Jun 09

The more time passes, the more we can appreciate the timelessness of that historic event.

Or series of events. Before it gets any further away on the calendar, I want to point out some striking memorials and they continued to come out even after June 6th, the day of the Normandy landings, the day that initiated the Western Allied effort to liberate mainland Europe from Nazi occupation during World War II.

Tributes to that day on the 70th anniversary were remarkable.

Hotair’s Ed Morrissey gave this tribute.

There is little to say or write about D-Day that hasn’t already been expressed over the past seventy years by those more eloquent than me, or especially by those who took part in the greatest invasion in human history, and for the noblest purpose. Some events challenge not just the imagination, but even language itself. Seventy years ago, the assault on the beaches of Normandy by the free men of the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and units from the countries occupied by the Nazi horror remains perhaps the most stunning act of determination and defiance in history, as 160,000 men stormed Fortress Europe and sent evil reeling — thousands of whom would die that day for freedom.

And he gives video after tortured, treasured video testifying to the raw reality of that day.

They certainly gave everything they had — so that we might live free, and not just in Europe but in America as well. Many of them gave their lives for a freedom to which they knew they might never return, but those men gave us that precious gift. May we remember them, and the men who survived and kept fighting and then returned home to build their lives and families too. We owe them a debt that can only barely be imagined, but can be repaid with constant vigilance and dedication to the cause for which they fought.

Freedom.

Ronald Reagan’s commemorative Normandy speech concludes the post, every bit of it worth experiencing.

Tod Worner did something similar here on Patheos. Something poignant and eloquent and very human.

Now, it may be argued that the horrors discovered in Europe long after D-Day exceeded anything that could have been imagined when the invasion began. But Churchill, Roosevelt, Eisenhower and men and women of the military knew the Nazi worldview: Aggression, Fanaticism, Hatred, Ruthlessness, Greed. Values antithetical to human dignity and freedom. The Nazi creed taken to its extreme, yet logical, end would lead to the concentration camp. And it needed to be stopped.

So 70 years after D-Day…what have we learned? Were there doubts? Absolutely. Trepidation and uncertainty coursed through every individual from the grunt to the generals. Was there a duty recognized by leaders and soldiers alike to liberate the European peoples? Unquestionably. And what was the outcome?

Deliverance. Sweet deliverance at a very high price.

Doubt. Duty. Deliverance. To all veterans who have paid or been willing to pay that price, humbly, sincerely and endlessly…thank you.

For those who fully appreciate the cost and for those who never knew the price paid, The Atlantic provided a stunning visual montage, each photo worth time spent lingering.

How many countless people and nations are grateful for those who took some part, any part, in this historic and timeless event in the battle for human freedom.

The French still are, notes John Fund at NRO.

“We love you! Thank you for all you did!” 15-year-old Audrey Rigaud said with tears in her eyes as she embraced Bob Bedford, a 90-year-old veteran of D-Day, outside the banquet this small French town held in honor of their country’s liberation from Nazi occupation. The difference in their ages may have been three quarters of a century and their cultures a continent apart, but the message was clear: A surprising number of French haven’t forgotten America’s role in “the liberation.”

Audrey had come to Normandy all the way from Marseille — 700 miles away — with her classmates to commemorate D-Day for a school project. “Our feelings are so full, we want to make sure no one forgets the liberation,” Olivia Diddi, a fellow student of Audrey’s, told me. For his part, Bedford was overwhelmed by the reception he’s gotten. “It’s the first time I’ve been back since 1944,” the former Navy lieutenant told me. “If I’d only known how they felt.”

Fund was there, to capture this commemoration.

I heard a lot of things in Normandy this week that might sound trite or simplistic to someone who has never been in battle. But you quickly realize that the reason some truths are eternal and valuable is precisely because they can have such great meaning to people. Europe was occupied by a terrible tyranny and its people were slowly starving as the war ground on. America, Britain, Canada, and other countries that sent their young men and women overseas to take back Europe did a noble and courageous thing. It’s refreshing to learn that so many people in Europe who weren’t alive to witness the joy of liberation still do so much to commemorate it…

The message I take away from the windswept beaches of Normandy is that there are times when tyranny must be opposed with every fiber of our being — and that service comes in many forms, some dangerous and some just a matter of doing what even the weakest among us can. And finally, that even though it can’t be expected or wished for, the gratitude of people toward those who fought against tyranny can be long-lasting indeed. I learned that here in Normandy.

There’s a message flickering in some of these statements and memories and reports of commemorations. It’s a message that service is there today for all of us to take up and act on, and even if it seems mundane or simple, it is there in front of us to do. So that in our own way, we hold off modern day forces of tyranny against the weak and vulnerable and dependent, anywhere we encounter such threats. For the long-lasting effect such service may have.

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Jun 05

Most things about war have changed since the battle with the Nazis at Normandy. But that day endures. Why is it emblematic?

In the lead of this NRO piece, the word ‘refreshing’ leapt out as startling.

During a week in which many of the comrades of Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl have expressed outrage at what they say was his betrayal of his country in Afghanistan, it’s refreshing to return to the beaches of Normandy for a celebration of the authentic heroes who stormed ashore here 70 years ago this week.

Northern France was under the boot of Nazi occupation, and was defended by an intimidating array of fortifications and gun emplacements all along its coast. But on June 6, 1944, 160,000 Allied troops landed along a 50-mile stretch of beaches whose names have gone down in history — Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno, Sword — in what General Dwight D. Eisenhower called a crusade in which “we will accept nothing less than full victory.” More than 5,000 ships and 13,000 aircraft supported the D-Day invasion, and at the cost of 9,000 killed or wounded soldiers, the Allies gained a toehold in Europe that became the staging area for the ultimate defeat of Nazi Germany.

The passage of years has taken its toll on the veterans. Take Pointe du Hoc, a series of 100-foot cliffs that were scaled by U.S. Army Rangers at great peril on June 6. “In 1984, when President Reagan gave his famous speech at Pointe du Hoc, there were 15 busloads of 82nd Airborne troops who had parachuted into France there,” recalls Keith Nightingale, a retired colonel with the 82nd Airborne who has visited Normandy 30 times since his first visit in 1977. “This year, the unit will only be represented by two men.”

But while the ranks of the original veterans are thinning, their places at the lavish commemorations that are held here every five years are being taken by younger generations. Schoolchildren in Normandy are required to learn about “the Liberation,” and many know more about the battle’s disposition of various units than some of the returning veterans. More than 200,000 people are crowding into the Normandy region this week, and more than 12,000 of them — including world leaders from many countries — will attend the main memorial services.

Commentator John Fund pays tribute to why this is still able to happen, and should.

