Hilary White, Rome Correspondent

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Vatican, others confirm existence of gay scandal report: pope sets new transition rules

Hilary White, Rome Correspondent
Hilary White, Rome Correspondent
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ROME, February 25, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) – It is three days to the end of the pontificate of Benedict XVI and it is nearly impossible to keep on top of the rumours and speculation whirling around the Internet over his resignation and the upcoming conclave. The whole world wants to know what is really going on. Unfortunately, the real scope and parameters of what is currently unfolding will likely never be completely known. The best we can do is careful examination of what we do know, a judicious piecing together of the available facts.  

First we had Friday’s blockbuster story by La Repubblica on the 300-page report by three senior cardinals allegedly detailing the activities of a homosexual cabal, blackmail and manipulation of Vatican officials and possible financial misdeeds. Many have said that they believe the whole story is a hoax. Others have justifiably questioned how any journalist could have known anything about the report’s contents, given that there is supposed to be only one copy and that is in the pope’s private safe.

In our coverage on Friday, I was careful to use words and phrases like “allegedly” and “La Repubblica says”. It would have been impossible to decline to report at least that the story had been circulated because it was receiving such prominence, but we wanted to be cautious. Veteran Vaticanista Robert Moynihan, founder of Inside the Vatican magazine, is among those in Rome who have been asking these questions. This weekend, he speculated that, while it seems beyond possibility that any journalist could have actually seen the document, it is certainly plausible that information about it could have been leaked.

It has been said that it could not possibly have been leaked because the only people who have seen it are the three cardinals and the pope. But, Moynihan points out, there are also the people interviewed. These are people who live and work closely together, and it is certainly possible that they would have spoken to each other, or possibly to their families, about the questions they were asked and the answers they gave.

I sent the following email to Moynihan Saturday:

Robert,

You're forgetting another possible source of information.

A 300 page book, about 90,000 words, does not come into existence without at least one person doing the clerical work. It does not seem likely that three aged cardinals would be very fast typists or familiar enough with office equipment, let alone computers to do this themselves. La Repubblica does not say, but we can probably assume that it was not a hand-written manuscript.

Someone had to draft the questions, print the papers, collate the answers and produce the final report. This is work for at least two or three secretarial people aside from the cardinals. Then there are the cardinals' aids and office staff and their personal staff. All these people could have gained some access to the papers before they were collated. And certainly the secretarial people who put the final report together would have known quite a lot about its contents, if not, as you say, the whole thing.

“True dat,” he replied.

Today, Moynihan wrote of a conversation he had with Ignazio Ingrao, the journalist who broke the original story in the Italian magazine Panorama. Ingrao admitted that he had not seen the document nor talked with the cardinals.

“My work was a careful work of reconstruction,” Ingrao said. “I had been interested in the dossier for a long time, of course, and when the Pope resigned on February 11, my interest only increased. I very systematically sought out people in the Curia I thought might have been interviewed, and I spoke to them, one by one.” These 15 people gave him an outline of understanding what the questioning had been about.

About the “gay lobby” that his article said exists in the curia, Ingrao was definite. The theme “emerged because a few of the people who were questioned by the cardinals told me that the questions that they were asked were about this aspect…It was clear.

“The cardinals were specifically interested in this point. I heard this from several sources. I did not consider anything valid if I heard it from one source only. I required at least two or three sources telling me the same thing. If I heard it from two or more sources, if my sources confirmed one another, I knew I was hearing something with a basis in fact.”

The first Vatican response was to “neither confirm nor deny” anything about the cardinals’ work, and issued a media release rebuking media outlets for making things up. But today they changed their tune. The Secretariat of State issued a statement saying, “It is regrettable that as we draw closer to the time of the beginning of the conclave … that there be a widespread distribution of often unverified, unverifiable or completely false news stories that cause serious damage to persons and institutions.”

“If in the past it was the so-called superpowers, namely States, who sought to condition the election of the Pope in their favour, today there is an attempt to apply the weight of public opinion, often on the basis of assessments that fail to capture the spiritual aspect of this moment in the life of the Church.”

The question about whether such a report exists at all, however, was settled this morning when the Vatican issued a statement that, while not saying much in itself, at least confirmed that La Repubblica got the basic facts right. There is such a report, created by the cardinals named and Benedict has decided to keep its contents secret and give it only into the hands of the next pope. The brief statement also adds a new name to consider in the puzzle of how the information could have been leaked to the press, that of Commission Secretary, Fransican Fr. Luigi Martignani.

