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Pope Francis: ‘Abortion compounds the grief of many women’

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By John-Henry Westen
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VATICAN CITY, April 25, 2014 (LifeSiteNews.com) - In his “ad limina” visit with the Bishops of the South African Bishops Conference, Pope Francis emphasized that “abortion compounds the grief of many women” and that marriage, which he said is a "lifelong covenant of love between one man and one woman," is “disintegrating under tremendous pressure from the secular world.”

“Abortion compounds the grief of many women who now carry with them deep physical and spiritual wounds after succumbing to the pressures of a secular culture which devalues God’s gift of sexuality and the right to life of the unborn,” the pope said in a prepared text.

The pope also noted the concern that “Catholic families have fewer children, with repercussions on the number of vocations to the priesthood and religious life.” He added also that “the rate of separation and divorce is high, even in many Christian families, and children frequently do not grow up in a stable home environment.”

“All these realities,” he wrote, “threaten the sanctity of marriage, the stability of life in the home and consequently the life of society as a whole.”

“The holiness and indissolubility of Christian matrimony, often disintegrating under tremendous pressure from the secular world, must be deepened by clear doctrine and supported by the witness of committed married couples,” the pope said.

“Christian matrimony is a lifelong covenant of love between one man and one woman; it entails real sacrifices in order to turn away from illusory notions of sexual freedom and in order to foster conjugal fidelity,” he added.

As for a way forward in such a “sea of difficulties,” the pope proposed that “we bishops and priests must give a consistent witness to the moral teaching of the Gospel.”  He added, “I am confident that you will not weaken in your resolve to teach the truth ‘in season and out of season’ (2 Tim 4:2), sustained by prayer and discernment, and always with great compassion.”

His full remarks are as follows:

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Dear Brother Bishops,

I offer you a warm welcome as you make this pilgrimage ad Limina Apostolorum, in which you have come to pray at the tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul, and to reflect with me on the joys and challenges of the Church in Botswana, South Africa and Swaziland. Your presence expresses your unity with the Successor of Peter, and provides an opportunity to be refreshed in the faith and in your ministry of shepherding God’s people. I thank Cardinal Napier for his warm words of greeting, offered on behalf of Catholics in your dioceses – priests, religious and lay faithful. I assure them through you of my love and prayerful solidarity.

Our meeting today allows us to give thanks to God the Father for the growth of the Church in your countries, thanks to the labours of missionaries from many lands, who along with indigenous men and women of South Africa, Botswana and Swaziland, sowed the seeds of your people’s faith so deeply. For generations they have gone out to meet them wherever they are to be found, in villages, towns and cities, and especially in ever-expanding urban townships. They built the churches and schools and clinics that have served your countries for nearly two centuries; this heritage shines forth even now in the heart of every believer and in the continuing works of the apostolate. The Gospel teaches that the seed of the Word, once sown, grows by itself even as the farmer sleeps, accomplishing “what it wills in ways that surpass our calculations and ways of thinking” (Evangelii Gaudium, 22).

Despite many challenges, your countries are blessed by flourishing parishes, thriving often against very great odds: far distances between communities, a dearth of material resources and limited access to the sacraments. I know you are training permanent deacons in some dioceses, to assist the clergy where priests are fewer. There is a concerted effort to renew and deepen the formation of lay catechists who assist mothers and fathers in preparing the coming generations in the faith. Priests and religious brothers and sisters are of one mind and heart in their service of God’s most vulnerable sons and daughters: widows, single mothers, the divorced, children at risk and especially the several million AIDS orphans, many of whom head households in rural areas. Truly the richness and joy of the Gospel is being lived and shared by Catholics with others around them. A Catholic minority in countries of mixed religions, the faithful are having to rely more and more on their own support, with diminished aid from the countries who first sent missionaries. Many of them work with great generosity in numerous projects of charity, manifesting the loving face of Christ to those who need him most. Each is a sign of hope for the whole Church! I pray that they will continue to persevere in building up the Lord’s Kingdom with their lives that testify to the truth, and with the work of their hands that ease the sufferings of so many. 