I am visiting Normandy along with members of the Reagan Legacy Foundation, which was founded by Michael Reagan, the president’s oldest son. At a welcoming dinner last night at the château of Alexis de Tocqueville, Reagan noted that his foundation was unveiling a film on the significance of D-Day at the Airborne Museum in Sainte-Mère Église this week. He reminded his listeners that his father died exactly ten years ago, on June 5, 2004. “We are here to honor the veterans but also to honor a president who spoke so eloquently about their sacrifice,” he told me. Indeed, after the dinner a French businessman came up to me clutching a brochure bearing Reagan’s words from his 1984 speech at Pointe du Hoc: “The men of Normandy had faith that what they were doing was right, faith that they fought for all humanity, faith that a just God would grant them mercy on this beachhead or on the next.” The man was visibly moved by the dinner we had just attended, but also moved by Reagan’s long-ago words. “He explained the meaning of it all the best, and we remember both D-Day and him,” he told me.

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Jun 02

Ever since he’s been pope, Francis has talked about this problem often and called for specific action. His sense of urgency is clear.

And his determination undaunted. He has shown it time and again, like here when he addressed a group of ambassadors to present their Letters of Credence, something Francis wasn’t about to allow to be merely ceremonial.

Today, there is one area I would like to consider with you which concerns me deeply and which currently threatens the dignity of persons, namely, human trafficking. Such trafficking is a true form of slavery, unfortunately more and more widespread, which concerns every country, even the most developed. It is a reality which affects the most vulnerable in society: women of all ages, children, the handicapped, the poorest, and those who come from broken families and from difficult situations in society. In a particular way, we Christians recognize in them the face of Jesus Christ, who identified himself with the least and those most in need. Others, who do not profess a religious faith, in the name of our common humanity share our compassion for their sufferings and strive to liberate them and alleviate their wounds. Together we can and must employ our energies so that these women, men and children can be freed, thus putting an end to this horrible trade. It is believed that there are millions of victims of forced labour, victims of human trafficking for the purposes of manual work and of sexual exploitation. This cannot continue. It constitutes a grave violation of the human rights of those victimized and is an offense against their dignity, as well as a defeat for the worldwide community…

Human trafficking is a crime against humanity. We must unite our efforts to free the victims and stop this increasingly aggressive crime which threatens not only individuals but the basic values of society and of international security and justice, to say nothing of the economy, and the fabric of the family and our coexistence.

What is called for, then, is a shared sense of responsibility and firmer political will to gain victory on this front.

He goes further, calling out governments responsible for protecting…

…the victims of this crime, which, not infrequently is related to the narcotics and arms trade, the transport of undocumented migrants, and organized crime.

Here again, he called out the Mafia. And called on leaders and their ambassadors to confront anyone, even and especially the powerful, to use their influence for the protection of vulnerable human beings.

Your Excellencies, it has been my intention to share with you these thoughts regarding a social scourge of our time, because I believe in the value and the power of a concerted commitment to combat it. I therefore urge the international community to devise a more united and effective strategy against human trafficking so that, in every part of the world, men and women may never be used as instruments, but always be respected in their inviolable dignity.

Inviolable human dignity is the centerpiece of my new book, the center of gravity that should ground us all, no matter where different faiths and beliefs go from there.

I devoted Monday’s radio show to this topic, and the hour flew before we got very far. Liz Yore was my guest, international child protection attorney, former General Counsel and Director of the International Division at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, presenter at conferences on human trafficking, including at the Vatican, and driving force being a website devoted to awareness and relief of the problem of modern human slavery.

This is happening across the world and in our hometowns. I learned from Liz on Monday that our hometown of Chicago is a major hub of human trafficking, with one ‘safe house’ for victims, once they’re identified. There are two very obvious problems with that statement: one safe house in a major metropolitan, world class city, and the only one for victims once they’re identified, because they mostly stay hidden in the darkness and shadows of the trafficking trade. “Victims don’t disclose, so it goes unnoticed,” said Yore. When authorities see weapons or drugs cross the borders, they confiscate them. When humans don’t disclose that they are being smuggled, there is no detection and therefore not tip off to retrieve them from smugglers’ control, she explained. They live among us, undercover, terrified to speak up because of the potential consequences.

Millions of dollars are spent on conferences about trafficking, just to talk about the problem, Yore told me. That thought is just mind-boggling, considering that nothing demonstrable comes from meetings. But when the meetings are with Francis, he sends attendees out with assignments, to report back to him on progress.

So here are ways to make a difference, Yore said. Of course, pray for victims, for justice, for an end to human trafficking. Support groups working to protect vulnerable human beings. At the upcoming World Cup in Brazil, the trafficking trade is expected to have a major uptick. Write FIFA and ask what they’re doing about it. This article helps.

And finally, Yore said, befriend people you meet, show them a friendly face, someone caring, someone they might trust if they are in danger. Because the workers at a local nail salon, or on the cleaning crew in offices after hours, just may be enslaved in one of these dire situations and afraid to speak up. Give them an opportunity.

And by the way, before the radio show ended, one caller was a police chief in Minnesota who had been listening to the conversation and everything Liz Yore had been saying about all this. And he called to tell listeners that it was all true, it’s all around us, and we must do everything we can to be present for people who desperately need protection, safety and trust.

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May 29

We need to be reminded of lessons we vow never to forget.

When Pope Francis visited each stop on his Holy Land pilgrimage last weekend, he delivered short but poignant messages, keeping with the way Francis addresses everything he sees and sums up concerning problems for global humanity.

They were each poignant, relevant, challenging, true and incisive. I followed them all, and thought the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial message was stunning.

The day after his return to Rome, Vatican expert analyst George Weigel was my guest on radio for an hour of compelling conversation about this Middle East visit, Pope Francis, what Christianity proposes to the modern world (which is the same as what it proposed to the ancient world), and the Church engaging current global affairs. Weigel is the world’s pre-eminent papal biographer (with a two-volume analysis and commentary on the life of John Paul II).

He made a very interesting point that after John Paul’s Yad Vashem address during his March 2000 pilgrimage, one might think nothing said there could be as profound.

Weigel vividly recalled the opening of that address.

In this place of memories, the mind and heart and soul feel an extreme need for silence. Silence in which to remember. Silence in which to try to make some sense of the memories which come flooding back. Silence because there are no words strong enough to deplore the terrible tragedy of the Shoah.

I have come to Yad Vashem to pay homage to the millions of Jewish people who, stripped of everything, especially of their human dignity, were murdered in the Holocaust. More than half a century has passed, but the memories remain.

How powerful a remembrance, one that seared our consciousness. But George went on to say that what Francis said last weekend at Yad Vashem was quite startling and profound, and probably at least equaled the depth of John Paul’s message.

Francis spoke from scripture readings that posed the voice of God, and it was powerful.

“Adam, where are you?” (cf. Gen 3:9). Where are you, o man? What have you come to? In this place, this memorial of the Shoah, we hear God’s question echo once more: “Adam, where are you?” This question is charged with all the sorrow of a Father who has lost his child…

Adam, who are you? I no longer recognize you. Who are you, o man? What have you become? Of what horror have you been capable? What made you fall to such depths?…

Who corrupted you? Who disfigured you? Who led you to presume that you are the master of good and evil? Who convinced you that you were god?

