Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Prof. Rice Call for Jenkins' Resignation in ND Observer

Professor Emeritus Charles Rice is a long-time member of Notre Dame's Law School faculty. He also has a weekly column in the school's paper, The Observer. His column is available for syndication at diocesan newspapers.

This week, Rice protests President Obama's invitation as commencement speaker at Notre Dame and the granting of a law degree. Setting it up, Rice says:
Notre Dame is not a public utility. It has no commitment to honor at its capstone ceremony every politician whom the political process deposits in the Oval Office. Nor is there an unbroken custom that, if a president is invited, it must be in his first year.

He follows with the well-known laundry list of the president's actions against human life and calls for prayer, not confrontation. Perhaps setting this column apart is his call for the resignation of the ND president, as well as his suggestion that prayerful witness at Our Lady's grotto would be a better role for Ambassador Glendon than "warm-up" for the president:
Our leaders act in what they think is the best interest of Notre Dame. But that is no excuse. The invitation should be withdrawn. It implies no personal animosity to suggest that Fr. Jenkins and the other Fellows and Trustees responsible for this fiasco should resign or be removed.

What would be a proper response? On-site demonstrations would be counterproductive. You can petition or write to our leaders. But the appeal should be made instead to a higher authority. An alumnus has suggested that students, faculty, staff and friends of Notre Dame ought to - and we will - pray a continuous Rosary of reparation at the Grotto during the time of Commencement, from two to four on Sunday, May 17th. This would not interfere with Commencement which is on the other side of campus. It would not be a demonstration or protest. No signs, marches, or disruption. Just peaceful prayer, in silence or aloud, by individuals and families. If you can't make it to the Grotto, pray the Rosary during that time wherever you are. Incidentally, Professor Mary Ann Glendon, the Laetare Medal recipient, would make a better use of her time at the Grotto than as a warm-up or wind-up act at Commencement.

Actually, the whole thing is full of yet not seen challenges from so celebrated a member of the Notre Dame community. I'd read it in full.

Letter on Visitation from Legion Director

CNS will have a story on the Apostolic Visitation to the Legion of Christ ordered by the Holy Father later today. In the meanwhile, the following letter by Legion Director General, Father Alvaro Corcuera is dated March 29 and appears on the Legion of Christ website:

Prot. D.G 586-2009
Rome, March 29, 2009

To all Legionaries of Christ,

Dear Fathers and Brothers in Christ,
With deep gratitude we have experienced the closeness of the Holy See at this phase in the life of our congregation. The Holy Father and his closest collaborators have confirmed us in our mission at the service of the Church, and with fatherly concern they have offered us their advice and support.

I want to share with you the letter that His Eminence, the Cardinal Secretary of State to His Holiness wrote to me on March 10 past (cf. attachment). In it, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone assures us that the Holy Father renews his nearness, “his solidarity and prayers”, and he informs us that the Holy Father has decided that there will be an Apostolic Visitation of the institutions of the Legionaries of Christ.

I have thanked the Holy Father from my heart for offering us this additional help to face our present vicissitudes related to the grave facts in our father founder’s life that already were the object of the investigations by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which were concluded in May of 2006, and those which have come to light more recently. We are deeply saddened and sorry, and we sincerely ask for forgiveness from God and from those who have been hurt through this.

Full of confidence in divine Providence and in our Mother the Church, guardian of the authentic good of her children, we are now preparing to receive the Apostolic Visitors who, over the next months, will visit us to familiarize themselves closely with the life and apostolate of the Legion of Christ.

Let us reaffirm our commitment, and lift up our prayers to God that he will grant us the grace to continue to seek the holiness to which He is calling us, and that we will be able to bring to its fullness the charism He has entrusted to us. May the Blessed Virgin Mary accompany us and lead us to love every day more her Son Jesus Christ.

Sincerely yours in Christ and the Legion,

Fr. Alvaro Corcuera, LC

The referred to letter from Cardinal Bertone dated March 10 to Father Corcuera is also posted:

Vatican City, March 10, 2009

Reverend Father,

In this holy season of Lent, a time of grace and salvation, I am pleased to remember that many people benefit from the works of education and apostolate which the Legionaries of Christ carry out in various parts of the world, moved by your desire to establish Christ’s Kingdom according to the demands of justice and charity, among intellectuals, professional people and those engaged in teaching and social action.

Since this mission is of fundamental importance and is worth devoting oneself to with broadmindedness and an unsullied heart. I wish to let you as General Director know that in these delicate moments His Holiness Benedict XVI renews his solidarity with and prayers for the Legionaries of Christ, the members of Regnum Christi and those who are spiritually close to you.

The Holy Father is aware of the noble ideals that inspire you and the fortitude and prayerful spirit with which you are facing the current vicissitudes, and he encourages you to continue seeking the good of the Church and society by means of your own distinctive initiatives and institutions. In this regard, you can always count on the help of the Holy See, so that with truth and transparency, in a climate of fraternal and constructive dialogue, you will overcome the present difficulties. In this respect, the Holy Father has decided to carry out an Apostolic Visitation to the institutions of the Legionaries of Christ through a team of Prelates.

As I unite myself with the Holy Father’s sentiments, I entrust all Legionaries and Regnum Christi members to the motherly protection of Our Lady of Guadalupe, and I take the opportunity to express to you once more my best wishes and esteem in Christ.

Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone
Secretary of State to His Holiness

Pope Orders Visitation for Legion of Christ

So says a memo from CNS to editors:
Pope Benedict XVI has ordered an apostolic visitation of the Legion of Christ and its institutions, in the wake of disclosures of sexual impropriety by the late founder of the order, Father Marcial Maciel Degollado. We will have details later this morning.

Monday, March 30, 2009

'Why I'm not a nun' and other observations

Herewith, the latest wisdom from the National Catholic Reporter in their Young Voices column by Kate Childs Graham. In an open letter to Mother Mary Clare Millea, ACSJ, head of the Apostolic Visitation to U.S. Women Religious, Childs Graham writes:

. . .Women religious welcomed me with open arms, and I yearned to join them in their service to God. However, my decision not to join a community of women religious had little to do with their impact or welcome. In fact, had it just been their influence today you could probably call me Sister Kate. Rather, my decision not to become a woman religious was due to institutional church teaching on sexuality and gender.

You see, my discernment to religious life was inextricably linked with my guilt and self-reproach in discovering my identity as a lesbian woman. . .As I began to listen to my conscience, the voice of God within me, I discovered that church teaching against homosexuality is both flawed and destructive. . .

. . .I have listened to women whose true vocation was to the priesthood and becoming a woman religious was the closest they could get to fulfill their vocation.

In the spirit of full disclosure, you will be glad to know that while I still try to heed my call to lead a religious life, God has guided me toward my call to married life. My partner, Ariana, and I have now been married just shy of six months. I do wish that one day both women and men religious who feel a call to religious life but not to celibate life will be able to fully heed their call.

My hope is that the Holy Spirit will be able to work through the Apostolic Visitation, revealing and healing the homophobia and sexism that is prevalent at all levels of our church. My story is just one of many; however, I truly believe that until these wounds are healed, our church will see a decline, not only in vocations to religious life but also in the laity.

Childs Graham's last piece for NCR was titled, "I am a prochoice Catholic."

Just previous, Jamie L. Manson wrote an article titled "The church of magical thinking" which gave this approving vignette of group sacrilege in St. Louis:
In my recent travels, I had the powerful opportunity to listen to a member of Sr. Louise Lears’ parish tell the story of the nun’s attending Mass on the first Sunday after she was placed under interdict. Her 85-year old mother was at her side. Not wanting to jeopardize the parish any further, Sr. Louise followed behind her mother as she went up to receive Communion. Her mother took Communion, broke it, turned around and gave it to her daughter. After witnessing this, Sr. Louise’s sister, Kate, and many other parishioners went and did the same. By the end of communion, Sr. Louise’s hands were filled with fragments of the Eucharist. After the Mass was over, as the family was standing in the back, Louise’s mother said to her daughter, “I was the first person to feed you, and I will feed you now.”

O, Church, where is your victory? O, Hierarchy, where is your sting?

If history is any guide, the National Catholic Reporter will be given the top award for a national paper by the Catholic Press Association at its convention in May - They have won for as long as memory serves.

The Key is not a competitor in this category with NCR, so the complaint is not sour grapes. I just wonder what this consistency in awarding its highest honor to NCR each year says about the values of the association?

Bishop Finn's EWTN Interview on Confession

Diocese of Kansas City - St. Joseph Bishop Robert W. Finn was on EWTN's Son Rise Morning Program last week concerning confession. The show was a follow-up on his recent Key column.