You have spoken to me of some of the serious pastoral challenges facing your communities. Catholic families have fewer children, with repercussions on the number of vocations to the priesthood and religious life. Some Catholics turn away from the Church to other groups who seem to promise something better. Abortion compounds the grief of many women who now carry with them deep physical and spiritual wounds after succumbing to the pressures of a secular culture which devalues God’s gift of sexuality and the right to life of the unborn. In addition, the rate of separation and divorce is high, even in many Christian families, and children frequently do not grow up in a stable home environment. We also observe with great concern, and can only deplore, an increase in violence against women and children. All these realities threaten the sanctity of marriage, the stability of life in the home and consequently the life of society as a whole. In this sea of difficulties, we bishops and priests must give a consistent witness to the moral teaching of the Gospel. I am confident that you will not weaken in your resolve to teach the truth “in season and out of season” (2 Tim 4:2), sustained by prayer and discernment, and always with great compassion.

I appreciate the fact that you, the bishops of Botswana, South Africa and Swaziland, are united to your people where they live and work and study, in solidarity with the vast numbers of unemployed in your countries. Most of your people can identify at once with Jesus who was poor and marginalized, who had no place to lay his head. In addressing these pastoral needs, I ask you to offer, in addition to the material support which you provide, the greater support of spiritual assistance and sound moral guidance, remembering that the absence of Christ is the greatest poverty of all. Here too we need to find new and creative ways of helping people encounter Christ through a deeper understanding of the faith.

Another significant challenge I have already touched on is the reduced number of priests – your first co-workers in the task of evangelization – as well as a significant decline in seminarians. What is required is a new impetus: fresh and authentic promotion of vocations in every territory, a prudent selection of candidates for seminary studies, fatherly encouragement of those men in formation, and attentive accompaniment in the years after ordination.

Together with priests, religious and lay catechists have played and continue to play a vital role in the growth of your communities. It is essential that they receive your encouragement and support, especially through the development of programs of ongoing formation grounded firmly in the inspired word of God, and introducing children and adults to the life of prayer and the fruitful reception of the sacraments. The sacrament of reconciliation, in particular, must be rediscovered as a fundamental dimension of the life of grace. The holiness and indissolubility of Christian matrimony, often disintegrating under tremendous pressure from the secular world, must be deepened by clear doctrine and supported by the witness of committed married couples. Christian matrimony is a lifelong covenant of love between one man and one woman; it entails real sacrifices in order to turn away from illusory notions of sexual freedom and in order to foster conjugal fidelity. Your programs of preparation for the sacrament of matrimony, enriched by Pope John Paul’s teaching on marriage and the family, are proving to be promising and indeed indispensable means of communicating the liberating truth about Christian marriage and are inspiring young people with new hope for themselves and for their future as husbands and wives, fathers and mothers.

I have also noted the concern which you expressed about the breakdown of Christian morals, including a growing temptation to collude with dishonesty. This is an issue which you prophetically addressed in your pastoral statement on corruption. As you pointed out, “corruption is theft from the poor… hurts the most vulnerable… harms the whole community… destroys our trust”. The Christian community is called to be consistent in its witness to the virtues of honesty and integrity, so that we may stand before the Lord, and our neighbours, with clean hands and a pure heart (cf. Ps 24:4) as a leaven of the Gospel in the life of society. With this moral imperative in mind, I know that you will continue to address this and other grave social concerns, such as the plight of refugees and migrants. May these men and women always be welcomed by our Catholic com-munities, finding in them open hearts and homes as they seek to begin a new life.

Dear Brother Bishops, in my Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, issued at the end of the Year of Faith which marked the fiftieth anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council, I expressed my hope that all Christians will embark upon a new chapter of evangelization marked by Gospel joy, seeking “new paths for the Church’s journey in years to come” (cf. No. 1). Now is the time to rekindle the precious gift of faith so as to renew your dedicated service to God’s people! May the saints of Africa sustain you by their intercession. May Our Lady of Africa be always at your side, and may she guide you as you share in the teaching, sanctifying and governing mission of Christ.

With these sentiments and with great affection, I impart my Apostolic Blessing to you, and to all the beloved priests, religious and lay faithful of your countries.

