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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‘It’s another boy!’: 4th video goes into heart of Planned Parenthood fetal body parts lab

Pete Baklinski Pete Baklinski Follow Pete
By Pete Baklinski

Urgent: Sign the petition demanding that Congress investigate and defund Planned Parenthood here

July 30, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) – Workers in a lab are seen sorting through body parts on a dish: a heart, stomach, kidney, and legs.

And then a medical assistant suddenly announces: "It's another boy!"

This is just a little of the macabre and heart-wrenching footage in the newest undercover video showing alleged harvesting and sale of body parts from aborted babies by Planned Parenthood, released Thursday morning.

The newest video also shows a Planned Parenthood medical director negotiating a fetal body parts deal while agreeing to prices for harvested parts, and suggesting ways to avoid legal consequences.

"For anyone with a conscience, the video's entire fetal organ scene is wrenching -- to the gut as well as the heart. It hearkens us back to the days of Joseph Mengele or Kermit Gosnell, who both coldly killed and dissected children without remorse," said Operation Rescue President Troy Newman, in a press release.

The video takes the viewer into Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, where Vice President and Medical Director Dr. Savita Ginde discusses with actors posing as representatives from a human biologics company a potential partnership to harvest fetal organs.

When one of the actors posing as a buyer asks the doctor if “compensation could be specific to the specimen?” Ginde agrees. As the camera travels to the abortion clinic’s pathological laboratory to reveal the aftermath of a real abortion of a baby boy, Ginde tells the buyer that the abortion clinic would rather receive payment per body part harvested, rather than a standard flat fee for the entire case.

“I think a per-item thing works a little better, just because we can see how much we can get out of it,” she is heard saying on the video.

Planned Parenthood hit national headlines last month after undercover videos released by the pro-life group Center for Medical Progress (CMP) showed top officials from the nation’s largest abortion provider discussing the sale of body parts harvested from babies aborted at their facilities. Those behind the undercover videos say that selling the body parts for profit is a violation of federal law.

Yesterday, the California Superior Court issued a narrow temporary restraining order preventing CMP from releasing further undercover video footage involving top-level staff of StemExpress, the company that purchases the body parts from Planned Parenthood. 

Project Lead David Daleiden is using the fourth video to call for an immediate ending to Planned Parenthood’s funding.

“Elected officials need to listen to the public outcry for an immediate moratorium on Planned Parenthood’s taxpayer funding while the 10 state investigations and 3 Congressional committees determine the full extent of Planned Parenthood’s sale of baby parts.”

“Planned Parenthood’s recent call for the NIH to convene an expert panel to ‘study’ fetal experimentation is absurd after suggestions from Planned Parenthood’s Dr. Ginde that ‘research’ can be used as a catch-all to cover-up baby parts sales. The biggest problem is bad actors like Planned Parenthood who hold themselves above the law in order to harvest and make money off of aborted fetal brains, hearts, and livers,” he said. 

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"It really stretches credibility to say that Bush or his people wouldn’t have known that the foundation pushes abortion and other population control efforts," said Stephen Phelan of HLI Andrew Cline / Shutterstock.com
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Jeb Bush was director of philanthropy that gave tens of millions to Planned Parenthood

Ben Johnson Ben Johnson Follow Ben
By Ben Johnson

Analysis

NEW YORK, July 30, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) - Until the eve of his presidential campaign, Jeb Bush was director of a philanthropy that gave tens of millions of dollars to Planned Parenthood and financed its advocacy of "unrestricted access to abortion" around the world. The charity also approved money to global abortion providers while he sat on its board.

In 2010, Jeb was named one of the founding directors of the Bloomberg Family Foundation, established as a tax-exempt foundation to advance the vision of former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. He resigned from the board at the end of 2014 to prepare his presidential campaign.

While a Bush spokesman has responded to concerns by saying that Bush would not have voted on every initiative of the foundation, a pro-life leader told LifeSiteNews it "stretches credibility" that Bush was unaware of the foundation's pro-abortion work, given the centrality of such work to the foundation's mission, and its scope.

LifeSiteNews reached out to Bush for comment, but did not hear back by press time. 

$50 million to 'reproductive health' and Planned Parenthood

In March of 2014, the Bloomberg Philanthropies announced a $50 million undertaking to expand "reproductive health," including lobbying foreign nations to loosen restrictions on abortion.

Bloomberg announced a major partnership with Planned Parenthood-Global to train and equip abortion activists in pro-life countries.

"In 2014, we started supporting local nonprofit organizations in Burkina Faso, Senegal, Uganda, and Nicaragua to advocate for better policies in their countries that will expand access to comprehensive reproductive health services," the foundation stated. "These organizations will receive technical assistance from Planned Parenthood Federation of America – Global Division to help augment their capacity for effective advocacy." 

Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards greeted the news by saying that "governments need to play a stronger role to ensure that all women have access to the health care they need" - including abortion - "no matter who they are, no matter where they live.”

