Hilary White, Rome Correspondent

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Catholics and journalists call for heads to roll at L’Osservatore Romano

Hilary White, Rome Correspondent
Hilary White, Rome Correspondent
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ROME, November 23, 2010 (LifeSiteNews.com) - For perhaps the first time, mainstream journalists are joining with conservative Catholics in criticizing the editors of the Vatican’s newspaper L’Osservatore Romano for having created this weekend’s media maelstrom over Pope Benedict’s comments on condom use for AIDS prevention. The pope’s brief comments were a small section of a new interview book, released in Rome today, by German journalist Peter Seewald

Catholic commentators and mainstream journalists alike are denouncing L’Osservatore Romano for what they identify as its “betrayal” of the Pope and of accepted standards of journalistic ethics.

Christine Vollmer, a founding member of the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy for Life and president of the Latin-America Alliance for the Family, told LifeSiteNews.com that the action by L’Osservatore Romano to leak the comments prior to the launch date was a betrayal of Pope Benedict, and called for its editor-in-chief, Gian Maria Vian, to be sacked.

“The big mistake,” she said, “for which Vian would be fired from any normal employ, is that, knowing there were those phrases in the book, they had no explanations ready.” This failure to prepare adequately for the media onslaught that was certain to follow, Vollmer said, is “utterly inexcusable.”

“So much so, that normal incompetence is not credible. It would seem that, as with the Fisichella article, the editorial line is to incite doubt on moral matters.” Vollmer was referring to the uproar that ensued last year when the paper published, and refused rebuttal on, the notorious article by Archbishop Rino Fisichella on the abortion of twins of a nine year-old rape victim.

“They obviously feel that it stimulates interest in the publication and that seems to be the idea. If the paper were to publish articles that shed doubt on the Assumption of Our Lady, what would happen?  But they have no compunction to shed doubt on moral matters,” Vollmer said.

U.S. Catholic journalist and author Philip Lawler wrote that “today millions of people around the world believe that the Pontiff has changed Church teaching, has opened the question of contraception for debate, and has justified condom use in some circumstances. How did that happen?”

Lawler pinpoints the Vatican paper as the cause, saying, “Yet again, Pope Benedict has been badly served by his public-relations staff. In this case, the Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano bears most of the blame for a truly disastrous gaffe.”

The Vatican had meticulously prepared for the launch of German journalist Peter Seewald’s new book-length interview with the pope. A press conference was scheduled for this morning and selected experts around the world had been vetted and prepared to give knowledgeable comment to media.

But on Saturday, all those plans came to naught when the pope’s paper, three days in advance of the official launch, broke the Vatican’s own embargo and published a selected excerpt - from the short section dealing with the Pope’s comments on condom use in Africa last March. Many are saying the “gaffe” was deliberately calculated to create the current global media feeding frenzy.

Headlines exploded into cyberspace through the weekend claiming that Pope Benedict XVI has “changed” Catholic teaching, either on the use of condoms in AIDS prevention or more generally on contraception. Although today news stories are appearing with more nuanced and contextualized claims, the media continues to report that the pope has opened the door for debate on the use of condoms in AIDS prevention. International organizations such as the World Health Organization, which have long promoted condom use for AIDS prevention, are congratulating Benedict on his “new” stand.

A prominent theme among Vatican-watchers in the last few years has been the role played by the Vatican communications offices in the string of media outbursts over the pope’s various comments, speeches and acts such as the lifting of the excommunication of a Holocaust-denying British traditionalist bishop. Some are now asking if the Vatican can be trusted competently to follow the accepted rules of journalistic ethics.

At the press conference this morning, officials declined to answer a pointed question from Frank Rocca, Vatican correspondent for Religion News Service and a mainstream journalist with the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Time and the Boston Globe. Rocca asked whether L’Osservatore Romano’s publication of the excerpts on Saturday “without informing the Sala Stampa [Holy See Press Office]” was an indication for the need for “better coordination” by the Vatican’s communications office.

Italian journalists have been especially blunt, with Paolo Rodari of Il Foglio, calling this weekend’s affair a “debacle.”

Veteran Italian journalist, Vatican expert and author of the 1987 interview book, The Ratzinger Report, Vittorio Messori, said that L’Osservatore Romano had “not even met the minimum requirements of prudence” in its decision to publish just the one small section on condoms that would ensure the media uproar that followed.

