Hilary White, Rome Correspondent

Some March for Life fun facts and a few thoughts on media blackouts

Hilary White, Rome Correspondent
Hilary White, Rome Correspondent
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January 28, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Hands up everyone who went to the March for Life this year. (All those still waiting to get out of DC-area airports can just whimper weakly.) I know quite a few people here in Europe, Brits, Italians, Irish, Poles, who go every year and wouldn’t miss it, and they are bringing the idea back to Europe with them.

I went last year, but this year just couldn’t face the punishing 25 hours of travel time and 36 hours of recovery time it would take. But the memories of the march are still with me. While the debate continues as to what, concretely, the March for Life accomplishes in the political realm, the one thing we all agree on is that it’s fun. It’s uplifting, it’s encouraging, it’s a happy time over an issue that can sometimes seem hopelessly depressing. Even the mainstream media, if they were to show up, could not miss the fact that no one there is angry, no one is waving a fist.

I thought I would look a few things up about it, and pass them along, with some thoughts about that annual bugbear, the media blackout.

Most protest marches and demonstrations on the Mall are one-time events and, it being the capital of the most powerful nation on earth, it has all the biggest ones. The March for Life is one of only two that are held annually. The other one is “Rolling Thunder,” a demonstration of bikers for the benefit of American POWs held every year on Memorial Day.

This means that with this year’s rough estimate of 400,000, the March for Life in Washington is by far the largest single annual political event in the United States. And possibly in the western world.

In the history of Mall demonstrations, very few have come close to the size of crowds that attended on January 22nd this year. 500,000 demonstrated in 1969 for an end to the Vietnam War. The same number was recorded gathering again in 1971 for the same purpose.

By comparison, even the causes that enjoy broad social support, that we would now call “politically correct,” do not draw anything like these numbers. In 1972, a demonstration against South African apartheid drew 8-10 thousand participants. In 1976, a demonstration organized by the National Organization for Women (NOW) drew 16,000 in support of the Equal Rights Amendment.

It is also notable that the issues at the heart of the Culture Wars, abortion and homosexuality, seem to draw the most people. In 1987, when AIDS held pride of place in the media, an estimated 500,000 homosexuals and their supporters attended a rally on the Mall. And in 1989, a pro-abortion counter protest to the March for Life, titled “March for Women’s Lives,” another NOW project, brought another 500,000; a similar event with similar attendance occurred in 2004.

It used to be the job of the National Parks Service to issue crowd size estimates, but in 1995, following a controversy over their reporting of the Million Man March, they gave it up. Since then, crowd size estimates come from demonstration organizers and the media, which one might imagine leaves a great deal of room for interpretation depending on the media’s attitude toward a given issue.

Pro-life people are also not the only ones who complain of “media blackout.” It’s a surprise to see that pro-abortion demonstrators complain almost as often as we do that the media is ignoring them or giving unbalanced accounts. Yes, it’s true. It may prompt our jaws to drop in incredulity, but leftists, progressives, feminists, abortionists and homosexualists regularly complain, at least in the U.S., of a pervading right-wing bias in the media that makes it impossible for them to get their message out. No, I’m not making it up.

In 2009, Don Smith, a Democratic organizer and activist in Seattle – a typical Left Coast leftist – complained that at a pro-abort rally he attended in DC, the media focused their cameras on the lone pro-life counter-protester amidst a sea of pro-aborts.

At another rally in Seattle protesting an appearance by then-President George Bush, Smith asked a photographer why only photos of the president shaking hands, and not of the rally appeared in the local papers. The photographer said his editors “decided that the President’s photos would generate the most reader interest. It was a business decision.”

(I also had a bit of smile when he said, “Progressives also need to build a viable, alternative online press … at least a few successful, well-edited websites that have enough market share and respectability to be powerful.” At least that’s one lesson we are getting on this side of the fence. And thanks again to all the readers who continue to make it possible, by the way…)

It is probably a good lesson in perspective for us to remember that the first task for journalists and editors is to attract an audience, to figure out what is “newsworthy,” and as rule, marches and rallies are not, no matter what the cause. I would think this especially true if it were a rally that predictably happens on the same date every year.

If the news can be thought of as a form of non-fiction drama, a kind of non-stop soap opera, it is well to remember the axiom laid down by Aristotle in his treatise on poetry, that for drama to exist, there must be conflict. It is the conflict that journalists are after, since it is only conflict that arouses the public’s interest and sympathy, what Aristotle called “pity and fear.”

