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Pope Francis’ meeting with homosexual activist Fr. De Paolis: the unanswered questions

The Editors

This past Friday, LifeSiteNews (LSN) published an article reporting on a recent meeting between Pope Francis and Italian priest Fr. (Don) Michele de Paolis. During that encounter, Fr. De Paolis, a prominent agitator in Italy against the Church’s teachings on homosexuality, concelebrated mass with the pope. Afterwards he met briefly with the pontiff and presented him with gifts of a wooden chalice and paten, as well as a copy of his recent book. As they parted, Francis kissed the hands of De Paolis.

LSN’s intention in publishing the story was to present the known facts about a public meeting between the pope and one of Italy’s leading Catholic dissidents – a newsworthy event in itself. However, in retrospect we recognize that in the absence of certain necessary clarifications and contexts the facts alone, as presented, unnecessarily lent themselves to misinterpretation.

Among the unanswered questions that surround the meeting, for instance, are how and why De Paolis was chosen to concelebrate mass with Pope Francis, what was said between them during their brief meeting, and what Francis and/or his handlers hoped the meeting would accomplish. While many readers concluded that the pope’s actions were intended to endorse, or otherwise overlook Fr. De Paolis’ problematic activism, it is clear that there is insufficient evidence to arrive at such a conclusion, and that a fair reading of the fact reveals several interpretations of the meeting that merit due consideration.

Possibility #1: Pope Francis did not know about De Paolis’ pro-gay activism

In the first place, it is possible that Pope Francis was himself unaware of De Paolis’ pro-gay activism. As LSN’s original report stated, De Paolis officially met with Francis in his capacity as the founder of the Emmaus Community in the southern Italian city of Foggia, an organization that assists the poor and those suffering from AIDS – in other words, a commendable outreach. We do not know whether De Paolis’ other work agitating against Catholic teaching on homosexuality came up during the meeting. Pope Francis’ gesture in kissing De Paolis’ hands would in this case have been no more than a sign of priestly confraternity – a humble sign of respect from one priest to another. This view is given weight in light of the fact that Francis routinely shows respect for those he meets by kissing their hands. This week alone he publicly kissed the hands of the Patriarch of Constantinople, as well as a group of Holocaust survivors he met during his trip to the Holy Land.

However, even if the above scenario is accurate, it does raise some interesting questions about the Vatican’s vetting process. Why, for instance, of the many priests who would welcome the opportunity to concelebrate mass with the pope, did Francis’ handlers choose for this public honor a priest who is best known for his work opposing the Church’s teachings? On the other hand, it is possible that even they were they not aware of De Paolis’ background – a possibility that at first glance bears discomfiting echoes of that PR flub from Benedict’s pontificate, when the Vatican overlooked critical facts about Bishop Richard Williamson of the SSPX. Finally, given Pope Francis’ habit of mingling freely with guests at Domus Santa Marta, it is also possible that no such vetting process was applied to De Paolis, although this does seems unlikely, especially given that he was apparently given advance notice of his meeting with the pope.

Possibility #2: Pope Francis knew who the priest was, and was reaching out to him in mercy

On the other hand, it is possible that Francis and his handlers knew about De Paolis’ advocacy, but decided to arrange a meeting as an opportunity for the pontiff to reach out to the wayward priest as an act of mercy.

Some have compared the pope’s meeting with De Paolis to the famous meeting between the pontiff’s namesake, St. Francis, and a priest who was living in sin with a woman. After being urged by some local townspeople to go chastise the priest, Francis finally agreed. But instead of rebuking the priest as the townspeople expected, St. Francis fell to his knees and, without saying a word, began kissing the priest’s hands. According to the story, the priest repented.

The suggestion that the meeting between De Paolis and Pope Francis is similar is an attractive one. It is also given credence both by the pope’s love of St. Francis, as well as the strong emphasis of his pontificate on reaching out to the marginalized, and to bringing them back to Christ through kindness and mercy.

