Patrick Craine

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

Patrick Craine
Patrick Craine

ROME, Feb. 11, 2013 ( – 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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Today’s chuckle: Rubio, Fiorina and Carson pardon a Thanksgiving turkey

Steve Jalsevac Steve Jalsevac Follow Steve
By Steve Jalsevac

A little bit of humour now and then is a good thing.

Happy Thanksgiving to all our American readers.

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Building of the European Court of Human Rights.
Lianne Laurence


BREAKING: Europe’s top human rights court slaps down German ban on pro-life leafletting

Lianne Laurence
By Lianne Laurence

STRASBOURG, France, November 26, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) – The European Court of Human Rights ruled Thursday that a German regional court violated a pro-life activist’s freedom of expression when it barred him from leafleting in front of an abortion center.

It further ruled the German court’s order that Klaus Gunter Annen not list the names of two abortion doctors on his website likewise violated the 64-year-old pro-life advocate’s right to freedom of expression.

The court’s November 26 decision is “a real moral victory,” says Gregor Puppinck, director of the Strasbourg-based European Center for Law and Justice, which intervened in Annen’s case. “It really upholds the freedom of speech for pro-life activists in Europe.”

Annen, a father of two from Weinam, a mid-sized city in the Rhine-Neckar triangle, has appealed to the Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights at least two times before, Puppinck told LifeSiteNews.

“This is the first time he made it,” he said, noting that this time around, Annen had support from the ECLJ and Alliance Defense Fund and the German Pro-life Federation (BVL). “I think he got more support, better arguments and so I think this helped.”

The court also ordered the German government to pay Annen costs of 13,696.87 EUR, or 14,530 USD.

Annen started distributing pamphlets outside a German abortion center ten years ago, ECLJ stated in a press release.

His leaflets contained the names and addresses of the two abortionists at the center, declared they were doing “unlawful abortions,” and stated in smaller print that, “the abortions were allowed by the German legislators and were not subject to criminal liability.”

Annen’s leaflets also stated that, “The murder of human beings in Auschwitz was unlawful, but the morally degraded NS State allowed the murder of innocent people and did not make it subject to criminal liability.” They referred to Annen’s website,, which listed a number of abortionists, including the two at the site he was leafleting.

In 2007, a German regional court barred Annen from pamphleteering in the vicinity of the abortion center, and ordered him to drop the name of the two abortion doctors from his website.

But the European Court of Human Rights ruled Thursday that the German courts had "failed to strike a fair balance between [Annen’s] right to freedom of expression and the doctor’s personality rights.”

The Court stated that, “there can be no doubt as to the acute sensitivity of the moral and ethical issues raised by the question of abortion or as to the importance of the public interest at stake.”

That means, stated ECLJ, that “freedom of expression in regard to abortion shall enjoy a full protection.”

ECLJ stated that the court noted Annen’s leaflets “made clear that the abortions performed in the clinic were not subject to criminal liability. Therefore, the statement that ‘unlawful abortions’ were being performed in the clinic was correct from a legal point of view.”

As for the Holocaust reference, the court stated that, “the applicant did not – at least not explicitly – equate abortion with the Holocaust.”  Rather, the reference was “a way of creating awareness of the more general fact that law might diverge from morality.”

The November 26 decision “is a quite good level of protection of freedom of speech for pro-life people,” observed Puppinck.

First, the European Court of Human Rights has permitted leafleting “in the direct proximate vicinity of the clinic, so there is no issue of zoning,” he told LifeSiteNews. “And second, the leaflets were mentioning the names of the doctors, and moreover, were mentioning the issue of the Holocaust, which made them quite strong leaflets.”

“And the court protected that.”

Annen has persevered in his pro-life awareness campaign through the years despite the restraints on his freedom.

“He did continue, and he did adapt,” Puppinck told LifeSiteNews. “He kept his freedom of speech as much as he could, but he continued to be sanctioned by the German authorities, and each time he went to the court of human rights. And this time, he won.”