Bishop Finn discusses the importance of frequent confession, the value of regular examination of conscience, and the "great moment" it is for priests when a person returns to confession. Nice quote,
"As we make our interior wounds known to him . . . He can begin to heal things that really require a supernatural grace."

It's not too long, so take some time to listen below.

'The Post' on Obama's Torture 'Fine Print'

Yesterday's Washington Post rightly takes on Dick Cheney's claim that the new administration's revised torture policies, "raise the risk to the American people of another attack."

But curiously, instead of challenging the morality or usefulness of torture, the Post seeks to quell torture enthusiasts by asserting President Obama really hasn't changed much:
But to get a get full picture of the Obama approach, you have to read the fine print of the executive orders -- and also what they didn't say.

First, Obama hasn't banned the process known as "extraordinary rendition." This technique has been used by U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies for more than 30 years to seize people overseas, either unilaterally or with permission of the host country, and take them somewhere else for interrogation and possible judicial action. That authority hasn't changed, nor has the CIA's ability to work with foreign intelligence services that are interrogating terrorist suspects.

The executive orders propose a new task force that will "study and evaluate the practices of transferring individuals to other nations" to ensure that such transfers don't send prisoners to countries where they would "face torture." Although the CIA secret detention facilities are being closed, the order notes that this doesn't refer to "facilities used only to hold people on a short-term, transitory basis." The order doesn't define "short-term" or "transitory."

"Rendition is still permitted," said Leon Panetta, the new CIA director, in a Feb. 25 meeting with reporters.

Not only does renditioning remain, but former CIA general counsel Jeffrey Smith, who helped craft the new administration's policy, indicates that all bets are off in the case of the infamous ticking-time-bomb scenario:
In drafting the new policy on interrogation, Obama and his advisers recognized that there could be extraordinary situations -- say, a suspect with information about nuclear terrorism -- where the president could decide to waive the executive order banning harsh techniques. "Everybody understands that if the nation faces a severe threat, the president can do what's needed to protect us. But he has to explain it. The problem with Bush was doing it all in secret, which leads to abuse," argues Smith.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

A Note on Anonymous Comments

I've switched over to JS-KIT for comments. They are still not moderated and anonymous comments are still welcome. Under the new system, you will be able to comment under an OPEN-ID, Google id and the rest. You can also post as a "guest" without providing an id. The difference is that you will be asked to give a nickname if posting as a guest.

The reason for this is clear from the comments in the previous and other posts - I and others would like to engage anonymous commenters, many of which are fine and intelligent comments. However, when numerous people are posting as "anonymous", it is impossible to keep track of a thread. With individual nicknames, the arguments and arguers can be clearer. The new system also allows commenting to individuals on individual threads, so that the main thread is not broken by side issues (I hope).

I still haven't figured out how to make the comments appear in a pop-up (As at AMPapist), so when you hit comment, you'll see a full page with the original post followed by comments. Any tech help on this is appreciated.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Bishop Tobin - 'You need a conscience transplant'

Responding to critics of his previous column, 'My interview with President Obama,' Providence Bishop Thomas J. Tobin backs down not one bit. His response, titled, 'Jesus wasn't always nice,' questions the weight of his critics' concern, excerpt (emphases mine):
I do find it intriguing, though, that the critics of the Obama column were more offended by my writing than the fact that the President is using their tax dollars to destroy unborn children. (And now to engage in the destruction of human embryos in stem cell research.) But it still seems to me that if the President’s anti-life actions don’t stir up moral outrage in you, nothing will; if they don’t offend your conscience, you need a conscience transplant, my friend.

The other premise of my critics seems to be that because we are Christians we should never be angry or challenge others. We should always be charitable, tolerant, kind and nice, they suggest. After all, isn’t that what Jesus would do?

Well, in fact, no. The Gospels are very clear that in confronting moral evil Jesus wasn’t at all nice or kind. We usually think of Jesus as a prophet of peace, and indeed He was. But His preaching also created bitter controversy and division. “I have come to set the earth on fire . . . Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.” (Lk 12: 49, 51)

Think of Jesus cleansing the Temple, an incident recorded in all four Gospels. Jesus entered the Temple angrily, confronted the merchants and money-changers, made a whip out of cords, drove them away and upset their tables and booths. Doesn’t sound too charitable to me!

Jesus railed against the towns of Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum for their lack of faith, and predicted a terrible judgment day for those towns. “You will go down the netherworld,” He warned. (Mt 11: 23) Doesn’t sound too charitable to me!

And of course there’s Jesus’ withering condemnation of the Scribes and Pharisees. He repeatedly called them hypocrites. He described them as “blind guides . . . whitewashed tombs . . . serpents . . . brood of vipers . . . and murderers.” (Cf. Mt, Chapter 23) Doesn’t sound too charitable to me!

There are other examples, but you get the point. In confronting moral evil, Jesus wasn’t nice, kind, gentle and sweet. He lived in a rough and tumble world and He took His message to the streets. He was a fearless prophet who spoke the truth sometimes with harsh and angry language. Jesus’ condemnations infuriated public officials and religious leaders, so much so that they were determined to kill Him. And indeed they did.

Read on.

Carl Anderson on the Pope, AIDS and Africa

Carl Anderson, Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus has penned the following on the subject of:

AIDS, Africa and Pope Benedict

by Carl Anderson

When Pope Benedict XVI suggested on his recent trip to Africa that condoms might be part of the problem, rather than the solution to the AIDS crisis, reaction from critics was swift.

Benedict's contention that relying on condoms to stem the AIDS crisis risks "worsening the crisis," may be news to his critics – who were widely quoted in the media – but he was correct.

Consider this: an analysis of AIDS trends in Africa by the Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies, headed by Dr. Edward C. Green, noted in 2004 that "There seems to be no evidence from Sub-Saharan Africa, certainly not in the five countries of present focus, that condom behavior alone can reverse the course of an HIV epidemic, no matter how high the levels attained. A recent literature review of condom promotion in resource- poor countries commissioned by UNAIDS reached a similar conclusion: 'Indeed, there are no definite examples yet of generalized epidemics that have been turned back by prevention programs based primarily on condom promotion.'"

The document adds this comment: "If primary behavior change, along with condom use, is essential for national level decrease in HIV infection rates, then the question of how these behaviors are successfully promoted become very important. Especially since there has been relatively little promotion of primary behavior change, compared to the risk reduction interventions of condom use…." What the researchers mean by "primary behavior change" is both abstinence and being faithful to one's partner.

What does this mean for the pope's comments? Dr. Edward Green, who oversaw the Harvard report cited above, told Christianity Today: "This is hard for a liberal like me to admit, but yes, [the criticism is] unfair because in fact, the best evidence we have supports [the pope's] comments."

In fact, Dr. Green also stated on National Review Online that studies show that HIV rates tend to go up – not down – where condoms are readily available. For one reason, condom users take more risks than they might otherwise, according to Dr. Green.

The underlying assumption of many critics is that people cannot help themselves when it comes to having sex, and that advocating for better and more moral behavior is futile.

Many Africans who I know personally think otherwise. And the 2004 report from Harvard shows otherwise. "Evidence supporting the primacy of primary behavior change (or maintenance) can be found in the Karamoja region of northeast Uganda." Here the HIV rate has fallen to less than 2% compared with 30% in other regions of the country. Interestingly, it is the area of Uganda where people have one of the lowest levels of condom use (about 3%), but also the lowest level of men and women reporting multiple sexual partners (less than 2%).

In other words, behavior was changed because of the ABC approach adopted by Uganda – which promotes abstinence until marriage, being faithful, and puts condoms last as a means of prevention. Those who would continue to make condom funding the top HIV-prevention priority in Africa, and would cut domestic abstinence education in the United States, should take note.

What this controversy boils down to is a fundamental difference in
philosophies: Pope Benedict believes that people are capable of choosing to do the right thing. His critics do not.

Instead of receiving fair treatment by the media, Pope Benedict has often been the victim of a game of "gotcha" in which isolated sound bites – not his message – become the story as some reporters and commentators accept his critics' opinions – uncritically.

First at Regensberg, again at La Sapienza University in Rome, then in the controversy over Bishop Williamson, and now in Africa, the pope's actual message was ignored as critics took his words out of context – or ignored their clear meaning.

The irony – as this case proves once again – is that Pope Benedict is not someone who is likely to be wrong on the facts. A detail-oriented scholar, accomplished musician, and a prolific writer whose many books show a keen ability to research, he has never been a person to make careless statements.

Consider what Pope Benedict actually said: "If the soul is lacking, if Africans do not help one another, the scourge cannot be resolved by distributing condoms; quite the contrary, we risk worsening the problem. The solution can only come through a two-fold commitment: firstly, the humanization of sexuality… and secondly, true friendship, above all with those who are suffering… And these are the factors that bring visible progress."