At this point, I had two thoughts, beyond a visceral reaction to so breathtaking an indictment.

One, the timely, insightful book my friend Elizabeth Scalia published just before Francis was elected pope, Strange Gods. From the beginning of his papacy Francis has warned often of idolatry.

And two, the fitting analogy of the abortion culture. “What made you fall to such depths…Who led you to presume that you are the master of good and evil? Who convinced you that you were god? Not only did you torture and kill your brothers and sisters, but you sacrificed them to yourself, because you made yourself a god.”

On Wednesday, preparing for an hour with National Review Online’s Kathryn Lopez, co-founder of Catholic Voices USA, we collaborated on what we saw as important topics to cover in fast and fleeting time, there was so much. It was the day a Tweetfest was planned by abortion activists claiming that #WomensHealth called for the global body of the United Nations to tie ‘reproductive rights’ (euphemism for abortion) to binding international documents. Kathryn and I both saw the tie-in.

Her post at NRO.

Were you to do a Google search for “International Day of Women’s Health,” as I just did, the first link you would find is from the Center for Reproductive Health. There you would learn that:

“On May 28, the Center for Reproductive Rights joins health and women’s rights advocates from around the world in commemorating the International Day of Action for Women’s Health. The Center also calls on governments to ensure access to sexual and reproductive health services, including contraception, which is essential to improve women and adolescent girls’ health.”

Sexual and reproductive health services. That’s one of those phrases abortion-rights activists use when they don’t want to say abortion. Which is why there should be no tears shed for the “women’s health” lobby when they complain that their day was “hijacked” by pro-life activists today [May 28].

Kathryn included some remarkable screen shots for this post, check it out. By a long shot, the pro-life movement overtook Twitter with messages that countered the abortion propaganda of that day’s campaign. Her post captured the extreme lengths abortion activists have gone to for the right to end new human life.

Think about that. The right to end life at will.

And remember the Shoah. As John Paul II did.

Here, as at Auschwitz and many other places in Europe, we are overcome by the echo of the heart-rending laments of so many. Men, women and children cry out to us from the depths of the horror that they knew. How can we fail to heed their cry? No one can forget or ignore what happened. No one can diminish its scale.

We wish to remember. But we wish to remember for a purpose, namely to ensure that never again will evil prevail, as it did for the millions of innocent victims of Nazism.

“No one can forget or ignore what happened. No one can diminish its scale.” What is happening in abortion clinics every day cannot be ignored and vast numbers of women, men, siblings of those now lost will not forget. No one can diminish the scale of the population lost to abortion, close to 57 million babies in the US alone since Roe v. Wade, and countless numbers beyond. Watching those numbers tick up so rapidly moves some of us urgently to try to stop it.

Pope Francis at Yad Vashem, last weekend.

Almighty Lord, a soul in anguish cries out to you. Hear, Lord, and have mercy! We have sinned against you. You reign for ever (cf. Bar 3:1-2). Remember us in your mercy. Grant us the grace to be ashamed of what we men have done, to be ashamed of this massive idolatry, of having despised and destroyed our own flesh which you formed from the earth, to which you gave life with your own breath of life. Never again, Lord, never again!

“Adam, where are you?” Here we are, Lord, shamed by what man, created in your own image and likeness, was capable of doing.

Remember us in your mercy.

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May 26

On this journey, he took two notable friends from Argentina: Rabbi Abraham Skorka and Sheikh Omar Abboud. What did that mean, and what did it accomplish?

It made for a grabbing lead in a CNN article leading up to the pope’s Holy Land journey.

So, a rabbi, a sheikh and a pope travel to the Holy Land…

It might sound like the start of a trite joke, but it’s actually the entourage for one of the most highly anticipated papal trips in recent history.

It was a short one, not even three full days, but packed with an astounding itinerary, starting in Jordan and then flying over the enormous divide between Bethlehem and Jerusalem though not without stopping at the huge, ominous, ugly concrete security wall separating those two cities and Israel from Palestine at that key border crossing, one of the most prominently published photos of the apostolic journey to the Holy Land.

Theology experts have called Francis “the pope of the grand gesture”, and Rocco Palmo picks up on that identity in this coverage.

Fourteen months into the new Rule of Francis, it’s well beyond clear that this pontificate’s most resonant moments of communication come without words…while en route to the late-morning Mass at Bethlehem’s Manger Square, the Pope suddenly halted his motorcade, stepped off the Jeep, and caused a chaotic moment as he waded through a crowd to stop and pray for several minutes at the barrier separating Israel and Palestine as an advocate for the new state blared its people’s case over loudspeakers in English.

“In this place where the Prince of Peace was born,” Francis said, “I desire to invite you, [Palestinian] President Mahmoud Abbas, and [the Israeli] President Shimon Peres, to raise together with me an intense prayer to God for the gift of peace. And I offer my house in the Vatican to host you in this encounter of prayer.”

This was unplanned, as much of what Francis does, is. It suddenly became news. Generated headlines immediately.

That impromptu moment by Francis continued:

“All of us want peace. Many people build it day by day through small gestures and acts; many of them are suffering, yet patiently persevere in their efforts to be peacemakers. All of us – especially those placed at the service of their respective peoples – have the duty to become instruments and artisans of peace, especially by our prayers. Building peace is difficult, but living without peace is a constant torment. The men and women of these lands, and of the entire world, all of them, ask us to bring before God their fervent hopes for peace.”

He continued that pursuit in a meeting in Bethlehem with Palestinian leaders.

“The time has come for everyone to find the courage to be generous and creative in the service of the common good, the courage to forge a peace which rests on the acknowledgment by all of the right of two States to exist and to live in peace and security within internationally recognized borders,” he stressed.

That same message has been delivered time and again by his predecessor and world leaders, and such a peace remains as elusive as ever. But Francis was undaunted.

The Pontiff also spoke forcefully in defense of Christians living in the Holy Land, who “desire to continue in this role as full citizens”

Calling upon the “good relations existing between the Holy See and the State of Palestine,” Pope Francis expressed his hope that “it is possible to find a means of serene, ordered and peaceful coexistence, accepting our differences and rejoicing that, as children of the one God, we are all brothers and sisters.”

Religious freedom is a “fundamental right,” he emphasized. It is “one of the essential conditions for peace, fraternity, and harmony.”

Wherever he went and wherever he goes, that emphasis on religious freedom is key for him, as it was for John Paul II and Benedict XVI.

The Pope expressed his “closeness to those who suffer” in the “climate of instability” in the region.

He noted that a “lack of mutual understanding” has produced “insecurity, the violation of rights, isolation, and the flight of entire communities.”

Pope Francis then said, “I wish to state my heartfelt conviction that the time has come to put an end to this situation which has become increasingly unacceptable.”

The Pontiff was firm in his emphasis that peace must be sought.