This is the reason, despite complaints that the news is a downer, that “good news” really doesn’t sell. It is human nature. Tragedy sells. Sex sells. Holocausts, pogroms, genocides and bombings sell. A day in the life of the smiling people of Happy Village…? not so much.

This rule was brought home to me some months ago when I attended a press conference at the Vatican to introduce Peter Seewald’s interview book with Pope Benedict … you know, the one that caused the latest big kerfuffle over condoms. As I was waiting for the bigwigs to come in, I found myself seated next to a venerable Vaticanista, someone who is on our side and who has been reporting closely on Vatican affairs for decades. I expressed my surprise at the packed house; it looked as if every journalist in Europe were there. She smiled and said, “It’s about the pope and sex. It’s a seller!”

This does not exonerate the media, and I think it is obvious that the coverage of the March for Life, when there is any, is wildly, laughably unbalanced, but Smith’s point is well taken. One reporter he asked about news coverage of rallies and protests, said, “most rallies simply aren’t newsworthy.”

“It’s not news when progressives protest against war, or when Catholics protest against abortion.”

Nonetheless, Smith’s photographer friend made the point: “Only if rallies are massive (like hundreds of thousands of people), or violent, do they get coverage.” While the March for Life doesn’t qualify when it comes to violence (there isn’t any), it does seem that the hundreds of thousands who show up annually might draw the attention of the media bigshots, at least more than they do.

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Cardinal Raymond Burke, prefect of the Apostolic Signatura, speaks to Thomas McKenna of Catholic Action Insight. Catholic Action Insight
Hilary White Hilary White Follow Hilary

Catholics shouldn’t sue one another: Cardinal Burke comments on Fr. Rosica’s lawsuit against blogger

Hilary White Hilary White Follow Hilary
By Hilary White

ROME, March 2, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Citing Scripture, Cardinal Raymond Burke told an interviewer this week that Catholics should not sue each other: “Our Lord in the Gospel and St. Paul in his First Letter to the Corinthians instruct us not to take our disputes to the civil forum, that we should be able, as Catholics, to resolve these matters among ourselves.”

The cardinal’s comments to the Traditionalist Catholic website Rorate Caeli follow an uproar in the Catholic media world last week when it was revealed that Vatican spokesman Father Thomas Rosica has threatened to sue a Canadian blogger for defamation in the civil courts.

Cardinal Burke, who served under Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis as the head of the Vatican’s highest court, is a noted expert on canon law. He told Rorate Caeli, “Unless the blogger has committed a calumny on someone's good name unjustly, I certainly don't think that that's the way we as Catholics should deal with these matters.”

“I think contact should be made. I presume that the Catholic blogger is in good faith, and if there’s someone in the hierarchy who is upset with him, the way to deal with it would be first to approach the person directly and try to resolve the matter in that way,” Burke added.

Fr. Rosica, a Canadian Basilian, is the English language press officer for the Vatican and founder of the Toronto-based Salt and Light Television network.

He sent the legal letter to David Domet, a Toronto music composer and part-time Catholic blogger who has long criticized what he says are Fr. Rosica’s departures from Catholic orthodoxy. The priest’s lawyer told Domet to remove nine separate items from his blog and apologize, but added that this would not necessarily remove the threat of the civil action.

The conflict was covered in a feature by Michael Voris’ Church Militant TV, and the internet’s Catholic blogger world exploded with indignation. So furious was the backlash that it got coverage by the US conservative news site, Breitbart. This followed dozens of blog posts, nearly unanimously calling the threatened legal action of a well-placed priest against a lay pensioner a “PR disaster” for Rosica. 

The uproar has launched Domet’s small blog, Vox Cantoris, into the international limelight, and has earned Fr. Rosica an avalanche of criticism. “Though Rosica publicly defends the right to freedom of speech and press, he is attempting to silence the blogger who has criticized him,” Austin Ruse, president of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute, wrote for Breitbart.

Among Domet’s criticisms of Fr. Rosica is his apparent support for the proposal by Cardinal Walter Kasper to allow divorced and civilly remarried Catholics, and others in “irregular” sexual unions, to receive Holy Communion.

Fr. Rosica has also recently come under fire for comments he made a year ago, in a lecture in Windsor, Ontario, in which he argued that Catholic doctrine could change. (See video below. Quotes can be found at 48:12.)

