Hilary White, Rome Correspondent

Vatican offers friendly hand at international bloggers’ summit

Hilary White, Rome Correspondent
Hilary White, Rome Correspondent
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ROME, May 4, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) – In the last decade, the mainstream media and the world’s political class have acknowledged the power of the “blogosphere” in the daily life of the political debate. This week, the Vatican admitted that while they may have been behind the curve on the blogs, they want to catch up.

As an independent blogger for seven years, I got one of the “golden tickets” inviting me to join 149 other bloggers to attend the first-ever meeting called by the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Social Communications and for Culture, to address the blogging and “new media” phenomenon. They wanted this meeting, they said, to “open a dialogue” between the Church and the bloggers, who are often critical of Vatican actions.

It was perhaps a signal of how much catching up the Vatican has already done that the meeting was fully equipped not only with simultaneous translation for the five languages spoken, but with functioning wifi and electrical sockets for the laptops, iPads and Smartphones. The bloggers spent the meeting tweeting, posting and texting their readers, as well as sending comments and suggestions to each other within the room.

The atmosphere was friendly and cheery, with smiling bloggers, some of them obviously thrilled merely to have been invited, talking and mixing easily with Vatican officials, priests, housewives, journalists, and even one English Benedictine nun in full habit.

When the idea for a bloggers’ summit was announced in early April, the reaction of the Catholic blogosphere was cautious. Most welcomed it, but there was also much speculation on the motives and organizational abilities of the people who had committed so many public media blunders in recent years. The adversarial atmosphere between the official Church and the outside world has created a climate of suspicion and many bloggers were aware of the complaints within bishops’ conferences that the blogs need to be reigned in, controlled or regulated.

From their side of the table, Church officials are deeply wary of an interactive, lightening-speed media that seems to have no boundaries, rules or limitations. A major theme, put forward by Fr. Frederico Lombardi of the Vatican Press Office and American institutional blogger Elizabeth Scalia, continues to be the supposed “lack of charity” shown by bloggers who reveal the failings of Churchmen. 

It was clear, however, that these officials were aware of the problems and genuinely wanted to begin a new, less mutually suspicious relationship. And the bloggers responded eagerly to the extended hand.

Everyone understood that this meeting was only a preliminary step; this new relationship would not be forged in one five-hour meeting. But already two concrete suggestions have come out and they illustrate the sincerity on both sides.

Thomas Peters, the author of the blog “American Papist” and CatholicVote, asked why, since the bloggers who were present are invariably more friendly to the Church’s concerns, they cannot be given access to embargoed information from the Vatican Press Office. This information routinely goes out first to a secular media that is openly hostile to the Church. Peters pointed out that it has been the role of the bloggers, who overwhelmingly see themselves as champions of Catholic orthodoxy, to correct the misrepresentation of the Church’s teaching by sources like the New York Times. If bloggers had first crack at the news, he said, the Vatican would have a less hostile audience being first out of the news cycle gate.

James Bradley, a deacon and blogger who has recently been received into the Church through the Anglican Ordinariate and who runs the Ordinariate Portal, tweeted “Can’t bloggers just apply for [Press Office] accreditation?” Currently the rules for permanent press accreditation with the Sala Stampa require proof of Italian residency, a letter of recommendation from a recognized news service and ten published articles. These rules make it nearly impossible for an independent blogger, living outside Italy, to receive the Vatican’s press materials before they go out to mainstream media sources.

For their part, the Vatican officials suggested the creation of a voluntary organization of Catholic bloggers that could be called upon to respond to the accusations and misrepresentations made against the Church by the secular world. This body, they insisted, would exist not to regulate or control the members, but to form a cohesive response team defending the Church from outside attacks. 

Fr. Lucio Ruiz, who runs the internet service for the Holy See, said, “The Holy See has for some time excluded the idea that one might in some way put a ‘Catholic stamp of approval’ to sites and blogs that present themselves as Catholic ... We are not a sect.”

The officials recognized the role of the Catholic bloggers who have worked to defend the Church. Fr. Lombardi complimented the bloggers for their help, alluding to their role in clarifying Church teaching during the controversy over remarks made by Pope Benedict on condoms in the book, Light of the World. Lombardi thanked bloggers for offering quick clarification in the case.

