John Westen

Fallout continues from misinterpretations of Pope Francis interviews

John Westen
John Westen
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ROME, October 10, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Pope Francis has the heart of a liberal, and I’m not speaking here of "liberal" in the pejorative sense, but in the positive sense - a generous and child-like heart.  With this heart and his mandate to care for souls, Pope Francis can perform miracles, even the miracle of halting the downward spiral of the Catholic Church in the West.  It will take radical action to achieve that miracle, and it is just such a heart that is needed to take such radical action. 

In addition to having the heart for action, realistic perception is required, to see the needs of the Church all over the world. Those who advise the Pope on the status of the situation globally aid in this monumental task.  The role is principally, but not exclusively taken up by clergy from all parts of the globe who have regular meetings with the Pope to advise him.

However, it seems that he has had some very questionable advice.  This can be seen very clearly in his remarks from his interview on the return flight from World Youth Day in Rio. 

The official Vatican transcript of the interview records a reporter asking him: “You did not speak about abortion, about same-sex marriage.  In Brazil a law has been approved which widens the right to abortion and permits marriage between people of the same sex.  Why did you not speak about this?”

Pope Francis replied, “The Church has already spoken quite clearly on this.  It was unnecessary to return to it, just as I didn’t speak about cheating, lying, or other matters on which the Church has a clear teaching!” 

When the reporter pressed again saying, “But the young are interested in this,” Pope Francis said, “Yes, though it wasn’t necessary to speak of it, but rather of the positive things that open up the path to young people.  Isn’t that right! Besides, young people know perfectly well what the Church’s position is.”

As many of the activists in the trenches of the culture wars in North America and Europe have remarked, the youth of today do not know what the Church teaches on these matters. They have misperceptions of the Church’s teachings, viewing them as a big ‘no’ to all things fun, but have no clue about the truth, beauty and depth of the Church’s teaching. Moreover, as speakers on these controversial topics will readily attest, the youth are hungry for such discussion, especially from those who, like Pope Francis, are willing and able to speak freely and from the heart about these issues.

Polling

Recent polling shows that Pope Francis has a higher approval rating, at 89% favorable or very favorable, among American Catholics than both of his predecessors. The same poll asked Catholics: “As you may know, Pope Francis recently remarked that the church has become too focused on issues like homosexuality, abortion and contraceptives. Do you agree or disagree?” Sixty-eight percent agreed. 

The same poll that found a majority of Catholics approving of Pope Francis and agreeing with his supposed belief that the church is too focused on abortion, etc., also showed that Catholic Americans approved of same-sex “marriage” at a higher rate than the average American.  The poll found 56% of all Americans approving of same-sex "marrige," but among Catholics it’s 60%. Even among Catholics who attend Mass every week, the poll notes a majority (53%) support homosexual "marriage." 

Similarly, questions on legal abortion found Catholic Americans only very slightly less approving than the average American. A majority of Catholics - 52% - were found to support legal abortion in all or most cases, with the American average at 54%. 

While it is undoubtedly a good thing that Pope Francis is able to reach a wide and diverse audience through his popularity, there are troubling questions about whether this popularity is based more upon an authentic encounter with the real Pope Francis and everything he stands for, or with a fabricated Pope that has been created by media-driven misinterpretations of some of the more ambiguous statements in his recent interviews.

There is a considerable body of evidence to indicate that many of the Pope’s more unlikely fans are more enamored with a pope of their own imagination than the real thing, and that at some point there is going to be a necessary correction in the public square, as many of these fans recognize that he will not, contrary to their hopes, change any Church teachings on their pet moral issues. 

Media using Pope’s remarks to attack Catholic activists

Since the off-the-cuff papal interviews began, it has become commonplace for media pundits to use selective quotes from Pope Francis to berate Catholic activists in the life and family arena. A few of the many examples will illustrate the trend.

On September 20, CNN host Chris Cuomo used Pope Francis’ remarks to attack the Catholic League’s Bill Donohue, a stalwart defender of the Church and her teachings on life and family matters.  “You just heard what the Pope said. Why wouldn’t you try to move past this parsing rhetoric and try to be what your Church is supposed to be about?” And again, cutting off Donohue, Cuomo quipped, “The Pope has given you a different message. He’s saying don’t make these statements about the homosexuals, don’t make these statements about the Jews, get back to what your Church is about. Jesus wasn’t about what you’re doing right now. Are you going to hear that message or not? Because it doesn’t sound like it.” 

On Fox News Detroit’s Let It Rip program of September 29, the hosts spoke with homosexual ‘marriage’ promoter John Corvino about a Catholic college’s decision to disinvite him from speaking on campus, and representing the Catholic position was Fr. Paul Nicholson, a priest known for his rock-solid evangelization efforts.  

On the show, not only Corvino, but also the hosts, repeatedly pushed Fr. Nicholson over their misreading of Pope Francis’ remarks. Speaking of the Pope, one of the hosts said, “He’s not endorsing the gay lifestyle but he’s saying we have to be more accepting of it.” Then again, answering the priest’s explanation that the Pope did not change Church teaching on the matter, the host said, “No, but he is saying, didn’t you think that he did say, that we need to be more accepting of gay people and not focus on the negatives of these peoples’ private lifestyles?”

