John-Henry Westen, co-founder LifeSiteNews.com, Canada, and Alexandra Nadane, President of Studenti pentru viata (“Students for Life”), Romania at Moscow’s Kremlin State Palace on September 10th, 2014, during the International Forum “Large Family and Future of Humanity“
by Alexandra Nadane
When Mahatma Ghandi said: “It seems to me as clear as daylight that abortion would be a crime”, he only voiced a sense which is common to all ages and civilizations: that one should not take the life of an innocent being. In the history of humanity, there are only a few exceptions where society consented to killing utterly defenseless human beings: children at the dawn of their lives. In Antiquity, we know the Spartans, a militarized society, would kill disabled babies, because these could not make good soldiers. In modern history, the Nazi regime in occupied Poland and the communist regime in Russia introduced abortion, according to the logic of these ideologies, which despised human person and killed tens of millions. Then, under the pressure of the sexual revolution the USA, all the Western civilization states accepted abortion, denying the very principles on which these states have been founded upon, like the famous principle engraved in the USA Declaration of Independence, which states that all men have the right to „Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”.
If common sense tells us to not take the life of an innocent human being, faith gives us reasons and purposes that add new values to human life and give new reasons for protecting and not destroying it. John-Henry Westen’s efforts on this purpose are well-known. From this exceptional interview, we get the chance to understand the love that enlightens his soul. Every person of common sense should be unapologetic when it comes to protecting human life by involving personal faith in addition to other general motivations.
Pro-life websites, a beacon of light in a storm of evil
Alexandra Nadane: Why do you think we need many pro-life online sources of information?
John-Henry Westen: We need to spread the message of life to everyone in the world. We need to be available in many languages, so that people from all over the world be able to read it. The thing we need today more than ever before is many (Catholic) bishops to speak out, because in many places in the world today bishops are unwilling to speak the truth.
And so, sometimes, bishops in your own country or bishops in Africa particularly, are willing to speak. And they can speak and their words can be used for all of those people in the world who don’t have good bishops speaking up. Everybody, every Catholic, every Christian needs spiritual leadership. So, through lifesitenews.com and through your website, stiripentruviata.ro, and through all these websites where we are proclaiming the words of spiritual leaders, we are able to be a beacon of light in a storm. Because the whole world today is full of evil, it’s like a storm of evil and sin and lies making good seem evil and evil seem good.
That’s why we need the clarity of people speaking for truth, particularly spiritual leadership. As we do that, we also expose the reality of life on the other side. We have many people like me, who can tell what life is really like lived in the way that the world thinks is glamorous. It really is hell even on earth and leads you there (to hell) in eternal life as well.
And we are also able to present the positive side as well. For instance, when parties argue about abortion, always everybody around the world gives the same answer: “What about rape and incest?” So we are able to show children conceived in rape who are living very successful beautiful lives. We are able to show mothers who were raped and have had their children and who are also thankful for their children. I interviewed mothers like that. One was brutally raped by three men when she was 12 years old, but she told me she had her baby even though everyone had told her not to. And that baby is such a joy to her today! He’s only 12 years old and her best friend. And she said to me: “I would go though anything, even the rape again, to have my child”.
And we are able to show mothers who have gone through an abortion, the harm it has caused in their lives. And they have spoken out. These witnesses are in every country. We can give these witnesses to people so they can see: “Oh, my God, we’ve been lied to on life issues!”
“Homosexual behaviour is harmful. Because I love you, I really tell you that”
John-Henry Westen: And then the family issues are probably the hardest issues we have been faced today: think about homosexuality, of gay marriage. And the questions always comes: “Well, these guys love each other. How come they can’t get married? Aren’t you for love? Isn’t God about love?” And very often Christians sort of answer: “Ah, I don’t know, it sounds right, because it sounds so wonderful!”
But there’s a very simple answer for us: “God IS love and it’s true. The answer IS love. And the only action you can do is to answer the way the catechism does or the way the (Catholic) Church used to but it seems it doesn’t want to talk about it anymore. And that is that the (homosexual) behavior is harmful. It harms your body. It hurts you. So, because I love you, I really tell you that”.
