Brice Griffin

One mother’s journey to forgiveness in Christ after abortion. A Rachel’s Vineyard story.

Brice Griffin
By Brice Griffin

Read Brice's testimony about her abortion here: My boyfriend paid for the abortion with his band’s AMEX

January 22, 2013 ( - Many years had passed, and I had confessed many sins, before I finally heard a homily by Father Larry Richards that discussed the true blessing of the sacrament of Confession. At the end of the CD, he went through an examination of conscience. I nearly froze in my steps when he said, “If you’ve had an abortion, confess it—your baby in Heaven is praying for you.” My eyes immediately filled with tears as I went straight home to make a list of things I needed to discuss with my priest.

Chest heaving with sobs in the confessional; I told Father Roux that I had had an abortion 12 years earlier. He smiled kindly, held out a box of tissues, and assured me that the sin would be absolved. However it was clear that I needed more than absolution—I needed healing. Father Roux told me about Rachel’s Vineyard, a ministry devoted to helping counsel women who suffer from Post Abortion Syndrome. Did you even know there was a name for what we feel? Because I had no idea, and learning about Rachel’s Vineyard, coupled with the fact that clearly there were enough women suffering silently with me, seemed to lift an enormous burden.

I went home to research Rachel’s Vineyard, and sent a couple of emails to the contacts listed on the website. I slowly started to discuss my experience more openly with my husband. I also became involved in a letter-writing campaign asking corporations to quit supporting Planned Parenthood, America’s largest provider of abortions. Eventually I felt like I had come a long way and that maybe I didn’t need to attend a Rachel’s Vineyard retreat after all.

Practically out of the blue one day, I received an email from the Catholic News Herald asking if they could publish a piece about my efforts to defund Planned Parenthood. I hesitated, wondering if I wanted to wear that scarlet “A”, but ultimately decided that if nothing else, maybe I could recruit more people to my letter-writing campaign. Not long after the article ran in January, I received an email from a complete stranger who also attends the same parish as me and my family. She said that she had suffered silently for years from abortion and wondered if we could meet. My heart lurched. While I was thrilled at the opportunity to help someone, I felt enormously unqualified to do so. When we finally met (and wept), we had decided that we would attend a retreat together. We looked at dates, and decided that sooner was better than later, so we would attend the very next retreat available—a weekend in February in the Savannah diocese.

Knowing myself, I feared that I would get cold feet and cancel at the last minute, so I booked a flight from Charlotte to Savannah. I encouraged my new friend to do the same, but she decided it was best that she drive. In another attempt to keep myself honest, I told Father Roux that I was planning to attend a retreat (nearly a year and a half after his recommendation) so that if he saw me in Mass that weekend it would be obvious that I was too scared to go.

As the date neared, I became more and more hesitant to go. Eventually my friend told me that she didn’t feel ready to re-open her wounds by attending a retreat. My initial reaction was, “well if she’s not going, I’m not going! I only registered to help HER!” How very naïve of me! Finally it was time for me to pack up and head to Savannah. My Mom came to my house to take care of my young son, and asked me how I was holding up. I couldn’t control the tears that came in reply to her question. I hadn’t packed and was already considering holing up in some hotel in Savannah and just resting alone for the entire weekend. But I slowly packed and after much distraction, we left for the airport. I have never spent so much time in the security check point! This was when I was resigned to the fact that I would never arrive at my retreat. But I wasn’t upset. I thought about renting a car and going to Savannah, and I also thought about checking into the Ritz uptown and just taking a break from real life for a couple of days. When I finally got through security, the gate for my flight was closed. As I ran to the counter, the US Airways employee looked at me and said, “Rebecca Griffin?” I was so embarrassed at being so late and somehow he was able to ask the crew to wait for me. Just when I thought I was off the hook!

