Hilary White, Rome Correspondent

There is something strange going on in the Vatican

Hilary White, Rome Correspondent
Hilary White, Rome Correspondent

ROME, October 3, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) – I don’t know if I’m the only one to have noticed, but there seems to be something strange going on in the Vatican. No, I’m not talking about all that, at least not directly. I’m talking about the strange, long, almost awkward and, dare I say it, embarrassed silence, that has reigned from the Vatican’s press office on all of Pope Francis’s extraordinary statements and actions since his election.

I’m not going to go into all the details of the comments made by Pope Francis in the press – starting with his blockbusting plane interview on the way home from Brazil – which I’m sure most readers know well enough by now.

We have all seen the fallout. Homosexualist activists thanking Francis for “softening the Church’s policy on homosexuality”; the National Abortion Rights Action League thanking Pope Francis for… no one seems quite sure what; and even an atheist US talk show host declaring Francis an atheist.

Through all this, although the full Italian texts of the two interviews have been posted to the website of Vatican Radio, there has been nothing in the way of official clarifications, corrections, or even thunderous denials from the Sala Stampa.

In the nearly ten years I’ve been covering Vatican and Catholic-related news, through three papacies now, I don’t remember a time when the uproar caused by things a pope is saying and doing has reached so deeply into the minds of orthodox believers. These are the people who adhere to and defend all the teaching of the Catholic religion as a coherent and indivisible whole, and who have always relied on clarity and vigorous defence of the faith from Rome.

Catholic believers have understood their task well over the last few decades of this war of ideas; to patiently and articulately correct the claims made by the secular progressivists in the media. We have been able to do this because, thanks to the clarifying of doctrine and strengthening of the Church over the last two papacies, we have been confident about the ground we stood on.

But in recent months, around the world, with either dismay and anxiety, or with triumphant whoops, this pope’s statements – first to the Jesuit magazine La Civilta Cattolica and now to the Italian atheist celebrity Eugenio Scalfari – have been interpreted as nearly a declaration that the Church will change to suit the tastes of the “progressivists,” liberals and secularists. And for weeks, there was nothing; no clarification, no corrections or denials at all from inside the Vatican’s walls. The Catholic world outside was starting to wonder just what is going on in there. 

Nothing, that is, until last Thursday, when, after a Sala Stampa (Holy See Press Office) press conference about the first meeting of Pope Francis’ new council of cardinals, Fr. Federico Lombardi stammered out a few words in response to a deluge of reporters’ questions.

Despite the fact that they certainly must have known what was coming, we had nothing but the Holy See’s press officer and the de facto papal spokesman metaphorically dropping his gaze and shuffling his feet. The pope, Fr. Lombardi said, was speaking in a “conversational” or “colloquial” manner, and his statements were not “a magisterial document”…

Not only was there no comment or clarifications in the prepared remarks at that press conference, Fr. Lombardi had nothing prepared for what he must have known would be the main point of interest for journalists. He seemed, simply, to be caught off guard.

Now Scalfari himself has admitted this weekend that he neither recorded nor took notes during the conversation, and that the “interview” that was published had been reconstructed from memory. However, Scalfari and Lombardi have both insisted that Pope Francis was shown the final text and approved it, although it is not “clear how closely the Pope read it”.

This revelation was followed on the weekend by a letter produced by Fr. Thomas Rosica, signing not as a Vatican spokesman but as head of Salt and Light Catholic Television Network, who summed up a few of the revelations about the Scalfari interview that had come to light elsewhere.

The interview, Fr. Rosica said, was “after-the-fact reconstruction” and so “run[s] the risk of either missing some key details or conflating various moments or events recounted during the oral interview”.

Fr. Rosica affirmed again, however, that the Scalfari interview was “trustworthy overall” but admitted, “Nevertheless, some minor, unprecise details have caused a stir among you.” Among the possible “‘conflation’ of facts, details and sequence of events” on the night of his election, were questions about “a so-called ‘mystical experience’ of Pope Francis on the night of his election to the Papacy.”

