Hilary White, Rome Correspondent

Pope issues rare, forceful correction to dissident priests in Holy Week liturgy

Hilary White, Rome Correspondent
Hilary White, Rome Correspondent

VATICAN CITY, April 5, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) – In an extremely rare move, Pope Benedict XVI today issued a forcefully worded correction of a group of Austrian priests who last year issued a public letter calling on their fellow clergy to disobey Catholic teaching in key areas.

“Recently a group of priests from a European country issued a summons to disobedience, and at the same time gave concrete examples of the forms this disobedience might take, even to the point of disregarding definitive decisions of the Church’s Magisterium, such as the question of women’s ordination,” the pope said.

Speaking at the Holy Thursday Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica today, one of the most solemn occasions of the Catholic Church’s liturgical year, Pope Benedict asked, “Is disobedience a path of renewal for the Church?”

Although he did not name the country, it is clear the pope was referring to a public letter the priests, who called themselves the Austrian Priests’ Initiative, issued in June 2011 demanding “reform” on priestly celibacy, the reservation of the priesthood to men and the reception of Holy Communion by divorced and remarried Catholics. Titled “A Call to Disobedience,” the letter accused the Catholic Church of injustice and violations of human rights, and announced that the signatories intended to continue giving Communion to “members of other Christian Churches and, in certain cases, Catholics who have left the Church”.

“We would like to believe” the pope said, “that the authors of this summons are motivated by concern for the Church.

“But is disobedience really a way to do this? Do we sense here anything of that configuration to Christ which is the precondition for true renewal, or do we merely sense a desperate push to do something to change the Church in accordance with one’s own preferences and ideas?”

Posing the rhetorical question, “Surely Christ himself corrected human traditions which threatened to stifle the word and the will of God?” the pope said that the authority of Christ, as the Son of God, was unique, and something that no human priest can claim.

“Indeed he did [correct human traditions], so as to rekindle obedience to the true will of God, to his ever enduring word. His concern was for true obedience, as opposed to human caprice,” Benedict said.

The choice of the Holy Thursday liturgy, seen in the Catholic Church as the Mass of the priesthood, to address the letter indicates the depth of Benedict’s concern. Catholics believe that the priesthood and the Mass itself were inaugurated by Christ on Thursday night before his death the next day on the cross. The priesthood and the nature of the Church are the main focus of the liturgy for the day, a day that has recently also become the locus of annual protests by anti-Catholic groups agitating for women’s ordination, among other changes to Catholic teaching.

Benedict continued, saying Christ “lived out his task with obedience and humility all the way to the Cross, and so gave credibility to his mission. Not my will, but thine be done: these words reveal to us the Son, in his humility and his divinity, and they show us the true path.”

The situation in Austria remains unresolved, with the group of 300-400 priests having issued a statement last October refusing to recant their letter, titled “A Call to Disobedience”. “Disobeying certain valid and strict church rulings and laws has for years been part of our life and work as priests,” they said.

Since the group issued its demands, local Catholic authorities have engaged in “discussions” with them. A spokesman for the archdiocese of Vienna said, “There has been no discussion of sanctions, no ultimatum, no talk of punishment.” The Cardinal Archbishop of Vienna, Christoph Schonborn, said he wanted to discuss the needs of local Catholics with the group.

It is clear, however, that the lack of a prompt resolution to the situation is unacceptable to the Pope, who said today, “All our preaching must measure itself against the saying of Jesus Christ: ‘My teaching is not mine’. We preach not private theories and opinions, but the faith of the Church, whose servants we are.”

In answer to the position of the Austrian priests, Benedict highlighted the “religious illiteracy” that has become common in the formerly Christian western world, even within the Church.

“The foundations of faith, which at one time every child knew, are now known less and less. But if we are to live and love our faith, if we are to love God and to hear him aright, we need to know what God has said to us – our minds and hearts must be touched by his word,” he said.