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I boarded the plane and immediately saw the one vacant seat, which wasn’t mine. I had gone online the night before and paid the extra eight dollars to have a “premium” (or window) seat. But there was an enormous man in the seat I’d paid for. So I asked, “Are you 3B?” To which he said, “No.” The stewardess told me to “just sit down” because we were ready to take off. So I looked at the man and said, “I paid extra for that seat, which is why I asked!” He couldn’t care less, and I was fuming. Over eight dollars. This really is not who I am. (Fortunately I was able to go to Confession during the retreat and the Priest and I had a good laugh over my ridiculous behavior.) But this is how uncomfortable I was about making myself vulnerable in front of a group of strangers about the most disgusting experience of my entire life. I absolutely did not want to go. I tried to read “Forbidden Grief” on the plane, but it was too excruciating, so instead I prayed. I prayed for the man in my seat. I prayed for my aborted child. I prayed for all of the women who might attend the retreat with me. I prayed for women who have been through abortion and don’t know that there is healing available to them. I prayed for every person I could think of, and finally I landed.

Picking up my rental car, the gentleman behind the counter asked where I was heading. I told him, and he said, “Chicken country!” Yeah, that’s what I needed to convince me to go… I was still thinking about a weekend alone in Savannah but decided to trudge forward. On the road, I reached into my purse for my sunglasses and found that one of the hinges had come undone, rendering them useless. Of course. I hadn’t printed an itinerary, so not only was I unsure of where to go, I also didn’t know what time to get there. Of course. I called the only contact number I had and went straight to voice mail. Of course. So I pulled over and had lunch. The chicken was delicious, and I figured, “Of course! I’m in chicken country!” Ugh.

I drove through a couple of very humble towns, still unsure of any landmarks and very sure that I was going the wrong way. When I finally spotted the balloons on the fence that would indicate where I needed to be, I thought I wanted to vomit. My head was killing me. I wanted a posh bed, a bubble bath and a glass of wine. But I found a sweet smiling woman on the porch. I felt like once she spotted me, I couldn’t turn back. I thank God for her.

The team was still preparing for everyone to arrive; I was a couple of hours early. Fortunately that meant I could attend Mass on Friday afternoon. I waited silently in the chapel. The priest walked by and said hello, and asked how I was doing. Involuntarily my eyes turned into waterfalls. He smiled and said, “I know. But you’ll feel better soon. I promise.” I think I cried from my arrival at 4 pm until I went to bed at 11:00. I read the packed schedule thinking that this was immature and that I still might sneak away, but with each exercise I actually felt a little bit better.

The first night, after we had been very well fed, we had our first “Living Scripture” experience. I must admit that when I saw this on the schedule I thought it was nothing less than stupid. Except that it revolved around my favorite piece of scripture: John 8:1-11. “Has no one here condemned you?” “No one, Lord.” “Neither do I condemn you.” This was such a revelation for me: of course none of these women would judge me for having an abortion! We were all there to find forgiveness and healing, and none of us would dare judge another one of us. This opened the flood gates and I was finally free to discuss my experience, along with the guilt and shame and regret, with a group who wouldn’t even consider passing judgment. Thank you, Lord!

We were up and going early on Saturday, which is not normal for me. My husband gets up with our children on Saturdays so that I can sleep. When my alarm went off at 6:30, I was startled, but I was also pleasantly surprised at how rested I felt. This might not be so bad. When I walked into the dining room, everyone commented on the “New Brice.” They told me I was not the Brice that was there the night before—bitter, arms crossed, weeping (again, this is not me!). I was a smiling Brice. It was a good start. I felt better already.

Saturday was our opportunity to “tell our story.” Never in my life had I had the opportunity to do this. Why would I? From my parents’ (nasty) divorce when I was five to my present day, it all fell into place. Listening to the stories of all of the other participants (two men included), there was one common thread: each of us came from a broken home.

While I dare not share another woman’s abortion experience, I will share mine. I do not blame them in any way, but my parents divorced when I was five. It was ugly. Custody battles ensued. If I disagreed with whoever I lived with, I would threaten them with moving in with the other. Once the hormones kicked in, I spent several years seeking attention wherever I could get it. Tattoos, booze, boys, bands, whatever. I had no spiritual foundation and certainly no respect for the sanctity of life. So when I found myself knocked up by my rock star boyfriend, I didn’t even flinch when he said, “Well let’s take care of it.” Phew. Of course that’s what we would do. Because he said so. I mean, who else would I turn to? I was young and impressionable and I had the CHOICE to do whatever I wanted.

