Friday, April 29, 2011

Baby Joseph Now At Home and Breathing On His Own

Baby Joseph and his family arrived in Windsor, Ontario on a medical transport flight from St. Louis, Missouri on Holy Thursday. He is now at the family home. He was weaned off ventilator support two weeks ago and has been successfully breathing on his own since then. Baby Joseph, who has been at the center of an international right-to-life debate over the past few months, has defied critics by responding so well to treatment. We talk with Fr. Frank Pavone about lessons to be learned from this event.

Pro-Choice Legislation We Can Get Behind

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, a Republican, is expected to soon sign legislation that would create the nation’s broadest school choice program. The GOP-led House voted 55-43 Wednesday to allow lower- and middle-class families to use their public school funding to send their children to private schools.

The program would be limited to 7,500 students for the first year and increase to 15,000 in the third year. After three years, there would be no enrollment limit. The scholarships would cost the state less than to send the same students to attend public schools.

Lindsey Burke, a policy analyst at The Heritage Foundation, said Indiana is leading the way in education reform. “The Hoosier State is empowering parents through school choice and ensuring it responds to the needs of children,” she said. “These are reforms that should be — and are likely to be — mimicked by reform-minded state leaders throughout the country this year, to the benefit of parents, children, taxpayers and teachers.”

The Oklahoma House has approved the Oklahoma Equal Opportunity Education Scholarship Act, which would provide scholarships to students who come from low-income families or who attend failing schools. Businesses and individuals would receive a tax credit for contributing to the scholarships.

Republican Sen. Dan Newberry, who introduced the bill, said he’s pleased the bill will now return to the Senate for final approval. “This is very important to Oklahoma kids,” he said, “and it gives underprivileged children opportunity to succeed and receive the education they deserve.”

The Defense Rests

Law firm drops case defending the Defense of Marriage Act, but one of its partners resigns to continue as counsel

The law firm the U.S. House of Representatives hired to defend the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in court dropped the case Monday after coming under pressure from gay rights groups.

Robert Hays Jr., chairman of King & Spalding, said in a statement that the law firm withdrew from the case because it had not done enough “vetting” before taking the case, and he apologized “for the challenges this may have created.”

Immediately, a prominent partner at the firm and the lawyer assigned to the case, Paul Clement, solicitor general under President George W. Bush, resigned from the firm. Clement plans to continue as counsel to the House on the case, now with a new, smaller firm—Bancroft PLLC, founded by a former member of the Bush Justice Department, Viet Dinh.

“To be clear, I take this step not because of strongly held views about this statute,” Clement wrote in his resignation letter. “Instead, I resign out of the firmly held belief that a representation should not be abandoned because the client’s legal position is extremely unpopular in certain quarters. Defending unpopular positions is what lawyers do. . . . Much has been said about being on the wrong side of history. But being on the right or wrong side of history on the merits is a question for the clients. When it comes to the lawyers, the surest way to be on the wrong side of history is to abandon a client in the face of hostile criticism.”

Theodore Olson, also a Bush solicitor general, agreed to take a case on the opposite side of the issue, challenging California’s Proposition 8, which defines marriage as between a man and a woman. But he commended Clement’s decision and told The Washingtonian, “It’s important for lawyers to be willing to represent unpopular and controversial clients and causes.” The Los Angeles Times editorial board, which calls DOMA a “discriminatory law,” penned an editorial criticizing the Human Rights Campaign’s attack on the firm, echoing Olson: “The tradition of lawyers defending unpopular or controversial clients is an honorable one.”

DOMA, which Congress passed in 1996 and President Bill Clinton signed into law, defines marriage as between one man and one woman and bars federal benefits for same-sex couples. The law faces a number of court challenges. Previously the U.S. Justice Department had defended it as established law, despite President Barack Obama’s personal opposition, but in February Attorney General Eric Holder and the president announced that they no longer deemed the law constitutional and the Justice Department would no longer defend it in court. A number of lawyers said the administration’s defense of the law was half-hearted to begin with.

Congress, which passed the law, is likely the only other entity that has standing in court to defend the law, so the House convened a rare legal advisory group in March that contracted with a law firm to defend the statute. House Democratic leaders objected to the decision. Once the firm agreed to take the case in April, gay rights groups began to exert pressure. Human Rights Campaign and Georgia Equality had planned a protest Tuesday morning outside the firm’s Atlanta offices, and the two groups planned to buy ads attacking the firm. Several gay rights legal groups publicly condemned the firm before it withdrew from the case.

Brendan Buck, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, said the speaker was disappointed in the firm’s “careless disregard for its responsibilities to the House,” but praised Clement’s “legal integrity.” Buck said in a statement, “This move will ensure the constitutionality of this law is appropriately determined by the courts, rather than by the president unilaterally.”

US commission names 14 worst violators of religious freedom

For the first time, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom has listed Egypt among the world’s worst violators of religious freedom.

In its 2011 annual report, the commission recommended that the State Department designate 14 nations--Burma, China, Egypt, Eritrea, Iran, Iraq, Nigeria, North Korea, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Vietnam--as “countries of particular concern” (CPCs).

“CPCs are nations whose conduct marks them as the world’s worst religious freedom violators and human rights abusers," said Leonard Leo, the chairman of the commission. “In the case of Egypt, instances of severe religious freedom violations engaged in or tolerated by the government have increased dramatically since the release of last year’s report, with violence, including murder, escalating against Coptic Christians and other religious minorities. Since President Mubarak’s resignation from office in February, such violence continues unabated without the government’s bringing the perpetrators to justice.”

The commission also named several nations--Afghanistan, Belarus, Cuba, India, Indonesia, Laos, Russia, Somalia, Tajikistan, Turkey, and Venezuela-- to its watch list.

Court of Appeals Ruling Allows Federal Funding of Embryo-Killing Stem Cell Research

This from the National Right to Life Committe this afternoon

Today, overturning an earlier preliminary injunction by U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled 2-1 to allow continued federal funding of embryo-killing stem cell research. Last year, Judge Lamberth enjoined using federal money for research that requires the killing of human embryos, but the decision today will allow embryo-killing research to continue being funded with federal dollars while the lawsuit proceeds.

“Given the tremendous advances in medical research using stem cells derived from ethical sources, it is tragic that a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia has ruled to allow the Obama Administration to continue federal funding of the kind of stem cell research that requires killing human embryos,“ said David O’Steen, Ph.D, Executive Director of National Right to Life. “Study after study continues to show that treatments developed using stem cell research that does not require killing a living human embryo has shown far more progress than research that destroys the tiniest members of the human family.

“National Right to Life will continue working for the day when all unborn children, regardless of their stage of development, are protected by our laws and not subject to destruction or experimentation.”

John Paul II and his Press Secretary

Outrageous Statement of the Day

Have we reached a point where you cannot question the President or criticize him without it being racist?

Cartoon of the Day - How do you cope

Today on Kresta - April 29, 2011

Talking about the "things that matter most" on April 29

4:00 – The Royal Wedding: Why You Should Care
They wore Kate and William face masks in Hong Kong, donned plastic tiaras and wedding dresses in Sydney and knocked back jugs of Pimm's and roast beef served on red, white and blue plates in Paris. As thousands packed the streets of London to celebrate the wedding of Britain's Prince William and Kate Middleton on Friday, millions more around the world joined in the fun. Fr. Pat Egan, our chaplain and a Priest of the Diocese of Westminster, is here to tell us why Americans and Catholics should be paying attention.

