movement," said Gates, who said that BSA should "seize control of our own future, set our own course, and change our policy in order to allow charter partners -- unit sponsoring organizations -- to determine the standards for their Scout leaders."

This is not the first time that Gates, who led the military to end its two decades-long Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy, has supported gay Scout leaders. Last year, he said that he "would have supported having gay Scoutmasters, but at the same time, I fully accept the decision that was democratically arrived at by 1,500 volunteers from across the entire country."

In 2013, BSA allowed openly homosexual scouts for the first time. That policy reads: "No youth may be denied membership in the Boy Scouts of America on the basis of sexual orientation or preference alone,” and took effect on January 1, 2014.

A year ago, Gates said he "was prepared to go further than the decision that was made" to allow gay Scout members, but decided that "to try to take last year's decision to the next step would irreparably fracture and perhaps even provoke a formal, permanent split in this movement - with the high likelihood neither side would subsequently survive on its own."

This week, though, Gates said that "events during the past year have confronted us with urgent challenges I did not foresee and which we cannot ignore."

"We cannot ignore growing internal challenges to our current membership policy, from some councils... in open defiance of the policy," said Gates. 

However, Gates' remarks may have come too late to prevent internal challenges from splitting BSA. Due to the 2013 vote, a number of Scouting alternatives launched, including the organization Trail Life USA. The latter group says it aims "to be the premier national character development organization for young men which produces Godly and responsible husbands, fathers, and citizens." 

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In January, Trail Life USA said it has "over 540 Troops in 48 states and the registration of nearly 20,000 adults and boys..."

Furthermore, the decision by BSA to allow gay scouts has led to criticism from people on both sides of the debate. Homosexual activists say the group did not go far enough, whereas many Christian parents and organizations say BSA is bowing to public pressure from homosexual advocates to affect its membership, despite its Christian roots.

Corporate pressure has also been aggressive. Last year, Walt Disney World threatened to not allow employees to volunteer for BSA as part of its VoluntEARS program in 2015 if the organization does not allow gay Scout leaders. Diversity Inc. reports that Merck & Co., Ernst & Young, Major League Baseball, and AT&T are just some of the other companies that have pressured BSA to further change its policies.

LifeSiteNews asked BSA whether Gates' comments indicated support for a totally flexible scout leadership policy, or just related to gay scout leaders, as well as whether BSA would take a stand against state and local laws that deny First Amendment rights to people who oppose same-sex "marriage."

BSA declined to comment, telling LifeSiteNews in a statement: "Dr. Gates’s remarks speak for themselves. ... It is important to note that no decisions were made during the National Annual Meeting. A decision is expected no later than the Boy Scouts of America’s National Executive Board meeting in October."

A video of Gates' remarks is below. The comments about membership standards begin at 8:40.

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