“Yet another failure of communication leads us to note once again that the Pope is not helped at all by those in the Vatican who should help.”

Lawler said that the action by L’Osservatore Romano has completely undermined the Vatican’s own plans to promote the book.

After this weekend’s consistory in which the Church welcomed 24 new cardinals, Lawler said, “the launch of Light of the World should have been another joyful occasion.”

“With appropriate planning, the publisher was poised to introduce the Pope’s book with a major publicity campaign. Now that publicity-which might have offered an accurate and favorable portrayal of the Pope’s book-will be nearly lost in the deluge of misinformation currently sweeping across the world.”

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Lisa Bourne

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Pressure mounts as Catholic Relief Services fails to act on VP in gay ‘marriage’

Lisa Bourne
By Lisa Bourne
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Rick Estridge, Catholic Relief Services' Vice President of Overseas Finance, is in a same-sex "marriage," public records show. Twitter

BALTIMORE, MD, April 24, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) -- Nearly a week after news broke that a Catholic Relief Services vice president had contracted a homosexual “marriage” while also publicly promoting homosexuality on social media in conflict with Church teaching, the US Bishops international relief agency has taken no apparent steps to address the matter and is also not talking.

CRS Vice President of Overseas Finance Rick Estridge entered into a homosexual “marriage” in Maryland the same month in 2013 that he was promoted by CRS to vice president, public records show.

Despite repeated efforts at a response, CRS has not acknowledged LifeSiteNews’ inquiries during the week. And the agency told ChurchMilitant.com Thursday that no action had been taken beyond discussion of the situation and CRS would have no further comment.

"Nothing has changed,” CRS Senior Manager for Communications Tom said. “No further statement will be made."

LifeSiteNews first contacted CRS for a response prior to the April 20 release of the report and did not receive a reply, however Estridge’s Facebook and LinkeIn profiles were then removed just prior to the report’s release.

CRS also did not acknowledge LifeSiteNews’ follow-up inquiry later in the week.

“Having an executive who publicly celebrates a moral abomination shows the ineffectiveness of CRS' Catholic identity training,” Lepanto Institute President Michael Hichborn told LifeSiteNews. “How many others who hate Catholic moral teaching work at CRS?”

CRS did admit it was aware Estridge was in a “same-sex civil marriage” to Catholic News Agency (CNA) Monday afternoon, and confirmed he was VP of Overseas Finance and had been with CRS for 16 years.

“At this point we are in deliberations on this matter,” Price told CNA that day.

ChurchMilitant.com also reported that according to its sources, it was a well-known fact at CRS headquarters in Baltimore that Estridge was in a homosexual “marriage.” 

“There is no way CRS didn't know one of its executives entered into a mock-marriage until we broke the story,” Hichborn said. “The implication is clear; CRS top brass had no problem with having an executive so deliberately flouting Catholic moral teaching.”

“The big question is,” Hichborn continued, “what other morally repugnant matters is CRS comfortable with?”

While the wait continues for the Bishops’ relief organization to address the matter, those behind the report and other critics of prior instances of CRS involvement in programs and groups that violate Church principles continue to call for a thorough and independent review of the agency programs and personnel.

“How long should it take to call an employee into your office, tell him that his behavior is incompatible with the mission of the organization, and ask for his resignation?” asked Population Research Institute President Steven Mosher. “About thirty minutes, I would say.”

“The Catholic identity of CRS is at stake,” Hichborn stated. “If CRS does nothing, then there is no way faithful Catholics can trust the integrity of CRS's programs or desire to make its Catholicity preeminent.” 

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Thousands of marriage activists gathered in D.C. June 19, 2014 for the 2nd March for Marriage. Dustin Siggins / LifeSiteNews.com
The Editors

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Watch the March for Marriage online—only at LifeSiteNews

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WASHINGTON, D.C., April 24, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) -- At noon on Saturday, the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) and dozens of cosponsors, coalition partners, and speakers will launch the third annual March for Marriage. Thousands of people are expected to take place in this important event to show the support real marriage has among the American people.

As the sole media sponsor of the March, LifeSiteNews is proud to exclusively livestream the March. Click here to see the rally at noon Eastern Time near the U.S. Capitol, and the March to the Supreme Court at 1:00 Eastern Time.

And don't forget to pray that God's Will is done on Tuesday, when the Supreme Court hears arguments about marriage!