However, this interpretation runs into the difficulty that De Paolis himself has only spoken positively of the meeting with the pope. In his public comments he certainly has offered no indication that the pope either called him to repentance, or that he is considering abandoning his heterodox views after the meeting. Given the public nature of the meeting, this then raises prudential questions about the possibility of scandal, in the absence of a corresponding public statement from the Vatican or the pope calling De Paolis to repentance and conversion.

Possibility #3: Pope Francis intended the meeting as some kind of an endorsement of De Paolis’ work

The third possibility is that the pope knew of De Paolis’ pro-gay activism, but decided to meet with him anyway as a sign of respect either despite or even because of that activism. However, given the gravity of such an allegation, and how little is known about the meeting, there is clearly insufficient evidence to propose this as the best interpretation.

Conclusion

LifeSiteNews routinely reports on the actions of Pope Francis as they relate to life and family issues.  While it is common knowledge that we have in the past published editorials expressing misgivings about some of the pope’s statements and actions, we have also routinely and eagerly reported on his statements promoting Church teaching on these issues. While some critics have accused LSN of “attacking” the Holy Father in our original story, this certainly was not the intention. De Paolis is a prominent figure in Italy, and his meeting with the pope understandably attracted media attention in that country as a newsworthy event. However, we appreciate the fact that, as a pro-life and pro-family news agency, more care could and should have been taken to ensure that our original report gave proper weight to both the known and unknown facts, and the various possible interpretations of the import of the meeting, as described above.

Note: Unfortunately there is a problem with Disqus commenting and many of the comments under this report belong to a previous story.



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Prof. Robert Spaemann, a close friend of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, says Amoris Laetitia directly contradicts St. John Paul II’s teaching.
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Pope’s exhortation is a ‘breach’ with Catholic Tradition: leading German philosopher

Claire Chretien Claire Chretien

April 28, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – A prominent Catholic philosopher and close friend of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI said Thursday that Pope Francis’s exhortation Amoris Laetitia is a “breach” with Catholic tradition and directly contradicts the teachings of Pope St. John Paul II in his exhortation Familiaris Consortio.

"If the pope is not willing to make a correction, it is up to another pontificate to officially put things back into order."

Professor Robert Spaemann told the Catholic News Agency’s German branch that changing the Church’s sacramental practice would be “a breach with its essential anthropological and theological teaching on human marriage and sexuality.”

“It is clear to every thinking person who knows the texts that are important in this context that [with Amoris Laetitia] there is a breach” with the Church’s Tradition, Spaemann said.

The professor’s remarks were translated by Dr. Maike Hickson in an article at OnePeterFive.

In Familiaris Consortio, Pope St. John Paul II upheld the Church’s longstanding approach to the question of admitting to the Sacraments remarried divorcees, by writing:

…the Church reaffirms her practice, which is based upon Sacred Scripture, of not admitting to Eucharistic Communion divorced persons who have remarried. They are unable to be admitted thereto from the fact that their state and condition of life objectively contradict that union of love between Christ and the Church which is signified and effected by the Eucharist. Besides this, there is another special pastoral reason: if these people were admitted to the Eucharist, the faithful would be led into error and confusion regarding the Church's teaching about the indissolubility of marriage.

Footnote 351 of Amoris Laetitia seemingly contradicts the above passage by asserting that in certain cases, integrating back into the Church the divorced and remarried and others in “irregular” situations “can include the help of the sacraments.”  The footnote then mentions both Confession and the Eucharist.

Bishop Athanasius Schneider, Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Maria Santissima in Astana, Kazakhstan criticized Amoris Laetitia for its lack of clarity on the subject.  “Analyzing some of the affirmations of AL with an honest understanding, as they are in their own context, one finds that there is a difficulty in interpreting them according to the traditional doctrine of the Church,” wrote Schneider.

Spaemann also condemned the exhortation’s seeming embrace of “situation ethics” as opposed to universal norms and its call to not judge people’s actions that directly contradict the Church’s sexual ethics.

“When it comes to sexual relations which are in objective contradiction to the Christian order of life, I would like to know from the pope after which time period and under which conditions such an objectively sinful behavior becomes a conduct which is pleasing to God,” said Spaemann. 