On Sunday we had a lovely memorial service for our lost children. After naming them, we had the opportunity to write them a letter to tell them anything we might be feeling. Everyone apologized to their child. Everyone begged for forgiveness. Everyone wept.

While I now feel a great sense of peace and healing, in retrospect I am stunned. Disgusted that no one ever told me that there was a child in my womb. Dumbfounded that the abortionist actually made small talk with me (his daughter liked the same bands as me and was going to see our favorite that very night). THE ABORTIONIST WAS THE FATHER OF A GIRL. This kills me today. I pray that she never became pregnant unexpectedly and he aborted his own grandchild. I am horrified that the pro-abortion movement does not acknowledge the damage done to a woman (or a man) when they go through an abortion.

Nothing in this world could ever make me feel like I made the right decision. But attending a Rachel’s Vineyard retreat helped me to realize so many things: I am not alone; God forgives me because I have contrition; and most importantly, my child forgives me. My little boy is waiting for the moment when I can hold him in my arms and tell him about all of his siblings, and how much we love him, and how I have missed him. Rachel’s Vineyard has given me so much more than healing. It has given me an ability that I never had before, to be able to vocalize exactly why I am adamantly pro-life and why I will raise my kids to be the same. I would never wish this experience upon anyone, and I want the world to understand that there is no such thing as an unwanted child.

Leaving the retreat on Sunday, I was a new woman. Finally, after 13 years, I had closure. I had peace. I felt that my God and my child had forgiven me. I had ten new friends, all of whom had suffered what I had suffered—some of them multiple times—and all of whom were now on the road to recovery.

Not a day passes that I don’t think about my abortion and about how my life would have been different if I had made the other decision. And now, thankfully, not a day goes by when I don’t thank God for Rachel’s Vineyard.

Reprinted with permission from

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People in front of the Bar Hotel Le Carillon street Alliber in tribute to victims of the Nov. 13, 2015 terrorist attack in Paris at the Bataclan. Frederic Legrand - COMEO /
Jeanne Smits, Paris correspondent


Islamic terror is the perfect pretext for a crackdown on Christians: it’s happening in France

Jeanne Smits, Paris correspondent
By Jeanne Smits

PARIS, November 20, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) -- The Paris terrorist attacks are one week old tonight. A form of psychosis has seized the French capital: the big department stores have seen their sales plummet as tourists avoid popular venues. Restaurants and cafés are struggling to get by with 50 or 60 percent less customers, and even my local supermarket was almost empty on Thursday evening at its usual rush hour of 7 p.m. It’s not that people are mourning because of what happened. They are worried about what is still to come. There are millions of Muslims in France, with many more coming in due to the “migrants’ crisis” goaded on by Germany’s chancellor, Angela Merkel. It was she who insisted that the hundreds of thousands of Africans, Syrians, Iraqis… who are dreaming of peace and a better life in Europe, should be welcomed in. Several terrorists had come along with the stream.

Consciously or not, everyone is waiting for the next shooting spree or the next suicide bomb. Last time around, when the attack hit Charlie-Hebdo, people weren’t so scared. Those who died, after all, had been targeted as “blasphemers” against the “Prophet.” On Friday night, the victims were ordinary, carefree Parisians enjoying drinks or supper on a mellow autumn evening in one of the more trendy quarters of Paris; there were students and young professionals; fans of “Eagles of Death Metal” who were enjoying a rock concert at the well-known venue, Le Bataclan – but more about that later.

A meeting of the Association of French Mayors this week, days after the horrific events in Paris, came up with an idea: let’s ban Nativity scenes from all public places. 

These were people many can identify with. From now on, anyone can be a target.

The faces of the eight known terrorists and suicide bombers who killed 130 people in six coordinated attacks are both familiar and frightening: frightening because they are familiar. There are so many of those faces in the suburbs of Pais and of all the large French towns. So many veiled women, so many young men wearing traditional Arab garb and Mohammad-like beards.