4:20 – Direct to My Desk

5:00 – Rome Abuzz for John Paul II Beatification
Pope John Paul II's coffin was exhumed Friday ahead of his beatification ceremony in Rome which is expected to draw more than one million people. Sunday's ceremony marks the biggest event in Vatican City since John Paul's death six years ago. Hundreds of thousands of Catholic faithful are expected to gather in St. Peter's Square to witness the event, the penultimate step towards John Paul II's sainthood. One of those is Teresa Tomeo who joins us to report on the scene in Rome.

5:20 – Kresta Comments – The Royal Wedding Meets the Beatification of Pope John Paul the Great

5:40 – What’s hot in the Catholic blogosphere?
We begin our new weekly segment on “What’s hot in the Catholic blogosphere” today. Each week we will bring together 2 popular Catholic bloggers to discuss the topics that have generated the most interest over the past week. Today we have Matt Smith of Catholic Advocate and Jeff Miller of the Curt Jester.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Today on Kresta - April 28, 2011

Talking about the "things that matter most" on April 28

4:00 – The 2011 Budget and the Looming Battle Over the Debt Ceiling
Yesterday President Obama laid out his vision for deficit reduction, albeit very light on specifics. The GOP also has a framework to go on – the Ryan plan, which is heavy on specifics – some quite unpopular. We talk to economist Jerry Mueller, author of Redeeming Economics about the 2011 budget battle, the upcoming battle over the debt ceiling, and what issues will drive the debate.

4:40 – Christian Charity and the Welfare State
There is near universal agreement among Christians of all political stripes that one of our great privileges and duties is to do charitable deeds. Where we disagree is on the question of whether the secular authority of the state should be an agent of Christian charity. To some, such an alliance seems logical; to others, it is a non sequitur to conclude that, because we are expected to perform acts of charity, we should enlist the state to help us. We discuss the issue of Christian charity and the welfare state with Dr. Mark Hendrickson.

5:00 – April 12: 150th Anniversary of Start of Civil War / The Civil War As A Theological Crisis
On April 12, we commemorated the 150th Anniversary of the start of the Civil War. Today Mark Noll argues that the War was a major turning point in American religious thought. Although Christian believers agreed with one another that the Bible was authoritative and that it should be interpreted through commonsense principles, there was rampant disagreement about what Scripture taught about slavery. Furthermore, most Americans continued to believe that God ruled over the affairs of people and nations, but they were radically divided in their interpretations of what God was doing in and through the war. Catholics in Europe and Canada saw clearly that no matter how much the voluntary reliance on scriptural authority had contributed to the construction of national civilization, if there were no higher religious authority than personal interpretation regarding an issue as contentious as slavery, the resulting public deadlock would amount to a full-blown theological crisis. Mark is here to talk about the Civil War as a theological crisis.

5:40 – Abuse allegations: true, false and truthy
It was one of the more searing allegations in the recent Philadelphia grand jury report on clergy sex abuse: A Bristol Township man killed himself after the Archdiocese of Philadelphia refused to believe that a priest had molested him when he was an altar boy. Reeling from criminal and civil allegations of sexual misconduct by priests and church officials, the Archdiocese said a month ago that it would reopen 37 cases of possible child sexual abuse cited by a local grand jury. But Dr. Rick Fitzgibbons says a number of important questions need to be addressed in regard to the allegations of inappropriate sexual behaviors against minors by 21 priests from the Archdiocese of Philadelphia who were placed on administrative leave on Ash Wednesday. This would include the process of further evaluation of priests previously evaluated and found to be innocent. Fitzgibbons is here to make his case.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Today on Kresta - April 27, 2011

Today on Kresta in the Afternoon - April 27

4:00-6:00 - Direct to My Desk
Today we have a special two hours of Direct to My Desk. You set the agenda and call in to ask questions or raise issues that matter most to you. Some topics we will raise for discussion include Terry Jones and his Koran-burning escapade in Dearborn, corporal punishment at a Catholic boys' school in New Orleans, "Christian terrorism," and more.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Church of England reportedly blocked reform of British anti-Catholic law

An effort to amend the Act of Settlement, which bars any Roman Catholic from succession to the British throne, was blocked by an intervention from the Church of England, the London Daily Telegraph reports.

Nick Clegg, the deputy prime minister, had been working to repeal the Act of Settlement, which was originally passed in 1701. But his effort has been sidelined, the Telegraph says, because the Church of England objected.

According to the Telegraph, Anglican leaders of the pointed to the incongruity of having a Catholic serve as Supreme Governor of the Church of England. The opposition could also reflect a degree of rancor aimed in reaction to Pope Benedict’s open invitation for Anglicans to enter the Catholic Church.

Alex Salmond, the leader of the Scottish National Party, expressed concern at the report that a “much-needed and long overdue reform has been shelved,” and asked Clegg for a clarification.

Samples of Pope John Paul's blood will honored during Beatification

Cartoon of the Day - Assad oppression in Syria

Today of Kresta - April 26, 2011

Talking about the "things that matter most" on April 26

4:00 – Baby Joseph Now At Home and Breathing On His Own
Baby Joseph and his family arrived in Windsor, Ontario on a medical transport flight from St. Louis, Missouri on Holy Thursday. He is now at the family home. He was weaned off ventilator support two weeks ago and has been successfully breathing on his own since then. Baby Joseph, who has been at the center of an international right-to-life debate over the past few months, has defied critics by responding so well to treatment. We talk with Fr. Frank Pavone about lessons to be learned from this event.

4:20 – Fighting the Noonday Devil - and Other Essays Personal and Theological
In this stirring collection of columns, R. R. Reno — a thoughtful, literate writer with a zest for physical and theological adventure — looks back on his time working in the oil fields of Wyoming, his quests to the heights of Yosemite and the ice cliffs of the French Alps, his daughter’s bat mitzvah, and more, rendering seven diverse “fragments of life” in energetic prose. Fighting the Noonday Devil resounds with Reno’s depth of feeling and regard for the tangible things of life. Through these narratives, vignettes, and reflections he shows that it is the real-life manifestations of love and loyalty — far beyond intellectual abstractions or theories — that train us for true piety. He joins us.

5:00 – Kresta Comments – Pope Benedict XVI and the question “Did Jesus really rise from the dead and what does his resurrection mean?”
As the Church basks in the glow of the Octave of Easter, Al has some thoughts on the Resurrection in light of Pope Benedict XVI’s book Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week – From the Entrance Into Jerusalem to the Resurrection. Al offers his analysis of the Holy Father’s answer to the question “Did Jesus really rise from the dead and what does his resurrection mean?”

5:40 – Archdiocese Gets a Third New Auxiliary Bishop / Art for God’s Sake
We check in today with Archbishop Allen Vigneron of the Archdiocese of Detroit for our monthly discussion. The Archdiocese, as well as Ave Maria Radio, is sponsoring and event called “Art for God’s Sake.” Its purpose is to expose the community to the transcendent beauty of art while inviting artists to share their talents so that “the knowledge of God can be better revealed and the preaching of the Gospel can become clearer to the human mind.” We also look at the big news for the Archdiocese - the naming of a third new auxiliary bishop.

Monday, April 25, 2011

FBI Shuts Down Three Largest Poker Websites

More than four years after Congress passed legislation to criminalize Internet gambling in the U.S., the three largest poker websites have been shut down by the FBI.

Eleven executives at PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker and Absolute Poker, along with others, were charged Apr. 15 with bank fraud and money laundering. Visitors to their sites are greeted with a message that reads: “This domain name has been seized by the FBI.”

The 2006 Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) -- which finally took effect last summer -- bans online gambling and prohibits U.S. financial institutions from processing transactions related to it.

“These defendants concocted an elaborate criminal fraud scheme, alternately tricking some U.S. banks and effectively bribing others to assure the continued flow of billions in illegal gambling profits,” Preet Bharara, the U.S. attorney in Manhattan, said in a statement.

