“Christian University Drops Morality Pledge After Top Court Said It Violated LGBT ‘Rights.’”
“Irish Singer Who Voted for Gay ‘Marriage’ to Perform at Vatican’s World Meeting of Families.”
“’Men Like Me Should Not Be Priests,’ Says Catholic With Same-Sex Attractions.”
Those are some recent headlines on LifeSite News, a website that describes itself as “dedicated to issues of culture, life, and family.” Those who run the site are deeply opposed to abortion rights and contraception, and equally opposed to LGBTQ acceptance. “LifeSiteNews.com understands that abortion, euthanasia, cloning, homosexuality and all other moral, life and family issues are all interconnected in an international conflict affecting all nations, even at the most local levels,” states the site’s “About” page.
The site has been around since 1997, but it has sometimes flown under the radar of those who monitor anti-LGBTQ media. Watchdog group Media Matters for America, however, is keenly aware of the site’s homophobia and transphobia.
“LifeSite News is one of the most virulently anti-LGBTQ outlets out there,” Brennan Suen, Media Matters’ LGBTQ program manager, tells The Advocate via email.
“LifeSite essentially serves as an extended communications shop for extreme anti-LGBTQ groups,” Suen continues. “Representatives from groups like Family Research Council, Liberty Counsel, and Alliance Defending Freedom regularly give LifeSite exclusive quotes, and the outlet reliably updates its audience on these groups’ work combating LGBTQ equality while adopting skewed, anti-LGBTQ framing for its content.”
“As far as its content, LifeSite is as anti-LGBTQ as you can get, using language clearly targeted to an audience at the most extreme end of the anti-LGBTQ spectrum,” he notes. “LifeSite typically refuses to acknowledge transgender identities and serially misgenders trans folk in its coverage, and it refers to the abhorrent practice of conversion therapy as treating ‘unwanted homosexual attraction.’”
Ah, that content. Note the scare quotes around “rights” and “marriage” in the headlines cited above; that’s something the site regularly uses to delegitimize LGBTQ rights and same-sex marriages. It also regularly features approving, unquestioning coverage of the most anti-LGBTQ statements of religious leaders – primarily Roman Catholic, but occasionally Protestant and Jewish as well. And many of them consider current Catholic leadership too liberal, too LGBTQ-friendly. The site is far to the right of the U.S. Catholic mainstream.
Right now the site is reporting extensively on recent allegations of child sexual abuse by Catholic clerics and seminarians, especially the recent Pennsylvania grand jury investigation, but it often describes the problem as “homosexual abuse.”
“The Church’s Homosexual Abuse Crisis Is Not Just a Problem With Minors” reads the headline on an opinion piece by Father Gerald Murray. The article notes, correctly, that former Washington, D.C., Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, who recently resigned from the College of Cardinals, was accused of sexually abusing not only minors but adult males. Murray goes on to denounce McCarrick’s “homosexual unchastity and abuse of authority.”
Let’s make this clear: Abuse is abuse, and it’s always wrong, no matter the gender of the perpetrator of victim. But calling the problem “homosexual abuse” serves to unfairly tar all gay people. No news outlet typically refers to abuse of females by males as “heterosexual abuse.”
Other articles on the site approvingly quote sources saying that the abuse scandal “has everything to do with homosexuality,” that a “homosexual subculture” in the church hierarchy must be rooted out, and the sex abuse scandal is “a homosexual problem,” not one of pedophilia.
Of course, this all ignores the scientific studies that have shown gay people are no more likely to desire sex with children and teens than straight people are – and also plays down the role that power plays in sexual abuse.
Another article quotes Daniel Mattson, the man who says men like him shouldn’t be priests. “What unites all of these scandals is homosexuality in our seminaries and the priesthood: the result of the Church ignoring its own clear directives,” he said. “If it is serious about ending the sex scandals, the Church needs to admit it has a homosexual priest problem and stop ordaining men with deep-seated homosexual tendencies.”Mattson is described as “a noted chaste same-sex-attracted Catholic.”
Another celibate gay Catholic, Doug Mainwaring, sometimes contributes to the site. Among his recent columns was one preposteriously claimng the Fox News Channel has become too pro-gay, and one on the Pennsylvania sexual abuse scandal blaming it on, you guessed it, the gays.
If these men choose chastity, it’s their business – and they’re conforming to the Catholic Church’s expectations for gay people, although that’s not an expectation that most gay people want to meet. And they’re demonizing other gay people and unfairly casting them as likely sexual abusers.
On the anti-trans and misgendering side, LifeSite ran this headline last year on transgender woman Danica Roem’s history-making election to the Virginia House of Delegates: “Man Becomes First ‘Transgendered’ State Rep in US History.” The text refers to her as “a man who purports to be a woman.” It’s typical of the site’s treatment of trans people.
Who’s behind LifeSite News? It was founded by a Canadian anti-abortion group, the Campaign Life Coalition; the site is now a separately incorporated nonprofit “news and information service.” It accepts advertisements but depends largely on donations; the site often features fundraising appeals. Its founding staffers are managing director Steve Jalsevac and editor in chief John-Henry Westen. In addition to publishing anti-LGBTQ screeds by others, they have written some.
Jalsevac, who according to his official biography “experienced a profound conversion back to his Catholic faith” in 1977, wrote a 2011 fundraising appeal in which he told of attending Toronto’s Pride parade, calling it an “overt and grotesque display of sexuality” full of “lost, confused souls.” In a 2015 blog post, he decried “the rise of the power and influence of homosexual priests, bishops and cardinals, as well as influential laity.” Westen has denounced Pope Francis’s “Who am I to judge?” remark on gay priests and also criticized the pontiff for meeting with a transgender man and his female partner; Westen referred to the pair as a “gender-confused couple.” They and other LifeSite contributors have frequently objected to other liberal stances taken by Catholic clergy, on issues such as immigration, economics, and the environment.
Certainly, the site and its contributors have a right to their views – but the rest of us have the right to call out these views as hateful and misinformed. As Media Matters’ Suen says, its articles are full of “skewed, anti-LGBTQ framing.”
“It’s a go-to platform for anti-LGBTQ extremists and groups, producing some of the most extreme anti-LGBTQ content around,” he adds.
So, if you’re arguing LGBTQ issues with people who get their news from LifeSite, you could try confronting them with some less skewed content – like scientific research on sexuality. It may not do any good, but it’s worth a try. And when it comes to consuming LifeSite content, the best advice is let the reader beware.