Hilary White, Rome Correspondent

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Vatican to survey laity on sex, family issues in lead-up to synod on family

Hilary White, Rome Correspondent
Hilary White, Rome Correspondent
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ROME, November 4, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) – What do the laity of the Catholic Church think about the teachings on artificial contraception, abortion, the restriction of marriage to one man and one woman, sex outside of marriage and divorce? These and other issues are at the centre of a questionnaire sent out on Friday by the Vatican to survey not only bishops and theologians but also ordinary lay people. 

The survey asks whether the Catholic teachings on marriage and the family “are widely known” and “what formation” is given to Catholics, and “to what extent” they are “actually known, accepted, rejected and/or criticised in areas outside the Church”.

The questionnaire is part of the build-up to an extraordinary session of the Synod of Bishops set for October 2014 to discuss issues surrounding the family. A letter from Archbishop Lorenzo Baldisseri, Secretary General of the Synod, was sent with the questionnaire to all the bishops of the world asking for the material to be distributed “as widely as possible” to ensure input from “local sources,” including parishes, to help Vatican officials develop the agenda for the meeting on “The Pastoral Challenges of the Family in the Context of Evangelisation.”

The preparatory document sent out with the questionnaire said that Pope Francis and the Synod of Bishops are concerned with issues “unheard of until a few years ago,” such as the “widespread practice of cohabitation, which does not lead to marriage and sometimes even precludes the very idea of it,” and “same-sex unions between persons who are, not infrequently, permitted to adopt children” and “a culture of non-commitment.”

Also to be addressed will be “forms of feminism hostile to the Church,” “relativist pluralism in the conception of marriage” the influence on marriage of the popular media, and “underlying trends of thought” that have led to legislative changes that “devalue the idea of permanence and faithfulness in marriage.” 

Other issues to be discussed will be the “single-parent family,” polygamy, the caste system, the practice of “purchasing” a woman with a dowry, “surrogate motherhood” and “new interpretations of what is considered a human right.” The document notes that even within the Church, “faith in the sacramentality of marriage and the healing power of the Sacrament of Penance [confession] show signs of weakness or total abandonment”.

If the Vatican is surveying general acceptance of Catholic teaching among Catholics, much of the work has been done for them by polling organisations that have shown a steady plummet in nearly all indicators since the 1960s. Most recently, a Pew Research poll published in June showed that in the US, 71 percent of Catholics believe homosexuality should be “accepted by society”.

The pollsters noted that “opinions among Catholics have changed substantially,” with only 34 percent saying that homosexual behavior is sinful, a precipitous drop since 2003 when it was just under half. Thirty-seven percent of self-declared Catholics said there is “no conflict” between homosexuality and their religious beliefs.

Among those Catholics who attend church services weekly or more often, the number who believe homosexual behaviour is sinful rose only to 67 per cent, down from 73 percent ten years ago.

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Author and researcher Sherry Weddell, in her recent book, “Forming Intentional Disciples: the Path to Knowing and Following Jesus,” also polled U.S. parishes to find out the level of adherence to Catholic teaching in the pews. She asked “hundreds of diocesan and parish leaders from sixty dioceses throughout the English-speaking world this question: ‘What percentage of your parishioners, would you estimate, are intentional disciples?’ To our astonishment, we have received the same answer over and over: ‘Five per cent.’”

Further, Weddell said she canvassed Catholics who were described as “active” and “heavily involved” in parish life, and who attended Mass frequently, and discovered that only about 60 percent believe in a “personal God”.

Her research showed that only 30 percent of Americans who were raised Catholic are still practicing and at least 10 percent of all adults in America are “ex-Catholics”. With regards to marriage, the available statistics are equally grim, with a 60 percent drop in marriages celebrated in churches between 1972 and 2010.

Statistics such as these can be found across the western world. In the UK, the number of people in England who registered as “Christian” in 2001 was 71.7 per cent. By 2011, that had dropped to 59.4 percent. Recently compiled statistics showed that over the last century, the number of Catholic marriages rose from 13,201 in 1913 to a peak of 47,417 in 1968 before falling to a low point of just 9,932 in 2008.  

Weekly Mass attendance in England and Wales overall has plunged almost without pause in the last 20 years. The number of Catholics was rising steadily until 1993, when it leveled off and began to fall.

Among the laity already excited by the Vatican’s questionnaire are a number of prominent homosexualist activists and other public dissenters from Catholic moral teaching, some of whom have already responded. The American homosexualist group New Ways Ministry, issued a statement calling the questionnaire “a great chance to hear the voice of the Spirit working in the church”.

