Thursday, September 30, 2010

New Jersey Defunds Planned Parenthood

Narional Catholic Register

TRENTON, N.J. — New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s veto of a bill that included funding for Planned Parenthood has withstood a challenge from Democrats in the state senate.

The veto deprived the state’s leading abortion provider of money that is essential to its continued operation.

The $7.5-million cut in funding is part of Christie’s wide-ranging austerity program for cash-strapped New Jersey. Although the governor is pro-life, both his aides and senate Republicans were quick to emphasize that this was primarily a fiscal decision. The funding bill, S2139, was part of a trio of spending bills vetoed simultaneously because there was no money to pay for them.

The bill in question was a supplemental spending bill for “Women’s Health and Family Planning Services.” It was set to distribute $7,453,000 to 58 abortion businesses throughout the state. Of these facilities, 29 are run by Planned Parenthood, the largest provider of abortion services in the state and the nation. At least three of the businesses that were to receive funding provide abortions on site, and others refer patients for abortions.

The bill passed the House and Senate at the end of June 2010, with seven senate Republicans voting in favor of it after a proviso was added barring the use of funds to pay for abortions. The governor, however, balked at the scheme to pay for the bill by diverting money from the State Employees’’ Prescription Drug Program (SEPDP) and vetoed it.

One of the lead sponsors, Sen. Loretta Weinberg, D-Bergen, led an attempt to override the veto and initially had the votes to do so. However, the seven Republicans who originally voted in favor of the bill changed their votes when State Treasurer Andrew Sidamon-Eristoff informed them that the plan “would wipe our already inadequate reserve and place the SEPDP in an actual deficit of $5.6 million. This would place year-end prescription drug claims for active state employees and their dependents at risk.”
This loss of Republican support allowed the veto to stand.

Alternate Sources
Despite these setbacks, pro-abortion forces in the Senate reintroduced the funding in two new bills, S2293 and S2294. These new bills attempt to locate the money in other sources, including the Department of Corrections.

There is no guarantee that the seven pro-abortion Republicans will not support these bills if they find the revenue sources satisfactory, thus allowing them to pass with a veto-proof majority.

Jennifer Beck, R-Red Bank, one of the senators who switched her vote, said, “We clearly can’t spend money that doesn’t exist. I’d like to suggest we increase our own contributions to our health care and use that to fund family planning. Let’s join together to find another source of funding.”

The point was echoed by Sen. Diane Allen, R-Burlington, who said, “We can’t spend money we don’t have. Let’s find funding that really exists.”

Sen. Donald Norcross, D-Camden, has suggested selling the state’s box seats at the Meadowlands sports arena in order to restore the funding.

Supporters of the bill are quick to point out all of the women’s health services provided by this bill, including breast exams, pap smears, contraception and STD testing. Weinberg even boasted about “40,000 unplanned pregnancies” being prevented.

The most recent data, for the year ending June 2008, reveal that Planned Parenthood provided only 4,012 adoption referrals and 10,914 prenatal care services nationwide. By contrast, they provided 305,310 abortions. Fully one-third of their $1.2-billion budget came from government funding, and they reported profits of $115 million.

Read more here.

North Dakota bishop leads procession at abortion clinic amid protests

Fargo, N.D., Sep 29, 2010 / 12:51 am (CNA)

In time for the upcoming Respect Life Month of October, Bishop Samuel Aquila of Fargo, North Dakota presided over an annual Mass and led a procession over 700 people to a local abortion clinic last Sunday, encountering oppositional protestors for the first time.

The Diocese of Fargo estimated that on Sunday, 700 to 800 people from St. Mary’s Cathedral processed to the local Red River Women’s Clinic, North Dakota’s only abortion facility in downtown Fargo. Director of Communications for the diocese Tanya R. Watterud told CNA that Bishop Aquila led the procession several blocks, carrying a monstrance with Blessed Sacrament and also sprinkling the clinic with holy water amidst pro-abortion demonstrators.

During his homily at the Mass preceding the procession, Bishop Aquila stated that the purpose of the event was “to give witness to the gift of life and particularly the dignity of human life from the moment of conception to natural death.”

“Even reason and science would point to the truth that life begins at the moment of conception,” he noted. “For those who are unbelievers, they can come to know the truth of the dignity of human life through both reason and science.”

“We must also, when speaking of abortion, speak the truth about it,” and refrain from using terms such as “interruption of pregnancy” or “only a mass of cells.”

“Every time a child is aborted it is murder and it is important for us to call it by its proper name.” Individuals, he added, should not use the “politically correct language” of the media but “speak the truth and to speak it clearly.”

He then encouraged those present to pray for the gift of fortitude “to be those people who constantly remind our society and remind others that life is a gift…that every human being created is created in the image and likeness of God from the moment of conception…that every human being has the right to life.”

The bishop also explained that the holy water that would be used to sprinkle the facility showed “prayers for purification…in terms of reparation for what happens there because, ultimately, it is the murder of unborn that takes place there.”

Watterud told CNA that later at the procession following the sprinkling, Bishop Aquila again took the monstrance into his hands and continued back to the Cathedral, while parishioners in attendance prayed the Rosary while walking.

Spectacular Virtual Tour of the Tomb of St. Peter on Vatican Website

Surprising Statement of the Day

John King of CNN Bashes Obama for Calling Fox "Destructive" and MSNBC "Invaluable". It's a scathing critique that is just relentless.

Cartoon of the Day - Colbert at Congress

Today on Kresta - September 30, 2010

Talking about the "things that matter most" on Sept. 30

4:00 – Fr. Thomas Dubay: RIP
Father Thomas Edward Dubay, S.M. died Sunday, September 26, 2010 at the age of 88 years at Holy Cross Hospital in Silver Spring, MD. He had been admitted to Holy Cross the previous day from the nursing care facility, Springbrook Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, where he had been living for less than a month. He was a well-known retreat master, author of more than 20 books, host of a number of EWTN television series, and one of the greatest experts on the spiritual life in the Catholic Church today. We pay tribute to him by listening to a piece of one of his appearances on “Kresta in the Afternoon.”

4:20 – Parenting with Grace: The Catholic Parents' Guide to Raising almost Perfect Kids 2nd Edition
Family therapist and parent, Gregory Popcak, and his wife, Lisa, are back with their second edition of Parenting with Grace: The Catholic Parents' Guide to Raising almost Perfect Kids. This latest updated version continues to guide parents through each stage of child development from infancy to adolescence, offering additional age-specific advice on parenting with grace. Filled with honesty, practical examples, and thought-provoking quizzes, the book helps parents discover their own God-given instructional manual for creating a highly individualized, completely Catholic parenting plan for raising their children.

5:00 - CNN: “What the Pope Knew”
This weekend CNN aired a special entitled “What the Pope Knew” – focusing on the worldwide clerical sex abuse scandal. According to CNN promo material “CNN national correspondent Gary Tuchman reports for What the Pope Knew, investigating some of the most notorious pedophile priest cases in the United States and finds that the pope, as Cardinal Ratzinger, had direct responsibility for how they were handled. CNN’s investigation reveals that Ratzinger opposed or slowed down the defrocking of some priests, including convicted child molesters.” Matthew Bunson is here to respond.

5:40 – Fr. Thomas Dubay: RIP
Father Thomas Edward Dubay, S.M. died Sunday, September 26, 2010 at the age of 88 years at Holy Cross Hospital in Silver Spring, MD. He had been admitted to Holy Cross the previous day from the nursing care facility, Springbrook Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, where he had been living for less than a month. He was a well-known retreat master, author of more than 20 books, host of a number of EWTN television series, and one of the greatest experts on the spiritual life in the Catholic Church today. We pay tribute to him by listening to a piece of one of his appearances on “Kresta in the Afternoon.”

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Cathedral suspends artist who opposes Church teaching on same-sex marriage

By Taylor Selcke of

Last week Lucinda Naylor, the artist in residence at the Basilica of St. Mary‘s, began planning a work of art – which would lead to the suspension of her job.