This is pure Francis.

“There is a need to intensify efforts and initiatives aimed at creating the conditions for a stable peace based on justice, on the recognition of the rights of every individual, and on mutual security.”

He insisted that the conflicts in the region must end, “even if each side has to make certain sacrifices.”

It’s going to take a heroic effort to bring that about. He’s working on it.

Over in Jerusalem

In the run-up to this PopeTrip, Rabbi Abraham Skorka often anticipated the moment when “The Pope and I will embrace at the Wailing Wall.”

And finally…with Francis’ Argentine Muslim friend Omar Abboud in tow – the scene came to pass, followed by this visit’s most evocative talk to date: Papa Bergoglio’s harrowing reflection on the Holocaust at Jerusalem’s Yad Vashem memorial to the 6 million Jews exterminated by the Nazis, which began with a long, shaken pause.

He touched everyone in their deepest hurts and longings.

And the biggest takeaway of an emotionally packed Holy Land journey, where he met with refugees desperate not to be forgotten, and with leaders of deeply and historically divided lands and peoples, was that he spontaneously asked them to come to ‘his home’ to meet and talk more, in that neutral setting away from their homelands and in a friendly environment.

Pope Francis’ invitation to the presidents of Israel and the Palestinian Authority to join him in a peace prayer in the Vatican is consistent with what former Vatican ambassador Raymond L. Flynn said is the new pontiff’s peace strategy of putting the Middle East leaders on the spot.

“I think he’s going to be successful in uniting world religious leaders, and now the real challenge ahead is whether or not he’s going to be able to almost embarrass these political leaders to take a stand,” said Flynn, also former mayor of Boston.

“These governments, they come and go, and you don’t have any strong political leadership. So that’s why the religious leadership has got to emerge in this, has got to convince the political leadership that it’s in the best interest of the people that they live in peace and stability,” Flynn said.

The pope yesterday turned what had been billed as a religious pilgrimage to the West Bank and Israel into an effort to renew the stalled peace process, inviting Israeli President Shimon Peres, whose position largely is ceremonial, and Palestinian ?Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, to the Vatican “to join me in heartfelt prayer to God for the gift of peace.”

The invitation was welcomed by both sides, though the proposed meeting was widely seen as symbolic.

“I implore those in positions of responsibility to leave no stone unturned in the search for equit­able solutions to complex problems, so that Israelis and Palestinians may live in peace,” the pope said.

“The path of dialogue, reconciliation and peace must constantly be taken up anew, courageously and tirelessly. There is simply no other way,” he said.

Knowing and watching and covering Francis, you know this carries weight. We have come to accept endless efforts and equally endless resignation on this process. But among the clerics who traveled to the Middle East with him, noted CNN, all eyes of the world would be on the man in white.

And this is a good time to recall that popes choose their name for a particular reason, to signal what will be the central, identifying theme of their pontificates. Francis was the saint of the poor, the one who received the vision and message to “rebuild my Church”.

And as much as anything else, Francis of Assisi was known by people worldwide who aren’t even Catholic or Christian or believers at all, as a peacemaker. This Francis is determined to carry on all the missions of his namesake. The meeting in Rome, at the Vatican, of Israeli President Shimon Peres and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas together with Pope Francis, will take place in June. Most media are calling it ‘symbolic.’

We’ll see.

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May 19

ACOG, as in the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the doctors who care for women through pregnancy and deliver their babies. If anybody knows the origin and development of human life, they should. Or did.

Years ago, they became very political and ideological, and thus very flexible with science and human embryology.

Journalist Mollie Hemingway picks it up from here, in commentary on a Washington Post piece that could have come from the Onion. It’s about the flap over remarks Sen. Marco Rubio made on global warming, and science.

Last week, Sen. Marco Rubio took some heat for saying that he was skeptical of global warming activism. He was asked about the reaction to some of his comments and he noted some hypocrisy he’s witnessed on scientific consensus:

A snip from his response…

All these people always wag their finger at me about ‘science’ and ‘settled science.’ Let me give you a bit of settled science that they’ll never admit to. The science is settled, it’s not even a consensus, it is a unanimity, that human life begins at conception. So I hope the next time that someone wags their finger about science, they’ll ask one of these leaders on the left: ‘Do you agree with the consensus of scientists that say that human life begins at conception?’ I’d like to see someone ask that question.

To which Hemingway responds

Now, it’s probably worth noting at the outset that everything Rubio said in this paragraph was true. Human life begins at conception and nobody is ever asked about whether they deny that.

But let’s look at what the Washington Post‘s Chris Cillizza tweeted out in response:

Marco Rubio demanded people look at the science on abortion. So we did.

Hemingway continues:

The blurb for the piece says, “‘Science is settled … that human life beings at conception,’ Sen. Rubio said. We spoke with an expert on the science who didn’t agree.”

The story itself, with the same UpWorthy headline, is written by one Philip Bump and reads, stunningly:

(repeat: reads, stunningly):

We reached out to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, an association comprised of a large majority of the nation’s ob-gyns. The organization’s executive vice president and CEO, Hal C Lawrence, III, MD, offered his response to Rubio.

“Government agencies and American medical organizations agree that the scientific definition of pregnancy and the legal definition of pregnancy are the same: pregnancy begins upon the implantation of a fertilized egg into the lining of a woman’s uterus. This typically takes place, if at all, between 5 and 9 days after fertilization of the egg – which itself can take place over the course of several days following sexual intercourse.”

In other words: Consensus exists (if not unanimously), and the consensus is that uterine implantation is the moment at which pregnancy begins.

We presented that description to the senator’s office, asking if he wanted to clarify or moderate his statement. Brooke Sammon, the senator’s Deputy Press Secretary, told us that “Senator Rubio absolutely stands by the comment.”

Hemingway’s reaction:

Oh dear. Oh dear. Oh dear…It is somewhat mortifying that the idiocy of this is not immediately apparent to everyone. Did you catch it? Are you smarter than a Washington Post reporter? Do you know that “when human life begins” and “when an embryo implants in the uterine wall” are actually not synonymous statements? I bet you did. Or I bet you could figure that out pretty easily.

See, you will not learn this — or much of anything else about the reality of abortion or unborn human life — from the media, but in fact there is consensus about when human lives begin. It’s almost a tautology to say what Rubio said. It’s like saying “human life begins when human life begins.”

See, here’s what gets me. That the term “consensus” is thrown about so loosely and on such fundamental truths as human life, truths for which there is scientific evidence and about which it’s either embarrassing or ridiculous or both to hear serious people even introduce the idea of consensus. As if there is a consensus on the sun rising and setting each day, as if there is consensus on the idea of “a day” and its parameters and duration, beginning and end.

Anyway, Hemingway then gets into the scientific “consensus” on when human life begins (to continue with this article). And for those who need show and tell, she provides video and emphasis on the parts to pay particular attention to, for better understanding.