“Will this Pope re-write controversial Church doctrines?” Fr. Rosica said in the lecture, which was posted to Youtube. “No. But that isn't how doctrine changes. Doctrine changes when pastoral contexts shift and new insights emerge such that particularly doctrinal formulations no longer mediate the saving message of God's transforming love.”

Fr. Rosica continued: “Doctrine changes when the Church has leaders and teachers who are not afraid to take note of new contexts and emerging insights. It changes when the Church has pastors who do what Francis has been insisting: leave the securities of your chanceries, of your rectories, of your safe places, of your episcopal residences go set aside the small-minded rules that often keep you locked up and shielded from the world.”

In the Rorate Caeli interview, Cardinal Burke refuted the idea that the Church can change its “pastoral practice” without changing doctrine.

“I think it’s very important to address a false dichotomy that's been drawn by some who say, ‘Oh no, we’re just changing disciplines. We’re not touching the Church's doctrine.’ But if you change the Church’s discipline with regard to access to Holy Communion by those who are living in adultery, then surely you are changing the Church's doctrine on adultery.”

“You’re saying that, in some circumstances, adultery is permissible and even good, if people can live in adultery and still receive the sacraments. That is a very serious matter, and Catholics have to insist that the Church’s discipline not be changed in some way which would, in fact, weaken our teaching on one of the most fundamental truths, the truth about marriage and the family,” Cardinal Burke said.

Fr. Rosica recently criticized Cardinal Burke on his Twitter account by posting an article by Washington, DC’s Cardinal Donald Wuerl on “dissent” in the hierarchy, saying, “Cardinal Wuerl’s response to Burke (and dissenters).”

The priest has also had a confrontational relationship with the pro-life movement for years.

In 1996, Fr. Rosica called the police on pro-life advocates who were leafletting in protest at a lecture by famous dissident Gregory Baum at the University of Toronto’s Newman Centre.

In 2009, Fr. Rosica wrote against objections to the lavish Catholic funeral for US Senator Ted Kennedy’s in Boston. He excoriated the pro-life movement for what he called their lack of “civility.”

“Civility, charity, mercy and politeness seem to have dropped out of the pro-life lexicon,” Fr. Rosica wrote. “To recognize and bring out the sin in others means also recognizing one’s self as a sinner and in need of God’s boundless mercy.

“Let us pray that we will become more and more a people, a church and a community overflowing with mercy.”

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Greg Rohrbough, J.D.

Duck Commander Phil Robertson’s CPAC speech was viral in so many ways

Greg Rohrbough, J.D.
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Last week, the winner of the 2015 Citizens United/CPAC Andrew Breitbart Defender of the First Amendment Award was “Duck Commander” Phil Robertson, paterfamilias of the Duck Dynasty Robertson family. In doing so, they were giving Phil the CPAC stage for a speech, knowing that he would speak his unvarnished thoughts. One doubts they expected his topic.

After bringing out his heavily-duct-taped Bible and telling politicians to keep theirs with them, Phil went on the offensive – against sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). He quoted the federal Centers for Disease Control, which estimates that more than 100 million Americans now have a sexually transmitted infection.

“I don’t want you to become ill. I don’t want you to come down with a debilitating disease. I don’t want you to die early,” Robertson said.

Phil’s solution? One older than Christianity, as old as common sense itself. “If you’re disease-free, if she’s disease-free, you marry. You keep your sex right there. You won’t get sick from a sexually-transmitted disease!”

Logic and mathematics would seem to agree. According to Robertson, his goal was to show love to the listeners. But several left-wing websites didn’t see it that way.

“He certainly used his speech to hate very well. I guess that's the criteria. Who can say the sickest, most vile things about center-left Americans wins!” according to John Amato of Crooks & Liars.

The Huffington Post took offense at his attributing the rise in STDs to the beatniks and hippies.

To their credit, MSNBC acknowledged Phil’s numbers, saying, “For the record, Robertson’s [sic] has his numbers correct. A CDC report from February of 2013 estimated more than 110 [million] cases of sexually transmitted infections in America with about 20 billion [sic, MSNBC’s number] new infections each year at a cost of ‘nearly $16 billion in direct medical costs.’”

The network site then blasted him for comparing ISIS to the Nazis, Communists, and Imperial Japanese.

