Hilary White, Rome Correspondent

There is something strange going on in the Vatican

Hilary White, Rome Correspondent
Hilary White, Rome Correspondent
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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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David Bereit of 40 Days for Life, on the right.
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All one fight: Why the leader of 40 Days for Life says he may become active in the fight for marriage

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By Dustin Siggins

WASHINGTON, D.C., April 27, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Just eight years ago, 40 Days for Life was founded as a pro-life Christian ministry. This year, it reached 252 cities in 19 countries.

Now, says founder and National Director David Bereit, he's discerning whether to expand his personal activism to marriage.

"The various moral issues we confront in our culture today are all intrinsically connected," Bereit told LifeSiteNews at Saturday's March for Marriage. “When you look at the various factors that lead to the breakdown of nations and civilizations, they are moral factors," Bereit said. "It's the devaluing of human life, it's the abandonment of religious belief and practice, it's immorality -- the increase thereof – and it's the breakdown of the family."

"They're all tied into this moving away from God, and America was founded as a nation with Christian principles and ideals that used to say 'In God We Trust.' And the further we've turned away from that, the more we have fallen,” he said. "I believe that with man, turning the tide in our culture is not possible, but with God, all things are possible."

Bereit stressed that his attendance at the March for Marriage, as well as his ongoing process of discernment, was representative only of his own circumstances -- not those of 40 Days for Life, which remains an abortion-focused ministry.

Bereit did not shy away from questions that are often raised about what President Barack Obama called America's “tragic” history.

"America was built on Judeo-Christians principles,“ he said. “There are still fallen people that make up our churches and our communities."

"The question is, will people of faith and conscience turn back to God and do their very best to align themselves with the principles that formed our nation and made our nation such a great place in history?"

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

The third annual March for Marriage, which was organized by the National Organization for Marriage and exclusively livestreamed by LifeSiteNews, drew thousands of people, mostly minorities, just three days before what is being billed as the definitive U.S. Supreme Court hearing on the issue of same-sex "marriage."  

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‘Persecution plain and simple’:  Franklin Graham fundraises for Oregon bakers after GoFundMe shuts them down

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By Ben Johnson

BOONE, NC, April 27, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) – First, they were fined $135,000 for refusing to bake a wedding cake for a homosexual “marriage” ceremony. Then, a rival business owner convinced GoFundMe.com to stop Christian bakers Aaron and Melissa Klein from raising money to pay the fine on the grounds that, since their religious beliefs violate state law, they are common criminals.

Now, one of the nation's most well-known Christian ministers and philanthropists is coming to their aid.

An administrative law judge fined the Oregon bakers, proprietors of Sweet Cakes by Melissa, $135,000 to pay for the emotional suffering of Rachel and Laurel Bowman-Cryer – a lesbian couple who say they feel the Kleins “mentally raped” them.

The Kleins have since closed their Portland-area business and lost substantial income. After hearing of the fine on Friday, Melissa said the amount would financially crush them.

The family opened a GoFundMe page and, within hours, they collected more than $109,000.

Then Lisa Watson, the co-owner of Cupcake Jones in Portland, began lobbying the website to banish the couple's appeal.

“The amount of money they have raised in a matter of a few hours by thousands of anonymous cowards is disgusting,” Watson wrote on Facebook. She added that the website's “terms of service address hate speech, bigotry, criminal activity, and sexism among other things in their campaign.”

GoFundMe then suspended the Kleins' fundraising.

“While a different campaign was recently permitted for a pizzeria in Indiana, no laws were violated and the campaign remained live,” GoFundMe said in a statement. “However, the subjects of the 'Support Sweet Cakes By Melissa' campaign have been formally charged by local authorities and found to be in violation of Oregon state law concerning discriminatory acts. Accordingly, the campaign has been disabled.”

The day after the announcement Watson, who operates her business with husband Peter Shanky, posted a photo of her 2015 Equality Advocate Award “for outstanding leadership to advanced lived equality for all LGBTQ Oregonians.”

