Patrick Craine

Shock, gratitude, prayer: pro-life and Catholic leaders react to a Pope’s surprise resignation

Patrick Craine
Patrick Craine
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ROME, Feb. 11, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) – As Catholics and people of good will across the globe grapple with Pope Benedict XVI’s shocking announcement Monday morning that he will resign the papacy at 8 pm on Feb. 28th, Catholic and pro-life leaders are offering gratitude for his eight years at the helm of the Barque of Peter.

The media frenzy over the first papal resignation in six hundred years has brought a flurry of response from Church commentators. LifeSiteNews has spoken with numerous leaders at the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy for Life as well as top pro-life activists in Europe and North America who urged prayers for Pope Benedict and the whole Church during this near-unprecedented transition period.

In his statement on the Pope’s move, Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York called it “an important moment in our lives as citizens of the world,” and noted Benedict’s tireless defense of human life.

“Pope Benedict often cited the significance of eternal truths and he warned of a dictatorship of relativism,” said Dolan, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. “Some values, such as human life, stand out above all others, he taught again and again. It is a message for eternity.”

Father Frank Pavone, National Director of Priests for Life and a corresponding member of the Pontifical Academy for Life, said his organization is taking the surprising news in a “positive light,” calling it “an expression of [the Pope’s] concern and love for the Church.”

“He wants the Church to have a Pope who can fulfill his role with the strength and vigor that the office requires,” he explained.

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Mercedes Wilson, founder of Family of the Americas and an ordinary member of the Pontifical Academy for Life, agreed the news came as a “big shock" but also expressed a certain disappointment.

"I think it’s better to leave it to God’s will, to keep at the helm of the Church as long as possible until God takes you,” she said. “But, you know, who am I to judge? I don’t know what the doctors may have told him. He has been a good Pope, faithful to the teachings of the Church. So we have to pray that that was the right decision.”

“Let’s hope that who ever is to replace him will be a strong leader that will defend the family and the gift of life as the most precious gift,” she added. “All of Europe and all of the West is suffering from lack of children. Let’s hope that more emphasis can be given to this fact.”

John Haas, president of the National Catholic Bioethics Center and a member of the Pontifical Academy for Life’s governing council, said his organization has “always felt a special affinity with Pope Benedict XVI,” noting that he had twice spoken at their workshops for bishops while he served as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF).

“When I first the heard the news from Europe, before sunrise here in the United States, I was stunned,” said Haas in a statement sent to LifeSiteNews. “But after the reality settled in, I could not help but smile and think to myself, ‘How admirable is his commitment to duty’!”

Haas said Pope Benedict deserves special praise for his contribution to Church teaching on bioethics in the instruction Donum Vitae, which was released by the CDF in 1987 while he served as prefect.

“The Church’s moral principles articulated in that document remain unassailable as the surest guide available in our day to address the complex and difficult moral issues arising from advances in micro-biology and ‘reproductive technologies’,” said Haas. “The magisterial, bioethical Dignitas Personae of 2008 builds on that foundational document but certainly does not surpass it.”

LifeSiteNews also spoke with pro-life leaders from the U.S., U.K., Canada, and Ireland.

Jim Hughes, national president of Canada’s Campaign Life Coalition, said the Pope would be “sorely missed.” “He just seemed to be in the middle of his plan of action. It’ll be a major task now to find someone to fill those shoes,” he said.

John Smeaton, director of the U.K.’s Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, thanked the Pope for his “defence of the unchanging teaching on the purpose of human sexuality,” noting especially his emphasis on the connection between the protection of human life and the defense of marriage and family.

“Pope Benedict’s statements were wake-up calls to the whole pro-life movement to campaign against same-sex marriage and similar threats to the life-giving meaning of sexuality,” said Smeaton.

Niamh Uí Bhriain of Ireland’s Life Institute said that Benedict XVI has been a source of huge inspiration to the pro-life movement worldwide and noted that the Pontiff had recently been outspoken in his opposition to proposals by the Irish government to legalise abortion. 

"Pope Benedict was clear and unequivocal in his defence of Life, saying that abortion was a 'crime against society', that it ' kills the child and destroys the woman'. He urged all of us to become active in pro-life work, noting that 'God speaks to each of us, inviting us to defend human life at all times'. In that way, the Pope was a great encouragement and leader to people of all faiths and none within the movement." 

"I join many others in praying that Benedict's successor is blessed with the courage to continue giving vocal support for the protection of human life from conception and without exception," she said.