By turning “chaos into principle” with “one stroke of a pen,” Pope Francis is leading the Church “into the direction of schism,” Spaemann said—and he warned that such a schism would not be “at the periphery, but in the middle of the Church.” 

Spaemann also warned that Amoris Laetitia may be used to bully faithful priests. He wrote:

Each individual cardinal, as well as each bishop and each priest is now called to preserve in his field of authority the Catholic Sacramental Order and to confess it publicly. If the pope is not willing to make a correction, it is up to another pontificate to officially put things back into order.

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Famed German Catholic philosopher makes waves for criticizing Pope Francis’ ‘autocratic’ style



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The Institute for Family Health, a federally qualified health center, has been running an abortion facility in apparent violation of federal law.
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Federally funded community health center may have illegally performed abortions: Report

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WASHINGTON, D.C., April 28, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – A federally qualified health center (FQHC) apparently performed abortions, although nearly all federal funds are forbidden from being used for that purpose, sources tell LifeSiteNews. Now, pro-life congressmen are demanding further investigations into the use of U.S. taxpayer funds to promote abortion-on-demand.

The issue came to light when a federal inspector general's report found that six Americorps volunteers had been acting as "abortion doulas," giving emotional support to women who chose to have abortions.

The National Association of Community Health Centers (NACHC) allowed the volunteers – who received tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars – to support abortions that took place inside a New York abortion facility run by the Institute for Family Health (IFH).

Americorps “volunteers” illegally supporting abortion at taxpayer expense is an ongoing problem. But there's more to the story.

The IFH proudly advertises itself as a federally qualified health center (FQHC). Federal dollars are restricted from underwriting most abortion at FQHCs, in line with the Hyde Amendment. This does not hold true for the Affordable Care Act, conventionally known as ObamaCare.

To ease qualms raised by pro-life Democrat Bart Stupak and others, on March 24, 2010, Barack Obama signed Executive Order 13535. It states that “the Hyde [Amendment] language shall apply to the authorization and appropriations of funds for Community Health Centers...I hereby direct the Secretary of HHS to ensure that program administrators and recipients of federal funds are aware of and comply with the limitations on abortion services imposed on CHCs by existing law.”

Pro-life groups warned at the time that an executive order was insufficient to prevent taxpayer funding of abortion, and the law itself had to be amended – or defeated.

Stupak, who voted for ObamaCare before retiring from Congress, later said he was “perplexed and disappointed” by President Obama's “double cross” during the law's implementation.

Pro-life experts today say Congress must investigate whether the law is being violated and, if so, if the offense is isolated to IFH.

"For years the Obama administration has claimed that the Affordable Care Act and federally-funded health centers do not subsidize abortion, and the president finally signed additional provisions, passed last year by Congress, to ensure that community health centers do not use federal funds to support abortion,” said Arina Grossu, the director of the Center for Human Dignity at the Family Research Council. “Now we learn that CNCS is violating the law by helping women obtain abortions.”

“This blatant violation of federal law by CNCS and AmeriCorps demands that Congress investigate government-funded community health centers,” Grossu said. “It's time for this administration to stop foisting its radical abortion agenda on the American people and using their tax dollars to do so.” 

Pro-life advocates have long said that there is no need to fund Planned Parenthood, because federal women's health dollars could be reappropriated to FQHCs, which do not perform abortion.

There are 9,170 federally qualified health centers compared to about 700 Planned Parenthood facilities, according to the Charlotte Lozier Institute. FQHCs see 21.1 million patients a year, while Planned Parenthood saw 2.8 million people, the institute reported.

The latest example of federal dollars being channeled to support abortion, the law notwithstanding, has undermined some confidence in the FQHCs.

Rep. Diane Black, a pro-life Republican from Tennessee, said, “NACHC didn’t just break the rules; they broke trust with the American people. My constituents expect that federal funding given to our community health centers will be used to protect and enhance people’s lives, not to be a willing partner in their destruction.”

At least two Congressional leaders – the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and the chair of the House Health Subcommittee – have promised they will take action immediately.

