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Papal Dame Colleen Bayer of Familiy Life International New Zealand addresses the Rome Life Forum Steve Jalsevac/Vatican City

Editor’s note: Colleen Bayer is a papal dame and the national director of Family Life International in New Zealand. This is the full transcript of her talk given in Rome, May 2015, at the Rome Life Forum. 

ROME, June 5, 2015 ( — It's a great pleasure to stand before you this morning in all humility to acknowledge and thank [presenters] John, Joseph, Maria, John – your example, your research, the information you have provided for us on a daily basis is second to none. And it's feeding us, it is enabling us, out on the coalface, to be brave and strong and to know that the knowledge that you are imparting to us is giving us that knowledge and surety to go out there and preach the truth. So, I want to honor you and thank you most sincerely from the very depths of my being. It is a huge honor to stand in your shadows and promote the gospel of life.

Much eloquent speech has been given over the last day and indeed this morning on the Synod and the intrinsic need for each one of us to be equipped with this knowledge, as I just stated. But what I would like to do is just allude to a statement that was made after the Synod by the current papacy, but is in effect very much related to the heart and soul of marriage and family, and indeed, the message that is coming through to us — and some of the confusion — that is coming to us as families trying to live out the gospel of life on a daily basis.

‘Rabbit-gate affair’

Father Clovis mentioned briefly yesterday about the “Rabbit-gate affair” and many of us — in fact, I think every single person in this room — will be very much aware of the statement that was made to a woman by the current pontiff regarding the number of cesareans that she had participated in to give birth to her children, and that he really reprimanded her and told her that she was being irresponsible, and in fact, that there were many ways in which this problem could be dealt with.

These words had repercussions all around the world, and hit good Catholic families right at the very core of their being – Catholic families who are struggling on a day-to-day basis to follow the magisterium of the holy Catholic Church in every aspect of their family life.

It seems to me to be at complete variance with John Paul II’s own statement in Evangelium Vitae paragraph 86, of which I will read just a part of.

We are looking at two completely different sides:  A pontiff who is telling us it is irresponsible to have a number of cesareans within your marriage, and on the other hand, St. John Paul II who is exulting the heroic virtue of these mothers.

So, I'm going to share that with you and then I'm actually going to give you a few examples [of mothers who have had a number of cesareans], because I think it's really wonderful to receive all of this information [from the forum], but [it is also necessary] to engage, just a few moments, in the actual practical application of everything that we're learning this morning. This brings personal meaning, encouragement, and inspiration to all of us who are out in the coalface working on a day-to-day basis.

State of affairs in New Zealand

Just to go back a little bit, I have been involved with the pro-life movement for 43 years. And, unlike this amazing SPUC in the United Kingdom, the same [kind of] organization and my country — which prides itself on social liberation and a number of other things, which I'm ashamed of to be honest — our “SPUC” was very, very secular. So, I worked with them for 20 years. But then I felt deep in my soul that [the work] has to be Catholic. If we are not in this fight for the greater glory of Almighty God, there is no point. So, that is why I started Family Life International — in the true spirit of Fr. Paul Marx — in order to express [our work] in a truly Catholic manner. And, it's truly exciting to meet with John Smeaton of SPUC and to know that we are kindred spirits, and that we work at the same level for the greater glory of Almighty God. 

And, just also to let you know that New Zealand is such a small country. We've only got 4.5 million people. We've just been named in the last month as being in the top three countries of the world of those countries who have rejected religion, who no longer want religion or are pursuing Christianity. Three top countries. New Zealand, France, and the Netherlands. I'm ashamed to tell you that. I just learned last night that there is a finance company in New Zealand who is making a deal to provide all Muslim families in our nation with interest free loans for house mortgages and personal loans, because it's in tune with Islamic law. But, I can leave that to your imagination to think about what the wider implications of that means. 

As I say, we do pride ourselves on the [so-called] ‘social liberation’ of young people. The family ‘planning’ association is deeply, deeply entrenched in all of our schools, our kindergartens. And [we have] our rainbow youth. Homosexuality is rampant in my country. And we do have homosexual ‘marriage’ passed into law, and we have a number of homosexual ‘marriages’ in New Zealand.

Homosexual people can also, as single people, foster the children, become single parents. Helen Clark, as was mentioned by my coworker yesterday, the immediate past Prime Minister of New Zealand, holds the second most powerful position in the United Nations, and she has publicly acclaimed that she is not adverse to taking the top position. 

The head of our own church in New Zealand made intervention at the first Synod of the Family. And, I am also deeply ashamed to admit that it was mostly just on the issues of ‘pastoral care,’ not underpinned with the doctrine of the faith, but just ‘pastoral care’ [based on] being open and understanding of every facet of family life that would affect people, [including] all the [perceived] hurt and sorrow in their lives. But what he did not admit to, what he failed to present at that Synod, was that his own intervention reflected only 25 percent of the disgruntled people in our country who made submissions to the bishops’ conference regarding their disappointment with the church. He failed to bring into his intervention the 75 percent of good practicing Catholic people who were contributing to the church of New Zealand and who were living Humanae Vitae in their lives.