The “hermeneutic of continuity” – the interpretation of Catholic teaching in the light of the Church’s traditional understanding of scripture – has been a major theme of Benedict’s papacy. He has struggled to make clear that the Second Vatican Council, cited by the Austrian group as the source of their disobedience, did not mandate any change or reversals in Catholic dogma, doctrine or discipline.

Again today, Benedict revisited this theme, answering the priests’ claim, saying that the texts of the Second Vatican Council and the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “are essential tools which serve as an authentic guide to what the Church believes on the basis of God’s word”.

Benedict has had his hands full with the scandal-plagued Austrian Catholic Church. In 2009, a rebellion of the nation’s Catholic bishops made it impossible for him to appoint his choice for the diocese of Linz, a see that has been the centre of decades of liturgical abuse as well as more recently of several high-profile sex abuse cases.

See Follow up article:
Vatican letter demands action on Austrian dissident priests’ group the day after Papal blast

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Pete Baklinski Pete Baklinski Follow Pete

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Revolt over plan to tax churches forces Canadian city to back down

Pete Baklinski Pete Baklinski Follow Pete
By Pete Baklinski

LANGLEY, British Columbia, November 25, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) -- The city council in Langley, British Columbia, unanimously decided Monday to revoke its plan to raise $82,000 by taxing eight local churches. The decision came after an uprising of Protestants, Anglicans, and Catholics descended upon the meeting and demand that the plan be canceled.

“The council made a decision not to proceed with this initiative,” Don Adams, a member of Langley’s St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, told LifeSiteNews.

Adams said that about 100 protesters from local churches and various community groups that would be affected by the City’s plan attended the meeting to state their opposition. About 15 different presentations were made focusing on how losing the tax exemption would cripple programs and outreach, even forcing some churches to close.

“Everyone spoke against it,” he said. “When the Council voted against it, everyone stood up and clapped. It was overwhelming.”

On September 28, Langley Council approved a strategy to tax properties that had previously been exempt in order to “reduce the tax burden for the general taxpayers.” The plan was to go into effect in 2017.

Of about 30 properties that were currently receiving tax exemption, the first to be considered for the removal of the exemption were churches. While the provincial government has declared that land beneath buildings used for public worship is statutorily exempt from property taxation, the municipality has the power to tax the land surrounding the building, such as parking lots, playgrounds, and grass areas.

Despite admitting that the churches provide a “benefit to society,” the city nevertheless voted 5-2 on September 28 — Mayor Ted Schaffer voted against it with councillor Rudy Storteboom — to begin taxing the churches as well as a few other non-profit organizations.

The responses from the churches submitted to the City Council was heartbreaking. The letters are available on the City’s website.

Stuart Allan, People Warden at St. Andrew’s Anglican Church of Canada in Langley, wrote to the Council that he was “surprised and somewhat shocked” to receive a letter indicating that the church’s tax exemption status was in jeopardy.

“Historically, in Canada, churches have not been taxed by the local, provincial or federal governments for the very good reason that churches are nonprofit and provide community services that are often not able to be provided by others.”

“Without exaggeration, if the City of Langley were to move forward with the proposal to reduce or eliminate Saint Andrew’s property tax exemption the additional tax burden would force us to close our doors and cease operation,” the letter stated. “This would result in the elimination of the Anglican Church in the City of Langley, all the services it provides and the nonprofit groups who rely on us would have to find other space, likely at a cost they would have difficulty managing.”

Writing on behalf of St. Joseph’s Catholic Parish located in Langley, the Archdiocese of Vancouver stated that services provided by the parish — including religious worship, education for pre-school and elementary children, women’s groups, men’s groups, and youth groups — would cost the city more than almost $40,000 that the parish would lose annually if it started being taxed.

“I think if I were to cost out the value of all the above services for the City of Langley to provide, the cost will outweigh the property exemption amount by a significant amount,” the letter written by the Archdiocese’s Director of Finances Francis Wong, stated.

