Hilary White, Rome Correspondent

Radical feminist nuns’ group ‘stunned’ by Vatican criticisms, reform plan

Hilary White, Rome Correspondent
Hilary White, Rome Correspondent
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VATICAN CITY, April 19, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The announcement yesterday by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) that one of the most notoriously liberal radical feminist organizations in the American Catholic Church is to be the subject of a major reform effort has been met with surprise from the group and condemnation from some of its members. 

An initial statement from the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) leadership says they are “stunned” by the critical comments made by the CDF in their doctrinal assessment. The CDF had specifically criticized the organization for its refusal to accept Catholic teaching on abortion, human sexuality and women’s ordination.

“Because the leadership of LCWR has the custom of meeting annually with the staff of CDF in Rome and because the conference follows canonically-approved statutes, we were taken by surprise,” the LCWR said in a statement. The leadership will meet in the next month to consider a comprehensive response.

Individual members, however, have been prompt in condemning the Vatican’s interest. Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of NETWORK, a lobbying group of U.S. Catholic nuns cited as problematic in the CDF’s report, told the Washington Post, “It’s painfully obvious that the leadership of the church is not used to having educated women form thoughtful opinions and engage in dialogue.”

Benedictine sister Joan Chittister, a prolific author and the unofficial spokesman of the extreme feminist left among Catholic women religious, told the National Catholic Reporter, “When you set out to reform a people, a group, who have done nothing wrong, you have to have an intention, a motivation that is not only not morally based, but actually immoral.”

Chittister called the CDF’s proposals an attempt “to control people for one thing and one thing only – and that is for thinking, for being willing to discuss the issues of the age.”

“If we stop thinking, if we stop demanding the divine right to think, and to see that as a Catholic gift, then we are betraying the church no matter what the powers of the church see as an inconvenient truth in their own times.”

In an interview with LifeSiteNews.com in 2010, Chittister had said that while she is personally “against” abortion, “I would never condemn a woman who finds herself in the position where she believes that, or her doctor believes that, abortion is the only answer for her at that moment.”  She also criticized the Catholic Church as being based “on a patriarchal system” and described her admitted divergence from Catholic teaching as a “position of query, of theological and scriptural commitment and search.”

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While the LCWR leadership and supporters say they are surprised, others have noted that reform of the religious life has been a prominent feature of Pope Benedict’s papacy. Among his earliest acts as pope was the launching of a reforming investigation into the wealthy and influential Legion of Christ, founded by the now-disgraced, late Marcial Maciel, after years of accusations of misconduct.

One Vatican source told LifeSiteNews.com that while some may consider this action against LCWR typical of an “ultra-conservative” pope acting to suppress the liberal factions, “It should be remembered that Benedict’s first target was the Legionaries and Maciel, then the darlings of the conservative end of the Church.”

LCWR was founded in 1956 and approved by the Vatican as an umbrella organization representing sisters and nuns in the U.S. Its 1500 members are members of congregations representing over 80 percent of the 59,000 Catholic women religious in the United States. Since the 1960s, however, the LCWR has become the de facto representative of the far left in the U.S. Catholic Church, with its membership dedicated to, in the words of the CDF, “certain radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith,” and “policies of corporate dissent,” from Catholic teaching.

CDF prefect Cardinal Levada said he had received many letters from women religious in the U.S. complaining about Catholic teaching. “The terms of the letters,” he wrote, “suggest that these sisters collectively take a position not in agreement with the Church’s teaching on human sexuality.

“It is a serious matter when these Leadership Teams are not providing effective leadership and example to their communities, but place themselves outside the Church’s teaching.”

The document from the CDF outlines the Vatican’s plan to spend the next five years reforming the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR).

Seattle Archbishop Peter Sartain has been appointed to oversee the reform of the organization, which will involve revising its statutes, creating new programs, reviewing and offering guidance on liturgy and reviewing LCWR’s affiliations with other organizations, citing specifically NETWORK and the Resource Center for Religious Institutes.

The announcement comes at a delicate time in the relations between the US Catholic Church and LCWR, with the latter endorsing the Obama administration’s health care plans and former leading a fight against the administration’s plans to impose birth control coverage on Catholic institutions and fund abortion in the health reform law. This conflict of interest seems to be in the mind of the CDF, which has an American, William Levada, as cardinal prefect. The document noted, “occasional public statements by the LCWR that disagree with or challenge positions taken by the Bishops, who are the Church’s authentic teachers of faith and morals, are not compatible with its purpose.”