Then followed a story by La Stampa’s usually well-informed Vatican Insider magazine that the document’s contents would be revealed to the cardinals in the conclave. Today this was contradicted by Fr. Lombardi at a press conference who said that the report would be exclusively released into the hands of the new pope. At the same time, further hints were offered that the Italian media reports were on the right track. A statement was read from Pope Benedict thanking the three cardinals for their work, saying that the report reveals “the limits and imperfections given the human component of all institutions”.

A little-understood aspect of Vatican politics, that is widely known in journalistic circles in Rome, is that Fr. Lombardi, the head of the Vatican’s official press machine, is hampered by difficulties with “access”.

It is one of the peculiarities of this pontificate that, unlike his predecessor Joaquin Navarro-Valls who spoke privately to Pope John Paul II regularly, Fr. Lombardi does not enjoy that kind of privileged access to Benedict. A fact that were it more widely known would have gone a long way to explaining some of the Jesuit mathematician’s more embarrassing public gaffes over the last eight years. It also helps us understand why the public statements of the Vatican press office and those of the various dicasteries are sometimes so different.

One of the strongest hints that the homosexual subculture in the Church is causing concern in high places is a statement from the cardinal archbishop of Sydney who called on the Vatican press office to respond to the report in “some constructive way.”

Cardinal George Pell, who spoke just before flying out to Rome on Friday, said, “I know nothing of the content of the report but whatever it contains it is clear that significant reforms are needed within the Vatican bureaucracy.” The Australian said he praised Benedict for his “courage for commissioning such a report”.

At the same time, questions and confusion over when, exactly, the conclave will start are being sorted out by the well-prepared Benedict. He issued a special motu proprio today saying that in case of a papal abdication, the required waiting time can be waived and the conclave date can be moved up.

Under the current rules we would have had to wait until March 15; now the cardinals can decide to get on with things a little more promptly, since there will be no need, deo volente, for a papal lying-in-state or funeral. Modern transportation has made it easier for far-flung cardinals to make it and a good number of them are already in town.

The voting cardinals will start the “congregations,” the preparation meetings after March 1, the beginning of the “sede vacante” or empty seat period, and Fr. Lombardi said that the decision on when the voting will start may still take some days after that.

The same document extends and strengthens the required oath of secrecy to appoint technicians to assist the cardinals “in assuring that no audio-visual equipment for recording or transmitting has been installed by anyone in the areas mentioned, and particularly in the Sistine Chapel itself, where the acts of the election are carried out.”

Significantly, Benedict has imposed an automatic excommunication (latae sententiae) on anyone violating the secrecy of the conclave.

A last interesting development from the weekend is the news that Benedict has also ordered the old oath of loyalty restored, to be sworn individually to the new pontiff by all members of the College of Cardinals. Monsignor Guido Marini, master of papal liturgical ceremonies, known as a strong supporter of Benedict’s liturgical reform, told L’Osservatore Romano that each cardinal present at the pope’s first Mass will come forward and offer his public “act of obedience”.

This is a change from the rules in place in 2005, when instead of the ancient ritual of oath-giving, 12 people were chosen to represent “all Catholics” three cardinals, a bishop, a diocesan priest, a transitional deacon, male and female religious and laity. Monsignor Marini said Pope Benedict personally approved the changes February 18th

Slowly the apparent chaos is coalescing into a pattern and it is confirming what most of the people I have talked to believe, that Pope Benedict is acting in a concerted and organised manner, almost as though he planned it all. He knows what he is doing.

The idea is also becoming more firmly dismissed that Benedict was reacting to the cardinals’ secret document; that he saw its contents and was so shocked and horrified that he sat down and in a kind of despair, penned a resignation letter. Such a suggestion shows that those making it know nothing of this man whose self-appointed primary task during his pontificate has been to clean up the “filth” that he identified even before it started. And before that, he sat up in his office in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith for over 20 years and received information from around the world, as well as from his own back yard, on what was going on.

Far more likely is that Benedict commissioned the report as part of his larger work, that he was fully aware before he read it of the general parameters of the corruption, its nature and scale.