So…

Who to believe, bloggers at the Washington Post or embryologists? I’m so confused! And the Post wasn’t just wrong but, like, so embarrassingly wrong as to require a correction, a mea culpa, and a serious amount of soul-searching. (I get a kick out of how the people who make these videos, which are used by medical and media sites, say “Low health literacy costs the US healthcare system between $106 billion to $238 billion each year. Please watch and share a medical animation to raise health literacy!” Indeed!)

You can’t make this up.

OK, so some people tried to gently point out the egregious and embarrassing error to Cillizza and Bump, who have steadfastly refused to correct the piece they promoted.

Stay with this. Hemingway wrote a long piece, but characteristically incisive and clarifying, like a blast of ice water to the face. Because that’s just what it takes, and even then some people won’t flinch.

Please note: Bump thinks the problem is not with his own flawed reporting and comprehension but with Rubio’s statement! Bump thinks this tweet and his piece do something other than make him look extremely bad!

But it gets worse:

(Bump writing here)…

There’s a blurry line between “pregnancy” and “life” in this discussion. When we asked ACOG if the two were interchangeable, we were told that the organization “approach[es] everything from a scientific perspective, and as such, our definition is for when pregnancy begins.” On the question of when life begins, then, the scientific experts we spoke with didn’t offer any consensus.

“Life” is something of a philosophical question, making Rubio’s dependence on a scientific argument — which, it hardly bears mentioning, is an argument about abortion — politically tricky.

Mollie Hemingway rebounds…

Uh, what? Let’s list the problems here:

1) Rubio didn’t mention anything about definitions of pregnancy, so there’s no blurry line in “this discussion” about his statement regarding when life begins and someone else’s statement about when pregnancy begins…

2) It’s probably a good time to mention that ACOG is a group known for its strenuous support of abortion. Beyond the question of why Bump used this group instead of embryologists as sources, there’s also the issue that he’s not identifying them as vehemently pro-choice (as in, they even support partial-birth abortions).

Don’t miss that point. It’s critical to this whole article, and more gravely, to the public debate over abortion, human life, women’s health, and frankly violations of law. Partial birth abortions: see Kermit Gosnell.

But stay with Hemingway for now…

3) No one is mentioned in this piece other than ACOG. Yet Bump claims, “the scientific experts we spoke with didn’t offer any consensus.” This is a difficult claim to swallow…Is there any evidence whatsoever that he spoke with anyone other than the pro-choice group?

4) Dude, life can be a totally trippy thing, I agree, but Rubio was not talking philosophy. He was talking science. And the question of when human life begins is not philosophical, it’s scientific. You might debate when you have the right not to be killed by someone else, be it three months’ gestation, five months’ gestation, or birth. Some deny the right to life of various classes of people long after birth, too. Philosopher and abortion advocate Peter Singer has said children don’t achieve full moral status until after two years. And these are, in fact, philosophical questions. But the scientific question of when life begins is actually pretty straight forward, if mysteriously unknown to some at our biggest media institutions. Or as Dougherty mocked, “Guys, guys. Human ‘life’ is an illusion created by social consensus, WaPo is breaking this whole thing open!” To me Bump’s bizarre statements are more reminiscent of a group of college students from a third-rate public university having what they think sounds like a really deep conversation after passing around the bowl.

So here Hemingway brings readers back to the present ‘Politics vs. Science’, because science has been politicized for an ideological agenda.

If this is long for some readers already, here’s a cue to pay close attention now:

Bump inadvertently hit on something in his final lines, when he wrote, “After all, if someone were to argue that life begins at implantation, it’s hard to find a moral argument against forms of birth control that prevent that from happening.”

Did you know that the definition of pregnancy was changed not long ago from beginning at “fertilization” to beginning at “implantation”? Did you know that this was a political decision? Did you know that some groups have even tried to say that implantation is when “conception” occurs, too?

Before we get into this story of politics and science, I might note a few statements from early in the birth control battles. Alan Guttmacher, former president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America and a leader in the International Planned Parenthood Federation said:

We of today know that man… starts life as an embryo within the body of the female; and that the embryo is formed from the fusion of two single cells, the ovum and the sperm. This all seems so simple and evident to us that it is difficult to picture a time when it was not part of the common knowledge.

Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood, said, “If, however, a contraceptive is not used and the sperm meets the ovule and development begins, any attempt at removing it or stopping its further growth is called abortion.”

Birth control pioneer Marie Stopes said, “A large number of the opponents of birth control deliberately confuse birth control with abortion. I suppose it is all right for me to explain to you that abortion can only take place when an embryo is in existence. An embryo can only be produced after the sperm cell and the egg cell have actually united, after their nuclei have fused and after the first cell divisions have taken place. The moment that that has taken place you have there a minute, invisible, but actual embryo, and anything which destroys that is abortion, and we never in our clinic do anything which can in any way lead to that destruction. But until the sperm cell has united with the egg cell, no embryo exists or can exist, and anything which keeps the sperm away from the egg cell cannot lead to or be abortion because no embryo can then exist.”

All of these statements are from the first few decades of the 20th century. As technology developed that enabled embryos to be destroyed before implantation, what was so “simple” and “evident” and “common knowledge,” in Guttmacher’s words, suddenly became none of those things.

There’s still much more in this article, fully available at the link and advisable to read and re-read and grasp in its scope. Hemingway realizes it’s long.

So she concludes:

OK, that was a lot to work through. And for people who value the sanctity of all human life, from actual conception to natural death, none of these semantic changes matter one bit. But you can see how they would help those activists with different views on when human lives can be ended.

The thing is that activists can redefine pregnancy all they want and it won’t change the central issue at hand — the question of whether it’s ok to end the life of a genetically distinct human. We won’t resolve that debate any time soon, but obscuring the facts on when and how human life begins will not help matters.

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May 12

Some headlines, over and beyond Mother’s Day weekend.

New York Post editor William McGurn captured a lot here.

Mother’s Day is a good day in our house, partly because of the general bonhomie that links us with the many moms in our lives. There’s my wife, the mother of my children. There’s also her mother and my mother, both still with us and adored by their grandchildren.

And in the special recesses of our hearts, there are three more. These are the women who brought our daughters into the world — three women in China whom we have never met and whose names we don’t even know but to whom we owe our family.

Think of that, and let it sink in that three women in China gave life to three baby girls and then, because of their circumstances, gave those baby girls over for another family to raise and provide a good life, for each one of them.

This past summer my eldest traveled to China on her own to volunteer at an orphanage, where she learned a lesson that became her college essay. She had always wondered how a woman could give up her baby, she wrote. Then, at the orphanage, she became attached to one little fellow after just a few weeks, and gained a new appreciation for how difficult a decision it must have been — and the great selflessness that goes with it. And how lucky she was to have such a woman carry her to term, especially in a nation where she could easily have been aborted.

Another full stop. Contemplate just that thought.