That doesn’t make me popular. In fact, in my country that can get me arrested. But I’m going to do it anyway, because I care enough about you to tell you this, because it hurts you. And, I’m a Catholic and a Christian and I believe it doesn’t hurt just your body, it hurts your soul – maybe forever and ever – and I want you to be in Heaven. So, I’m saying this out of love for you, even if that makes me unpopular and even if one day that may cost me my freedom. So there is an answer of love that teenagers would recognize. Because all teens want to know: “How come you guys are against that? Oh, it’s a reason of love? Now at least I get it”. Even if they don’t agree with us right away. They will see we have a reason of love.
We need to provide this information. And, because the way the world is, people need it everywhere in all sorts of different languages.
We need to be truthful. We need to be faithful. We need to be talented. We need to try and get the best photos out there, the best wording. We have to do all that. That is why it is so needed.
This is the greatest battle. Our Lady of Fatima said: “More people go the hell for sins of the flesh than for any other reason”. If Satan is focusing here – which he is –, then it has to be our focus, too: to bring the people the truth.
“If they have hated me, they will hate you” – a truth we must embrace
Alexandra Nadane: In Romania, people involved in the pro-life movement are persecuted and that is why they lose morale. They are derided and, if they are in public office, they will be marginalized. For example, our association, Studenti pentru viata (“Students for Life”), has been withdrawn participation approval in an education fair, with the accusation that we are against abortion. Also, as a President of a pro-life student’s association, I am faced with a lot of adversity at the faculty. I have been told off the record there is a lot of pressure to downgrade by papers and my student work. My young colleagues get easily discouraged in this atmosphere and it is understandable. Have you had such moments at LifeSiteNews.com? And how have you overcome them?
John-Henry Westen: There are a couple of answers to that. The one that we also have to embrace, which is hard, is the answer that Christ said to us: “If they have hated me, they will hate you”. So that is a truth that we must embrace.
And I can tell you something else. From the other side, when I converted, it was mostly the persecution that my dad suffered – from his colleagues at work, from his family (and even from me) – that led to my conversion. Because I didn’t believe in God anymore, but I wanted to believe. And I had a point about God being the answer to my problems, but I didn’t want to give my life to something that maybe it wasn’t real. And I wanted to go to Dad and ask him: “Is this for real?”
But when I went to him, I couldn’t ask the question. Because his whole life spoke to me – and particularly the persecution he received. Particularly when people picked on him, when they called him “foolish”, when people said he was extreme, when people said he was crazy – and many did. And he was brilliant, he knew six languages, he was a wonderful guy and a wonderful father. And yet he went to daily mass, prayed to daily rosary and talked mostly about faith. He was German, so we didn’t hug often, but he would bless me n my forehead every night. And to me it was better than any hug. And the thing was that it was his example of faith under persecution that was so powerful for me.
In addition to that, we have to stand up for each other. When you’re in a group or in an organization, a pro-life association for example, and someone comes under persecution, we have to stand up, even if that’s going to direct attention to us. We have to stand up for our brothers and sisters and say: “No, they’re not crazy!”
If you want to maintain civilization, you must maintain the family
Alexandra Nadane: Why is family so important in today’s society and why all those things affecting it also greatly damage people’s souls?
John-Henry Westen: To start from the very beginning, in the very beginning, God created family as an image of Himself in the world. The image of the family is the image of the Trinity. The Father, as the Church described is the Father Who loves His Son so much He gives Himself freely, faithfully, totally to Him and the Son viceversa. So there is God, the trinitarian relationship that we’re all called to in Heaven, which He stamped in mankind from the beginning to be the example of Heaven. Then, also you’ll notice in the Scriptures He talks about Christ’s relationship to His Church also on the model of the family. He says for this reason a man should leave his own family, cleave to his wife and the two shall become one flesh. And everybody thinks: “Oh, I know what He’s talking about! I get it!” But in reality what does (St) Paul say? He’s talking about the relationship of Christ to the Church! But He’s making that relationship exactly analogous to that between husband and wife, a family relationship.
The reason why is because God has ordained this family as the example of what we are called to in Heaven. If that’s the case, and if you’re Satan, you would want everybody not to go to Heaven and you would want to take them (people) away from that example. You would want in fact destroy that example of Heaven. And so, that’s where all the focus is, that’s why the family battle is so important. But also because God created it that way, God created all mankind and also all society. The family is the building rock of society. So, the way the family goes, so will go all of society.