As published by the Vatican, April 25, 2014
 

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TLC pulls ‘19 Kids and Counting’ from schedule following Duggar molestation allegations

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By Ben Johnson

SPRINGDALE, AR, May 22, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The television network TLC has removed the Duggar family's reality show, “19 Kids and Counting,” from its schedule, at least temporarily.

Multiple news outlets have confirmed that the show, featuring the large and expanding evangelical Christian family, will not be on the air until the network makes a final decision about the program's fate.

The network had previously removed “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo” from its network after “Mama June” Shannon had been seen associating with convicted child molester Mark McDaniel, possibly exposing her children to a sexual predator. Shannon has told the entertainment news outlet TMZ that she would sue the network for unfair and inconsistent treatment.

TLC has not made a final determination as of yet and aired a Duggar marathon Thursday evening as the controversy brewed.

Friday's move comes after media outlets obtained police records showing Josh Duggar, as a young teenager 12 years ago, inappropriately touched as many as five girls, often while they were sleeping. The police records show the incidents began in March 2002, the month the oldest Duggar child turned 14. He admitted the incident to his parents that July, but another incident took place in March 2003. At that time, the family sent him to a program that required counseling and hard physical labor.

Three years later, a letter containing details of the molestation was found, and its recipient notified police, who launched an investigation.

One of his victims told police, after Josh returned in July 2003, he had clearly “turned back to God.” No further incidents have been alleged.

Duggar's wife of six-and-a-half years, Anna, said Josh revealed the painful episode to her two years before they got engaged.

Since the allegations have been made public, Josh Duggar admitted his long ago wrongdoing, calling his teenage actions “inexcusable.” He also resigned his job at FRC Action, a pro-family lobbying organization.

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Some figures have offered the Duggars their reassurance that, whatever sins Josh committed as a teen, he can be – perhaps has been – forgiven by God.

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, now a presidential hopeful, said that Josh “and his family dealt with it and were honest and open about it with the victims and the authorities. No purpose whatsoever is served by those who are now trying to discredit Josh or his family by sensationalizing the story.”

He said those who leaked the story were motivated by “insensitive bloodlust” to destroy the Duggar family. “There was no consideration of the fact that the victims wanted this to be left in the past, and ultimately a judge had the information on file destroyed—not to protect Josh, but the innocent victims.”

God, Huckabee said, forgives all sins.

“In my life today, I am so very thankful for God’s grace, mercy and redemption,” Josh wrote.

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Rebecca Kiessling of Save the 1 - United States Steve Jalsevac/Vatican City
Rebecca Kiessling

I told her I was conceived in rape. She told me to prove I shouldn’t have been aborted.

Rebecca Kiessling
By Rebecca Kiessling

(Savethe1) - Why should I have to prove my worth and my right to life? When I first learned at the age of 18 that I was conceived in rape, I instantly felt targeted and devalued by our society because I’d heard what people said about pregnancy “in cases of rape.” Right away, I felt I was in a position where I would have to justify my own existence – that I would have to prove to the world that I shouldn’t have been aborted and that I was worthy of living.

I’ve since found my own value, identity and purpose in Christ, being created by God, in His image, and for a purpose, so I no longer feel I need to prove my worth to others in order to feel worthy. Instead, I share my worth out of gratitude for my own life being spared and in order that others may see the value of those who are still at risk – those who are in harm’s way as yet unborn and being targeted for abortion in the clinics, in legislation, and in people’s hearts and minds.

Whenever I speak, I share this aspect of my journey, but people are shocked to hear that I actually do get challenged to prove my value, to demonstrate my positive contribution to society and to justify my right not to have been aborted. This recent e-mail is a case in point. It was a tough inquiry to receive, but you’ll see my hopefully patient (and prayerful) responses below, and the ultimate outcome of the exchange:

I’m feeling sad and skeptical about rape babies.  I’d love to consider myself pro-life due to biblical reasons, but I just don’t really see what good can ever come out of a rape baby. I still think that it sometimes furthers the victimization of a rape victim. And it’s also because I’m very sad and disturbed by your blog.