Despite the suspension, Naylor is still working on the art installation piece, which is meant as a protest to DVDs sent out by the Catholic Church.

The DVD defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman and includes an appearance from Archbishop John Nienstedt of St. Paul and Minneapolis saying the definition of marriage should be brought before Minnesota voters.

The videos were mailed to approximately 400,000 Catholic homes in Minnesota last Wednesday. They were paid for by an anonymous donor.

Naylor , who held her position at the Basilica for 15 years before her suspension Sunday, said she was planning to create the artwork because she "wanted to send the message that not all Catholics share the exclusionary views of the archbishop."

However, Naylor doesn’t want to dwell on her suspension.

"The church felt like they had no choice but to let me go. All I want to do is focus on creating a positive piece of art," she said.

In an interview with Minnesota Public Radio, Nienstedt said the church has "been labeled as discriminating against gay people. There’s no discrimination when there isn’t a basic right to something. And those who have the right to marriage are men and women who want to enter into a lifelong, mutually supportive and procreative relationship."

Kresta in the Afternoon Note: Kudos to our friend Archbishop Nienstedt. Keep fighting the good fight.

Appeals court decision resumes federal funding of embryonic stem cell research

An appeals court ruled Tuesday that government funding of embryonic stem cell research can continue for now.

The U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington granted the Obama administration's request to allow the funding from the National Institutes of Health while it appeals a judge's order blocking the research.

The administration had argued that stopping the research while the case proceeds would irreparably harm scientific progress toward potentially lifesaving medical treatment.

U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth had blocked President Barack Obama's research funding guidelines because he said it's likely they violate the law against federal funding of embryo destruction.

A three-judge panel of the appeals court issued an unusually quick decision, a day after hearing arguments over whether the funding could continue while it considers the case. The court also said it would expedite the case.

Researchers hope one day to use stem cells in ways that cure spinal cord injuries, Parkinson's disease and other ailments. Opponents say the research is a form of abortion because human embryos must be destroyed to obtain the stem cells.

A 1996 law prohibits the use of taxpayer dollars in work that harms an embryo, so batches have been culled using private money. But those batches can reproduce in lab dishes indefinitely, and Obama administration issued rules permitting taxpayer dollars to be used in work with the already created batches.

The administration thus expanded the number of stem cell lines created with private money that federally funded scientists could research, up from the 21 that President George W. Bush had allowed to 75 so far.

"President Obama made expansion of stem cell research and the pursuit of groundbreaking treatments and cures a top priority when he took office," White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said in a statement after the ruling. "We're heartened that the court will allow NIH and their grantees to continue moving forward while the appeal is resolved."

Ron Stoddart with Nightlight Christian Adoptions, which filed the suit and helps with the adoption of human embryos that are being stored in fertilization clinics, said the case promises to be a long and involved process. "I think that eventually Congress has to step up and deal with it," he said.

3 traditional Anglican bishops have 2nd thoughts about union with Rome

The three newest bishops of the Traditional Anglican Communion are having second thoughts about union with the Holy See and are instead engaged in merger talks with the Anglican Province of America-- a separate body of disaffected Anglicans-- according to a letter released by Archbishop John Hepworth, primate of the Traditional Anglican Communion.

“The College of Bishops [of the Traditional Anglican Communion] has been committed to seeking unity with the Holy See since the inception of the Traditional Anglican Communion,” said Archbishop Hepworth. Recalling that the bishops of the Traditional Anglican Communion formally assented to the Catechism of the Catholic Church and that Pope Benedict’s apostolic constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus-- which provides for the establishment of Anglican ordinariates-- was a response to that petition, Archbishop Hepworth added:
There is no urgent pressure on individuals to join an Ordinariate. Individual discernment and a response in conscience undergird the corporate reunion that is at the heart of Anglicanorum Coetibus. There is no such luxury permitted to bishops, who have the sacred obligation by virtue of their office itself to teach in such a way that clergy and people form a true conscience. A bishop who cannot teach what the College has defined (and what is the universal teaching of the East and the West) has only one option, and that is to stand aside until he can teach in accord with the Church.

Over 25,000 people at the Beatification of Chiara Luce Badano

Outrageous statement of the Day - Alan Grayson’s ‘Taliban Dan’ Ad Under Scrutiny

One of the most dispicable campaign ads I have ever seen.

Cartoon of the Day - Great Recession Over

Today on Kresta - September 29, 2010

Talking about the "things that matter most" on Sept. 29

4:00 - Oracles of Science: Celebrity Scientists versus God and Religion
Biologists Stephen Jay Gould, Richard Dawkins, and Edward O. Wilson, and physicists Carl Sagan, Stephen Hawking, and Steven Weinberg have become public intellectuals, articulating a much larger vision for science and what role it should play in the modern worldview. The scientific prestige and literary eloquence of each of these great thinkers combine to transform them into what can only be called oracles of science. Curiously, the leading "oracles of science" are predominantly secular in ways that don't reflect the distribution of religious beliefs within the scientific community. Many of them are even hostile to religion, creating a false impression that science as a whole is incompatible with religion. Karl Giberson offers an informed analysis of the views of these six scientists, carefully distinguishing science from philosophy and religion in the writings of the oracles.

4:20 – The Bible's Best Love Stories
Allen Wright is here to delve into the Bible, the greatest collection of love stories ever told. He selects 20 stories for us to experience in a new way. He identifies from Old and New Testaments the people who wanted to love and to be loved, people with passion, people who formed strong bonds of friendship, people who were loyal, people who had sexual desires, people who failed and received forgiveness, and people who strived to find God in the providence of their daily lives. He examines twenty stories of all kinds of love—spousal, friend, familial, etc.—in the Bible and challenges us to make the "love connection" in our own lives and in our relationship with God.

5:00 – Camped just outside the gates of hell
If any place on earth could be described as God-forsaken, it would be the Chicago streets where drug-ravaged young men sell their bodies in prostitution. But every night, John Green’s Emmaeus Ministries proves that God is there. For twenty years, Emmaus has been a source of transformation for some of the most tragic human beings in our society. After a comfortable suburban upbringing, John has worked with runaways and the homeless in New York and Latin America. Discerning a call to minister to young people on the streets, especially young men caught up in sexual exploitation, he founded Emmaus. Through faith, hope, and unconditional love, Emmaus uncovers the image of God where it is most deeply and cruelly hidden. He is here to share.

5:20 - President Obama Talks Faith / Jesus
President Barack Obama is getting more public about his Christianity. First he raised his Christian faith at a White House news conference this month. Then he went church for the first time in five months. And on Tuesday he responded to a question with an expansive talk about how he chose Christianity, how Jesus Christ influences his life and how he prays every day. These public displays of his religion mark a change from the first year and a half of his presidency, when he kept his faith a largely private matter — and they come after a poll found a growing number of Americans mistakenly think he's a Muslim, or don't know his religion. Author of numerous books on faith and the presidency, Paul Kengor, joins us.

5:30 – Feast of the Archangels
The liturgy for today celebrates the feast of the three archangels who have been venerated throughout the history of the Church, Michael (from the Hebrew Who is like God?) is the archangel who defends the friends of God against Satan and all his evil angels. Gabriel, (the Power of God), is chosen by the Creator to announce to Mary the mystery of the Incarnation. Raphael, (the Medicine of God), is the archangel who takes care of Tobias on his journey. Steve Ray is here to take us into a deeper understanding of the Archangels.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Depressing Stats on American Ignorance of Religious Knowledge

A survey of 3,412 Americans conducted by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life has documented the extent of religious ignorance.