Bloomberg clarified how the partnership would work while receiving Planned Parenthood's Global Citizen Award at its annual gala last March 27.

"We'll Push for Less Restrictive Abortion Laws"

"I am happy to say our major partner in this project will be Planned Parenthood - Global," Bloomberg said. "In some countries, our funding will help advocates work towards better sexual health policies for teens and better access to contraceptives. In others, we'll help push for less restrictive abortion laws and more government funding for high-quality, accessible services."

Such advocacy was "necessary," he continued, because "there are plenty of outside interest groups funding the other side of these issues, and we cannot let them go unanswered."

"This is a fight to women control their own destinies," Bloomberg said. "And let me tell you: We are in it to help them win it, and we're gonna stay in it until they do."

"Together we can succeed," he concluded. "Thank you for this award. God bless."

As head of a foundation with $5.4 billion in assets, which awards more than $200 million a year, the three-term mayor of New York has put his money where his mouth is.

Funding Global Abortion Providers

One aspect of his philanthropy's overall health initiative is to underwrite  "reproductive health services in the most remote areas of" Tanzania. Although all grants say they are intended "to reduce maternal deaths," alongside the CDC and the World Lung Foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies has funded two abortion providers.

In 2013, Bloomberg Philanthropies approved a  a grant of $1,818,000 for EngenderHealth, and another $250,000 for Marie Stopes International - Tanzania.

"EngenderHealth works to ensure reproductive rights of Tanzanian women and their families by integrating family planning with HIV and comprehensive abortion care services," the group states on its website. EngenderHealth has been discovered promoting the use of manual vacuum aspiration (MVA), a common abortion method, as "post-abortion care" in Africa, including in Tanzania.

The group also touts the fact that its expansion to all 26 regions of the country "has also contributed to an increase in uptake of long-acting and reversible methods," especially Implanon. Long-Acting Reversible Contraceptives (LARCs) work both by preventing conception and by "alterations in the endometrium," which can cause an early abortion by preventing implantation.

Marie Stopes is known as a global abortion provider. MSI states that it only provides "post-abortion care" in Tanzania, where abortion is legal only to save the life of the mother.

But Marie Stopes officials have admitted that the group performs illegal abortions. 

"We do illegal abortions all over the world," Paul Cornellison, the director of Marie Stopes International in South Africa, said during a Marie Stopes International conference in 2007 in London - remarks that were caught on film. "There's various options, you know, once we open a center there...if we can just get our foot in the door." 

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In other nations, Bloomberg has supported advocates of unlimited, universal abortion-on-demand.

"Abortion services should be made free...for all women and girls"

Bloomberg Philanthropies underwrites political advocacy in African and Central American nations whose laws reflect the pro-life outlook of its citizens. The International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) offers a glimpse into what international abortion lobbyists demand.

Between 2012 and 2014, IPPF wrote a 32-page case study on the Senegalese legal landscape, entitled Over-Protected and Under-Served. While numerous participants told researchers that abortion is "easy" to obtain and “lots of young people are having clandestine abortions,” IPPF focused on promoting "safe" abortion -- while making clear that such laws were only one components of its overall mission. 

"Advocacy efforts should focus on realizing the ultimate goal of unrestricted access to abortion services, and protection of this right under the law. Abortion services should be made free, safe, accessible and confidential for all women and girls," the report states.

The abortion industry signaled it rejects incremental aims to achieve the eventual recognition of abortion as a human right. "Anything other than full decriminalization will often lead to abortion remaining inaccessible to all but a very small number of women," the report says.

The task of pressuring government officials will fall to local activists in the nations targeted by Bloomberg because, in the words of Kelly Henning, the head of the public health program at Bloomberg Philanthropies, "We want this effort to be sustainable." 

If the effort fails, it will not be for lack of resources. In a separate component of its reproductive health plan, Bloomberg partnered with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to enact Family Planning 2020's global reproductive and population goals.

Is Jeb "Ultimately Accountable"?

The association with Bloomberg conflicts with Jeb's record as a two-term pro-life governor of Florida who enacted parental consent laws, allowed the regulation of abortion facilities, did not allow state funds to be used for abortion counseling, and created the state's "Choose Life" license plate.

As one of more than a dozen directors - which include such distinguished names as former Sens. Sam Nunn and David Boren, currently Sen. Cory Booker, and former Bush-43 officials Elaine Chao and Hank Paulson - what responsibility does the former Florida governor bear?

The issue bubbled up in April, giving his yet-unannounced campaign an opportunity to respond.

“Governor Bush was honored to serve on the board of Bloomberg Philanthropies, which does a lot of good work across the world,” Bush spokeswoman Kristy Campbell told the Tampa Bay Times. "As a board member, Governor Bush did not vote on or approve individual projects or programs."

Although Bush and Bloomberg "disagree on several policy issues, both share a passion for improving education in America," she added - a reference to their mutual embrace of the Common Core curriculum and other policies.  