I just think sometimes that it would be better if these babies never existed -- that every single one would naturally be miscarried by God’s will, so no one could bully them for their skeleton in their closet. Like I said, the subject manner disturbs me to the point where I vomit. I wish that every child was conceived in love and not violence because that's the way it should be. And I'm sad to say that the only way I could fully believe all of you rape mothers and children is if you were to pray for the peace of God that transcends all my futile understanding and my volatile, overly-sensitive emotions. 

There is no story in the whole world that can fully change my mind. The only way I could ever is if I were to befriend a victim or become the Bride of a man whom was the product of abuse. I'm so sorry to be brutally honest; it's just that my heart grieves to the point where I feel the struggle to overcome the sin of prejudice. I'm so angry at God that he allows this to occur.

Dear __, I appreciate you going to our blog and taking the time to reach out to us.  Your concerns are the most common, but research shows that rape victims are four times more likely to die within the next year after the abortion vs. giving birth. Dr. David Reardon's book Victims and Victors: Speaking Out About Their Pregnancies, Abortions and Children Resulting From Sexual Assault explains this.  So it's a myth which gets perpetuated -- that a rape victim would be better off after an abortion, that her child would be a reminder of the rape, and that she would even see her child as a "rape baby," as you put it.

I understand a lot of what you're saying.  You would definitely feel differently if you knew someone personally.  I wished I wasn’t conceived in rape, but I do believe now that God definitely brings good out of evil, and uses tragic situations to bring healing.  He doesn't intend the evil of course, but his trademark is redeeming really awful situations.

-- Rebecca

Her reply (again, challenging for me to read, but I think she candidly articulates a lot of what most people really wonder or think):

What has God done in your life personally besides this blog that has made your tragic family life worth the pain? Tell me what you have been doing: like marriage, dating, children, jobs, friendship, volunteer work; any of that. I am curious to see how God has given your life joy and purpose. I'm sorry if I have ever been difficult to handle. I'm emotionally impulsive when I hear something sad.

First of all, my birthmother and her husband legally adopted me 3-1/2 years ago because my adoptive family was really screwed up (long story of abuse and abandonment.) My own adoption by my birthmother was our fairy-tale ending.  She says I'm a blessing to her, I honor her and I bring her healing! I love adoption -- my two oldest are adopted (very open adoption,) and we adopted a baby with special needs -- Cassie -- who died in our arms at 33 days old. It was an honor to take care of her and was definitely one of the most important things I'd ever done in my life. She died because of medical malpractice.

Married for nearly 17 years, we have 5 children now – two adopted sons and our three biological daughters.  Here's my son's story. He wrote it last September at 12 years old.

Besides being the president and founder of Save The 1, I also co-founded Hope After Rape Conception. I'm a family law attorney, though I closed my law practice to have my children and to home school until 2-1/2 years ago.

I make baby quilts which I donate to pregnancy resource centers and I give to moms in unplanned pregnancies. My birthmother taught me to sew! I also taught my children to quilt, as well as many of my friends and their children. I've volunteered with orphan care, Sunday school, feeding the disadvantaged, free legal work, volunteer work for a maternity home, and helping in various ways with pregnancy resource centers. I changed the hearts of Gov. Rick Perry and Newt Gingrich on this issue during their presidential campaigns!

A large part of what I do is helping others to understand their value, identity and worth because lots of people struggle with these issues -- not just those conceived in rape. I hope this helps!  -- Rebecca

Her final response – from someone who said “there is no story in the world that can fully change my mind”: 

Dear Rebecca, thank you so much for your time to straighten out my emotional acting out -- I'm really glad you told me about your life. I really think I'll be okay now. I still wish that men wouldn't rape, but at least the world knows a lot more than they used to and I can say that I'm pro-life to my college professors without paranoia or anxiety. I even talked about helping people like you with my mom and dad. They told me I'm too sensitive in personality to be involved directly in domestic politics; yet, I'm praying about being a free English tutor for troubled families as well as being an anti-pornography informant or activist. After all, the porn industry has been statistically linked to the sexual violence pandemic. I'm so glad that you are living life well and to the best of your ability; keep telling people that just because your birth father was an evil scumbag doesn't mean that you are. Thanks Rebecca, you have really touched and strengthened my heart. With much sincerity.