The French authorities are falling over themselves saying there is no link between Islam and last week’s dramatic events. The killers – so the story goes – are in no way representative of the religion they invoke and Allah would not agree. Islam is a religion of “tolerance” and “love,” the saying goes. Government members avoid even mentioning Islam when speaking about the attacks.

This is where schizophrenia sets in. While pleading for “Fraternity,” especially with France’s immigrant Muslim population, the powers that be also insist that “secularism” – laïcité – is the only possible answer to Friday’s attacks. But if absence of religion, in the public square at least, is France’s only hope today, that means the war being fought by Jihadists is a religious one: a “Holy war.” And so it is, in their eyes: a war against the decadent West in which they also see Islam’s ancestral enemy, the “crusaders.”

Modern-day France, it does not need to be said, has no “crusaders” and precious little believing and practicing Catholics. If Islam, and radical, Koran-following Muslims have gained ground here it is not primarily because of social problems and poverty in the suburbs, as the authorities would have it: it is because of the gaping void left by the steady abandonment of Christianity and respect for life and traditional values.

The killers in Paris’ trendy 11th arrondissement and the Bataclan were mostly brought up in French or Belgian State schools where secularism is obligatory, even if Muslim communities are strong enough to obtain de facto privileges in a number of schools, like halal meals at the school canteens and a flexible response to absenteeism during Islamic holidays.

With the new attack, the French government’s main response is to give them more of the same: more “secularism,” Prime Minister Valls insisted, more “Republican values.” “We know that the battle to confront the ruptures in our society and this rise of radical Islamism, to defend our values and secularism, comes through schools and through culture,” he told the press last Tuesday.

Secularism has been part and parcel of the French State education system since teaching religious congregations were violently cast out at the end of the 19th century and the Republic took over the education of France’s children. Since then, the religious have come back and there is now a thriving, but not always outspoken network of Catholic schools that remain under pressure of the State – which pays the teachers – and are required to follow stringent rules and official curricula. Schools with full freedom also exist, marginally, but receive no financial help at all.

Putting all religions on the same plane and placing secularism above them as a requirement for the French to be able to live alongside each other in peace has long been a main feature of the public, free education system. With the arrival of François Hollande and his socialist government, things became – if possible – even worse. Former Education Minister Vincent Peillon, to whom “secularism is a religion,” said in 2012: “The objective of secular morals is to allow each pupil to emancipate himself, because the beginning point of secularism is in absolute respect of the freedom of conscience. In order to give liberty of choice, one has to be capable of tearing pupils away from every deterministic constraint pertaining to the family or ethnicity, social and intellectual, so as to make choices after that.”

Peillon introduced the teaching of “lay morals” – which have nothing to do with natural law but with relativist respect for all opinions and “non-discrimination” – and his successors have created a “charte de la laïcité”, a “Charter for secularism” which all parents are expected to sign when entering their children in State schools. But laws exist – even though they are not fully implemented – that allow the State to control what is taught to any child in France, be they home-schooled, in an independent, Catholic or State school.

“Secularism” and “the right to blaspheme” were France’s answer to the January attack against Charlie Hebdo. Secularism is being brandished again as a correct and non-discriminatory response to Fridays’ killings.

Already, several French media have drawn parallels between the madmen of Allah and Catholic traditionalists or just Christians – those who participated in the “Manif pour tous” against same-sex “marriage.” A popular child psychiatrist, Aldo Nouri, told parents to talk with their children about the attacks, and to explain that radicalism and extremism can be found anywhere. Tell them, he said, that many religions have killed in the name of their faith; also Catholics and even atheists, in Russia.

He did not evoke the “Terreur” in France through which the Revolution subdued revolts in the 1790, killing thousands of Catholics, priests, religious and laypeople…

Acting against the Muslims while pretending not to: this is one way the call on secularism as a solution can be seen. But in practice, this relativist stance has disarmed France and is opening the way to persecution against the faithful of its historic religion, Catholicism.

This already exists insofar as pro-life and pro-marriage campaigners are brushed aside as backwards fundamentalists who are trying to force their religious views on the “secular Republic.” Because Muslims pray in a number of streets in Paris and elsewhere, a communitarian display of force, Front National leader Marine Le Pen – whose star is on the ascendant – has said she also opposes Catholic pro-life public prayers in the streets.

