Hilary White, Rome Correspondent

Mainstream media goes gaga over Pope Francis and same-sex civil unions

Hilary White, Rome Correspondent
Hilary White, Rome Correspondent

ROME, March 7, 2014 (LifeSiteNews.com) – As I do most mornings, one of the first things I did today was put the search terms “Pope Francis” into Google. This morning the offerings from the mainstream media, and a fair chunk of the blogosphere, is along the lines of “Pope Francis leaves door open for civil unions!” Ah, there must have been another interview, I thought. Here we go again…

Sure enough, yesterday Corriere della Sera, one of Italy’s mainstream daily papers published another “wide-ranging” interview with Pope Francis, and the usual round of arguments, disputes and triumphant whoops exploded over what the pope said, didn’t say, was mistranslated or misinterpreted or misrepresented as saying, in the press and the blogosphere.

An English translation was provided Wednesday by Zenit, which gave the money quote as:

Many countries have regulated civil unions. Is it a path that the Church can understand? But up to what point?

Holy Father: Marriage is between one man and one woman. The secular States want to justify civil unions to regulate different situations of coexistence, spurred by the need to regulate economic aspects between persons as, for instance, to ensure healthcare. Each case must be looked at and evaluated in its diversity.

There was other stuff in there that might cause the scrupulous and observant to take a few sharp inward breaths, but for the press, that was THE one.

The Vatican, in the person of Fr. Thomas Rosica, issued a quick statement yesterday responding to the inevitable feeding frenzy, calling the matter of homosexual civil unions “delicate,” but failing to actually clarify that Pope Francis would not now or at any time approve either “civil unions” or homosexual behaviour.

“The Pope did not choose to enter into debates about the delicate matter of gay civil unions,” Rosica said. “In his response to the interviewer, he emphasized the natural characteristic of marriage between one man and one woman, and on the other hand, he also spoke about the obligation of the state to fulfill its responsibilities towards its citizens.”

“We should not try to read more into the Pope’s words than what has been stated in very general terms,” he added. And as might be expected, this “clarification” was roundly ignored. So, if we can’t look to the Press Office for a clarification, then where?

Terence Weldon, at his always-entertaining Queering the Church blog, set the tone. Weldon, who is a vigilant Vatican-watcher as well as a leading figure in the Catholic wing of the UK’s homosexualist movement, was hot off the mark yesterday – before there was a reliable English translation – with the headline “Has Pope Francis Signalled Support for Civil Unions?” He led with: “Cardinal Bergoglio’s name is already included, as Archbishop of Buenos Aires, in the growing list of senior bishops and cardinals who have expressed some form of support for same – sex civil unions, but it’s too soon to add his name as Pope Francis.” But today’s interview with Corierre della Sera, he adds, “indicate[s] that may soon change.”

To this introductory shot, Weldon followed up today with a somewhat more sober, “Pope Francis Has NOT ‘Supported’ Civil Unions – but Catholic Thinking Continues to Evolve.” Citing Zenit’s complete English translation, Weldon writes, “Francis holds back from a blanket endorsement, for the simple reason that the term ‘civil union’ means many different things, taking different forms in different jurisdictions.” Fair enough, I guess, but then we have: “Nevertheless, these extremely cautious words represent the beginnings of some evolution in formal, institutional Catholic thinking.”

Francis’ statement that “each case must be looked at and evaluated in its diversity,” Weldon says, “is indirectly encouraging open discussion, debate and listening.” He takes it as a good sign of things to come from this pontificate, and contrasts it favourably with the statements from Benedict XVI and John Paul II. And so do quite a few other people.

Whatever the pope actually meant by the comment, it is difficult to argue with a man like Terence Weldon on optics. This, from the point of view of homosexualist activists, and their fellow-travelers in media and politics, is what the pope appears to have meant. Even if the Church can never actually approve civil unions, as the Vatican’s magisterial text on the issue states, when it comes to the culture war, optics count a great deal.

The Terence Weldon interpretation has been taken up by media and activist organizations (yes, there’s a difference, technically) as the official one. We have confirmation from the New York Daily News, as only one among the multitudes, who included a video interview from a local New York television station with the vice president of Dignity USA, the homosexualist group that is doing more or less the same work as Terence Weldon.

Lewis Speaks-Tanner told WPIX New York that the comment was “very encouraging” because the pope “actually used the word ‘civil union’ and he opened the doors to continue dialogue, which no pope has actually said before.”