But that was it. We are left to ourselves to try to understand all the rest of Pope Francis’s remarks and actions that have astonished, confused and alarmed Catholics around the world for the last six months. Writing for the National Catholic Register, Rome correspondent Edward Pentin summed up the dissatisfaction of many observers, commenting, “[T]he picture emerging is of a Pope who does whatever he wants with little or no consultation with his closest aides.” The pope, one inside source said, is “viewed as being ‘totally unpredictable,’ preferring to do things arbitrarily and on his own”.

But many of us Vatican-watchers are also left wondering what is going on inside the Press Office. The brevity and off-the-cuff, essentially reactive character of their very few responses to date do indicate one thing that they were probably not intended to convey. That is, it seems the usual paths of communication within the Vatican, and their “control over the message” have broken down.

One local Rome reporter told me, “I think they must be embarrassed that the interview went ahead as it did. I asked Fr. Lombardi if anyone else sat in on the interview. No reply. It raises an ominous question: if there is this much confusion and bewilderment out here, is it possible that the same confusion reigns in there?

Meanwhile, the “clarifications” from Fr.’s Lombardi and Rosica leave unanswered the numerous questions about Pope Francis’s statements.

Hundreds of articles and editorials, and easily thousands of blog posts have asked, Did Pope Francis really mean that there has been too much emphasis on abortion, the nature of the family, marriage and sexuality? Who "reprimanded" Francis for not talking about these issues? Are youth unemployment and the loneliness of elderly people really the most urgent issues facing the Church? Does that mean that the killing of 50 million unborn children a year around the world, the growing threat of legalised euthanasia, the global population control movement… really should take a back seat to our economic or even emotional troubles?

Is the pope, the Vicar of Christ, saying that focusing on these issues in the public sphere is a distraction from the true aims of the Church of spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ?

What does he mean by the Church being caught up in “small rules”? What did he mean when he said that “God is not a Catholic”? Or that “Each of us has a vision of good and of evil. We have to encourage people to move towards what they think is Good”?

There can be no doubt that this is all having a profound effect on faithful Catholics out there. Ordinary Catholics are asking hard questions, and expressing their grave concerns. Typical of such comments was one that I found most poignant on the ‘blog of Fr. Dwight Longenecker, one of Pope Francis’ strongest supporters:

 “I find this interview very hard. I have accepted that this is the Holy Father's personal view, and that it is not infallible, but this interview is challenging my prior notion of what devotion to the Papacy meant because previously I would not have selected what the Popes said but assiduously read things like this. I can't get past the cognitive dissonance.”

There seems little point in debating over what it’s all about. The possibilities have been explored as far as we can take it from out here. As LSN managing editor Steve Jalsevac said the other day, we’ve seen all we need to see of speculation about “what the pope really meant…” or “what the pope could not possibly have meant…”. As he said, all of this might be cathartic for some, but ultimately only Pope Francis can clarify what he really meant. And he isn’t.

Last week he was in Assisi and in that highly public forum with the press corps following and waiting, there has not been any hint that he is aware of the enormous uproar among the faithful that has resulted from his words.

For fifty years, Catholics have relied upon a system in which every word spoken or written by a pope, or for that matter by any office of the Vatican, has been carefully examined and vetted through the appropriate Vatican dicasteries for conformity to Catholic teaching. It has been this system, almost as much as the personal commitment of the last two popes to the defence of the sanctity of human life, that has given Catholics the confidence, the solid doctrinal ground they needed to fight the good fight. 

That collaborative process of vetting and doctrinal precision, of caution, care and commitment to the internal theological and doctrinal coherence, has produced some of the most important documents to the life and family issues of the last century. These statements, taken together, could be seen as a kind of constitution of the international pro-life movement: Humanae vitae, 1968, on artificial contraception; Donum vitae, 1987, and Dignitas Personae, 2008, on artificial procreation and new reproductive technologies; Evangelium vitae, 1995, on abortion and euthanasia; the Charter of the Rights of the Family 1983.

But the evidence is mounting that that system has broken down or simply been rendered moot. If Pope Francis is now just calling up journalists himself (if that story is to be believed) and bypassing the process by which papal statements were vetted, clarified and perfected, then what can we expect next?