While 44% of Americans speak frequently with friends and family about religion,
•only 71% could name the place of Jesus birth
•67% inaccurately believe that public school teachers are forbidden to “read from the Bible as an example of literature”
•only 63% could name the first book of the Bible
•only 54% could name the Muslim holy book
•52% of Americans think that Catholics believe that “the bread and wine are symbols of the body and blood of Jesus Christ,” while 45% say that Catholics believe that “the bread and wine actually become the body and blood of Jesus Christ”
•only 46% could name Martin Luther as “the person whose writings and actions inspired the Protestant Reformation”
•only 45% could name the four Gospels
•more Americans (28%) believe that Billy Graham participated in the First Great Awakening than that Jonathan Edwards did (11%)
•more Americans (36%) believe that Brown v. Board of Education case-- which ended segregation in public schools-- focused on evolution than believes that the Scopes trial (which actually focused on evolution) did (31%)

The survey also found that:
•69% are “absolutely certain” that God or a universal spirit exists, while 17% are “fairly certain” and 6% are atheists
•48% read Scripture at least monthly
•only 59% of Americans know that the vice president of the United States is Joe Biden

Perhaps worst is who knew what. Atheists and agnostics, Jews and Mormons are among the highest-scoring groups on questions about the core teachings, history and leading figures of major world religions, outperforming evangelical Protestants, mainline Protestants and Catholics.

Read more here from the Pew Forum...if you can take it.

Pope appoints Ricardo Blázquez to investigate the Regnum Christi

Cartoon of the Day - Obama supporters

Talking about the "things that matter most" on Sept. 28

4:00 - CNN: “What the Pope Knew”
This weekend CNN aired a special entitled “What the Pope Knew” – focusing on the worldwide clerical sex abuse scandal. According to CNN promo material “CNN national correspondent Gary Tuchman reports for What the Pope Knew, investigating some of the most notorious pedophile priest cases in the United States and finds that the pope, as Cardinal Ratzinger, had direct responsibility for how they were handled. CNN’s investigation reveals that Ratzinger opposed or slowed down the defrocking of some priests, including convicted child molesters.” Matthew Bunson is here to respond.

4:20 – Camped just outside the gates of hell
If any place on earth could be described as God-forsaken, it would be the Chicago streets where drug-ravaged young men sell their bodies in prostitution. But every night, John Green’s Emmaeus Ministries proves that God is there. For twenty years, Emmaus has been a source of transformation for some of the most tragic human beings in our society. After a comfortable suburban upbringing, John has worked with runaways and the homeless in New York and Latin America. Discerning a call to minister to young people on the streets, especially young men caught up in sexual exploitation, he founded Emmaus. Through faith, hope, and unconditional love, Emmaus uncovers the image of God where it is most deeply and cruelly hidden. He is here to share.

4:40 – USCCB Reprimands 2 Creighton Theologians Over Their Book The Sexual Person
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops on Wednesday issued a sharply worded rebuke of a book co-authored by two Creighton University theologians. The Sexual Person: Toward a Renewed Catholic Anthropology was published in 2008 and written by Todd A. Salzman, chairman of the Creighton University Department of Theology, and Michael G. Lawler, the department’s professor emeritus. The book attempts to provide moral justification for contemporary sexual behaviors that consistently have been held to be immoral by the Catholic Church. Drafted by the USCCB’s Committee on Doctrine, it calls the authors’ conclusions “a radical departure from the Catholic theological tradition,” erroneous, and “harmful to one’s moral and spiritual life.” We talk to Fr. Daniel Mindling of Mount St. Mary’s Seminary.

5:00 – Pope Visits U.K. / Beatifies Newman: A Recap
A rainbow appeared over Cofton Park as Pope Benedict arrived last Sunday morning for the beatification Mass of Cardinal John Henry Newman, the 19th century English theologian who has had a significant influence on the Holy Father's own life. Large numbers of faithful from all over the country and further afield had braved the rain and made their way from the very early hours of the morning to the venue near Birmingham, not far from Cardinal Newman's resting place. This was a particularly special beatification Mass: not only was it the only such Mass celebrated by Benedict XVI, but it was also the first beatification of an Englishman for centuries. The Holy Father arrived in the popemobile and, as in Glasgow earlier in the week, was driven through a crowd of around 70,000 jubilant pilgrims. On either side of the purpose-built altar were the words 'Heart Speaks to Heart', the theme chosen by the Pope for the papal visit, and taken from the crest of Cardinal Newman. It was the highlight of the Papal visit to the UK and Fr. C. John McCloskey is here to recap the Papal visit with us.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Karnataka: police arrest Pentecostal pastor beaten by Hindu extremists

A Pentecostal pastor Shivanda Siddi was arrested in Karnataka yesterday, with the false accusation of forcing conversions to Christianity. Sajan K. George, chairman of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC) told AsiaNews that he was simply celebrating Sunday services at his Church Gnanodaya ("Dawn of Knowledge) in the Umachagi village, Mundgod Taluk.

For five years the pastor has devoted himself to the small community of about 25 faithful, especially tribals.

Sajan explians that "the Sunday service began as usual at 10. Around 11 am, while the faithful prayed, five activists of the Bajrang Dal [Hindu extremist group] stormed the church and started arguing with the minister. Then they insulted him, beat him, and stripped him of his clothes, they took the Bibles from the faithful. The physical and verbal aggression continued for about 30 minutes, then the extremists telephoned the police station in Yellapur, about 3 km away”.

"A police inspector of Yellapur arrived in a jeep and took the pastor, with 7 women and 2 young children, to the police station. The extremists followed threatening them in front of the police station, who watched in silence. "

The GCIC intervened and the police have released the women and children, at 18.30, without charge. Instead, the pastor was brought before the judge and charged under Section 295 of the Penal Code, which provides for forced conversions. He has been brought to the Sirsi prison in Uttar Kananda.

Sajan adds there were "at least 47 documented anti-Christian incidents” in Karnataka in 2010". “I am referring only to cases where Christians have been arrested. But there are countless attacks on Christians, in which pastors are periodically slapped, beaten, insulted, or services disrupted and the faithful threatened, or Bibles and other Christian texts burned or torn, or stones thrown at Christian buildings, which should be considered a disgrace for a secular and democratic country. "

Vatican bank head meets with Pope; encounter seen as show of support

Pope Benedict XVI met with Ettore Gotti Tedeschi, the embattled head of the Vatican bank, after his Angelus audience on September 26.

Tedeschi and his wife were among the handful of people who were personally presented to the Pontiff after his midday audience at his summer residence in Castel Gandolfo. The two exchanged a few words.

The public meeting was interpreted by the ANSA news agency as a demonstration of the Pope’s support for Tedeschi, who is the subject of a money-laundering investigation by Italian officials.

Cartoon of the Day - Peace

Today on Kresta - September 27, 2010

Talking about the "things that matter most" on Sept. 27

4:00 - Don’t Ask / Don’t Tell – The Evolution of A Policy
In what's being seen as a legal chipping away at don't ask, don't tell, US District Judge Ronald Leighton ruled Friday that former Air Force Reserve Maj. Margaret Witt, a lesbian military nurse, should be "reinstated at the earliest possible moment." The ruling comes just weeks after a federal judge in California struck down as unconstitutional the 1993 law banning openly gay men and women from serving in the US military. But changing the law through Congressional means hasn’t been so easy. Senate Democrats tried unsuccessfully this week to attach a repeal of don't ask, don't tell to the annual defense spending bill but it was blocked by Senate Republicans. We talk with Dean of Ave Maria Law School Gene Milhizer.

4:20 – Confessions of a Mega-Church Pastor
Tens of thousands of American adults join the Catholic Church every year. Why? What is it that attracts them to Catholicism? In Confessions of a Mega-Church Pastor, Allen Hunt unveils the treasures of Catholicism that many life-long Catholics are simply unaware of. At the same time he demonstrates the genius of Catholicism and encourages us to move beyond taking our faith for granted. With a personal touch that is profound and disarming, Hunt takes his readers on a journey that is sure to change the way we experience our faith. At a time when so many are disillusioned about where the Catholic Church is and where it is going, Allen Hunt brilliantly reminds us that personal holiness is the key to the bigger future God wants to leads us to both as individuals and together as a Church.