The pope's larger message – that there is a need for a true "civilization of love" in Africa, a continent convulsed more than any other by war and disease – was nearly ignored altogether.

Critics and commentators, who professed shock at the pope's remarks could have called Dr. Green. They could have read the UN and Harvard studies. But instead, they assumed that Benedict was wrong. The pope and all of us deserve better.

Pope Benedict has a long track record of careful and accurate scholarship. He brought a courageous message of behavior change to Africa—one of love and hope and one which has the potential to save untold lives.

As has happened in the past, the facts again vindicate Pope Benedict. We need more people like Dr. Green, who won't let politics color their objective judgment and more journalists who will pay attention.

Carl Anderson is Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus and a New York Times bestselling author. His latest book, Called to Love: Approaching John Paul II's Theology of the Body, will be available in April.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Obama Admin. Trying to Silence Burke?

That's what Austin Ruse is saying today at The Catholic Thing, excerpts:

A reliable source tells me that someone representing the Obama administration is about to put pressure on the papal nuncio to the United States to get Archbishop Raymond Burke to be quiet. The Obama complaint is that Archbishop Burke, who is now head of the Apostolic Signatura in Rome, has supported another bishop in his chastisement of Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius for her support of abortion. . .

. . .You can see why the Obama administration might get upset about this. They played footsie with pet Catholics of left and right last year and thought they had this kind of problem covered, since some of them have already offered cover for Sebelius. Two groups created to offer such services, Catholics United and Catholics in Alliance, started a petition drive saying Sebelius was really pro-life.

And now there is word that someone who is well known among Republicans, and who has served in previous Republican administrations, is reaching out on behalf of the Obama administration to get the Holy See to quiet Burke, or at least to make it clear he speaks not for the Church, but only for himself.

Ruse gets into a troubling question at the end of his post which really deserves more exploration. It is a question of whether, in this and other actions, we are seeing an unconstitutional meddling in the free exercise and internal administration of the Church. See the whole article.

San Francisco Archdiocese Challenges Pro-Obama Catholics

On the front page of the Archdiocese of San Francisco's website today is a link to an article by George Wesolek, long-time Director of Public Policy and Social Concerns for the Archdiocese, titled, "The honeymoon is over".

Wesolek came on board under former Archbishop John R. Quinn and has worked tirelessly and effectively on issues of health care, worker and union rights, restorative justice, against the death penalty, for peace in the Middle-East, on interfaith alliances, and encouraging, supporting and securing funding for numerous community organizing initiatives in the City.

He has also created a model of cooperation between the social justice and respect life functions in a diocese. Both functions have co-existed effectively under his direction for some time. In short, he is the demographic that the rhetoric, if not the actions, of the Pro-Obama Catholic campaign organizations has been aimed at. In fact, he writes:
Along with others, I heard during the campaign from pro-Obama Catholics and Catholic organizations established to promote his candidacy that Obama would accomplish more than the previous administration to curtail abortions and promote life using "non-divisive" strategies. I have been eagerly looking for indications that this was indeed the case.

He then laments the well-known list of the president's anti-life actions since coming into office, including pro-abortion nominees, Mexico City Policy reversal, conscience protection erosion, reversal of embryonic stem-cell funding ban, and then says (emphases mine):
Most distressing, is that there is no reaction from those pro-Obama Catholics and Catholic organizations that were and are apologists for Obama and his policies. These organizations - Catholics United, Alliance of Catholics for the Common Good, Network and others - provided Catholics with a scenario that painted Obama as "pro-life." Some of them openly said that they were pro-life and would work to move policy in a pro-life direction under Obama. Where are they now? Where are there any policy initiatives that would blunt the irrevocable thrust of these Obama actions early in his presidency?

The culture of death is making deeper inroads in our national policies and there is almost no response from Catholics who helped elect President Obama. It is time for them to step up to the plate.

The whole article is here.

Top 10 Reasons to Support Catholic Charities - Video

This video accompanies a story in the upcoming edition of The Catholic Key newspaper. It was produced by Catholic Charities Foundation of the Diocese of Kansas City - St. Joseph and shown at a recent soup luncheon to supporters of Catholic Charities of Northwest Missouri.

To learn more about Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Kansas City - St. Joseph visit their website.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

'Catholics United' Welcomes Notre Dame's Decision

(UPDATE after post.)

No surprise there. Chris Korzen writes on Catholics United website today:
As a Catholic, I am deeply disappointed by the knee-jerk opposition to Notre Dame’s decision to confer an honorary degree on President Obama and invite him to give the 2009 commencement address. President Obama’s appearance at Notre Dame will be nothing short of an honor for all Catholics.

He then lays out that "partisan operatives" are "leading the charge". Who are these partisans? Newt Gingrinch and the Cardinal Newman Society are the only names mentioned.

I had noticed that the Cardinal Newman Society and (as of this writing) about 140,000 individuals who signed their petition have been leading the charge. But Newt Gingrich? Yes. According to a footnote on the post, Gingrich twittered about it today. That's taking the bull by the horns. Way to lead the charge.

No mention is made of any reaction by Bishop D'Arcy. So according to Catholics United, a one-line twitter by a retired Republican Congressman is evidence of a partisan conspiracy.

But when Notre Dame's own bishop says he'll skip commencement and suggests the University is seeking prestige over truth - It's not even worth mentioning.

Whatever fits the storyline.

UPDATE: The Cardinal Newman Society petition opposing an honorary law degree for President Obama now has 150,000 names. Sign it yourself here. The site also has instructions for inviting friends to sign. For a great rundown of other reactions, including Fr. Reese, Carl Olson, Fr. Robert Barron and Amy Welborn, visit Amy's new site at Via Media.

Quick Annunciation Post

Sorry for the silence today. I'm wading through the testimony at yesterday's Senate hearing on the nomination of Melanne Verveer to be Ambassador at Large for Global Women's Issues. I'll have a post on that later today.

The painting above is Fra Lippo Lippi's Annunciation. I had the opportunity, quite by accident, to see it in person (caution - name dropping coming on). When Archbishop Levada (my former boss) was raised to Cardinal in Rome, a dinner party was thrown in his honor at the Palazzo Doria Pamphilj. In the room where drinks were served before dinner, this painting hung near the entrance. What the photo here doesn't capture is how very bright the painting is. It stood out in a dark room crowded with other magnificent pieces, including a typically dark Caravaggio. The evening was a once in a lifetime opportunity to be so close to the events surrounding a Consistory - Yet the surprising encounter with this beautiful painting was the finest thing about it. And on the theme, Bill May from Catholics for the Common Good reflects today:
While we focus on the Incarnation at Christmas time, it is important to remind people that at the moment of the Annunciation and Mary's “YES”, the Word actually became flesh. God intervened in history at this moment with the event that changed the world.

The incarnation took place at the moment of conception in Mary's womb – the zygote, the embryo – true God and true man – growing and developing in the continuum of life that is common to all.

Let us give thanks and praise for the miracle of the Incarnation.

Happy Incarnation Day!

May the Peace and Joy of the Incarnation fill hearts around the world.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Lebanese Christians, Muslims Celebrate Annunciation Together

From AsiaNews.it, excerpts:
Islamic-Christian celebration to honour the Virgin Mary, symbol of national unity

On the occasion of the Feast of the Annunciation, Lebanon’s government launches a joint Christian-Muslim celebration in honour of Mary who is venerated in both communities. In the square in front of Lebanon’s National Museum a statue of Our Lady will be erected surrounded by a crescent. The initiative might be extended to other countries. . .

. . .The idea of making the Virgin Mary a symbol of a joint Christian-Muslim celebration came to Sheikh Mohammad Nokkari, general secretary of Dar el-Fatwa, or ‘House of Decree”, during Annunciation celebrations at Jamhour College.

Emir Harès Chehab and Mohammad Sammak, who co-chair the Islamic-Christian National Dialogue Committee, welcomed the initiative as did Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora.

Beirut Mayor Abdel-Monhem Ariss responded positively to a demand by the initiative’s promoters to erect a statue of Mary in front of Lebanon’s National Museum. The square where the statue will be located is actually a major intersection and might be renamed in honour of the Virgin Mary. The statue itself would “reproduce a stylised Virgin Mary surrounded by a crescent moon,” Islam’s symbol par excellence.

A religious ceremony is scheduled for tomorrow in the chapel of Our Lady College in Jamhour, during which “Christians and Muslims will be able to pray together to the Virgin Mary.”

In addition to prayers, there will be songs, psalms, sacred music, testimonials, readings, as well as audio and video tapes.

