Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Today on Kresta - May 31, 2011

Talking about the "things that matter most" on May 31

4:00 – Harold Camping and the “Rapture Trap”
May 21 has come and gone and born-again Christians are still here. When his prophecy did not come true, and after hiding out in a motel over the weekend, Harold Camping now says that a “spiritual judgment” did take place over the weekend. He says the rest of his prophecy of the Rapture will come true on October 21, as scheduled. Paul Thigpen, author of The Rapture Trap: A Catholic Response to "End Times" Fever, is here to draw from Tradition, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Church history, and contemporary experience to reveal the shortcomings of the rapture doctrine and the larger tangle of twisted religious teachings to which it is tied.

5:00 – Shepherding Moral Economic Policy: Paul Ryan and Archbishop Dolan’s Dialogue on Catholic Social Teaching and the Federal Budget
Catholic university professors two weeks ago engaged in a tired broadside against Speaker of the House John Boehner as he was set to deliver the commencement speech at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. Last week, something much more constructive: The public presentation of an ongoing dialogue between Paul Ryan, a Catholic from Wisconsin, who is the House Budget committee chairman, and Archbishop Timothy Dolan, the president of the Catholic bishop’s conference, about Catholic social teaching and its application to the current budget debate. Kathryn Jean Lopez is here to discuss this example of how Catholics SHOULD engage in debate over prudential judgments.

5:20 – Social Justice Isn’t Left of Right: It’s Catholic
Social justice is based on the rights that flow from and safeguard human dignity, and inclines us to work with others to help make social institutions better serve the common good. When it comes to Catholic Social Teaching, we frequently encounter “peace and justice” Catholics who dissent from certain Church teachings. Unfortunately this can lead us to not pay sufficient attention to the social demands of the Gospel. It’s a matter of both / and NOT either / or. The big picture transcends the artificial separation of the “pro-life” and “peace and justice” camps that we often find in the Church. Leon Suprenant is here to discuss Social Justice – Not Left of Right, But Catholic.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Worldwide Eucharistic adoration in honor of Pope’s ordination anniversary

Catholics worldwide are asked to mark the sixtieth anniversary of Pope Benedict XVI’s ordination to the priesthood with sixty hours of Eucharistic prayer for vocations.

The pope will celebrate his anniversary June 29, the Solemnity of St. Peter and Paul. In honor of his anniversary, the Vatican Congregation for Clergy suggested Catholic clergy and faithful be invited to participate in Eucharistic Adoration with the intention of praying for the sanctification of the clergy and for the gift of new and holy priestly vocations.

Dioceses nationwide are planning special prayers before the Blessed Sacrament in June, offered continuously or across various days in the month. Celebrations might conclude July 1, the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the World Day of Prayer for Priests.

Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, highlighted the importance of this celebration.

“An increase in number and sanctity of the priests in service to our dioceses is a sign of health and vitality in the Church,” he said. Prayer for vocations is “a worthy intention” and an appropriate spiritual sacrifice “in gratitude for the example and service of Pope Benedict XVI,” he wrote in a May 17 letter to bishops.

For this occasion, the USCCB Secretariat of Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations has designed a prayer card that can be downloaded from www.foryourvocation.org. The prayer card can be linked to diocesan or parish websites, printed in parish bulletins, and used for dioceses or parishes.

“This is an exceptional opportunity to give thanks for our Holy Father, to pray for all of our priests, and to ask the Lord for more vocations to the priesthood,” said Archbishop Robert J. Carlson of St. Louis, chairman for the Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations. “The Holy Father has been an outstanding model of priestly ministry and service to the Church. In his Message for the World Day of Prayer for Vocations, Proposing Vocations in the Local Church, he reminded the faithful that we all have a responsibility to pray for vocations. This is a great opportunity to do just that.”

How Democrat Michelle Rhee Went From School Voucher Opponent to Advocate

As Abortion Rate Drops, 7 in 10 Americans Support Restrictions

The 18- to 34-year-old generation leads all age groups in the percentage (53) that believes abortion is morally wrong. And just 31 percent of that age group says abortion should be legal under any circumstance.

The annual Gallup poll on abortion, which was released May 23, surveyed 1,018 American adults early this month.

Forty-two percent of young people identify as “pro-life,” but the numbers show that “pro-choice” doesn’t mean support for abortion at all times and for any reason.

“The tide is turning in America,” said Kristan Hawkins, executive director of Students for Life of America. “More and more young people want abortion to be illegal. They see the violence and destruction that it causes individuals and families.”

Jonathan Rogers, field coordinator for National Right to Life, said the challenge is to get young adults to take their pro-life views with them to the polls.

“In 2008, what young voters marked on their ballots did not line up with their instincts,” he wrote recently. “One of the most pro-life generations ever voted for one of the most pro-abortion candidates ever.

“The pro-life movement can and should be doing everything possible to educate younger voters right now, to buttress their instincts with substance.”

Overall, about 72 percent of Americans say abortion should be illegal in at least some cases, including 61 percent who believe it should be illegal in all or most circumstances. Those numbers have remained relatively steady over time.

The annual Gallup survey on abortion was released the same day a Guttmacher Institute report was published, showing that from 2000-2008, the U.S. abortion rate dropped 8 percent — including an 18 percent decrease among African-American women.

The Gallup poll also found that 51 percent believe abortion is morally wrong. Yet, 49 percent reported being “pro-choice,” while 45 percent said they were “pro-life.”