An October 6th New York Times article covered a Catholic University voting on whether or not to remove coverage for elective abortion from the staff health care plan.  Writer Ian Lovett began his piece this way: “Not three weeks have passed since Pope Francis said the church had grown ‘obsessed’ with abortion, declaring, 'We have to find a new balance.' But on the campus of Loyola Marymount University, overlooking this city’s west side, a fight over abortion now threatens to rip the school asunder.”

Political Catholics

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, known as the leading promoter of abortion and homosexuality in Congress while simultaneously proclaiming herself to be a devout Catholic, was interviewed on CNN about the Pope’s remarks.  Like President Obama, who recently said he was “hugely impressed” with the Pope’s pronouncements, Pelosi was ecstatic. “(He’s) starting to sound like a nun. The Pope is starting to sound like the nuns,” Pelosi began, in an apprent reference to the liberal reputation of many of the older religious orders in the United States, many of which were recently investigated by the Vatican and promoting views contrary to the faith. 

“I was there for his inauguration. And I, being Catholic, believed that he was chosen Pope by the intercession of the Holy Spirit, so I pay attention to what he says,” she said. “And I can tell you that there is great joy among Catholics and friends of Catholics … It’s really quite remarkable. It’s a source of joy to us all.”

When the host noted that the comments were not a source of joy for all Catholics and that conservative Catholics had expressed some reservations, Pelosi responded: “I don’t know about them because certainly when it was another Pope who had something else to say, they wanted to hold us all to it.”

Pro-abortion New York Congressman Charles Rangel wrote in the New York Times that the Pope’s remarks were “a much-needed call for the clergy to move beyond the threats of excommunication or denying communion to pro-choice politicians.”

“As a former altar boy who has never shied away from pleading with the Church to broaden its focus beyond gays, abortion and birth control, I thank Pope Francis for urging the Church to refocus on its fundamental teachings of love and compassion,” he said.

Leaders of Catholic institutions

The new President of a Minnesota Catholic college used her reading of Pope Francis’ remarks on homosexuality to justify allowing practicing homosexuals to be professors at the college.  In her opening speech at convocation, Julie Sullivan, President of the University of St. Thomas, announced, “It pains me to think that a gay student, staff or faculty member would ever feel unwelcome or a need to ‘hide’ at St. Thomas. As Pope Francis reminds us, we are not called to judge. We are called to love and support everyone in our community regardless of their sexual orientation. And, I might add, regardless of the gender of their spouse.”

At a Catholic school board meeting in Ottawa, Ontario in late September, a Catholic trustee invoked Pope Francis to question a delegation of parents who were concerned over the board’s promotion of a pro-abortion group.  The parents suggested replacing problematic partners with those who “refuse to participate in any immoral activities.” After the presentation, a trustee demanded to know if the parent-presenter had “listened [to] or heard the Pope’s latest statement and clarification.”

Dissident Catholics

Initial euphoric reactions from liberal Catholics were trumpeted in mainstream media all over the world.

Catholics for a Free Choice, in their press release on the day of the publication of the Jesuit interview, said, “We welcome what Pope Francis said today when he called for the Catholic church to be ‘home for all’ and not a ‘small chapel’ focused on doctrine and limited views on moral teachings.”  The pro-abortion ‘Catholic’ group’s President, Jon O’Brien, added, “We hope he takes steps to ensure that his more open view of how the church should deal with people trickles down to his brother bishops around the world.”

The press release from the homosexuality promoting ‘Catholic’ group Dignity USA stated: “We find much to be hopeful about, particularly in the Pope’s firm desire that the Church be a ’home for all people,’ and his belief that God looks on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people with love rather than condemnation.”

DignityUSA Executive Director Marianne Duddy-Burke added: “LGBT Catholics and allies will rejoice in the Pope’s call for Church leaders to focus on being pastors rather than rule enforcers. We hope that the bishops will heed this call and immediately end their anti-LGBT campaigns, the firings of church workers for who they are, the attacks on people who challenge or question official teachings, and the exclusive and judgmental rhetoric that comes too often from our pulpits.” She concluded, “The Pope is unambiguous. Leave the bully pulpit, and accompany your people.”

Sister Jeanine Gramick, who heads up the pro-homosexual group New Ways Ministry, which has already been publicly sanctioned by Church leadership, was on MSNBC television with a glowing reaction to the Papal interview. ”I cried when I first began to read it,” she said.  She repeatedly said the Pope is saying that these “these hot button issues” are “not essential.”

Communists

Paul Kengor, a convert to Catholicism who was drawn, as he says, “to the Church initially in large part because of its stalwart anti-communism across centuries,” was dismayed to report that he found praise for Pope Francis in the pages of the radical communist publication People’s World.

Writing in the American Spectator, Kengor notes, “After decades of slandering, attacking, denigrating, and even trying to kill various popes in the Roman Catholic Church — from Pope Pius XII to Pope John Paul II — communists are suddenly embracing a pope.”