Sheikh Amr Khaled, one of the Arab world’s most important preachers, will attend the ceremony. Mgr Salim Ghazal, chairman of the Commission for Islamic-Christian dialogue of the Assembly of Maronite Patriarchs and Bishops, will also be there.

Calls to mind this interesting chapter, Mary and the Moslems, from Fulton Sheen's The World's First Love.

Bishop D'Arcy's Statement on Obama at Notre Dame

Posted this afternoon at the Diocesan website:

Concerning President Barack Obama speaking at Notre Dame
graduation, receiving honorary law degree

March 24, 2009

On Friday, March 21, Father John Jenkins, CSC, phoned to inform me that President Obama had accepted his invitation to speak to the graduating class at Notre Dame and receive an honorary degree. We spoke shortly before the announcement was made public at the White House press briefing. It was the first time that I had been informed that Notre Dame had issued this invitation.

President Obama has recently reaffirmed, and has now placed in public policy, his long-stated unwillingness to hold human life as sacred. While claiming to separate politics from science, he has in fact separated science from ethics and has brought the American government, for the first time in history, into supporting direct destruction of innocent human life.

This will be the 25th Notre Dame graduation during my time as bishop. After much prayer, I have decided not to attend the graduation. I wish no disrespect to our president, I pray for him and wish him well. I have always revered the Office of the Presidency. But a bishop must teach the Catholic faith “in season and out of season,” and he teaches not only by his words — but by his actions.

My decision is not an attack on anyone, but is in defense of the truth about human life.

I have in mind also the statement of the U.S. Catholic Bishops in 2004. “The Catholic community and Catholic institutions should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles. They should not be given awards, honors or platforms which would suggest support for their actions.” Indeed, the measure of any Catholic institution is not only what it stands for, but also what it will not stand for.

I have spoken with Professor Mary Ann Glendon, who is to receive the Laetare Medal. I have known her for many years and hold her in high esteem. We are both teachers, but in different ways. I have encouraged her to accept this award and take the opportunity such an award gives her to teach.

Even as I continue to ponder in prayer these events, which many have found shocking, so must Notre Dame. Indeed, as a Catholic University, Notre Dame must ask itself, if by this decision it has chosen prestige over truth.

Tomorrow, we celebrate as Catholics the moment when our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, became a child in the womb of his most holy mother. Let us ask Our Lady to intercede for the university named in her honor, that it may recommit itself to the primacy of truth over prestige.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Time to Cut You Off Now - Bye

The 27-year-old abdominal cancer patient was conscious and did not wish to be disconnected because she hoped that her mother would arrive from Africa for one last visit before she died. The hospital warned the patient and her family that it would keep her on the ventilator for just 10 more days. Ms. Habtegiris died 16 minutes after the ventilator was shut off on December 14, 2005.

Via Secondhand Smoke.

Sebelius and Tiller - A Human Portrait

You can call the picture at left whatever you want. Whatever it is - it is 26 weeks old.

Dr. George Tiller of Wichita, Kansas has offed 60,000 of these around this age and older. Most of these terminations likely happened outside the letter and spirit of that state's restrictions on late-term abortions. But they happened anyway because "the millions Tiller had contributed to local Democrats earned him a special exemption from state law and even a night in his honor in the middle of the criminal investigation" hosted by Governor Kathleen Sebelius, according to a two part report by Jack Cashill.

The report is well worth considering as Sebelius moves toward confirmation as Secretary of Health and Human Services. Part one explains the support Sebelius has given to Tiller, as well as, Planned Parenthood in Kansas. Part two puts a human face on what actually happens at Dr. Tiller's clinic - something the Catholic Governor has done nothing to restrict, excerpts:

In May 2003, as she would later testify before the Kansas legislature, the then 18 year-old Michelle Berge, now Armesto-Berge, was pressured by her mother to abort her baby in the 26th week of her pregnancy.

“It’s murder and I will not do it,” Michelle protested, but her mother had other plans. Staff at Tiller’s clinic eased those plans along by informing Michelle of a Catholic group that “believed in abortion” and promised baptism for the aborted baby.

In reality, the Catholic Church considers abortion “murder” and “always morally evil,” an article of faith that has so far eluded the ostensibly Catholic HHS nominee and Tiller patroness, Kathleen Sebelius.

As Michelle would soon learn, Tiller honored Kansas law about as faithfully as he proffered Catholic doctrine.

Under Kansas law, two independent physicians have to confirm that a woman carrying a viable unborn child could be saved from death or “substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function” only through a late term abortion.

Not one woman among the five with whom Michelle was being processed, herself included, risked physical or mental health impairment of any sort.

The women talked among themselves during their stay in Wichita. “All were there,” Michelle testified, “because they were told [late-term abortion] would solve their problems.” These problems ranged from unreliable boyfriends to socially ambitious parents.

In other words, Tiller was fully prepared to abort five healthy babies, ready to be born to five healthy mothers, in flagrant disregard of the most serious of Kansas laws. . .

. . .After Michelle’s group watched a video on “Dr. Tiller’s legacy,” a nurse took her to a private room and prepared her for an ultrasound. When she tried to look at the screen, the nurse abruptly moved the screen away.

Michelle was then taken to another room. There a female doctor inserted a large needle twice to make sure she injected the unborn child, “and that,” said Michelle, “is when the baby was killed.”

Only after this procedure was completed did Michelle fill out the paperwork and meet with a counselor, a charge proven by time stamps on her medical records.

Michelle also met with a self-identified Unitarian minister who consoled her with the hitherto unknown Christian doctrine, “You have to take care of the ones who are here, not the ones who aren't born.”

After the initial injections Michelle underwent a variety of preparations to facilitate the delivery of the dead baby. A late-term abortion of this kind usually takes three-days.

Like most other girls, Michelle spent her nights at a Wichita hotel, in Michelle’s case with her mother. On her second day, she met casually with Tiller for the first time but only for a few minutes.

He talked to her about his own teenage child and how presumably, “if in the same situation, would do the same thing.” . . .

. . .By the third day Michelle’s labor had proceeded to the point where she was ready to deliver. What follows is not for the faint of heart.

“I remember yelling at the nurse and calling her names and telling her I did not want to be on the toilet,” Michelle recounted.

“I finally birthed the baby and I distinctly remember seeing the baby on the floor to the left of the toilet.” Said Michelle, “That image haunts me daily.”

Despite the alleged threat to her health, there was no follow-up care of any kind for the young woman. Nor did Tiller’s clinic call to see that there was.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Oakland Pastor Jailed for Holding Pro-life Sign

Sent in by Bill May from Catholics for the Common Good:

Judge Exceeded Authority
Walter and Lori Hoye Courageous Witnesses for Life

Walter Hoye is supported by Catholics for the Common Good (CCG) Pro-life activist
This afternoon, Friday, March 20, appearing slight and gaunt from his 40-Days-for-Life fasting, Rev. Walter Hoye was calmly led from the Alameda County courtroom to begin a thirty day jail sentence. The judge denied the defense's motion to stay the sentence pending appeal and remanded Walter into custody. Even people convicted of serious felonies facing long prison sentences are routinely granted bail or released on their own recognizance pending appeal. This case involved a simple misdemeanor -- an unjust conviction with no victim or evidence.

Rev. Hoye's crime was standing outside of an abortion clinic with the sign reading "Jesus [God] loves you and your baby. Let us help you." See the background details on the case.

Last month, the judge initially gave Walter three years probation with the condition that he stay more than 100 yards from the abortion clinic where he was arrested. When he told the judge that he would not be willing to forfeit his first amendment rights, Judge Hing added a 30 day jail sentence with the option for alternative community service, and a $1,130 fine. The judge was stymied when both the prosecution and defense lawyers told him he could not impose a condition of probation unless Hoye accepted it. The sentencing was continued until today.

What happened today, stunned everyone in the courtroom. Even though both the prosecution and defense agreed that Judge Hing could not impose a condition of probation on Walter without his consent, he insisted on giving him the same sentence anyway. He said the jail time, the fine, and the conditions of probation are all in effect -- immediately -- something that will surely be overturned on appeal (but unfortunately after Walter has already served his time in jail). This is an outrage.

The District Attorney tried to support the stay-away order with outlandish reasoning that compared it those issued in domestic violence cases to protect victims. Allison Aranda with Life Legal Defense Foundation responded that there was no victim in this case and the judge was asking Walter to stay away from public streets and sidewalks, forfeiting his first amendment rights. In addition, his lawyers made the point that judge did not have authority to impose restrictions on him that are more stringent than those contained in the anti-sidewalk-counseling ordinance under which he was charged.