We also know that the same system that kept ambiguity or confusion from causing problems among the faithful, also restrained those members of the hierarchy who were inclined, for whatever reason, to back away from the Church’s teachings. It will not have failed to cross the minds of a certain kind of prelate and priest that there now appears to be no one minding the store and that some things may now be said and done with less fear of corrective action.

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Fr. Mark Hodges

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VIDEO: Expert says China will continue forced abortions, sterilizations

Fr. Mark Hodges
By Fr. Mark Hodges

IRONDALE, Alabama, November 25, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) – An expert on China says the country's move from the infamous "one-child per family" policy of forced abortion and sterilization to a "two-child" policy will leave the status quo largely intact.

Human rights activist Reggie Littlejohn, an expert on China and the president of Women's Rights Without Frontiers, spoke with Raymond Arroyo of Eternal Word Television Network's The World Over show about China's new policy of allowing families two children.

Littlejohn said that the change from a one-child to a two-child policy is motivated not by human rights, but by demographics. "It is not that the Chinese communist party has suddenly grown a conscience...at all. It is that they are facing a threefold demographic disaster."

First of all, Ms. Littlejohn said, China "doesn't have enough women, because of their gendercide."

"The core of the policy is not that they allow one child or two children, but is that they are setting a limit, and enforcing it through forced sterilization, forced contraception, and a whole web of surveillance of women, monitoring women's menstrual cycles and their fertility," Littlejohn explained. "All of that coercion will remain the same under a two-child policy."

"A two-child policy carries all of the [same] terrible and appalling methods of abortion as the one child policy," Ms. Littlejohn explained. "It's just that they start killing after two, instead of after one."

Littlejohn went on to say that China's demographic problems resulting from 40 years of gendercide will not be fixed by the new two-child allowance. "Even if China were to completely abolish their policy right now, and allow to everybody to have as many kids as they want to have, it's going to take twenty years for the women to grow to the point where they can marry, and everybody to the point where they can be workers," she said.

She said that the Chinese have "dug themselves in a hole that they can't get out of."  Arroyo pointed out that there are 33 million more men than women in China today.

Littlejohn does not expect gendercide to decrease immediately. "What I think is going to happen," Littlejohn said, "is couples who have a boy are going to stop at one," because of the high expense of having children in China. "And those who have a girl first are going to continue to abort a second daughter, because they still want to have a son."

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When Arroyo pointed out that government statistics say 350 billion dollars since 1980 were levied in fines against those who tried to defy China's one-child policy, Littlejohn responded, "That's why I don't think China will ever abandon its policy: it's a huge money-maker for them." She noted that local officials determine the amount of fines and line their pockets with the cash.

She pointed out that five years ago, the Chinese government admitted that over four hundred million babies in the womb have been killed – and that number is far greater today.

Littlejohn pointed out that any Chinese citizen who dares to tell the truth about the communist policy is persecuted. "People who get their stories to the West – not only do they have to endure the trauma of the forced abortion itself, but they have to endure trauma [against] themselves and their families from the Chinese Communist Party for seeing them before the world."

"Thank God for Ted Cruz, also for Marco Rubio, and for Congressman Chris Smith – all three of those have come out with very, very powerful statements saying basically that the two-child policy does not fix any of the problems with the one-child policy," Littlejohn said. "I'm so glad that they ... are getting the truth out there."

Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz spoke against China's policy earlier this month. "In America, we should stand with victims of oppression," he said. "These are horrific acts of brutality. They are inhumane. They are contrary not only to American values, but to human rights across the globe, and they are carried out as a matter of policy."

Rep. Chris Smith and Sen. Marco Rubio have also issued statements cautioning that China's move to a two-child policy will not end brutal, coercive population control.  

Rep. Smith, chairman of the House subcommittee that oversees human rights and chairman of the Congressional-Executive China Commission, held a hearing entitled "China's One-Child Policy: The Government's Massive Crime Against Women and Unborn Babies." Smith explained, "The policy has directly contributed to what is accurately described as gendercide – the deliberate extermination of a girl, born or unborn, simply because she happens to be female."

