Hilary White

From 40 Days for Life to street evangelization

Hilary White
Hilary White
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PORTLAND, OR, December 6, 2012, (LifeSiteNews.com) – If you are strolling around Portland, Oregon, you might come across a pair of friendly people presiding over a table of rosaries and pamphlets explaining the basics of the Catholic faith. This is the St. Paul Street Evangelization (SPSE), a group of lay people inspired by the 40 Days for Life campaigns, to “convert the culture” and rescue a society that has become enamoured of the “contraceptive mentality”.

The group was founded by Steve Dawson, 37, a former seminarian inspired by the late Fr. John Hardon, S.J., a family friend who spent his life forming lay people for apostolic work. The group is growing, and in the few short months since it was founded in May this year, it has expanded to 15 U.S. cities with 130 volunteers and contacts abroad.

Dawson, who calls himself a “revert” to Catholicism, had served on the leadership team of 40 Days for Life in Michigan. He told LifeSiteNews.com he believes he was directly inspired by God to take a more broad approach.

“I felt that we needed to be doing something similar for evangelization,” he said. He took a lesson from his Protestant friends who do street evangelism. “I felt that if we did not convert the culture, it would crumble. We would never put an end to abortion or the culture of death.”

“The Protestants took the faith to the streets, but the Catholics didn’t. I kept asking my friends, when was the last time you were out in public and someone tried to evangelize you to the Catholic Faith.” He balked, however, at impersonal methods employed by some, like speaking through a loudspeaker or being “confrontational,” saying they are “not effective.”

“I believe that pro-life work is important and needs to be done,” he told LifeSiteNews. “Yet, in my spiritual growth and listening to Hardon, it became clear to me that abortion was not the problem. It is a symptom to a deeper problem. Deeper is the contraceptive mentality, which is a symptom of a culture that has lost its way from God. A de-Christianized culture.”

The work, he said, is simple, and mostly consists of talking in a friendly and non-confrontational way with anyone who stops to chat.

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Street teams of two or three people will set up a sandwich board sporting a picture of Jesus and a small table, or sometimes just a blanket on the sidewalk, arranged with rosaries and pamphlets, and then wait. Invariably, someone will stop by and the evangelizers will simply ask, “Are you Catholic?”

The evangelizers will offer a free rosary, with a leaflet to explain what it is and how to use it, and conversations just get started. And with that, they often find themselves opening new directions in the lives of others.

After three years doing direct, person-to-person pro-life work with 40 Days, Dawson left to explore a possible vocation to the priesthood with the Franciscan order. He came back after 14 months, deciding he wanted to be married, but did not want to stop working to convert the culture.

Dawson is now finishing up a degree in business administration at Portland State University and runs SPSE on donations out of his living room.

He told LifeSiteNews that the inspiration comes in part from conversations with the late Jesuit priest, Fr. Hardon, the author of a widely used catechism, and a training program for lay catechists. Fr. Hardon, who inspired hundreds to enter the religious life, also was immensely supportive of lay initiatives.

The project has moved along rapidly from humble beginnings, through Facebook and their website and blog, with people contacting Dawson from all over the country.

SPSE has started a training website that will provide a means of connecting evangelizers, he hopes, around the world. Currently, SPSE street evangelizers are working in Fort Lauderdale, Florida; Boise, Idaho; Belleville, Naperville and Chicago, Illinois; Detroit and Lansing, Michigan; Minneapolis, Minnesota; Great Falls, Montana; Las Vegas, Nevada; Glens Falls, New York; Portland, Oregon; Coventry, Rhode Island; and Dallas and Forth Worth, Texas.

“We have about 120 evangelists that we are working with who are involved or are seeking to get involved. We are working with people in the U.S., Canada, Australia, Philippines, and UK,” he told LifeSiteNews.com.

Asked why he decided to switch from pro-life work to religious street evangelism, Dawson said the two are inextricably combined, but that he came to believe that the latter must precede the former, particularly in combating the wide acceptance, even among Christians, of contraception.

“So to me, the only way we are going to end abortion is by fighting the problem at the root. We need to convert the culture.”

“It’s like a whack-a-mole game,” he said. “Catholics are whacking down the moles as they pop up. Homosexual marriage pops up…whack. Abortion over here…whack.” But he realized that he could not continue to fight piecemeal.

