Gay activists fear the true public voice: an Italian family leader on Croatia’s marriage referendum

Editor’s Note: Longtime Catholic family activist Francesco Belletti, who serves as a consultant to the Pontifical Council for the Family, spoke with Vatican Radio Dec. 2nd on the implications for Italy and other countries of the Dec. 1st referendum on marriage in Croatia. Belletti holds a Masters in political science from the University of Milan and has worked since the early 1980s with an array of Italian non-profit groups defending life and family. Since 2009, he has served as national president of the Forum of Family Associations.

Croatia has said “no” to gay marriage. The referendum, that was opposed by the government, stipulated that marriage must be defined in the Constitution as the exclusive union between a man and a woman.

65.77% of the voters said yes to the exclusive definition of heterosexual marriage, against 33.62% of “no”.

Low voter turnout: 38% of the approximately 3.8 million of those entitled to vote. This does not invalidate the referendum, which in Croatia does not require a minimum of participation.

The amendment to the Constitution aligns the Croatian referendum with Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Hungary and Bulgaria, the five EU countries that already have an exclusively heterosexual definition of marriage according to their constitutions.

Vatican Radio: Why are the proponents of gay marriage afraid of the use of referendums on issues that affect the social life of a country and the personal lives of citizens?

Francesco Belletti: This referendum shows that the popular feeling, that the attitude of individuals with regard to the theme of marriage and the identity of the family is very cautious, very careful to keep a history and a tradition that is thousands of years of sexual identity, male and female, the responsibilities of parents towards their children.

[The referendum is] the confirmation that some positions, say, asking for extreme assimilation, marriage for gay people, is against the common sentiment, the popular wisdom. Such interventions are, let us say, elitist, which in the media world, the world of politics, manages to have a lot more say than I have with the common people.

VR: Indeed, in Croatia, in addition to center-left parties, other academics and a large part of the press said they were opposed to this consultation.

FB: Look, here is the intellectual short circuit. In my opinion, these ideological positions fail to mark the difference between the respect which is due to every person and thus with regards to sexual orientation to individuals who are homosexual or heterosexual - and this is always guaranteed! - and the idea that this creates an automatic recognition of the family and of marriage as possible [for homosexuals].

Instead, the Croatian people said: “Marriage and the family have a very precise meaning, built in our history, about the love between a man and a woman and openness to life. This we want to defend!” This is not a homophobic attitude, it intends no injury to the dignity of the person, but this distinction; the defense of the meaning of the word “family” is always about sexual difference. Luckily the people are still unable to distinguish.

VR: Croatia now becomes the sixth country in Europe - along with Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Hungary and Bulgaria - which will have a constitutional definition of marriage that is exclusively heterosexual. So, is this the right way to avoid interventions “imposed” from above?

FB: It’s a way that’s possible, which is becoming more important than we thought a few decades ago. In fact in our [Italian] Constitution was not written so that marriage is founded on sexual difference, because it was so objectively and was recognized as such by all, so there was no need. Today it seems that there is a need! And [this is] one of the ways to legally defend what is a natural truth, which belongs to common sense. Our Constitution spoke of the family as a natural society founded on marriage, and it was automatically understood that this would also be between a man and a woman. And now we need to add, to defend it in legal language, probably even in the legislation.

VR: Can the result of the referendum in Croatia also encourage other countries to request consultations on these issues that are so important?

FB: Look, I expect, from now on, a rain of criticism, accusations of obscurantism leveled at the Croats saying they are not a modern people ... There will be a great debate. And I fear that the various European parliaments and the various Courts of Justice will be very aggressive with respect to this choice. Thank goodness our Europe is based on the principle of subsidiarity: family policies and family is the theme for the individual countries. So, the example of this consultation is an example that gives comfort.

When people are able to express themselves, to talk, to say what they really believe about such foundational human issues, then the truth comes out clearer than it is out in the “ambushing” by amendments to the laws or debates in the aulas of many national parliaments, regional or municipal governments or even at the European level. Thus, there is a problem of active citizenship: the people who believe in the value of the family must be heard!