The City of Langley’s director of corporate services, Darrin Leite, told LifeSiteNews that it is “reasonable” to assume that the delegations proved effective.

“After last night’s meeting, the motion was on the agenda and there was a number of delegations that spoke to council. When it came time for council to make a vote on the motion, it never got a seconder,” he said.

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Fr. Mark Hodges

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VIDEO: Expert says China will continue forced abortions, sterilizations

Fr. Mark Hodges
By Fr. Mark Hodges

IRONDALE, Alabama, November 25, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) – An expert on China says the country's move from the infamous "one-child per family" policy of forced abortion and sterilization to a "two-child" policy will leave the status quo largely intact.

Human rights activist Reggie Littlejohn, an expert on China and the president of Women's Rights Without Frontiers, spoke with Raymond Arroyo of Eternal Word Television Network's The World Over show about China's new policy of allowing families two children.

Littlejohn said that the change from a one-child to a two-child policy is motivated not by human rights, but by demographics. "It is not that the Chinese communist party has suddenly grown a conscience...at all. It is that they are facing a threefold demographic disaster."

First of all, Ms. Littlejohn said, China "doesn't have enough women, because of their gendercide."

"The core of the policy is not that they allow one child or two children, but is that they are setting a limit, and enforcing it through forced sterilization, forced contraception, and a whole web of surveillance of women, monitoring women's menstrual cycles and their fertility," Littlejohn explained. "All of that coercion will remain the same under a two-child policy."

"A two-child policy carries all of the [same] terrible and appalling methods of abortion as the one child policy," Ms. Littlejohn explained. "It's just that they start killing after two, instead of after one."

Littlejohn went on to say that China's demographic problems resulting from 40 years of gendercide will not be fixed by the new two-child allowance. "Even if China were to completely abolish their policy right now, and allow to everybody to have as many kids as they want to have, it's going to take twenty years for the women to grow to the point where they can marry, and everybody to the point where they can be workers," she said.

She said that the Chinese have "dug themselves in a hole that they can't get out of."  Arroyo pointed out that there are 33 million more men than women in China today.

Littlejohn does not expect gendercide to decrease immediately. "What I think is going to happen," Littlejohn said, "is couples who have a boy are going to stop at one," because of the high expense of having children in China. "And those who have a girl first are going to continue to abort a second daughter, because they still want to have a son."

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When Arroyo pointed out that government statistics say 350 billion dollars since 1980 were levied in fines against those who tried to defy China's one-child policy, Littlejohn responded, "That's why I don't think China will ever abandon its policy: it's a huge money-maker for them." She noted that local officials determine the amount of fines and line their pockets with the cash.

She pointed out that five years ago, the Chinese government admitted that over four hundred million babies in the womb have been killed – and that number is far greater today.

Littlejohn pointed out that any Chinese citizen who dares to tell the truth about the communist policy is persecuted. "People who get their stories to the West – not only do they have to endure the trauma of the forced abortion itself, but they have to endure trauma [against] themselves and their families from the Chinese Communist Party for seeing them before the world."

"Thank God for Ted Cruz, also for Marco Rubio, and for Congressman Chris Smith – all three of those have come out with very, very powerful statements saying basically that the two-child policy does not fix any of the problems with the one-child policy," Littlejohn said. "I'm so glad that they ... are getting the truth out there."

Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz spoke against China's policy earlier this month. "In America, we should stand with victims of oppression," he said. "These are horrific acts of brutality. They are inhumane. They are contrary not only to American values, but to human rights across the globe, and they are carried out as a matter of policy."

Rep. Chris Smith and Sen. Marco Rubio have also issued statements cautioning that China's move to a two-child policy will not end brutal, coercive population control.  

Rep. Smith, chairman of the House subcommittee that oversees human rights and chairman of the Congressional-Executive China Commission, held a hearing entitled "China's One-Child Policy: The Government's Massive Crime Against Women and Unborn Babies." Smith explained, "The policy has directly contributed to what is accurately described as gendercide – the deliberate extermination of a girl, born or unborn, simply because she happens to be female."