The Kleins hope the website will reconsider. “We have told GoFundMe that the money is simply going to be used to help our family, and there is no legitimate breach of their terms and conditions,” the Kleins wrote on Facebook.

That's when the Reverend Franklin Graham and his ministry Samaritan's Purse stepped in, allowing those who wish to alleviate the couple's suffering to donate on its website.

"The fund was created to help persecuted Christians in the U.S., including Aaron and Melissa Klein,” an employee at Samaritan's Purse told LifeSiteNews today. “It was only activated over the weekend and the organization has not yet announced any numbers. Currently, Samaritan's Purse is focused on the earthquake in Nepal and providing relief supplies to people impacted by the disaster.”

Graham praised the Kleins' steadfastness in the face of legal challenges. “They have taken a stand for the Word of God, and they should not have to stand alone,” the ministry's founder and president Franklin Graham said. “I believe that Christians across our nation will rally around Aaron and Melissa and their five children. Please pray for Aaron and Melissa, and pray for our nation. When our judges are punishing Christians for practicing what they believe, that’s persecution, plain and simple.”

“God bless Reverend Franklin Graham,” AFR Talk radio host Bryan Fischer said today. 

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

The Kleins will still receive the money raised by GoFundMe, in addition to any supplemental funds raised by Graham's international charitable ministry.

Conservative author Dan Calabrese wrote that “Melissa's Sweet Cakes will not have to go into bankruptcy and the family won't personally be ruined. And what a disappointment that must be to the gay mafia, whose agenda is to intimidate all gay marriage opponents into not just silence but compliance, for fear of just such” an outcome.

Christians have risen to the challenge before. Memories Pizza raised more than $840,000 after the Indiana pizzeria was harassed into closing its doors for saying it would cater a same-sex “wedding.”

Calabrese warns that these victories may lead to more intense anti-Christian persecution.

“When put in an untenable position like this, Christians and others who support their right to operate their business as they see fit will come to their aid. So the gay mafia will take it up a notch, attempting to intimidate the fundraising organizations from cooperating with the effort,” he said.

If that fails, “Maybe they can persuade friendly Democrat lawmakers (or terrified Republicans) to legislate them out of business.”

Readers can donate to the Klein family here.

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Opposition to same-sex ‘marriage’ – a deeper love

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By John-Henry Westen

April 27, 2015 (CNSNews.com) -- Same-sex “marriage” – the legal recognition of same-sex relationships – is one of the most contentious issues in America. Laws, constitutional interpretation, and the future of religious liberty may well rest on what nine justices decide two months from now.

Many observers seem to believe that the Supreme Court will rule in favor of redefining marriage. And while many on all sides of the debate, especially those who are undecided, believe this will bring cultural peace, evidence around the world points in the exact opposite direction.

Rather than settle animosity and ease cultural tensions, the advent of same-sex “marriage” will lead to the repression of religious freedom and determination to root out dissent to the gay rights doctrine. At LifeSiteNews, we have watched this play out for nearly two decades in 17 countries around the world – and America is next.

A prime example is Canada. Same-sex “marriage” passed in 2005. Similar to European countries which have done so, there has been a relentless pursuit of the minds of children against the wishes of their parents. Schools, both public and private, were first mandated by law to have gay-straight alliance clubs under the auspices of anti-bullying. Then, sex-education, teaching the normalcy of homosexual sex, was given to children without parents being permitted to opt their children out of the classes.

We have arrived at this state of affairs because of the silence of Christian pulpits on sexual matters, and the concomitant shouting from every secular pulpit, screen and book. Even the current discussion around same-sex “marriage” in the United States reveals a grave reluctance to speak about the heart of the issue – homosexual sex. Rather, arguments are made about the goodness of natural marriage, about its benefit to children, and its unchangeable character.

From reporting on the subject every day for so many years, we knew that the struggle for same-sex “marriage” has very little to do with marriage. In fact, until just recently, gay activists didn’t even want to be “married” to each other. Most had no interest in the constraints that such a formalized union would entail in terms of exclusive partnership.