5:00 – DUPES: How America's Adversaries Have Manipulated Progressives for a Century
In this startling, intensively researched book, bestselling historian Paul Kengor shines light on a deeply troubling aspect of American history: the prominent role of the “dupe.” From the Bolshevik Revolution through the Cold War and right up to the present, many progressives have unwittingly aided some of America’s most dangerous opponents. Based on never-before-published FBI files, Soviet archives, and other primary sources, Dupes exposes the legions of liberals who have furthered the objectives of America’s adversaries. Kengor shows not only how such dupes contributed to history’s most destructive ideology—Communism, which claimed at least 100 million lives—but also why they are so relevant to today’s politics.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Pope has routed his enemies and brought joy to the faithful

By William Oddie on Monday, 20 September 2010
Catholic Herald - UK

How does one sum up the papal visit in a few words? A survey of the four days, event by event – four days which began (so far as I am concerned) in anxiety which quickly turned to relief and ended finally in euphoria – simply can’t be done in less than the length of a short book, and I have only 400 or 500 words for this post, though in the print edition of the paper which appears later this week I shall be given more than double the space for an extended version of it, in which I shall look also at the very interesting coverage of the visit by the secular media. That aspect of the visit will have to be briefly summarised here by the words of Dr George Carey in the News of the World: “he came, he saw, he conquered”.

The richness, volume and sheer variety of the teaching the Pope gave us, and its perfect suitability for each of its many very different audiences, ranging from his intellectually hugely impressive address to the leaders of civil society in Westminster Hall to his call to that enthusiastic audience of schoolchildren to aim at becoming saints, was astonishing. And perhaps the first thing that needs to be said is that this was above all a personal triumph for the Holy Father himself. What came over consistently was the huge warmth, the seemingly inexhaustible loving kindness of the Pope’s gentle but nevertheless powerful personality. After all the caricatures, the man emerged.

Despite his intellectual impressiveness, which was evident throughout, everyone now knows that this is no withdrawn, scholarly rigorist, incapable of relating to people or understanding their lives: this alleged coldness, it was widely claimed, was what explained the supposed lack of enthusiasm about the visit, even among Catholics.

Well, we will hear no more now about his purported lack of charisma, an assessment invariably followed with a comparison, to Pope Benedict’s disadvantage, with John Paul II. Pope Benedict is, we have now all seen, hugely charismatic: but his charisma is of a different kind, less dramatic, less forcefully energetic than that of Pope John Paul.

Of course; they were always very different men: but Pope Benedict has all the charisma he needs, and in both the senses given by the Oxford Dictionary: 1) “a compelling attractiveness or charm that can inspire devotion in others” and 2) “a divinely conferred power or talent”. For, in the end, let us never forget that what we have witnessed has come from God, whose presence has been very close throughout not only to the Pope himself but also to all who were praying for his success – protecting, inspiring, allaying our fears and in the end fulfilling all our hopes.

Dr William Oddie is a leading English Catholic writer and broadcaster. He edited The Catholic Herald from 1998 to 2004 and is the author of The Roman Option and Chesterton and the Romance of Orthodoxy.

Outrageous Statement of the Day

On the 21 September 2010 edition of CNN's Rick's List, anchor Rick Sanchez noted how President Obama was apparently being "dogged" and blamed conservative talk radio hosts and "Fox News, which is, essentially, the voice of the Republican Party." Now you can agree or disagree with that statement. I tend to agree with it more than I disagree. But that's not what is outrageous. What is outrageous is the hypocricy in NOT admitting that CNN and MSNBC every bit as much the voice of the Democrat Party as Fox News is the voice of the Republican Party.

Cartoon of the Day - End of Recession

University of Notre Dame announces new coordinator for pro-life issues

Sep 21, 2010 (EWTN News/CNA)

Continuing its response to the controversy over President Obama’s speech at the prominent Catholic institution, the University of Notre Dame has announced the creation of a coordinator for pro-life initiatives. The new coordinator says she is honored to hold the position and will work to advance the Catholic identity of the university.

The Task Force on Supporting the Choice for Life, which ended its service in May, recommended to Notre Dame president Fr. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., the creation of structures to implement its previous recommendations and to continue its work. Fr. Jenkins then created the position of coordinator for university life initiatives and appointed 2010 Notre Dame graduate Mary K. Daly to the post.

Daly served as president of Notre Dame Right for Life and was a spokeswoman for NDResponse, a coalition opposed to the honoring of President Barack Obama. She will coordinate present efforts to implement the task force’s recommendations and will serve as a liaison between various university departments and offices to advance collaboration on life issues.

According to the University of Notre Dame, she will also seek ways to “broaden and deepen respect for the sanctity of life” at the university and beyond.

Her office will be located in the Institute for Church Life and she will report to John C. Cavadini, the McGrath-Cavadini Director of the Institute for Church Life who was a co-chair of the task force. She will also organize a faculty advisory committee to be chaired by Cavadini.

Daly responded to an inquiry from EWTN News in a Tuesday afternoon e-mail.

She said she was “very pleased” that the university created a permanent position dedicated to increasing the institution’s “witness to the culture of life.”

“I am grateful and honored to have been invited to work with the university on these initiatives,” Daly commented. She said her position will also help support and enhance the university’s mission and vision “as a Catholic institution of higher education.”

The new coordinator explained that fostering “a respect for the sanctity and dignity of life, from conception to natural death” will be one of her priorities, as will be fostering an increase in understanding of “the major life issues.”

Daly reported that discussion of possible action and initiatives has been “very lively.”

In addition to implementing the task force’s recommendations, she said the coordinator will support academic scholarship on life issues from both students and faculty. The coordinator will also create education efforts to inform the campus on life issues.

Daly told EWTN News her position will strengthen the university’s support both for student-led right-to-life initiatives and for pregnant and parenting students.

Commenting in the university’s press release, Fr. Jenkins thanked the members of the Task Force on Supporting the Choice for Life for their “exemplary” service.

“I look forward to continued progress in this important area as we work together in future years,” he commented, according to the University of Notre Dame.

Fr. Jenkins has followed several recommendations of the task force, such as personally participating in the National March for Life in January in Washington, D.C. The task force also recommended both the development of principles for charitable giving and the adoption of a statement on the university’s support for Catholic teaching on the sanctity of life.

Notre Dame law professor Charles Rice has been critical of some of the university administration’s responses, saying Notre Dame should have had an official presence at every March for Life since 1973. Last year Rice said any changes would be “cosmetic” unless charges are dropped against pro-life protesters arrested at the time of the 2009 commencement.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Catholics and the Next America

Catholics and the Next America
Sep 17, 2010
Archbishop Charles J. Chaput

One of the key myths of the American Catholic imagination is this: After 200 years of fighting against public prejudice, Catholics finally broke through into America’s mainstream with the 1960 election of John F. Kennedy as president. It’s a happy thought, and not without grounding. Next to America’s broad collection of evangelical churches, baptized Catholics now make up the biggest religious community in the United States. They serve in large numbers in Congress. They have a majority on the Supreme Court. They play commanding roles in the professions and in business leadership. They’ve climbed, at long last, the Mt. Zion of social acceptance.

So goes the tale. What this has actually meant for the direction of American life, however, is another matter. Catholic statistics once seemed impressive. They filled many of us with tribal pride. But they didn’t stop a new and quite alien national landscape, a “next America,” from emerging right under our noses.

While both Barna Group and Pew Research Center data show that Americans remain a broadly Christian people, old religious loyalties are steadily softening. Overall, the number of Americans claiming no religious affiliation, about 16 percent, has doubled since 1990. One quarter of Americans aged 18-29 have no affiliation with any particular religion, and as the Barna Group noted in 2007, they “exhibit a greater degree of criticism toward Christianity than did previous generations when they were at the same stage of life. In fact, in just a decade . . . the Christian image [has] shifted substantially downward, fueled in part by a growing sense of disengagement and disillusionment among young people.”

Catholic losses have been masked by Latino immigration. But while 31 percent of Americans say they were raised in the Catholic faith, fewer than 24 percent of Americans now describe themselves as Catholic.

These facts have weight because, traditionally, religious faith has provided the basis for Americans’ moral consensus. And that moral consensus has informed American social policy and law. What people believe—or don’t believe—about God, helps to shape what they believe about men and women. And what they believe about men and women creates the framework for a nation’s public life.