New Ways Ministry, censured by the Vatican and declared officially non-Catholic by Chicago’s archbishop Cardinal Francis George, said, “The Vatican under Pope Francis seems to be offering an outstretched hand to the people of the church, but even more so, the Vatican is encouraging the bishops to be listeners to the voice of the people.”

Despite the official censure of then-Cardinal Ratzinger and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, New Ways Ministry has enjoyed strong support from a number of bishops both in the US and abroad. Among the American bishops who have spoken at their meetings have been Detroit Bishop Thomas Gumbleton and Bishop Matthew Clark of the Diocese of Rochester. In March last year, Bishop Geoffrey Robinson, a retired auxiliary bishop of Sydney, Australia, was a plenary speaker and retreat presenter for a Symposium on Catholicism & Homosexuality organised by New Ways.

Francis DeBernardo, executive director New Ways Ministry said, “Catholics who support justice and equality for LGBT people and who have encouraged the Church to hold a dialogue on all matters sexual and relational have prayed for this opportunity for a long time. It’s time to seize this opportunity to let leaders know how faith has informed us to work for LGBT inclusion.”

In Britain, Terrence Weldon, a homosexualist activist, an organiser of London’s infamous “gay Masses” and the author of the “Queering the Church” blog, commented in response to the questionnaire that there is little unity on issues related to the family, even among the Church’s bishops and high-ranking prelates.

Weldon named Cardinal Christoph Schonborn, the current archbishop of Vienna and the late Jesuit cardinal Carlo Maria Martini as the lead champion of a new direction for the moral teaching of the Church. Weldon said that Schonborn and Martini “have highlighted an important shift in Catholic thinking on homoerotic and other sexual ethics.”

“Outside the isolation of the Vatican, there has been an important shift of emphasis from an exclusive concern with genital acts, to consideration of the quality of the relationships – and recognition of their value,” Weldon wrote.

Cardinal Martini – whom Pope Francis himself recently called “prophetic,” a “man of discernment and peace” and “a father for the whole Church” – died in 2012, but is still regarded as a leading voice for the “progressivist” wing of the Catholic Church. Over a decades long career, Martini had opposed the Church on homosexuality, artificial contraception, female ordination, the use of condoms to prevent AIDS transmission, physician assisted suicide and embryonic research.

In a posthumous interview published by Corriere della Sera, Martini said that with the churches, convents and seminaries emptying, “The Church must admit its mistakes and begin a radical change, starting from the Pope and the bishops. The pedophilia scandals oblige us to take a journey of transformation.”

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Matt Fradd Matt Fradd

5 reasons it isn’t your wife’s fault that you use porn

Matt Fradd Matt Fradd
By Matt Fradd

As someone who used to watch a lot of porn, I have the utmost compassion for men who are really struggling to quit and can’t seem to find the willpower to do so. I love talking with and helping blokes like this.

That said, when I’m writing and speaking about the subject of pornography, I occasionally run into men who really believe their wives are the source of the problem.

These men, I have less respect for.

Please don’t misunderstand me. The struggle against objectification and lust is a fight most men face. If you are striving with all your heart to be a better man to your bride, I’m in the same boat as you.

But if you are more interested in justifying your porn use by shifting the blame, this article has been written to set you straight. I don’t write it as someone who thinks he’s in anyway above you. As Saint John Paul the Great wrote: “every man’s heart is a battlefield between love and lust.” The reason I’m going to be extremely frank in this article is because sometimes nothing less than unvarnished truth will wake us up to reality.

Are you ready? Good.

Now, in one sense, I get why some men think their wives are to blame. Pornography has the nagging habit of making a man feel like a man without requiring him to be one. Given enough time with porn, men can delude themselves into thinking if their wives were a little more _________, they wouldn’t touch porn.

I have five reasons for why this is a ridiculous argument.

1. Your wife’s so-called “frigidity” is not the catalyst for your habit. In fact, it might be the other way around.

Perhaps there are men today who don’t touch porn until after they are married, but I have never met one.

Most men start their porn habits long before they get married; so to blame a woman for the habit is clearly mistaken.

Furthermore, in nearly every case I’ve seen, what men interpret as a woman’s “frigidity” is actually a lack of initiative on the his part. A man might say, “But I ask my wife for sex all the time.” To which I reply, “When was the last time you really fostered an environment of romance in the home that would make your wife feel treasured and not just like a warm body?”

