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Tiny pro-life activist making big waves

John Jalsevac John Jalsevac Follow John
By John Jalsevac
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December 20, 2010 (LifeSiteNews.com) – When 12-year-old Lia Mills decided to tackle the topic of abortion for a grade 7 speech project in February 2009, neither she nor her family had any idea what lay in store for them.

Now, less than two years later, a homemade video of Lia’s speech, shot with their tiny digital point-and-shoot, has been watched over a million times on Youtube, at least one unborn baby has been saved from abortion, Lia has spoken before a crowd of over 10,000 pro-lifers at the National March for Life in Ottawa, and she is viewed as one of North America’s most promising up-and-coming young pro-life leaders.

“Never in our wildest dreams” did the Mills see what was coming, said Kimberley Mills, Lia’s mother, in a recent LifeSiteNews.com interview.  “This could only have been a God-thing because it’s so unbelievable.  Lia made a simple decision to speak on a topic she felt God prompted her to speak on and He took it from there.”

Against the odds

The last two years appear all the more remarkable in light of their inauspicious beginning – when Lia’s pro-abortion teacher found out the topic of her speech, she told Lia that she could present her speech to her class, but would be automatically disqualified from the speech competition attached to the project. She recommended that Lia choose a different topic.

At the recent International Pro-Life Conference in Ottawa, Lia told the crowd that being “a fairly competitive person,” she was eager to participate in the competition; however,  “after more praying and thinking” she decided that she would stick with the topic of abortion anyway, even if it meant disqualification.

Unexpectedly, however, Lia’s teacher was so impressed with the speech that she backtracked and, despite her pro-abortion views, recommended that Lia represent her class in the schoolwide competition. 

But before Lia had a chance to go before the school and the panel of judges, her teacher demanded that she remove one sentence from the speech that referenced God. Once again Lia was forced to choose between her principles and her desire to compete, and possibly win – and once again, she chose the former. “After a night of tears and prayer, I went to school, and sadly told my teacher that I couldn’t take that sentence out and that I would withdraw from the contest,” she says.

But once again her teacher changed her mind, and allowed Lia to compete anyway. 

At the schoolwide competition, one pro-abortion judge stepped down from the panel before Lia even began.  And after the speech, the judges initially told Lia she had been disqualified.  But controversy among the judges eventually led to a reversal, and Lia’s family learned the next day that Lia had been declared the winner.

But, as it turned out, this welcome and hard-won victory was only the beginning for Lia.

Not your typical young activist

When the young pro-life orator, who is now 14 years old, steps up to the microphone, you hardly know what to expect. At best, one looks for the normal fare of the precocious young activist – that is, a cute, but ultimately unoriginal parroting of the movement’s talking points.

Not so with Lia.  At the conference in Ottawa, Lia could barely see over the podium. But when she opened her mouth what poured out was a confident, well-structured, fluid and insightful look into the nature and struggles of the pro-life battle – a speech that stood on its own two feet, without any apologetic remarks about “her age.” Lia had written out her speech beforehand – but barely glanced at her notes the whole time she delivered it. 

(Read the complete prepared text of the speech here.)

“What I realize now,” she told the crowd, “is that when I made the decision to speak on abortion, it wasn’t just a decision to do a speech. It was a decision to step into a spiritual battle, a battle that I wasn’t aware of in the least and a battle that was growing in intensity.”

“I still don’t know why God chose me to do what I did,” she continued, “but I’m learning, ever so slowly, to try and embrace conflict, to try to realize that some things will only change as I become willing to stand in opposition to the status quo, as I become willing to see beyond my need for peace and safety and learn to step out of the boat and make some waves.”

Naturally, many of those who have seen Lia in action have questioned how much of the credit for her accomplishments she can truthfully accept: have not her parents held her by the hand all the while, prodding her to take on these controversial topics and perhaps even writing her speeches for her? 

But according to Lia’s mother, this simply is not the case.

According to Kimberly, not only did Lia independently make the decision to speak about abortion, but she and her husband even urged Lia to choose another topic when her original choice was opposed by her teacher. 