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So, that just gives you a little bit of information and also to underpin what John just shared with us about Cardinal Nichols — again, I’m ashamed — our own local ordinary, who is in fact the patron of my organization, and a very dear friend, was so taken by Cardinal Nichols’ directives, that he had them copied and sent out personally to every single priest in his diocese.

So, we are in dire circumstances. It's very, very difficult.

St. John Paul II’s praise of heroic motherhood

So look, what I'm going to do is just share this from John Paul II’s Evangelium Vitae, it's not very much at all. And then, I'm going to introduce you to three very special families who the “rabbit’s gate affair” affected very gravely.

In part, Evangelium Vitae 86 tells us:

Part of this daily heroism is also the silent but effective and eloquent witness of all those ‘brave mothers who devote themselves to their own family without reserve, who suffer in giving birth to their children and who are ready to make any effort, to face any sacrifice, in order to pass on to them the best of themselves.’ 

In living out their mission ‘these heroic women do not always find support in the world around them. On the contrary, the cultural models frequently promoted and broadcast by the media do not encourage motherhood. In the name of progress and modernity the values of fidelity, chastity, sacrifice, to which a host of Christian wives and mothers have borne and continue to bear outstanding witness, are presented as obsolete … We thank you, heroic mothers, for your invincible love! We thank you for your intrepid trust in God and in his love. We thank you for the sacrifice of your life … In the Paschal Mystery, Christ restores to you the gift you gave him. Indeed, he has the power to give you back the life you gave him as an offering.’

So, I think this is in stark contrast to what we heard [said] to this poor woman who must have been absolutely humiliated after [having] 7 cesarean sections. My own daughter, who is to be my successor, had 7 cesarean section births. While we recognize the difficult situation placed on the medical fraternity [in performing this life-saving operation], nonetheless, that is their job, that is their calling – to protect life. My daughter has given birth to 7 beautiful children, each by cesarean section. Danielle, would you like to stand up?

Michael and Rebecca who are also with us from New Zealand over these days have had 9 cesarean-section births. In particular, the last birth, little Philomena’s life was placed in grave danger. But, they placed their trust in Almighty God. And I think this is the key. With everything we hear over the “Rabbit’s gate affair,” and the idea that three children is enough, and all the rest of it, these mothers, these fathers, they know that they can put their trust in Almighty God. They love our Lord. They love life. They love their faith. If they took notice [of what the world tells such families], and made abortion [a choice] early in the pregnancy — because of advice given to them about possibly losing their lives etc., or the life of their dear baby — then, in their hearts and in their minds and in their souls —and I totally agree with them— they would not be open to the saving grace, the healing Grace, that Almighty God brings. They would not be trusting in Almighty God’s love.

So, I want to introduce you to Michael and Rebecca and to baby Philomena. It's their 9th baby, 9th cesarean. They are heroic Catholics. 

How can anyone at the very highest places in our holy Catholic Church deem that little Philomena and Danielle should not have life? And then, on the other hand, we have this amazing magnificent family also open to life, so much— at the very heart — wanting to have children, to bring these children to birth, so that they can grow up to be children of God, and to honor God, and to learn to be good citizens in this community, but for the parents only to find that each subsequent birth could result in the death of that child. And so, out of many, many pregnancies, there may be three live births, Please God more. 

I want to introduce you to a grandmother from New Zealand of such a family [who are] heroic, heroic people. Grandma, can you please stand up and we’ll say ‘hello’ to you. 

‘My God, what have we come to?’

And so, is this family also to be deemed irresponsible before the highest places in the holy Catholic Church? [If so, then] my God, what have we come to? And so, I would say to you never, never ever give up. We, every single person in this room, we have to develop strong faith. We have to develop strong, strong backbone. Listen to [these presenters]. Take this information. Get to our bishops and priests. We have to teach them. And we, each single person in this room, has to be prepared to stand up with the holy martyrs who have gone before us. Do not be afraid, do not be afraid! 

And I would just finish with something that Fr. Linus Clovis actually shared with us yesterday, because we get a little bit confused about things sometimes. What Father explained is very pertinent to this situation as well.

[Fr. Clovis said that] while God created angels in his image, he created us in his own image and likeness. This likeness is parents’ ability to beget children in [God’s] own image and likeness. Angels cannot do that. They cannot procreate. So it's no surprise then that the enemy, who is the liar and the murderer from the beginning, has attacked us in our likeness of God, and wishes to render us as sterile and barren. 

And, that's what I'd like to finish with. Thank you very much.