For the bloggers present who focus on the Church, these interventions illustrated perhaps the most important message of the evening: that the institutional Church and the Catholic blogosphere are not, in fact, in an adversarial relationship. The Vatican said, in essence, let us figure out a way to work together because we are all on the same side.

The meeting’s organizer, Richard Rouse of the Pontifical Council for Culture, addressed the bloggers’ reservations in his opening remarks. The meeting, he said, was “not a simple publicity stunt.”

It was “not setting stage for drawing up an official moral code, although we will have some witness of efforts to disagree without being disagreeable…”

Rouse said he was glad that the meeting has already encouraged “ecclesial authorities around the world to engage with the blogging community (with all its issues of fear, familiarity, wisdom, courage, prudence, coping with being misinterpreted).”

Later, both Rouse and Fr. Ruiz made a point of speaking to me separately, both taking pains to assure me that at the Vatican level at least, there is no intention or desire to regulate or control bloggers’ content.

Overall, the Vatican blogger summit highlighted the fundamental difference between the secular world and the Church. In the secular world, there is a vast gulf between the rulers and the ruled, and it is only too easy, with the Church’s current manifold difficulties, to presume that the same gulf exists between the general laity and the mysterious “Vatican insiders” who give quotes in the press.

The presumption of an adversarial relationship is perhaps natural. The whole Catholic world is reeling from sex abuse scandals of the last few years, and for nearly 50 years, the crisis in the Church has continued with what many believe has been very little concrete action from Rome. For many of us who work to bring about reform in the Church, the mistrust of hierarchy and of the official Church has become almost habitual.

But in the last 24 hours, reports have appeared from some of those attending and one of the more common themes from bloggers has been a rather sheepish apology for their previous skepticism. The meeting has been universally acclaimed as a success, with barriers and suspicion dropping away and hopes raised of more to come.

After reading the many blogger reports and following the various live Twitter feeds coming from Rome, Fr. Tim Finnigan, the widely read first priestly blogger in the UK, commented on his blog The Hermeneutic of Continuity, “I was rather cynical about the meeting when I heard about it, so I am also very glad that it all seems to have gone so well.”

“This week has been quite a landmark for Catholic blogging, I think. Very positive all round.”


Read other bloggers on the meeting:

Fr. Tim Finnigan, at the Hermeneutic of Continuity

Anna Arco, at the Catholic Herald

Our Sunday Visitor

Elizabeth Scalia, the Anchoress and First Things magazine

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Support pro-life news. Help us reach our critical spring fundraising goal by April 1!


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John-Henry Westen John-Henry Westen Follow John-Henry

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Video: Belgian police put a violent end to a legal pro-life rally in Brussels

John-Henry Westen John-Henry Westen Follow John-Henry
By John-Henry Westen
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BRUSSELS, March 31, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) -- Belgian police used force against pro-lifers holding a legal, peaceful picket Tuesday in the center of Brussels, near the European Parliament buildings.  The pro-life rally, led by activists from Poland, was surrounded by an angry mob of abortion supporters, but when the police intervened they forcibly removed the pro-life signs, and even a Polish flag, saying they were provoking aggression.

The pro-life rally, which displayed graphic abortion signs, was legally registered, and organized by Fundacja Pro, a very active pro-life group from Poland, along with Michał Marusik, a Polish Member of European Parliament, and the Instigos Institute.

Kaja Godek, one of Poland’s leading pro-life activists, described the scene at the Luxembourg Square in Brussels for LifeSiteNews:

When we display graphic abortion pictures on the streets of Poland, the reaction we get is mostly sympathetic. In Brussels, we met with aggression and a hysterical reaction. Some furious people surrounded us screaming that we were sick and that the photographs of abortion victims were a lie.

Jacek Januszewski, one of the youth participants, told LifeSiteNews, “They screamed vulgarities and obscene insults, specifically directed at the ladies in our group. They threw firecrackers, physically pushed us, and tried to steal our banners.”

