Go Forward in Hope Conference: Opening Remarks

Good afternoon, it is my great pleasure to welcome you all to this most important, and timely pro-life and family conference:  Go Forward in Hope.  We are blessed with an incredible line-up of international and local speakers this weekend.  Each of them brings a wealth of knowledge and experience in the field they are presenting.

Each of us has our own very personal reasons for attending this conference, however, I suspect that you’re here, because like me, and the rest of the team at Family Life International, you see the confusion and chaos that swirls around both in the secular world, and within the Church, and you are concerned. 

Abortion, euthanasia, the fallout of the sexual revolution and the progressive woke agendas have wounded your friends, your colleagues, and your loved ones.  Each of us has been impacted in some way.  Because of this woundedness, we constantly have to review our thoughts and beliefs so that we are conformed more to God’s view (plan) of and for ourselves than that of the world.

A society that rejects God’s vision for the human person

We have a vision for our families, for our culture, for our world. 

It is a vision that acknowledges the dignity of each person as created in the image of God.  It is a vision that longs for true human flourishment.  Importantly, it is a vision that values true freedom, which comes, as Saint John Paul II taught us, “not in doing what we like, but in having the right to do what we ought.”

As we look around us, we see that many people have forgotten what it is to sacrifice, to serve, to grow in virtue, and to love in the true sense of the word. 

  • Every day children are violently and barbarically killed in their mother’s wombs – not only taking their lives but destroying and wounding the lives of mothers, fathers, siblings, grandparents, and the whole of society.  

    Today marks the third anniversary of the Abortion Legislation Act coming into force.  In these three years, official reporting states that almost 40,000 pre-born children have been aborted.  This number is added to the more than half a million sacrificed since the ‘70s under the previous law.  The pain this heinous, lethal, yet celebrated act causes, is pervasive.
  • The elderly and ill are being killed legally – maybe at times illegally – in their homes, in hospitals, and we know here in New Zealand, in at least one hospice, while others are accomplices. 
  • Technology is master. 
  • Babies are made in the lab rather than being begotten through an act of total self-giving between husband and wife.
  • Marriage is denigrated, and is no longer understood to be a union between one man and one woman for life. 
  • Parents no longer have the absolute right to make decisions about the welfare of their children – especially if their values do not coincide with the progressive agendas of the day – but they are free and celebrated if they take their children to Pride Parades with adult nudity and events such as “Story Book Time” with Drag Queens at the local library. 
  • Girls are being told they can be boys, and boys are being told they can be girls (or whatever made up gender they can imagine).
  • Children are having their innocence stripped from them at ever younger ages. 

You know I am only just scratching the surface.

The world tells us you can have all this and there will be no consequences.  Your autonomy is what matters.  Your will is what matters.  You do what you want.

But we know that is not true, and it is not the way to obtain true happiness.  It is the great lie that Satan told Eve in the Garden of Eden.  “You will not die… you will be like God.” (Genesis 3:4-5)

Confusion even in the Church

Sadly, there are some in the Church today who believe we ought to conform to the world, as seen especially in the vote of the German Bishops in recent weeks.  That mindset isn’t just reserved for those in distant lands.  It is right here in NZ.  Two particular documents come to mind.

  • “Aroha and Diversity in Catholic Schools” which deals with gender issues, and
  • “Bearers of Consolation and Hope” on the pastoral care of people seeking euthanasia or assisted suicide.

Both are problematic. 

Among other questionable, if not downright inappropriate resources, the Religious Education Office cites Family Planning, the leader of the sexual revolution in this country, as an excellent provider of resources for New Zealand teachers in Catholic schools.

Evil, it appears, has the upper hand.  But we must remember that the big picture is that evil does not win.  It cannot win because the victory has already been won by Christ when he hung on that cross on Good Friday. 

A new era

We are now in a new era. 