Father Shenan J. Boquet, president of Human Life International, said his organization joins the rest of the universal Church in praying for the Pope.

"The suddenness of His Holiness' announcement is cause for concern for his health, as it seems to have caught almost everyone by surprise,” he said. ”Though our concern is more than matched by our gratitude for Pope Benedict's many wonderful gifts to the Church as Holy Father, bishop and priest. His three wonderful encyclicals, his many apostolic letters and addresses have all helped to guide the Church through a difficult period."

“His unflinching defense of Church teaching and the most fundamental rights of every human person have inspired our missionaries around the world,” Fr. Boquet added. "So in prayer and gratitude we lift up our Holy Father and the Church he has served, asking the Holy Spirit to guide the cardinals of the Church in their task of choosing Pope Benedict's successor."

Speaking on NBC News Monday morning, George Weigel, the famed biographer of Bl. John Paul II, suggested that the Pope’s move should be called an “abdication” rather than a resignation. “A resignation is something that someone hands to someone else,” he explained. “Popes have no one to resign to, so this is an abdication.”

“It is obviously unprecedented, but I think we’ve all had the sense, both from the realities of a world where people live much longer than before and from the pope’s words, that this was a real possibility," he added.

Deal Hudson, president of Pennsylvania Catholics Network, urged the Cardinals who will elect Benedict’s successor to choose a man who will carry on the Pope’s legacy of reform.

He said the Pope’s resignation “ends an era of reform and restoration in the Church that began in November 1978 with the election of John Paul II.”

“That Benedict XVI allowed retired Cardinal Roger Mahoney of Los Angeles, a powerful broker of the liberalization following Vatican II, to be stripped of all his archdiocesan duties is symbolic of the changes brought about in the last 35 years under John Paul II and Benedict XVI,” said Hudson. “The cardinals at the upcoming conclave will be faced with the choice of whether to continue the direction marked out by the last two pontiffs.”

Michael D. O’Brien, the famed Catholic author and painter, said the move is “understandable,” but “will be a colossal loss for the Church.”

“May all Catholics pray fervently for the coming Conclave, that the Holy Spirit will grant us another Man of Truth who embodies caritas and veritas with courage,” he told LifeSiteNews.

The Pope’s announcement has also sparked reaction from faith leaders outside the Catholic Church.

The U.K.’s Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks said he was “honoured” to welcome the Pope to Britain in 2010 on behalf of non-Christian faiths and to visit him at the Vatican in 2011.

“I saw him to be a man of gentleness, of quiet and of calm, a deeply thoughtful and compassionate individual who carried with him an aura of grace and wisdom,” he said. “I wish him good health, blessings and best wishes for the future.”

On Facebook, Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, said the Pope “has offered a brave and intelligent defense of truth against a relativist tide, and he has been a stalwart friend of life.”

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Sofia Vazquez-Mellado

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11-year-old in Uruguay refuses to abort after rape

Sofia Vazquez-Mellado
By Sofia Vazquez-Mellado

MONTEVIDEO, Uruguay, May 25, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) – An 11-year-old girl in Uruguay is making headlines for refusing to abort after being raped by a 41-year-old relative. Pro-abortion organizations in the country are using the case to ask for a broadening in the law, which allows for abortion up until 12 weeks gestation, 14 weeks in cases of rape, and up to 9 months when the life or health of the mother are at risk or when the baby is “unviable.”

Local media report that the girl, who is 18 weeks pregnant, lived with her abuser for over a year prior to the pregnancy. Her mother is now asking authorities to make her abort, but according to the local newspaper La Diaria, a team of psychiatrists from Uruguay’s Child and Adolescent Institute (INAU) has said that “the girl’s position has been confirmed without a doubt: she wishes to be a mother.”

According to her relatives, the girl suffers from a mild mental incapacity, although she is not considered handicapped.

In a press conference, Susana Muñiz, president for the Association of State Health Services and former minister of health, said: “An 11-year-old girl obviously has a body not prepared to be pregnant, with a very small uterus.”

However, according to Monica Silva, head of the INAU’s Health Division, “There is no risk to the life of the girl nor that of the baby. We cannot force her to abort.”

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“Even if her mother wants it, it would be inhuman to force her to abort,” continued Silva. “The fact that there was a rape doesn’t allow me to force her to abort. This [aborting] may seem like a protection of her rights but it is against the girl’s will.”

