Hilary White, Rome Correspondent

Western Civilisation End Game: what the World Meeting for Families is up against

Hilary White, Rome Correspondent
Hilary White, Rome Correspondent

ROME, May 23, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The 7th World Meeting of Families is set to begin next week in Milan, and the Vatican, from the pope down to his officials in the curia, is trying to warn the world that with the ongoing destruction of the traditional family, Western civilisation could be facing its end game.

Since his election in 2005, Pope Benedict XVI has given prominence to the rifts, the deep fractures in modern western societies where the family used to take precedence in law and social custom. He has told the world again and again that the family is the foundation of our society, without which our entire civilisation would, or will, collapse. And while he was saying it, the family, as the primary institution of human societies, continues to be attacked by governments that have adopted what the pope sees as an essentially anti-human ideology.

A look at the global situation, the jurisdiction of the Vatican, shows a dismal vista for the family based on marriage. Marriage is under massive pressure from two directions. In the West, the growth of a relativistic philosophy and radical secularism have resulted in the state chipping away at the rights and legal protections of the family on one side and the meaning and nature of marriage in law on the other.

From the East, the pressure comes from a totally different, non-Christian paradigm of marriage that does not hold the same foundational concept, that of a monogamous relationship of love and mutual fidelity between one man and one woman - persons of equal dignity - for life. In many countries of what used to be called the Orient, including the Middle East, South and West Asia and the Far East, a more commercial and materialistic foundation is considered the norm, and in Islamic countries, these differences become radical.

It may be that Pope Benedict is increasing the volume of the Vatican’s responses to the crisis because he is aware, as few others are in a position to be, that the great societal shift in the western world is in its end stages. No one disputes the observation that legal “gay marriage” and civil unions are only the last of a long series of changes that have totally reshaped the modern world.

Since Benedict’s election in 2005, eight governments of formerly Christian countries have legalised “gay marriage” by simply re-writing the legal definition of marriage. This number does not include the many jurisdictions, like the UK, that have compromised and granted more or less identical legal privileges to same-sex partnerings as “civil unions”. Argentina, Portugal and Iceland: 2010. Sweden and Norway: 2009. South Africa: 2006. Canada and Spain: 2005.

These, together with the pioneers Belgium and the Netherlands, 2003 and 2001 respectively, make ten countries around the world. Mexico City and some of the US states also allow the practice and other places - Israel and some of the Netherlands’ overseas holdings as well as all states of Mexico - recognize same-sex “marriages” conducted elsewhere. Ten more countries are considering changing their laws.

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Legal changes making divorce easier and marriage less secure started the process in the late 19th century. Many in the life and family movement believe that divorce is a lost cause, with every nation in the formerly Christian world except the Philippines and the Vatican City itself allowing some form of divorce. Indeed, it is difficult to answer the rejoinder from the other side of the marriage debates: if there was so little interest among traditionalists in defending marriage against divorce, why is it suddenly so important to oppose “gay marriage” now.

The ultimate result is that in places where divorce rates are finally dropping, experts believe it is only because of the increasing number of people not bothering to get married at all. Nearly all countries outside the Middle East have no laws prohibiting cohabitation, instead granting these “de facto unions” many of the same rights and privileges as marriage.

Divorce may have been the key that opened the Pandora’s Box, with all other legal changes to the protections of the family following in succession culminating in the nearly global legalization first of artificial contraception, then of abortion; the widespread social acceptance of sexual activity outside marriage; and the incredible proliferation of the pornography industry and what is now politely referred to in the mainstream press as the “sex trade,” that together are fuelling the international trafficking of human beings, including children.

Out of about 196 countries in the world, give or take Taiwan, there is only a tiny handful where abortion is still completely outlawed, and of the 17 countries of the western world that retain realistic abortion restrictions, only three are in Europe, including the Vatican city state.

Behind the primacy of the family lies a uniquely Christian idea. The reason the family is so important a defining feature of our societies is that it is founded in the concept of the equal moral dignity of all persons. The reason family traditionalists are nearly always also pro-life, the reason that the two go hand in glove, is that the two proposals, the primacy of the family and the right of the unborn and vulnerable to life, are founded on the same principle: that all human beings, regardless of their age, abilities, social status, anticipated income, nationality or state of “wantedness,” are persons entitled to precisely the same protections under the law. 

Pansexualists, those who believe that there ought to be no definitions or limitations on human “sexual expression,” accuse those of us who defend the traditional family, and Pope Benedict particularly, of irrationally clinging to a dead past, an outmoded or retrograde concept of society that has already gone extinct. 

Taking the longer historical view, however, the idea that the pro-life and pro-family point of view is “retrograde” is heavily ironic. We in the Western World have been Christianised for so long that we have unconsciously subsumed these civilisation-building principles without being able any longer to articulate and define them. We have had our civilisation for so long that we have forgotten the barbarism it defeated and tamed. The result of this societal amnesia is that we are increasingly condemning as “retrograde,” or “oppressive” the very concepts that built, nurtured and protected our society.