The CDF said that the sisters represented by the LCWR, 80 percent of the remaining female Catholic religious in the US, are “in crisis.” They have moved away from the fundamental purpose of their existence as Catholic religious and are suffering from “a diminution of the fundamental Christological center and focus of religious consecration,” it said.

“While there has been a great deal of work on the part of LCWR promoting issues of social justice in harmony with the Church’s social doctrine, it is silent on the right to life from conception to natural death, a question that is part of the lively public debate about abortion and euthanasia in the United States,” the document said.

If the LCWR leadership says it is “stunned” by the outcome of the CDF’s investigation, the reaction is possibly the result of statements previously coming from the Vatican itself. Following several negative reactions from LCWR sisters after the investigation was announced, the recently appointed Secretary of the Congregation for Religious, Archbishop Joseph Tobin, said that he anticipated no censure from Rome as a result.

“I can say that I would be very surprised if anybody would purport to give any punitive or overly prescriptive norms as a result of this visitation,” he said. “If the visitors, in dialogue with the sisters, have identified some specific issues that need to be dealt with, okay. But forcing people into habits or something like that? That’s not what this is about.”

Tobin also said that strong actions against American women’s religious orders “would be really disrespectful of what women religious in America have accomplished,” and that the “depth of anger and hurt that exists among the sisters ... can’t be ignored.”

Archbishop Tobin had previously told journalists that the animosity between the US religious orders and the Vatican is the Vatican’s fault. The real problem, he said, was the presence of “unscrupulous canonical advisers” in the Vatican.

Two years after Archbishop Tobin reassured LCWR, Mother Clare Millea, the sister appointed in 2008 by the Vatican to coordinate the Apostolic Visitation of all the U.S. active religious orders, issued a statement saying, “Although there are concerns in religious life that warrant support and attention, the enduring reality is one of fidelity, joy, and hope.”

She told Catholic journalist Ann Carey in January this year, “The dialogue promoted by the apostolic visitation is just a beginning of new vitality in religious life. I am confident that much more will unfold with the passing of time and that the Holy Spirit will continue to work in and through women religious to strengthen unity within the Church and further the saving mission of Christ.”

“As I learned of and observed firsthand the perseverance of the religious in the United States in their vocations, in their ministries and in their faith … I have been both inspired and humbled,” she added.

The situation of the Catholic sisterhoods in the U.S. has been in flux since the closing of the Second Vatican Council in 1965 ushered in a maelstrom of change. This change, while frequently lauded as “prophetic” by the LCWR sisters themselves, has seen the near-total collapse of the Catholic religious life, and after 40 years, the closure or effective secularization of hundreds, if not thousands, of schools, nursing homes, hospitals, colleges and other Catholic charitable institutions, including convents.

In the intervening decades, while new vocations became more rare, the religious orders turned their attention largely to political interests, with the sisters themselves focusing on an array of left-liberal and secular causes. Meanwhile, the average median age of women in LCWR institutes is now 74, and many of the LCWR-represented congregations are no longer accepting applicants, choosing instead to merge with other orders or shut down their operations entirely.

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Iowa GOP rep: ‘Nothing worse’ than homeschoolers telling us how to vote

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By Ben Johnson

ANKENY, IA, May 4, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) – In a private e-mail exchange with a concerned parent, Republican state legislator Josh Byrnes of Iowa said there is “nothing worse than homeschool parents” making their views known on public school policy.

The statement came as Jeff Moorman took exception to a pending bill allegedly dealing with “bullying,” the “Bully Free Iowa Act of 2015” (HSB 39).

The proposal would allow school districts to monitor students outside of school hours and punish – or contact law enforcement officials and state bureaucratic agencies over – any communication it deems “bullying” – even if that behavior takes place inside a private residence or on social media. Some of these complaints may be filed without first notifying parents.

School administrators could accuse a child of bullying if any comment dealing with “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” – as well as a broad swath of categories encompassing everything from “behavior, friendship or relationship with others” to “political party preference, political belief...or any other distinguishing characteristic” – created a “hostile school environment.”

Parents are concerned this would lead to teachers and public education union employees launching surveillance of students' Facebook or Twitter accounts for stray comments about homosexuality or transgender status.

“This bill infringes on parental rights” and allows teachers to “invade [a] student's rights and privacy,” Moorman, who is part of the educational watchdog group Iowa for Student Achievement, told State Rep. Byrnes, R-Osage. Moorman said the proposal grants school officials “overreaching authority.”