Nevertheless, a press release “demanding” that the girl abort “immediately” was issued by several pro-abortion NGOs soon after, on May 12. “The hypocritical and bureaucratic system allows for her rights to be undermined without considering the cost this will bring to the girl,” it read.

“Who will take charge now to stop the undermining of her rights and protect her health and her life? How much longer do we need to wait before somebody decides responsibly on the interruption of that pregnancy?” it concluded.

In her interview, Silva also said the girl’s parents “never visited, with exception of one of the six siblings she has.”

 “The best that could happen would be to ensure that she has a ‘welcoming family,’ that would receive the girl with her baby,” continued Silva. “I doubt we can achieve that because it’s hard to find families who want this challenge.”

The girl remains under INAU’s care and her abuser has been imprisoned.

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Steve Weatherbe

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Christian jeweller made gay couples’ rings but still got targeted by gay lobby

Steve Weatherbe
By Steve Weatherbe

MOUNT PEARL, Newfoundland, May 25, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) –While North Americans are used to reading about Christian business people being fined and excoriated for refusing to cater to homosexual weddings, Newfoundland has added a novel twist: there a Christian jeweller has been punished financially and deluged with hate mail even though he did do business with a homosexual couple.

Nicole White and Pam Renouf liked the service they got from Esau Jardon of Today’s Jewellers in Mount Pearl, Newfoundland and Labrador, who took their deposit and proceeded to design and build them two engagement rings. They even recommended the store to friends.

But by the time one friend went there, the Mexican-born Jardon had put up a sign in his shop window marking Mother’s Day—and his strong, traditional Christian beliefs: “The Sanctity of Marriage IS UNDER ATTACK; Help Keep Marriage Between Man & Woman,” it read.

The friend went ballistic. Her picture of the sign went viral. The couple went back on their deal and back to the store, demanding their deposit. Today’s Jewellers’ Facebook page was so deluged with hundreds of hateful emails and many threats that Jardon and his brother, who is his business partner, have to shut it down.

LifeSiteNews asked White if Jardon had been punished enough. “Omigod, yes,” she responded. “Way, way too much.” But earlier she explained to a local newspaper why the couple cancelled their order. “The ring symbolizes love, and just knowing that that’s the sign that they have up there — every time I look at my ring, yes, I’ll think of us, clearly, but also everything we went through. So I don’t want my ring from there anymore. I just want my refund.”

At first, she reported, “They just said that that's their beliefs, and they think they can put up whatever they want. I just said it was very disrespectful, it's very unprofessional and I wanted a refund,” White said. “I have no issues with them believing in what they believe in. I think everyone's entitled to their own opinion. But I don't think they should put their personal beliefs inside their business.”

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Jardon, at first, was loath to return it, lest this be seen as an apology for his beliefs. Reached in Toronto, he told the St. John’s Telegram, “When I walk on Church Street in Toronto, where I am right now, and I see [LGBT rainbow flags], and I see a lot of signs and a lot of things on public property, I don't have a problem with them. I accept it. I chose to come to Canada... and we accept the whole package... I don't discriminate against that, nor do I come and tell them to take them down. For the same reason, I ask to have the same respect in return, especially when it's in my own business.”

But what is sauce for the gander is not sauce for the geese, or for the LGBT community that crowded onto the bandwagon, or for the CBC which was all too ready to label the jeweller’s sign “homophobic.”

However, some have offered support and sympathy. Rod Dreher, blogging at The American Conservative, observed that only so-called sexual minorities expected this kind of treatment. “Is a fundamentalist Christian permitted to send her osso buco back to the kitchen if she discovers that homosexual hands cooked it? Of course not. Some delicate snowflakes are more delicate than others.”

Referring to recent decisions by courts and human rights tribunals against Christian vendors who refused to serve homosexuals, Dreher concluded on an ironic note. The pressure on Jardon to return the deposit marked “the next phase in the March of Progress. You must not only bake the cake, or arrange the flowers, or make the ring, you must hold the correct opinion when you do it.”

Jardon defends his right to his own opinion. “One of the reasons my family chose to move to Canada was the rights that it offered, the freedom of religion and freedom of speech, both of which at the time seemed to be very limited in Mexico,” he said.