“I refocused my energy and started asking myself what is the best way that God can use me to bring about the conversion of the culture,” he said. “This is where my learning and experience with 40 Days for Life comes in. After coming up with the non-confrontational street evangelization idea, I applied the 40 Days model to it.”

He said he was inspired in part by the emphasis placed on the “new evangelization” by Pope Benedict XVI. “The idea of public evangelization is not new in the Catholic Church, but it has been lost, at least in the West.

“We are here to bring it back, using all the technological means at our disposal such as web training, social media, etcetera, to do our part in bringing the faith back to the land and to saving our culture.”

Is the work effective? Dawson said that he hopes so, and has seen dramatic conversions more than once. One man who approached him after being offered a free Rosary was a “fallen away Catholic”. Asked why he left the Church, the man said that he believed everything the Church taught but did not believe that abortion was immoral. He said that he would personally never have an abortion, but he thought that a woman had a right to choose what she did with her own body.

After a conversation, the man agreed that it is always wrong to kill an innocent human being, and that the unborn child is human, and therefore abortion must be wrong. The man returned to the Catholic faith and was converted to the pro-life position.

“Abortion is a common topic when we talk to people about the Catholic faith,” Dawson told LSN. “Sometimes we are able to change a person’s mind on the morality of the practice. Sometimes we are just planting seeds. Once in a while God can use us to save a life.”

One young woman was given a medal that Catholics believe can bring about miracles when prayed with. That brought on a 15-minute conversation about Catholic beliefs on abortion, and the girl took home some literature and a small life size 12-week model of a fetus. Several months later, Dawson “ran into her.” She ran up to him and said that the day she had talked about abortion, she had just found out that she was pregnant, and she was planning on having an abortion. After their talk, she said, she felt that “God was giving her a sign to keep her baby.”

One SPSE group in Dallas-Fort Worth reaches out to Latino gangs. Another is led by a former gangster and rapper who uses his talents to reach out to disenfranchised young people. Not all their encounters “go smoothly” of course, Dawson said. “Sometimes we get people who have a chip on their shoulder and something to say.”

“They tell us that the Catholic Church represses women and restricts a woman’s right to choose.” But the group simply prays for those they cannot reach the first time and for another opportunity the next time.

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Sofia Vazquez-Mellado

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11-year-old in Uruguay refuses to abort after rape

Sofia Vazquez-Mellado
By Sofia Vazquez-Mellado

MONTEVIDEO, Uruguay, May 25, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) – An 11-year-old girl in Uruguay is making headlines for refusing to abort after being raped by a 41-year-old relative. Pro-abortion organizations in the country are using the case to ask for a broadening in the law, which allows for abortion up until 12 weeks gestation, 14 weeks in cases of rape, and up to 9 months when the life or health of the mother are at risk or when the baby is “unviable.”

Local media report that the girl, who is 18 weeks pregnant, lived with her abuser for over a year prior to the pregnancy. Her mother is now asking authorities to make her abort, but according to the local newspaper La Diaria, a team of psychiatrists from Uruguay’s Child and Adolescent Institute (INAU) has said that “the girl’s position has been confirmed without a doubt: she wishes to be a mother.”

According to her relatives, the girl suffers from a mild mental incapacity, although she is not considered handicapped.

In a press conference, Susana Muñiz, president for the Association of State Health Services and former minister of health, said: “An 11-year-old girl obviously has a body not prepared to be pregnant, with a very small uterus.”

However, according to Monica Silva, head of the INAU’s Health Division, “There is no risk to the life of the girl nor that of the baby. We cannot force her to abort.”

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“Even if her mother wants it, it would be inhuman to force her to abort,” continued Silva. “The fact that there was a rape doesn’t allow me to force her to abort. This [aborting] may seem like a protection of her rights but it is against the girl’s will.”

Nevertheless, a press release “demanding” that the girl abort “immediately” was issued by several pro-abortion NGOs soon after, on May 12. “The hypocritical and bureaucratic system allows for her rights to be undermined without considering the cost this will bring to the girl,” it read.

“Who will take charge now to stop the undermining of her rights and protect her health and her life? How much longer do we need to wait before somebody decides responsibly on the interruption of that pregnancy?” it concluded.

