Hilary White

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

Hilary White
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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John-Henry Westen John-Henry Westen Follow John-Henry

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Pope Francis eases forgiveness of abortion for Jubilee Year of Mercy

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By John-Henry Westen

ROME, September 1, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) -- In an announcement today, Pope Francis said that he is enacting an Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy from December 8, 2015 through November 2016. As part of the Jubilee, the pope has allowed priests to forgive the sin of abortion, which St. John Paul II taught in Evangelium Vitae (paragraph 58) is “murder.”

The statement marks the most extensive remarks on abortion that Pope Francis has made during his pontificate. Rather than downplaying the seriousness of abortion, as some media contend, in the statement the pope encourages the millions of women who have aborted their children to go to confession and seek God’s forgiveness.

In the Catechism, the Church calls abortion a “criminal” practice, and imposes the penalty of excommunication on those who do it -- essentially, removing those who commit abortions from the Church. In the past, typically re-entry into the Church for those who have separated themselves from it by excommunication can only be undertaken by a bishop. However in much of North America priests have already been given standing permission by their bishops to forgive abortion.

Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput explained in an email sent to LifeSiteNews today, “For many years now, parish priests have been given permission to absolve the sin of abortion here in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.” The Philadelphia archbishop, who will play host to Pope Francis during the pontiff’s visit later this month added, “But the practice has not been common in various other regions of the world.”

“This action in no way diminishes the moral gravity of abortion,” concluded Chaput. “What it does do is make access to sacramental forgiveness easier for anyone who seeks it with a truly penitent heart.”

The pope declared that all priests may forgive the sin of abortion for “those who have procured it and who with contrite heart, seek forgiveness for it.'"

The pope says in his letter that abortion is a “tragedy” wherein “extreme harm” takes place, and calls it “profoundly unjust.”  He admits however, as does the pro-life movement, that it is an “agonizing and painful decision” and many women “believe that they have no other option.”

In order to be forgiven by God of such a serious offence, the pope says the one who has procured the abortion must be made aware of the “gravity of the sin committed” and be truly repentant. They must come, says Francis, with a “contrite heart, seek forgiveness for” the abortion and hoping for “reconciliation with the Father.”

The full statement from the Pope on the matter of abortion follows:

One of the serious problems of our time is clearly the changed relationship with respect to life. A widespread and insensitive mentality has led to the loss of the proper personal and social sensitivity to welcome new life. The tragedy of abortion is experienced by some with a superficial awareness, as if not realizing the extreme harm that such an act entails. Many others, on the other hand, although experiencing this moment as a defeat, believe they they have no other option. I think in particular of all the women who have resorted to abortion. I am well aware of the pressure that has led them to this decision. I know that it is an existential and moral ordeal. I have met so many women who bear in their heart the scar of this agonizing and painful decision. What has happened is profoundly unjust; yet only understanding the truth of it can enable one not to lose hope. The forgiveness of God cannot be denied to one who has repented, especially when that person approaches the Sacrament of Confession with a sincere heart in order to obtain reconciliation with the Father. For this reason too, I have decided, notwithstanding anything to the contrary, to concede to all priests for the Jubilee Year the discretion to absolve of the sin of abortion those who have procured itand who, with contrite heart, seek forgiveness for it. May priests fulfil this great task by expressing words of genuine welcome combined with a reflection that explains the gravity of the sin committed, besides indicating a path of authentic conversion by which to obtain the true and generous forgiveness of the Father who renews all with his presence.

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TLC stars Kody Brown and his four "wives"
Fr. Mark Hodges

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Surprise, surprise: New suit says gay ‘marriage’ ruling laid ground for legal polygamy

Fr. Mark Hodges
By Fr. Mark Hodges

SALT LAKE CITY, UT, September 1, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) – When "The Pill" was made available to the public in 1964, Christians warned it could lead to promiscuity and disassociation of sex with marriage and children.  They were ridiculed as religious fanatics.

When abortion was made legal throughout all nine months of pregnancy in 1973, Christians warned that it would not save women's lives, but would instead lead to devaluing all human life, especially children's lives. They were dismissed as moral-legislating hate-mongers.

When euthanasia was legalized in Oregon and other states, Christians warned that the non-terminally ill and eventually the mentally handicapped, or simply the unwanted, would be killed in the name of mercy. They were mocked as right-wing crazies.

When sodomy laws in Texas and elsewhere were stricken from the books in 2003, Christians warned that societal approval of that harmful practice would lead to an increase in disease and further perversion. They were ignored and vilified.

When DADT (Don't Ask Don't Tell) rules for the military were reversed, Christians warned that the epidemic of rapes in the armed services would increase, not decrease, and that combat readiness would continue to diminish. They were called bigots, their words "hate speech."

And so on. Recent history is rife with examples of conservatives warning against societal degradation being vilified as "slippery slope" straw man creators, who want only to legislate morality.