Rep. Byrnes replied by asking, “Which Ankeny school are your kids part of?”

After Moorman answered his question, Byrnes wrote, “That’s good. I was making sure you didn’t h[om]e school.”

“Nothing worse than homeschool parents trying to tell us legislators how to run public schools when they don’t use them themselves,” State Rep. Byrnes wrote.

Moorman provided the e-mails to the blog Caffeinated Thoughts. The full exchange may be read here.

“Nowhere in the language of the bill does it restrict the school’s scope to just students enrolled in their school district,” wrote Shane Vander Hart, who broke the story. “Homeschooling parents have reason to be concerned.”

He also blasted Byrnes' dismissal of homeschoolers' right to have a voice in the legislative process. “Actually, there’s nothing worse than a state legislator demonstrating he lacks the maturity and temperament to serve in his current office,” he added. “It seems that the fact that homeschooling parents are taxpayers and that in itself gives them the right to weigh-in on any bill – education policy or otherwise.”

The state teachers union supports passage. Jean Hessberg, a spokeswoman for the Iowa State Educational Association, said the union would oppose any provision requiring the school district to report anti-gay or transgender “bullying” to the victims' parents, since they may not know their children were having sex with members of the same sex or choosing to identify as members of the opposite sex.

The bill's supporters are a hybrid of Republicans and Democrats. Despite the strong political backing of Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, a Republican, it has failed to pass the state legislature after numerous attempts. 

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Half of Ohio’s abortion clinics closed due to pro-life laws, abortions down 9%: report

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By Dustin Siggins

COLUMBUS, OH, May 4, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) -- Pro-life laws have dropped the number of abortion facilities in Ohio by nearly 50 percent since 2011, and the number of abortions is down nine percent, the Associated Press reports in a new review. 

Seven out of 16 abortion facilities have closed or stopped providing abortions since 2011. An eighth is embroiled in a legal fight, which makes the nation's seventh-largest state second only to Texas in terms of abortion clinics closed in recent years.

The reduction may be affecting the number of abortions done in Ohio, which have dropped 8.9 percent -- from 25,473 in 2012 to 23,216 in 2013, according to the AP.

Since 2011, Ohio Gov. John Kasich and the GOP-controlled legislature have passed a number of pro-life measures. They include, but are not limited to, laws preventing abortion after a baby can survive outside the womb, and requiring women to listen to fetal heartbeats and have ultrasounds prior to an abortion.

Pro-life legislators in Ohio have continued to push pro-life bills, such as one that would ban abortions when heartbeats can be detected, which happens as early as six weeks.

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The executive director of Ohio's NARAL chapter, Kellie Copeland, says women are having to drive further, sometimes out of state, to get an abortion. She told the AP that the lack of clinics often creates circumstances where women can't get abortions because they cannot get an appointment until after the state's legal limit.

Copeland also says that the difference between the number of abortion clinic closures and the drop in abortions shows women in the state want to have abortions, and that "these laws have all been about creating these false hurdles for clinics to have to jump through."

However, the president of Ohio Right to Life says that it's not just pro-life laws that are making a difference.  Women are choosing life, he said, because of the work by pro-life groups to help them and their children. "It's a combination of a lot of things," Mike Gonidakis told the AP, citing access to health care for the poor and counseling at crisis pregnancy centers. "Our society's changing. More and more women are choosing life."

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‘Too many end in suicide’: The dark history of gender ‘reassignment’

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May 4, 2015 (ThePublicDiscourse.com) -- Bruce Jenner and Diane Sawyer could benefit from a history lesson. I know, because I suffered through “sex change” surgery and lived as a woman for eight years. The surgery fixed nothing—it only masked and exacerbated deeper psychological problems.

The beginnings of the transgender movement have gotten lost today in the push for transgender rights, acceptance, and tolerance. If more people were aware of the dark and troubled history of sex-reassignment surgery, perhaps we wouldn’t be so quick to push people toward it.

The setting for the first transgender surgeries (mostly male-to-female) was in university-based clinics, starting in the 1950s and progressing through the 1960s and the 1970s. When the researchers tallied the results and found no objective proof that it was successful—and, in fact, evidence that it was harmful—the universities stopped offering sex-reassignment surgery.

Since then, private surgeons have stepped in to take their place. Without any scrutiny or accountability for their results, their practices have grown, leaving shame, regret, and suicide in their wake.