France is not exactly choosing the path that will allow it to stand up to terrorism with its true values.

The main terrorist attack last Friday happened at a rock concert when the American group Eagles of Death Metal, which had attracted 1,500 spectators at the Bataclan, were just beginning to sing their hit, Kiss the Devil. The lyrics might have been written as a joke but the words are clear: “Who’ll love the devil? Who’ll sing his song?… I’ll love the devil and his song.”

A diocesan priest, Fr. Hervé Benoît, commented on the news site Riposte catholique : “Look at the photos of the spectators, moments before the tragedy… They are living dead. Their assassins, the ‘haschishin zombies’, are their Siamese twins. How can one not see this? It is so obvious! The same uprooting, the same amnesia, the same infantilism, the same lack of culture… A drama of atheist humanism, that loves the devil, death, violence, and says so – and died because of it. The sign of death and chaos does not only hover over Paris on a cursed Friday evening. 130 deaths are horrible. What about 600 deaths? That’s the amount of abortions in France on that same day.”

At the Bataclan, another song was to have been played: “Save a prayer.” “Don't say a prayer for me now /Save it 'til the morning after.” Many foreign heads of state sent their condolences to France with a prayer. The French leftwing press has rejected those prayers saying France needs everything but.

A meeting of the Association of French Mayors this week, days after the horrific events in Paris, came up with an idea: let’s ban Nativity scenes from all public places. Having a proper law to make sure that no town hall can have a “crèche” at Christmas was one of the major proposals made in a report that the Association had been working on in the wake of the Charlie-Hebdo attack in January. Their “Guide for good secularist conduct” was presented on Wednesday and their president, Republican François Baroin, explained: “It is up to us, who are elected and close to the population, to hold up secularism, which is at the same time a condition for community life and a means to emancipate human beings.”

That is how secularism gives in to Islam.

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A shot from the play "Fear," by homosexual Falk Richter.
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Pro-family leaders attacked by arson after German play depicts them being mutilated on stage

Pete Baklinski Pete Baklinski Follow Pete
By Pete Baklinski
The van and business of pro-family 'Demo for All’ was destroyed by arsonists Nov. 2, 2015.

BERLIN, November 20, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) -- Five defenders of marriage and family in Germany were portrayed in a Berlin theater last month as zombies that can only die by receiving a bullet to the head. Within hours of the premiere, one of the women portrayed had her vehicle torched and destroyed by arsonists. A week after that, another woman portrayed also had her vehicle torched, with the fire spreading to her pro-family business, gutting it completely.

“The battle for life and the family is moving to a new stage, as attacks start to shift from verbal to physical,” said Gabriele Kuby, one of the women portrayed in the play, to LifeSiteNews.

On October 24, Berlin theater Schaubühne premiered “Fear,” a play by homosexual Falk Richter that literally demonizes what he calls “proponents of simplistic world views” who advocate for defining what it “means to be a man, a woman or a family…in the most one- dimensional terms.”

In “Fear,” actors appear on stage wearing facial blowups of pro-family activists taped to their heads. They read portions of speeches given by the people they represent, which are then mocked and derided. At various points in the play, the pro-family activists are portrayed as Nazis as well as zombies risen from the grave. At another point, actors viciously poke out the eyes from the images of the protagonists, leaving gaping black sockets.

"The battle for life and the family is moving to a new stage, as attacks start to shift from verbal to physical."

An actor tells the audience at one point: "The zombie dies only when you shoot directly into his brain and his brain dies. That's the only way. The zombie seeks world domination. The zombie is directed against the survival of humanity. He is the undead."

Germany’s homosexual magazine Männer said the title of the play is meant to ridicule those who fear to embrace the changing moral and cultural landscape where homosexuality, transgenderism, and multiculturalism is all the rage. “[Their views] are nothing else but homophobia,” a writer in the magazine stated.