Indeed, two weeks after the announcement that so shocked and disturbed the Catholic world, two weeks of doing nothing but pore over news reports, blog posts, emails and messages, of talking with people in Rome and via Skype around the world, it seems that the existence of this report, as well as the other changes and items on Benedict’s to-do list, is one of the most cheering pieces of news we’ve had recently.

It indicates that the corruption is not the whole story, that Pope Benedict is battling to the very eleventh hour, and still has the situation firmly in hand, and that the work of his pontificate will not end on February 28th

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Drew Belsky

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2016 candidates react to the Supreme Court’s marriage decision

Drew Belsky
By Drew Belsky

WASHINGTON, D.C., July 2, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) – Five days after the U.S. Supreme Court's 5-4 decision mandating the redefinition of marriage to include same-sex couples, most of the 2016 presidential candidates have made their opinions on the issue known.

While all of the Democrats currently in the race aggressively supported the ruling, the Republicans' reactions to the Supreme Court's marriage ruling have been more varied.

Wisconsin governor Scott Walker, who is expected to announce his candidacy soon, criticized the Obergefell decision, calling it "a grave mistake." Walker suggested that "the only alternative" to Friday's decision is "to support an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to reaffirm the ability of the states to continue to define marriage."

Texas senator Ted Cruz has doubled down on Walker's call for a constitutional amendment. Not only is Cruz seeking an amendment to protect states' right to define marriage, but he also hopes to amend the Constitution to demand "periodic judicial retention elections" for Supreme Court justices – namely, Cruz said, for those who "overstep their bounds [and] violate the Constitution."

Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush shied away from a constitutional marriage amendment. "Guided by my faith," Bush said in a statement, "I believe in traditional marriage." However, "in a country as diverse as ours, good people who have opposing views should be able to live side by side. It is now crucial that as a country we protect religious freedom and the right of conscience and also not discriminate."

Florida senator Marco Rubio agreed with Bush, exhorting Republicans to "look ahead" and concentrate on the nomination process for new judges. Likewise with Ohio governor John Kasich, who said on Face the Nation that "it's time to move on" and "take a deep breath."

Click "like" if you want to defend true marriage.

Former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina concurred. While "I do not agree that the Court can or should redefine marriage," Fiorina said, "[m]oving forward...all of our effort should be focused on protecting the religious liberties and freedom of conscience."

South Carolina Senator Lindsay Graham forthrightly condemned a constitutional marriage amendment as "a divisive effort that would be doomed to fail." Graham told NBC News, "I would not engage in the Constitutional amendment process as a party going into 2016. Accept the Court's ruling. Fight for the religious liberties of every American."

Libertarian-leaning Kentucky Senator Rand Paul wrote in Time Magazine that the federal government should remove itself completely from the marriage issue. "Our founding fathers went to the local courthouse to be married, not Washington, D.C.," Paul wrote.

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal "strongly disagree[s]" with the Obergefell ruling, but he admitted on Sunday that his state would ultimately comply with the Supreme Court's decision. "We do not have a choice."

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie went one step farther. While he "agree[s] with Chief Justice John Roberts" that "this is something that should be decided by the people, and not ... five lawyers," the governor admitted that "those five lawyers get to impose it under our system, and so our job is going to be to support the law of the land[.]"

Former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum foresees a widespread silencing of those who dissent from the Supreme Court's interpretation of marriage. "There's no slippery slope here," Santorum told the Family Research Council Friday; "religious liberty is under assault today – not going to be, it is – and it's going to be even more so ... with this decision."

Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee expressed similar sentiments, excoriating the Supreme Court for flouting millions of Americans who voted to affirm "the laws of nature." Huckabee said on Friday, "I will not acquiesce to an imperial court any more than our Founders acquiesced to an imperial British monarch. We must resist and reject judicial tyranny, not retreat."

On the other end of the spectrum, former Democratic Maryland governor and Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley contended that it is homosexuals, not religious objectors to the Obergefell decision, who need more protections from the state.

Calling the ruling a "major step forward," O'Malley proceeded to demand passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), a bill that criminalizes "discrimination" based on an "individual's actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity." Opponents worry it would force religious employers to hire homosexuals and transgender people.

Passing ENDA, O'Malley said, would help "more fully realize the vision of an open, respectful, and inclusive nation that Friday's decision aspires us [sic] to be."