In October, Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio criticized China's two-child policy. "The policy is still repressive," Rubio explained. "The fact remains that when couples conceive a third child, the Chinese government will force them to eliminate him or her, by any means necessary."

Rubio concluded, "A two-child policy is as indefensible and inhumane as a one-child policy, and it would be a mistake to assume this change in any way reflects a newfound respect for human rights by Beijing. The U.S. must continue advocating for the complete elimination of government-forced population planning."

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Steve Weatherbe

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Irish children’s minister joins call for nation to abandon pro-life constitution

Steve Weatherbe
By Steve Weatherbe

DUBLIN, November 25, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) – Ireland's health minister has joined the chorus of feminist groups calling for a referendum to repeal the country's 30-year-old Eighth Amendment, a part of the Constitution, which allows abortion only when the mother's life is directly threatened.

Children's Minister Dr. James Reilly told the Sunday Independent that despite the reluctance of the major parties (including his own Fine Gael) to support a referendum, the public wants it. "We have had more than 30 years on this and we really need political leadership on this issue. I think it is quite clear from opinion polls that the vast majority of people are way ahead of politicians on this."

Reilly said women carrying unborn babies with fatal abnormalities should be allowed to have abortions, regardless of whether delivery poses a risk to their lives or health.

But Cora Sherlock, the head of the Prolife Campaign, told LifeSiteNews, "It is not something the people really want; it is not coming from the grassroots, but from a few pressure groups like Amnesty International. The people of Ireland have always had a heart for the unborn."

Pro-abortion activist Sinead Kennedy of the Repeal the Eighth Coalition said every politician should declare his or her position. "We would like to see political parties in the run up to the election [expected in spring] come out and declare that this will be [a] red-line issue for any participation in government."

In fact, in September, Ireland's Taoiseach, or prime minister, Enda Kenny, said his government, if re-elected, will hold a referendum on the Eighth Amendment only if a workable alternative is advanced at the same time.

Sherlock noted that despite an "aggressive campaign" from Amnesty Ireland and its uncritical promotion by the news media, popular support for the referendum is waning. A poll published by the Sunday Independent on Nov. 22 showed 56% in favor of the referendum, down 10% from June, with 22% opposed.

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Support for abortion in specific cases is also down: in cases of fatal abnormalities in the unborn baby, support for abortion is down 9% to 55%; when the mother threatens suicide, it is down 4% to 68%; and when there is a long-term threat to the mother's health, support is down 5% to 64%.

"I think it is going down because people are becoming aware of the Planned Parenthood stories from the U.S., and of Kermit Gosnell," Sherlock said, in reference to the videos showing America's leading abortion provider trafficking in body parts from aborted babies, and to the abortionist convicted of multiple murders of babies who survived his botched abortions only to be executed by him and his staff afterwards. "The news media don't like to cover those stories, but the social media has a mind of its own," she added.

Last year, several government ministers declared that the people of Ireland had "no appetite" or "little appetite" for a referendum; however, they might vote if it were held anyway. They promised there would be no referendum before the 2016 election and even warned against making it an election issue, which was the case in 1983 with the referendum that put Amendment Eight in the Constitution in the first place.

The Eighth Amendment declares the unborn child's life as equal to, and equally worthy of protection as, the life of the mother. The vagueness of this formula led the current government to pass a law two years ago allowing abortion when the mother's life is at risk, including at risk by suicide, right up to the day of a child's birth.

Popular opinion still opposed abortion as late as 2007, but by 2012, support for abortion had risen to 85%. Lately, Amnesty International has lent its reputation to the push for a referendum, leading Sherlock to predict, "Amnesty will be the loser when the hypocrisy of a so-called human rights group attacking the unborn becomes evident and when people see that they are only willing to talk about teenage pregnancy, but not about the unborn, not about the Planned Parenthood videos nor Kermit Gosnell, and about how these go hand in hand with abortion on request."