Unfortunately, porn trains this belief into us: sex should be on-demand—as quick to boot up as my web browser. Healthy intimacy, however, takes time, attention, and devotion to maintain.

2. Porn is cleverly edited, high-octane sex, and no woman can (or should) compete with this.

Everywhere women are told they need to be younger, prettier, and bustier. The last place they need to have that message reinforced is in their marriages. In the arms of their husbands they should feel beautiful—because they are.

But using porn not only communicates the opposite to a woman, it trains men to believe the opposite.

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Here’s an odd story to illustrate my point:

Back in the 1860s, Americans made the mistake of bringing the gypsy moth from Europe to Boston. Within 10 years, swarms of gypsy moths were devastating the forests and continued doing so for over a century. Attempts to eradicate this moth failed. But then in the 1960s scientists devised a new strategy. Biologists knew that the male gypsy moth found the female by following her scent—her pheromones. Scientists developed massive quantities of a synthetic version of this pheromone and then scattered small pellets of it from the air. The effect was overpowering for the males. Overwhelmed by the highly concentrated pheromone, they became confused and didn’t know which direction to turn to find the female, or they became desensitized to the lower levels of pheromones naturally given out by the female.

This is what porn is to men: a highly synthetic, industrial, commercial form of sexuality, pumped into our atmosphere and found in ultra-concentrated doses online. If overexposed to this high-octane sex, suddenly the subtleties of a woman’s natural mystique and beauty are lost.

This is why there are so many young, healthy men today who are experiencing what one Harvard professor calls, “porn-induced erectile dysfunction.” This is a real thing: young men, raised on porn from their teen years, have so hardwired their brains they can’t even get it up for a real woman when they want to.

Why porn causes this problem is dealt with in the next reason…

3. Porn is about sexual novelty and variety; marriage is about loving commitment.

The pornographic experience is one of constant novelty: multiple tabs open, endless clicking, browsing, and always searching for the next girl who will really send you over the edge.

It isn’t your wife’s fault she isn’t hundreds of two-dimensional Internet women. It isn’t your wife’s fault she isn’t as clickable and customizable as the endless parade of digital women. It isn’t your wife’s fault she doesn’t become sexually euphoric at the drop of a hat like the porn stars you frequent. She is a woman—a human being with sexual desires and feelings of her own.

A mind trained for constant sexual novelty and variety simply won’t take the time and effort to really connect with one woman in a truly intimate way.

4. Porn is objectifying and selfish; marriage celebrates your wife’s humanity.

Russell Brand is making waves right now with his recent video about pornography. After honesty admitting about his own struggles with porn, Brand says, “If I had total dominion over myself, I would never look at pornography again.” Why? Because he hates how porn is intricately linked to a culture of objectification. When we reduce sex to an extracted physical act, we allow ourselves to turn women into objects to be used rather than women to be loved and cherished.

Porn is consumer, Burger-King sex: your way, right away. You can handpick the exact women you want to see, down the smallest specification. The women in porn are dolled up to play to any stereotype or fetish you desire. All traces of humanity are stripped away until there is nothing left but misogynistic fantasy.

Porn is entirely selfish. By that I don’t mean that masturbation is a solo act—though that is true as well—I mean the whole point of porn is to play to a man’s desire for validation: the women are portrayed as sex goddesses that cater to the man’s every whim. They are objects to use for his pleasure.

A married man with a mind trained for objectification can only go one of three ways:

1. He will drag his wife into that objectification, not seeing sex as a giving act but as an opportunity to act out pornographic fantasies in real life.

2. He will ignore his wife to pursue more online objectification—or worse.

3. He will turn away from a culture of objectification and relearn what it means to make his wife his standard of beauty.

As my friend Luke Gilkerson wrote in his book Your Brain on Porn, “‘Free porn’ is a misnomer. Pornography always costs somebody something. And it’s the women and girls in our culture, surrounded by boys and men with porn expectations, who often end up paying the highest price.”

5. Porn is an insult to your marriage vows, so your wife has every right to feel betrayed.

When you stood before God and others, slipped that ring on your wife’s finger, and told her you would “forsake all others,” did you really think that sneaking off to masturbate to digital prostitutes would fit with the spirit of that vow?

Some men actually have the nerve to say, “I get my needs met with porn. At least I’m not going out sleeping with other women.”

Really? Is this what we’ve come to: the measure of your virtue as a husband is not sleeping around?