While Christian and pro-life in their convictions, the Mills had never been involved in the pro-life movement. “We tended to regard [abortion] as a ‘side issue’, and we focused our attention elsewhere,” says Kimberly. 

“Many times,” she continued, “we’ve asked [Lia] if she wants to step away from pursuing this.  Every time another speaking engagement comes up, we leave it to her to decide whether to accept.  Each time she prays and comes back with her answer and, up to now, she’s always felt that pressing on is what God wants for her.”

While Kimberly says she’d like “to think that, as parents, we’ve made a positive impact on Lia …  as I see what God is doing in and through her, I know it goes way beyond what we’ve done.  Often, I find myself, like Mary, just marveling and pondering these things in my heart.”

As for the actual content of Lia’s speeches, the writing and research is performed almost entirely by the young girl herself, though she does seek advice from her family regarding pacing, flow, and content. Sometimes her speeches will go through as many as 7 or 8 drafts.

The power of new media

When Lia’s parents uploaded her first speech onto Youtube, with the intention of sharing it with family friends, they were completely unprepared for the reaction. The statistics for the video immediately shot through the roof, and it sparked a heated debate – so heated, in fact, that the Mills were forced to shut down commenting on the video after death threats were leveled against Lia. 

Lia says that through witnessing the response to that video, “I really developed an appreciation for the work that any pro-life organization does, because there is so much backlash and opposition.”

But while the “opposition was extremely intense … so was the support,” she says.

The greatest affirmation of the effectiveness of that video came in the form of a comment on the video by someone who said that his aunt had decided against getting an abortion, after watching Lia’s speech.

After seeing the possibilities of Youtube, Lia has gone on to produce a number of new videos tackling different aspects of the pro-life issue. The videos have since become more sophisticated, as the Mills have begun to splice together footage and use other effects, but they are still recording with the same basic point-and-shoot as at first. 

While none of these videos have enjoyed nearly the same level of exposure as the first one, they all have healthy stats – between ten and fifty thousand views.

Big words from a little person

A quick glance at the comments beneath these videos shows that the commonest rebuttal to Lia’s arguments is her age … and her size. But while she herself is the first to acknowledge her youth and inexperience, she is completely undeterred.

“I know these all seem like big words coming form a very little person, but we’re all little compared to God,” she told the pro-life conference. “God’s not looking at how big we are, or how smart we are or how popular we are.  He’s just looking at how willing we are.”

Lia is certainly willing. And perhaps equally as important, given her age, so is her family. She has two siblings (plus a third in his mother’s womb), and - while Lia’s lookalike youngest sister can get frustrated explaining that she is not her famous sibling - they are both “very proud” of her, says Kimberly. In fact, when Lia first started getting so much attention her whole family prayed and fasted together to discern God’s will. “We knew that what was happening with Lia was going to affect us all in some way,” says her mother. 

And when the family finally “voted”  on where to go with it, “everyone was unanimous in their belief that God was behind this and that we should press forward.”

And press forward they have. 

As Lia explained it in the conclusion to her speech at the conference: “It’s often said and believed that God will never give us a problem that’s too big for us to handle. But my youth pastor took that and he dared to disagree. He said ‘No! God always gives us a problem that’s way, way to big for us to handle, but not too big for us to handle together with Him.’

“So here we are, with this, massively huge conflict and battle laying before us, but an even bigger God behind us, backing us up and watching over us. As someone wiser than me once said, ‘All it takes for evil to prevail, is for good men to do nothing.’ In this conflict, let’s not be guilty of doing nothing. Stay strong, and do what you can; every little thing counts.”

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Dr. Miriam Grossman speaks to large audience in Mississauga, Ontario Steve Jalsevac/LifeSite
Lianne Laurence

VIDEO: How DO you to talk to kids about sex? US sex-ed critic gives practical tips

Lianne Laurence
By Lianne Laurence

MISSISSAUGA, ON, August 27, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) – Talking to their children about sex is “anxiety provoking to say the least,” for parents, says American sex-ed expert, Dr. Miriam Grossman.

