Hilary White

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Pope to French bishops: ‘Religious ignorance…one of the gravest problems of our time’

Hilary White
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ROME, December 6, 2012, (LifeSiteNews.com) – Ignorance of the Christ and His teachings have created an inability to understand the history, culture, and artistic heritage of European people, Pope Benedict XVI told a group of visiting French bishops on November 30th. This ignorance, which has been identified as a leading stumbling block by pro-life and pro-family advocates in Europe, leaves Europeans unable “to recognize themselves as heirs to this tradition,” which has shaped European society.

It is, moreover, a “double ignorance” both of Jesus Christ Himself, and about the “sublimity of his teachings, their universal and permanent value in the quest for the meaning of life and happiness.” Pope Benedict encouraged the laity to study theology, calling it a source of “wisdom, joy and wonder” not restricted to priests and seminarians.

With the French Socialist government promising to create “gay marriage” before next year, the pope in his addresses this year to visiting French bishops has focused on the conflict between the two warring conceptions of the family: the modern secularist notion that it can be any combination of persons living together in a sexual relationship and the traditional Judeo-Christian concept that it is founded in the biological and ontological nature of human anthropology.

In such debates, he said, “the voice of the Church must make itself heard ceaselessly and with determination.”

“The harmony between faith and reason gives you special reassurance,” he said. “The message of Christ and His Church is not merely a religious identity that demands to be respected as such; it carries also the wisdom that permits us to provide concrete answers to the pressing and sometimes troubling questions of our times.”

“There is also the enormous challenge of living in a society which does not always share the teachings of Christ and at times ridicules and marginalizes the Church in the attempt to confine her to an exclusively private sphere. To face these immense challenges, the Church needs credible witnesses,” the pope said.

In September, the pope told another group of French bishops, “The family is threatened by a conception of human nature that is proven to be faulty.”

“Defending the family and life in society is prophetic and anything but regressive. Marriage and the family are institutions that must be promoted and defended from every possible misrepresentation of their true nature, since whatever is harmful to them will in fact be injurious to society itself.”

Pope Benedict’s November 30th address was the last of a series of three “ad limina” visits from the bishops of France in the last year. In it, the pope also noted the growth of a renewal movement in France and elsewhere in “encouraging…signs of vitality and involvement of the laity in French society.”

The necessary renewal of the Catholic faith, the pope said, must involve the renewal of family and parish life, and he challenged the bishops to act boldly in the context of a larger culture of “relativism and hedonism.”

Benedict called on the French bishops to consider more seriously the looming threat of a priestless Church and do more to promote vocations to the priesthood within a context of fidelity to the Church’s magisterium. He highlighted the importance of the liturgical celebration and its “contribution to the civilizing work” of the Church, emphasizing how “respect for its established norms expresses love and fidelity to the faith of the Church.”

“The beauty of her celebrations, far more than innovations and subjective adjustments, constitutes a durable and effective form of evangelization.”

Observers have long noted that the renewal in Catholic France is happening largely on the “traditional” end, with a growing number of new seminarians interested in learning and promoting the pre-1960s version of the Church’s liturgical customs and devotions. They are also notable for their enthusiasm for a more rigorously orthodox approach to the Church’s moral teachings.

Currently the numbers paint a grim picture for the future of the Church. In 1966, just after the close of the Second Vatican Council, there were 4,536 seminarians in France. In 2011, the total number of French seminarians is down to 710, a decline of 85 percent and the lowest numbers since the French Revolution.

This year the French bishops announced that only 96 diocesan priests would be ordained, down from 109 the previous year, representing an 11 per cent drop. Meanwhile, roughly 800 French diocesan priests retire or die every year.

Of the remaining seminarians, however, approximately one third are formally attached to one of the communities set up to accommodate the more traditional forms of liturgy and practice.

Joseph Meaney, a French citizen and the Director of International Coordination at Human Life International’s Rome office, told LifeSiteNews.com that the situation in France is at a critical juncture and that sooner or later the country once called the “eldest daughter of the Church” will again be declared “mission territory.”

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“There are many dioceses which will literally not have enough priests to serve their territories,” Meaney said. “There will be a need to send in missionaries from other countries that are French speaking, which means mostly African countries.”