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Hillary Clinton: ‘Religious beliefs’ against abortion ‘have to be changed’

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By Ben Johnson

NEW YORK CITY, April 24, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Speaking to an influential gathering in New York City on Thursday, Hillary Clinton declared that “religious beliefs” that condemn "reproductive rights," “have to be changed.”

“Yes, we've cut the maternal mortality rate in half, but far too many women are still denied critical access to reproductive health,” Hillary told the Women in the World Summit yesterday.

Liberal politicians use “reproductive health” as a blanket term that includes abortion. However, Hillary's reference echoes National Organization for Women (NOW) president Terry O’Neill's op-ed from last May that called abortion “an essential measure to prevent the heartbreak of infant mortality.”

The Democratic presidential hopeful added that governments should throw the power of state coercion behind the effort to redefine traditional religious dogmas.

“Rights have to exist in practice, not just on paper. Laws have to be backed up with resources, and political will,” she said. “Deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs, and structural biases have to be changed.”

The line received rousing applause at the feminist conference, hosted in Manhattan's Lincoln Center by Tina Brown.

She also cited religious-based objections to the HHS mandate, funding Planned Parenthood, and the homosexual and transgender agenda as obstacles that the government must defeat.

“America moves ahead when all women are guaranteed the right to make their own health care choices, not when those choices are taken away by an employer like Hobby Lobby,” she said. The Supreme Court ruled last year that closely held corporations had the right to opt out of the provision of ObamaCare requiring them to provide abortion-inducing drugs, contraceptives, and sterilization to employees with no co-pay – a mandate that violates the teachings of the Catholic Church and other Christian bodies.

Clinton lamented that “there are those who offer themselves as leaders...who would defund the country's leading provider of family planning,” Planned Parenthood, “and want to let health insurance companies once again charge women just because of our gender.”

“We move forward when gay and transgender women are embraced...not fired from good jobs because of who they love or who they are,” she added.

It is not the first time the former first lady had said that liberal social policies should displace religious views. In a December 2011 speech in Geneva, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said perhaps the “most challenging issue arises when people cite religious or cultural values as a reason to violate or not to protect the human rights of LGBT citizens.” These objections, she said, are “not unlike the justification offered for violent practices towards women like honor killings, widow burning, or female genital mutilation.”

While opinions on homosexuality are “still evolving,” in time “we came to learn that no [religious] practice or tradition trumps the human rights that belong to all of us.”

Her views, if outside the American political mainstream, have been supported by the United Nations. The UN Population Fund stated in its 2012 annual report that religious objections to abortion-inducing drugs had to be overcome. According to the UNFPA report, “‘duty-bearers’ (governments and others)” have a responsibility to assure that all forms of contraception – including sterilization and abortion-inducing ‘emergency contraception’ – are viewed as acceptable – “But if they are not acceptable for cultural, religious or other reasons, they will not be used.”

Two years later, the United Nations' Committee on the Rights of the Child instructed the Vatican last February that the Catholic Church should amend canon law “relating to abortion with a view to identifying circumstances under which access to abortion services may be permitted.”

At Thursday's speech, Hillary called the legal, state-enforced implementation of feminist politics “the great unfinished business of the 21st century,” which must be accomplished “not just for women but for everyone — and not just in far away countries but right here in the United States.”

“These are not just women's fights. These have to be America's fights and the world's fights,” she said. “There's still much to be done in our own country, much more to be done around the world, but I'm confident and optimistic that if we get to work, we will get it done together.”

American critics called Clinton's suggestion that a nation founded upon freedom of religion begin using state force to change religious practices unprecedented.

“Never before have we seen a presidential candidate be this bold about directly confronting the Catholic Church's teachings on abortion,” said Bill Donohue of the Catholic League.

“In one sense, this shows just how extreme the pro-abortion caucus actually is,” Ed Morrissey writes at HotAir.com. “Running for president on the basis of promising to use the power of government to change 'deep seated cultural codes [and] religious beliefs' might be the most honest progressive slogan in history.”

He hoped that, now that she had called for governments to change religious doctrines, “voters will now see the real Hillary Clinton, the one who dismisses their faith just the same as Obama did, and this time publicly rather than in a private fundraiser.”

Donohue asked Hillary “to take the next step and tell us exactly what she plans to do about delivering on her pledge. Not only would practicing Catholics like to know, so would Evangelicals, Orthodox Jews, Muslims, and all those who value life from conception to natural death.”

You may watch Hillary's speech below.

Her comments on religion begin at approximately 9:00. 

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