So immersed are we in these foundational ideas, we have little insight to imagine a society not run on Christian moral principles. Beginning history students, even those who regard themselves as “emancipated” and secularised, are often shocked by the ideas that were considered normal in the ancient world.

In the world before Christianity, the idea that all human beings are equal under a divinely authored Natural Law was a wild innovation, an unprecedented and revolutionary novelty in an ancient world that had, since the dawn of history, universally accepted slavery, women and children as chattel and routine infanticide at the whim of parents.

On the other hand, nearly all the ideas so frequently championed by our philosophical opponents were part of the normal fabric of life in the ancient world; violent, brutal and arbitrary as it was. The notion that one spouse could dispose of the other at whim by a “no fault” system of divorce; that one parent, without being obliged even to consult the other, could decide which child would live and which would be “exposed”; that merely being human was not sufficient grounds to bestow the legal protection of the state: all were among the uglier aspects of Roman law. The notion that a man’s wife and children, slaves and dependent “clients” were possessed of exactly the same dignity and legal status as he was, would have shocked a Roman patrician of the 2nd century. As it would an Indian Brahmin of the 10th or a Confucian scholar-official of the 12th.

Only Christianity, and Christian philosophy and jurisprudence, has ever proposed to treat financially or physically or socially unequal human beings equally in law. The very concept of “person” in law did not exist until it was developed by Christian philosophers who also developed the notion of “human rights” based on nothing more than membership in the species, made in the image of the author of all creation.

And now Pope Benedict is sounding the alarm that those Christian concepts of law and philosophy are being rejected by governments, on so fundamental a set of priorities as the nature of the family. What is to stop our societies from sliding all the way back to our retrograde, and violent, pagan past?

Benedict’s papacy, including the mega-projects like the World Meeting of Families, can be described as a salvage operation, a mammoth project to revivify the Catholic institutions that have languished and declined since the cultural revolutions of his youth, and to redirect them toward their original task of evangelising the Christian message to the world.

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Today’s chuckle: Rubio, Fiorina and Carson pardon a Thanksgiving turkey

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By Steve Jalsevac

A little bit of humour now and then is a good thing.

Happy Thanksgiving to all our American readers.

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Lianne Laurence


BREAKING: Europe’s top human rights court slaps down German ban on pro-life leafletting

Lianne Laurence
By Lianne Laurence

STRASBOURG, France, November 26, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) – The European Court of Human Rights ruled Thursday that a German regional court violated a pro-life activist’s freedom of expression when it barred him from leafleting in front of an abortion center.

It further ruled the German court’s order that Klaus Gunter Annen not list the names of two abortion doctors on his website likewise violated the 64-year-old pro-life advocate’s right to freedom of expression.

The court’s November 26 decision is “a real moral victory,” says Gregor Puppinck, director of the Strasbourg-based European Center for Law and Justice, which intervened in Annen’s case. “It really upholds the freedom of speech for pro-life activists in Europe.”

Annen, a father of two from Weinam, a mid-sized city in the Rhine-Neckar triangle, has appealed to the Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights at least two times before, Puppinck told LifeSiteNews.

“This is the first time he made it,” he said, noting that this time around, Annen had support from the ECLJ and Alliance Defense Fund and the German Pro-life Federation (BVL). “I think he got more support, better arguments and so I think this helped.”

The court also ordered the German government to pay Annen costs of 13,696.87 EUR, or 14,530 USD.

Annen started distributing pamphlets outside a German abortion center ten years ago, ECLJ stated in a press release.

His leaflets contained the names and addresses of the two abortionists at the center, declared they were doing “unlawful abortions,” and stated in smaller print that, “the abortions were allowed by the German legislators and were not subject to criminal liability.”

Annen’s leaflets also stated that, “The murder of human beings in Auschwitz was unlawful, but the morally degraded NS State allowed the murder of innocent people and did not make it subject to criminal liability.” They referred to Annen’s website, www.babycaust.de, which listed a number of abortionists, including the two at the site he was leafleting.

In 2007, a German regional court barred Annen from pamphleteering in the vicinity of the abortion center, and ordered him to drop the name of the two abortion doctors from his website.

But the European Court of Human Rights ruled Thursday that the German courts had "failed to strike a fair balance between [Annen’s] right to freedom of expression and the doctor’s personality rights.”

The Court stated that, “there can be no doubt as to the acute sensitivity of the moral and ethical issues raised by the question of abortion or as to the importance of the public interest at stake.”

That means, stated ECLJ, that “freedom of expression in regard to abortion shall enjoy a full protection.”

ECLJ stated that the court noted Annen’s leaflets “made clear that the abortions performed in the clinic were not subject to criminal liability. Therefore, the statement that ‘unlawful abortions’ were being performed in the clinic was correct from a legal point of view.”