“Some people just can’t even do it, and that’s okay,” the New York-based psychiatrist told the crowd of 1,000 who packed a Mississauga conference hall August 18 to hear her critique of the Ontario Liberal government’s controversial sex-ed curriculum.

After Grossman explained how the Liberal sex-ed curriculum is dangerously flawed and ideologically driven, she used the question-and-answer session to give parents much appreciated and sometimes humorous practical advice on how to teach their children about “the birds and the bees.”

“If you feel you can’t do it, maybe there’s someone else in the family or in the constellation of people that you know you can trust that could do it,” said Grossman, author of “You’re teaching my child WHAT?” and an internationally sought-after speaker on sex education.

A child, adolescent and adult psychiatrist with 12 years’ clinical experience treating students at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) clinic, Grossman said explaining sexuality and procreation to children is “a process,” that “shouldn’t ideally happen all at once. A child is not a miniature adult, and absorbs…new information differently than adults do.”

And parents need to be sure just what their child wants to know.

To illustrate this, Grossman referred to her earlier story about a father who gave his son every detail on human procreation after the boy asked him, “Dad, where do I come from?”

After the father finished, his son replied, “Well, that’s funny, because Johnny told me that he came from Montreal.”

“Try to find out what your child is really getting at, and, don’t give it all at once,” Grossman said. “You start with a little bit at a time…and you know, there’s so many variables here, and people have their own traditions and their own ways of explaining things, and something that might be right for my family might not be right for your family.”

She also advised that, when confronted with a four, five, six or seven-year-old asking about a pregnant woman, or where babies come, a parent can ask, “What a good question that is. What do you think?”

And parents can also legitimately put off the discussion when appropriate, telling the child, “That’s really not something you need to know about right now.”

“Wow, what a novel idea: Telling a child that they could wait until they’re older to discuss that subject,” Grossman said, adding that parents wouldn’t brook a six- or even fifteen-year-old child asking how much money they made or had in the bank. “Excuse me? Not every subject has to be an open book.”

However, the time will come when a child needs to know “about how her body’s going to change, about reproduction, about how a new life is created.”

That time, Grossman advised, is puberty, or “as puberty is beginning,” and this is especially so for girls, who, if unprepared for the surprise onset of menstruation “might think [they’re] dying.”

“The actual nitty-gritty about the birds and the bees and intercourse” can “be told in bits and pieces, or it can be told all at once, if you feel it’s necessary,” she said, adding that it’s beneficial if the parent acknowledges his or her awkwardness, because the child will think: “This must be such an important subject that my mother or my father is sitting there squirming, but he’s doing it anyway. I’m really loved.”

“And the children need to understand that as you grow up, you change a lot, not only physically but emotionally,” Grossman said, “and what may seem odd or disgusting when you’re ten years old, or whatever age, it becomes something very special and beautiful when you’re older and you’ll understand it later. You don’t have to understand it now.”


Know your child and guard your home

But as an essential foundation for this discussion, parents must both know their children and guard their home from the encroachments of a culture that Grossman described as “very, very sexualized” and “really horrible.”

“Children need parents who are loving but are also firm and authoritative,” she asserted.  “They don’t need best friends. They need us to guide them, to know what they’re doing, to be on top of what they’re doing.

So parents need to be aware of whom their child is “hanging around with, and what kind of movies are they watching…what’s going on with your child.”

“You need to know that anyway, even if it’s not about sex education,” she pointed out. “Try and know your child. Every child is different.”

And Grossman emphasized that it is “extremely important to be careful about what your child is exposed to in the home, in terms of television and Internet, obviously.”

Children need to understand that “just like you have garbage you take out of the house, you put it in the garbage bin, it’s dirty, it smells…there are other things that also don’t belong in the house.”

And children learn quickly what is, and is not, permissible inside the home, Grossman said. “Me, I keep kosher…If I go into a store, my kids know from a very young age, we don’t eat that.”

