In recent decades, issues connected with the defense of life have become hot issues. At the end of March, the World Congress for families was held in the city of Verona. It gathered people from all over the world who defend a view of life and of sexuality in tune with the traditional teachings of the Catholic Church (and of natural law). The event brought lots of media attention and a huge amount of hostility and hatred from all those (the general narrative that control also mainstream media) who wanted to defend the “social conquests,” as they call them, like gender theory, abortion, divorce, self-determination, gay marriage and so on.
Sin is ever present because our nature is frail and despite God’s grace we know we can fail easily. But if we lose the conception that a particular behavior is a sin, we also lose the idea of what is bad and what is good and the base of morality (to be distinguished from moralism). Benedict XVI call this the “dictatorship of relativism.”
One point of reference in the English-speaking world for life issues is LifeSiteNews.com. We posed a few questions to John-Henry Westen, co-founder and editor in chief of the website. He has an MA in Child Clinical Psychology (University of Toronto) and an Honors BA in Psychology (York University). He lives in Canada with his wife Dianne and their eight children.
Can you tell us something about yourself?
I’m a child of a very holy, daily-Mass, daily-Rosary, father – Henry Westen – but despite his good example I abandoned the practice of the faith in my early teens. I got into a life of sin far from the Church but came back in my early twenties thanks to my father’s example and St Louis de Montfort’s book True Devotion to Mary. After returning to the Church I was blessed with a family of 8 children and the chance to be a co-founder of LifeSiteNews.
What is the origin of LifeSiteNews?
When I converted I felt I was called (by Our Lord) to work in the pro-life movement in Canada – a group called Campaign Life Coalition. I was asked to do research on current international news of interest to life and family leaders which from 1995-1997 were sent only to a handful of pro-life leaders. In 1997 the group wanted to set up a website and tasked Steve Jalsevac with the job and it was thought to be a good idea to put my news summaries on the site. By this time I was with the news summaries interviewing life and family leaders for their perspective on the news.
The popularity of the news on the site made the pro-life group want another site which was for them since most visitors were coming to LifeSite for the news, rather than for information on the pro-life group. We had a friendly parting and LifeSite grew over the years from just Steve and I to a staff of over 30 at present.
How strong is the impact, how many viewers are following you?
For the last number of years LifeSite has had an audience of 30-40 million unique users. This year, however, we have seen a growth in the first few months such that we are on track to reach 50 million unique users this year. That amounts to some 100,000,000 page views per year set for 2019. It is by far the largest pro-life website in the world. We have worked with governments and the Vatican but most importantly it has led people to embrace and strengthen their faith.
What are the topics that are more followed by your viewers?
We were always known for covering life and family, but also there has been an intense interest and focus on the happenings inside the Catholic Church.
Do you think that the presidency of Donald Trump has strongly impacted the pro life camp?
Despite his faults President Trump has shown himself to be the most effective President of this century in terms of promoting life and family. He has done more than any other President of any party to promote pro-life. By appearing on video at the March for Life, by appointing pro-life judges, and a pro-life Vice President and putting pro-life people in his Administration, he has made a huge impact on the pro-life movement both in the USA and internationally. It has also garnered him much hatred.
Why do US Bishops seem to be hostile to the present US president?
Not all the US bishops are hostile to the President. Unfortunately, though, the majority are. It is important to note that the most pro-life bishops are generally supportive of the President. Moreover the bishops are funded by the government for work with immigration and so their opposition to the President’s curbs on illegal immigration are not without inducement.
What you think of this president from a Catholic point of view?
I pray for the President’s conversion daily. He has a very sad past and the effects of it continue to show in his demeanor and speech at times. However, he has been exemplary in his respect for the Christian faith. His wife Melania the First Lady is Catholic herself and has promoted the faith by her public prayer and obvious piety. In listening to some of his speeches I have been amazed at their Catholic ethos. It is no wonder he is hated by the secular press and the prominent of this world. Christ did warn that those who would follow him could be expected to be hated by the world.
By the way, how would you evaluate the situation of American Catholicism at this time?
Catholics in America as in much of the world are sadly divided. Statistics demonstrate that the majority are opposed to the teachings of the faith but there is a sizeable minority which wishes to remain faithful. There are also a good number of bishops in the USA who are strong and outspoken, who will not be pressured into silence on life and family matters. They are true heroes since they too are hated by the world but speak out nevertheless in defense of the weakest – the unborn – and in defense of the family which is so under attack in our world today.
What was the reaction among American Catholics after the February summit in the Vatican?
Among Catholics who are paying attention and faithful there was much discouragement and even anger at the Vatican’s summit in February since the Vatican firmly refused to address the real issue of homosexuality. We learned from all the experts including the Vatican’s that over 80% of the victims were males over the age of 14, and yet the Vatican summit only dealt with abuse of minors. They steadfastly refused to state the obvious that it was a homosexual problem and deal with that reality. But again this sentiment is only felt by those who are following what is happening, which is a minority.
What will be events in the near future of the Catholic Church that could grab the attention of international media?
The Synod on the Amazon which will launch in October will be big because they will be addressing celibacy in the priesthood and in all likelihood women’s ordination to the diaconate as well. These matters could cause a schism in the Church.
But even in the nearer future we will see the Pope meeting with homosexual activists from all over the world in early April which will capture worldwide media attention and unfortunately could cause great confusion among the faithful.
An ongoing news item which is the focus of much of the media are the continuing revelations of sexual abuse and while America is currently the focus, the problem is actually worse, not better in much of the Western world.
Obviously the passing away of the Pope Emeritus will be a huge international media event and this also looks like it is not too far away.