“There are priests available around the Church,” he said, but in recent decades there has been a strong antipathy among the French episcopate to allowing priests from other countries to come in. “Generally, there’s an ideological position there. They only wanted people with a certain background, a certain pastoral practice that fit with their viewpoints, usually a fairly liberal one. So they weren’t really open to allowing other groups in.”

“That obviously is going to have to change,” Meaney said. He noted the growing acceptance by several French bishops who have started allowing in new congregations who hold a more traditional mindset.

But the French Church has an uphill climb with France continuing to be “heavily influenced” by secularism, Meaney added. The work of the pro-life movement in France face great obstacles created by the “very militant” separation of Church and state, called laïcité, as distinct from other European countries—a holdover, he said, of the French Revolution.

The government of France, he said, “sees itself as almost antagonistic” towards the Church. Whether a “right-wing or left-wing government, the Church is not allowed much social space in France.” Bishops making any public comment are open to harsh criticism for breaching the rules of laïcité.

As the French population continues to drop its participation in Catholic life, Meaney said, the room for the Church to operate becomes even more restricted. The fact that most of the French population was Catholic was “all that kept the government from doing even more than they are now,” Meaney said.

“But now, fewer and fewer people attend Mass and receive the sacraments and the fear by government of offending the large majority of the Catholic population goes down as well.” It is clear, he said, that the situation as it is cannot continue in France. “Something in either direction is going to give.”



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Planned Parenthood closes Iowa abortion facility because of low business

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DUBUQUE, Iowa, May 3, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – Planned Parenthood closed an Iowa abortion facility on Friday, noting low business that left the facility unsustainable from a financial standpoint.

Although Planned Parenthood of the Heartland announced in January that it planned to close the Dubuque, Iowa, office, pro-life sidewalk counselors were overjoyed on Friday to read the sign in the window that read: “Our office is closed, effective April 28, 2016.”

The office did not perform surgical abortions but did provide medication abortions to the community of about 58,000.

“Rejoice with us for the lives of unborn children saved!” Iowa Right to Life said in a statement after the closure.

As with numerous other closures, Planned Parenthood, which styles itself a provider of “care no matter what,” emphasized it was closing its doors to preserve its bottom line.

“After assessing the shifting health care landscape, changing demographics, and the challenges of operating in areas with low patient volumes, we made the tough decision to close the Dubuque Health Center,” the group said in an announcement. “This change allows us to expand hours and see more patients in Cedar Rapids, where there is unmet demand due to lack of clinician hours.”
“While we regret making this change, we know it is a necessary step in order to continue our mission to provide, promote and protect reproductive and sexual health through health services, education and advocacy. Patients have been notified, and if they wish, they can receive a broader array of services at our health center in Cedar Rapids, where we have expanded hours to accommodate more patient,” Planned Parenthood said.

American Life League’s vice president, Jim Sedlak, remembers speaking to the county right to life group nine years ago.

“I told them at the time that they needed to protest outside Planned Parenthood at least once a week,” he said. “They told me they would do better than that. Over the last eight years, these dedicated pro-lifers were outside Planned Parenthood every hour it was open. And now...it’s closed for good.”

That aligns with advice that David Bereit, the founder of 40 Days for Life, once told young people who wanted to know how to end abortion.

Be loving and compassionate, he said.

Your peaceful, loving presence out there flies in the face of all the stereotypes they want to throw onto us,” he added. “When you show them love instead of condemnation, when you show them peace and joy instead of anger and judgment, that will begin to break down the walls.”

Iowa Right to Life credited just such tactics with closing an office in Red Oak that performed webcam abortions. “Planned Parenthood shut down in Red Oak in large part because of the constant, prayerful presence outside their clinic,” the group said.

Upon hearing of the latest abortion facility shuttering, the Dubuque County Right to Life said that Planned Parenthood isn't the only group that will move its base of operations. “We will probably put our efforts in Cedar Rapids and will continue to spread the pro-life message,” said Executive Director Marian Bourek.



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Ted Cruz confronted by mom who supports aborting disabled babies…just like hers

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MARION, Indiana, May 3, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – Senator Ted Cruz was met on the campaign trail by a mother who strongly opposed a state pro-life law that would have protected children with birth conditions – like her own.