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CNN’s religion blog said much the same thing, with “Pope Francis: Church could support civil unions” as did USA Today, with “Pope Francis leaves door open for same-sex unions.” Time magazine, that bellwether of popularity-for-the-wrong-reasons, gave us: “Pope Francis Willing To ‘Evaluate’ Civil Unions, But No Embrace of Gay Marriage.”

And it goes on and on… Huffington Post: “Pope Francis Suggests Gay Civil Unions May Be Tolerable By Church”; ThinkProgress: “Pope Francis Suggests Support For Civil Unions.” Et cetera.

And lest we think that this is merely wishful thinking on the part of an anti-Catholic secular press, we have the Catholic News Service, the official media arm of the US Bishops’ Conference, tweeting, “Pope, in interview, suggests church could tolerate some civil unions.”

And what has been the response, editorially speaking? Time, which has already named Francis its “Person of the Year,” was perhaps the most succinct today about that, summing it up as, “Pope Francis the Popular.”

While the MSM seems only to be concerned with the pope and gays, there is a lot more going on here. Pope Francis answered questions on a stream of “hot-button” Catholic issues, including (translating the politely coded language) female ordination, divorce, abortion and contraception. And as before, there were comments in this latest interview that have a lot of people worried.

I know (from the flurry of emails and Facebook messages I received) that I am not the only one who noticed that he talked about contraception and Humanae Vitae, for example, in the same way that Cardinal Kasper talked the other day about the indissolubility of marriage: that it is a wonderful, unchangeable doctrine of the Faith, “prophetic” and given to us by the highest possible authorities…but…

Did I feel a faint whisper of Winnipeg’s cold breeze blowing in my ear when I read this?

It all depends on how the text of ‘Humanae Vitae’ is interpreted. Paul VI himself, towards the end, recommended to confessors much mercy and attention to concrete situations…The object is not to change the doctrine, but it is a matter of going into the issue in depth and to ensure that the pastoral ministry takes into account the situations of each person and what that person can do.

I keep wondering if anyone close to him is speaking to him, privately and perhaps urgently, telling him that whatever his intentions, the world is watching and is deeply pleased with everything he’s saying. And it’s not the nice, friendly world, the cheering Catholics who greet him at the Wednesday audiences. It’s those “wolves” some of us remember another pope mentioning once on a memorable occasion. These unknown advisors, in my imagination, might indeed be telling him something more or less like this from Time:

…once again, reminded the world that his papacy seeks to welcome gays, not to judge. It pointed to his desire to see a church of pastors, not of doctrinaires. It was a loud echo of the five most famous words of his papacy so far: “Who am I to judge.

He uttered them in reply to a reporter’s question on gays in an impromptu press conference last July. Even that brief gesture of increased compassion from the Holy See sent shockwaves through global Catholic communities, and it signified the shift in tone that put Francis on the cover of LGBT magazine The Advocate’s as their 2013 Man of the Year.

They might mention that a Pew research poll found Pope Francis is overwhelmingly approved by American Catholics and non-Catholics. All the world loves him: 85 percent of adult Catholics in the U.S. say they have a favorable view of him. 71 percent of U.S. Catholics said he “represents a major change in the direction of the Catholic Church,” and only 2 percent say that change is for the worse. More than half of American non-Catholics say, “Francis is a change for the better.”

Perhaps these imaginary saintly advisors might mention that with approval ratings far ahead of any other world leader, it could be difficult to recall that popularity with the world is not the best possible sign for a pope, scripturally speaking. I’m reminded of that old Christian axiom, borne out by the blood of the martyred popes of the first three hundred years of Christianity. It is not “popularity” with the “non-Catholic” world, and with a world in which almost no Catholics know anything about their faith, that is “the seed of the Church.”

“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.”

I noted also in the interview that Pope Francis says he consults and visits with Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, that he values the latter’s advice as a family should value the wisdom of a grandfather. May we hope that his predecessor will be able to lend him a copy of a document he published in 1986? The one that said, quite clearly and unambiguously, that “increasing numbers of people today, even within the Church, are bringing enormous pressure to bear on the Church to accept the homosexual condition as though it were not disordered and to condone homosexual activity.”

And that “departure from the Church’s teaching, or silence about it, in an effort to provide pastoral care is neither caring nor pastoral. Only what is true can ultimately be pastoral. The neglect of the Church’s position prevents homosexual men and women from receiving the care they need and deserve.”

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

Steve Jalsevac Steve Jalsevac Follow Steve
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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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, www.babycaust.de, 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 / Shutterstock.com
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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,” Katholisch.de 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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