In her interview, Silva also said the girl’s parents “never visited, with exception of one of the six siblings she has.”

 “The best that could happen would be to ensure that she has a ‘welcoming family,’ that would receive the girl with her baby,” continued Silva. “I doubt we can achieve that because it’s hard to find families who want this challenge.”

The girl remains under INAU’s care and her abuser has been imprisoned.

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Steve Weatherbe

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Christian jeweller made gay couples’ rings but still got targeted by gay lobby

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By Steve Weatherbe

MOUNT PEARL, Newfoundland, May 25, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) –While North Americans are used to reading about Christian business people being fined and excoriated for refusing to cater to homosexual weddings, Newfoundland has added a novel twist: there a Christian jeweller has been punished financially and deluged with hate mail even though he did do business with a homosexual couple.

Nicole White and Pam Renouf liked the service they got from Esau Jardon of Today’s Jewellers in Mount Pearl, Newfoundland and Labrador, who took their deposit and proceeded to design and build them two engagement rings. They even recommended the store to friends.

But by the time one friend went there, the Mexican-born Jardon had put up a sign in his shop window marking Mother’s Day—and his strong, traditional Christian beliefs: “The Sanctity of Marriage IS UNDER ATTACK; Help Keep Marriage Between Man & Woman,” it read.

The friend went ballistic. Her picture of the sign went viral. The couple went back on their deal and back to the store, demanding their deposit. Today’s Jewellers’ Facebook page was so deluged with hundreds of hateful emails and many threats that Jardon and his brother, who is his business partner, have to shut it down.

LifeSiteNews asked White if Jardon had been punished enough. “Omigod, yes,” she responded. “Way, way too much.” But earlier she explained to a local newspaper why the couple cancelled their order. “The ring symbolizes love, and just knowing that that’s the sign that they have up there — every time I look at my ring, yes, I’ll think of us, clearly, but also everything we went through. So I don’t want my ring from there anymore. I just want my refund.”

At first, she reported, “They just said that that's their beliefs, and they think they can put up whatever they want. I just said it was very disrespectful, it's very unprofessional and I wanted a refund,” White said. “I have no issues with them believing in what they believe in. I think everyone's entitled to their own opinion. But I don't think they should put their personal beliefs inside their business.”

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Jardon, at first, was loath to return it, lest this be seen as an apology for his beliefs. Reached in Toronto, he told the St. John’s Telegram, “When I walk on Church Street in Toronto, where I am right now, and I see [LGBT rainbow flags], and I see a lot of signs and a lot of things on public property, I don't have a problem with them. I accept it. I chose to come to Canada... and we accept the whole package... I don't discriminate against that, nor do I come and tell them to take them down. For the same reason, I ask to have the same respect in return, especially when it's in my own business.”

But what is sauce for the gander is not sauce for the geese, or for the LGBT community that crowded onto the bandwagon, or for the CBC which was all too ready to label the jeweller’s sign “homophobic.”

However, some have offered support and sympathy. Rod Dreher, blogging at The American Conservative, observed that only so-called sexual minorities expected this kind of treatment. “Is a fundamentalist Christian permitted to send her osso buco back to the kitchen if she discovers that homosexual hands cooked it? Of course not. Some delicate snowflakes are more delicate than others.”

Referring to recent decisions by courts and human rights tribunals against Christian vendors who refused to serve homosexuals, Dreher concluded on an ironic note. The pressure on Jardon to return the deposit marked “the next phase in the March of Progress. You must not only bake the cake, or arrange the flowers, or make the ring, you must hold the correct opinion when you do it.”

Jardon defends his right to his own opinion. “One of the reasons my family chose to move to Canada was the rights that it offered, the freedom of religion and freedom of speech, both of which at the time seemed to be very limited in Mexico,” he said.

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Canadians headed to the ballot box for the fall federal election should remember the right to life is 'the most basic thing in society,' the archbishop tells LifeSiteNews. Pete Baklinski / LifeSiteNews
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Exclusive: Clinging to Christ will help those struggling with sexual identity, says Montreal’s archbishop

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By Pete Baklinski

OTTAWA, May 25, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) -- Montreal’s archbishop, Christian Lépine, weighed in on what the Catholic Church actually has to offer people struggling with the biological sex they were born with, telling LifeSiteNews in an exclusive interview that it’s no mistake that God creates the human person as male or female and that every person must look for their identity within a “view of God.”