Or to put it more plainly: In the coming decades Catholics will likely find it harder, not easier, to influence the course of American culture, or even to live their faith authentically. And the big difference between the “next America” and the old one will be that plenty of other committed religious believers may find themselves in the same unpleasant jam as their Catholic cousins.

At first hearing, this scenario might sound implausible; and for good reason. The roots of the American experience are deeply Protestant. They go back a very long way, to well before the nation’s founding. Whatever one thinks of the early Puritan colonists—and Catholics have few reasons to remember them fondly—no reader can study Gov. John Winthrop’s great 1630 homily before embarking for New England without being moved by the zeal and candor of the faith that produced it. In “A model of Christian charity,” he told his fellow colonists:

We are a company professing ourselves fellow members of Christ . . . That which the most in their churches maintain as truth in profession only, we must bring into familiar and constant practice; as in this duty of love, we must love brotherly without dissimulation, we must love one another with pure heart fervently. We must bear one another’s burdens. We must look not only on our own things, but also on the things of our brethren . . . We must be willing to abridge ourselves of our superfluities, for the supply of others’ necessities. We must uphold a familiar commerce together in all meekness, gentleness, patience and liberality. We must delight in each; make others’ conditions our own; rejoice together, mourn together, labor and suffer together, always having before our eyes our commission and community in the work, as members of the same body. So we will keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace.
Not a bad summary of Christian discipleship, made urgent for Winthrop by the prospect of leading 700 souls on a hard, two-month voyage across the North Atlantic to an equally hard New World. What happened when they got there is a matter of historical record. And different agendas interpret the record differently.

The Puritan habits of hard work, industry and faith branded themselves on the American personality. While Puritan influence later diluted in waves of immigrants from other Protestant traditions, it clearly helped shape the political beliefs of John Adams and many of the other American Founders. Adams and his colleagues were men who, as Daniel Boorstin once suggested, had minds that were a “miscellany and a museum;” men who could blend the old and the new, an earnest Christian faith and Enlightenment ideas, without destroying either.

But beginning in the nineteenth century, riding a crest of scientific and industrial change, a different view of the Puritans began to emerge. In the language of their critics, the Puritans were seen as intolerant, sexually repressed, narrow-minded witch-hunters who masked material greed with a veneer of Calvinist virtue. Cast as religious fanatics, the Puritans stood accused of planting the seed of nationalist messianism by portraying America as a New Jerusalem, a “city upon a hill” (from Winthrop’s homily), with a globally redemptive mission. H.L. Mencken—equally skilled as a writer, humorist and anti-religious bigot—famously described the Puritan as a man “with the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy.”

In recent years, scholars like Christian Smith have shown how the intellectual weakness and fierce internal divisions of America’s Protestant establishment allowed “the secularization of modern public life as a kind of political revolution.” Carried out mainly between 1870 and 1930, this “rebel insurgency consisted of waves of networks of activists who were largely skeptical, freethinking, agnostic, atheist or theologically liberal; who were well educated and socially located mainly in the knowledge-production occupations, and who generally espoused materialism, naturalism, positivism and the privatization or extinction of religion.”

This insurgency could be ignored, or at least contained, for a long time. Why? Because America’s social consensus supported the country’s unofficial Christian assumptions, traditions and religion-friendly habits of thought and behavior. But law—even a constitutional guarantee—is only as strong as the popular belief that sustains it. That traditional consensus is now much weakened. Seventy years of soft atheism trickling down in a steady catechesis from our universities, social-science “helping professions,” and entertainment and news media, have eroded it.

Obviously many faith-friendly exceptions exist in each of these professional fields. And other culprits, not listed above, may also be responsible for our predicament. The late Christopher Lasch argued that modern consumer capitalism breeds and needs a “culture of narcissism”—i.e., a citizenry of weak, self-absorbed, needy personalities—in order to sustain itself. Christian Smith put it somewhat differently when he wrote that, in modern capitalism, labor “is mobile as needed, consumers purchase what is promoted, workers perform as demanded, managers execute as expected—and profits flow. And what the Torah, or the Pope, or Jesus may say in opposition is not relevant, because those are private matters” [emphasis in original].

My point here is neither to defend nor criticize our economic system. Others are much better equipped to do that than I am. My point is that “I shop, therefore I am” is not a good premise for life in a democratic society like the United States. Our country depends for its survival on an engaged, literate electorate gathered around commonly held ideals. But the practical, pastoral reality facing the Gospel in America today is a human landscape shaped by advertising, an industry Pascal Bruckner described so well as a “smiling form of sorcery”:

The buyer’s fantastic freedom of choice supposedly encourages each of us to take ourselves in hand, to be responsible, to diversify our conduct and our tastes; and most important, supposedly protects us forever from fanaticism and from being taken in. In other words, four centuries of emancipation from dogmas, gods and tyrants has led to nothing more nor less than to the marvelous possibility of choosing between several brands of dish detergent, TV channels or styles of jeans. Pushing our cart down the aisle in a supermarket or frantically wielding our remote control, these are supposed to be ways of consciously working for harmony and democracy. One could hardly come up with a more masterful misinterpretation: for we consume in order to stop being individuals and citizens; rather, to escape for a moment from the heavy burden of having to make fundamental choices.
Now, where do Catholics fit into this story?

Continue reading here...

Outrageous Statement of the Day

Film producer Michael Moore on Friday said the McDonald's that's two blocks from Ground Zero killed more people than the nineteen hijackers involved in the 9/11 attacks.

Cartoon of the Day - Obama war on terror

Pope Benedict's UK Visit: The News Everybody Missed

Monday, September 20, 2010
by Raymond Arroyo

The Pope saved the most important news of his visit to the United Kingdom for the end. Most people didn't even hear or see it. But I imagine Thomas More and John Henry Newman were smiling…

In November of 2009, Pope Benedict issued an extraordinary invitation to Anglicans disaffected by the changes taking place in their communion. The failure to affirm traditional Christian orthodoxy, the ordination of gays, the recent push to create female Anglican bishops have splintered the communion and caused heartbreak among both clergy and laity. Anglicans all over the world, parishes, and some dioceses had petitioned Rome to enter into full communion with the Catholic Church. As a "pastoral response" the Pope released his Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus. It allows individual Anglicans, clergy, even whole dioceses to enter into full communion with the Catholic Church while retaining their traditions, devotions, and liturgical practices.

The Archbishop of Canterbury (according to a few Anglican officials I recently spoke with) felt "ambushed by the constitution" and was frustrated that there wasn't more "consultation" before its release. Standing shoulder to shoulder with the Archbishop of Canterbury at an ecumenical prayer service at Westminster Abbey last week, the Pope made the case for "Christian unity" while recalling the real world challenges that block the way. The Pope said "fidelity" which demands obedience to God's "true word" was needed: "an obedience which must be free of intellectual conformism or facile accommodation to the spirit of the age." The Pope was clearly referencing the recent actions by the Anglican church which had “accommodated the spirit of the age” and created lasting barriers to the goal of full unity. But the Pope was so genial, and his delivery so mild, that the tough talk received little coverage and was largely ignored.

Then came the last speech of the Pope's visit, a meeting with his Bishops of England, Scotland and Wales. Near the end of the address, Pope Benedict made his intentions plain, and cast new light on all that he had said and done since his arrival in Britain. He told his bishops:

“I asked you to be generous in implementing the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus. This should be seen as a prophetic gesture that can contribute positively to the developing relations between Anglicans and Catholics. It helps us to set our sights on the ultimate goal of all ecumenical activity: the restoration of full ecclesial communion in the context of which the mutual exchange of gifts from our respective spiritual patrimonies serves as an enrichment to us all. Let us continue to pray and work unceasingly in order to hasten the joyful day when that goal can be accomplished.”

In other words, the Pope sees his Anglican"fast pass" into the Catholic Church as the fruit of ecumenism—a chance for Anglicans to return to the faith of their fathers before the Reformation and to protect themselves from an insidious secularism that is plaguing society at large and their communion in particular.