Now, when moms and dads have families the traditional way, biology is a powerful partner: The child is of both of you, meant for you, a part of you and yet apart from you in a wondrous way. For an adoptive mom, love must fill in what biology has left open…

Our daughters come from very different places. The eldest comes from Yangzhou, where Marco Polo claimed to have served as governor under Kublai Khan in a city not unlike San Francisco.

The middle one comes from Nanchang, birthplace of the People’s Liberation Army, closer to a West Virginia.

The youngest comes from Chairman Mao’s home province, Hunan, where girls are known as “chili peppers” after the dominant ingredient in the spicy local cuisine.

Out of this patchwork of Chinese geography, with no DNA or blood to bind us, their mother formed a family. And when these girls sit on the edge of our bed Sunday morning and watch their mom enjoy the cup of coffee they’ve made for her, on their faces you would see the certainty this good woman gave them: I am loved.

What a testimony.

And then there was another one, quite the opposite, quite jarring. The recorded account of a young woman, plastered all over social media, who had her abortion experience videotaped (strategically) in a sort of defiant effort to show how that ‘choice’ can be a happy one. As if it’s really just a woman removing something from her body that got in the way of her plans and pursuits, an inconvenience she could easily remove. Some people were understandably repulsed by this show.

But my friend Elizabeth Scalia saw something more. She looked deeper, or longer, or thought harder about what the video really revealed. And she urges her readers ‘don’t become distracted by what this young woman is saying with her mouth, or you’ll miss all she’s revealing in her face.’

A month after the abortion — with the dramatic change in hairstyle that so many women effect when emotions are high and they need to feel in control of something — watch Emily, then. The light is gone from her eyes. The seeming disconnect between pc-fed head and instinctive heart is laid out in breathtaking and stark incongruity, even down to the shadows, the blue note, the lack of energy. Devastating. Cognizant of it or not, she is a mother in grief…

Frankly, if I were a young woman watching this and pondering abortion, one glance at those haunted eyes, that beautiful, woebegone countenance and benumbed, vacant tone, and I would be running to my nearest Birthright, or to the Good Counsel network, or to the Sisters of Life, whose founder, the mighty John Cardinal O’ Connor of the Archdiocese of New York, once pledged to help any needy pregnant woman seeking assistance instead of abortion, and whose successor, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, has maintained that position.

My heart breaks for this young woman and her baby who are so clearly victims of a pervasive rhetoric full of untruths and the banality of real evil. She needs our prayers and our whole-hearted spiritual assistance. Evidenced before us is a mind seduced and under the power of nefarious propaganda that has told her to serve her own desires unto death — one that has encouraged her to soul-shredding idolatry while its promulgators serve only death and political campaign coffers. It is a mind owned by insipid platitudes, now at war with a heart that says, “bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh, my baby, my heart, myself.”

What this young woman now knows — what resonates so clearly in her assertion that if her house were afire, she would grab the sonogram of her extinguished baby, and run — is that when she consented to kill her baby, she killed a very real piece of herself.

Even after a woman delivers a baby, or miscarries, or aborts, there remains within her, for the rest of her life, microscopic bits of her child — of each child she has ever conceived. Look up microchimerism and you will understand there is no such thing as “getting rid” of one’s baby, only of stopping it’s life and disposing of it, while carrying it within one’s very blood and sinew, forever.

Go to Elizabeth’s post for all the links in that text to places of help and healing, protection and caring, a few of which I provided here because they’re so critical for women in crisis.

She continues her appeal to understand what really goes on in an abortion, referring to ‘Emily’s good abortion’ video.

A body is made of living tissue and living tissue has memory. Pretty it up on video however you like, the insertion of a vacuum into a woman’s body and the perpetration a violent, limb-shredding execution within the deep recesses of her womb cannot help but reverberate like dark energy, throughout the woman’s body, mind and soul. You want to grab a sonogram of the baby you killed because the living part of that baby, still residing within you, is calling out for more of you, all of you.

And then there’s the consideration of women after the abortion. No longer the ‘women and babies’ outreach efforts because the babies are gone. But the women need help and relief. And look who’s there to help them. Women who were there, working in an abortion clinic or being ‘clients’ or ‘patients’ of one.

There has been an explosion recently of women sharing their personal abortion experiences as part of a new self-described “pro-VOICE” movement. The stated goal of this campaign is to shift the focus from debating the legality of abortion or discussing whether abortion is right or wrong, to sharing stories from individuals who offer an intimate look at life after abortion. One example is an article that was recently put out by Upworthy. In an attempt to paint abortion as a positive experience, the woman in the article said that she was “surprised” by several things that have happened after her abortion. There are many women who now suffer because of their abortion and we felt like our voices needed to be heard as well.

Here are those five voices.

Read them. Hear their voices. They want to be heard. They are mothers, after all. And they have something to say about the truth and consequences of that human relationship.

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May 05

In a split decision, the majority upheld the tradition of the US since its founding.

This needs closer scrutiny.

A divided Supreme Court ruled Monday that legislative bodies such as city councils can begin their meetings with prayer, even if it plainly favors a specific religion.

The court ruled 5 to 4 that Christian prayers said before meetings of an Upstate New York town council did not violate the constitutional prohibition against government establishment of religion; the justices cited history and tradition.

“Ceremonial prayer is but a recognition that, since this Nation was founded and until the present day, many Americans deem that their own existence must be understood by precepts far beyond the authority of government,” Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote for the court’s conservative majority.

This was an important test, yet again (a previous one being Hosanna-Tabor) of the true provision for the free exercise of religious liberty in America by the Founders.

The ruling reflected a Supreme Court that has become more lenient on how government may accommodate religion in civic life without crossing the line into an endorsement of a particular faith. All nine justices endorsed the concept of legislative prayer, with the four dissenters agreeing that the public forum “need not become a religion-free zone,” in the words of Justice Elena Kagan.

However, since everything is so political and partisan these days, there’s a clause to follow.

But there was sharp disagreement after that, and the majority ruling could encourage public bodies to give more leeway to religious expression in their ceremonial prayers and less deference to the objections of religious minorities.

The court’s five conservatives said legislative prayers need not be stripped of references to a specific religion — the prayers at issue often invoked Jesus Christ and the resurrection — and said those given the opportunity to pray before legislative meetings should be “unfettered” by what government officials find appropriate.

“Absent a pattern of prayers that over time denigrate, proselytize, or betray an impermissible government purpose, a challenge based solely on the content of a particular prayer will not likely establish a constitutional violation,” Kennedy wrote.

Once again, as is usually at issue in these court cases, the complaint was that the prayers tended to be Christian. And in this case, it was alleged that the opening prayer might somehow coerce everyone in the courtroom to hold a certain belief, or prejudice or intimidate those involved in grievances up for consideration before the governing body.

Kennedy began by referring to history: The same founders who wrote the First Amendment — with its prohibition on the establishment of a government religion but also protections for religious liberty — provided money for congressional chaplains, he said.