“The teachings of the Church as such, its most basic one, is that we’re made in the image of God. That's always the starting point. And when you lose track of that — that you're made in the image of God — then somehow you come to lose trust in who you are as a human being, and you know less of who you are, and you don't know anymore who you are, and you [find yourself] looking for your own identity outside of a view of God,” Lépine told LifeSiteNews last week one day prior to the annual National March for Life that drew an estimated 25,000 pro-life advocates.

Following the first book of the Bible, where it is stated that God created human beings as “male and female,” the Catholic Church has always taught, and continues to teach, that the male/female binary is God’s plan for mankind.

As the book of Genesis (1:27) states: “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him, male and female he created them.”

The Catechism of the Catholic Church stresses that recognizing and preserving the male/female sexual difference is necessary for a healthy society.

“Everyone, man and woman, should acknowledge and accept his sexual identity. Physical, moral, and spiritual difference and complementarity are oriented toward the goods of marriage and the flourishing of family life. The harmony of the couple and of society depends in part on the way in which the complementarity, needs, and mutual support between the sexes are lived out,” the Catechism states.

Lépine said that anytime questions about sexual identity arise for the faithful, “we must go back to the basics,” namely that “every human is created in the image of God, and of course, biblically, every human being exists as a woman or as a man.”

The archbishop’s words are foreign to mainstream notions of so-called ‘gender fluidity’ where male/female difference is construed as a social construct and ultimately as a personal choice.

Lépine acknowledged that some people suffer when it comes to accepting their own sexual identity as either a male or female based on biological characteristics.

“Sometimes people have sufferings about their own desires, or about their own sense of identity, or about the fact that masculinity and femininity exists, or about the fact that you as ‘human being’ [exist] as a male or female, as a man or as a woman.”

He called the male/female binary “a reality that is part of the [human] experience,” adding that it is also “taught in the Bible.”

Lépine stressed that the Church does not leave people “looking for a meaning in their lives and their own sense of identity” to struggle on their own, but offers them many helps and aids, including a clear anthropology on the nature of the human person.

“As Christians, we have the Bible to help people. We have Jesus Christ to help people. We have faith in God to help people. So, going back, [we must be] conscious that we are made in the image of God. And our own sexuality — what is the meaning of being a man or woman — is related to our vocation to love. And, every human being as such, made in the image of God — being a man or woman — is called to love.”

“So, how [are we] to help [such] people? You can talk about things theoretically, which is one thing. But also, we have to be conscious of people who live through situations where they're looking for their own identity and we need, I think, the Bible and faith to help them.”

Fluid notions of gender have been criticized by Pope Francis on at least three occasions, and prior to this, by Pope Benedict XVI.

“Gender theory is an error of the human mind that leads to so much confusion," Pope Francis told young people during his voyage to Naples, Italy last March.

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In his 2012 Christmas greeting, Pope Benedict condemned gender theory as a “profound falsehood” since it denies the male and female sex as a “given element of nature.” According to Benedict, instead of acknowledging that God created people male and female, gender theory posits the existence of sexual social constructions that people can decide to conform to or not.

“The profound falsehood of this theory and of the anthropological revolution contained within it is obvious. People dispute the idea that they have a nature, given by their bodily identity, that serves as a defining element of the human being. They deny their nature and decide that it is not something previously given to them, but that they make it for themselves.”

“When the freedom to be creative becomes the freedom to create oneself, then necessarily the Maker himself is denied and ultimately man too is stripped of his dignity as a creature of God, as the image of God at the core of his being,” Benedict concluded. “The defence of the family is about man himself. And it becomes clear that when God is denied, human dignity also disappears,” he said.

Earlier in the interview, Lépine spoke about the need to “promote relentlessly life and respect for life” in the face of the country’s top court setting the legal stage for allowing doctors to end the lives of their patients under the pretext of compassion and mercy.

“You don't take care of someone when you suppress the life of someone, because you're not solving a problem. You're suppressing the person. It doesn't work,” he said.

Referring to the upcoming federal election this fall, the archbishop called “life and the right-to-life and dignity of the person” an “important subject, because it's the most basic thing in society.” 

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