The play targeted five pro-family activists:

  • Beatrix von Storch, Member of the European Parliament for Germany’s “right-wing” party Alternative for Germany [Alternative für Deutschland] (ADF). The party opposed the legalization of homosexual “marriage” and has taken a strong stance against the threat arising from immigration.
  • Frauke Petry, ADF’s leader.
  • Hedwig von Beverfoerde, head of Demo for All [Demo für alle], the pro-family organization behind the regular demonstrations in Stuttgart protesting the implementation of an aggressive LGBT school curriculum.
  • Birgit Kelle, a high profile journalist, who advocates for a “new feminism” where women can decide to stay at home and raise their own children without discrimination. She has described movements pushing for “gender equality” and gender mainstreaming” as “brainwashing.”
  • Gabriele Kuby, sociologist, author, and social commentator, well-known for her criticism of “gender ideology.”

Hours after the premiere, on October 25 near midnight, pro-family politician Beatrix von Storch became the first victim of an arson attack on her car.


Heute Nacht wurde mein Auto abgefackelt. Wer die Hetze gegen die AfD mitgemacht hat und sich jetzt nicht davon scharf...

Posted by Beatrix von Storch on Monday, October 26, 2015

Then, one week later, arsonists torched the van of traditional-family advocate Hedwig von Beverfoerde. The fire spread to the nearby headquarters of her family’s business, completely destroying it.

Von Beverfoerde connected the attack to the Berlin Theater.

“It’s striking that this insidious attack from the extreme left-wing milieu happened only a few days after the premiere of the play ‘Fear’ at the Schaubühne in Berlin,” she posted on Facebook November 2.

Von Beverfoerde said she would not be so easily dissuaded from continuing her demonstrations on behalf of protecting children’s innocence.

“Demo For All cannot be burned down. Our commitment to marriage and family is unchanged,” she said.


Ihr könnt Autos abfackeln, Ihr könnt Häuser anzünden, aber eines steht fest: DEMO FÜR ALLE könnt Ihr nicht niederbrennen!Wir lassen nicht nach!

Posted by Demo für Alle on Tuesday, November 3, 2015

When German Catholic blogger and philosopher Dr. Josef Bordat reported and commented on the arson attacks, he received several death threats, forcing him to suspend his blog out of fear of assault.

"Their ready use of force seems virtually limitless. The complete, even physical, destruction of their enemy is the goal they want to achieve," Bordat wrote on Facebook.

But the play’s director called it “absurd” for people to make a connection between the play and the subsequent acts of violence against the individuals it depicts, stating in an opinion piece posted on the theater’s website earlier this month that the production merely “explores in a satirical way what are the right-wing nationalist and religious fundamentalist currents in today's Germany.”

But “gender ideology” critic Gabriele Kuby thinks otherwise. “The entire play is simply a mad incitement to hatred and violence,” she told LifeSiteNews. “We are portrayed as zombies and as dangerous, hateful Nazis. People are told how to shoot zombies in the head. And now there is physical violence — putting cars on fire — against people working to protect the family,” she said.

Kuby said that lawyers are investigating the theater for possible charges involving slander. In the meantime, “Fear” is scheduled to run again in January.

Contact information:

Berlin theater Schaubühne
Maren Dey, Public Relations
Ph: + 49.30.89002-147
Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @schaubuehne

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Lisa Bourne and Patrick B. Craine

U.S. Bishops clash as Pope Francis appointees push to downplay battle for life and family

Lisa Bourne and Patrick B. Craine
By Lisa Bourne
Galveston Houston's Cardinal Daniel DiNardo speaks at the US Conference of Catholic Bishops meeting Lisa Bourne / LifeSiteNews

BALTIMORE, Maryland, November 20, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) -- A group of Pope Francis’ episcopal appointees and other like-minded prelates provoked an open clash at the American Catholic bishops’ fall meeting in Baltimore this week as they pressed the conference to rewrite its election guide for 2016 to downplay the importance of the battle for life and family.

Ahead of a vote on a revision to the bishops’ Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, Bishop Robert McElroy made a pointed argument that the document was out of step with Pope Francis’ priorities -- specifically, by putting too much emphasis on abortion and euthanasia, and not enough on poverty and the environment.