Before the sentencing, a crowd of about 80 supporters prayed over Walter and his wife, Lori, in the hallway outside of the courtroom. We also prayed lovingly for the abortion clinic owners, staff, and supporters who jeered and mocked as we prayed.

The way Walter has been treated by the DA and the Judge is starting to awaken the African-American clergy in Oakland to the targeting of Black babies for abortion. Additional African-American pro-life leadership is starting to emerge.

It is important to spread the word about this injustice across the nation by forwarding this email. A broad coalition of organizations will soon have "Free Walter Hoye" tee shirts available help publicize this injustice. There will be more information available on next steps over the next few days. Stay tuned.

We continue to pray for the intercession of Our Lady of Guadalupe for Walter and his family.

For the Common Good,

Bill May, Chairman
Catholics for the Common Good

Friday, March 20, 2009

St. Joseph and Blessed Jeanne Jugan

There is a St. Joseph day tradition in the Diocese of Kansas City - St. Joseph whereby priests of the diocese visit the Little Sisters of the Poor's Jeanne Jugan residence, celebrate Mass, and then serve a meal to the residents. This is observed on St. Joseph day because he is a patron of the Little Sisters and was a great strength to their founder, Blessed Jeanne Jugan, who will be canonized later this year.

Bishop Emeritus Raymond Boland led the visit this year, and the history-buff bishop gave a beautiful account of the life of Jeanne Jugan and her devotion to St. Joseph. Her story is quite peculiar in that she was for long not even recognized as the founder. A manipulative priest forced her into seclusion and took effective control of the order. Not until after her death was the truth revealed.

Through all this, Bishop Boland said, "She accepted this rejection with great humility and, in many ways like her beloved patron, Saint Joseph, she too adopted in obedience a 'hidden life' of self-effacement."

Bishop Boland's full homily is below:

MO Death Penalty Moratorium Update

As promised in our round-up on death penalty legislation, an update on Missouri's proposed moratorium from Jude Huntz. Jude is Director of Human Rights for the Diocese of Kansas City - St. Joseph:

An Update on the Missouri Moratorium Bills

By Jude Huntz

Both the Missouri Assembly and Senate have bills that would place a three year moratorium on executions in our state. In addition, the legislation would require the establishment of a study commission that would examine the practice of capital punishment throughout the state. Issues such as unfair application of the death penalty on the poor and minorities, the higher cost of execution as opposed to life in prison, and the convictions of innocent persons will encompass the work of this commission.

Currently, Senate Bill 321 has passed through committee, but the committee separated the study commission from the moratorium, indicating that senators are likely to support the study commission more than the halt to executions. The Assembly bill #484 goes before the committee for testimony in two weeks. It is our hope that the Assembly will keep the bill intact.

You can help us in our advocacy for these bills. Many of our parishes have conducted a postcard campaign to our assemblymen and state senators. More than 4,000 cards have been sent thus far, and we have just printed another 2,000 to keep up with demand. In addition, other dioceses across the state have heard about our campaign and have asked to participate, so we have sent out electronic versions to them for distribution. Please take part in your parish’s postcard campaign to make your voice heard.

Momentum is building for the end to the death penalty across our country. We can continue this positive movement in our state by passing a moratorium to halt the death penalty in Missouri. For more information on additional ways to help, contact me at huntz@diocesekcsj.org

Jude has begun a blog for the Human Rights office where he is posting weekly reflections on the Catholic understanding of human rights and social justice. You can visit it here, and be sure to read his latest post on St. Paul and the death penalty.

Anyone in a parish who wants to start a postcard campaign for a moratorium on the death penalty should email Jude. That includes people in Missouri parishes outside the Diocese of Kansas City - St. Joseph.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Blog Wisdom of the Day

The BIG LIE of professional atheism goes something like this: religious folk are too busy thinking about heaven to worry about making life better here on earth. - Anthony Sacramone

Find out why in this awesome post.

EU to Favour Embryo Experiments Over Animal

Simon Caldwell at the UK Catholic Herald reports today, excerpts:
The European Union is to radically restrict laboratory testing on animals - by insisting human embryos are used by scientists for research instead.

Toxicology tests on animals will be permitted only after similar research on tissue taken from human embryos has proved fruitless, according to a proposed new directive from the European Commission (EC). . .

. . ."This would constitute a blatant break from the current stance of the European institutions, which thus far have always tried to respect member states' rights to determine in each country whether research using human embryonic stem cells is allowed or not," she said, adding that the EC aimed to push the directive through with minimal debate.

"The problem is that the destruction of human embryos, which currently are the unavoidable source for the production of human embryonic stem cells, is considered a lesser evil than animal testing practices," Miss Schauer said.

And all for what, some in England are asking (emphases added):
"Although I am not an advocate of research using animals I have to disagree with the use of human embryos in any kind of scientific research," said Mr Dobbin, Labour MP for Heywood and Middleton. "Surely respect for human life should pre-empt this European directive, especially as there have been no advances using embryonic stem-cell research."

Britain has been at the forefront of embryonic stem-cell research in the hope that such experimentation might lead to cures for such diseases as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. However, not a single therapy has yet been derived from such research while 80 cures have resulted from research on adult stem cells, with 350 clinical trials under way.

Death Penalty Dealt Another Blow

New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson has signed a bill abolishing the Death Penalty in that state. From AP:
SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Gov. Bill Richardson, who has supported capital punishment, signed legislation to repeal New Mexico's death penalty, calling it the "most difficult decision in my political life."

The new law replaces lethal injection with a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole. The repeal takes effect on July 1, and applies only to crimes committed after that date.

"Regardless of my personal opinion about the death penalty, I do not have confidence in the criminal justice system as it currently operates to be the final arbiter when it comes to who lives and who dies for their crime," Richardson said. . .

. . .New Mexico becomes only the second state after New Jersey to ban executions since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976. Fourteen other states do not impose capital punishment.

"The tide is turning and the end of this cruel and inhuman form of punishment in the United States is only a matter of time," said Terry Davis, the secretary general of the 47-nation Council of Europe.

All European nations have banned or suspended capital punishment.

The repeal passed the state Senate by a 24-18 vote Friday and was approved by the House a month earlier. With Richardson facing a midnight deadline to decide whether to sign or veto the legislation, he said he made the decision in the late afternoon after going to the state penitentiary.

There he saw the death chamber and visited the maximum security unit where those sentenced to life-without-parole could be housed.

"My conclusion was those cells are something that may be worse than death," the Democratic governor said at a news conference in the Capitol. "I believe this is a just punishment."

A similar bill is working its way through the Colorado legislature. SB 1774 in Colorado is supported by Archbishop Charles J. Chaput and the Colorado Catholic Conference. In his latest column, Archbishop Chaput wrote:
Both Scripture and a long tradition of Catholic thought support the legitimacy of the death penalty under certain limited circumstances. But as Pope John Paul II argued so eloquently, the conditions that require the death penalty for society’s self-defense and the discharge of justice in modern, developed nations almost never exist. As a result, the right road for a civilized society is to abolish the death penalty altogether.

The official Colorado Catholic Conference position reads, in part:
We believe that all people have a natural right to life, because every human being is made in the image and likeness of God, who alone is Lord of life from its beginning until its end (cf. Gn 1: 26-28).

Obviously, behavior that threatens or takes lives cannot be tolerated. Those whose actions harm others must be held accountable. Society has a right to establish laws that protect all people and promote the common good. But the need to punish violent criminals does not logically lead, in our day, to the conclusion that capital punishment should be employed.

We grieve for the victims of murder and the terrible suffering of their families. In capital murder cases, we recognize that grave punishment is needed both to serve justice and to ensure the safety of the community. But we also believe, as Pope John Paul II once observed, that improvements in the penal system of developed countries like our own make the death penalty unnecessary to protect the community.

The state of Colorado has other means available to it besides the death penalty to exact justice and render the criminal unable to do harm. We need to continue the reform of our criminal justice system, and we need to impose punishment in a way that protects society from violence while avoiding further killing under official guise.

All human life, from conception to natural death, including the life of a convicted murderer, has intrinsic value. For the sake of our own humanity, we need to turn away from a mistaken idea of justice based—in practice—on further and unneeded violence.

Moratorium bills are also winding there way through the Kansas and Missouri legislatures where they are strongly supported by the respective state's Bishops Conferences (contrary to some ill-informed KC Star letter writers).

Jude Huntz, Director of Human Rights for the Diocese of Kansas City - St. Joseph discussed these bills on KCUR's Up to Date in Kansas City this week. You can listen to his interview here.

Unfortunately, the Kansas Bill seems stuck in committee for this year. The Missouri bill (Deeken HB484 / Days SB321), however, has strong bi-partisan support. Later we'll have a guest post from Jude on how you can lend your support to the passage of this bill. Meanwhile, you can show your support by joining the Death Penalty Moratorium group on Facebook set up by the Diocese of Kansas City - St. Joseph.