The Founding Fathers of the Transgender Movement

The transgender movement began as the brainchild of three men who shared a common bond: all three were pedophilia activists.

The story starts with the infamous Dr. Alfred Kinsey, a biologist and sexologist whose legacy endures today. Kinsey believed that all sex acts were legitimate—including pedophilia, bestiality, sadomasochism, incest, adultery, prostitution, and group sex. He authorized despicable experiments on infants and toddlers to gather information to justify his view that children of any age enjoyed having sex. Kinsey advocated the normalization of pedophilia and lobbied against laws that would protect innocent children and punish sexual predators.

Transsexualism was added to Kinsey’s repertoire when he was presented with the case of an effeminate boy who wanted to become a girl. Kinsey consulted an acquaintance of his, an endocrinologist by the name of Dr. Harry Benjamin. Transvestites, men who dressed as women, were well-known. Kinsey and Benjamin saw this as an opportunity to change a transvestite physically, way beyond dress and make-up. Kinsey and Benjamin became professional collaborators in the first case of what Benjamin would later call “transsexualism.”

Benjamin asked several psychiatric doctors to evaluate the boy for possible surgical procedures to feminize his appearance. They couldn’t come to a consensus on the appropriateness of feminizing surgery. That didn’t stop Benjamin. On his own, he began offering female hormone therapy to the boy. The boy went to Germany for partial surgery, and Benjamin lost all contact with him, making any long-term follow-up impossible.

The Tragic Story of the Reimer Twins

The third co-founder of today’s transgender movement was psychologist Dr. John Money, a dedicated disciple of Kinsey and a member of a transsexual research team headed by Benjamin.

Money’s first transgender case came in 1967 when he was asked by a Canadian couple, the Reimers, to repair a botched circumcision on their two-year-old son, David. Without any medical justification, Money launched into an experiment to make a name for himself and advance his theories about gender, no matter what the consequences to the child. Money told the distraught parents that the best way to assure David’s happiness was to surgically change his genitalia from male to female and raise him as a girl. As many parents do, the Reimers followed their doctor’s orders, and David was replaced with Brenda. Money assured the parents that Brenda would adapt to being a girl and that she would never know the difference. He told them that they should keep it a secret, so they did—at least for a while.

Activist doctors like Dr. Money always look brilliant at first, especially if they control the information that the media report. Money played a skilled game of “catch me if you can,” reporting the success of the boy’s gender change to the medical and scientific community and building his reputation as a leading expert in the emerging field of gender change. It would be decades before the truth was revealed. In reality, David Reimer’s “adaptation” to being a girl was completely different from the glowing reports concocted by Money for journal articles. By age twelve, David was severely depressed and refused to return to see Money. In desperation, his parents broke their secrecy, and told him the truth of the gender reassignment. At age fourteen, David chose to undo the gender change and live as a boy.

In 2000, at the age of thirty-five, David and his twin brother finally exposed the sexual abuse Dr. Money had inflicted on them in the privacy of his office. The boys told how Dr. Money took naked photos of them when they were just seven years old. But pictures were not enough for Money. The pedophilic doctor also forced the boys to engage in incestuous sexual activities with each other.

The consequences of Money’s abuse were tragic for both boys. In 2003, only three years after going public about their tortured past, David’s twin brother, Brian, died from a self-inflicted overdose. A short while later, David also committed suicide. Money had finally been exposed as a fraud, but that didn’t help the grieving parents whose twin boys were now dead.

The exposure of Money’s fraudulent research results and tendencies came too late for people suffering from gender issues, too. Using surgery had become well-established by then, and no one cared that one of its founders was discredited.

Results from Johns Hopkins: Surgery Gives No Relief

Dr. Money became the co-founder of one of the first university-based gender clinics in the United States at Johns Hopkins University, where gender reassignment surgery was performed. After the clinic had been in operation for several years, Dr. Paul McHugh, the director of psychiatry and behavioral science at Hopkins, wanted more than Money’s assurances of success immediately following surgery. McHugh wanted more evidence. Long-term, were patients any better off after surgery?

McHugh assigned the task of evaluating outcomes to Dr. Jon Meyer, the chairman of the Hopkins gender clinic. Meyer selected fifty subjects from those treated at the Hopkins clinic, both those who had undergone gender reassignment surgery and those who had not had surgery. The results of this study completely refuted Money’s claims about the positive outcomes of sex-change surgery. The objective report showed no medical necessity for surgery.

