Michael Bradley

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Marriage and witness: What’s going on at Notre Dame?

Michael Bradley
By Michael Bradley
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May 28, 2014 (Public Discourse) - In October of last year, I wrote here at Public Discourse about the University of Notre Dame’s unfortunate decision to participate in National Coming Out Day. I noted that, by encouraging celebration of identities rooted in proclivities toward acts that violate the truth of marriage, Notre Dame was failing in its pastoral duties to guide its students in love and in truth. These duties are rooted in its institutional vocation as a Catholic university, as articulated by the school’s Mission Statement.

Several events on campus this spring have confirmed and deepened my belief that Notre Dame is failing to fulfill its pastoral duty to bear witness to the truth.

Students for Child-Oriented Policy

In January, a small group of students gathered to form an organization that aims to assess how public policy affects children’s well-being. I am one of the founding members of this group, which calls itself “Students for Child-Oriented Policy,” or SCOP.

SCOP came together as Notre Dame’s home state of Indiana was engrossed in a debate on the definition of marriage. In anticipation of its first annual conference, and in conjunction with a St. Patrick’s Day panel on marriage and Catholicism, SCOP published an open petition addressed to university president Fr. John Jenkins, calling on him and other administrators to take up a vocal defense of marriage at this pivotal moment.

Swiftly, a cohort of irritated students penned and began circulating their own counterpetition, which, in addition to demanding that the university refuse to recognize SCOP as a student club, makes claims such as these:

SCOP [incorrectly implies] that same-sex parenting is damaging to children – this blatantly ignores all empirical data in this field of the social sciences (summarized below) that actually indicates the opposite is true . . .

The counterpetition mischaracterizes SCOP’s petition, which centrally affirmed that every child has a right to the care of his or her mother and father. Further, the counterpetition’s empirical claims will confuse anyone familiar with social science findings on family structures and children’s well-being. The studies on which the American Psychological Association based its 2005 brief declaring “no difference” in well-being outcomes for children raised by same-sex couples are inconclusive, and the burden of available data suggests that children fare best when raised by their married biological parents. The anti-SCOP petition betrays either bad faith or an astonishing failure to look into even the most readily available research on this topic.

And those signatories have been gratified. On April 30, the university rejected SCOP’s request to become an officially recognized student club, citing a “recommendation” by a group of student government officials who judged that “there was not a need” for SCOP’s presence on campus. The official reason given for rejecting SCOP’s application is “redundancy,” a transparent reason for rejection that even a momentary glance through the names of some of the more than 500 recognized student clubs punctures. Additionally, when pressed to identify the groups the missions of which allegedly make SCOP’s acceptance redundant, the president of the aforementioned student government group listed several groups that don’t at all claim to advocate for child-oriented public policies.

Notre Dame’s decision to deny SCOP’s application is rooted in either culpable ignorance of SCOP’s mission and purpose or barely veiled hostility toward SCOP’s true mission and purpose.

Furthermore, the rejection letter came from the same Student Activities official who told SCOP leaders in early April that the SCOP petition was “inaccurate” and suggested that its language would make some members of the Notre Dame community feel “unwelcome.” She further intimated concerns that the petition’s authors were misquoting their sources, and took twice as long as official Student Activities Office policy standards dictate to return a request (which was filed on behalf of a recognized student group) to publicize the petition in Notre Dame’s student center.

But most indicative of Notre Dame’s pedagogical missteps is the endorsement of the counterpetition by several members of PrismND and the Fire Starters. These two campus entities were created with the explicit purpose of advancing campus conversation on sexuality in harmony with the teachings of the Church and the natural law.

Prism’s Outing

Notre Dame’s gay-straight alliance has not taken long to go astray. In December of 2012, Fr. Jenkins announced the creation of a new pastoral plan to provide support services to the LGBTQ community. The plan, entitled “Beloved Friends and Allies,” offers a holistic summary and explanation of the Catholic Church’s sexual and marital ethics.

“Beloved Friends and Allies” outlined the creation of an official student organization “designed to provide peer‐to‐peer support, direct service opportunities, and friendship for GLBTQ students and their heterosexual allies.” The pastoral plan also states that “the organization’s purpose arises directly from the University’s Catholic mission,” and one of the organization’s missions is to engender a campus environment in “which we aspire to an even deeper understanding and appreciation of Catholic teaching.”