Describing the actions of the police, Januszewski said, “They formed a circle around our group, but were facing us, as if we were the source of aggression, not the mob around us.” He continued, “Even after one of the policemen got hit on the back with something thrown at us by the mob, they still acted as if it was us who caused the danger. We were just standing there in shock."

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“At one point a man dressed in civilian clothes approached us all red in the face, pushed us and tried to take our banners by force,” said Januszewski. “When we resisted, he produced a police ID. We asked him what he was doing and what law allowed him to disrupt a legal demonstration like that. He screamed back at us: ‘I am the law in Brussels.’”

Godek commented on the undercover officer too. “The man in civilian clothes kept pointing to one specific banner we were holding, showing the face of Adolf Hitler with a caption ‘Hitler legalized abortion on demand for Poles.’ [The undercover policeman] was all red in the face and kept saying he didn't like it and that it was upsetting everybody. We told him we were being attacked and needed protection. He said that we were the danger, we were provoking violence.”

Watch videos (exchanges between police and protesters are audible and in English):

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

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LifeSite Writers 2015
Steve Jalsevac Steve Jalsevac Follow Steve

2 Days Left - Can you donate just $5 or more?

Steve Jalsevac Steve Jalsevac Follow Steve
By Steve Jalsevac

This is an urgent reminder that we have just 2 days left to reach our annual Spring campaign goal of $175,000.
 
Please consider supporting our mission to build a Culture of Life by making the most generous donation you can today.

Have you ever wondered who is behind LifeSite, and what our organization does with the money you donate?
 
Sometimes we find that readers of LifeSite, new readers in particular, understandably do not realize the size and scope of our mission: including not just how many millions of people read LifeSite (6 million people last month alone, for the record), but also the number of people and resources required to keep this unique international news service going every day.
 
It is quite an eye-opener when we list everything involved. Given the exponential growth of LifeSite over the past few years, it seems time to present an update. This should help you to understand why we must set our quarterly campaign goals at the very least at the levels that we do each time.

Every single member of the LifeSite team is passionately dedicated to our mission. Many have families with children and all depend on prayer (we have a staff prayer conference call every morning at 9:30 a.m.) to do this challenging work. They are also highly principled persons who see this work as being much more of personal mission than a “job”.

They care deeply about the issues that we write about and their impact on the world. At least several were on the “other side” in the past and experienced profound conversions to pro-life, pro-family beliefs.

In addition to the English language LifeSite, we also publish two other versions of LifeSite. There is the Spanish language Notifam and the Portuguese language Notifam.  These two services have been completely re-designed and their readership has dramatically increased in the past several months.

Almost all of our journalists are paid salaries or an hourly rate (part-timers). Nearly half are full-time, and the rest are part-time with widely varying total hours per month. A small number of the part-timers are able to offer their work to LifeSite as a no-charge gift to the pro-life and pro-family cause.

Almost all of the news reporters work from their homes. Our one office is located in Front Royal, Virginia in the Human Life International building. Much of the LifeSite, Canada administration work (payroll, bookkeeping, mail and donation receiving, etc.) is contracted to Campaign Life Coalition (CLC) in Toronto. We are very grateful for CLC’s assistance.

Since the introduction of our dramatically new website last year, we have also been able to add prominent paid bloggers to the LifeSite team. In addition to our own bloggers, other notable pro-life bloggers such as Jill Stanek and Ryan Bomberger permit us to re-publish and often give much wider exposure to posts from their blog sites.

Back in September 1997, it was just John-Henry Westen and myself, the two founding staff of Lifesite. Things have certainly changed since then.