“Legislative prayer has become part of our heritage and tradition, part of our expressive idiom, similar to the Pledge of Allegiance, inaugural prayer, or the recitation of ‘God save the United States and this honorable Court’ at the opening of this Court’s sessions,” he wrote.

And he said there was no evidence that Greece town council members “allocated benefits and burdens based on participation in the prayer.”

The court’s majority split on how to judge whether prayers amount to coercion of nonbelievers.

“The analysis would be different if town board members directed the public to participate in the prayers, singled out dissidents for opprobrium, or indicated that their decisions might be influenced by a person’s acquiescence in the prayer opportunity,” Kennedy wrote in a part of the opinion joined only by Roberts and Alito.

Still, the religious divide was stressed in the case and the reporting of it.

“The rule announced by the Court today authorizes elected officials or clergy to give sectarian prayers in the name of Jesus, Hashem, Allah or any other deity before Congress, state legislatures, or local town boards,” the Anti-Defamation League said in a statement. “The religiously divisive implications of this new rule are troubling in any of these contexts, however it is particularly disturbing at the local level.”

But David Cortman, senior counsel for the Alliance Defending Freedom, praised the ruling.

“Opening public meetings with prayer is a cherished freedom that the authors of the Constitution themselves practiced,” he said. “Speech censors should have no power to silence volunteers who pray for their communities just as the Founders did.”

It’s most interesting to recall that the Supreme Court unanimously agreed in Hosanna-Tabor that the State has no right to interfere in long established and protected matters of religious freedom. But building to the high court’s decision on the HHS mandate severely restricting that right, a decision expected by June, this case is only adding to the drama building around that decision.

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May 01

Hollywood has a lot of power. But people are increasingly going around them to get stories told.

So this power duo of Ann McElhinney and her husband Phelim McAleer were doing what they do best, producing and directing documentary films like FrackNation, Mine Your Own Business, and Not Evil Just Wrong, among others with messages they believe in, without any affiliation with pro-life organizations or causes or much thought about it, in the film world. They were working on something else when they learned of the trial of notorious, infamous, murderous abortionist (a redundancy) Kermit Gosnell. They dropped everything once they learned the truths about the abortion clinic dubbed by authorities as a ‘house of horrors’, what went on there, what the team in Hazmat suits who investigated found there, what that abortionist did to women and babies, and how the media went silent on the trial once Gosnell went to court, with the full blown grand jury report detailing the most grisly acts and crimes again humanity, while media seats in the courtroom remained strangely empty.

Ann and Phelim swung into motion and started planning a film to document this historic moment in the the culture that spiraled out of control since abortion on demand became legal. It’s the logic of abortion taken to it’s conclusion, after all, and this case was emblematic. They had formerly worked with Kickstarter to fund FrackNation, and went back to that crowd source funding process for this project. After all, as Ann’s bio records,

FrackNation bypassed traditional funding methods and instead turned to Kickstarter, a crowd-funding website. In 60 days, 3,305 backers donated $212,265 to tell the truth about fracking. It was one of the most successful campaigns in Kickstarter history.

However, this time, Kickstarter kicked them out. The language used in the film was too offensive, the site organizers decided, and it had to be edited out and toned down.

Wait. What? The language in the film was the language of the grand jury report, finding what they found at Gosnell’s ‘clinic’ and describing it in plain spoken words. In other words, the filmmakers were rejected for describing the actual scene and details of the crime, and not soft-peddling the truth with fuzzier language and actual omissions.

Instead of doing that, Ann and Phelim went to Indiegogo and launched an awareness campaign to crowd fund the film project on a deadline. They are passionate and determined.

Dr. Kermit Gosnell is the most prolific serial killer in American History, but almost no one knows who he is.

The Grand Jury investigating Kermit Gosnell’s horrific crimes said this:

This case is about a doctor who killed babies … What we mean is that he regularly and illegally delivered live, viable, babies in the third trimester of pregnancy – and then murdered these newborns by severing their spinal cords with scissors …. Over the years, many people came to know that something was going on here. But no one put a stop to it.

Gosnell is serving several life sentences but the media basically ignored his crimes and his trial. They ignored the facts that emerged from the trial, like the fact that the babies he murdered suffered terribly. Here is what a neonatologist told the Grand Jury:

The neonatologist testified… If a baby moves, it is alive. Equally troubling, it feels a “tremendous amount of pain” when its spinal cord is severed. So, the fact that Baby Boy A. continued to move after his spinal cord was cut with scissors means that he did not die instantly. Maybe the cord was not completely severed. In any case, his few moments of life were spent in excruciating pain. (Report of the Grand Jury)

The mainstream media or Hollywood don’t think this is a story.

That doesn’t matter, if enough people do, say the filmmakers.

It’s a frightening testament to the power of the media that very few people even know about Kermit Gosnell: America’s Most Prolific Serial Killer.

This is your chance to bypass the media “information gatekeepers” to get tens of millions of Americans thinking about what happened in Philadelphia.

How’s it going? I covered the Gosnell case and trial and repored here things that didn’t hit the mainstream radar, or stick for long once it did. It seemed at the time that this case may just be the one that turns the culture around on abortion, or at least generates serious public discussion about what this license has wrought in the four decades since Roe. It did that, for a short time. But things went back to business as usual soon after, and this story seems to have faded from memory in a culture that hardly grasped it in the first place.

So I was very interested in how this project is going, once I discovered it. Since I first had the dynamic Ann McElhinney on my radio show in early April, I’ve watched her and Phelim take their campaign to social media and mainstream media by leaps and bounds.

NRO reports, and get how the report comes out:

Ann and Phelim Media recently reached $1.6 million in donations to their Gosnell film crowdfunding campaign, with $500,000 left to raise before May 12.

The company switched to crowdfunding platform Indiegogo to raise the money to finance their film after claiming that their initial choice, Kickstarter, had attempted to censor the project.

On Tuesday, Ann and Phelim Media purchased a billboard ad, and placed it half a mile from Kickstarter’s headquarters in Brooklyn. The ad reads, “To Kickstarter — We Say . . . “You stink at censorship!”

Kickstarter’s CEO, Yancey Strickler, recently told National Review Online that the Gosnell project was not suppressed and the filmmakers blew an editorial exchange out of proportion.

What Kickstarter refers to as blowing “an editorial exchange out of proportion” is another way of covering up what really happened. Kickstarter couldn’t deal with the truth, in the plain language of the Grand Jury report the filmmakers report.

And as Phelim McAleer told the Hollywood Reporter:

“Kickstarter tried to censor us – it didn’t work. When faced with a different point of view, their first instinct was to censor,” McAleer said.

He adds, though, that he believes Kickstarter was within its rights because it’s a private company. “But they need to be honest and announce that certain opinions and ideas are not welcome,” he said. “It’s sad, but that’s the truth.”