This organization, called PrismND, was inaugurated this fall. As a student organization (not a club), it enjoys more permanence and structural continuity than most student groups. It is also overseen by an appointed advisor. Maureen Doyle, Notre Dame’s Assistant Director for LGBTQ Student Concerns, who serves as the official liaison between Prism and the administration, emphasized in an August interview that the students are functionally autonomous; her job is simply to help them achieve whatever goals they choose. Christine Caron-Gebhardt, director of the Gender Relations Center (GRC), said in that same interview, “It’s not like, ‘let’s discard [our Catholic identity],’ but let’s really put it in the place where it belongs. It doesn’t need to become our driving factor. The people need to become the driving factor.”

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While some of Prism’s programs and actions may arise from a sincere effort to facilitate a deeper student engagement with the moral principles that Notre Dame institutionally affirms, others constitute a serious departure from Catholic teaching. Forty percent of Prism’s elected student officers have signed the anti-SCOP petition, including the officer that Prism’s organizational bylaws task with handling media and press relations. The organization’s very constitution employs the pronouns “ze” and “zer”—meant to indicate persons who reject identification as either male or female. Contrast this with Catholicism’s emphasis on the beauty and harmony of man and woman’s identities as essentially different, deeply complementary, and inextricably intertwined with each person’s unique identity.

The Gender Relations Center

In addition to the elected Prism officials who have signed the anti-SCOP petition, more than one third of the GRC’s student representatives, called “Fire Starters,” affixed their names. The mission of the Fire Starters, according to the GRC website, is to “promote open and inclusive discussion” and serve as “peer educators who assist in developing and implementing programs for the campus community that foster dialogue on issues of identity, gender and healthy relationships.” The 2013 student chair of Notre Dame’s gender issues committee also signed the petition.

How is it that so many of the university’s official (and officially trained) gender relations peer educators can endorse a petition as riddled with empirical and moral error, and misrepresentations, as the anti-SCOP petition?

Unfortunately, the GRC’s own programming and language obscure, rather than clarify, the proper understanding of the human person. Without this understanding, the orthodox Christian teaching on marriage and sexuality is unintelligible.

For example, earlier this semester, the GRC hung up a batch of rainbow-colored posters reading: “Gender What? A glimpse into the wonderful world of Gender Identity, and what it all means.” The posters seek to normalize and familiarize various terms that assume and perpetuate a sexual anthropology antithetical to the Church’s teachings. One line on the posters counsels, “It is best simply to ask someone how they prefer to be identified in regards to gender.”

In October, Assistant Director Doyle spoke of her desire to “celebrate the multitude of identities that make each of us unique and beautiful individuals,” referring precisely to acts of auto-identification as gay, lesbian, or transgender. The students who signed the anti-SCOP petition may well have adopted a rhetoric and ideology that they learned from adult pastoral figures.

Accountability, Transparency, and Pastoral Duties

In March 2014, when Fr. Jenkins announced a new strategic plan for the university, he boldly claimed that the plan’s top priority was to “ensure that our Catholic character informs all our endeavors,” in part by increasing administrative “accountability” and “transparency” over the next ten years.

When I contacted Ms. Doyle in late March and requested a twenty-minute meeting with her to discuss my concerns with Prism’s programming and language, she informed me that her schedule for the next six weeks did not admit of such an opening. When I contacted the university Vice President for Mission Engagement and Church Affairs with similar questions and concerns, he declined a meeting as well. My inquiries to Prism’s president regarding the aforementioned events were also deflected, and my request for a personal meeting was unreturned.

When essential truths are at stake, administrators and GRC officials stand silently by as the student “peer educators” tasked with facilitating informed, civil discussion of tough issues routinely oppose student efforts to affirm orthodox Christian teaching on marriage and sexuality. Attempts to tackle these issues head-on are met with calls for disbandment, and such calls are heeded by university officials. Notre Dame administrators then wield politically correct rhetoric as a weapon against students who are concerned that all the emphasis on campus “inclusion” has caused important, loving truths about the human person to be lost. These truths compose the good of those students perhaps least inclined to feel “welcomed” by them.

Notre Dame’s pastoral ministry must be rooted in the truths of human nature and human goods, and man’s supernatural end. Pope Saint John Paul II once said that “pastoral concern means the search for the true good of man, a promotion of the values engraved in his person by God.” Unfortunately, it seems that Notre Dame has firmly, if quietly, commenced its slow surrender to a sexual ideology that, once internalized, will ensure that students at Notre Dame wander as sheep without their shepherds.

Reprinted with permission from Public Discourse

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Ben Johnson and Andy Parrish

Did Minnesota’s Planned Parenthood lie about illegal organ harvesting?