CURRENT NEWS TEAM

North America

1.  John-Henry Westen – Co-founder, Editor-in-Chief, journalist 
2.  Steve Jalsevac – Co-founder, managing director, editor, journalist
3.  John Jalsevac – Website development, petitions, journalist
4.  Patrick Craine – Managing editor, journalist, Canadian bureau chief
5.  Ben Johnson – US bureau chief, journalist
6.  Dustin Siggins – Washington DC bureau reporter and media outreach
7.  Kirsten Anderson – Washington DC and region reporter
8.  Lisa Bourne – Journalist
9.  Pete Baklinski – Journalist
10. Ted Baklinski – Journalist
11. Lianne Lawrence – Toronto journalist and LSN Canada donor relations
12. Steve Weatherbe – Journalist
13. Drew Belsky – Journalist

International

14. Hilary White (Italy) – Rome and Europe reporter
15. Jeanne Smits (Paris, France) – European reporter
16. Andrew Smith – Australian reporter
17. Michelle Kaufman – New Zealand reporter
18. Matthew Hoffman – Latin American reporter
19. Gualberto Guilherme Araujo – Brazilian editor
20. Gualberto Garcia Jones – Latin America bureau chief
21. Sophia Vazquez Mellado – Spanish language reporter
22. Mei-Li Beane – Spanish Language reporter
23. Natalia Duehlom – Polish correspondent
24. Matthew McCusker – London correspondent

Bloggers

25. Anthony Esolen
26. Matt Fradd
27. Abby Johnson
28. Jonathon van Maren
29. Melanie Pritchard

SUPPORT TEAM

30. Jon Fidero – Development Director
31. Andy Parrish – Marketing, media, public relations
32. Clare Magaad – LSN U.S. Office Manager
33. Megan Mulherin – Database management, Donor relations coordinator
34. Linda Wilson – Donor relations
35. Tommy Farrel – Donor relations
36. Theresa Jalsevac – Daily news subscriber services, article publishing
37. Jacob Westen – Article publishing

EXTERNAL SERVICES

LifeSite employs the services of a wide variety of companies and individuals for website design and development, video production, graphic design, donation processing, mass emailing of the Daily News, web hosting, payroll, legal work, marketing of LifeSite and much more.

Some of these external costs are in the six-figure level, given the large volume and variety of material that we publish, the cutting edge complexity of the website and the high level of traffic that LifeSite must now be able to handle.

We also have on-going and major electronic equipment costs since we are a digital service requiring high quality, reliable and the most up-to-date digital resources.

Finally, our team, and especially John-Henry, have been required to do a lot more travelling in recent years to cover major stories on site and to attend and be actively involved in very important meetings in several nations.  
 
The Marches for life in Washington, DC, Ottawa Canada and Rome, Italy have required a team of LSN staff. As well, we are the original organizers of the Rome Life Forum in Vatican City that is now billed as a Voice of the Family (which LifeSite co-founded) event and is co-sponsored by a number of International groups.

I hope this has helped you to much better understand our financial needs and will encourage any who might have been hesitant to donate to re-consider and send a generous gift for the LifeSite mission.

We are amazed that so much has been accomplished over the years, thanks especially to the generosity of those who believe in what we do and have wanted to express their appreciation for this work and what it has meant to them.

Please join our other supporters today with your gift.
 
You can also donate by phone or mail. We would love to hear from you!

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Courtesy of Stand True Ministries
Bryan Kemper Follow Bryan

10 years ago today, Terri Schiavo died an agonizing death. I was with her family. Where were you?

Bryan Kemper Follow Bryan
By Bryan Kemper
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March 31, 2015 (StandTrue.com) -- For twenty-four years I have been involved with pro-life work in one way or another. Over those twenty-four years I have talked to thousands of people about their involvement, why they got involved, how they got involved and what motivates them to continue. We have talked about what happened in 1973 and where were all the Christians when Roe vs. Wade was passed. We would wonder why Christians would ignore human rights and own slaves in the time of the Dred Scott decision. We would tell stories about the few brave Christians that hid Jews during the Holocaust and proclaim that if it were we in those times we would have been a voice. If we were around in those days we would have risked all to save an innocent life; that is what we said, at least.

Ten years ago a young woman in Florida who was handicapped began an agonizing and painful journey towards death. Her husband, who had once made a vow to love and honor her through good times and bad, murdered her on national television. Her husband, who had already broken his vows to her by living with another woman and fathering children with her, went to court to have his wife starved and dehydrated to death. Terri Schiavo held onto life and fought for 13 days before finally dying on Thursday, March 31, 2005.

