Ellen KolbAugust 25, 2014Leave a comment

“We should be planting trees … the tree of life”

(Original version posted June 23, 2013.)

Bishop Joseph Libasci sees a storm coming as religious liberty is challenged in today’s America. In his June 22 homily in Manchester, New Hampshire at a Mass dedicated to the Fortnight for Freedom, he declared “the winds have begun to blow, and they are coming with gale force….Fighting for freedom includes standing for the freedom to stand before God in clear conscience.”

  • The Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive mandate. “The mandate of the Department of Health and Human Services forces religious institutions to facilitate and/or fund a product contrary to our own moral teaching. Further, the federal government tries to define which religious institutions are religious enough.”
  • Threats to Catholic foster care and adoption services. “Boston, San Francisco, the District of Columbia, the State of Illinois, have driven local Catholic Charities out of the business of providing adoption or foster care services by revoking their licenses, ending their government contracts, or both, because those charities refuse to place children with same-sex couples or unmarried opposite-sex couples who cohabit. [This] cut[s] down the tree of civility, and indeed cut[s] down the tree that is the healthy, good, life-giving, charitable alternative to abortion.”
  • Threats to State immigration laws. “Several states have recently passed laws that prohibit what they deem as harboring of undocumented immigrants and what the Church deems Christian charity and pastoral care for these immigrants. And I know it’s a hot topic. …The fact of the matter is when the winds blow strong enough that we become refugees, and don’t think it can’t happen, …could we find ourselves in great need? ‘Blessed are the merciful; they shall obtain mercy.’”
  • Barring use of public facilities by people of faith. “New York City adopted a policy that bars the Bronx Household of Faith, a small community, and other churches from renting public schools on weekends for worship services, even though non-religious groups could rent the same schools for many other uses. This is still in the courts, still eating up the little money they have.” [2014 update to this case here.]
  • Threats to programs aiding victims of human trafficking. “After years of excellent performance by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Migration and Refugee Services, administering contract services for victims of human trafficking, the federal government changed its contract specifications to require migration and refugee services to provide or refer for contraceptive and abortion services, in violation of Catholic teaching.”

Bishop Libasci repeatedly used a metaphor from the 1966 film A Man for All Seasonsabout St. Thomas More, onetime Chancellor of England, martyred for his faith. In the film, More addressed a young protegé who expressed impatience with the law. As recalled in the Bishop’s homily, More counseled caution. “If you cut down all the laws, it’s like the trees in a forest. You begin to cut them down until you cut them all down, and when the winds begin to blow, where will you run then for shelter?”

Back to the Bishop’s own words: “We should not be allowing others to cut down the trees, and God forbid we help cut them down. Instead, we should be planting trees. The tree of life. The tree of salvation. The tree from which hung the Savior of the world.”

“We can and we do lobby for just laws, and for the overturning of those laws, the repeal of those laws, that are unjust. But whenever it is unsuccessful, we are called to make those laws obsolete. … We’re probably not allowed to do something about tying up our horses outside on Lowell Street. There must be some law somewhere. But it’s useless. Such must be the unjust law. That we have grown beyond such things… because we live in such a time where adherence to God’s law has turned us away from discrimination, murder, inordinate living, disordered belief, and the shame of a people who no longer value the true dignity of human life. Let us grow beyond, so that where Jesus said I have come to set one against the other, in that balance of justice, the justice and the mercy of God will cause the others to float off into space.”

I looked around the Cathedral as the Bishop spoke. I saw no cameras or press. Perhaps a hundred people were there.   In a secular environment, I’d have said that the man needs an agent. This was a church, though; a community of faith was present. Everyone there is the “agent,” so to speak, charged with getting out the message. In how many other  churches will the same message be delivered in the coming days? From there, who knows where it could go? Small beginnings, perhaps, but with great potential and great hope.


Ellen KolbAugust 22, 2014Leave a comment

Meet Manchester’s 40DFL coordinator for Fall ’14

A year ago when I attended a 40 Days for Life kickoff in Manchester, New Hampshire, it was standing-room-only at the Pray for Life Center. Already, the leader for the campaign beginning in a few weeks has lined up more spacious accommodations. She knows what to expect.

Jennifer Robidoux (Facebook photo)

Jennifer Robidoux (Facebook photo)

Meet Jen Robidoux, a 40DFL veteran, who’s stepping up to coordinate Manchester’s Fall 2014 campaign.She’s been part of the support crew before, but this is her first time as a team leader. “Only for one campaign, I’ll try it out. If it’s too much, I’ll step back and maybe somebody else can pick it up. I have a team of four other people. One of them has been with me for the last two campaigns, so she knows what to do. The two of us have been making sure everything’s getting all set.” — set, that is, for a kickoff on September 22 followed by the campaign itself running from September 24 to November 2.