Ben Johnson and Andy Parrish
By Ben Johnson

MINNEAPOLIS, MN, September 2, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) - Somebody in the abortion industry is breaking a Minnesota law that bans the sale or donation of aborted babies' body parts.

That's the conclusion of numerous elected officials, who are renewing calls to investigate Planned Parenthood in the wake of undercover videos about the harvesting and sale of fetal organs and tissue.

Dozens of Republican state legislators asked Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton to investigate the abortion provider after the Center for Medical Progress released videos detailing the little-known practice. The sale or donation of fetal organs or tissue is illegal under state law.

The local Planned Parenthood affiliate - Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota (PPMNS) - said that it had never been involved in fetal tissue donation.

However, in the latest video released by CMP, the head of a biological company says it has an abortion facility operating in Minnesota.

Perrin Larton, the Procurement Manager for Advanced Bioscience Resources, Inc. (ABR), says she procures fetal organs and tissue from abortion facilities "in San Diego, in Oregon, in Minnesota, and soon we will be starting in New Jersey and Philadelphia."

At the heart of the issue is a Minnesota state law that requires abortion facilities to dispose of aborted babies' bodies "by cremation, interment by burial, or in a manner directed by the commissioner of health." To do otherwise is a misdemeanor.

Thus, ABR's research would be illegal in any case.

As it turns out, ABR has been registered as a non-profit in the state of Minnesota since April 2009. Its location is listed as 1010 N. Dale St. in St. Paul.

A former ABR employee, Deborah Heap Tierney, listed her occupation on LinkedIn as "procurement specialist" at the company, in Minnesota, from February 2009 - two months before ABR's business filing as a nonprofit - to November 2009.

Investigators want to know: If organ donation was illegal, what was she procuring, and who acted as ABR's supplier?

"Why is the nation's largest and oldest fetal procurement company in Minnesota in the first place, let alone four miles from Planned Parenthood Minnesota?" said State Representative Mary Franson, R-08B, in a statement sent exclusively to LifeSiteNews. "Minnesota law requires a dignified and sanitary disposal of fetal remains. Sales or donation of fetal remains is not permitted."

"Advanced Bioscience Resources admits in a recent video that they procure fetal tissue in Minnesota. That alone is illegal and criminal," State Rep. Kathy Lohmer, R-39B, told LifeSiteNews. "I am calling on Ramsey County Prosecutor John J. Choi to investigate these claims and if true to pursue criminal charges against them."

But what about Planned Parenthood? Did it tell the truth when it denied ever having participated in ABR's organ harvesting business?

State Rep. Matt Dean, R-38B, sent a letter on July 24 to Sarah Stoesz, the president and CEO of PPMNS, to find out. He asked for the affiliate's "official policy on the donation of fetal tissue."

Echoing Cecile Richards, Stoesz replied on August 3, "I want to be absolutely clear." Although Planned Parenthood "believes strongly in the value of fetal tissue research...PPMNS does not participate, and has never participated, in any type of tissue donation program that would involve providing fetal remains (with reimbursement of expenses or otherwise) to any commercial vendor or to any other entity for the purpose of medical research."

When asked for official policy, she responded, "PPMNS does not and never has donated tissue of any kind and, accordingly, does not have a policy dedicated to this issue."

She then said that one of its policies requires that state law be followed on the disposal of aborted babies' remains, and the policy was adopted in 2011. She sent a copy of their policy, which was signed by Stoesz and two other PPMNS officials on July 27 - three days after Dean's letter.

Gov. Mark Dayton accused Republicans of "full-time grandstanding," saying, "As far as I'm concerned there's no basis for an investigation at taxpayer expense into a private nonprofit organization that has stated they don't engage in those practices here in Minnesota."

Lt. Gov. Tina Smith - who was part of the Planned Parenthood affiliate's leadership - agrees. Smith is a former vice president for external affairs at PPMNS.

Minnesota House Speaker Kurt Daudt, R-31A today told LifeSiteNews through a spokesperson that the state's Democratic leadership has turned a blind eye to a burgeoning scandal, and justice must be enforced at once.

"Speaker Daudt is outraged by the developments with Planned Parenthood," Susan Closmore, state House Republican communications director, told LifeSiteNews. "Speaker Daudt has called on Governor Mark Dayton to investigate this issue."