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Gina Raimondo, Democrat candidate for governor of Rhode Island http://www.ginaraimondo.com/
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Abortion supporters slam new budget by Rhode Island’s Democrat governor

Dustin Siggins Dustin Siggins Follow Dustin
By Dustin Siggins

PROVIDENCE, Rhode Island, November 25, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) – Abortion advocates aren't happy with a budget bill signed by Rhode Island's Democratic governor, because it gave 9,000 people insurance coverage that doesn't cover elective abortions.

Earlier this year, an anonymous HIV-positive practicing Catholic won a lawsuit against the state, gaining the right for citizens under the state's Affordable Care Act (ACA) exchange to have an insurance plan that doesn't cover elective abortions. Shortly after John Doe's victory, pro-abortion governor Gina Raimondo signed a budget bill that included a pro-life rider making the legal victory statutory law.

The law caused 9,000 out of approximately 30,000 people who were automatically enrolled in health insurance programs for 2016 to have insurance coverage without elective abortion coverage. State officials are now scrambling to notify insurees that they can change their coverage by December 23.

Abortion groups aren't happy, with one blogger writing that Raimondo's signature means that "those who supported Gina Raimondo's bid for Governor of Rhode Island may want to seriously reconsider their support."

The governor won support from at least two national abortion groups in her race last year.

A spokesperson for Raimondo's office e-mailed that "the Governor's first priority is ensuring that all Rhode Islanders have the opportunity to access affordable health insurance that meets their needs, including access to safe and affordable reproductive healthcare."

"Changes in state policy require insurance carriers participating in HealthSource RI to offer one plan at every 'metal level' that does not include most abortion coverage," Maria Tocco told LifeSiteNews. "This year, HSRI launched an automatic renewal process to ensure that Rhode Islanders who signed up for coverage would maintain it without any gap in service."

Tocco e-mailed that "HSRI proactively reached out to all its customers by mail before the start of the open enrollment period to let customers know precisely which plans include abortion coverage and which do not."

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In a phone call, Tocco clarified that Health Source Rhode Island had gotten involved in contacting enrollees – a process normally left up to insurers – because state policy had caused the change in coverage. Tocco clarified that this would be the case if coverage for other medical services and products were changed by state policy.

Barth Bracy, the executive director of Rhode Island Right to Life, said arguments by abortion advocates that they want to expand choice to those who may not be aware of the loss of abortion insurance coverage are false. "Note that each enrollee in an abortion plan (regardless of age, sex, or family status) pays a surcharge into the abortion-slush fund created by Obamacare," he said. "The fewer people who enroll in an abortion-covering plan, the higher the charge must be on those who do choose those plans, increasing the differential between the abortion and non-abortion plans, thus making the abortion plans less attractive."

"This is all about padding the Obamacare abortion slush fund," he concluded, saying that "the only 'error' by the government (both federal and state) was the error of King Herod, who did not succeed in his designs to get every single child. And that was due to the work of RI Right to Life and ADF, which together threw a monkey wrench into the monstrous machine created by Obamacare."

Doe told LifeSiteNews that he is "pleased and grateful that, because of the efforts of the Rhode Island State Right to Life Committee, the Alliance Defending Freedom lawsuit, and subsequent state legislation, Rhode Islanders who oppose abortion can now participate in the state's health insurance exchange without being forced to fund abortions."

Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel Casey Mattox said that "Rhode Islanders now have the choice of plans that cover and those that don't cover elective abortions." Mattox criticized abortion advocates for "demand[ing] that everyone, including a pro-life man like our client, be compelled to pay a special abortion fee to subsidize the abortion industry. Federal and state law requires Rhode Island to offer this choice to their citizens, and we are pleased with this outcome."

Tocco told LifeSiteNews that the bill and the John Doe lawsuit were unrelated. However, Mattox, who represented Doe in court, noted that the bill's signature "took place after our client won his lawsuit."

"It doesn't matter to us how the governor wants to frame this," Mattox told LifeSiteNews. "We are just glad for the people of Rhode Island that the right thing was done."

Bracy clarified that the rider was his group's way of making sure the legal decision was formally in state law.


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