So they are used to the idea of “the world outside and the inside world, of inside your home, and inside your heart as well.”

Parents can also convey this by telling their children that “the world is an upside-down place, and sometimes the most special, holy subjects are…just thrown in the gutter. And that’s a bad thing. In our family, in our tradition, we don’t do that.”

“Sexuality is one of the subjects that in this upside-down world, it is sometimes just in the gutter,” she said. “And so I want you to tell your child to come to me when you have questions, I will give you the straight story about it.”

Grossman herself is “not even sure,” as she stated in her seminar, that sex education should be in the schools: “I believe sex education should be at home for those parents that want to do it.”

She also noted that parents “can make mistakes. We all make lots of mistakes but it’s okay, you can always come back and do it differently,” adding that this is “another wonderful message for your child. You know what, it’s okay to make mistakes, you can always go back and try and fix it.”

Grossman urged parents to visit her Facebook page, website and blog. “I have so much information you can get there that you’ll find useful,” and added that she will be publishing books for children, and has posted her critique of New York City’s sex-ed curriculum, which is similar to Ontario’s.

The parental backlash to that sex-ed curriculum, set to roll out in the province’s publicly funded schools this September, has been “amazing” Grossman noted.

Grossman’s seminar was sponsored by Mississauga-based HOWA Voice of Change along with the Canadian Families Alliance, an umbrella group representing more than 25 associations and 200,000 Ontarians opposed to the curriculum. The report on her devastating critique of the sex-ed curriculum can be found here, and the video here.

Ontario readers may find information and sign up for a September 2 province-wide protests at MPPs offices here. So far, there are protests planned for 92 of Ontario’s 107 constituencies. The parents’ movement seeking removal of the curriculum is urging all concerned citizens to join this special effort to influence individual Ontario legislators.

See related reports:

Ontario’s dangerous sex-ed is indoctrination not science says U.S. psychiatrist to large audience

Videos: US psychiatrist tells parents “stand firm” against dangerous sex-ed

See the LifeSiteNews feature page on the Ontario sex-ed curriculum containing nearly 100 LifeSite articles related to the issue

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Pete Baklinski Pete Baklinski Follow Pete

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Did the pope just endorse a gay children’s book? Of course not, says Vatican

Pete Baklinski Pete Baklinski Follow Pete
By Pete Baklinski

ROME, August 28, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) -- While mainstream media is gushing with news today that Pope Francis allegedly praised a children’s book that promotes gender theory, the Vatican is decrying what they called the "manipulation" of a cordial letter from an official in the Secretariat of State to suggest that the Vatican is promoting teachings contrary to the Gospel.

Italian children’s author Francesca Pardi was reported by The Guardian to have submitted a parcel of children’s books promoting the acceptance of homosexuality and gender theory to Pope Francis in June after Venice’s mayor Luigi Brugnaro publicly banned the author’s newest book, Piccolo Uovo (Little Egg), from children’s schools. The book was criticized by pro-family leaders for promoting non-natural family structures of two men and two women.

In a letter accompanying the books, Pardi wrote: “Many parishes across the country are in this period sullying our name and telling falsehoods about our work which deeply offends us. We have respect for Catholics. ... A lot of Catholics give back the same respect, why can’t we have the whole hierarchy of the church behind us?”

The Guardian is reporting that Pardi has now “found an unlikely supporter in Pope Francis,” who through his staff has responded to the author and is presented as “praising her work.” It quotes the following from a July 9 letter to Pardi from the Vatican.

“His holiness is grateful for the thoughtful gesture and for the feelings which it evoked, hoping for an always more fruitful activity in the service of young generations and the spread of genuine human and Christian values,” wrote Peter B. Wells, a senior official at the Vatican Secretariat of State, in a the letter The Guardian is reporting it has seen.  

While the letter gently calls the author to use her talents to spread “genuine human and Christian values,” The Guardian takes it as the pope’s endorsement of gender theory.