In October, Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio criticized China's two-child policy. "The policy is still repressive," Rubio explained. "The fact remains that when couples conceive a third child, the Chinese government will force them to eliminate him or her, by any means necessary."

Rubio concluded, "A two-child policy is as indefensible and inhumane as a one-child policy, and it would be a mistake to assume this change in any way reflects a newfound respect for human rights by Beijing. The U.S. must continue advocating for the complete elimination of government-forced population planning."

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Irish children’s minister joins call for nation to abandon pro-life constitution

Steve Weatherbe
By Steve Weatherbe

DUBLIN, November 25, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) – Ireland's health minister has joined the chorus of feminist groups calling for a referendum to repeal the country's 30-year-old Eighth Amendment, a part of the Constitution, which allows abortion only when the mother's life is directly threatened.

Children's Minister Dr. James Reilly told the Sunday Independent that despite the reluctance of the major parties (including his own Fine Gael) to support a referendum, the public wants it. "We have had more than 30 years on this and we really need political leadership on this issue. I think it is quite clear from opinion polls that the vast majority of people are way ahead of politicians on this."

Reilly said women carrying unborn babies with fatal abnormalities should be allowed to have abortions, regardless of whether delivery poses a risk to their lives or health.

But Cora Sherlock, the head of the Prolife Campaign, told LifeSiteNews, "It is not something the people really want; it is not coming from the grassroots, but from a few pressure groups like Amnesty International. The people of Ireland have always had a heart for the unborn."

Pro-abortion activist Sinead Kennedy of the Repeal the Eighth Coalition said every politician should declare his or her position. "We would like to see political parties in the run up to the election [expected in spring] come out and declare that this will be [a] red-line issue for any participation in government."

In fact, in September, Ireland's Taoiseach, or prime minister, Enda Kenny, said his government, if re-elected, will hold a referendum on the Eighth Amendment only if a workable alternative is advanced at the same time.

Sherlock noted that despite an "aggressive campaign" from Amnesty Ireland and its uncritical promotion by the news media, popular support for the referendum is waning. A poll published by the Sunday Independent on Nov. 22 showed 56% in favor of the referendum, down 10% from June, with 22% opposed.

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Support for abortion in specific cases is also down: in cases of fatal abnormalities in the unborn baby, support for abortion is down 9% to 55%; when the mother threatens suicide, it is down 4% to 68%; and when there is a long-term threat to the mother's health, support is down 5% to 64%.

"I think it is going down because people are becoming aware of the Planned Parenthood stories from the U.S., and of Kermit Gosnell," Sherlock said, in reference to the videos showing America's leading abortion provider trafficking in body parts from aborted babies, and to the abortionist convicted of multiple murders of babies who survived his botched abortions only to be executed by him and his staff afterwards. "The news media don't like to cover those stories, but the social media has a mind of its own," she added.

Last year, several government ministers declared that the people of Ireland had "no appetite" or "little appetite" for a referendum; however, they might vote if it were held anyway. They promised there would be no referendum before the 2016 election and even warned against making it an election issue, which was the case in 1983 with the referendum that put Amendment Eight in the Constitution in the first place.

The Eighth Amendment declares the unborn child's life as equal to, and equally worthy of protection as, the life of the mother. The vagueness of this formula led the current government to pass a law two years ago allowing abortion when the mother's life is at risk, including at risk by suicide, right up to the day of a child's birth.

Popular opinion still opposed abortion as late as 2007, but by 2012, support for abortion had risen to 85%. Lately, Amnesty International has lent its reputation to the push for a referendum, leading Sherlock to predict, "Amnesty will be the loser when the hypocrisy of a so-called human rights group attacking the unborn becomes evident and when people see that they are only willing to talk about teenage pregnancy, but not about the unborn, not about the Planned Parenthood videos nor Kermit Gosnell, and about how these go hand in hand with abortion on request."


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