Jen is not only a 40DFL coordinator now. She’s also a plaintiff in Reddy v. Foster, challenging New Hampshire’s buffer zone law. Nevertheless, she says, “I’m really a very introverted, shy person. I got roped into [40DFL] by a friend.” From there, she read Abby Johnson’s Unplanned and David Bereit’s 40 Days for Lifeand from them, “I see what a peaceful witness can be like.” All 40 Days for Life campaigns are resolutely peaceful in all three components: prayer and fasting, community outreach, and the most visible element, prayerful vigil outside abortion facilities.

She’s been praying at the Manchester Planned Parenthood facility on Penacook Street for several campaigns now. Jen knows It’s the epicenter of the buffer zone battle. “I wanted to do it there. That’s one of the reasons they wanted to put the buffer zone in – because of 40 Days and the Pray for Life Center. We’ve got to keep up the pressure there.

Jennifer at a recent pro-life event in Concord (E. Kolb photo)

Jennifer at a recent pro-life event in Concord (E. Kolb photo)

“If we are to bring an end to abortion we must be peaceful on the sidewalk. In my estimation, peaceful means people smiling, praying, being respectful to anyone who walks by or goes in or out of that clinic. In order to reach them, we must be loving to them. That means showing the same respect for them that we want them to show us.”

The sidewalks are of course open to anyone (for now), including people not affiliated with 40DFL. How about that? “I am going to ask everybody [with 40DFL] to focus on why they’re there. They’re there to pray. The other people there are there to sidewalk counsel, protest, whatever. But we are there as a prayerful witness.” The Manchester 40DFL team is considering using a designated part of the sidewalk outside PP, but that is not finalized at this point.

As a Reddy v. Foster plaintiff, Jennifer knows that everyone on the sidewalk outside PP is under a microscope. “We need to be aware we’re going to be watched. I’ll want to ask if someone can be a videography and photography person at all of our events,” to provide documentation by pro-life witnesses. “I have Michael Tierney a phone call away” – Tierney being an attorney representing the Reddy plaintiffs. “I’ve already asked him to speak at the 40 Days kickoff.”

Jen welcomes new 40DFL participants. She says that she has often prayed alone during her 40DFL vigil hours.  “I have a set time, so I let people know when my time is. If anyone would like to join me, they’re more than welcome.” She intends to make sure Manchester police are aware of the campaign, and she says she’d welcome any police observation of the rallies and vigils.

Having at least one prayer witness outside Manchester PP from seven a.m. to seven p.m., seven days a week is an ambitious goal, but that’s what Jennifer is aiming for with this fall’s campaign. She says that as far as she knows, there will not be a Concord 40DFL this fall, so those who have participated in 40DFL outside the Feminist Health Center are welcome to join Manchester’s effort. She is taking news about 40DFL to faith communities in the area, too. “People [in Manchester] tend to associate 40 Days with the Catholic church, but it’s a non-denominational pro-life organization.”

40 Days logoShe’s occupied with the campaign’s administrative details, but she has a sharp eye on the purpose they serve: reaching abortion-minded women and abortion-industry workers, and standing up for the children at risk of being aborted. “Throughout the whole national movement, I‘ve heard that the national pro-choice movement is dropping the term pro-choice and trying to find other ways to encompass their views. I look at that and say OK, you can try to re-brand yourself. The pro-life movement has done that too. But you’re still doing what you’re doing.”

Getting involved:

Mark your calendars now: 40 Days for Life will run from September 24 to November 2. The opening rally will be a couple of days ahead of time, September 22 (a Monday) at Ste. Marie’s church in Manchester. There will be gatherings at the midpoint and end of the campaign as well; details are pending. New to 40DFL? Catch up on the project’s web site.

Jennifer reports that the 40 Days for Life web site has been revamped since the last campaign. Anyone signing up to participate, even 40DFL veterans, will create a new online account. The vigil calendar for the Fall 2014 campaign is not yet online but will be up shortly. Watch Leaven for the Loaf‘s Facebook page for updates.





Ellen KolbAugust 20, 2014Leave a comment

Andrew Hemingway: “We are talking about the importance of protecting life”

Andrew Hemingway

Andrew Hemingway

Andrew Hemingway wants to be New Hampshire’s next governor. He’s twenty days away from a big hurdle: the primary election that pits him against former BAE executive Walt Havenstein. Both men are putting in countless miles getting to events and meeting voters. Andrew Hemingway made a priority of coming to Concord on a recent weekend to speak at a pro-life gathering arranged by supporters of Senate candidate Bob Smith.

One can’t help but be struck by Hemingway’s youth (early 30s) when he’s at a forum with other candidates, many of them a generation older, with that much more experience. He didn’t sound like a newcomer when he took the mic, though, and made his appeal to the pro-life voters listening on the State House plaza.