Second Confession

In keeping with the Church's call for a return to the practice of confession, following is a reprint of the first commentary I ever wrote for a Catholic publication (It shows). For clarification, "the City" is San Francisco.

Second Confession

By Jack Smith

When I fist arrived at the University of San Francisco, more than 12 years ago, I had not been to confession since my first confession. A few days before classes began, a retreat for new students at the Saint Ignatius Institute was offered at the YMCA in La Honda. I had no desire to go to this retreat. I thought I would be a black sheep amongst a crowd of unctuous nuts. However, my mother insisted that I start things off right at my new college, so I went, reluctantly and skeptically.

The retreat went fine; it was mostly a broad overview of the type of education we were going to receive over the next four years. I realized in the first few conversations I had with people who were to become my lifelong friends that they were not very different from me. Three of us, myself included, were serious drug users in high school or the college we transferred from. Some whittled away their time with meaningless sex or drunkenness or the depressive self-absorption so common among young people at that time. None of us were practicing Catholics.

At some point it was announced that confession would be available for those who desired it. No pressure was made to go. It was simply an invitation, an opportunity.

To my own surprise, I went. It was face to face, which I didn’t relish in the least. I was nervous, but once I got in the door, I couldn’t leave. Father sat on a chair and I kneeled.

“How long has it been since your last confession,” he asked.

“A long time,” I said.

“Two months?>”

“More like ten years.”

With such a novice, Father figured he’d better go through the ten commandments to help me recognize my sins. I stopped him and told him, defiantly, that I knew what my sins were. They had been in my conscience, bothering me all my waking hours.

After a few minutes, as I was rattling them off, Father began to cry silently.

He gave my absolution and I left feeling no particular emotion.

A while later I went on a hike by myself and thought over the whole experience. I began to cry, which I don’t remember ever doing. It was a cry of elation. I knew from all my Catholic upbringing that God had forgiven me. I was able to start having a relationship with Him.

Over the next few years, several of my friends, including my future wife, came back to the Church because of the simple invitation of a little red light. That light used to shine regularly at confessionals in a number of parishes across the City.

No one knows when grace will enter a person’s life, but I am certain that it is not timed to fifteen minutes on a Saturday afternoon.

Hearing confessions can be a tedious practice for priests. One priest friend of mine once told me that “hearing the confessions of old ladies is like being stoned to death with popcorn.”

Some priest friends have complained that before Vatican II, and in some cultures today, there is a certain over-scrupulosity about confession. People would not receive communion without going to confession first, regardless of whether they had committed serious sin.

Some complain that those who grumble about the availability of confession want to return to the “old days,” when for some Catholics confession became a rote exercise.

There is a whole generation now who do not remember the “old days.” But we still need confession. We are alienated from the Church and God. In this culture, my generation does commit serious sins which wound our souls and cry out for healing.

I am not advocating a return to the “old days.” It is simply obvious that youth wounded by the “culture of death” in which we live, need a bigger invitation than that little red light for fifteen minutes on Saturday afternoon.

By increasing the availability of confession, priests may have to sit through a lot more popcorn stonings. I admire them. But I hope, and I have seen, that occasionally, when a priest sits in that box and flips on the light, he may be calling a desperate soul back to God and peace.

I don’t remember my first confession, but my second confession changed my life.

Note - In Kansas City, there are many churches which offer confession before most scheduled Masses. Redemptorist, Our Lady of Good Counsel and Our Lady of Sorrows are three that come to mind. Feel free to post any others in the comment box.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Obama Ambassador Tied to Catholics in Alliance, USCCB, NCR

Earlier this month, President Obama nominated Melanne Verveer to the newly-created position of Ambassador-at-Large for Women's Issues. Pro-life groups have worried that the position was created to "Promote abortion and overturn pro-life laws in nations across the world," and Catholic News Agency has reported that the position may have been created as a sop to the president's pro-abortion backers.

Verveer certainly has the pro-abortion bona-fides, and in line with other controversial appointments of this administration, Verveer is a well-connected Catholic.

In both her professional career and political commitments, Verveer has been an ardent supporter of abortion. As Executive Vice-President of People for the American Way, Verveer helped orchestrate the rejection of Judge Robert Bork's nomination to the Supreme Court. She also testified(pdf) against the nomination of the late William Rehnquist as Chief Justice, in part, because of his perceived hostility to Roe.

Verveer has worked for Common Cause, various pro-choice politicians, and most notably as Chief of Staff to then-First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Verveer's political contributions have been to a 'who's who' of pro-abortion politicians, including original FOCA co-sponsor Louise Slaughter. Verveer is a three-time donor to EMILY's List, an organization exclusively dedicated to the election of pro-abortion, female Democrats.

And yet, Verveer has several ties to Catholic and "Catholic" organizations. Prior to her work at People for the American Way, Verveer was Coordinator for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs for the then-named U.S. Catholic Conference (now USCCB).

In 2002, Verveer was appointed to the board of the National Catholic Reporter. In 2004, then-Kerry for President spokesman Mike McCurry told the reporter that Verveer helped the candidate craft his Catholic image. She was part of a group of Catholic advisors including Dean and chaplain of pro-abort Catholic pols, the late Jesuit Father Robert Drinan and the eventual Catholics in Alliance chair Elizabeth Frawley Bagley.

The failure of the Kerry campaign led to the creation of several Catholic Democrat groups which have effectively served to provide cover to pro-abort Catholic pols. In 2006, the Reporter ran an article on the phenomenon titled "Democrats seek to woo Catholics back to the fold." In discussing the creation of Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, the Reporter identifies Verveer and Bagley as original board members of the group. Bagley, a DNC and Obama mega-fundraiser, is still chair of the group and Verveer now sits on their Advisory Council. Bagley also sits on the board of Verveer's current organization, Vital Voices.

So why does it matter? To me, it's just another sad sign of the times for the Church. Several years ago I did an analysis on the pro-life voting records of members of Congress correlated with religious affiliation. I no longer have it and we have a different congress today, but the main finding probably still holds - If there were NO Catholic members of Congress, the body would be significantly MORE pro-life.

If, God willing, the abortion regime someday ends and historians looking back in horror on the period make their report, two things will be true: 1. The Catholic Church was the strongest voice in the defense of life. 2. The abortion regime would have been impossible without the active encouragement of many individual Catholics.

Bishop Finn - Take the Family to Confession this Lent

Update: Welcome Fr. Z & Youngfogeys visitors. Also see this testimonial on the value of the availability of Confession.

Following is Kansas City - St. Joseph Bishop Robert W. Finn's column from the upcoming print edition of The Catholic Key:

Lent is an Important Time for Sacramental Confession

By Most Rev. Robert W. Finn

On Saturdays whenever I am in town, I try to be available at the Cathedral so that I can fulfill one of my greatest privileges as a priest – to hear the confessions of the faithful, and offer sacramental absolution

Hearing Confessions in the sacrament of Reconciliation is one of the most wonderful priestly acts – to represent Jesus in mercy. It is also a very significant responsibility to act as judge and as counselor in the work of reconciling sinners to God and the Church.

This sacrament was given to the Church by Jesus Christ as the normal means for us to receive the forgiveness of our sins, particularly our serious sins. At the same time, it is a powerful way to grow in virtue and holiness.

Pope Pius XII in Mystici Corporis (#88) urged frequent confession of venial sins “to ensure more rapid progress day by day in the path of virtue.”

According to the Pope, some of its benefits are these: Genuine self-knowledge is increased; Humility grows; Bad habits are corrected; Spiritual neglect and tepidity are resisted; The conscience is purified; The will strengthened; A helpful self-control is attained; and Grace is increased in virtue of the Sacrament itself.

I have found personally that frequent confession – I try to go every week – helps me to try harder to be a better and more holy bishop.

Almost every Pope since the 1950’s has said that the great “sin of our century” is the lack of the sense of sin. It is true, I fear, that unless we reflect honestly and with humility every day on God’s commandments, we can quickly become numb to so many of the wrongs that flourish in our culture. We may not even realize how far away from God we have grown.

The most important ingredient of Confession, on the part of the penitent, is contrition or sorrow for our sins. We must begin to realize, with the help of the Holy Spirit, and perhaps the caring direction of another person, how we have hurt others; how we have damaged the integrity of our life through the decisions and choices we make; how we have compromised the great dignity and love to which we are called by Jesus.