The reason why we have stable societies is because we have stable families. And, every time the family starts to become unstable, so does the society around it.
So that today we are experiencing destabilization of family. And, what will follow will be destabilization of civilization around it.
So yes, these issues are all-important, they’re fundamentally important both from the spiritual perspective, but even from the worldly perspective. If you want to maintain civilization, you must maintain the family.
Pornography – a drug that’s allowed
Alexandra Nadane: In an earlier interview, you spoke to us about pornography. How does it affect genuine love between a boy and a girl?
John-Henry Westen: It totally distorts relationships. I’ll start at the beginning. For young people to be exposed to this great evil it harms them gravely. It harms their ability to relate to the opposite sex, but even to relate to themselves! What is diminished is the sense of the dignity of other human beings.
People are created in the image and likeness of God. Every other person is your brother and sister – really so. Every time I go to a school I tell a lot of the big guys in the twelfth grade, you know, 17-18-19 year-old: “Hey, you guys look at porn?” And they go like: “Yeah, yeah, we look at porn!” “What if … what if someone took nude pictures of your sister and showed them around?” And they all say the same thing: “I’d kill them!” And I say: “Exactly! What you’re looking at is your sister. That’s somebody’s sister, that’s somebody’s mother, that’s somebody’s daughter. If it was your daughter, would you do the same?”. And the answer is “Absolutely not!”
But it doesn’t affect us only at this level. It affects us in societal level in a horrible way. Pornography is not what’s in a triple X movie. It’s what’s in a magazine – and I’m not talking about pornographic magazines. I’m talking about, you know, Cosmpolitan, about the bikini magazines. It changes the mind in a way very much like drugs. It is an addictive thing. It actually creates a pattern in your mind where you will be conditioned to look at a person in a certain way. You will also be conditioned to expect a sexuality which is unrealistic. So it destroys marriages.
I was asked once by a Catholic marriage counselor. I did a talk on pornography, on how evil and wrong it was. She came up to me afterwards and said: “A priest told me it was ok for a couple to watch it together so that they could…” …whatever. And I said: “Absolutely not! It will destroy your marriage!” Because, as we said earlier, it destroys the concept of human dignity but also it creates these totally fantastic expectations which are not realistic at all. There’s no love in that.
But we are so infected with this drug that even Catholic counselors, who mean to do good, are told by priests that people should be allowed to do it. And so, it is a disease that’s a monster. And it’s a monster because it’s an addictive substance, just like heroine. Except that most governments in the world allow it. Can you imagine if a government allowed for heroin? It would sell off the shelves.
That’s why it’s one of the biggest industries in the world. Over 10 billion dollars a year in the United States alone are to pornography. Because it is a drug. And it’s a drug that’s allowed.
Marriage – a vocation with which you will enter eternal life
Alexandra Nadane: Family violence is a big problem in Romania. Most often, family members believe it natural that Mom and Dad fight each other. But children are strongly emotionally and psychologically affected by physical and verbal violence. How do you see this? What solutions do we have?
John-Henry Westen: We are in a situation that we are so far removed from healthy family life that this area is affected. And nobody knows how to deal with it anymore. What we have to do is to get back to an understanding of what marriage is for.
The real ends, the principal ends of marriage are two. The first one is that it’s a vocation with which you will enter eternal life. In other words, just like priesthood is for the priest, you are called to go to Heaven with your wife – or husband. That’s what marriage is for. It’s to bring you to Heaven. That’s one of the main ends of marriage.
And the second one is children. The bearing and rearing of children. The Scriptures actually say this: that a woman is saved in childbearing. It means that we are called in this vocation to eternal life.
If you then make it your principle to bring your wife or husband to eternal life, you want the best for them. That means you will do whatever it takes to give to them the best.
The whole idea of feminism was in part a reaction to a kind of anti-woman attitude, when men basically thought of their wives as slaves. Before Christ came, before Christianity, even before Judaism, women were regarded really as second-class citizens, women were regarded as the property of men. Even though feminists will tell you it’s crazy, it’s true. Christianity brought freedom to women, it brought equality to women. Nowadays, though, it’s insane. In order to be pro-woman, “you have to be” pro-abortion, pro-contraception and all sorts of craziness. But in reality those sorts of things lead again to the degradation of women.