Chad Hills, analyst for gambling research and policy at CitizenLink, said the indictments were long overdue. “Foreign gambling operations are not supposed to be soliciting U.S. gamblers,” he said, “and yet they’ve been mocking U.S. law.

“This shows them that the FBI and the Department of Justice mean business. This is going to send a message to other online gambling sites, and I am extremely excited to see this happen.”

Giving (up) the Tithe?

Does the Bible actually require the people of God to tithe? Apparently, American evangelical leaders cannot agree upon an answer.

Each month, the National Association of Evangelicals surveys its 100-member board, which includes the heads of Christian denominations, publishers, educational institutions and mission organizations. In the February survey, 95 percent of respondents claimed that they tithed, giving at least 10 percent of their income to the church, but only 42 percent thought tithing is required biblically.

Nationwide, those self-identifying as Christians give an average of 2.43 percent of their income to their churches, according to a report from Empty Tomb, Inc. Evangelicals give at a slightly higher rate of 4 percent.

Leith Anderson, president of the NAE, notes that the Old Testament requires several tithes for government and religious functions. As Bible expert Ben Witherington notes in Jesus and Money, the New Testament calls Christians to the higher standard of “sacrificial giving.”

Yet some of the NAE responses point to a belief in situational flexibility. One non-tither explained that he gave according to his own financial circumstances as well as the needs around him. Anderson himself, although he tithes, said he believes “the New Testament teaches ‘proportionate giving’ that may be more or less than 10 percent based on income.”

Purdue sociologist Dan Olson, who has studied the tithing patterns of American Christians, told CNN that some evangelical leaders may object to the word “required,” as though tithing were necessary for salvation. Even those who believe the tithe is not required might recommend the practice as an expression of gratitude. NAE board member Alan Robinson argues that Christian generosity, while not beholden to the Old Testament legal model, should “greatly exceed” the 10 percent tithe.

Michigan abortionist tied to four client deaths resists safety regulations

A Michigan judge has ruled that a local abortionist’s clinic, which has been found violating several safety regulations and where at least one woman has died of a botched abortion, can stay open until another hearing over whether the facility is too dangerous to stay open.

Alberto Hodari’s Lathrup Village abortion facility was licensed until he was dinged with a number of health code violations in 2009, including the lack of an emergency entrance that would accommodate a gurney. Hodari refused to add the emergency entrance due to the expense involved.

Instead, Hodari decided not to seek licensure the following year and unsuccessfully attempted to increase his non-abortion business to avoid the licensing requirement. Michigan only requires an abortionist to get a license if abortions constitute 50 percent or more of services.

Assistant Attorney General Darrin Fowler, who is seeking closure of Hodari’s clinic, wondered how emergency workers could access patients without the exit, and stated that the lack of exit left vulnerable women at risk. It was a lack of access to an emergency exit that contributed to the death of abortion patient Karnamaya Mongar at Kermit Gosnell’s “house of horrors” abortion clinic in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in November, 2009.

Hodari’s attorney, Victor Norris, responded, “The department can’t be that concerned about irreparable harm if they gave the license in the first place.”

Four women are known to have died at Hodari-run abortion mills. Fifteen-year-old Tamia Russell died less than 24 hours after a late-term abortion at Hodari’s Lathrup Villiage in 2004, the same clinic that is subject to closure. In 2007, a 17-year-old Hodari patient died from abortion complications. Chivon Williams died less than six hours after having been released from one of Hodari’s abortion clinics following a suction abortion.

In 2009, Hodari was fined $10,000 for his part in the death of 32-year-old Regina Johnson in 2003. An investigation by Voices for Women revealed that the facility where Johnson died, having never awakened from anesthesia, was not equipped with resuscitation equipment.

Hodari operates a chain of abortion clinics in Michigan, the number of which seems to fluctuate with circumstances. His other offices are not subject to closure.

The abortionist is also known for stating publicly that he believes abortionists have a license to lie, and that he refuses to wash his hands between abortions, a practice that could spread disease and infection, because multiple washings chafe the skin on his hands.

Anglican Ordinariate Adds 900 Members

Last week some 900 Anglicans joined the Catholic Church. While this may be a small start to some, Monsignor Andrew Burnham is encouraging his flock to remember that there were even fewer Christians at the first Easter.

Some 30 groups of former Anglicans, including more than 60 clergy, joined the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, the new ordinariate for former Anglicans coming into the Catholic Church under the plan proposed by the Pope in "Anglicanorum Coetibus."

At the reception of some 20 new members on Tuesday at the Oxford Oratory, Monsignor Burnham noted that even 1,000 new Catholics is still not "statistically significant." The priest is one of three former Anglican bishops who were ordained to the Catholic priesthood in January.

"Every time we hear a set of national statistics," he said, "even the statistics for rare diseases, the numbers seem to be in the 1,000s and tens of thousands. What significance have 20 or 30, 60, 900 or 1000?"

He warned of a "dangerous" scenario that the "groups of incoming Anglicans will simply melt into the crowd," and that the "Pope's imaginative and prophetic gesture in 'Anglicanorum Cœtibus' will have come to nothing."

"But, there is a much more exciting scenario which could unfold," Monsignor Burnham continued. "And here we need to go back to the first Easter. Even smaller numbers than now were involved.

"By the end of the Last Supper the disciples were down to eleven. By the time Jesus died on the cross there were only two there -- Our Blessed Lady and John the Beloved Disciple. At the Garden of Resurrection there were ones and twos."

"From those small beginnings," he affirmed. "Christianity moved from being a small suspiciously-Galilean, rather unfashionable Jewish sect to becoming the official religion of the known world. And not entirely successfully at first."

"I pray that groups of former Anglicans, as here in Oxford, may grow and flourish within the fertile soil of the Catholic Church," the monsignor stated, adding that the growth of the Church lies in "the contribution of each one of us."

Philly Priests Sent Bogus Survey

The Greater Philadelphia chapter of Voice of the Faithful is the subject of this commentary by Catholic League president Bill Donohue:

"Voice of the Faithful is a dissident Catholic group that has now launched an agenda to manipulate priests and the public in the Philadelphia area. It recently sent a letter to the 900-plus priests in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia asking them to agree with its position that Pennsylvania lawmakers should abolish the statute of limitations for sexual abuse, opening a two-year window for civil suits.

"The letter by Marita Green of the Steering Committee has the audacity to say that supporting its position is a "measure of integrity." Included is a "survey" which asks priests whether they agree with its stance. To top things off, it explicitly says that "the number [of postcards] that are not returned will be recorded as votes against abolishing the statute-of-limitations shield."

"How cute. If priests do not agree with those whose goal it is to selectively bankrupt the archdiocese for incidents that allegedly occurred decades ago, they are to be branded heartless. That's what this is all about. Voice of the Faithful is deliberately trying to engineer this "survey" so that it can go to the media "demonstrating" how few priests of "integrity" there are in the Philadelphia area. But it won't work—the Catholic League has already sabotaged this effort.

"After a priest sent us the correspondence from Voice of the Faithful last week, we mailed the 900-plus priests in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia a letter designed to short-circuit this agenda (click here). We are happy to report that several priests left messages on our answering machine over the weekend, and faxed us letters commending us for our work.

"Catholics were rightfully angry when they learned about the sexual abuse scandal a decade ago. But now their anger is turning on those whose passion for revenge has nothing to do with justice; it's all about settling old scores. We will fight these demagogues to the end."

