Thursday January 28, 2010

Standing Ovation for a Turnaround Pro-Life Victory at the Vatican

By Hilary White

WASHINGTON, January 28, 2010 ( –’s (LSN) editor-in-chief, John-Henry Westen, was given a standing ovation last week in Washington, D.C., by an audience of international pro-life activists, after he shared with them the stories of successful interventions by LSN readers. Speaking on the morning of the March for Life to a conference hosted by Human Life International (HLI), Westen talked about two notorious cases in which LSN readers, acting on information from this news service, brought about significant results for life and family.

Westen received appreciative applause when he mentioned, tongue-in-cheek, LSN’s “nasty habit” of providing contact information in many articles “for people to make their voices heard” with local government officials, the Vatican and other bodies.

He recounted the case of Fr. Raymond Gravel, the pro-homosexual and pro-‘choice’ Catholic priest who ran for public office in Quebec. Gravel was ultimately forced by the Vatican to give up his political career and Westen noted that this result was blamed by Fr. Gravel on interventions by LSN readers. Westen recalled that when he saw the dossier from Rome on his political activities, Fr. Gravel commented that it “was filled with stories from LifeSiteNews.”

“Such is the power,” said Westen, “of the use of this new medium” – the internet. “We have been using it, hopefully for the good of the Church, for the past almost 15 years now.” Westen said that he had “felt very called” by God to become one of LSN’s founders in 1997.

The bulk of Westen’s talk focused on what he called “probably the most serious attack on the pro-life movement in its history.” He related a summary of what has become known in pro-life circles as the “Fisichella Affair,” in which the head of the Pontifical Academy for Life, Archbishop Rino Fisichella, published an article last year in the Vatican’s own newspaper attacking the pro-life efforts of a fellow bishop who had announced the excommunications of a number of abortionists.

That attack, Westen said, “came from the Vatican itself. And that’s why it was so serious.”

“The horrifying significance” of the affair, he said, had been deliberately “muted” by the pro-life movement “in order not to create so much scandal.” Westen called the fact of a Vatican official, head of the Vatican’s pro-life office, criticising a brother bishop for announcing the excommunication of abortionists “insane.”

In the now-notorious Recife case, in which a nine year-old girl was raped repeatedly by her stepfather and conceived twins, the girl was held up, Westen said, by the world’s secular and pro-abortion media as the “poster child for the abortion movement.” What was never mentioned in the mainstream press, he said, was the fact that the girl’s parish priest had worked for weeks to help the family, support the girl in any way necessary, and find a safe alternative to abortion. The world’s media picked the story up and exclusively reported the claim of the pro-abortion doctors that the child’s life was in danger from the pregnancy.

The conclusion created by the press, he said, was that “the Catholic Church is now stopping a girl whose life needs to be saved” from having an abortion.

“It was a lie,” Westen said. “It was a lie that we uncovered because we reported, as it were, from the ground. Our Latin American correspondent, Matthew Hoffman, was following the story step-by-step.”

When Archbishop Fisichella’s article appeared, supporting the secular media’s thesis, efforts by the Brazilian Archbishop Cardoso to get the Vatican to make a clarification were met with silence. Archbishop Fisichella admitted later that he had never consulted with Abp. Cardoso before publishing the article.

“Around the world, pro-life leaders thought, ‘This is the most serious attack we have ever sustained.’ Why? Because the Vatican is the biggest ally of the pro-life movement worldwide, no question.

“Everybody remembers when at the U.N., the Vatican was always the last man standing when it came to international pressure” to legalise and promote abortion. “But here was an attack from that source.” Westen noted that the mainstream media took the L’Osservatore Romano article at its face value, running headlines such as “Vatican backs abortion of nine year-old girl.”

“And that is why the pro-life leadership, although they never said so publicly, said ‘We’re in deep trouble.’”

Westen said that the pro-life leadership “had the goods on the story” because of the alternative pro-life reporting of LSN, which enabled them to act. This included strenuous interventions by a majority of the 47 members of the Pontifical Academy for Life, demanding a retraction or clarification in support of Archbishop Cardoso. Despite Archbishop Fisichella’s refusal, success occurred after a dossier of information on the case was presented to Pope Benedict XVI directly by two members of the Academy.

“That dossier was compiled from information that we had published on LifeSiteNews as well as all the other information.”

Westen received sustained applause when he said that according to top Vatican reporter Sandro Magister, “The Holy Father himself then called a meeting with the head of the Secretariat of State and ordered a clarification to be published in the pages of the Vatican newspaper.” That clarification, issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, was, he said, “amazing,” being “the strongest statement on pro-life published in the Vatican newspaper in its history. Because it was a summation of all the best teachings on the issue of life from the Vatican.”

The clarification called abortion “an abominable crime” and resuscitated the reputation of Archbishop Cardoso. It turned what had been a “horrifying story” into a “very good story at the end.” Although the death of the twins remains a tragedy, the CDF’s action, prompted by pro-life advocates working with LSN information, made clear that the Church had “not moved an inch in defence of life. We remain the Catholic Church defending life now and always.”

Westen said these stories should encourage pro-life advocates to work with information available from LSN in defence of life.

Read’s extensive coverage of the Fisichella Affair here.