“Pope Francis sends letter praising gay children's book,” the paper’s headline states. “Italian book that explores different family types including same sex was banned by mayor of Venice, but pontiff becomes unlikely supporter,” reads the subtitle.

In a press release that Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi sent to LifeSiteNews on Friday, the vice speaker of the Vatican, Ciro Benedettini, made clear that the friendly reply letter to the author in no way approves of attitudes or positions that are contrary to Catholic teaching and the Gospels.

The Vatican's statement also says that in the original letter from the secretariat of state Wells merely "acknowledged receipt" of the materials sent by Pardi, and also made clear that the letter was private and not meant for publication. 

"In no way does a letter from the Secretary of State intend to endorse behaviors and teachings not in keeping with the Gospel," says the statement, decrying the "manipulation" of the letter.

Benedettini said the blessing of the pope at the end of the letter was meant to be for the author herself, and not to affirm positions concerning gender theory that are contrary to the Church's teaching. Using the letter to this end is erroneous, he said.

Pope Francis has strongly condemned the notion of “gender theory” on numerous occasions, saying that it is an “error of the human mind that leads to so much confusion.”

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Lisa Bourne

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Poll suggests most US Catholics wrongly believe Pope Francis backs gay ‘marriage’

Lisa Bourne
By Lisa Bourne

August 28, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) -- A considerable majority of U.S. Catholics are in conflict with Church teaching on abortion and marriage, a new study says, and a startling number of those also believe Pope Francis backs homosexual “marriage.”

Despite Church teachings, Catholics in America also closely parallel the general populace in their support for abortion and homosexual “marriage,” falling short in the Biblical call to be “in the world but not of the world.”

The findings suggest what many Catholics have said is a climate of confusion in the midst of the Francis pontificate. Concerns over that confusion prompted a coalition of pro-family groups to respond with an international petition effort asking the pope to reaffirm Church teaching, drawing more than a half-million signatures.

The survey, conducted by Public Religions Research Institute, found that 60 percent of all U.S. Catholics favor legalized homosexual “marriage,” compared to 55 percent of all Americans. Likewise, 51 percent of Catholics think that abortion should be legal in all or most cases, with 53 percent of the general population holding this view.

The Catholic Church teaches that marriage is a sacramental union between one man and one woman, mirroring Christ and the Church respectively as bridegroom and bride.

The Church also teaches that life begins at conception, that each human life possesses dignity as a child of God and is to be afforded protection, making abortion an intrinsic evil.

Catholics, accounting for 22 percent of adults in the U.S. population, have a favorable view of Pope Francis, the study said, but they are very confused about his take on homosexual “marriage.”

Of the Catholics who back homosexual “marriage,” 49-percent also think the leader of the Catholic Church backs it along with them. Fifteen percent of those Catholics who oppose homosexual “marriage” also mistakenly believe Pope Francis supports it.

Pope Francis has made numerous statements in support of life, marriage and family, but the confusion remains.

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"After Ireland and the U.S. Supreme Court both approved same-sex 'marriage,' a strong reaffirmation of Church teaching could save the sacred institution of marriage, strengthen the family and dispel the lies of the homosexual revolution," TFP Student Action Director John Ritchie stated.  "Young Catholics -- even non-Catholics -- look to the Church as a beacon of morality and stability in our Godless culture, but some of our shepherds have issued confusing statements."

TFP Student Action is a part of the lay Catholic organization American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property, and is part of the alliance behind the Filial Appeal, the petition asking the Holy Father to reinforce Catholic teaching at the Vatican’s upcoming Synod on the Family in October.

Ritchie explained how the confusion was aiding the Church’s enemies, and warned of the potential consequences.

"This prayerful petition asks Pope Francis to clear up the moral confusion that's been spreading against Natural and Divine Law," he said. "If the enemies of the family continue to chip away at holy matrimony, the future of the family and civilization itself will be in even more serious peril."

At press time more than 500,000 signature had been gathered for the appeal, including five cardinals, 117 bishops and hundreds of well-known civic leaders.

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