White House Spokesman Laughs / Mocks Reporters Asking Why Obama Didn’t Release Easter Statement

By comparison, the White House has released statements recognizing the observance of major Muslim holidays and released statements in 2010 on Ramadan, Eid-ul-Fitr, Hajj, and Eid-ul-Adha. The White House also failed to release a statement marking Good Friday. However, they did release an eight-paragraph statement heralding Earth Day. Likewise, the president's weekend address mentioned neither Good Friday or Easter.

Outrageous Statement of the Day

Obama’s Pastor for Easter Service Compared Rush, Fox News to KKK in Speech. "Jim Crow has now become James Crow, Esquire... he doesn't have to wear white robes anymore... he can get a regular news program on Fox"

Cartoon of the Day

Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week: From the Entrance Into Jerusalem To The Resurrection

Today on Kresta - April 25, 2011

Talking about the "things that matter most" on April 25

4:00 – The Case for the Resurrection
Gary Habermas is here on Easter Monday to offer a comprehensive and far-reaching argument for the historical veracity of Christ's resurrection. He marshals historical, theological, archaeological, biomedical and literary data to support their belief in the resurrection.

4:20 – The Christian Code: Ancient Christian Symbols Speak to the Here and Now
Most Christian symbols recur throughout the Christian centuries, going back to the earliest churches and cemeteries and the most common items of everyday life. They are urgent messages sent from long ago, and we, the Christians of the future, are the intended recipients. We talk with Mike Aquilina about The Christian Code: Ancient Christian Symbols Speak to the Here and Now.

4:40 – The Most Human Human: What Talking with Computers Teaches Us About What It Means to Be Alive
Computers playing chess. Computers playing Jeopardy! What does this technology teach us about what it means to be alive? In a fast-paced, witty, and thoroughly winning style, Brian Christian documents his experience in the 2009 Turing Test, a competition in which judges engage in five-minute instant-message conversations with unidentified partners, and must then decide whether each interlocutor was a human or a machine. The program receiving the most "human" votes is dubbed the "most human computer," while the person receiving the most votes earns the title of "most human human." Ranging from philosophy through the construction of pickup lines to poetry, Christian examines what it means to be human and how we interact with one another, and with computers as equals.

5:00 – The Case for the Historical Resurrection
A resurrected body. Glorified. Fully God and fully man. When the alternatives have all spent themselves in fruitless clamor for our attention, it's the old Christian story that still persuades. Catholic writer, speaker and apologist Mark Shea is here to offer his argument for the historical veracity of Christ's resurrection. We look at evidentiary claims that support a historic belief in the resurrection.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Oklahoma Becomes 4th State to Protect Pain-Capable Unborn Children

Today, Oklahoma became the fourth state to enact legislation that protects from abortion unborn children who are capable of feeling pain.. Oklahoma joins Kansas and Idaho this year, and Nebraska last year. Meanwhile, an Alabama Senate committee held a hearing today on a similar measure that has already passed that state’s House of Representatives.

"Modern medical science provides substantial compelling evidence that unborn children recoil from painful stimuli, that their stress hormones increase when they are subjected to any painful stimuli, and that they require anesthesia for fetal surgery," said Mary Spaulding Balch, J.D., director of state legislation for the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC). "Therefore, the states have a compelling interest in protecting unborn children who are capable of feeling pain from abortion. Oklahoma is the fourth state to recognize this obligation by enacting the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act.”

At a bill-signing ceremony today, Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin signed into law two pro-life bills – HB 1888, the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, and SB 547, the Abortion-Is-Not-Health-Care bill .

SB 547 prohibits coverage for elective abortions under health-insurance plans in Oklahoma, affirms the principle that abortion is not health care, and protects the conscience rights of pro-life premium payers so they're not complicit in the killing of unborn children.

The Oklahoma House, led by Representative Pam Peterson, passed the Pain-Capable Unborn Protection bill with a vote of 85-7. Oklahoma's Senate, led by Senator Clark Jolley, passed the bill by a vote of 38-8.

As drafted by National Right to Life's state legislation department, the model Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act protects from abortion unborn children who are capable of feeling pain except when the mother "has a condition which so complicates her medical condition as to necessitate the abortion of her pregnancy to avert death or to avert serious risk of substantial or irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function is necessary to preserve the life of an unborn child."

Further documentation and links to the scientific studies can be found at:

Victory for Georgia School Kids

U.S. Supreme Court rightly rejected bogus challenge to a valuable school choice program

By Randy Hicks

Earlier this month thousands of Georgia school kids barely averted what could have been a major blow to their educational futures. Thankfully, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled correctly in a case that protects their education and their parent’s ability to choose how and where they get it.

The case before the nation’s highest court was a challenge to a student scholarship program in Arizona, which is very similar to one that is benefitting thousands of kids in Georgia. The program provides an income tax credit for donations to nonprofit tuition scholarship organizations. These nonprofits then give scholarships to kids so they can afford to transfer from a public to a private school.

Here in Georgia, it’s called the Tuition Tax Credit Scholarship. It was approved by the General Assembly in 2008 and is serving nearly 8,000 students in hundreds of schools across the state.

In Georgia, Arizona and several others states, this scholarship program is giving families the ability to choose where their kids get educated. Georgia Family Council, where I work, strongly advocated for the law at the General Assembly as a way to give middle and lower income families access to an education that is better suited to their children’s needs. The program has proven to be of particular benefit to families whose children are stuck in poor performing schools.

But not everyone sees it that way. Enter the ACLU.

The ACLU in Arizona filed a lawsuit on behalf of a group of taxpayers challenging the program as a violation of the establishment clause. They claimed that because tax credits were being given for donations to scholarships that might be used toward tuition at religious schools, it amounted to a government endorsement of religion. Did you follow that logic?

Here’s the problem with the ACLU’s position. The program is completely neutral. It does not endorse any religious behavior or practice. Families who receive a scholarship choose where the money goes, not the government. Moms and dads decide whether to use the funds at a secular or religious private school. The constitution requires that the government remain neutral, not the families using the program.

The ACLU made another curious claim. They reasoned that the tax credit provided by the state amounted to the government handing over money to scholarship organizations. But this assumes the money donated toward scholarships belongs to the government, not private citizens. In reality money never reaches the government at all, under the program. The Court dismissed this crazy claim saying, “When Arizona taxpayers choose to contribute to STO’s (scholarship organizations), they spend their own money, not money the State has collected from respondents or from other taxpayers…. Private bank accounts cannot be equated with the Arizona State Treasury.”

Apparently, ACLU attorneys wake up every day worrying that some children might be praying in a school that’s received money that could have been the government’s. That’s right. We’re not talking about money that is the government’s, we’re talking about money that could have been taxed and raked into government coffers. By that logic, not one single cent of anyone’s private financial resources can be spent on anything of a religious nature because there’s nothing that can’t be taxed.

The U.S. Supreme Court rightly rejected the claims of the lawsuit – finding that those who brought the suit lacked the legal standing to do so. The Court also rejected the claim that money donated to the program amounted to the government handing over money to a scholarship organization or that an establishment of religion claim could be made.

The tuition tax credit scholarship won out in the end. It was a win for private financial choices, it was a win for a sensible scholarship program, it was a win for families’ ability to choose for themselves where their child should attend school. But more than anything else, it was a win for thousands of school children who get up each morning and attend a better school because their family could make that choice.

Randy Hicks is the president of the Georgia Family Council, a non-profit research and education organization committed to fostering conditions in which individuals, families and communities thrive.

The Signing of Jackie Robinson: How Faith Helped Racial Healing

By Dr. Warren Throckmorton

For many Americans, April 15 marked Tax Day. But it also marked an event much more redeeming. On April 15, 1947, Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in major league baseball. The executive who signed the talented athlete was Branch Rickey, President of the Brooklyn Dodgers. Recently, CNN reported that Branch Rickey’s faith was a strong motivation for his decision to sign Robinson. Now that’s an angle that rarely gets acknowledged, but should, especially this week that many of us celebrate as the most holy in our faith.

