Hilary White, Rome Correspondent

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Flourishing Belarus pro-life movement a ray of light

Hilary White, Rome Correspondent
Hilary White, Rome Correspondent
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MINSK, Belarus January 6, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Good news is hard to come by in Belarus since the country declared independence from the Soviet Union in 1990.

The country is still ruled by Soviet-era dictator Alexander Lukashenko, whose human rights violations have resulted in many international sanctions against his government. It has also retained closer political and economic ties to Russia than any of the other former Soviet republics and the government retains majority control over most of the economy.

Additionally, the fertility rate of Belarus is among the lowest in the world, with 1.25 children born per woman.

But while most in the pro-life movement in North America regard as disastrous the situation in Europe in general and in former Soviet countries in particular, there are pockets of good news.

In 1994, four years after Belarus declared independence from the Soviet Union, the abortion rate in the country had reached an unimaginable high of 65.8 percent of all pregnancies. Since then it has fallen steadily to 28.2 per cent in 2008, according to figures issued by the Ministry of Statistics and Analysis and the Ministry of Health.

Some of this success may be attributable to a growing pro-life movement, which is doing everything it can to make sure that those numbers continue to drop. According to the pro-life education group, The Open Hearts Foundation, the Belarus pro-life movement had a very busy year last year.

In July, Foundation volunteers attended a pro-life “festival” in Moscow that “gathered many active defenders of life and family values from Russia” from both the Catholic and Orthodox churches.

In August, Foundation volunteers gave talks to participants at the interdiocesan pilgrimage of families to the sanctuary of Virgin Mary “Queen of Lakes” in Braslav, organized by the Belarusian Catholic Church. They also attended the 5th annual World Day of Prayer for Life in Rome, organized by Human Life International.

In September the Orthodox Brotherhood organized a seminar to support young pro-life advocates in Brest. Also in September, lecturers from the Foundation gave talks on the life issues to audiences of about 4000 in Catholic Churches of Glubokoe and Shumilino. Students heard talks on family, chastity, the harms of contraception and abortion, and “a way out of the demographic crisis.”

In October, volunteers from the Orthodox churches in Brest organized “incessant” prayer and fasting for the protection of life. “This good practice unites many cities of Belarus,” the Foundation said. “Such spiritual support is really necessary in this uneasy business.” 

The Foundation also helped to organize a conference in defense of life and family in the town of Gomel. Lecturers spoke on “Abortion and its consequences for Church and society,” “Contraception and IVF: the truth and myths. Christian Response,” “Motherhood and service to God,” “Netherlands: clinical death for mentally ill,” and “In Vitro Fertilization: Children for sale.”

As well, there are the daily prayer vigils being held outside the Vitebsk abortion facility.

The Foundation’s organizer Oksana Makeenko said that “during the long years of Soviet power we were instilled [with] a strange fear of pregnancy and childbirth, so women and men today simply do not know what to do with children, and do not want for themselves this ‘burden.’ Selfishness more and more captures young people.”

This fear, she said, combines with “negative attitudes of medical staff and many other [issues to] stop modern moms and dads from birth.”

The goal of the conference they organized, she said, was to show “that to be parents [is] not terrible, and a family with many children is not a defective one, but is a blessing, pleasure and honor, the duty of every family.”

John Smeaton, director of the UK’s Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC) told LSN that the secret of Belarus pro-lifers’ success is “joyfulness.”

“A spirit of detached endurance in pro-life work helps us to be joyful, and that joyfulness bears real fruit in the pro-life battle,” he said.

“Despite the fact that the Soviet era left a legacy of a high abortion rate, pro-lifers in Belarus are joyfully getting on with proclaiming the sanctity of human life to new generations. So there is no reason for Western pro-lifers to be despondent, as we have good friends in eastern Europe making progress often in harder conditions.”

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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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