One of the things I’ve been most impressed and excited about throughout this process is meeting people. It’s the most rewarding part of this. If you’re not excited and interested in the people of New Hampshire, you’re probably doing the wrong thing. I have been amazed at the number of individuals who are pro-life, yet have been beaten into submission and into silence. Folks, we have over 500 Republicans running in this state right now for election, and yet when we hold a pro-life rally on the steps of the capitol building, are they there? I think we should take a count, not so much of who is here, but who is NOT here. They say that they’re Republican, yet do they represent what it means to be a Republican? Because last I checked, the right to life, the value and the sanctity that we put on human life, is still in our party platform. And I want to say thank you …to the state candidates who are here, I want to say thank you to all of you who are here, who are willing to stand up regardless of what the mainstream media tells us, regardless perhaps sometimes of what our own party leadership tells us. We know that life is sacred from conception until natural death.”

He called out Republicans supportive of the abortion agenda. He knows perfectly well that New Hampshire voters have varying views. He also knows what the Republican platform says.

“…in our party, we were putting forward individuals who are pro-choice, who are actually scornful of individuals who carry the pro-life banner and stand up for life. We see it in these closed rooms. We’re told ‘you can’t talk about that. Don’t talk about that issue.’ Anyone who has run for office knows that this is true. Absolutely true. ‘You can’t talk about that issue. After we win, then we get to talk about it.’ No. That is why we lose.”

Andrew spoke boldly about the 2011 Executive Council vote to deny Planned Parenthood the Title X family planning contract it had come to expect every two years. (Here’s a review of that situation, including how PP recovered from the vote.) He doesn’t buy into the segregated-funds argument advanced by PP, which says that Title X funds cannot be used for abortion – this from northern New England’s premier abortion provider, which complained about having to drop cancer screenings when Title X funding was compromised. Apparently staff salaries and public policy work are more critical than cancer screenings — but I digress.

You know the funding of Planned Parenthood came up in our Executive Council. And if not for Republicans voting for that funding, it would have been shut off. It would have been stopped. Countless lives would have been saved in this state. We were two votes away. I believe that with the right leadership in Concord, with the right leadership in the governor’s office, with a conservative House, with a conservative Senate, we can stop the taxpayer funding of abortions in our state.”

Taxpayer funding of abortion providers, actually. Any move to let taxpayers divest from that industry is a step in the right direction.

Am I drawing a figurative target on his back by reporting what he said? I don’t think so. A big-bucks abortion advocacy group has already signed on with Governor Hassan, and that will not change. Walt Havenstein and Andrew Hemingway can both expect slander and lies once the primary’s over, no matter who wins:- “denying health care to women” if they support taxpayer divestiture from abortion providers, “bosses making women’s health care decisions” if they support the Hobby Lobby decision and conscience rights for employers (including female business owners), “putting women’s safety at risk” if they’re not on board with the buffer zone and its nullification of the First Amendment “up to 25 feet” from abortion facilities.

Where to from here?:

You’ve got to ask yourselves ‘how to we take that next step?’ Is it just rallies? Is this just where we come and we clap and we cheer and we say Yes and we get fired up, and then we stop? No. You can’t let this stop. This needs to be a starting point. Is there any other greater cause? No. This is it. The pinnacle. So we must move forward on this cause. You must take the energy from this day and move this cause forward. Believe me: at every single stop, in all 200 places, we are talking about the importance of protecting life. … [Pro-life candidates] will keep fighting. But we need your help. We need your support. We need you to rally your friends and your family. Make sure everybody who votes September 9th votes pro-life.”

Thanking a voter who picked up a yard sign

Thanking a voter who picked up a yard sign

I spoke with Andrew privately after the event. I had to ask him a question that he’s probably heard often. Walt Havenstein is a man of proven managerial skill, as is known by many New Hampshire residents who have worked at BAE Systems. (I include my own family in there.) How can Andrew Hemingway compete with that kind of management experience? “Yes. Walt does have management experience. No question. But he’s not an entrepreneur. He’s a manager. He’s not a creator. I’m an entrepreneur. I’ve started businesses, I’ve sold businesses. I understand small business.” He noted that most New Hampshire businesses fall into that category. “I understand New Hampshire. I grew up here.”

I asked him if anything had surprised him about the state during his campaign travels. “Some of the manufacturers here that I’d never heard of!” And one more thing: “How beautiful our state is. I thought I knew that already. Then I go someplace new, and I think, ‘oh, this is amazing,’ and then I have another stop later in the day, and it’s a place just as amazing.”

After the rally, he stayed to talk with voters. No looking at his watch. He spent more time listening than talking. Retail politics at its best. As he said, he understands New Hampshire.

Campaign web site: andrewhemingway.com



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