Prior to signing Robinson, Rickey anguished over the decision. According to an account just discovered by CNN, Rickey entered Brooklyn’s Plymouth Church of the Pilgrims to reflect on the matter. He approached the minister, Wendell Fifield. According to Fifield’s wife, June, Rickey paced the floor in silent contemplation for 45 minutes before coming to a conclusion. CNN’s Jamie Crawford retells the eureka moment:

Finally, Rickey didn’t just break the silence, he shattered it.

“I’ve got it,” Rickey yelled emphatically as he banged his fist on the desk.

“Got what, Branch?” Fifield asked. “Wendell,” Rickey said, “I’ve decided to sign Jackie Robinson!”

June Fifield wrote that as Rickey regained his composure he sank into a chair and told her husband, “This was a decision so complex, so far-reaching, fraught with so many pitfalls but filled with so much good, if it was right, that I just had to work it out in this room with you. I had to talk to God about it and be sure what he wanted me to do. I hope you don’t mind.”
Rev. Fifield did not mind. He did, however, keep the story such a good secret that only his wife knew of the event, and that revelation came years later. In 1966, June Fifield wrote about it for the church bulletin, but the account went untold to Robinson, his widow, and even to Rickey’s children.

During the CNN segment, reporter Ed Henry said that he told President Obama about the story involving Robinson and Rickey. Obama commented that the Rickey-Robinson breakthrough had an impact on every part of American society, including his election as the first African-American president.

I share a hometown with Branch Rickey -- Portsmouth, Ohio -- and was always reminded of his legacy because I played my high-school baseball in Branch Rickey Park.

To me, Branch Rickey’s role in this story is sweet irony. Race relations were tense in my hometown, at times erupting into violence. For most of my life there, African-Americans were segregated into neighborhoods surrounding a large public housing project. There was tangible prejudice and discrimination, even among Christians. I can recall times when my African-American friends were denied services. And yet, from this milieu, Branch Rickey emerged as a key player in a drama which has had a profoundly positive effect on American racial attitudes, far beyond the playing field.

This paragraph is a fitting close to the CNN piece:
When a well-known journalist of the era told the Dodgers general manager that he thought “all hell would break loose” the next day with Robinson due to take the field for the first time as a Brooklyn Dodger, Rickey disagreed. “My grandfather immediately responded to him, ‘I believe tomorrow all heaven will rejoice,’” the younger Rickey said.
I feel sure that heaven rejoiced, and continues to. And here on earth, even though the nation and the church have a long way to go, this Portsmouth boy is smiling, too.

Dr. Warren Throckmorton is an associate professor of psychology and fellow for psychology and public policy with the Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College. He can be contacted through his blog at

Majority of Catholic senators voted to fund Planned Parenthood

The United States Senate voted 58-42 on April 14 to reject a House resolution that would have denied funding to the Planned Parenthood Federation of America and its affiliates. The measure had passed the House by a 241-185 margin.

Voting to continue federal government funding of Planned Parenthood were 17 Catholic senators: Mark Begich (D-AK), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Robert Casey (D-PA), Susan Collins (R-ME), Richard Durbin (D-IL), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Tom Harkin (D-IA), John Kerry (D-MA), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Patty Murray (D-WA), and Jack Reed (D-RI).

Voting to defund the nation’s largest abortion provider were the other seven Catholic senators: Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), John Hoeven (R-ND), Mike Johanns (R-NE), Jim Risch (R-ID), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Pat Toomey (R-LA), and David Vitter (R-LA).

Pope's advice for Holy Week

Cartoon of the Day - Libya and NATO protection

Today on Kresta - April 20, 2011

Talking about the "things that matter most" on April 20

4:00 – Benedict XVI: Theologian of the Bible
Pope Benedict, a world-class biblical theologian, has recently published the second volume of his Jesus of Nazareth trilogy, Holy Week: From the Entrance Into Jerusalem to the Resurrection, and just last year promulgated the apostolic exhortation Verbum Domini, the most important Catholic document on the Bible since Vatican II's Dei Verbum. Father Joseph Lienhard is here to explore Benedict's dedication to the Sacred Scriptures as the touchstone for theology.

4:40 – Holy Thursday and St. John Vianney – Patron of Priests
Tomorrow, of course, is Holy Thursday, the start of the Solemn Triduum and the day on which we remember the Last Supper and the institution of the Eucharist and Priesthood. What better time to look at the patron of priests – St. John Vianney. For the 2010 “Year for Priests,” Leonardo Defilippis created the one-man show “Vianney.” The play focuses on the question, “What is a priest?” and tells the story of St. John Vianney, whose exemplary life was so remarkable that the Pope has named him the patron of the jubilee year for priests, declared him the patron of all the priests of the world. The drama, starring actor and film director Leonardo Defilippis, is playing for packed houses around the country and will be touring SE MI over the next few weeks. We talk with Leonardo.

5:00 – Holy Week: From the Entrance Into Jerusalem To The Resurrection
Jesus of Nazareth is the Son of God, and no myth, revolutionary, or misunderstood prophet, insists Benedict XVI. Indeed, Benedict maintains that the evidence, fairly considered, brings us face-to-face with the challenge of Jesus-a real man who taught and acted in ways that were tantamount to claims of divine authority, claims not easily dismissed as lunacy or deception. Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week: From the Entrance Into Jerusalem To The Resurrection is Pope Benedict XVI’s follow-up to Jesus of Nazareth: From the Baptism in the Jordon to the Transfiguration. As we go through this Holy Week, Fr. James Schall is here to take us deeper into the Pope’s thoughts on this most sacred week of the year.

5:40 – Approaching the Triduum
On Palm Sunday, Matthew showed us that, as Jesus resolutely does his Father's will, myriad forms of human dysfunction--betrayal, sloth, stupidity, violence, scapegoating, corruption--break out around him. This is the salvation story: God's compassionate embrace of sinners. As we continue through Holy Week, Fr. Robert Barron is here to lead us into the Triduuim and toward the culmination of the Christian life at Easter.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Delaware officials continue probe of abortion clinic linked to Pa. doctor charged with murder

Delaware officials have reached a tentative agreement with an operator of a Delaware abortion clinic linked to a Philadelphia abortionist who is charged with murder.

The attorney general's office filed a complaint in February alleging that Atlantic Women's Medical Services owner Panzy Myrie had been advertising herself as a gynecologist, even though she does not have a medical license. By falsely holding herself out as a doctor, Myrie posed a "clear and present" danger to the public, according to the attorney general's office, which asked the medical licensing board to schedule an emergency hearing and to issue a cease and desist order.

The licensing board scheduled a hearing on Monday to discuss the complaint, but the meeting was postponed late Sunday after a consent agreement with Myrie was reached over the weekend. Further details were not immediately available.

"Both parties agreed to postpone today's hearing while an agreement is being finalized," Jason Miller, a spokesman for the attorney general's office, said in a prepared statement. "Since it has not been finalized, we cannot discuss it at this time."

An attorney representing the clinic did not immediately return a telephone message seeking comment.

Meanwhile, complaints filed against two doctors who worked at the Atlantic Women's clinic, Albert Dworkin and Arturo Apolinario, are still not resolved. The attorney general's office claims Apolinario and Dworkin failed to take steps to protect the public from Dr. Kermit Gosnell, who is charged in the deaths of seven babies and a patient at the Philadelphia clinic. Gosnell also worked at the Delaware clinic.

But last week, a medical licensing panel voted to lift an emergency license suspension that had been imposed on Dworkin at the request of the attorney general's office. Miller declined to comment on the panel's decision, saying it has not yet issued its report.