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Sofia Vazquez-Mellado

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Vatican: It’s ‘impossible’ for transsexuals to serve as godparents

Sofia Vazquez-Mellado
By Sofia Vazquez-Mellado

MADRID, September 2, 2015 (LifeSiteNews)- After Alex Salinas, a woman living as a man in San Fernando, Spain, claimed her parish priest had allowed her to be the “godfather” for the baptism of her two nephews, local bishop of Cadiz and Ceuta, Don Rafael Zornoza took the matter up with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The response, which strongly affirms Church teaching on the nature of gender, was published yesterday on the diocese’s website.

“On this particular case I inform you of the impossibility of admission,” read the response. “Transsexual behavior publicly reveals an opposition to the moral demand of resolving the problem of sexual identity according to the truth of one’s own sex. It is therefore evident that said person does not comply with the requirement of leading a life of faith and to the function of godparent (CIC, can 874 §1,3).”

“This is not seen as discrimination, but merely as the recognition of an objective lack of requirements that by their nature are necessary to take on the ecclesiastic responsibility of being a godparent,” it concluded.

The prelate explained how Pope Francis has confirmed this doctrine on several occasions and quoted his last encyclical Laudato Si: “Human ecology also implies another profound reality: the relationship between human life and the moral law, which is inscribed in our nature and is necessary for the creation of a more dignified environment.”

Bishop Zornoza also quoted Benedict XVI on the “ecology of man,” as “man too has a nature that he must respect and that he cannot manipulate at will.”

“The acceptance of our bodies as God’s gift is vital for welcoming and accepting the entire world as a gift from the Father,” continued Zornoza quoting Francis. “Thinking that we enjoy absolute power over our own bodies turns, often subtly, into thinking that we enjoy absolute power over creation. Learning to accept our body, to care for it and to respect its fullest meaning, is an essential element of any genuine human ecology.”

The bishop went on to explain that if parents are unable to find a suitable person to qualify as godparent, the priest can baptize the child without godparents, “which are not necessary to celebrate this sacrament.”

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“Words have been attributed [to me] which I have not pronounced,” he noted, referring to the media falsely reporting his approval of Salinas as godfather. He explained he had reached out to the Congregation “due to the complexity and the media relevance this matter has reached, and keeping in mind the possible pastoral consequences of any decision on the matter.”

Local media reported that the baptism, scheduled for this September, has been cancelled, and that Salinas’ sisters will not baptize their children until the bishop changes his mind.

Salinas, who had declared herself to be a “firm believer,” has now claimed to be an “apostate” due to the Church’s rejection, reported Spain’s EFE.

In a petition started by change.org, Salinas wrote she didn’t understand why “the Catholic Church denies me the possibility of being a godfather” if Spanish authorities have already changed her name from Alexandra to Alexander in her official IDs.

The petition falsely celebrated a “victory” after Salinas claimed she was being allowed as godfather.

Mainstream media, which initially reported Salina’s “celebration,” have not yet reported on the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s response.

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Forced abortions at Canadian clinics central to cover-up of 12-yr-old’s abuse: pro-life leaders

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By Pete Baklinski

WINNIPEG, Manitoba, September 2, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) -- A renowned Canadian judge is calling for an investigation into why two Canadian abortion centers failed to report an underaged girl who was forced by her stepfather to undergo two abortions after being repeatedly raped by him, one at the former Morgentaler Clinic in Newfoundland and the other at a Winnipeg, Manitoba hospital.

Retired Manitoba justice Ted Hughes told CBC News that the province of Manitoba should investigate how a 12-year-old girl with a previous record of abortion could be given another abortion and not have providers bring the child to the attention of welfare officials.

"I'm surprised that child-and-family-services, the ministry, isn't taking an aggressive stand. I would have expected that, because, unquestionably this child was in need of protection," said Hughes, who received national attention last year when he made 62 recommendations for improving the child welfare system after investigating the 2005 murder of 5-year-old Phoenix Sinclair.

"Do I think this should be looked into? I certainly do,” he said.

After making these concerns public yesterday, Manitoba's Office of the Children's Advocate stated on the same day that it has launched an investigation, but that its findings will not be made public.

Pro-life leaders say the girl’s experience at the hands of abortionists is an indictment of the entire industry.

“Abortion centers are not health care centers. They are businesses, and their product is dead babies, professionally emptied uteruses. So they have a vested financial interest in not asking any questions,” said Jonathan Van Maren, communications director of the Canadian Centre for Bioethical Reform, to LifeSiteNews.