 

BIO: Rebecca Kiessling was conceived in rape and nearly aborted, but legally protected by law in Michigan pre-Roe v Wade.  She's an attorney, pro-life speaker and blogger, and President of Save The 1. Her own website is www.rebeccakiessling.com

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Boy Scouts president: We need to allow open homosexual leaders

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By Dustin Siggins

May 22, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Boy Scouts of America president Robert Gates says the youth organization must change with the times and allow open homosexual men to serve as Scout leaders.

Gates, the former U.S. Secretary of Defense and CIA Director, said in a speech at the 2015 Boy Scouts of America (BSA) National Annual Meeting Thursday that the Boy Scouts would have to adjust to "the social, political, and juridicial changes taking place in our country -- changes taking place a pace this past year no one anticipated."

According to Gates, the way to balance the religious affiliations of "some 70% of our scout units" and avoid "a broad [court] ruling that could forbid any kind of membership standard" is to offer individual troops a flexible membership policy. 

"For me, I support a policy that accepts and respects our different perspectives and beliefs, allows religious organizations -- based on First Amendment protections of religious freedom -- to establish their own standards for adult leaders, and preserves the Boy Scouts of America now and forever."

"I truly fear that any other alternative will be the end of us as a national movement," said Gates, who said that BSA should "seize control of our own future, set our own course, and change our policy in order to allow charter partners -- unit sponsoring organizations -- to determine the standards for their Scout leaders."

This is not the first time that Gates, who led the military to end its two decades-long Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy, has supported gay Scout leaders. Last year, he said that he "would have supported having gay Scoutmasters, but at the same time, I fully accept the decision that was democratically arrived at by 1,500 volunteers from across the entire country."

In 2013, BSA allowed openly homosexual scouts for the first time. That policy reads: "No youth may be denied membership in the Boy Scouts of America on the basis of sexual orientation or preference alone,” and took effect on January 1, 2014.

A year ago, Gates said he "was prepared to go further than the decision that was made" to allow gay Scout members, but decided that "to try to take last year's decision to the next step would irreparably fracture and perhaps even provoke a formal, permanent split in this movement - with the high likelihood neither side would subsequently survive on its own."

This week, though, Gates said that "events during the past year have confronted us with urgent challenges I did not foresee and which we cannot ignore."

"We cannot ignore growing internal challenges to our current membership policy, from some councils... in open defiance of the policy," said Gates. 

However, Gates' remarks may have come too late to prevent internal challenges from splitting BSA. Due to the 2013 vote, a number of Scouting alternatives launched, including the organization Trail Life USA. The latter group says it aims "to be the premier national character development organization for young men which produces Godly and responsible husbands, fathers, and citizens." 

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In January, Trail Life USA said it has "over 540 Troops in 48 states and the registration of nearly 20,000 adults and boys..."

Furthermore, the decision by BSA to allow gay scouts has led to criticism from people on both sides of the debate. Homosexual activists say the group did not go far enough, whereas many Christian parents and organizations say BSA is bowing to public pressure from homosexual advocates to affect its membership, despite its Christian roots.

Corporate pressure has also been aggressive. Last year, Walt Disney World threatened to not allow employees to volunteer for BSA as part of its VoluntEARS program in 2015 if the organization does not allow gay Scout leaders. Diversity Inc. reports that Merck & Co., Ernst & Young, Major League Baseball, and AT&T are just some of the other companies that have pressured BSA to further change its policies.

LifeSiteNews asked BSA whether Gates' comments indicated support for a totally flexible scout leadership policy, or just related to gay scout leaders, as well as whether BSA would take a stand against state and local laws that deny First Amendment rights to people who oppose same-sex "marriage."

BSA declined to comment, telling LifeSiteNews in a statement: "Dr. Gates’s remarks speak for themselves. ... It is important to note that no decisions were made during the National Annual Meeting. A decision is expected no later than the Boy Scouts of America’s National Executive Board meeting in October."

A video of Gates' remarks is below. The comments about membership standards begin at 8:40.

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