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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Indiana Gov. Mike Pence signs the state's Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
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Indiana faces backlash as it becomes 20th state to protect religious liberty

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By Ben Johnson

INDIANAPOLIS, IN, March 27, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) – On Thursday, Indiana became the 20th state to prevent the government from forcing people of faith to violate their religious beliefs in business or the public square.

Gov. Mike Pence signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (SB 101) into law, saying the freedom of religion is a preeminent American value.

“The Constitution of the United States and the Indiana Constitution both provide strong recognition of the freedom of religion, but today, many people of faith feel their religious liberty is under attack by government action,” Pence said.

Gov. Pence, a possible dark horse candidate for president in 2016, cited court cases brought by religious organizations and employers, including Catholic universities, against the HHS mandate. “One need look no further than the recent litigation concerning the Affordable Care Act. A private business and our own University of Notre Dame had to file lawsuits challenging provisions that required them to offer insurance coverage in violation of their religious views.”

The new law could also prevent Christian business owners from being compelled to bake a cake or take photographs of a same-sex "marriage" ceremony, if doing so violates their faith. In recent years, business owners have seen an increased level of prosecution for denying such services, despite their religious and moral beliefs.

The state's pro-life organization applauded Pence for his stance. "Indiana's pro-life community is grateful to Gov. Mike Pence for signing the Religious Freedom Restoration Act into law,” said Indiana Right to Life's president and CEO Mike Fichter. “This bill will give pro-lifers a necessary legal recourse if they are pressured to support abortion against their deeply-held religious beliefs.”

“RFRA is an important bill to protect the religious freedom of Hoosiers who believe the right to life comes from God, not government,” he said.

The state RFRA is based on the federal bill introduced by Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-NY, and signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1993. The Supreme Court cited the federal law when it ruled that Hobby Lobby had the right to refuse to fund abortion-inducing drugs, if doing so violated its owners' sincerely held religious beliefs.

In signing the measure – similar to the one Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed – Pence and the state of Indiana have faced a torrent of venom from opponents of the bill, who claim it grants a “right to discriminate” and raises the spectre of segregation.

"They've basically said, as long as your religion tells you to, it's OK to discriminate against people," said Sarah Warbelow, legal director of the Human Rights Campaign, a national homosexual pressure group.

The Disciples of Christ, a liberal Protestant denomination based in the state capital, has said it will move its 2017 annual convention if the RFRA became state law. The NCAA warned the bill's adoption “might affect future events” in the Hoosier state.

Pence denied such concerns, saying, "This bill is not about discrimination, and if I thought it legalized discrimination in any way I would've vetoed it."

The bill's supporters say that, under the Obama administration, it is Christians who are most likely to suffer discrimination.

"Originally RFRA laws were intended to protect small religious groups from undue burdens on practicing their faith in public life,” said Mark Tooley, president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy. “It was not imagined there would come a day when laws might seek to jail or financially destroy nuns, rabbis or Christian camp counselors who prefer to abstain from the next wave of sexual and gender experimentation. And there's always a next wave.”

The bill's supporters note that it does not end the government's right to coerce people of faith into violating their conscience in every situation. However, it requires that doing so has to serve a compelling government interest and the government must use the least restrictive means possible. “There will be times when a state or federal government can show it has a compelling reason for burdening religious expression – to ensure public safety, for instance,” said Sarah Torre, an expert at the Heritage Foundation. “But Religious Freedom Restoration Acts set a high bar for the government to meet in order to restrict religious freedom.”

Restricting the ability of government to interfere in people's private decisions, especially their religious decisions, is the very purpose of the Constitution, its supporters say.

"Religious freedom is the cornerstone of all liberty for all people,” Tooley said. “Deny or reduce it, and there are no ultimate limits on the state's power to coerce."

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Fight pornography. Beat pornography. And join the ranks of those who support their fellow men and women still fighting.
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Porn is transforming our men from protectors into predators. Fight back.

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By Jonathon van Maren

Since I’ve gotten involved in anti-pornography work, I’ve met countless men who struggle, fight, or have beaten pornography. Each person seems to deal with the guilt and shame that accompanies porn use in a different way—some deny that it’s “all that bad,” others pretend that they could “stop whenever they want,” many insist that “everyone is doing it,” and most, when pressed, admit to a deep sense of self-loathing.

One worry surfaces often in conversation: What do my past or current struggles with pornography say about me as a man? Can I ever move past this and have a meaningful and fulfilling relationship?

I want to address this question just briefly, since I’ve encountered it so many times.