"We will review the report when we receive it," he said.

The attorney general's office contends that Dworkin was the obstetrician and gynecologist of record for the Philadelphia clinic and knew or should have known that Gosnell and his staff were engaged in unprofessional and criminal conduct, including "maintaining deplorable conditions" and "murdering babies born alive at the clinic."

Apolinario is described in the attorney general's complaint as the medical director of abortion clinics in Dover and Wilmington run by Atlantic Women's Medical Services, where authorities say Gosnell also practiced until his license was suspended in March 2010. The complaint accuses Apolinario of failing to report that Gosnell had removed and destroyed patient records. He was also accused of prescribing medicines after his controlled substances registration lapsed in June 2009 and before it was renewed this year.

Like Dworkin, Apolinario was the subject of an emergency license suspension. A licensing board panel convened a hearing last month to determine whether Apolinario's license should be permanently revoked, but attorneys asked that the hearing be continued at a later date because of new records that had surfaced, and because of what Apolinario's lawyer described as a legal issue.

British PM: End law against Catholic monarchs

Royal succession rules banning Roman Catholics from succeeding to the throne should be scrapped, the Prime Minister has said.

David Cameron said Catholics should be able to become King or Queen, or marry the heir to the throne, but warned that changing the 1701 Act of Settlement would take time.

He has said he would also like to scrap the law giving preference to male heirs, which has come under increased pressure with the upcoming wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton.

Mr Cameron and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg are in discussions with other Commonwealth leaders about how to secure a change across the nations where the Queen is the monarch.

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "I think that it's right to discuss both sets of changes but I think we have to recognise that the Queen is not only the Queen of the United Kingdom but also many other jurisdictions as well.

"So discussions have to take place between the UK Government and other governments around the world and also with the Palace in order to bring this about."

He added: "In principle I think both changes should be made, in principle I'm of that view. But it will take time because it's not just our decision, it's the decision of others as well."

The ordinariate is really happening

The ordinariate is really happening. It really is. After a year and a half since the publication of the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum coetibus which made establishing an ordinariate possible, and many earlier years of gestation, it is finally becoming real. Sure, it was established in January but until last night, the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham numbered fewer than 20 people.

Today its numbers have already more than doubled and by Easter morning its numbers will have swelled to close to a thousand members. These will not only include more than 60 members of clergy, but also very importantly, the committed lay people who have followed their pastors into full Communion with the Catholic Church.

I found it very moving to be at St George’s Cathedral, Southwark last night to watch Mgr Keith Newton, the ordinariate’s head, receive one of the first, first wave groups into the personal ordinariate. It was clearly a emotional experience for the people who were there with their families, some of whom were already Catholics, others who would not follow them and even others who were being received with their families.

Christopher Pearson, the former parish priest of St Agnes Kennington, led the group, which was mainly from the parish. The Catholic priest of the parish where the group had been receiving instruction took part in the ceremony as did Fr Mark Woodruff, the acting director of the Catholic League and Canon James Cronin. Another nice touch was the presence of Catholic lay people from the parish in the congregation who had come out in support.

The whole process of reception and confirmation, when Mgr Newton welcomed each new Catholic into the Church by name, called the Holy Spirit down on them and then anointed their foreheads with chrism, was incredible. It always is, but there was also the sense, last night, of a whole community coming into the Catholic Church together.

Mgr Newton also seemed moved by the celebration at St George’s, which in effect marks the realisation of what he represents as ordinary. After the Mass he told the congregation and the new members of the ordinariate how delighted he was that they had come. He said that he had thought of himself as a leader of a flock when he had been an Anglican bishop. He said he had hoped people would follow his lead into the ordinariate but had been worried that he might turn around and find no one there and he thanked them for being there. (NB: This is a rough paraphrase as I had packed up pen and paper at this point).

The newly confirmed became members of the Ordinariate with their reception into the Catholic Church. Once the ordinariate has its mother church—Mgr Newton said that at the moment he is more concerned with finding housing for all his clergy than looking for the principal church—they will be registered there.

Filipino president: ready to risk excommunication birth-control bill

Philippine President Benigno Aquino said he is willing to risk excommunication from the Catholic Church rather than scrap the so-called Responsible Parenthood Bill, reported the Asian church news agency UCA News.

"I remain committed to pushing for the introduction of a law for responsible parenthood ... at risk of excommunication, it is my obligation as a leader," Aquino told graduates from the University of the Philippines.

"In the end I must listen to my conscience and do what is right," the president said. He said he cannot stand by and watch the cycle of poverty continue as unplanned births spiral.

The proposed legislation faces strong opposition from the Catholic Church because of provisions that allow the use of contraception.

UCA News reported that, earlier, church officials called for the scrapping of the Responsible Parenthood Bill and the Reproductive Health Bill, now pending in the Philippine Congress.

Aquino spokeswoman Abigail Valte said the Responsible Parenthood Bill will not favor the church's stand or the position of those supporting the Reproductive Health Bill.

"There is a need to revise, refocus and educate Filipino couples and provide them with all available information regarding natural and artificial methods of family planning, and for them to consult with the individual religious entities they belong to," Aquino said earlier.

New book takes a look at the messages left at the tomb of John Paul II

Cartoon of the Day - Debt Ceiling

Today on Kresta - April 19, 2011

Talking about the "things that matter most" on April 19

4:00 – The Invisible World: Understanding Angels, Demons, and the Spiritual Realities That Surround Us
Anthony DeStefano is here to explain the reality of the spiritual dimension that surrounds us. All aspects of the spiritual realm are discussed, including the existence of angels and demons, the whereabouts of loved ones who have passed, and even the presence and activity of God in our lives. The Invisible World demonstrates that nothing is more significant than to be reminded that no one is alone. Anthony joins us.

4:20 – Kresta Comments – The Oklahoma City Bombing, The Murder of George Tiller, and “Christian Terrorism”
It’s been almost two years since the murder of late-term abortionist George Tiller and today is the 16th anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing. Both events are often pointed to as prime examples of “right-wing” or “Christian” terrorism. Case in point is a new book entitled “The Wichita Divide: The Murder of Dr. George Tiller and the Battle Over Abortion.” Author Stephen Singular argues that Tiller’s murder “can only be understood within the context of right-wing extremism that has become increasingly mainstream.” Al responds to this assertion.

4:40 – Surge in New England Mass Attendance / Bill Maher Mocks “Catholics Come Home”
The notoriously anti-religious Bill Maher recently featured a three-minute segment on his show, slamming Catholicism, and in particular Catholic priests on Ash Wednesday. Maher specifically edited and perverted one of the highly-effective national commercials produced by the lay-Catholic charitable outreach organization, Meanwhile, this Lent, the Archdiocese of Boston, the Diocese of Manchester and seven other dioceses across the nation have partnered Catholics Come Home, to air the multimedia (TV and Internet) evangelization initiative inviting Catholics back to church – and the Bishops say it’s working! Tom Peterson, Founder and President of Catholics Come Home, is here.

5:00 – Pope Benedict XVI and Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week: From the Entrance Into Jerusalem To The Resurrection
Jesus of Nazareth is the Son of God, and no myth, revolutionary, or misunderstood prophet, insists Benedict XVI. Indeed, Benedict maintains that the evidence, fairly considered, brings us face-to-face with the challenge of Jesus-a real man who taught and acted in ways that were tantamount to claims of divine authority, claims not easily dismissed as lunacy or deception. Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week: From the Entrance Into Jerusalem To The Resurrection is Pope Benedict XVI’s follow-up to Jesus of Nazareth: From the Baptism in the Jordon to the Transfiguration. As we enter this Holy Week, Doug Bushman of the Institute for Pastoral Theology of Ave Maria University is here to take us deeper into the Pope’s thoughts on this most sacred week of the year.