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Robertson clearly didn’t care what MSNBC thought, though. “You want a Godly, Biblical, medically safe option? One man, one woman, married, for life,” he said.

“What do you call the 110 million people who have sexually transmitted illnesses?” he continued. “It’s the revenge of the hippies! Sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll have come back to haunt us in a bad way!”

But the big question is – is Phil right or wrong? According to the CDC’s website, “Almost every sexually active person will acquire HPV [Human Papillomavirus] at some point in their lives.”

“Sexually active” would seem to indicate activity with new or multiple partners, rather than this Duck Doctor Phil’s Prescription.

But still – “Almost every…person.” That’s quite a few – the website also says, “about 79 million Americans are currently infected with HPV. About 14 million people become newly infected each year.” While it is the most prevalent venereal disease, HPV is only one of many.

Generally, HPV’s symptoms are more a painful nuisance than life-threatening – genital warts, often only appearing years after the initial infection. But there are also life-threatening illnesses such as cervical cancer, which HPV causes.

Much more frightening, however, is the specter of HIV/AIDS. According to the CDC, there are about 1.2 million people currently living with HIV, and as many as 50,000 new cases a year, with 63 to 66 percent of those being “MSM,” or “Men who have Sex with Men.” Sadly, the lion’s share of new HIV infections is found in the 13-24 age group; despite being 16 percent of the nation’s population, they account for 26 percent of all new infections, with 72 percent of those being young MSM. While HIV is treatable, there is still no cure.

Although HIV, as well as the current increase in syphilis and hepatitis, are primarily targeting homosexual males, heterosexuals with multiple partners are by no means off the hook. As well as HPV, herpes, drug-resistant gonorrhea and chlamydia are on the rise, as well. The year 2013 saw 1.4 million cases of chlamydia and 820,000 new cases of gonorrhea, and the CDC estimates that one person in every six in the U.S. between the ages of 14 and 49 has herpes.

Criticize Phil all you like, folks – he doesn’t mind. He’s only saying this because he cares.

Listen to him again: “I don’t want you to become ill. I don’t want you to come down with a debilitating disease. I don’t want you to die early.”

“And if you hate me because I told you that,” he said, “I told you, my love for you is not contingent on how you feel about me. I love you anyway. I don’t want you to see you die early or get sick. I’m trying to help you, for cryin’ out loud! America, if I didn’t care about you, why would I bring this up?”

From this CPAC attendee’s perspective, Phil’s speech was not only important from a physical health perspective, it also, along with that duct-taped Bible of his, reminds us of the words of Charles Spurgeon: “A Bible that’s falling apart usually belongs to someone who isn’t.”

Greg Rohrbough, J.D., has been director of government relations for the Meredith Advocacy Group since 2006.

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Steve Weatherbe

Former abortionist who failed to kill unborn baby hit with $1 million lawsuit: baby was born with hole in heart

Steve Weatherbe
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OTTAWA, March 2, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) – An Ontario mother of a baby born by mistake is suing the former doctor who botched her abortion for $1 million for his “gross negligence” and “medical malpractice.”

Tania Brown already had four children when she went to Dr. Michel Prevost in Almonte, Ontario in early 2011 for a medical (or pharmaceutical) abortion to prevent a fifth, which her doctor had advised might have birth defects. Several months later she suspected Prevost’s one-two punch of methotrexate (a poison to kill the baby) and misoprostol (to expel the corpse a week later) had not worked. An ultrasound confirmed a beating heart.

Too late for an abortion now, she gave birth, in May, to a baby with “a smaller brain; he had a hole in his heart; he had something wrong with his palate.” She gave him up for adoption.

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Dr. Prevost relinquished his medical licence earlier this month with the certainty that if he didn’t, the Ontario College of Physicians and Surgeons would expel him after an investigation found him “incompetent in his practice of obstetrics and gynecology.”  They looked into 28 abortion cases, two so badly “botched” that the babies survived.

Small wonder the whole business sent Brown into a “debilitating depression,” but her lawyer Ralph Lee told the CBC the case “brings up larger issues…the issue of a woman’s access to abortion.”

Basically, Prevost couldn’t get the dosages right. Methotrexate, MedicineNet.com warns, “has infrequently caused serious (sometimes fatal) side effects.” These include severe azotemia (too much blood urea nitrogen), severe blood infection, stomach and intestinal bleeding, and perforation.

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