ECLJ’s statement notes that “any party” has three months to appeal the November 26 decision.

However, as it stands, the European Court of Human Rights’s ruling affects “all the national courts,” noted Puppinck, and these will now “have to protect freedom of speech, recognize the freedom of speech for pro-lifers.”

“In the past, the courts have not always been very supportive of the freedom of speech of pro-life,” he said, so the ruling is “significant.”

As for Annen’s pro-life ministry, Pubbinck added: “He can continue to go and do, and I’m sure that he does, because he always did.”  

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A vibrant church in Africa. Pierre-Yves Babelon /
Pete Baklinski Pete Baklinski Follow Pete

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‘Soft racism’: German Bishops’ website attributes African Catholics’ strong faith to simplemindedness

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By Pete Baklinski

GERMANY, November 26, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) --  The only reason the Catholic Church is growing in Africa is because the people have a “rather low level” of education and accept “simple answers to difficult questions” involving marriage and sexuality, posited an article on the official website of the German Bishops' Conference posted yesterday. The article targeted particularly Cardinal Robert Sarah of Guinea, the Vatican's prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and ardent defender of Catholic tradition.

First Things blogger Leroy Huizenga, who translated a portion of the article, criticized the article's view as “soft racism.”

In his article, titled “The Romantic, Poor Church,” editor Björn Odendahl writes: 

So also in Africa. Of course the Church is growing there. It grows because the people are socially dependent and often have nothing else but their faith. It grows because the educational situation there is on average at a rather low level and the people accept simple answers to difficult questions (of faith) [sic]. Answers like those that Cardinal Sarah of Guinea provides. And even the growing number of priests is a result not only of missionary power but also a result of the fact that the priesthood is one of the few possibilities for social security on the dark continent.

Huizenga said that such an article has no place on a bishops’ conference website. 

“We all know that the German Bishops' Conference is one of the most progressive in the world. But it nevertheless beggars belief that such a statement would appear on the Conference's official website, with its lazy slander of African Christians and priests as poor and uneducated (Odendahl might as well have added ‘easy to command’) and its gratuitous swipe at Cardinal Sarah,” he wrote. 

“Natürlich progressives could never be guilty of such a sin and crime, but these words sure do suggest soft racism, the racism of elite white Western paternalism,” he added. 

African prelates have gained a solid reputation for being strong defenders of Catholic sexual morality because of their unwavering orthodox input into the recently concluded Synod on the Family in Rome. 

At one point during the Synod, Cardinal Robert Sarah urged Catholic leaders to recognize as the greatest modern enemies of the family what he called the twin “demonic” “apocalyptic beasts” of “the idolatry of Western freedom” and “Islamic fundamentalism.”

STORY: Cardinal Danneels warns African bishops to avoid ‘triumphalism’

“What Nazi-Fascism and Communism were in the 20th century, Western homosexual and abortion ideologies and Islamic fanaticism are today,” he said during his speech at the Synod last month. 

But African prelates’ adherence to orthodoxy has earned them enemies, especially from the camp of Western prelates bent on forming the Catholic Church in their own image and likeness, not according to Scripture, tradition, and the teaching magisterium of the Church. 

During last year’s Synod, German Cardinal Walter Kasper went as far as stating that the voice of African Catholics in the area of Church teaching on homosexuality should simply be dismissed.

African cardinals “should not tell us too much what we have to do,” he said in an October 2014 interview with ZENIT, adding that African countries are "very different, especially about gays.” 

Earlier this month Belgian Cardinal Godfried Danneels, instead of praising Africa for its vibrant and flourishing Catholicism, said that African prelates will one day have to look to Europe to get what he called “useful tips” on how to deal with “secularization” and “individualism.” 

The statement was criticized by one pro-family advocate as “patronizing of the worst kind” in light of the facts that numerous European churches are practically empty, vocations to the priesthood and religious life are stagnant, and the Catholic faith in Europe, especially in Belgium, is overall in decline.

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