If you disagree with any of the revolutionary beliefs, even just a little bit, you will be silenced. You will be cancelled.  Your voice only matters if you peddle the agendas of the day.  And if they can’t cancel you, they – even those in the highest positions of power – will drag you through the mud and make a spectacle of you, calling you out for your “wrong think.”

Take for instance the attempt to cancel Kellie-Jay Keen-Minshull (otherwise known as “Posie Parker”) eTA to enter New Zealand.  This weekend she is speaking at “Let Women Speak” events.  Now, I know very little about this woman, her views,  nor what the events are all about.  What I do know is that Kellie-Jay is labelled by the media as an “anti-trans activist.”  However, from what I can ascertain, she’s a woman standing up for woman’s rights!  What is most concerning is the attitude of our leaders.

Michael Wood, Minister for Immigration is on record as saying: 

I condemn her inflammatory, vile and incorrect worldviews, and will always stand alongside those New Zealanders who use their own right to free speech against those who wish to take society backwards.

And Kerri Alan, Justice Minister has said in relation to this situation:

Nope to any person that tries to censor anyone else’s identity – race, sexuality, class, gender – just nope… Let’s do what we do, Aotearoa – stand up, make some noise and support our trans whānau by showing up and drowning out any bigotry that seeks to divide and hurt our whānau.

Or take Leah Parnapa and Miles Davis, two radio hosts who dared to say on air that only women get pregnant and that buying into the “pregnant people” rhetoric is bs.  They’ve been made to apologise for their so-called “offensive” views, and for daring to speak publicly of them.

Or take Isabel Vaughan-Spruce in the UK, who was arrested for SILENTLY praying within an abortion facility exclusion zone.  In the UK (unlike New Zealand), prayer is listed as a prohibited offence.  After the court agreed that her silent prayers were not a crime, she has been arrested yet again.  This is an absurdity.  These truly are the actions of the “thought police.”

No longer are we in a time in Christendom where we can happily go about our Christian lives knowing that most people hold similar, if not the same values as ourselves, or will even be accepting that we are able to hold these beliefs even if they don’t.

A people of life and hope

Civilizations have always risen and fallen.  Anyone with eyes to see can perceive that we are in a period of decline.  Eventually, things will become so desperate that civilization as we know it will implode and those who have understood sacrifice and virtue will be able to rebuild again.

It looks pretty grim, but we are a people of life and of hope.  We cannot sit back and let evil pervade our culture.  We cannot let the idealogues run free, unchallenged.  We must be the light in the present darkness.

Cardinal Sarah explains that what is required to challenge the present situation are saints.  Specifically, “Saints who pray.”

A Christian must work competently and generously in the service of the people of his time,” he says “while resolutely confronting, in the Spirit of Christ, the circumstances of today’s world so as to extend God’s work in it.  But his activity must be rooted in his spiritual life and overflow, so to speak, from his interior abundance.

Catechism of the Spiritual Life p. 311

If we are to be effective in defeating the culture of death and restoring a culture that embraces life, we must first grow in virtue, grow in sanctity, and be ready to serve unreservedly, and to make sacrifices. 

Last night at the Opening Mass, we were reminded that without Christ, we can do nothing.

God has placed you in a particular place at this time of history.  He has given you specific abilities to serve him and to reach those whom He has placed around you.  The more we pray, and partake in the Sacraments, the more we conform ourselves to God’s will, instead of our own, the more that we think of the needs of others before our own, the more virtuous we become, the more effective we will be.

If we want to change the world; if we truly want to make a difference, let us begin with our own families and with those who we see every day, every week.

My hope and prayer for you over the coming days are that you will leave here renewed and with new information and tools to live and proclaim the Gospel of Life where God has placed you.  May these days be an encouragement to you.

As the moral landscape sinks lower than anyone could ever have imagined, we must not despair, nor become discouraged.  We must be courageous in defending the truth, and be truly compassionate as we protect and guide those we love the most.  Ours is a vision that leads to authentic freedom and the flourishment of all people.  We must not be afraid.  Let us go forward in hope!

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