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Drew Belsky

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Obama Department of Justice to Virginia school: Let girl use boys’ bathrooms

Drew Belsky
By Drew Belsky

July 2, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) - The Obama administration's Department of Justice (DoJ) filed a "statement of interest" Monday in support of a Virginia high school sophomore who is seeking to use bathrooms designated for members of the opposite sex.

In June 2015, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed suit against the Gloucester County School Board on behalf of 15-year-old Gavin Grimm, who is biologically female but wants to use male bathrooms and locker rooms.

Grimm claimed that she had used such facilities without incident for seven weeks until December 2014, when the school board enacted a policy requiring "transgender" students to use private restrooms.

Grimm testified in early 2015 that "[n]ow that the board has passed this policy, school no longer feels as safe and welcoming as it did before[.] ... Being singled out is a glaring reminder of my differences and causes me significant discomfort every time I have to use the restroom."

The Obama administration declared in May 2014 that sex discrimination under Title IX applies to those who identify as "transgender."  The Department of Education followed up last December by ordering federally funded schools to classify students based on "gender identity" rather than biological sex.

Regardless, Alliance Defending Freedom attorney Jeremy Tedesco told LifeSiteNews in June of this year that Grimm's and the ACLU's discrimination claims would not hold water.  Citing a district court case in Pennsylvania, Tedesco noted (emphasis in original) that "[t]he Court ... highlighted that Title IX's implementing regulations state that schools do not violate Title IX when they 'provide separate toilet, locker room, and shower facilities on the basis of sex.'"

Title IX, part of the U.S. Education Amendments of 1972, is a statute that "prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in any federally funded education program or activity."

"Every court to consider this issue has held that single-sex restrooms and locker room facilities are permitted under Title IX," Tedesco concluded.

Now, according to the DoJ's "statement of interest" in support of Grimm, filed this week, "[t]he United States has a significant interest in ensuring that all students, including transgender students, have the opportunity to learn in an environment free of sex discrimination and that the proper legal standards are applied to claims under Title IX" (p. 2, all citations omitted).  Per the DoJ, Grimm "is likely to succeed on the merits" of her Title IX claim, and "it is in the public interest to allow [Grimm] ... to use the male restrooms at Gloucester High School."

Regarding the Pennsylvania case mentioned by Tedesco, the DoJ claims that "[t]he district court's reasoning in that case was faulty and should not be followed."

One Gloucester County School Board member who voted against the December bathroom policy fretted that "federal dollars are at stake." Her concern was well-founded: five months later, the Obama administration threatened to deny Virginia's Fairfax County School Board $42 million in federal funding if the board refused to change its own bathroom protocols.  The Fairfax board ruled in May – over the strenuous objections of parents in attendance – that "transgender" students could use facilities in accordance with their "gender identity."

"Although certain parents and community members may object to students sharing a common use restroom with transgender students," the DoJ declared in its brief for Grimm, "any recognition of this discomfort as a basis for discriminating would undermine the public interest."

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Lisa Bourne

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Girl Scouts returns $100,000 donation over transgender stipulation

Lisa Bourne
By Lisa Bourne

July 2, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) - An unusual request from a major donor to a regional branch of the U.S. Girl Scouts has drawn attention to the organization’s ongoing support for gender ideology and transgender issues. 

Girl Scouts of Western Washington CEO Megan Ferland revealed last week that the council had recently received a donation for $100,000. However, after the Girl Scouts’ practice of allowing boys who identify as girls to join the Scouts hit the news during the media’s coverage of the Bruce Jenner case, Ferland says she received a note from the donor putting a condition on the donation.

“Please guarantee that our gift will not be used to support transgender girls,” the donor reportedly asked. “If you can’t, please return the money.”

In the end, Ferland said she chose to give the $100,000 - what could have comprised nearly a fourth of the council’s annual fundraising goal - back to the donor.

“Girl Scouts is for every girl,” Ferland stated in a report from SeattleMet.com. “And every girl should have the opportunity to be a Girl Scout if she wants to.”

In the meantime, the council used the publicity over the refused donation to launch a social fundraising campaign on IndieGoGo, a social fundraising site. The #ForEVERYGirl has far exceeded its goal, raising over $300,000 for the group in just three days.

"Our vision at Girl Scouts of Western Washington is that EVERY girl in our region—regardless of her race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, gender identity or geographic location—is empowered to unleash her potential, build her future and transform her world," states the campaign.