On August 10, 1979, Dr. Meyer announced his results: “To say this type of surgery cures psychiatric disturbance is incorrect. We now have objective evidence that there is no real difference in the transsexual’s adjustments to life in terms of job, educational attainment, marital adjustment and social stability.” He later told The New York Times: “My personal feeling is that the surgery is not a proper treatment for a psychiatric disorder, and it’s clear to me these patients have severe psychological problems that don’t go away following surgery.”

Less than six months later, the Johns Hopkins gender clinic closed. Other university-affiliated gender clinics across the country followed suit, completely ceasing to perform gender reassignment surgery. No success was reported anywhere.

Results from Benjamin’s Colleague: Too Many Suicides

It was not just the Hopkins clinic reporting lack of outcomes from surgery. Around the same time, serious questions about the effectiveness of gender change came from Dr. Harry Benjamin’s partner, endocrinologist Charles Ihlenfeld.

Ihlenfeld worked with Benjamin for six years and administered sex hormones to 500 transsexuals. Ihlenfeld shocked Benjamin by publicly announcing that 80 percent of the people who want to change their gender shouldn’t do it. Ihlenfeld said: “There is too much unhappiness among people who have had the surgery…Too many end in suicide.” Ihlenfeld stopped administering hormones to patients experiencing gender dysphoria and switched specialties from endocrinology to psychiatry so he could offer such patients the kind of help he thought they really needed.

In the wake of the Hopkins study, the closure of the flagship Hopkins clinic, and the warning sounded by Ihlenfeld, advocates of sex change surgery needed a new strategy. Benjamin and Money looked to their friend, Paul Walker, PhD, a homosexual and transgender activist they knew shared their passion to provide hormones and surgery. A committee was formed to draft standards of care for transgenders that furthered their agenda, with Paul Walker at the helm. The committee included a psychiatrist, a pedophilia activist, two plastic surgeons, and a urologist, all of whom would financially benefit from keeping gender reassignment surgery available for anyone who wanted it. The “Harry Benjamin International Standards of Care” were published in 1979 and gave fresh life to gender surgery.

My Experience with Dr. Walker

I myself suffered greatly to come to terms with my gender. In 1981, I sought out Dr. Walker to ask him, the man who wrote the standards of care, for help. Walker said I was suffering from gender dysphoria. A mere two years after both the Hopkins study and the public statements of Ihlenfeld drew attention to the increased suicide risk associated with gender change, Walker, even though he was completely aware of both reports, signed my approval letter for hormones and surgery.

Under his guidance, I underwent gender reassignment surgery and lived for eight years as Laura Jensen, female. Eventually, I gathered the courage to admit that the surgery had fixed nothing—it only masked and exacerbated deeper psychological problems. The deception and lack of transparency I experienced in the 1980s still surround gender change surgery today. For the sake of others who struggle with gender dysphoria, I cannot remain silent.

It is intellectually dishonest to ignore the facts that surgery never has been a medically necessary procedure for treating gender dysphoria and that taking cross-gender hormones can be harmful.  Modern transgender activists, the descendants of Kinsey, Benjamin, and John Money, keep alive the practice of medically unnecessary gender-change surgery by controlling the flow of published information and by squelching research and personal stories that tell of the regret, unhappiness, and suicide experienced by those who undergo such surgery. Negative outcomes are only acknowledged as a way to blame society for its transphobia.

Transgender clients who regret having taken this path are often full of shame and remorse. Those who regret their decision have few places to turn in a world of pro-transgender activism. For me, it took years to muster the courage to stand up and speak out about the regret.

I only wish Dr. Paul Walker had been required to tell me about both reports when I consulted him: the Hopkins study showing surgery did not alleviate severe psychological problems, and Ihlenfeld’s observation of the continuing transgender unhappiness and high incidence of suicide after hormones and surgery. This information might not have stopped me from making that disastrous decision—but at least I would have known the dangers and pain that lay ahead.

Walt Heyer is an author and public speaker with a passion to help others who regret gender change. Through his website, SexChangeRegret.com, and his blog, WaltHeyer.com, Heyer raises public awareness about the incidence of regret and the tragic consequences suffered as a result. Heyer’s story can be read in novel form in Kid Dakota and The Secret at Grandma’s House and in his autobiography, A Transgender’s Faith. Heyer’s other books include Paper Genders and Gender, Lies and SuicideReprinted with permission from The Witherspoon Institute

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