First, however, I’ve written before how I at times dislike the language of “struggling” with pornography or pornography “addiction,” not because they aren’t accurate but because too often they are used as an excuse rather than an explanation. It is true, many do in fact “struggle” with what can legitimately be considered an addiction, but when this language is used to describe an interminable battle with no end (and I’ve met dozens of men for whom this is the case), then I prefer we use terminology like “fighting my porn habit.” A semantic debate, certainly, but one I think is important. We need to stop struggling with porn and start fighting it.

Secondly, pornography does do devastating things to one’s sense of masculinity. We know this. Pornography enslaves men by the millions, perverting their role as protector and defender of the more vulnerable and turning them into sexual cannibals, consuming those they see on-screen to satisfy their sexual appetites.

What often starts as mere curiosity or an accidental encounter can turn into something that invades the mind and twists even the most basic attractions. I’ve met porn users who can’t believe the types of things they want to watch. They haven’t simply been using porn. Porn has actively reshaped them into something they don’t recognize and don’t like. 

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Porn is this generation’s great assault on masculinity and the role of men in society. It is essential that we win this battle for the sake of society’s survival. Contrary to what the gender-bending and family-morphing progressive elites claim, good husbands and good fathers and good church leaders are necessary for a healthy society. But pornography is destroying marriages, creating distant and disconnected fathers, and, metaphoricaclly castrating men, hindering their ability and desire to make a positive difference in the society around us.

So, with this sobering set of facts in mind let’s return to the question: what do pornography struggles, past and present, say about a man?

The proper way to respond is with everything that is good about masculinity. We have to fight pornography as men have fought countless evils throughout the ages. We need to fight pornography to protect women, and wives, and children, and our society at large. This is how pornography threatens society, by castrating men, and turning them from protectors into predators. Rooting out the evil in our own lives allows us to better fulfill the role we are called to perform in the lives of others. Battling our own demons enables us to battle the wider cultural demons. Every day without porn is another bit of virtue built. Virtue is not something you’re born with. Virtues are habits that you build. And one day without porn is the first step towards the virtue of being porn-free.

Many men ask me if men who have had past porn addictions are cut out for being in a relationship or working in the pro-life movement or in other areas where we are called to protect and defend the weak and vulnerable. And the answer to that is an unequivocal yes. Our society needs men who know what it means to fight battles and win. Our society needs men who can say that they fought porn and they beat porn, because their families and their friends were too important to risk. Our society needs men who rose to the challenge that the evils of their generation threw at them, and became better men as the result. And our society needs men who can help their friends and their sons and those around them fight the plague of pornography and free themselves from it, too—and who can understand better and offer encouragement more relevant than someone who has fought and been freed themselves?

So the answer to men is yes. Fight pornography. Beat pornography. And join the ranks of those who support their fellow men and women still fighting. Lend them support and encouragement. We cannot change the fact that porn has left an enormous path of destruction in its wake. But we can change the fact that too many people aren’t fighting it. We can change our own involvement. And we can rise to the challenge and face this threat to masculinity with all that is good about masculinity.

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Red Alert!

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By John-Henry Westen

I don’t like having to do this, but we have always found it best to be totally upfront with our readers: our Spring fundraising campaign is now worrying us! 

You see, with just 6 days remaining, we have only raised 30% of our goal, with $125,000 still left to raise. That is a long ways to go yet.

We have no choice but to reach our minimum goal of $175,000 if we are going to be able to continue serving the 5+ million readers who rely on us every month for investigative and groundbreaking news reports on life, faith and family issues.

Every year, LifeSite readership continues to grow by leaps and bounds. This year, we are again experiencing record-breaking interest, with over 6 million people visiting our website last month alone!

This unprecedented growth in turn creates its own demand for increased staff and resources, as we struggle to serve these millions of new readers.

And especially keep this in mind. As many more people read LifeSite, our mission of bringing about cultural change gets boosted. Our ultimate goal has always been to educate and activate the public to take well-informed, needed actions.

Another upside to our huge growth in readers is that it should be that much easier to reach our goal. To put it simply: if each person who read this one email donated whatever they could (even just $10) we would easily surpass our goal! 

Today, I hope you will join the many heroes who keep this ship afloat, and enable us to proclaim the truth through our reporting to tens of millions of people every year!

Your donations to LifeSite cause major things to happen! We see that every day and it is very exciting. Please join with us in making a cultural impact with a donation of ANY AMOUNT right now. 

You can also donate by phone or mail. We would love to hear from you!

Thank you so much for your support. 

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