The revised document, and the new introductory note, were the fruit of roughly 16 months of “painstaking work” by some 12 USCCB committees.

The bishops have released the document every four years since 2007, as a resource for Catholics ahead of every election cycle. The release is specifically timed for the year prior to each cycle to avoid giving the appearance of attempting to sway a particular election.

The purpose of the update was to refocus the policy areas of focus in light of cultural developments since the document’s 2007 inception and clarify some areas of Catholic social teaching, incorporating the later teaching documents of Pope Benedict and all of those from Pope Francis. The revision included adding 25 new quotes from Pope Francis, on issues such as the environment, immigration, religious liberty, and poverty.

The updates address recent developments in the U.S. in both domestic and foreign policy on issues such as abortion, euthanasia, the legal definition of homosexual "marriage" and its increasing prevalence across the country, materialism and the environment, deadly religious persecution throughout the world, religious freedom issues as they pertain to personal conscience and the Church's ability to perform ministry, economic policy concerning the poor, the immigration issue and refugee crisis, and wars, terror and violence in general.

Interpreting Pope Francis

Despite the bevy of new quotes from Pope Francis, a few bishops proposed scrapping the entire document on the claim that it doesn’t reflect the current pope’s “radical transformation of priorities.”

In his address, Bishop McElroy, appointed as head of the Diocese of San Diego by Pope Francis in March, acknowledged that the working group had carried out the mandate given it by the Conference, but said that mandate was in “serious error” and had created a “profoundly difficult choice” for the bishops.

“The problem is we are not living in 2007,” he told the assembly, and said the working group had no choice but to keep the structure of the document and prioritization of issues in place.

“And that does not take into account the fact that Pope Francis has in certain aspects of the social doctrine of the Church, radically transformed the prioritization of Catholic social teaching and its elements,” Bishop McElroy said. “Not the truth of them, not the substance of them, but the prioritization of them, has radically transformed that, in articulating the claims that fall upon the citizen as believer and disciple of Jesus Christ. This document does not do that.”

He said the document failed because it denies the pope’s emphasis on poverty and the environment. “On the key and central point of its failure I think it is this, if I understand Pope Francis correctly, it is, that the issues of poverty, particularly global poverty with all its victimization of men and women and families across the world, and children, that global poverty and the degradation of the earth, which threaten the whole of our humanity, that these two issues lie at the very center and core of Catholic social teaching as priorities for us in every public policy position. And this is not reflected in this document.”

Bishop McElroy advocated the idea that poverty and the environment are on the par with defense of life, inferring that holding life as the preeminent issue was an outdated mindset. “Specifically, I believe that the pope is telling us that alongside the issues of abortion and euthanasia which are central aspects of our commitment to transform this world, poverty and the degradation of the earth are also central,” he stated. “But this document keeps to the structure of world view of 2007. It does not put those there.”

“In the specific areas where it weighs out how does the voter make a decision, it tilts in favor of abortion and euthanasia and excludes poverty and the environment,” the bishop said, also supposing that pro-life supporters had twisted the document’s message in the past for their own ends. “It provides a warrant for those who will misuse the document outside this room, to exclude poverty and exclude the environment as key issues, and say they are secondary and cite this document as they have done for the past two electoral cycles.”

The working group’s representative, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, responded with a frank criticism of McElroy’s use of Pope Francis to push his argument. In a comment that earned him applause from many of the bishops, DiNardo said:

Well my initial comments, and I think the group will be with me on this, is that ours is a hermeneutic of continuity, here, Bishop. As you say yourself, "IF I read him correctly." We think we've also read him correctly, and we also believe that the way we have organized this, admittedly in a structure that pre-existed, but with real attentiveness to the pastoral ministry and the magisterium of Pope Francis, that we have brought in those considerations, perhaps not to your satisfaction and to the rhetorical floor issues with which you bring them, but I think that we have brought to light an important dimension of what Pope Francis and the later ministry of Pope Benedict is. And I do believe the document is still very useful for teaching.

Document lacks mercy in ‘current climate’?

McElroy’s intervention against the document was joined by others from the U.S. Bishops’ progressive camp.