A spokeswoman for Bloomberg Philanthropies, Meghan Womack, confirmed to the newspaper that directors do not sign off on every project.

But to what extent was Bush active in the issue?

According to nonprofit norms, directors carry deep responsibility for the organizations they help lead. "Regardless of what board members are called, they are in essence the trustees in the literal and legal sense of the term," the National Center for Nonprofit Boards wrote on the responsibilities of board members. "No matter how the organization is structured or the degree of authority delegated to staff, committees, or affiliates, the board and therefore the individual trustees are ultimately accountable."

Bloomberg Philanthropies noted in a press release, "The directors will serve in an advisory and oversight capacity." Bush earned $37,100 in compensation for his nearly five years of service.

"Bush’s people are probably right that as a board member he did not vote on every project," Stephen Phelan, the director of mission communications at Human Life International, told LifeSiteNews. "But Bloomberg has been so open about his foundation’s goals for so long that it really stretches credibility to say that Bush or his people wouldn’t have known that the foundation pushes abortion and other population control efforts."

Bloomberg clarified his goals while accepting his Planned Parenthood award last year. "You can't fight every battle," he said. "The things that are high on my priority list are sensible gun laws...I obviously care about a woman's right to choose...Nobody's a bigger supporter of gay rights." He added that "we need a good immigration bill" that provides amnesty for an estimated 11 million illegal immigrants, "so we can continue our economy."

Bloomberg has described abortion as a "fundamental human right, elevating it to a make-or-break position. "On this issue, you’re either with us or against us.” He once cited abortion among his reasons for endorsing Barack Obama in 2012. 

Despite their differences on abortion policy, the billionaire has had no reservations supporting Jeb Bush's candidacy - even before there was one.

Last spring, he called Jeb and Hillary Clinton "two quality” candidates and "the only two who know how to make the trains run."

He also showered compliments upon Bush while introducing him to the New York State Republican Party convention in 2010. 

“I couldn’t agree more with this guy,” he said of Jeb. “If there’s anyone I would want on my side waging all those important battles and helping provide the government Americans deserve, it is our next speaker."

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John Jalsevac John Jalsevac Follow John

Planned Parenthood says ‘extremists’ brought down website: critics say possible ‘PR stunt’

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By John Jalsevac

Updated 07/30/15 at 1:57 EST

July 30, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) - At the same time as a fourth video exposing Planned Parenthood's practice of harvesting and selling aborted baby body parts was released Thursday morning, visitors who attempted to access Planned Parenthood's website were greeted with a message saying, "Our site is not available due to an attack by extremists."

The page announcing the attack stated that "200,000 people a day are now being blocked from information and care by this attack," and directed visitors who wanted to find out more to Planned Parenthood Action Fund's Facebook page. 

At that Facebook page, the abortion giant states that the attack is a "new low" by anti-abortion extremists, and asks for donations to help them "fight back." 

However, some are raising questions about the purported attack, pointing out that a look under the hood shows that content from the site appears to be loading without a problem from Planned Parenthood's web server, while they have categorized the "site down" message as a "campaign."

At The Federalist, Sean Davis points out that the splash page also directs users to another page at ppaction.org where they can write their "story" about where they "stand" on Planned Parenthood, in the process of which Planned Parenthood collects their personal information.

"That’s right," says Davis. "Even though ppaction.org redirects to a page saying the site was hacked, the domain still house (sic) a perfectly functional URL and page that are being actively used to help build Planned Parenthood’s fundraising list."

Some hours after the original message was put up, Planned Parenthood changed the message to say simply that the website was "undergoing maintenance."

However, in comments to CNN Wednesday, Dawn Laguens, Planned Parenthood’s executive vice president, said that the website was originally brought down briefly on Wednesday by a distributed denial of service attack. “Although our websites were back online shortly after the attack, in order to ensure that we are fully protected, we’ve made the decision to take our website offline for a day,” she said, according to Jezebel.

The alleged attack comes days after Planned Parenthood had issued a statement claiming that "extremists" opposed to their agenda, "have called on the world’s most sophisticated hackers to assist them in breaching our systems and threatening the privacy and safety of our staff members."

At that time LifeSiteNews spoke with cybersecurity experts who said the attack appeared to be legitimate, but that it was not as sophisticated as Planned Parenthood claimed, given the outdated version of the abortion behemoth’s webserver.

The abortion giant has been reeling in recent weeks from a series of undercover videos, which appear to show high level Planned Parenthood staff negotiating to profit from the sale of body parts harvested from aborted babies. The videos have also shown the staff describing how they alter the abortion procedure to procure the best specimens possible.

No one has claimed responsibility for the attack. 

"Planned Parenthood says it’s been hacked by 'extremists,' but a review of the publicly available evidence suggests that the only things being hacked at Planned Parenthood right now are perfectly healthy and viable unborn babies," said Davis.

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