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Canadians headed to the ballot box for the fall federal election should remember the right to life is 'the most basic thing in society,' the archbishop tells LifeSiteNews. Pete Baklinski / LifeSiteNews
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Exclusive: Clinging to Christ will help those struggling with sexual identity, says Montreal’s archbishop

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By Pete Baklinski

OTTAWA, May 25, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) -- Montreal’s archbishop, Christian Lépine, weighed in on what the Catholic Church actually has to offer people struggling with the biological sex they were born with, telling LifeSiteNews in an exclusive interview that it’s no mistake that God creates the human person as male or female and that every person must look for their identity within a “view of God.”

“The teachings of the Church as such, its most basic one, is that we’re made in the image of God. That's always the starting point. And when you lose track of that — that you're made in the image of God — then somehow you come to lose trust in who you are as a human being, and you know less of who you are, and you don't know anymore who you are, and you [find yourself] looking for your own identity outside of a view of God,” Lépine told LifeSiteNews last week one day prior to the annual National March for Life that drew an estimated 25,000 pro-life advocates.

Following the first book of the Bible, where it is stated that God created human beings as “male and female,” the Catholic Church has always taught, and continues to teach, that the male/female binary is God’s plan for mankind.

As the book of Genesis (1:27) states: “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him, male and female he created them.”

The Catechism of the Catholic Church stresses that recognizing and preserving the male/female sexual difference is necessary for a healthy society.

“Everyone, man and woman, should acknowledge and accept his sexual identity. Physical, moral, and spiritual difference and complementarity are oriented toward the goods of marriage and the flourishing of family life. The harmony of the couple and of society depends in part on the way in which the complementarity, needs, and mutual support between the sexes are lived out,” the Catechism states.

Lépine said that anytime questions about sexual identity arise for the faithful, “we must go back to the basics,” namely that “every human is created in the image of God, and of course, biblically, every human being exists as a woman or as a man.”

The archbishop’s words are foreign to mainstream notions of so-called ‘gender fluidity’ where male/female difference is construed as a social construct and ultimately as a personal choice.

Lépine acknowledged that some people suffer when it comes to accepting their own sexual identity as either a male or female based on biological characteristics.

“Sometimes people have sufferings about their own desires, or about their own sense of identity, or about the fact that masculinity and femininity exists, or about the fact that you as ‘human being’ [exist] as a male or female, as a man or as a woman.”

He called the male/female binary “a reality that is part of the [human] experience,” adding that it is also “taught in the Bible.”

Lépine stressed that the Church does not leave people “looking for a meaning in their lives and their own sense of identity” to struggle on their own, but offers them many helps and aids, including a clear anthropology on the nature of the human person.

“As Christians, we have the Bible to help people. We have Jesus Christ to help people. We have faith in God to help people. So, going back, [we must be] conscious that we are made in the image of God. And our own sexuality — what is the meaning of being a man or woman — is related to our vocation to love. And, every human being as such, made in the image of God — being a man or woman — is called to love.”

“So, how [are we] to help [such] people? You can talk about things theoretically, which is one thing. But also, we have to be conscious of people who live through situations where they're looking for their own identity and we need, I think, the Bible and faith to help them.”

Fluid notions of gender have been criticized by Pope Francis on at least three occasions, and prior to this, by Pope Benedict XVI.

“Gender theory is an error of the human mind that leads to so much confusion," Pope Francis told young people during his voyage to Naples, Italy last March.

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In his 2012 Christmas greeting, Pope Benedict condemned gender theory as a “profound falsehood” since it denies the male and female sex as a “given element of nature.” According to Benedict, instead of acknowledging that God created people male and female, gender theory posits the existence of sexual social constructions that people can decide to conform to or not.

“The profound falsehood of this theory and of the anthropological revolution contained within it is obvious. People dispute the idea that they have a nature, given by their bodily identity, that serves as a defining element of the human being. They deny their nature and decide that it is not something previously given to them, but that they make it for themselves.”

“When the freedom to be creative becomes the freedom to create oneself, then necessarily the Maker himself is denied and ultimately man too is stripped of his dignity as a creature of God, as the image of God at the core of his being,” Benedict concluded. “The defence of the family is about man himself. And it becomes clear that when God is denied, human dignity also disappears,” he said.

Earlier in the interview, Lépine spoke about the need to “promote relentlessly life and respect for life” in the face of the country’s top court setting the legal stage for allowing doctors to end the lives of their patients under the pretext of compassion and mercy.

“You don't take care of someone when you suppress the life of someone, because you're not solving a problem. You're suppressing the person. It doesn't work,” he said.

Referring to the upcoming federal election this fall, the archbishop called “life and the right-to-life and dignity of the person” an “important subject, because it's the most basic thing in society.” 

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