Bishop Gerald Kicanas, head of the Diocese of Tucson since Pope John Paul II appointed him in 2003, was the first to suggest rejecting the revised document, and the introductory note, and starting over. “I think we need a new document,” he said. “I think it was a mistake really to try to revise a document from 2007, when so much has happened since then. I think the tone and the content needs to be looked at much more carefully if it’s to be a teaching document.”

Cardinal Daniel DiNardo took issue with that criticism as well, responding that updating the document was what the committees were tasked with. “We pretty vigorously disagree with you that it’s not a helpful teaching document,” he said. “We think it is a good teaching document.”

The cardinal went on to explain that Faithful Citizenship was a resource that could be considered supplemental to what a bishop might do to provide teaching in his own diocese.

Bishop John Stowe, appointed by Pope Francis to oversee the Diocese of Lexington, Kentucky, in March 2015, concurred with Bishop Kicanas that a lot has changed since 2007, and advocated starting over. He suggested “in retrospect” that the bishops think about the document in light of Pope Francis’ recent U.S. visit and the Year of Mercy, opining that it could be seen as lacking in mercy.

“I’m glad to see the corrections of the ‘intrinsically evil’ language that was in there, the modification of that language,” Bishop Stowe said. “But I’m struck by Pope Francis’ line in his Bull of Indiction for the Year of Mercy, that, ‘Nothing in the Church’s preaching and witness can be lacking in mercy.’ And I’m not certain that’s how this document will be received in the current climate. So I think it does, even if it’s too late, it does merit some consideration for beginning anew.”

Chicago Archbishop Blase Cupich, Pope Francis’ most significant U.S. appointment to date, added his voice to Bishop McElroy’s in a video interview with America magazine after the debate.

“I think it was a real high moment ... for the conference because he spoke in a way that was really very educated, very erudite and informative. I think it gave us all an opportunity to think about the issues that he raised,” Cupich said.

“As Bishop McElroy noted, the issues of global poverty and the degradation of the environment now need to be put in that first tier of issues,” he continued. “It doesn’t diminish the effectiveness, or the impact or importance of those other issues. But others now have to be joined in that.”

Faithful Citizenship adopted

The session ended with Washington Cardinal Donald Wuerl speaking in favor of Faithful Citizenship as revised and with the new introduction, so as to have something to release this year.

“I think we have a good working document,” Cardinal Wuerl said, even if it didn’t satisfy everyone. “I would not want the perfect to become the enemy of the good,” he continued. “I think we have a good working document. It’s not perfect, but short of heaven, we’re never going to get anything all together perfect.”

Toward the end of that session’s discussion, just after Bishop McElroy spoke, someone had handed Cardinal DiNardo a note at the front podium.

“By the way,” Cardinal DiNardo stated, acknowledging the note. “Pope Francis cited Faithful Citizenship in his document Evangelii Gaudium. So, in fact, at least to some extent, Faithful Citizenship is certainly not opposed, and perhaps even likable to Pope Francis.”

After additional discussion at a subsequent session, and some more support both for abandoning the document and moving forward with it, the bishops adopted the introductory note in a vote of 217-16, with two abtaining, and adopted the revised document in a vote of 210-21, with five abstaining.

Giving cover for Catholics to vote pro-abortion

Faithful Citizenship has drawn strong criticism in the past for wording that opens the door for Catholics to support pro-abortion politicians -- in particular in the last two election cycles, Barack Obama, commonly acknowledged as the most pro-abortion president in U.S. history.

Cardinal Raymond Burke told LifeSiteNews in 2009 that the document, in fact, bore part of the blame for Obama’s election in 2008 because of the confusion it caused among the faithful. “While [Faithful Citizenship] stated that the issue of life was the first and most important issue, it went on in some specific areas to say ‘but there are other issues’ that are of comparable importance without making necessary distinctions,” said Burke, then an archbishop and prefect of the Vatican’s Apostolic Signatura.

“The economic situation, or opposition to the war in Iraq, or whatever it may be, those things don’t rise to the same level as something that is always and everywhere evil, namely the killing of innocent and defenceless human life.” 


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