Deep down, despite all the excuses, this is not who a man really wants to be. Do you want to be the man who loves one woman well for the rest of your life, gladly sacrificing yourself for the good of another—experiencing an intimate sexual bond? Or do you want to be the guy who sneaks off to get a fix from your computer screen and your hand? Which one of these sounds closer to the wedding vows you spoke and the man you wish to become?

A Word to Wives

If your husband struggles with porn—and I mean that in the truest sense of the word…that he contends with porn like an adversary—then you can count yourself blessed. I wish that more men counted porn as an enemy.

However, if your husband is brazenly using porn despite your wishes, know this: you are not the problem. No matter what you have done or not done, no matter how you have contributed to marital strife, no matter how you look, your husband’s porn problem is his to own. No offense—real or imaginary—is license to sin again you.

Wives, We Need Your Help!

My friends at Covenant Eyes are getting ready to re-release their amazing book, Porn and Your Husband. They want to hear from you before they release it. Please fill out their one-question survey and let them know: What's the one big thing you hope they cover in the book, Porn and Your Husband?

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Lisa Bourne

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Alabama Supreme Court rebuffs federal court in ‘historic’ ruling: forbids marriage licenses for gay couples

Lisa Bourne
By Lisa Bourne

MONTGOMERY, AL, March 5, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) -- Alabama’s high court has upheld the state’s definition of marriage and ordered a halt to marriage licenses for homosexual couples in the state, while also criticizing its federal counterpart for striking down DOMA.

The Alabama Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that “nothing in the United States Constitution alters or overrides” state judges’ duty to administer state law.

The all-Republican court also said the federal district court had employed a “judicial sleight of hand” in “conferring fundamental-right status upon a concept of marriage divorced from its traditional understanding.”

“Throughout the entirety of its history, Alabama has chosen the traditional definition of marriage,” the ruling said. “That fact does not change simply because the new definition of marriage has gained ascendancy in certain quarters of the country, even if one of those quarters is the federal judiciary.”

The ruling is significant in making Alabama the first state to directly resist federal imposition of marriage redefinition, with a great majority of the states having had their legal definition of marriage overturned by judicial order.

“The ruling by the Alabama Supreme Court is historic, and is one of the most researched and well-reasoned opinions on marriage to be issued by any court in the country,” said Mat Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel.

Staver praised the order for upholding state’s rights and for resisting judicial tyranny.

“The legitimacy of the judiciary is undermined when a judge legislates from the bench or usurps the power reserved to the states regarding natural marriage,” he said. “This decision of the Alabama Supreme Court is very well reasoned, which is quite rare from today’s courts. The decision not only affirms natural marriage but also restores the rule of law.”

U.S. District Judge Callie Granade had struck down a constitutional amendment and an Alabama state law defining marriage as a union between one man and one woman in a January 23 decision, saying the laws violate homosexuals’ due process and equal protection rights according to the U.S. Constitution. The ruling was on hold until the state’s appeal to the 11th Circuit.

Alabama’s Chief Justice Roy Moore contested the judicial action to redefine marriage. He told the state’s probate judges not to issue marriage licenses to homosexual couples as it would violate state law. He also urged Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley in a January 27 letter to fight the federal decision. 

Moore wrote to all 50 of the nation’s governors in 2014 urging them to preserve marriage in the U.S. Constitution with an amendment. He was not part of the March 3 Alabama State Supreme Court ruling, and his absence was not explained, according to the SCOTUS blog.

The U.S. Supreme Court declined an application February 9 by the State of Alabama to stay the decision striking down the state's constitutional amendment and state law defining marriage as a union between one man and one woman, pending its ruling on whether the U.S. Constitution guarantees a right to same-sex “marriage,” expected by the end of June.

The seven-to-one majority decision by the Alabama high court rebutted every argument made for same-sex “marriage” as a constitutional matter, the SCOTUS blog said, and “lambasted the Supreme Court for making a ‘moral judgment, not a legal judgment’ when it struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act in United States v. Windsor in June 2013.”

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The order to stop issuance of marriage licenses to homosexual couples extends to all sixty-eight Alabama probate judges, some of whom have been issuing such licenses after the district federal judge’s ruling. Most of the state judges, those not not named directly in the case, were given five days from Tuesday to answer the challenge and argue why they should not have to observe the statewide order against licenses for homosexual “marriages.” 