With this understanding, the symbolic and stated message of Pope Benedict during his British sojourn comes into stark relief. His meeting with the Catholic and Anglican bishops at Lambeth Palace, the home of the Archbishop of Canterbury for 800 years (the first 70 Archbishops of Canterbury were Catholics), his visit to Westminster Abbey (built by the Catholic king, Henry III and home to Benedictine monks until the Reformation), his moving speech at Westminster Hall (where Catholic martyrs Thomas More, Edmund Campion, Bishop John Fisher and others were condemned to death for their refusal to disavow their faith), and finally his beatification of the 19th century Anglican convert to Catholicism, Blessed John Henry Newman suddenly all seems one piece. Benedict’s visit was a stand against relativism in the heart of Europe and a plea for Britain to return to herself—to return to her Catholic roots. In a visit worthy of his predecessor, Pope Benedict, with precise language and symbols, communicated a message that will long be felt in England. It was a message controversial and reasonable, bold, and utterly faithful—a simple call, really: England, come home to what you were meant to be, and truly are.

Let me know what you think at

Friday, September 17, 2010

Bigotry on bigotry

Debra Saunders, a columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle, notes the double standard in the media’s treatment of the Ground Zero mosque and priest abuse scandal stories.
“In 2002, after the priest-child sex abuse scandal erupted, an ABC News/Washington Post poll found that 52% of Americans-- including three in 10 Catholics-- expressed an unfavorable opinion of the Roman Catholic Church,” she writes. “Now I don't recall pundits referring to the majority of Americans as anti-Catholic bigots who are too stupid to know that most priests are not pedophiles.”

Read the full commentary here...

London police arrest 5 men for plot against Pope

Police in London have arrested five men on terrorism charges in connection with a possible plot against Pope Benedict XVI.

Police said that the arrests, made early on Friday morning, were “on suspicion of the commission, preparation or instigation of act of terrorism.” However a spokesman for Scotland Yard said that the threat against the Pope was a “low key” concern and the arrests were mainly precautionary.

Father Federico Lombardi, the director of the Vatican press office, told reporters that Pope Benedict had been informed of the arrests. The Pope was not concerned, he said, and no changes were planned in schedule of events for the Pope’s visit to Great Britain.

“We have full confidence in the police,” Father Lombardi said. “There is no reason for concern and therefore no need to change our plans.”

Outrageous Statement of the Day

Barry Lynn of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State is more concerned about Christian fundamentalism than Islamic fundamentalism. "I worry about Islamic fundamentalism, there's fundamentalists in every religion, but I worry a lot more about the imminent return of Christian fundamentalism that will try to tell every single American how to live from the moment of conception until the moment of death."

Cartoon of the Day

Today on Kresta - September 17, 2010

Talking about the "things that matter most" on Sept. 17

4:00 - Pope Benedict XVI Arrives in Mainland England
Pope Benedict's much-debated visit in Britain began Thursday, and opened dramatically. The pope, in the words of The Guardian, "launched a blistering attack on ‘atheist extremism' and 'aggressive secularism,'" talking of the "damage that 'the exclusion of God, religion, and virtue from public life' had done in the last century.” We talk about the visit with our British Chaplain, Fr. Pat Egan.

4:20 – From Pro-Choice Atheist to Pro-Life Catholic
When she was 26, she had never once believed in God, not even as a child. She was a content atheist and thought it was simply obvious that God did not exist. She thought that religion and reason were incompatible, and was baffled by why anyone would believe in God. After a few years in the Bible Belt, she became vocally anti-Christian. Imagine the surprise to find her today, just a few years later, a practicing Catholic who loves her faith. Jennifer Fulwiler tells her story.

5:00 – Kresta Comments

5:20 - Finance Friday Part 2 of 10
Today we continue our 10-part series intended to fully explore the practical, political, moral and philosophical underpinnings of the financial meltdown of 2008. Our guide will be Dr. Max Torres and each “Financial Friday” we will be using as a base of discussion, one book written on an aspect of the financial crisis. Today, we look at Thomas Woods’ Meltdown: A Free-Market Look at Why the Stock Market Collapsed, the Economy Tanked, and Government Bailouts Will Make Things Worse.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Outrage of the Day

On the 16 September 2010 edition of CNN's American Morning, correspondent Carol Costello decided to mark the Pope's UK visit by highlighting women "priests."

Cartoon of the Day - Charlie's Evolution

Today on Kresta - September 16, 2010

Talking about the "things that matter most" on Sept. 16

4:00 - The End and the Beginning: Pope John Paul II -- The Victory of Freedom, the Last Years, the Legacy
“As March gave way to April in the spring of 2005 and the world kept vigil outside the apostolic palace in Rome, the pontificate of Pope John Paul II, then drawing to a poignant end, was already being described as one of the most consequential in two millennia of Christian history.” With these words, world-renowned author and NBC Vatican analyst George Weigel begins his long-awaited sequel to the international bestseller Witness to Hope: The Biography of Pope John Paul II. More than ten years in the making, The End and the Beginning: Pope John Paul II—The Victory of Freedom, the Last Years, the Legacy tells the dramatic story of the Pope’s battle with communism in light of new and recently disclosed information and brings to a close Weigel’s landmark portrait of a man who not only left an indelible mark on the Catholic Church, but also changed the course of world history. George is here.

5:00 – Pope Benedict Meets with Queen Elizabeth – Headed to London
Pope Benedict XVI arrived in Edinburgh today at the start of his historic four-day state visit. The plane carrying the pontiff and his entourage touched down at Edinburgh airport at about 10:15 am, and flew the Union Jack flag and the yellow and white Vatican flag. It is the first ever state visit to Britain by a pope since English king Henry VIII broke with the Catholic Church in 1534 and founded the Church of England. The only other visit by a pope was made by John Paul II in 1982. The highlight of the trip will be the beatification of John Henry Cardinal Newman on Sunday in Birmingham. Vatican correspondent Joan Lewis is in London and is here to report on the preparations there.

5:20 - Pope Arrives in Scotland – Holds 1st Public Mass of UK Visit
Pope Benedict, the first pontiff to pay a State Visit to the UK, received a warm and heartfelt welcome to Scotland this morning by Queen Elizabeth II at Holywood House, her official residence in Edinburgh. Following a private meeting between the two, there were speeches by the Queen and the Pope, and a reception where 400 invited guests from civil and religious society mingled with Benedict XVI and Elizabeth II. In a speech many in the UK are calling “memorable” and “historic,” Pope Benedict stressed the “deep Christian roots” of the British monarchy and society, and the importance of the role of the United Kingdom on the international scene, mentioning in particular Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland reporter Gareth Peoples was in Scotland this morning covering the Pope and checks in with us.

5:30 - Embryonic Stem Cell Research Ruled to be Illegal – Where Does the Case Go From Here?
Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) is holding hearing today to discuss federal funding of embryonic stem cell research in the wake of a federal judge ruling embryonic stem cell research illegal last month. This controversial form of research is unnecessary, unethical, and illegal. Many embryos are being destroyed with little promise of scientific breakthrough. Dr. Theresa Deisher, one of the plaintiffs in the case is here to discuss it.

5:40 - Feast of Sts. Cornelius and Cyprian
Saint Cornelius was elected Pope in 251 during the persecutions of the Emperor Decius. His first challenge, besides the ever present threat of the Roman authorities, was to bring an end to the schism brought on by his rival, the first anti-pope Novatian. Saint Cyprian of Carthage is second in importance only to the great Saint Augustine as a figure and Father of the African church. He was a close friend of Pope Cornelius and supported him both against the anti-pope Novatian, and in his views concerning the re-admittance of apostates into the Church. Both were martyrs whose feast we celebrate today. Steve Ray is here to tell us more.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Today on Kresta - September 15, 2010

Talking about the "things that matter most" on Sept. 15

4:00 - Amish Grace
Amish Grace is the powerful and moving film based on a true story about the aftermath that followed the 2006 schoolhouse shooting in the Amish community of Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania. The movie examines a mother’s personal journey in which she copes with the tragic loss of her daughter during the shooting and subsequent questioning of her faith. Based on the book Amish Grace: How Forgiveness Transcended Tragedy the film is now available on DVD and we talk to Catholic producer Larry Thompson.