Today, we have a complete insanity, where most TV shows are trying to tell you that men are crazy or stupid all the time. They are also trying to say that women are stronger than men and they can beat you up. It’s an insanity! It refuses natural law, it refuses obvious things in nature, where men are granted the strength (Why? So that they can serve woman!). So you have a crazy society, where people are not encouraged to do the natural thing: men aren’t encouraged to be men, women aren’t encouraged to be women and so there are many different aspects to this.
But first and foremost we should know that we are all brothers and sisters in Christ, we are called in our spousal relationships to first and foremost consider the one we are supposed to bring to Heaven. We are actually called to bring ourselves to Heaven, because we are not two anymore, but one flesh.
And so, if that can be our guiding principle when we get into marriage, that would totally transform what marriage is today.
Home is the place where children see God for the first time
Alexandra Nadane: There are many divorces today. Divorce has become something normal. Former husband and wife think they can separate and go on with their lives. How are children affected by this?
John-Henry Westen: I myself am a product of divorce. My mom left my dad when I was 18 years old. My brother was 16 and my sister was 10. Even though by that point I had been living away from the faith for about four years or so, even though I was 18 and my brother was 16, and my sister was 10, we were all traumatized by divorce, despite the fact it made life more peaceful. My mom was kind of crazy sometimes and, when she left, it was more peaceful – hardly any fights with Dad anymore.
But it affected us terribly anyway, even though life at home had been hard, it was somehow harder after the divorce. We all went crazy. My brother got into a crazy life. And then I really took off into doing things with the Chinese mafia. My life just went crazy at that point. And part of it was in reaction to the instability at home.
Home is an anchor for children. It is a place where they see God for the first time. And the image of God is shattered and you are the child. Your whole world at some level comes apart. So it is a tragedy. And it’s a tragedy that needs to be addressed. And it’s not helped at all by easy divorce and acceptance of anything of the sort.
It would be helped and it is helped by good marriage preparation, so people know what they’re getting into before they get married.
It is helped by teaching never to have sex before you’re married. Because that is very harmful to (the ability of) entering a marriage and to the stability of a marriage. And it is also helped by never practicing contraception. Because the statistics show that, in those families who contracept, the divorce rate is huge compared to the families who don’t (where divorce is virtually non-existent).
Alexandra Nadane: In the international pro-life movement, there are two types of approaches: some are exclusively preoccupied by the abortion issues, while some focus on all the matters related to life issues: family, pornography, bioethics, young people’s education. What do you think is the best approach and why?
John-Henry Westen: I would say the whole approach is probably the way to do it, because it is a whole. First of all, Satan attacks all these areas and he knows they are all the same. The church actually deals with them in all the same way, because it talks about sins of the flesh. In addition to that, when you separate the issues it is very difficult.
For instance, there are many organizations in the States who for instance only take on abortion. But then they come up against the morning-after pill. It’s an abortifacient pill, but it’s a pill, it’s contraception. So they don’t oppose it. But it causes abortions! And yet they can’t oppose it, because they’re not anti-contraception. This creates grave confusion. And because these issue intermingle so much, you almost need to address them. That’s what we do at lifesitenews.com. I know people who are trying to stick with it (the only-abortion approach) and it is difficult for them. But my approach is to include what is all there.
We are called to participate in the act of creation with God
Alexandra Nadane: What do you think is the difference between being anti-abortion and being pro-life?
John-Henry Westen: Being anti-abortion, for one thing it’s a negative. In reality, we can all be anti-abortion, because abortion is killing people, it’s killing children, innocent children. But being pro-life is a better way of phrasing it, because we’re not only anti-abortion, we are in fact in favour of life. That’s why this conference on large families is so beautiful. Because it is a showing of an openness, of wanting for life.
What is life but God’s gift to us? It is the gift of new creation, it is procreation, creating with God new souls for Heaven. How incredible is that? And we’re called to participate in it! And we’re called to see even in the children born with disabilities, in people with disabilities a beautiful example of our ability to serve Christ in them.
If we look at Mother Theresa’s work with the poor and the decrepit and the dying, but she worked with them because she saw Christ in them and she saw it as an opportunity for her to serve Jesus in those persons. If we could start to see that thruth, all of life would become an amazing opportunity to actually serve Jesus, but in our brothers and sisters. Especially those who are disabled in some way.