Commenting on the Jesuit magazine interview with Pope Francis, the Communist publication argued that “the most important point the Pope made regarded the narrow focus of some Catholics on a few controversial issues of sexual morality.”

Author Henry Millstein explained: “Why should this matter to progressives? Because Catholic (and other) right-wingers, including, lamentably, some bishops, have latched on to this narrow set of issues to promote a broader right-wing agenda. If the essence of being Catholic is to oppose abortion, gay marriage, and contraception, then faithful Catholics (and some other Christians) can easily be hoodwinked into supporting rightist candidates who line up with this agenda, disregarding flagrant violations of other aspects of Catholic teaching. Pope Francis knocked the legs out from under this ploy…”

From the Pews

Some of the first reaction from Catholics in the pews to be publicly revealed came in the column of Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput.   Describing responses he received to the Pope’s Jesuit magazine interview, Archbishop Chaput wrote:

Some people grasped at the interview like a lifeline — or a vindication. One person praised the Holy Father for stressing that the “Church must focus on compassion and mercy, not on enforcing small-minded rules.” She added that “we’re at last free from the chains of hatred that have ruled the Catholic Church for so many years and led to my unease in bringing my own children into that Church.”

More common though were emails from catechists, parents, and everyday Catholics who felt confused by media headlines suggesting that the Church had somehow changed her teaching on a variety of moral issues.

I heard from a mother of four children – one adopted, another disabled from birth — who’d spent years counseling pregnant girls and opening prolife clinics. She wanted to know why the Pope seemed to dismiss her sacrifices.

A priest said the Pope “has implicitly accused brother priests who are serious about moral issues of being small minded,” and that “[if you’re a priest,] being morally serious is now likely to get you publicly cast as a problem.” Another priest wrote that “the problem is that [the Holy Father] makes all of the wrong people happy, people who will never believe in the Gospel and who will continue to persecute the Church.”

LifeSiteNews co-founder Steve Jalsevac described another perception in his recent blog post on Pope Francis’ interviews. He related that his priest gave a homily on angels and demons with a strong pro-life emphasis and later there was a pro-life announcement that generated applause from the people. Afterward in the parking lot a “disgruntled older couple” was overheard “complaining about all the abortion talk during the Mass.”  One of them said, “Don’t they know what Pope Francis just said?"

A parish group in Ontario, Canada which has participated in a yearly fundraiser for the pro-life cause, has let the pro-life group in question know that “because of what the Holy Father has said,” they will no longer be participating in the fundraiser.

Catholics have also found a new need to defend against charges that the Pope is no longer pro-life. At a LifeChain on Sunday in Valparaiso, Indiana, Dr. Richard Stith reports, “we held our annual peaceful, prayerful Life Chain protest against abortion. A  Mennonite protester asked a Catholic, "What do you think of your Pope coming out pro-abortion?"

Priests

Priests have not been immune from misinterpretations of Pope Francis’ remarks. 

A Rhode Island newspaper did interviews with a number of local priests in response to Pope Francis’ “Who am I to judge” remark concerning homosexuality.

Father David Thurber, ordained in 2008, told the newspaper he saw in Pope Francis’ remarks a justification for refusing to deny communion to couples living together without being married. “I am not in the business of denying Communion,” he said. “As Pope Francis said, it’s not fair to judge. I preach the Gospel, and whoever hears it, hears it.”

Redemptorist priest Fr Tony Flannery, one of the five Irish priests censured by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith and threatened with excommunication over his stand on women priests and contraception, has also lauded the Pope’s interview.

He told the Irish Independent: “What the Pope said seems to amount to a fairly substantial critique of the way in which the Curia and, in particular, the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith have been operating.”

The Pope said that in some cases, when Vatican Congregations are not functioning well, "they run the risk of becoming institutions of censorship". The paper says the Pope’s call for local bishops’ conferences to handle such matters could potentially be "good news" for Fr. Flannery and the other censured Irish priests.

Fr Flannery added: “It changes the rules of the game in the sense that it appears that the Curia has largely been taken out of the business of dealing with disciplinary matters and it has been handed back to the local church to deal with it.”

He also said there was "no question" that the Pope was criticizing the "thought police" who spent their time reporting people to Rome.

Conclusion

Let us pray for Pope Francis and his collaborators that they may have the strength, courage and wisdom to direct the Church in Her mission to save souls. As Pope Leo XIII remarked in an 1899 encyclical letter to the then-Archbishop of Baltimore, some contend that “it would be opportune, in order to gain those who differ from us, to omit certain points of teaching which are of lesser importance, and to tone down the meaning which the Church has always attached to them.” However, he said, the Church has already visited such suggestions and has determined, “Such a policy would tend rather to separate Catholics from the Church than to bring in those who differ.”

Concluding his point, Pope Leo said that there was nothing closer to his heart “than to have those who are separated from the fold of Christ return to it.”  He added, however, “but in no other way than the way pointed out by Christ.”

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Lisa Bourne

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

Lisa Bourne
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.

Click "like" if you want to defend true marriage.

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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