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That's how those who warned that the Supreme Court's same-sex "marriage" decision would lead to legalization of any and all kinds of "marriage," such as a man and several wives or vice versa.

And, as in every case cited above, what Christian conservatives warned is exactly what has now happened.

In a U.S. 10th Circuit court filing, reality TV polygamist Kody Brown and his wives point to the U.S. Supreme Court's historic ruling on same-sex marriage to buttress their pro-polygamy case.

Peter LaBarbera, president of Americans for Truth, summarized to LifeSiteNews, "The left's chaotic cultural agenda knows no boundaries. Once 'marriage' could be redefined to accommodate sexual perversion, it would be impossible to stop other perversions from being recognized." 

The American Family Association's Ed Vitagliano told LifeSiteNews, "It has been clear for decades that sexual radicals in America have been targeting the God-ordained institution of marriage for destruction. Toss in a handful of U.S. Supreme Court rulings, beginning in 2003 (Lawrence v. Texas), and ending with this summer's debacle (Obergefell v. Hodges), and we are on the verge of seeing the secularists succeed." 

The AFA executive vice president concluded to LifeSiteNews, "We have no doubt that the polygamists will be next to step into the federal courts."

Indeed. Brown and his four wives, Meri, Janelle, Christine, and Robyn, have asked the court to uphold a judge's ruling striking down part of Utah's law against polygamy. To prove their case, they cite precedents involving same-sex marriage (United States v. Windsor and Obergefell v. Hodges), and a case that struck down a ban on sodomy (Lawrence v. Texas).

"From the rejection of morality legislation in Lawrence, to the expansion of the protections of liberty interests in Obergefell, it is clear that states can no longer use criminal codes to ... punish those who choose to live in consensual but unpopular unions," Brown's filing states. "This case is about the criminalization of consensual relations."

LaBarbera told LifeSiteNews that the move to legalize polygamy is no surprise. "Once the argument for homosexual so-called 'marriage' became 'Love Is Love,' it was only a matter of time before multiple-partner activists would start defending the 'right' to have THEIR [perversion of] 'love' legitimized by state-recognized 'marriage.'"

The Browns, who appear on the television show "Sister Wives," sued the state of Utah over its ban on polygamy, which Brown calls "plural relationships." They argue that the law violates their right to freely practice their religion and their right to equal protection under the law.

Specifically, Brown is challenging the state's assertion that polygamy is harmful to societies that condone it.

Brown argues that the state should not have "the right to impose criminal morality codes on citizens, compelling them to live their lives in accordance with the religious or social values of the majority of citizens."

LaBarbera concluded, "Social conservatives and Christians must work to overturn Obergefell, just like homosexual activists worked to overturn the Supreme Court's Bowers v. Hardwick decision in 1986 that allowed anti-sodomy laws. Otherwise, we are guaranteed to lose more and more freedoms as 'gay' power grows, using legalized 'marriage' as leverage."

Arguments in the Brown polygamy case could take place before the 10th Circuit Court in Denver before the end of the year.

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Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-KY, speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, MD, on March 6, 2014. Christopher Halloran / Shutterstock.com
Dustin Siggins Dustin Siggins Follow Dustin

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Sen. McConnell: GOP won’t push Obama on Planned Parenthood defunding

Dustin Siggins Dustin Siggins Follow Dustin
By Dustin Siggins

WASHINGTON, D.C., September 1, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) -- Planned Parenthood won't lose its funding for at least 18 months, says America's top senator.

Speaking on WYMT TV, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-KY, said, "The president’s made it very clear he’s not going to sign any bill that includes defunding of Planned Parenthood, so that’s another issue that awaits a new president, hopefully with a different point of view about Planned Parenthood."

“We just don’t have the votes to get the outcome that we’d like,” he said. “Again, the president has the pen to sign it. If he doesn’t sign it, it doesn’t happen. But, yeah, we voted on that already in the Senate, we’ll vote on it again, but I would remind all of your viewers the way you make a law in this country, the Congress has to pass it and the president has to sign it.”

McConnell's comments came despite pressure from Senators and Representatives alike, as well as pro-life groups, who want Republicans to make defunding a priority.

"If the president of the United States and Harry Reid think it's more important that Planned Parenthood get your tax dollars than to pay our troops, then they are shutting down the government,” Freedom Caucus leader Jim Jordan, R-OH, told CNN last week.

Jordan and others have pushed GOP leaders to attach defunding efforts to must-pass pieces of legislation, such as a highway bill earlier this summer and the upcoming Continuing Resolution to keep the federal government running. GOP leaders have generally opposed this strategy, which has created a schism within the party.

Conversely, Democrats have been largely united. Leaders and rank-and-file members in both parties have generally supported taxpayer funding of the abortion giant, despite the possibility of illegal abortions being done to illegally harvest fetal organs and other body parts.

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