4:20 – Stephen Hawking and More Tired Atheism
Fr. Robert Barron of Word on Fire Ministries and the Catholicism Project is here for his bi-monthly segment. Today he addresses Stephen Hawking and more tired atheism.

4:40 - Gardens for the Greater Glory of God
Celtic Gardens is a highly-acclaimed garden design and build firm specializing in beautiful, imaginative, and original gardens designed to complement their settings and realize their owners’ dreams. What is unique about Celtic Gardens is that owners John and Moira Cullen do not shy away from their Catholic faith when designing his show gardens. They have won international awards for gardens designed in honor of Our Lady, a Catholic community in Ireland, and will be presenting a St. Francis Garden at the end of the month. The Cullens are here to explain their work.

5:00 - Republican Primaries Continue to Surprise
Tea Party favorites won two primary elections over more mainstream Republicans last night, demonstrating again the clout of the conservative political movement on the political right. Now the question is whether the candidates can also defeat Democratic rivals in November's congressional elections, when the stakes are higher and the full electorate is deciding. We get analysis from Catholic politico Tom Pauken.

5:20 - Direct to my Desk

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Religious respect and civility a 2-way street

By Jennifer Bryson and Robert George at the Philadelphia Inquirer 

Many Americans, including liberals like Howard Dean and Harry Reid, as well as some prominent American Muslims, believe that a decent respect for the feelings of families of victims of terrorism carried out in the name of Islam should cause Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf and his supporters to reconsider the placement of their proposed Cordoba House. Some are also concerned that a new Islamic center near the site of a 9/11 terrorist attack would be treated by jihadist terrorists and their supporters as a symbol of victory. People who express these concerns are not bigots, as some in the media have claimed.
At the same time, it must be acknowledged that in various places across the country anti-Muslim sentiment has expressed itself in opposition to the building of mosques. Whatever one's final judgment of what President Obama has called the "wisdom" of building the proposed mosque near a site of 9/11 attacks, there are places where the sensitivities of families of terrorist victims are not what is driving opposition to mosques. Rather, it is an unwarranted fear of, or an unworthy hostility to, Muslims in general that is responsible. This is disturbing and threatens religious freedom not only for Muslims but for all.

We must avoid an attitude of "religious freedom for me but not for thee," for such a mentality rings a death knell for freedom itself and undermines the atmosphere of civility that makes social cooperation possible in a society as diverse and pluralistic as ours. It dishonors religious freedom and threatens the spirit of goodwill on which the great "American experiment in ordered liberty" rests.

In addition, such an attitude bespeaks a deep lack of prudence. There are those today, including some whose hands are on levers of cultural and political power, who have little regard for the religious freedom and rights of conscience of conservative Christians and traditional Jews. They would wield well-intentioned but easily abused antidiscrimination laws as weapons against religious organizations and people of faith who dissent from the liberal orthodoxy on same-sex marriage and sexual morality. They would compel pro-life physicians, nurses, and pharmacists of every tradition to violate their moral convictions by participating in or referring for abortions or dispensing abortifacient drugs, or abandon their professions. Weakening protection for religious freedom by targeting Muslim institutions will play into the hands of those who would run roughshod over the rights of Jews, Christians, and others.

To impede law-abiding citizens from building a house of worship out of animus toward them or their faith is to step onto a very slippery slope; it is an invitation for others to attack one's own religious freedom.

Moreover, the success of our religiously diverse society depends not only on the excellent framework of religious freedom bequeathed by our Founding Fathers, but also on a far-reaching capacity to handle discussions of difficult topics in the public square in a spirit of civility and mutual respect.

And this brings us back to New York City. Respect and civility need to go in both directions. Those proposing to build an Islamic center have expressed their intent to promote mutual understanding in society. That is good. But promoting authentic mutual understanding starts with a posture of listening to the concerns of others, for example, to those who fear an affront to the feelings of victims' families. The question is not whether Rauf has a right to build a mosque and community center near ground zero; clearly he does. The question is whether it is the right thing to do - especially for someone who insists that his sole aim is to promote goodwill and mutual understanding.

Achieving mutual understanding in the shadow of 9/11 will, to be sure, require non-Muslims in America to learn about the good character and honorable aspirations of the vast majority of their Muslim fellow citizens; but at the same time it will require Muslim leaders to heed the voices of their still grieving fellow citizens who speak out of wounds deeper than most of us can even begin to fathom.

Muslims are a growing segment of our population today. The vast majority seek to live in peace as good Americans in a nation "conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal." They are not terrorists or terrorist sympathizers, and they are as appalled as the rest of us by extremists who attack innocent people, execute apostates, engage in honor killings of allegedly wayward daughters, and the like. Most of them think like most of us: They believe in liberty, virtue, charity, self-discipline, personal responsibility, the sanctity of human life, and the importance of marriage and the family.

This is an important moment for Christians, Jews, and other non-Muslim Americans and for American Muslims. While fraught with dangers on all sides, it is also a time of opportunity. Non-Muslims can send to their Muslim fellow citizens the message that they are full participants in American democracy, enjoying on terms of equality the fundamental rights and liberties on which we pride ourselves as a nation. Muslims can send a message to their non-Muslim fellow citizens that they understand the sensitivities occasioned by the mass murder of Americans (including some Muslim Americans) committed by radicals in the name of the Islamic faith. On such a foundation, Americans of all faiths can build mutual respect.

Jennifer Bryson is a scholar in the Islam and Civil Society Project of the Witherspoon Institution in Princeton

Robert P. George is McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence and director of the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions at Princeton University

John Paul II sports foundation to be launched during Pope’s UK trip

London, England, Sep 13, 2010 / 08:02 pm (CNA/EWTN News)

During the papal trip to the U.K. this week, Pope Benedict XVI will launch a sports foundation in honor of the late John Paul II.

The Bishops' Conference of England and Wales announced Monday that on Sept. 16, the Holy Father will launch a sports legacy in honor of John Paul II at St Mary’s University College in Twickenham. The conference noted that 32 children who have excelled at sports in the U.K. have been selected from state, independent and special needs schools to participate with Pope Benedict.

The launch will take place during a school assembly that will be broadcast live to over 800,000 students across England, Scotland and Wales.

“With the Olympic Games less than two years away, we have a moment of opportunity and a whole process in which the aspirations of young people, the meanings of habit and routine in their lives, and the whole notion of achieving excellence can begin to be lifted up again,” said London Archbishop Vincent Nichols on the creation of the foundation.

“Within the 2012 Games there are seeds for all sorts of good ideas and good initiatives,” he added. “The John Paul II Foundation for Sport is a venture that I am particularly interested in as it uses sport to try and introduce to young and old alike the importance of health, the dignity of our bodies, the care of physical well-being and its spiritual meaning.”

Organizers for the John Paul II sports foundation in the U.K said that the purpose of the initiative is to draw on Catholic spirituality in imparting virtues, fitness and leadership among the youth. A similar effort was founded in Rome in 2008.

Professor Simon Lee, chair of the board for the John Paul II Foundation for Sport, said that through “this initiative, the Church is inviting all-comers to join in creating a joyful legacy for 2012 and beyond, in the spirit of John Paul II’s love of sport.”

“It is not only because of his personal interest that the Church sees value in sport properly understood and practiced. We are grateful to Pope Benedict XVI for generously launching this Foundation in honor of his predecessor and as a gift to wider society,” Lee noted. “As Pope Pius XII put it in 1945, 'How can the Church not be interested in sport?'”

“All who love sport are invited to join this new Foundation in promoting practical opportunities to share in its very best values.”