With 11 days left, the Gosnell project has raised $1.66 million, 79 percent of its goal. If it reaches $2.1 million, it will become the most successful movie or TV project to raise funds at IndieGoGo.

Here’s the site.

Then there’s ‘Irreplaceable‘, a film about the state of the family across the globe. And though produced by MPower Pictures producer John Shepherd, it’s sponsored by Focus on the Family, an organization trying to shift its focus to a more pro-active effort as this, and it’s an admirable effort. I saw it last week in a private screening, and know what it’s about, how it’s done, and how it affected the packed theater in which I viewed it. I thought it would be a good effort, and effective to sort of ‘get the ball rolling’ on re-thinking the family, since we all have one and it’s in a state of crisis around the world.

But it’s remarkable, how simply they hit the primeval sense we all have of needing to belong, and knowing that we belong or grieving the loss of belonging to others in what civilization has always known as family. It’s so fresh, stark, and basic. The narrator and main researcher is a family man from New Zealand who sets out on a journey around the world to talk with experts and regular people about family relationships, the state of the family today, not so much to focus on what’s wrong but on what we might or can do to make it better for everyone. Because God knows, we need to.

From the website:

Every member of the human race has the desire for significance—a desire to belong. And the family is where those deepest longings are fulfilled.

Unfortunately, the word “family” has all but lost its meaning in our modern cultural landscape. And the fallout has been significant. Divorce. Crime. Poverty. Addictions. Abuse. Our attempts to redefine and reimagine the family only make these problems worse, not better. When the family is weakened, society suffers. But strong families make the world a better place.

Irreplaceable is the first in a series of feature-length documentaries that will approach the concept of the family from a number of different angles. The goal of each documentary is to recover, renew and reclaim the cultural conversation about the family.

And besides the series, it’s a new movement. It launches with a nationwide event on May 6th at 700 theaters nationwide in America, and goes from there. Details on the site.

I must admit, I was inspired by the project, and impressed by the producer in an interview we did on my radio program. But when the once-only screening happened on a work night, I was pretty tired and attended with the hope that it wouldn’t be long. After it got rolling, and the New Zealand narrator/researcher started traveling, interviewing, piecing together whatever he discovered on his journey, I got drawn in more.

But something happened around or just after the middle of the film, when the packed theater settled down from their popcorn munching and bobbing around, and grew more still and silent. And it built to a point when no one in the place moved, no one turned their head away, or made a sound. It was riveting, and a couple of people around me were quietly crying. I was moved, a bit choked up, but holding together and impressed with how well they did this film.

Then it blindsided me. Because it sort of seemed to blindside the narrator/researcher from New Zealand. He didn’t expect to have the deep revelation that hit him any more than I did, and by hitting him the way it did it hit me. Maybe that’s an excuse. Maybe it would have hit many of us deeply no matter what, because of the human truths about relationships and belonging and family, or whatever it was that made people cry. And I found myself wiping away tears. It was deep and rich and raw and human. And it was okay to be wounded and imperfect.

This May 6th event is intended to start something. I hope it starts the healing process. God knows we need it.

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Apr 28

In an age of skepticism or denial of the transcendent, there’s a mighty lot of interest in the pope.

Which one, though? Surely Francis has been appearing everywhere, on magazine covers and in unexpected Italian newspaper interviews, on the other end of spontaneous telephone calls the press loves to talk about, in photos embracing the vulnerable, disabled, impaired, rejected, dejected, disfigured. Or by contrast, delighting children who break ranks to run to him, when he scoops them up to put them in the papal chair, or in the popemobile, or on stage  in an audience. Or enjoying countless groups of young people and married couples lined up for their ‘selfies’ with the Holy Father which promptly get posted on social media.

That Francis has been very busy lately with the end of Lent, Holy Week, Easter, preparations for the canonization of two of his predecessors, a major event Sunday which was attended by his immediate predecessor, the first Pope Emeritus, Benedict XVI. He, of little popularity with pop culture and pop media, which is irrelevant to their contribution to the eternal truths and hopes for humanity.

If the media had followed the daily homilies of Pope Francis through Holy Week and other times as much as they follow the ‘big moments’ when they can excise certain lines from his impromptu interviews and build false narratives around them, the media would (presuming honesty on their part) see a different Francis than they’re presenting to the world.

For the sake of brevity and pithy import, for which Francis is actually known by those who follow him daily, here’s a snip from the homily he gave at the canonization of Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II.

In convening the Council, John XXIII showed an exquisite openness to the Holy Spirit. He let himself be led and he was for the Church a pastor, a servant-leader, led by the Spirit. This was his great service to the Church; he was the pope of openness to the Spirit.

In his own service to the People of God, John Paul II was the pope of the family. He himself once said that he wanted to be remembered as the pope of the family. I am particularly happy to point this out as we are in the process of journeying with families towards the Synod on the family. It is surely a journey which, from his place in heaven, he guides and sustains.

I’m told by a priest in the first row near the front of St. Peter’s that at that moment, when Francis said ‘the pope of the family’ and pointed out the ‘Synod on the family’ this year and next, the massive crowd erupted in such spontaneous eruption of joyful applause and affirmation, even the pope seemed startled, as were these priests gathered around him. Something was in the air, he said, and it was palpable.

For one thing, it was the presence of four popes, two of them saints, no matter how the world sees sanctity or whether it sees it or not. John XXIII convened the Second Vatican Council, against the advice of some experts and pundits, to renew the missionary mandate of the church. Progressives turned the reference to ‘throwing open the windows of the church’ to meaning it needed to let the modern world in. Theologians today explain, understandably to those listening closely to Francis, much less his three predecessors, that it really meant opening those windows to let the heart of the church out, to go “out to the peripheries” as Francis often says, where people are hurt and lonely, afflicted and suffering.

We hear so much these days about ‘battles’, for religious freedom and conscience rights and basic ones like the right to life (on which all other rights are based) and the recognition of the fundamental dignity of the human person. The popes have tried to reintroduce this language, at the UN General Assembly among other places, as the moral grammar on which all other rights rest.

Francis has simply re-framed the message in continuity with his predecessors that the church is the ‘field hospital’ for the embattled and wounded humanity suffering, and in need of balm for the body and soul, soothing relief and healing. It didn’t become new with Francis, he only showed a different face of the same body, the church.

As former Vatican Ambassador Raymond Flynn, friend and frequent guest on my radio show put it, this was a ‘renewal of hope’.

When I looked out at the massive crowd of people at the canonization of Popes John Paul II and John XXIII in St. Peter’s Square yesterday, I could hardly believe what I was seeing. Now I know that the Catholic Church has always regarded itself as “universal,” but what I saw today was a “multicultural Catholic Church.”

Maybe it’s always been there, but I never saw it like this…

We saw the historic past at the Vatican this week, but now we are about to see its future. I got a preview of the new face of the church in St. Peter’s Square today. Frankly, I am pretty positive and hopeful, even in this chaotic and polarized world.

Some things, few as they are, transcend that. This is one.

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