On Friday, the girl’s 35-year-old stepfather was sentenced to 16 years in prison for sexual assault that began in 2011 when the girl was 11 and continued for over two years, during which the girl became pregnant twice. The stepfather traveled across country for the first forced abortion at the former Morgentaler Clinic in St. John’s, Newfoundland. He then took the girl closer to home for the second forced abortion at the Health Sciences Centre in the Women's Hospital in Winnipeg.

"He arranged abortions for both pregnancies, including cover stories," said Justice Christopher Martin at the sentencing, describing the man’s crimes as "shockingly calculated and cruel” and “among the worst nightmare scenarios.”

The man was arrested in 2012 after sexually assaulting his step-daughter’s best friend and the girl’s mom after breaking into their home. He cannot be identified to protect the victims.

The young girl, who is now 15, called both abortions "murder" in a victim-impact statement.

While legal and human rights experts are busy pointing fingers at who might be ultimately responsible for failing to help this girl as a victim of sexual assault, hardly anyone wants to point a finger at the abortion industry itself.

But Canadian pro-life leaders say the blame for this girl’s ongoing abuse rests primarily with the abortion establishment.

“By providing this abortion service for this young victim without asking any questions and without bringing in social services, these abortion providers were essentially protecting this incestuous stepfather and child rapist and setting up a situation that allowed him to continue abusing this poor little girl. They were protecting the perpetrator, not the victim,” Mary Ellen Douglas of Campaign Life Coalition told LifeSiteNews.

Douglas said that what this girl experienced in the hands of abortion providers proves that the abortion industry does not really care about women.

“It says they don’t care anymore for this young girl than they do for the little victims that were in her womb. They don’t care about the girl, they don’t care about the baby. All they do is provide death,” she said.

Natalie Sonnen, Executive Director of LifeCanada, said that legalized abortion in Canada has created a situation that “favours the abuser, without doubt.”

“Thousands of women and girls are susceptible to coercion by these men who get away with their crimes and are propped up by the industry. It is an absolute tragedy that these girls or women can be forcibly aborted and then sent back into the abusive relationship again. We have known for years that coerced abortion is a huge problem that our society refuses to address, for fear of offending the sacrosanct abortion establishment,” she told LifeSiteNews.

Various attempts have been made by pro-life politicians to introduce bills that would offer women some protection from coerced abortion, but with no success.

In 2008, Alberta Conservative MP Ken Epp saw his bill titled The Unborn Victims of Violent Crime reach second reading before it was squelched by Prime Minister Stephen Harper who was keeping his promise to steer clear of the abortion issue. The bill would have allowed for separate punishments for killing an unborn child in a violent attack on a pregnant mother.

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In 2010, Tory MP Rod Bruinooge introduced a private member’s bill in 2010 called Roxanne’s Law that would have made it an offense to coerce a woman to seek an abortion. The bill was named after Roxanne Fernando, a Winnipeg woman beaten to death by her boyfriend in 2007, after refusing to get an abortion. Again, following Harper’s lead, the bill was only supported by half of the Conservative caucus and a handful of Liberals and failed to pass first reading.

Jonathan Van Maren, communications director of the Canadian Centre for Bioethical Reform, criticized politicians and the abortion industry for opposing the above bills that could have helped the young girl if they had been passed.

“The term ‘pro-choice’ rings hollow for many women and girls who are coerced into having an abortion, or feel that they are pressured into having an abortion against their will. Yet, the abortion industry and most of our politicians opposed Roxanne's Law, which would have made it illegal to do so.”

Van Maren said that far from securing women’s freedom, abortion-on-demand has reached a point where it is now being used as a “tool of oppression, not only for the pre-born child who is, as this poor girl tragically recognized, murdered, but also for those women and girls who bear the scars of their lost children and the trauma of being forced into this so-called government funded service against their will.”

Mike Schouten, Campaign Director for WeNeedALaw.ca, said that Canada’s continual resistance to regulating abortion has manifested itself in what he called a “real life tragedy.”

“While it is understandable that we focus on the rapist and the callousness of his crimes we also do well to collectively ask ourselves how we have come to live in a society that cares so little about the health and well-being of women, and in this case a young girl,” he told LifeSiteNews.

"This tragedy is a direct result of individualizing abortion to the point where the maximum amount of energy is put into protecting the so called ‘right to choose’ and little or no effort into actually caring for the health of this young girl."

"This sad story is another indication that a time of reckoning is coming whereby Canadians come to understand that abortion does not liberate a woman. Rather, it brings a host of new problems, and in this tragic case allowed for the continued abuse of a vulnerable young girl,” he said.

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