“Federal law demands that taxpayer dollars are never to be spent on abortion activities. Not one penny. Period. But a disturbing report from an independent watchdog reveals that was not the case with brazen pursuits by the National Association of Community Health Centers,” said Congressmen Fred Upton and Joseph Pitts of Pennsylvania, both Republicans. “The law was violated and this shameful failure of trust will not be tolerated.”



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Abortion lobbyists demand Ted Cruz renounce pro-life leader Troy Newman

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WICHITA, Kansas, April 28, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – The nation's largest abortion providers, an abortion lobbying group, and an ultra-liberal political organization are demanding that Senator Ted Cruz cut ties with Operation Rescue President Troy Newman – something that only proves how effective he has been, Newman's organization says.

Planned Parenthood, NARAL Pro-Choice America, and People for the American Way are asking Cruz to fire Newman as national co-chair of the “Pro-Lifers for Cruz” coalition, claiming that Newman supports violence.

“Troy Newman’s history of violent rhetoric and harassment toward women’s health providers is truly beyond the pale,” the three say in a letter to Sen. Cruz, linking to quotations from his 2000 book, Their Blood Cries Out.

“What Planned Parenthood and their cohorts call 'violent rhetoric' is really a discussion of Old Testament Bible verses taken out of context,” said Cheryl Sullenger of Operation Rescue and co-author of the book Their Blood Cries Out. The work establishes the sinful guilt of abortion before highlighting the mercy available in the New Testament for those who accept Jesus Christ, Sullenger said.

The letter also cites a report from the National Abortion Federation stating that abortionists have experienced an increase in “hate speech and internet harassment” since the release of CMP's undercover videos of Planned Parenthood, “which Newman was a driving force behind.”

“What they call 'harassment' is peaceful activism that is completely protected by the First Amendment,” Sullenger responded.

Newman has consistently denounced criminal action and violence of any kind during his decades in the pro-life movement, Operation Rescue said of the allegations – many of which were circulated to prevent Newman from entering Australia last year.

“Newman’s position on abortion-related violence is clear. He denounces violence against abortion providers as well as the violence perpetrated by the abortion cartel against innocent babies in the womb and their mothers,” Sullenger said.

“Attacking the messenger is the only way they have to try to discredit the hefty volume of evidence against them. This most recent attack is all about manipulating the public’s perception against those who exposed Planned Parenthood in order to deflect attention from their own crimes.”

But the three groups poured vitriolic scorn on Newman. Michael Keegan, president of People for the American Way, called Newman's role “completely unacceptable...No politician should be allowed to pander to violent anti-choice extremists without being called out.”

NARAL Pro-Choice America President Ilyse Hogue said, "Troy Newman is an anti-choice extremist and misogynist ideologue.”

A Planned Parenthood executive said the choice proved Sen. Cruz and his vice presidential choice, Carly Fiorina, are unfit for office.

“It is not surprising to see Ted Cruz embrace this type of violent extremism -- after all this is the same man who has told malicious lies about Planned Parenthood, would criminalize abortion, and tried to shut down the government” to defund Planned Parenthood, said Dawn Laguens, executive vice president of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund. “This is what the Cruz-Fiorina ticket stands for."

Sullenger dismissed their rhetoric as “a feeble attempt to hurt the presidential candidacy of Sen. Ted Cruz, who they know will seek to enforce the laws against them.”

Cruz has repeatedly stated that, if he is elected president, he will defund Planned Parenthood – before prosecuting them.

Their letter has led to a number of articles in the mainstream media, including Politico, the Huffington Post, and Glamour. The last publication, a feminist magazine aimed at young women, slammed Ted Cruz's choice of Carly Fiorina for vice president, telling its readers to “hold on to your uterus.”

“Not one of these publications bothered to reach out to Newman or Operation Rescue’s staff for their response,” Sullenger said.

This morning and afternoon, both sides of the abortion debate have used the Twitter hashtag #FireTroy to get their message across.

Sen. Cruz has not responded to the call, but the letter implies that purging Newman from the campaign would not satisfy the pro-abortion coalition. “There are a number of coalition members whose records raise serious concerns,” they say.



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