5:40 – The Case of Sr. Elizabeth Johnson
The USCCB’s Committee on Doctrine has just issued a critique of a recent book by Elizabeth Johnson, a Professor of Theology at Fordham University. The book is Quest for the Living God: Mapping the Frontiers in the Theology of God. The Committee said that it finds that many of the book’s conclusions “incompatible with Catholic teaching.” The Committee asserts that the “basic problem with Quest for the Living God as a work of Catholic theology is that the book does not take the faith of the Church as its starting point. Instead, the author employs standards from outside the faith to criticize and to revise in a radical fashion the conception of God revealed in Scripture and taught by the Magisterium.” Moral theologian Dr. Monica Miller is here to explain the issues with Elizabeth Johnson’s theology.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Technology without God pulls humanity down, pope says on Palm Sunday

Celebrating Palm Sunday Mass at the Vatican, Pope Benedict XVI warned that technological progress must not lead people to think they can "become God."

About 50,000 faithful waved olive branches and palm fronds in St. Peter's Square April 17 at the start of the liturgy that commemorated Christ's triumphal entry into Jerusalem five days before his crucifixion.

The German pontiff, who celebrated his 84th birthday the day before, joined a procession that led to the Egyptian obelisk in the center of the square. He asked listeners to continue to prepare for Easter through penitence and acts of charity.

Holding a braided palm garland, he then rode in a jeep to the main altar for the two-and-a-half-hour Mass. It was the beginning of Holy Week, the busiest period of the year for the pope, with a demanding schedule of public appearances.

In his homily, Pope Benedict said the Palm Sunday procession must be understood as more than a "quaint custom." It represents the spiritual ascent that all Christians are called to make, a journey "along the high road that leads to the living God," he said.

Such an ascent is impossible without God's help, he said, although men and women have long attempted to "attain the heights of God by their own powers." All the inventions of the human spirit are ultimately an effort to become independent and completely free -- but without God, this effort is doomed to failure, he said.

"Mankind has managed to accomplish so many things: We can fly. We can see, hear and speak to one another from the farthest ends of the earth," he said.

"And yet the force of gravity which draws us down is powerful. With the increase of our abilities there has been an increase not only of good. Our possibilities for evil have increased and appear like menacing storms above history," he said.

The pope said that despite progress, human limitations have been evident in recent disasters that "have caused so much suffering for humanity."

He described people as caught between two "gravitational fields": the force of gravity that pulls people down toward selfishness, falsehood and evil, and the force of God's love that pulls people up.

The spiritual ascent to which Christians are called has some concrete elements, including purity, honesty and faith in God, he said.

"The great achievements of technology are liberating and contribute to the progress of mankind only if they are joined to these attitudes -- if our hands become clean and our hearts pure, if we seek truth, if we seek God and let ourselves be touched and challenged by his love," he said.

In the end, he said, a spiritual ascent is effective only if people humbly acknowledge that they need God and "abandon the pride of wanting to become God."

At the end of the Mass, the pope expressed greetings in seven languages to the thousands of young people in the square and said he was looking forward to the World Youth Day celebration in Madrid next August. The youths serenaded the pope with an abbreviated version of "Happy Birthday" in Italian.

Doug Kmiec Out As Ambassasdor to Malta

The U.S. ambassador to Malta, an important Roman Catholic supporter of President Barack Obama, said Sunday he would resign after a State Department report criticized him for spending too much time writing and speaking about his religious beliefs.

In letters to Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Douglas Kmiec said he would step down Aug. 15.
Kmiec was a well-known conservative law professor, commentator and regular guest on "Kresta in the Afternoon before being taking the job in 2009. But a report this month by the State Department's inspector general rebuked Kmiec for concentrating too much on issues such as abortion and his faith, while neglecting his ambassadorial duties

"I doubt very much whether one could ever spend too much time on this subject," Kmiec wrote Obama in his resignation letter.

The audit was the second critical assessment of a politically appointed ambassador this year and illustrates the pitfalls that presidents can face when they appoint noncareer diplomats to ambassadorships, often as a reward for their political support.

The audit of the U.S. Embassy in Malta said Kmiec's "outside activities have detracted from his attention to core mission goals" in the Mediterranean island nation, such as promoting maritime security and American business. It acknowledged the wide respect for Kmiec in the conservative, Roman Catholic country of Malta, but said his articles distracted him and embassy officials by forcing them to carefully review his writing. They upset administration officials in Washington, too, it noted.

Kmiec responded by describing the criticism of his religious views was "especially odd" because his friendship with Obama began out of a common view that "too much of politics had been used to divide us, sometimes by excluding people of faith."

The State Department declined comment on Kmiec's announcement.

The embassy in Malta has recently played an enhanced role as the nearest European country to Libya. More than 180 Americans were ferried to Malta when Moammar Gadhafi's forces violently cracked down on protesters seeking an end to his four-decade rule.

Spike in False Claims

Catholic League president Bill Donohue comments on the spike in false claims made against priests:

The report on clergy abuse was released a week ago today, and for some reason, there has been virtually no reporting on what may be the most important finding of them all: the 42 percent increase in accusations found to be unsubstantiated or false. The number of such claims jumped from 12 percent in 2009 to 17 percent in 2010, the largest, by far, in any one year.

The report does not say what accounts for the sharp increase, so it cannot be said with certainty what is causing it. But if I had to guess, it has to do with one thing: the word is out that the clock is ticking, so if someone wants to cash in with a bogus claim, he had better come forward before it's too late.

Whatever the cause is, it puts priests in jeopardy: all it takes is for someone to drop a dime, make up an accusation, and hire a lawyer on a contingency fee basis. The beauty of it all is that your true identity will not be disclosed publicly; you will be assigned the name John Doe 101, and the accused will not know who you really are. Better yet, he may already be dead.

A more aggressive approach by the dioceses is badly needed. False claimants should be sued for perjury and slander. Not until these "victims" pay a price for their maliciousness will justice be done.

Shame on the media for ignoring this story.

Patriot Guard Riders Drown Out Westboro Baptist Church Protesters

Cartoon of the Day - Who's Sleeping?

Today on Kresta - April 18, 2011

Talking about the "things that matter most" on April 18

4:00 – Pope Benedict XVI and Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week: From the Entrance Into Jerusalem To The Resurrection
Jesus of Nazareth is the Son of God, and no myth, revolutionary, or misunderstood prophet, insists Benedict XVI. Indeed, Benedict maintains that the evidence, fairly considered, brings us face-to-face with the challenge of Jesus-a real man who taught and acted in ways that were tantamount to claims of divine authority, claims not easily dismissed as lunacy or deception. Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week: From the Entrance Into Jerusalem To The Resurrection is Pope Benedict XVI’s follow-up to Jesus of Nazareth: From the Baptism in the Jordon to the Transfiguration. As we enter this Holy Week, Mark Brumley is here to take us deeper into the Pope’s thoughts on this most sacred week of the year.

4:40 – Was Chief Sitting Bull a Catholic?
Was Chief Sitting Bull a Catholic convert? Did he convert William “Buffalo Bill” Cody? For some reason this question has recently surfaced in Catholic circles. As a student of the Old West, having read numerous accounts of Sitting Bull and a resident of the once vast Dakota Territory, Mark Armstrong says he thought it unlikely. But was it possible that Sitting Bull was a full member of the Catholic Church? Mark answers that question.