However, the leaders among the activists convinced the movement that they must attain marriage as a societal stamp of approval to homosexual behavior. And, frankly, they have largely succeeded.

Today, in many of the nations where same-sex “marriage” is law, opposition to it is seen as akin to racism. It is seen falsely as an animosity against someone for who they are—an unwillingness to recognize the human dignity of a class of persons due to an immutable characteristic.

However, that false perception is due to a purposeful agenda to conflate animosity against homosexual sex acts with animosity against persons who experience same-sex attraction. The ancient Christian teaching to “love the sinner and hate the sin” is an impermissible distinction in the minds of some. It is, however, the key to understanding the majority of the opposition to same-sex “marriage.”

The plain truth of the matter is that opposition to same-sex “marriage” is rooted not in hatred and bigotry, but just the opposite – in love. Like parents who do not allow children to behave dangerously without lovingly correcting them, opponents of same-sex relationships are hoping to save people with same-sex attractions from severe physical, psychological, and spiritual harm.

Just as, out of love and concern for their children’s welfare, parents must correct and discipline, despite the protests they may get in return, any true believer in marriage, natural law and science must lovingly correct their fellow man.

In other nations, the perception that opposition to same-sex “marriage” is based upon bigotry has led to laws that violate religious liberty, parental rights and freedom of speech. This is why those who oppose same-sex “marriage” must present their reasoning as based on love and concern for the welfare of those in homosexual relationships, in addition to concerns for children and society itself. And there is ample evidence on which to base that concern in the numerous studies showing the grave harm of homosexual sex to both body and psyche.

When I’ve spoken of these findings at conferences around the world, some have questioned if the researchers who showed these harms weren’t themselves biased by anti-gay sentiment. And so I’ve taken to carrying with me on my phone the quotes of the late Canadian gay activist Gens Hellquist, whose testimony proves the harms of gay sex better than any study ever could.

Speaking a year after the passage of same-sex “marriage” into law, Hellquist was seeking more healthcare dollars for the LGBT community. "We have one of the poorest health statuses in this country,” he said. “Health issues affecting queer Canadians include lower life expectancy than the average Canadian, suicide, higher rates of substance abuse, depression, inadequate access to care and HIV/AIDS."

"There are all kinds of health issues that are endemic to our community,” he added. “We have higher rates of anal cancer in the gay male community, lesbians have higher rates of breast cancer.”

He concluded: “Now that we can get married everyone assumes that we don't have any issues any more. A lot of the deaths that occur in our community are hidden, we don't see them. Those of us who are working on the front lines see them and I'm tired of watching my community die."

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

Pastors and preachers must take up this call to speak the truth in love, for without this approach, the public will be led to believe that those opposed to same-sex “marriage” are indeed haters needing to be stopped with the force of law. Love is the most powerful force in any argument, and gay “marriage” pushers have used it very effectively. As Hilary Clinton tweeted as she fought religious freedom laws in Indiana: “We shouldn't discriminate against ppl bc of who they love #LGBT”

The truth is that those who oppose same-sex “marriage” are showing a deeper love, as any parent does when instilling difficult discipline. We have enough love and concern for those with same-sex attraction to warn them not to engage in behaviors proven to be very harmful. We won’t encourage people to enter into such harmful behaviors by redefining marriage to encourage it, nor will we allow our children to be indoctrinated into regarding it as a healthy and safe alternative lifestyle.

We have failed so far to get this message of love out to the public. I will not be surprised if the Supreme Court approves of same-sex “marriage” – and I will be even less surprised to see a subsequent  crackdown on religious freedom, as already seen in states like California and Colorado.

Pope Benedict XVI predicted it a decade ago. Observing the international trends, the then-Cardinal said “very soon it will not be possible to state that homosexuality, as the Catholic Church teaches, is an objective disorder in the structuring of human existence.”

Reprinted with permission from CNS News

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