Andrea DeBruler, a 41-year-old nurse, confronted the presidential hopeful in the city of Marion as Cruz campaigned with Gov. Mike Pence.

DeBruler first asked Cruz, then Pence, about House Bill 1337, which bans abortions performed due to the child's race, sex, or disability, such as Down syndome.

DeBruler held up a picture of her daughter, Jania, who was born with cerebral palsy. “This was a choice,” she said.

She asked Sen. Cruz if he supported the bill, which made Indiana the second state in the nation to ban abortion for Down syndrome, after North Dakota.

“I'm not Governor Pence,” he replied. “But I'll tell you this: I believe in protecting human life.”

Pence, who endorsed Cruz in today's make-or-break Indiana primary, listened to her objections.

“I'm not here as a Republican, I'm not here as a Democrat. I'm here as a woman, a woman with choices, choices that you guys should not make,” DeBruler said.

After hearing that she felt many families lacked sufficient resources to care for children, especially in an area like Marion, Gov. Pence offered to connect her with social services.

“God bless her,” he said, looking at Jania's picture, “and God bless you.”

Though it may be unusual to encounter a woman arguing for the right to abort her own child, the governor handled it calmly. Pence had specifically reflected on “precious moments” he spent with “families of children with disabilities, especially those raising children with Down syndrome” when he signed the bill into law in March.

"We are truly thankful for the passage of this historic legislation by the Indiana House and applaud the new civil rights protections this bill creates for unborn children, as well as the new provisions this bill establishes for the humane final disposition of aborted babies," Indiana Right to Life President Mike Fichter said at the time.

DeBruler told the UK media outlet The Independent that H.B. 1337 “means you can no longer have an abortion based on deformity. I’m against this law, because I think it should be a woman’s choice” to abort for any reason.

Congressional Democrats made similar statements during hearings last month for Rep. Trent Franks' federal Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act (PRENDA), with Congressman John Conyers saying the bill is “patently unconstitutional,” because a woman has the right to abort a child before viability for any reason.

Both leading contenders for the Democratic nomination expressed their displeasure with the law, which protects unborn children from racial or sexual discrimination, as well as discrimination on the basis of an inborn trait like mental capacity.

When Gov. Pence signed the law, Sen. Bernie Sanders tweeted:

Hillary Clinton later said, “I commend the women of this state, young and old, for standing up against this governor and this legislature.”

DeBruler told The Independent, despite her comment about not being a Democrat or a Republican, she is in fact a Democrat and will vote for Hillary Clinton in today's primary. 



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This year, as Notre Dame prepares to confer an honor on Vice President Joe Biden, the silence from the Catholic hierarchy is deafening. Drop of Light / Shutterstock.com
Phil Lawler

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The moral challenge to Cardinal Wuerl in pending Notre Dame outrage

Phil Lawler

Ask Notre Dame not to honor pro-abortion Vice President Joe Biden. Sign the petition!

May 3, 2016 (CatholicCulture) -- In 2009, when the University of Notre Dame invited President Barack Obama to deliver a commencement address, dozens of American bishops lodged loud public protests. Yet this year, as Notre Dame prepares to confer an even greater honor on Vice President Joe Biden (together with former House Speaker John Boehner), the silence from the hierarchy is deafening.

Back in 2009, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Houston said that Notre Dame’s invitation to President Obama was “very disappointing,”, while then-Archbishop Timothy Dolan termed it a “big mistake.” The late Bishop John D’Arcy, then leader of the Indiana diocese in which the university is located, spoke of “the terrible breach which has taken place between Notre Dame and the Church.” For the first time in his 25 years of service to the Fort Wayne-South Bend diocese, Bishop D’Arcy declined to attend the Notre Dame commencement exercises; instead he addressed a protest rally organized by pro-life students, faculty, alumni, and staff.

These prelates and others explained their dismay by referring to the statement “Catholics in Political Life,” released in 2004 by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops. In that document, the bishops reflected on the need to maintain a consistent public witness in defense of human life, and therefore to distance themselves from public officials who support legal abortion. The statement set forth a clear policy that Catholic institutions should not give public honors to “pro-choice” politicians:

The Catholic community and Catholic institutions should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles. They should not be given awards, honors or platforms which would suggest support for their actions.