This is not the first time that Ferland has been involved in a controversy over the Scouts’ support for transgenderism.

When a boy self-identifying as a girl attempted to join a Colorado Girl Scout troop in 2011 and was initially refused by the leader because of his male gender, Ferland, then head of the Colorado council, issued a statement welcoming boys identifying as girls, and saying efforts were in progress to find the boy a troop. The council also renounced the troop leader’s actions in refusing the boy access.

“Every girl that is a Girl Scout is a Girl Scout because her parent or guardian brings her to us and says, ‘I want my child to participate,’” Ferland stated at the time. “And I don’t question whether or not they’re a girl.” 

Western Washington Girl Scouts current program brochures show that gender ideology is woven right into the council’s programming for girls, with promotion found right in the council’s workshops:

SafeZone for Girl Scouts Sat, May 23, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Tacoma Learn how you can become an ally and advocate for your Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) peers. Includes activities and discussion around: inclusive language, the process of coming out, the power of the straight ally, how to respond to homophobic/trans-phobic incidents, where to go for help and much more. Bring lunch.

Girl Scouts and radical feminism

For years, pro-family leaders have raised alarms about partnerships and programs that indicate that the Girl Scouts have moved toward embracing a radical feminist identity.

As far back as 2004 a U.S Catholic Bishop intervened when a Girl Scout-Planned Parenthood partnership threatened young girls. 

Then-Austin Bishop Gregory Aymond warned local Catholics not to sign their children up for Planned Parenthood’s “Nobody’s Fool,” a sex-ed campaign designed for pre-pubescent children which had been integrated into the local Girl Scouts.

A survey, also from 2004, found that many Girl Scouts councils were partnering with Planned Parenthoood in some fashion. 

In 2010 the Girl Scouts were found to be pushing a radical agenda on its young members with Planned Parenthood given access to distribute an explicit ‘sex guide’ at a closed-door, no-adults-welcome meeting at the UN sponsored by the Girl Scouts.

Lincoln, Nebraska Bishop James Conley warned in 2011 as auxiliary bishop of Denver that involvement in the Girl Scouts could serve to make girls more open to the pro-abortion agenda.

Roughly 90 Girl Scouts of Northern California members and their families marched in San Francisco’s 2013 Gay Pride Parade. 

"The San Francisco Girl Scouts participate in many parades that celebrate the diversity of San Francisco," Girl Scouts of Northern California Communications Manager Dana Allen told LifeSiteNews at the time. "Girl Scouts is inclusive and reflects the communities we serve."

A sexuality-based Girl Scout troop was started earlier this year in Utah aimed at gay and lesbian families and boys who consider themselves “transgender.” It meets at the Utah Pride Center.

"As long as a youth identifies as a girl or with girls, even if they are genderfluid on the day that they registered, then they can become a Girl Scout," Shari Solomon-Klebba, the Utah Girl Scout outreach coordinator, and an open lesbian who started the troop, told a local news station at the time.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) urged caution last year in engaging with the Girl Scouts after conducting a two-year examination of the scouts. That study identified concerns about several Girl Scouts USA policies, affiliations and structural weaknesses.

Girl Scout alternatives

The representatives of two organizations for girls frequently considered a Christ-centered alternative to the Girls Scouts told LifeSiteNews this latest incident with the Western Washington Scouts underscores the need for other options for families and their children.

“There has been a huge cultural shift in redefining life-long truths that have many families carefully considering their youth program options. American Heritage Girls has often been regarded as a Christian-based alternative to the Girl Scouts,” American Heritage Girls National Communications Specialist Jennifer Troutman said.

American Heritage Girls marked its 20th anniversary this past week. There are more than 40,000 members within the organization.

“Now more than ever American Heritage Girls recognizes the importance of bringing Christ-centered, character development programming to girls across the nation.”  

The head of Little Flowers Girls’ Club concurred.

“I feel very blessed that we can offer an authentically Catholic alternative to Girl Scouts,” Joan Stromberg told LifeSiteNews.

Little Flowers started over 20 years ago, not as a reaction against what Girl Scouts were doing, or where they are now, Stromberg said, but as a way to help moms and girls bond together to learn about the world through a Catholic lens.

“It is sad that Girl Scouts policies and positions have put them in direct conflict with Church teachings,” Stromberg continued. “I am just pleased that girls and moms have alternative places like Little Flowers where they can go.”

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