When I arrived in Florida one week before her death I expected to see thousands and thousands of Christians in front of the hospice praying, singing and crying out for Terri. I expected to see all those people who said, “I would have been there to stand up if I were around in the times of Roe vs. Wade or during the Holocaust.” I was sadly disappointed.

I walked up and saw maybe 150 people at most — some of them familiar faces from the pro-life movement, some of them just wanting to be on TV. I started to walk around and ask where people were from and most of them were from out of town; it was hard to find anyone from the Tampa area there to stand up for Terri. For years I wondered where the Christians were when Roe vs. Wade was passed, and now I had the answer.

I spent the first day walking around the crowd praying with people, talking about what could be done and simply being there in solidarity with our sister as she was dying. When I arrived the second day I talked to Terri’s sister whom I had met in Washington, DC, in January, when I volunteered my services to the family. I was asked to help guard the family and escort them around as everyone was swarming them.

I spent a lot of time just sitting with them and listening to stories about Terri and her life growing up. Her dad told a story about when Terri ran over a cat and how upset she was over this poor little cat. The friends shared beautiful stories and memories that I will treasure forever.

During this time we also spent a lot of time in prayer, with many different Christian leaders and friends. Everyone would be talking about a possible option and then someone would just stop and say, “Let’s pray.” There was more spontaneous prayer than I had ever seen. I would walk among the people there in support and see small groups up and down the street praying, singing hymns and just reading the Scriptures out loud. There may not have been a large group there, but they were dedicated and focused on prayer.

I spent a lot of time walking the family through the media circus to and from the hospice trying to give them a little privacy. I would walk Terri’s dad through the crowd every night as he thanked all the supporters for being there for Terri.

I talked to many of the behind-the-scenes media people who were obviously shaken by this tragedy. I saw people from all different walks of life and political and religious backgrounds taking a stand. There were many non-Christian people there in support of Terri, and dozens of handicapped people from a group called Not Dead Yet. I even spent time in prayer with the Rev. Jesse Jackson as he came to help the family and speak out for Terri. I never in a million years would have believed that I would sit in a room praying with Randal Terry, Jesse Jackson and Sean Hannity.

Each night at about 11:00 PM I would leave the hospice area and go get something to eat and try to catch up on some computer work and grab a few hours of sleep. I talked to a lot of people at different restaurants that would ask us what was really happening there. One night Terri’s brother, Bobby, came out to eat with us. When he left, the people there asked us questions and wanted to know the truth about the whole situation; they were shocked when they got the true facts about Terri.

On Wednesday night I went to the hotel and was especially saddened as we were reaching 13 days. My friend Will and I sat in the pool at the hotel at 2:00 AM discussing the past week and what else could have been done. I finally got to sleep at about 3:00 AM. Early the next morning, I was awoken by Will telling me that Terri had died.

We quickly packed our bags and went to the car to drive over to the hospice a few blocks away. As I got into the car it really began to hit me what had just happened and I started to cry. I picked up my cell phone and called my wife and children; I just needed to hear their voices and tell them I loved them.

I got to the hospice and stood guard outside the room the family was in to give them some privacy. The room was tucked in behind all the major media trucks and production areas. I watched as many of the media producers and reporters were fighting back tears. I watched reporters hugging the family and giving condolences; they were truly touched by Terri’s family. Many of the media that I had gotten to know expressed their grief to me, some of them on-air personalities who were affected greatly.

After the family was done making their statements for the day, I made my rounds to offer my condolences and say my goodbyes. I told the family about all the Stand True supporters and family that had asked me to send their best wishes and prayers. I thanked them for their strength and resolve in the fight for Terri’s life. I let them know that we at Stand True will never let Terri’s name die and that we will continue the fight for life and others like Terri.

I will never forget and I will never stop telling her story. 

HTTP://WWW.TERRISFIGHT.ORG

Also read Father Frank Pavone’s memory of his time with Terri.

HTTP://WWW.WASHINGTONTIMES.COM/NEWS/2015/MAR/30/FRANK-PAVONE-TERRI-SCHIAVOS-INCONVENIENT-LIFE/

Reprinted with permission from Stand True.

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