So, we are very much pro-life in the fullest sense of the word. Whereas we embrace the family, we embrace life, we embrace the most beautiful… really we embrace God! And that’s what it truly is.
Alexandra Nadane: From this point of view, how should a volunteer counselor talk to a woman in pregnancy crisis, who wants to get an abortion?
John-Henry Westen: It depends on the many circumstances. One of the first things we should do is try and determine what her motivation is. Most women, almost all of them don’t really want an abortion. An abortion is not something you want! But they feel usually, by whatever circumstances they’re in, that they have to get it. They either don’t have the resources or they feel that they’re not ready for a child, or that their boyfriend is going to dump her if they have a child, or the parents are going to be ashamed or kick them out of their home or they’re gonna lose their education…
One of the things the pro-life movement in Canada has done is be there for them: “We will support you through this”. In certain countries, when that’s not possible, where people are perhaps poor, other solutions can be made. Mother Theresa used to say: “If you don’t want your child, give him to me”. And she was serious, because, even when we’re poor and weak, we can actually be open to life. And that includes the life of others. God is able to provide. Period. For whatever we need. I’m speaking as a father of eight. And I make a very small income.
And very many people are saying to me: “How is it even possible? You need a million dollars to have one child. You must have eight million dollars!” I don’t have eight million dollars. I probably never will in my whole life. And I have eight children. Because God is able to take care of you. And He will. It is faith, but it is not unreal. It’s very real. When I had our sixth child, we needed another car, which we couldn’t afford. But we got a car given to us literally out of the blue. We didn’t expect it. We rely on Him to provide for us. So, these things are possible, to be able to trust in faith.
It calls us, the pro-life movement and Catholics and Christians who are sincere to really sometimes do very difficult things. To be open to Holy Spirit, but also to say: “I’m really open if you ask me to take on helping this woman have her child I will do that. If it means to help her change the diapers or help her do the dishes or so on…” It’s hard, but we’re called to that kind of thing. It’s being able to offer help that’s real help and seeing it through, following it through. We have many people doing that, very heroic people from all over the world. In terms of saving a woman, that’s probably one of the things we can do. We have to show them the truth.
For some of them are so convinced it’s the right way to do! We have to show them abortion and what it does to the child. But I’ve seen that works for some of them, but not for many, particularly when our culture is so selfish, that it says: “It’s killing a child, but you know what? I really need to live myself”. If we can show them the harm that abortion causes women and examples of women who, in difficult circumstances had children and what a blessing they’ve been… these are all things to put together trying to convince women – to implore them – not to go through with this, which will be a great harm to them.
“I’m gonna do the work before He shuts the door!”
Alexandra Nadane: There are people who feel they need to get involved in the pro-life fight, they feel they have this calling, but they are fearful, maybe they feel they don’t have time. What words of encouragement do you have for these people?
John-Henry Westen: If you feel called, do it knowing that God will stop you if that’s not what you’re called to do. We make all our big decisions in life in this way. We feel like we’re supposed to do something. But if we just feel like it and then said “no” to it, we would do nothing like that: you would never become a priest, you would never become a nun, you would never become anything, because God leads us in this way. God leads by (the fact that) we feel we should do something. He also leads us by shutting doors. If you feel called to the pro-life movement, to give yourself maybe to full-time work in the pro-life movement, tell God: “OK, I hope this is what You meant, because, if it’s what you meant, you’re going to take care of me. But, if it isn’t, you’re gonna shut all the doors” Why don’t you go ahead and do it knowing that God will shut the door if He doesn’t want you to? And if He does want you to, and you do do it, He will take care of you. You don’t have to worry about your income. As it is said in the Scriptures: “The brids in the air don’t worry about what they eat, the lilies in the field don’t worry about what they’re gonna wear, yet their arrayed better than Solomon in all his glory” Why? Because He takes care of them. God can take care of us, we don’t have to worry about what we’re gonna eat or what we’re gonna wear. But, if we’re called to this work, He will take care of us. So go for it! Why not just say: “I’m gonna do it before He shuts the door!” rather than: “I’m not gonna do it unless I see like a big huge sign in Heaven and God is gonna bang me on the head and say: ‘You go now!’”. That’s not the way it works.
Another short interview with John-Henry Westen, about the International Forum “Large Family and Future of Humanity” can be read here.