This interview is republished with permission. Read the transcript of the original interview in Italian here.

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Today’s chuckle: Rubio, Fiorina and Carson pardon a Thanksgiving turkey

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By Steve Jalsevac

A little bit of humour now and then is a good thing.

Happy Thanksgiving to all our American readers.

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Building of the European Court of Human Rights.
Lianne Laurence


BREAKING: Europe’s top human rights court slaps down German ban on pro-life leafletting

Lianne Laurence
By Lianne Laurence

STRASBOURG, France, November 26, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) – The European Court of Human Rights ruled Thursday that a German regional court violated a pro-life activist’s freedom of expression when it barred him from leafleting in front of an abortion center.

It further ruled the German court’s order that Klaus Gunter Annen not list the names of two abortion doctors on his website likewise violated the 64-year-old pro-life advocate’s right to freedom of expression.

The court’s November 26 decision is “a real moral victory,” says Gregor Puppinck, director of the Strasbourg-based European Center for Law and Justice, which intervened in Annen’s case. “It really upholds the freedom of speech for pro-life activists in Europe.”

Annen, a father of two from Weinam, a mid-sized city in the Rhine-Neckar triangle, has appealed to the Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights at least two times before, Puppinck told LifeSiteNews.

“This is the first time he made it,” he said, noting that this time around, Annen had support from the ECLJ and Alliance Defense Fund and the German Pro-life Federation (BVL). “I think he got more support, better arguments and so I think this helped.”

The court also ordered the German government to pay Annen costs of 13,696.87 EUR, or 14,530 USD.

Annen started distributing pamphlets outside a German abortion center ten years ago, ECLJ stated in a press release.

His leaflets contained the names and addresses of the two abortionists at the center, declared they were doing “unlawful abortions,” and stated in smaller print that, “the abortions were allowed by the German legislators and were not subject to criminal liability.”

Annen’s leaflets also stated that, “The murder of human beings in Auschwitz was unlawful, but the morally degraded NS State allowed the murder of innocent people and did not make it subject to criminal liability.” They referred to Annen’s website,, which listed a number of abortionists, including the two at the site he was leafleting.

In 2007, a German regional court barred Annen from pamphleteering in the vicinity of the abortion center, and ordered him to drop the name of the two abortion doctors from his website.

But the European Court of Human Rights ruled Thursday that the German courts had "failed to strike a fair balance between [Annen’s] right to freedom of expression and the doctor’s personality rights.”

The Court stated that, “there can be no doubt as to the acute sensitivity of the moral and ethical issues raised by the question of abortion or as to the importance of the public interest at stake.”

That means, stated ECLJ, that “freedom of expression in regard to abortion shall enjoy a full protection.”

ECLJ stated that the court noted Annen’s leaflets “made clear that the abortions performed in the clinic were not subject to criminal liability. Therefore, the statement that ‘unlawful abortions’ were being performed in the clinic was correct from a legal point of view.”

As for the Holocaust reference, the court stated that, “the applicant did not – at least not explicitly – equate abortion with the Holocaust.”  Rather, the reference was “a way of creating awareness of the more general fact that law might diverge from morality.”

The November 26 decision “is a quite good level of protection of freedom of speech for pro-life people,” observed Puppinck.

First, the European Court of Human Rights has permitted leafleting “in the direct proximate vicinity of the clinic, so there is no issue of zoning,” he told LifeSiteNews. “And second, the leaflets were mentioning the names of the doctors, and moreover, were mentioning the issue of the Holocaust, which made them quite strong leaflets.”

“And the court protected that.”

Annen has persevered in his pro-life awareness campaign through the years despite the restraints on his freedom.

“He did continue, and he did adapt,” Puppinck told LifeSiteNews. “He kept his freedom of speech as much as he could, but he continued to be sanctioned by the German authorities, and each time he went to the court of human rights. And this time, he won.”