Our Lord, because He knows and loves the human heart, also knew this Sacrament of Penance or Reconciliation would be necessary for us in our path to heaven. Lent, because it is a kind of community retreat for the Church, provides a particularly helpful moment of grace. Many of our parishes have Lenten Penance services, or missions, or additional times of prayer and reflection that provide a help to us to examine our conscience. The presence of additional priests may make it easier for us to take this important step back to the life of the Church, even if we have not visited the Sacrament for many years.

I have asked our priests a number of times to help me make the renewal of this Sacrament of Reconciliation a pastoral priority in our Diocese. I am grateful that so many of them spend long hours in the confessional and greet those who come with gentleness. They are blessed instruments of Christ’s peace. Make good use of this wonderful gift, during Lent and frequently throughout the year. Consider going to church for confession as spouses or as a family. In this way you can strengthen each other in your resolve to be more faithful.

O Mary Conceived without sin; Mary ever-sinless virgin; Mary Mother of Mercy: Pray for us sinners!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Update - Kansas City Vocation Ad Running on FOX

Update: YouTube has finally put up the right preview image on this video. It was #50 in Non-Profits and Activism today.

The Vocations Office of the Diocese of Kansas City - St. Joseph produced the 30 second ad below. It began running this morning on FOX 4 in the Kansas City Market and will air 70 times before Sunday. By happy coincidence, it's running during the beginning of March Madness. Hopefully basketball fans will catch it while checking in on game highlights:

Visit KCPriest.org.
Here's a bonus audio of Bishop Finn's vocation story:

YouTube - Cardinal George on Conscience Rights

Sent by the USCCB:

To take action, visit this link.

Archbishop Naumann in Kansas City Star

The Kansas City Star gave space this weekend for Kansas City, Kansas Archbishop Joseph Naumann to explain his request of Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius to refrain from the Eucharist. He begins explaining the importance of the Eucharist for the largely non-Catholic audience, excerpt:
As a Catholic priest, my life is dedicated to attempting to bring people to Jesus Christ. In our Catholic faith, we believe that Jesus makes himself uniquely present to us through our reception of the Eucharist.

Catholics, in receiving the Eucharist, profess their faith in the real presence of Jesus as well as their communion with His Church.

Catholics have a personal responsibility not to receive Holy Communion if they have with knowledge and intention committed a grave evil.

While I realize that most readers of The Star do not share my faith in the Eucharist, I share this brief description of Catholic belief to provide the context for my request that Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius not receive Holy Communion.

Read on for the specifics.

The Star also ran a piece by Dave Helling titled, "Bishops’ comments renew church vs. politics debate". The comments in question are Archbishop Naumann's recent column on Governor Sebelius, Kansas City - St. Joseph Bishop Robert Finn's recent statement on President Obama's embryonic stem-cell policy and various statements made by both bishops in the run-up to the presidential election. You can find most of those in the October and November archives of this blog.

In all, I think Helling gave the bishops much room to explain their responsibilities as pastors. The counter-voices are Americans United for the Separation of Church and State and Catholics United, which makes sense: The two groups are united in their opposition to the public witness of Catholic bishops. Read it here.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Blog Quote of the Day

Reflecting on this passage in Pope Benedict's recent letter to bishops concerning SSPX:
The Church's teaching authority cannot be frozen in the year 1962 - this must be quite clear to the Society. But some of those who put themselves forward as great defenders of the Council also need to be reminded that Vatican II embraces the entire doctrinal history of the Church. Anyone who wishes to be obedient to the Council has to accept the faith professed over the centuries, and cannot sever the roots from which the tree draws its life.

Amy Welborn at her new home, Via Media, comments (emphases mine):
And this is what Benedict is saying. He's asking those of us tempted to want to "sing a new church" into being and to cling to a particular interpretation of Vatican II to think a little bit more deeply and seriously. Yes, the SSPX is going to have to accept what the Council and post-Conciliar Popes have taught about various issues, including ecumenism.

But doesn't that mean the rest of us are obliged to accept Trent?

Like many of her posts, it is wide ranging and thought provoking, so see the whole thing.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Burke on Sebelius - 'Betrayed her Catholic faith'

A group called Catholic Action for Faith and Family has posted an interview with Archbishop Raymond Burke, Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura. Archbishop Burke is questioned about Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius' nomination as HHS Secretary, excerpt:

What is your opinion of her appointment to this influential position?

Her appointment saddens me on several scores. First of all, it is sad for our nation to have a person who favors the right to kill the unborn in the womb placed in charge of the federal office with responsibility for health and human services. No matter how good Governor Sebelius’ record regarding other human life concerns may be, if she is not committed to the safeguarding of human life from its very inception, she should not be entrusted with the questions of health and human services for our nation.

As a Roman Catholic, her appointment is the source of the greatest embarrassment because she has publicly and repeatedly betrayed her Catholic faith, in the most fundamental tenet in the most fundamental tenet of the moral law, that is, the law to safeguard and foster human life from the moment of its inception to the moment of natural death. What is more, she has obstinately remained in her moral error after being admonished by, at least, three of her Bishops, including her present Bishop, Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City in Kansas. Her position on the question of procured abortion is the source of the greatest scandal to Catholics and to all who uphold the natural moral law.

And on Archbishop Naumann's approach to Sebelius:
Under these circumstances was he justified in asking her to refrain from receiving Holy Communion and do you believe this was a pastoral approach?

Not only was Archbishop Naumann justified, he was fulfilling one of his most solemn duties as a pastor, namely, the care of the Most Blessed Sacrament and of the worthy reception of Holy Communion. As I mentioned above, his action, in my judgment, could not have been more pastorally correct. He has spoken the truth with love. More than that cannot be asked of any shepherd of the flock.

Whole thing here. They've also posted an interview with Archbishop Naumann, excerpt:
Given the seriousness of scandal is this not the reason you felt obligated to denounce Governor Sebelius’ long time public stance of supporting abortion and yet presenting herself as a practicing Catholic?

It absolutely is and it is absolutely the main reason I feel it is important for me to speak at this time as she is put on this national platform. I think this allows the scandal to spread even farther than the borders of Kansas. It is a very deadly message that she and others are communicating by this active support for legalized abortion.

Full interview is on their main page.

Bishop Martino Thanks Casey, Urges No Sebelius

Bishop Joseph F. Martino has written a letter to Senator Robert Casey thanking him for opposing Federal funding of the UNFPA which cooperates in China's coercive one-child policy. He further asks the Senator to oppose the nomination of Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius to HHS. From the Scranton Diocese website:
Dear Senator Casey:

It gives me great pleasure to extend my gratitude to you for your vote in favor of the Wicker Amendment which would have stopped the sending of U.S. taxpayer dollars to the United Nations Population Fund. It is my understanding that UNFPA cooperates with the Chinese government to enforce its one-child family policy through forced abortions, sterilizations and other human rights violations.

Please know how sorry I am that the amendment was defeated. I urge you and the thirty-eight other senators who supported it to continue your efforts to oppose policies that are destructive to life and the dignity of all persons everywhere in the world.

In that spirit, I urge you further to oppose the nomination of Governor Kathleen Sebelius for Secretary of Health and Human Services. As you must be aware, Governor Sebelius is one of the most militant pro-abortion politicians in the country. She has voted several times against her own legislature in their efforts to prevent late-term abortions. As secretary of HHS, she will be in the position to advance the cause of making abortion a “basic health care service.” This will mean that physicians, nurses and health care institutions will be required to provide abortion even when conscience forbids them to do so. The protection of the right to refuse abortion is essential to the continuation of Catholic health care. Finally, I join Archbishop Naumann in his concern for the spiritual wellbeing of Governor Sebelius and so many other Catholic politicians who support legalized abortion contrary to the clear and consistent teaching of the Catholic Church.

I remain,
Sincerely yours in Christ,

Most Reverend Joseph F. Martino, D.D., Hist. E.D.
Bishop of Scranton

Albacete on the President's Pragmatism

In a commentary at Il Sussidiario, Fr. Lorenzo Albacete analyzes President Barack Obama's justification for his executive order on embryonic stem-cell research, excerpt (emphases mine):
. . .the almost purely political motivation of this gesture was so clear, that it should concern those whose who adhere to any ideology, whether it be the left or the right. In his remarks the President showed that he is indeed determined to go beyond the liberal and conservative categories by making decisions that confuse both sides, not because of some transcending philosophical synthesis, but because of a relentlessly pursued pure pragmatism. . .what is true and good is what we can make. Truth is feasibility. Truth is what technology, not thought, allows us to do. . .

. . .The President’s defense of his decision to support the destruction of human embryos in the name of an “ideologically free science” is the same view of pragmatism that animates his decisions in other areas such as his proposals to overcome the present financial crisis and pursue the war against terrorism. This view appeals to the American conviction that everything is possible, all problems have a solution that allows us to escape history and indeed speculative thought itself. This view won decisively in the last election, and unless something happens in which Reality asserts itself, it will be our dominant cultural view for the next four years at least.