Cardinal Newman: A Catholic admired by Anglicans

Cartoon of the Day - Carrying a torch for bookburners

Today on Kresta - September 14, 2010

Talking about the "things that matter most" on Sept. 14

4:00 - 475 abuse allegations THIS YEAR in Belgium; Bishop goes into hiding
A commission established by the Church in Belgium to investigate clerical abuse issued its report on September 10, documenting 475 allegations received this year. “Almost every institution, every school, particularly boarding schools, at one time harbored abuse,” said the commission’s director. The report found that two thirds of the victims were male, that abuse peaked in the 1960s and 1970s, and that 13 abuse victims had committed suicide. On Sunday, Bishop Roger Vangheluwe, who has admitted he had abused his nephew, announced he would depart from a Trappist monastery where he had lived since his April resignation and go into hiding. It may be the most disturbing handling of sex abuse in the Church yet. We talk to Matthew Bunson, co-author of Pope Benedict XVI and the Sexual Abuse Crisis.

4:20 – The Making of an Atheist: How Immorality Leads to Unbelief
The new atheists are on the warpath. They come armed with arguments to show that belief in God is absurd and dangerous. In the name of societal progress, they promote purging the world of all religious practice. And they claim that people of faith are mentally ill. Some of the new atheists openly declare their hatred for the Judeo-Christian God. Christian apologists have been quick to respond to the new atheists’ arguments. But there is another dimension to the issue which begs to be addressed—the root causes of atheism. Where do atheists come from? How did such folks as Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett, and Christopher Hitchens become such ardent atheists? If we are to believe them, their flight from faith resulted from a dispassionate review of the evidence. Not enough rational grounds for belief in God, they tell us. But is this the whole story? James Spiegel is here to answer that question.

5:00 - The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius
Fr. Dennis Brown, OMV has a specialized ministry directing individuals through the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius which is the primary apostolate of his religious congregation, the Oblates of the Virgin Mary. In fact, he just finished directing several 30-day and 8-day exercises. He joins us in studio to discuss Ignatian retreats as well as his long, gradual conversion - from 60s hippy to at retreat-master priest.

5:40 - “The Church Up Close: Covering Catholicism in the Age of Benedict XVI”
A group of 30 journalists from around the world participated in a seminar entitled “The Church Up Close: Covering Catholicism in the Age of Benedict XVI” organized in Rome by the School of Church Communications at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross. First offered in 2008 and designed to provide journalists who write about religion with an array of tools to strengthen their coverage of today’s Roman Catholic Church, the seminar has drawn reporters from such media outlets as The New York Times, The Guardian, The Times, Il Corriere della Sera, El País, Le Monde, the BBC News Website (UK), The National Post (Canada), St. Louis Post-Dispatch (USA), The Witness (South Africa) and The Record (Australia). Also among them was Patrick Novecosky of Legatus. He is here to report on the conference.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Imam: “I Would Never Have Done It”

The imam behind the proposed Islamic cultural center near ground zero in New York says the Islamophobic backlash over the project rivaled, if not exceeded, the anger felt toward the Muslim community after the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001 — and that, if given the choice to do it over again, he would have never proposed building it near ground zero.

In an interview with Christiane Amanpour that aired Sunday on ABC’s "This Week," Imam Faisal Abdul Rauf said that he never expected the proposed mosque to become engulfed in controversy.

“I would never have done it,” he said when asked what he would have done had he anticipated what would happen. “I'm a man of peace. I mean the whole objective of peace work is not to do something that would provoke controversy.”

Rauf said that developers were still deciding whether they would relocate the proposed mosque, but that he feared moving it could cause an uproar in the Muslim world.

"My major concern with moving it is that the headline in the Muslim world will be Islam is under attack in America, this will strengthen the radicals in the Muslim world, help their recruitment, this will put our people — our soldiers, our troops, our embassies, our citizens — under attack in the Muslim world and we have expanded and given and fueled terrorism," he said.

Rauf's remarks come a day after a Sept. 11 anniversary marked by protests for and against the proposed cultural center, which would be situated blocks from the site of the attacks.

Rauf also responded to the threat by a Florida pastor to burn Qurans if the mosque weren’t moved by saying: “You can't equate the two. ... How can you equate burning of any person's scripture with an attempt to build interfaith dialogue?”

Hollywood, Full of Grace

by Kathryn Jean Lopez at

“There’s alive and there’s dead, and there’s a worse place in between them that I hope you never know nothing about.”

Felix Bush was “just going through the motions” of life for forty years. These words are his from the new movie Get Low, a gripping, raw, beautiful story of grace – a movie about the liberation that comes from confession and forgiveness.

Get Low is inspired by the life and legend of a Tennessee hermit named Felix “Bush” Breazeale who died at the turn of the 20th century. The movie is not explicitly Catholic. But no Catholic should walk away from it without a refreshed appreciation for the lifesaving gift of the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

While the world will make of freedom what it may, we know true freedom is in Christ, made possible through His extraordinary mercy.

In Get Low, Hollywood seems to have a clue, too -- and with an all-star lineup, in fact, starring Robert Duvall and co-starring Bill Murray and Sissy Spacek.

The only mystery to me about Get Low is why friends aren’t urging – even begging – one another to see it. At another point in the movie, Duvall’s character heartbreakingly admits: “I was always restless. I didn’t go nowhere on purpose because I did something I was ashamed of. Something I could never fix.”

If he only knew he didn’t have to fix it himself! That he isn’t alone. Do we know this, ourselves? We forget, don’t we?

Likewise, during a dramatic graveyard scene that begins to reveal the depth of the prison Felix has let sin keep him in, he recalls the advice he’s frequently given: “They keep talking about forgiveness. ‘Ask Jesus for forgiveness.’”

He shakes his head in indignation masking a dangerous and deep flirtation with despair. “I never did nothing for him,” Felix protests in the voice of one desperately in need of God's mercy.

There are men like Felix Bush in your life who feel the same. There are mortal sins the world takes seriously and mortal sins the world tolerates, approves of, encourages, and outright revels in. Yet maybe even in that latter category, a man feels shame, even today, and even in the most sordid of contexts. Maybe he goes to church and sits in the back. Perhaps he overhears a preacher on radio now and again, catches EWTN late at night. But it makes no difference. He still keeps going through the motions in a life that isn’t quite lived in any way that would give him any sense of fulfillment, any sense that he is made for a greater purpose than the pain he now experiences. For him, forgiveness isn’t anything he deserves, so he will never seek it.

I don’t think I’ve met the person who has never hesitated to ask forgiveness because he did not deserve it. After all, we can never do for our Lord what He has done for us. But that’s the point -- that’s the glory of His extraordinary love, and that’s why we give our lives to Him. That’s why we seek His mercy always and live to be guided by His love. Anything less would be going through the motions -- maybe not as dramatically as in the life of Felix Bush, but to pretend that it’s all that different is delusion.

The movie revolves around Felix’s “living funeral,” an event he plans himself. As the preacher at the “funeral” says: “We like to imagine that good and bad and right and wrong are miles apart. But the truth is very often they are all tangled up with each other.” There’s more Felix Bush in most of us than we might care to admit.

Get Low isn’t the first movie I’ve seen in the past year that made me walk away checking Confession schedules. A little remarked-on moment in the movie The Blind Side was a beautiful example of the practice of examination of conscience. Sandra Bullock’s character turns to her husband and asks if she is a good person. She’s not looking for affirmation. She wants to make sure that her intentions are pure. And, as St. Teresa of Avila tells us time and again -- on nearly every page of her autobiography, it can seem like -- she knows the importance of having competent help in such a routine examination, a spiritual guide. Granted, The Blind Side isn’t a sacramental how-to, but the point of this scene is not far off from where we need to be every moment of our lives.

“I wish you peace from the burdens of your mind and heart, I wish it for us all,” says the Get Low preacher at the end of the movie. Through the sacramental prism of the Church’s liturgy, I heard: “Deliver us, Lord, from every evil, and grant us peace in our day. In your mercy keep us free from sin and protect us from all anxiety as we wait in joyful hope for the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ. For the Kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours, now and forever.”

Hollywood taps into something much bigger than the box office in Get Low. Grace certainly does abound.

(see the Kresta in the Afternoon interview with Robert Duval below)

Kathryn Jean Lopez is editor-at-large of National Review Online and a nationally syndicated columnist. She speaks frequently on faith and public life.