5:00 – Planned Parenthood and the Politics of the Budget Battles
After the resolution of the budget battle - when we began to hear the details, Marjorie Dannenfelser, President of the Susan B. Anthony List praised pro-life leaders in the House for securing the Dornan Amendment in budget negotiations and pledged to continue to lead the fight to defund Planned Parenthood of taxpayer dollars. The Dornan amendment banned funding for abortions in Washington, D.C. but did not defund Planned Parenthood. Marjorie explains why she sees this as a victory for life.

5:20 – Syria, Libya, Iran and the Muslim Brotherhood: A Tour
As unrest continues across the Middle East, the intervention in Libya continues to be light on details, Syria is cracking down on protests, and a hearing on the Muslim Brotherhood in the US House of Representatives has shown that the US Administration has "no plan" to deal with the Brotherhood, terrorism expert Walid Phares is here to take us on a tour of the trouble spots in the Middle East.

5:40 – Pope Benedict XVI and Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week: From the Entrance Into Jerusalem To The Resurrection
Jesus of Nazareth is the Son of God, and no myth, revolutionary, or misunderstood prophet, insists Benedict XVI. Indeed, Benedict maintains that the evidence, fairly considered, brings us face-to-face with the challenge of Jesus-a real man who taught and acted in ways that were tantamount to claims of divine authority, claims not easily dismissed as lunacy or deception. Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week: From the Entrance Into Jerusalem To The Resurrection is Pope Benedict XVI’s follow-up to Jesus of Nazareth: From the Baptism in the Jordon to the Transfiguration. As we enter this Holy Week, Tim Gray is here to take us deeper into the Pope’s thoughts on this most sacred week of the year.

Friday, April 15, 2011

"Family Movie Night" Returns

Posted By Nick Thomm:

Truth Be Told is a new made-for-TV family movie, starring Candace Cameron Bure, David James Elliott and Ronny Cox. It plays upon the old adage, that “honesty is the best policy,” and according to Colorado’s leading marriage counselor, Annie Morgan (Candace Cameron Bure), honesty is the key to successful long-term relationships. Ironically, Annie has never been married and doesn’t always follow her own advice.

Trough a misunderstanding, Annie receives an invitation for her and her spouse to join media mogul Terrance Bishop (Ronny Cox), at his New Mexico ranch to discuss her dream job: hosting a radio advice program. Fearful that being single will ruin her chance of a lifetime, Annie conspires with Mark Crane (David James Elliott), an old college friend, recent widower, and father of two teenagers, to pose as a married couple for the weekend. A series of comical misunderstandings color the trip, leaving Annie emotionally involved with Mark's family and battling with her own conscience. As the entertaining and touching story unfolds, Annie begins to realize that the truth may have its consequences, but ultimately it’s what opens our hearts and brings out the best in each other.

I had a chance to preview the film today and I recommend it. It has the feel of a made-for-tv movie and is utterly predictable, but the acting is above par for a film of this type, the message is strong, and it will the most edifying thing on TV tomorrow night - of that I have very little doubt.Be Told is the fifth installment of the Family Movie Night Initiative, which was launched last April in direct response to research which revealed that parents across America are seeking more family-oriented entertainment to enjoy together. When P&G and Wal-Mart learned that there was a clear desire for more options when it comes to quality family entertainment, they made a commitment to be part of the solution and are looking forward to bringing more family movies throughout 2011.

Truth Be Told will air on Saturday, April 16 at 8/7c on the FOX Network.

Watch the trailer below.

Bishops say feminist theologian should have sought dialogue before publishing

The U.S. bishops' doctrine committee has responded to concerns about their treatment of the feminist theologian Sister Elizabeth Johnson, pointing out that the “dialogue” she now wishes to have with the bishops should have taken place before the publication of her 2007 book “Quest for the Living God.”
On April 8, members of the Catholic Theological Society of America criticized the doctrine committee for its decision to raise objections to Sr. Johnson's book in a public statement. According to the society, the doctrine committee should have had an “informal conversation” with Sr. Johnson first. The author has also complained that she was “never invited” to “clarify critical points” with the committee.

But Father Thomas Weinandy, executive director of the doctrinal board, said that committee chairman Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl would have preferred to speak with Sr. Johnson before the publication of her widely-read book. “Cardinal Wuerl said that if a dialogue should be taking place, it should be before the publication of the book – not after,” recalled Fr. Weinandy.

The doctrine committee's executive director said that if theologians were concerned about the bishops' judgment of their ideas, they should have approached the committee with areas of possible concern prior to publication. He indicated that Sr. Johnson could have sought such a dialogue, but chose not to do so.

In light of that choice, he said, it was not reasonable to expect the bishops to restrict themselves to private discussion about a book that had already reached a large audience. “Otherwise, the bishops are always trying to play catch-up,” Fr. Weinandy said. “They're never given a chance to actually comment on something before it's published.”

Sr. Johnson's book “was already published, and being widely used,” Fr. Weinandy explained. “They felt obliged to make a statement, lest the teachers and the students who read this book think that what is being presented here is Catholic doctrine.” Several bishops had requested that the doctrine committee review the book, which has become a popular text in some Catholic universities' theology courses.

“So, the doctrine committee undertook a review of the book, and judged that the methodology, conclusions, and arguments in the book were not in accord with Catholic teaching.”

Several members of the Catholic Theological Society of America have expressed concern that Sr. Johnson might not have been treated according to the guidelines of a 1989 document entitled “Doctrinal Responsibilities.” It says that “informal conversation ought to be the first step” in cases of “misunderstandings about the teaching of the gospel and the ways of expressing it.”

According to Fr. Weinandy, however, that document was meant to suggest means of resolving a dispute between individual bishops and theologians teaching at the local level.

Read more here...

From Her Majesty to His Holiness: two birthday presents

The United Kingdom’s Queen Elizabeth sent two presents to Pope Benedict XVI on April 15. Her first gift was a telegram containing best wishes for the pontiff’s 84th birthday tomorrow, and the second was a new U.K. ambassador to the Holy See.

Nigel Baker is the man chosen as Her Majesty’s latest representative to the Vatican. According to The Telegraph newspaper, 44-year-old Baker worked briefly at the British Conservative Party’s headquarters in the late 1980s. Interestingly, one of his co-workers there is the now British Prime Minister, David Cameron. Since joining the U.K. Foreign Office in 1989, Baker has held postings in Prague, Havana and most recently Bolivia, where he was ambassador. He also spent three years as Private Secretary to Prince Charles, The Prince of Wales.

The U.K. Foreign Office says Baker knows Italy well, having spent an academic sabbatical in Verona and Naples between 1996 and 1998. While he isn’t a Catholic, his Slovakian wife, Sasha, is. They have one son.

Upon his appointment Baker said, “I am delighted and honoured to be taking up this posting. The last few years have seen the development of a strong and fruitful global partnership between the United Kingdom and the Holy See. The historic visit of Pope Benedict XVI in September 2010 reinforced that relationship and opened new avenues for bilateral and multilateral collaboration.”

The new ambassador said he looks forward to the “challenge of deepening our engagement across the many issues on which we work together.”

Baker takes over from Francis Campbell, the first Catholic to hold the post of ambassador to the Holy See since the English Reformation in the 16th century.

Prior to today’s appointment, there had been speculation that the ambassadorship would be offered to one of several prominent Catholic politicians. Names bandied about included the former Conservative government minister and Catholic convert, Anne Widdicombe, as well as the former Liberal Democrat Member of Parliament, Lord David Alton.

The Treasurer of the U.K. Parliament’s All Party Group on the Holy See, Angus Brendan MacNeil MP, told EWTN News that the new ambassador has big job ahead of him, “Francis Campbell certainly leaves big shoes to fill. So I wish Mr Baker well. The biggest challenge for him will be to build upon the great success of last year’s Papal Visit to Scotland and England.”