President Obama is being faithful to his personal history, education, and experience. He knows no other way to escape paralyzing ideological struggles. What is really sad is that the many Catholics in government today are unable to show him and the nation how it is that we can really, rationally, recognize the Truth that sets us free.

(h/t Καθολικός διάκονος)

UK Doctors - Kill or Get Canned

or "struck off" as they say in England. Today's UK Catholic Herald reports:
The General Medical Council (GMC), the doctors' regulatory body, is to warn medics they could lose their licence to practise if they refuse to carry out "living wills" in which patients can be starved to death if they become incapacitated by illness.

Dr Stephen Brennan of the Catholic Medical Association said it was "a very sad day" and "worrying". He said: "Already we do look over our shoulders."

Critics believe the new guidance for doctors and nurses represents a reversal of the traditional purpose of medicine, which is to save life.

Neil Addison, a barrister, said: "The ethics of medicine are being fundamentally altered. The basic idea for doctors that you're doing no harm is being changed. Legally, doctors could be accused of assault."

Read on. An interesting point is made that doctors are craving for clearer guidance from bishops on end of life issues.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Bishop Finn - New Practices to Strengthen Catholic School Identity

The following column by Kansas City - St. Joseph Bishop Robert W. Finn appears in this week's edition of The Catholic Key:

Parents and Teachers Make Strong Commitments for Catholic Schools

By Most Reverend Robert W. Finn

Catholic schools share the mission of the Church. They exist for the education and formation of children as complete persons: sound in mind, body, and soul. Since their beginning, our schools have existed to carry out this work of holistic education: excellent academics, healthy human values, and Catholic faith. So much of what we do best is with these goals in mind.

In looking at the Catholic Identity of our schools in our Comprehensive School Planning Study, we have been able to affirm quite a lot that has and continues to serve us well. In every school I visit, there are visible reminders of our Catholic purpose. Our school children attend Mass, celebrate the Sacraments and Catholic devotions, and are actively engaged in service to others. The spirit of faith is very much alive in many of our activities.

The report that will be coming out of the School Study will affirm and strengthen these vital elements of our “Catholicity,” our Catholic nature. This doesn’t mean that non-Catholic students and families don’t fit within our schools. Indeed, many families choose our schools precisely because they value this environment as positive and healthy for their sons and daughters. Most remain committed to their own experience of faith. But they often come to acknowledge that Catholic values are essentially authentic human values.

There are two important practices that we plan to add in the Diocese’s schools thanks to our Comprehensive School Plan. In some ways they are so obvious that perhaps they may seem unnecessary. They have to do with the expression of commitment parents and teachers make together to assure the right formation of our children.

One practice is the teachers’ Catholic/Christian Commitment of Faith. For many years a similar component (Christian Commitment Statement) has been a part of every teacher contract. In the future this statement will be expanded as a more formal statement of the teachers’ dedication to the work of education and formation. It would be particularly meaningful if this commitment could be expressed and “celebrated” each year in a parish or school Mass.

The Teachers’ Commitment Statement begins, “As a teacher in a Catholic School, I am directly involved in the formation of youth in the name of the Catholic Church. In carrying out these solemn responsibilities as a teacher, I will conduct myself in a manner that does not contradict her doctrinal and moral teachings.”

Through the statement the teacher goes on to express a readiness to practice their faith, and live in a way which is appropriate to one entrusted with the care and formation of our precious young people.

While we ask so much of our teachers, we know that it is also important that the parents of our school children make their commitment to fully live up to their role as “first teachers” of their children. In this way both teachers and parents will determine to work together for the authentic Catholic/Christian formation of our young people.

A Parents’ Statement is being formulated now, similar to one used already in several of our schools. It is a Covenant Agreement whereby parents pledge that they will attend church services every week and see to it that their children attend each week. For Catholics, this means participating in Holy Mass every Sunday (weekend) and Holyday. For non-Catholics, this means attending church services of their choice every week.

I am convinced that this new resolve will help secure – ever more deeply - the Catholic identity of our schools. It will strengthen us all in the example we give each other, and assist our children to grow into the maturity and responsibility of their religious faith.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Doug Kmiec Now Just a Liar

Responding to a "whaddya think of the president now?" email from Dan Gilgoff at US News & World Report, Doug Kmiec comments on the president's pick of Kathleen Sebelius for HHS Secretary (my emphases):
With regard to Secretary-designate Sebelius, I believe she is a highly capable and respected administrator who fully believes in the protection of human life at all its stages, and will advance that goal by working for one of the most important health reforms in our history—that, as a matter of faith and justice, will no longer overlook the needs of the poor and uninsured, but instead will ask the type of tough questions that will address billing practices and medical record practices that needlessly raise the price and reduce the quality of health care provided for all Americans. I very much regret that on a few occasions, she and her bishop have not been in agreement on what is legislatively possible and legally defensible in terms of life efforts, though I trust the Governor's training and disposition as someone who has funded abortion reduction and adoption efforts and as someone who would only with the greatest reluctance disapprove well-intentioned legislation that under existing law, she has been counseled, would likely be found unconstitutional.

Thankfully, the director of the Kansas Catholic Conference - an agency with actual knowledge of the governor's record - sets the record straight (h/t Catholic World News), excerpt:
The fact is, Governor Sebelius’s record of uncompromising support for the most extreme elements of the abortion industry is beyond anyone’s power to misrepresent. It is clear. It is unambiguous. As a legislator and governor, she has opposed any and every form of abortion restriction, including parental notification. She even vetoed abortion clinic licensing, twice, despite the uproar over a Kansas City abortion clinic where fetal remains were kept in the same refrigerator as food and where a dead rat was found in the hallway. Not even the death of a mentally disabled teenager who underwent a third-trimester abortion at George Tiller’s infamous clinic in Wichita could convince her that abortion clinics should face licensing regulation.

Doug Kmiec spent 2008 trying to convince Catholics that Barack Obama was the true pro-life candidate. Now that President Obama has overturned the Mexico City policy, the Bush embryonic stem-cell policy, and begun the process of overturning conscience protection regulations-- all in less than two months' work-- Professor Kmiec and his associates have another bridge to sell you. It’s in Kansas. You know, Kansas: the late-term abortion capital of the country.

The conference's statement takes apart several claims made by Catholics for Sebelius and is a valuable resource. Read it in full here.

To say Sebelius is someone "who fully believes in the protection of human life at all its stages," is not just spin. It is a brazen lie.

And if you haven't yet seen it, check out Archbishop Naumann's statement on his "not being in agreement" with Sebelius "on a few occasions."

On a side note, much of propaganda Kmiec offers in the Gilgoff interview can be found in Kmiec's post-election columns at Catholic News Service. We'll take a look at those in a later post.

Catholic Sponsored Anti-Catholic Bill Pulled

Connecticut Bill 1098 has been pulled and the ever-quotable Bill Donohue of the Catholic League remains quotable:
The bill that would allow the state legislature in Connecticut to reconfigure the governing structure of the Catholic Church has been pulled. Introduced by Rep. Michael Lawlor and Sen. Andrew McDonald, the bill was withdrawn at the behest of the person who proposed it, Tom Gallagher; he is a contributor to the National Catholic Reporter, a left-wing Catholic newspaper. Attorney General Richard Blumenthal will now review the constitutionality of the bill.

Catholic League president Bill Donohue responded as follows:

“Every pre-law undergraduate knows that what Lawlor and McDonald tried to pull off—in stealth fashion—was flagrantly unconstitutional. For their fascist stunt, they should at least be censured by their colleagues. Ideally, they should resign or be forced out of office.

“The big losers are the Catholic left-wing activists who pushed for this measure. To be specific, Voice of the Faithful, a dissident Catholic group comprised mainly of senior citizens, has been promoting a lay Catholic takeover of the Catholic Church for many years. Also, their ideological kinfolk at the National Catholic Reporter republished an article by Gallagher calling for an aggressive civil law approach to parish governance.

“Lawlor, McDonald, Gallagher, Voice of the Faithful, and the National Catholic Reporter totally underestimated the reaction of rank-and-file Catholics. Chalk up a big victory for Catholics who are loyal to the Magisterium of the Catholic Church and to the religious liberty provisions of the First Amendment.”

But much craziness and threats to parental, religious and conscience rights remain on the table in Connecticut, according to this report at the NCRegister, excerpt:
Bad news: Connecticut hasn’t given up subverting the Church. The CT.gov “Safe Harbor Project” includes this (pdf format) “Gay Bible” site, and this “Don’t Tell Your Parents!” info for kids. . .