As for the Holocaust reference, the court stated that, “the applicant did not – at least not explicitly – equate abortion with the Holocaust.”  Rather, the reference was “a way of creating awareness of the more general fact that law might diverge from morality.”

The November 26 decision “is a quite good level of protection of freedom of speech for pro-life people,” observed Puppinck.

First, the European Court of Human Rights has permitted leafleting “in the direct proximate vicinity of the clinic, so there is no issue of zoning,” he told LifeSiteNews. “And second, the leaflets were mentioning the names of the doctors, and moreover, were mentioning the issue of the Holocaust, which made them quite strong leaflets.”

“And the court protected that.”

Annen has persevered in his pro-life awareness campaign through the years despite the restraints on his freedom.

“He did continue, and he did adapt,” Puppinck told LifeSiteNews. “He kept his freedom of speech as much as he could, but he continued to be sanctioned by the German authorities, and each time he went to the court of human rights. And this time, he won.”

ECLJ’s statement notes that “any party” has three months to appeal the November 26 decision.

However, as it stands, the European Court of Human Rights’s ruling affects “all the national courts,” noted Puppinck, and these will now “have to protect freedom of speech, recognize the freedom of speech for pro-lifers.”

“In the past, the courts have not always been very supportive of the freedom of speech of pro-life,” he said, so the ruling is “significant.”

As for Annen’s pro-life ministry, Pubbinck added: “He can continue to go and do, and I’m sure that he does, because he always did.”  

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A vibrant church in Africa. Pierre-Yves Babelon / Shutterstock.com
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‘Soft racism’: German Bishops’ website attributes African Catholics’ strong faith to simplemindedness

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By Pete Baklinski

GERMANY, November 26, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) --  The only reason the Catholic Church is growing in Africa is because the people have a “rather low level” of education and accept “simple answers to difficult questions” involving marriage and sexuality, posited an article on the official website of the German Bishops' Conference posted yesterday. The article targeted particularly Cardinal Robert Sarah of Guinea, the Vatican's prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and ardent defender of Catholic tradition.

First Things blogger Leroy Huizenga, who translated a portion of the article, criticized the article's view as “soft racism.”

In his article, titled “The Romantic, Poor Church,” Katholisch.de editor Björn Odendahl writes: 

So also in Africa. Of course the Church is growing there. It grows because the people are socially dependent and often have nothing else but their faith. It grows because the educational situation there is on average at a rather low level and the people accept simple answers to difficult questions (of faith) [sic]. Answers like those that Cardinal Sarah of Guinea provides. And even the growing number of priests is a result not only of missionary power but also a result of the fact that the priesthood is one of the few possibilities for social security on the dark continent.

Huizenga said that such an article has no place on a bishops’ conference website. 

“We all know that the German Bishops' Conference is one of the most progressive in the world. But it nevertheless beggars belief that such a statement would appear on the Conference's official website, with its lazy slander of African Christians and priests as poor and uneducated (Odendahl might as well have added ‘easy to command’) and its gratuitous swipe at Cardinal Sarah,” he wrote. 

“Natürlich progressives could never be guilty of such a sin and crime, but these words sure do suggest soft racism, the racism of elite white Western paternalism,” he added. 

African prelates have gained a solid reputation for being strong defenders of Catholic sexual morality because of their unwavering orthodox input into the recently concluded Synod on the Family in Rome. 

At one point during the Synod, Cardinal Robert Sarah urged Catholic leaders to recognize as the greatest modern enemies of the family what he called the twin “demonic” “apocalyptic beasts” of “the idolatry of Western freedom” and “Islamic fundamentalism.”

STORY: Cardinal Danneels warns African bishops to avoid ‘triumphalism’

“What Nazi-Fascism and Communism were in the 20th century, Western homosexual and abortion ideologies and Islamic fanaticism are today,” he said during his speech at the Synod last month. 

But African prelates’ adherence to orthodoxy has earned them enemies, especially from the camp of Western prelates bent on forming the Catholic Church in their own image and likeness, not according to Scripture, tradition, and the teaching magisterium of the Church. 

During last year’s Synod, German Cardinal Walter Kasper went as far as stating that the voice of African Catholics in the area of Church teaching on homosexuality should simply be dismissed.

African cardinals “should not tell us too much what we have to do,” he said in an October 2014 interview with ZENIT, adding that African countries are "very different, especially about gays.” 

Earlier this month Belgian Cardinal Godfried Danneels, instead of praising Africa for its vibrant and flourishing Catholicism, said that African prelates will one day have to look to Europe to get what he called “useful tips” on how to deal with “secularization” and “individualism.” 

The statement was criticized by one pro-family advocate as “patronizing of the worst kind” in light of the facts that numerous European churches are practically empty, vocations to the priesthood and religious life are stagnant, and the Catholic faith in Europe, especially in Belgium, is overall in decline.

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