The SCOTUS blog said that because the state court’s ruling is an interpretation of the federal Constitution, it is likely subject to direct appeal to the Supreme Court, if any state judge wanted to take it there. What’s not clear, it said, is whether same-sex couples could appeal it because they were not parties in the case, but the couples could probably bring a new lawsuit against any state probate judge who refused them a license in accord with the order.

Marriage supporters praised the Alabama Supreme Court decision.

"I applaud the Alabama Justices in their wise decision respecting the freedom of Alabama's voters to uphold natural marriage,” Family Research Council President Tony Perkins said in a statement. “In a refreshing change, Alabama's Supreme Court is using the law to determine their actions -- not a politically motivated opinion of a lower court federal judge.”

He pointed to recent polling that found sixty-one percent of Americans oppose the U.S. Supreme Court forcing marriage redefinition on all 50 states.

“If Americans were truly on board with this effort to redefine marriage, governors, state attorneys general, and other elected officials wouldn't bother fighting it.” Perkins said. “Instead, the Alabama Supreme Court reflects where the American people really are on the issue --and it is respecting the freedom of the voters to uphold natural marriage.”

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Cardinal George Pell John-Henry Westen / LifeSiteNews.com
Hilary White Hilary White Follow Hilary

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The attack on Cardinal Pell: is someone trying to silence his voice for orthodoxy?

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By Hilary White

ROME, March 5, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Last week an Italian tabloid launched an attack on one of the most outspoken opponents of the so-called “Kasper Proposal” to abolish the Church’s discipline on refusing communion to Catholics in “irregular” unions. Based on leaked information from within the Vatican, the gossip magazine L’Espresso accused Cardinal George Pell of padding his expenses.

The Australian member of Pope Francis’ inner circle of nine cardinals serves as the head of the Secretariat of the Economy, charged with reorganizing the Vatican’s finances.

Some observers are saying the attack on Pell comes from opposition to his financial reforms. However, Pell was also a leading voice for doctrinal orthodoxy at last autumn’s Synod of Bishops, and some see that as a motivating factor as well.

L’Espresso published leaked documents that they said showed Pell spending money on refurbishing his apartment, on airline tickets, and on liturgical vestments from a high-end Roman ecclesiastical tailor. The story was picked up by the Sydney Morning Herald, a longtime opponent of Pell from his days as archbishop of Sydney, who accused him of “living it up at the Holy See’s expense.”

Father Federico Lombardi, the head of the Holy See Press Office, condemned the leak, saying, “Passing confidential documents to the press for polemical ends or to foster conflict is not new, but is always to be strongly condemned, and is illegal.” The statement said that the Secretariat’s expenses, around 500,000 USD according to the leaked information, remain below its budget allotment.

Pell is said to be “ruffling the feathers” of a deeply entrenched, and largely Italian, bureaucratic culture that has hitherto operated largely without scrutiny or rules. Recently the cardinal announced that his office had “found” hundreds of millions of Euros “tucked away” that had never been recorded in the official books. 

America’s leading Vaticanist, John Allen, suggested that the motive for attacking Pell was his financial work. Allen says Pell’s “pugnacious” personality has rubbed Vatican officials the wrong way, but also cites his hard-hitting reforms of official financial practices.

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The UK’s Damian Thompson also took this tack, saying, “Cardinal Pell is embattled because, from now on, Curial officials will have to account for their spending. He’s brought an end to a culture of fiddling your exes which makes 20th-century Fleet Street look like a Presbyterian knitting circle.”

However, Thompson also suspects Pell’s stand for orthodoxy played a part. “I knew a hit job was coming; and I was doubly certain when he spoke up for orthodox cardinals when their views were being trashed by the liberal organisers of the chaotic ‘Carry On Synod’ on the Family,” he wrote.

Mainstream newspapers have downplayed the cardinal’s high-profile support at the Synod for the Catholic Church’s perennial teaching on the indissolubility of marriage in the face of the ongoing crisis over Cardinal Walter Kasper’s notorious “proposal.” Cardinal Kasper and his supporters see the year between Synods as a time of campaigning for their program, and they are giving interviews and lectures around the world.

Pell was among those Synod fathers who joined the now-famous rebellion of bishops against the “manipulation” of the Synod in October. It was widely reported in Rome during the Synod in October that Pell directly and forcefully confronted the Synod’s organizer, Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, over the apparent push for a change in the Church’s “pastoral practice” of withholding Communion from divorced and civilly remarried Catholics.

In a video interview, Pell said the bishops would not capitulate to the machinations of “radical elements” in the Church.

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