By giving President Obama an honorary degree and offering him an opportunity to speak at graduation, Notre Dame clearly violated that policy. University officials could offer only garbled partial defenses, claiming that they were honoring Obama not because he supports unrestricted abortion, but because he is President of the United States.

This year the university cannot offer even that lame defense of the decision to award the Laetare Medal to Vice President Biden. Unlike Obama, Biden is a Catholic, and by granting him this award the university is explicitly saying that the Vice President has “illustrated the ideals of the Church and enriched the heritage of humanity.” In other words, Notre Dame is honoring Vice President Biden as a Catholic political leader despite his unwavering support for abortion and same-sex marriage.

Give credit to Bishop Kevin Rhoades, the current leader of the Fort Wayne-South Bend diocese, for raising a lonely voice of protest. “I believe it is wrong for Notre Dame to honor any ‘pro-choice’ public official with the Laetare Medal, even if he/she has other positive accomplishments in public service,” Bishop Rhoades said. But if any other bishops have joined him in that rebuke to Notre Dame, I must have missed their public announcements.

Some observers, of liberal political sympathies, have argued that it is wrong to honor John Boehner, too, because the former Speaker disagreed with the US bishops’ stand on immigration. This is a tired old argument, conflating disagreement with the bishops on a prudential political decision with defiance of Church teaching on a fundamental moral principle. But it is noteworthy that Notre Dame officials saw fit to make a joint award, no doubt in a cynical effort to dodge political criticism by choosing one honoree from each side of the political spectrum.

“We live in a toxic political environment where poisonous invective and partisan gamesmanship pass for political leadership,” said Father John Jenkins, the president of Notre Dame, in announcing the Laetare Award recipients. (Notice the pre-emptive suggestion that those who criticize the school’s choices may be engaged in “poisonous invective.”) He went on to make a tortured argument that although Notre Dame is honoring two politicians, it is not honoring them for what they have done in their political careers:

In recognizing both men, Notre Dame is not endorsing the policy positions of either, but celebrating two lives dedicated to keeping our democratic institutions working for the common good through dialogue focused on the issues and responsible compromise.

By now we all know the familiar dodges. The politician claims to oppose abortion personally, but to feel a delicate reticence about imposing his views on others. He says that we must be willing to compromise (even on life-and-death decisions). He insists that he is not “pro-abortion” but “pro-choice.”

That last bubble of rhetoric was unceremoniously burst by Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, DC, when he celebrated Mass at Georgetown after Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richard had delivered a lecture there. “The word ‘choice’ is a smokescreen,” he said, “behind which those killing unborn children take refuge. Every chance you get, blow that smoke away!”

Now Cardinal Wuerl himself has a chance to “blow that smoke away.” As things stand, he is scheduled to celebrate Mass at the Notre Dame commencement, and to receive an honorary degree. He could pull out; he could absent himself from the ceremonies, to ensure that he does not become part of an event that pays homage to a “pro-choice” Catholic politician.

And there is a precedent. Back in 2009, the Harvard legal scholar (and former US ambassador to the Holy See) Mary Ann Glendon was chosen to receive the Laetare Award. But when she learned that President Obama would be speaking, she announced her decision to decline the award. Clearly annoyed that her presence might be used to quiet the critics of the honor for Obama, Ambassador Glendon wrote that she did not want to be used as a counterweight, nor did she see the Notre Dame commencement as an appropriate venue for a genteel debate about legal abortion:

A commencement, however, is supposed to be a joyous day for the graduates and their families. It is not the right place, nor is a brief acceptance speech the right vehicle, for engagement with the very serious problems raised by Notre Dame’s decision—in disregard of the settled position of the U.S. bishops—to honor a prominent and uncompromising opponent of the Church’s position on issues involving fundamental principles of justice.

Could Cardinal Wuerl do this year what Ambassador Glendon did in 2009? Even at this late date, his withdrawal would send a powerful message of support for the right to life: an unmistakable rebuke to politicians who hide behind the smokescreen that the cardinal himself identified. To be sure, if he did withdraw, the cardinal would be caught in an avalanche of public criticism; he would suffer for his public witness. But there is a reason why cardinals wear red.

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at CatholicCulture.org. Reprinted with permission from Catholic Culture.



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