ECLJ’s statement notes that “any party” has three months to appeal the November 26 decision.

However, as it stands, the European Court of Human Rights’s ruling affects “all the national courts,” noted Puppinck, and these will now “have to protect freedom of speech, recognize the freedom of speech for pro-lifers.”

“In the past, the courts have not always been very supportive of the freedom of speech of pro-life,” he said, so the ruling is “significant.”

As for Annen’s pro-life ministry, Pubbinck added: “He can continue to go and do, and I’m sure that he does, because he always did.”  

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A vibrant church in Africa. Pierre-Yves Babelon /
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‘Soft racism’: German Bishops’ website attributes African Catholics’ strong faith to simplemindedness

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By Pete Baklinski

GERMANY, November 26, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) --  The only reason the Catholic Church is growing in Africa is because the people have a “rather low level” of education and accept “simple answers to difficult questions” involving marriage and sexuality, posited an article on the official website of the German Bishops' Conference posted yesterday. The article targeted particularly Cardinal Robert Sarah of Guinea, the Vatican's prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and ardent defender of Catholic tradition.

First Things blogger Leroy Huizenga, who translated a portion of the article, criticized the article's view as “soft racism.”

In his article, titled “The Romantic, Poor Church,” editor Björn Odendahl writes: 

So also in Africa. Of course the Church is growing there. It grows because the people are socially dependent and often have nothing else but their faith. It grows because the educational situation there is on average at a rather low level and the people accept simple answers to difficult questions (of faith) [sic]. Answers like those that Cardinal Sarah of Guinea provides. And even the growing number of priests is a result not only of missionary power but also a result of the fact that the priesthood is one of the few possibilities for social security on the dark continent.

Huizenga said that such an article has no place on a bishops’ conference website. 

“We all know that the German Bishops' Conference is one of the most progressive in the world. But it nevertheless beggars belief that such a statement would appear on the Conference's official website, with its lazy slander of African Christians and priests as poor and uneducated (Odendahl might as well have added ‘easy to command’) and its gratuitous swipe at Cardinal Sarah,” he wrote. 

“Natürlich progressives could never be guilty of such a sin and crime, but these words sure do suggest soft racism, the racism of elite white Western paternalism,” he added. 

African prelates have gained a solid reputation for being strong defenders of Catholic sexual morality because of their unwavering orthodox input into the recently concluded Synod on the Family in Rome. 

At one point during the Synod, Cardinal Robert Sarah urged Catholic leaders to recognize as the greatest modern enemies of the family what he called the twin “demonic” “apocalyptic beasts” of “the idolatry of Western freedom” and “Islamic fundamentalism.”

STORY: Cardinal Danneels warns African bishops to avoid ‘triumphalism’

“What Nazi-Fascism and Communism were in the 20th century, Western homosexual and abortion ideologies and Islamic fanaticism are today,” he said during his speech at the Synod last month. 

But African prelates’ adherence to orthodoxy has earned them enemies, especially from the camp of Western prelates bent on forming the Catholic Church in their own image and likeness, not according to Scripture, tradition, and the teaching magisterium of the Church. 

During last year’s Synod, German Cardinal Walter Kasper went as far as stating that the voice of African Catholics in the area of Church teaching on homosexuality should simply be dismissed.

African cardinals “should not tell us too much what we have to do,” he said in an October 2014 interview with ZENIT, adding that African countries are "very different, especially about gays.” 

Earlier this month Belgian Cardinal Godfried Danneels, instead of praising Africa for its vibrant and flourishing Catholicism, said that African prelates will one day have to look to Europe to get what he called “useful tips” on how to deal with “secularization” and “individualism.” 

The statement was criticized by one pro-family advocate as “patronizing of the worst kind” in light of the facts that numerous European churches are practically empty, vocations to the priesthood and religious life are stagnant, and the Catholic faith in Europe, especially in Belgium, is overall in decline.

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