“Americans’ views on abortion held fairly steady over the past year, with the public still sharply divided over the ‘pro-life’ and ‘pro-choice’ labels,” Gallup analyst Lydia Saad concluded. “Nevertheless, majorities of Americans indicate some reluctance about abortion on both moral and legal grounds. This is seen most strongly among Republicans and older Americans.”

The report from Guttmacher, which was founded as the research arm of Planned Parenthood, also revealed that the abortion rate among poor women jumped 18 percent over the eight years of the research. Not surprisingly, the authors were quick to blame a lack of access to contraception and family planning services.

Randall K. O’Bannon, National Right to Life director of education and research, said that’s not the case. “Women who have information and alternatives are choosing abortion less frequently than they did 10 or 15 years ago,” he told USA Today, “but states are continuing to pay for the abortions of poor women. When the states are funding the abortions, they get these abortions.”

Outrageous Statement of the Day

Chris Matthews provides yet another example of the fallacy that Republicans are "anti-science". The Catholic Church has been tarred with this title for decades, despite the fact the Catholic Church has been the primary CONTRIBUTOR to scientific advances of the last 1,000 years. Embronic Stem Cell research is guilty for this accusation over the last 10 years or so. Because the media refuses to make distinction about adult vs embryonic stem cell research, you constantly hear that Christians and Republicans are against "stem cell research" and therefore are obviously "anri-science." The sad part is that Chris Matthews knows better.

Cartoon of the Day - Playgrounds Then and Now

Today on Kresta - May 27, 2011

Talking about the "things that matter most" on May 27

4:00 – Obama, Netanyahu and the 2-State Solution
A week ago today, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared at the White House that Israel would not withdraw to 1967 borders to help make way for an adjacent Palestinian state. President Barack Obama, seated beside him, had called on Israel to be willing to do just that in a speech the day before.The Israeli leader said he would make some concessions but Israel would not go back to the lines from decades earlier because they would be "indefensible." The exchange has generated much discussion on the current administration’s view of America’s relationship with Israel. Stanley Kurtz and Peter Wehner discuss it.

4:20 – Lost in Shangri-La: A True Story of Survival, Adventure, and the Most Incredible Rescue Mission of World War II
Near the end of World War II, a plane carrying 24 members of the United States military, including nine Women’s Army Corps (WAC) members, crashed into the New Guinea jungle during a sightseeing excursion. 21 men and women were killed. The three survivors--a beautiful WAC, a young lieutenant who lost his twin brother in the crash, and a severely injured sergeant--were stranded deep in a jungle valley notorious for its cannibalistic tribes. They had no food, little water, and no way to contact their military base. The story of their survival and the stunning efforts undertaken to save them are the crux of Lost in Shangri-La, Mitchell Zuckoff’s remarkable and inspiring narrative. Mitchell joins us.

5:00 – Kids for Peace
On the heels of her humanitarian work during the Bosnian War, Peggy Stanton became the founder of “Kids for Peace.” The project involved children throughout the world, uniting in one universal theme, “Let There Be Peace on Earth.” Peggy says in a world full of violence and hate, peace can sometimes seem so far out of reach but it doesn’t have to be a dream, it can be a reality. She is here to discuss “Kids for Peace.”

5:40 – “What’s Hot in the Catholic Blogosphere?”
We continue our new weekly segment on “What’s hot in the Catholic blogosphere.” Each week we will bring together 2 of the most popular Catholic bloggers to discuss the topics that have generated the most interest over the past week. Today we have Thomas Peters of The American Papist and Kathy Schiffer of Seasons of Grace.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Louisiana House rejects gay adoption proposal

A bill to allow homosexual couples in Louisiana to adopt children has failed, due in part to opposition from the state's Catholics.

“The best interest of the child extends beyond purely the physical and the material,” said Rob Tasman, assistant director of the Louisiana Conference of Catholic Bishops. In a May 24 statement provided to EWTN News, he said society also had to look out for “the spiritual and the moral” aspects of child-rearing.

Tasman pointed out that “adoption law dictates that placements turn on the best interest of the child,” rather than the “rights, interest, or desires of prospective parents.”

It is also for these reasons that within the state of Louisiana, Catholic Charities adoption agencies “do not permit a single individual to adopt,” he noted. “Instead, only heterosexual married couples are permitted to adopt.”

Although the bill also failed to pass last year, some state representatives believed public opinion had changed to favor its re-introduction. On May 23, however, the House Civil Law and Procedure Committee shelved the proposal again, at the suggestion of Republican Representative John Schroder.

Louisiana's current law allows unmarried individuals in homosexual relationships to adopt children, but only in their capacity as individuals. It does not allow for two adoptive same-sex “parents” to act as legal guardians, as the bill would have permitted.

Advocates of gay adoption say the current practice causes problems if a separation or emergency leaves only the non-guardian “parent” to care for the child. New Orleans City Councilman Arnie Fielkow said during the debate that the idea of the “traditional family” was outdated, and should give way to the reality of other arrangements.

But Tasman and many others see serious danger in redefining the family as any collection of individuals who choose to live together. They believe adopted children should not be placed in “households” defined only by informal consent.

Gene Mills, head of the Louisiana Family Forum, said the proposal to give adopted children two same-sex “parents” as legal guardians would be “fraught with the possibility of instability in the life of the child.” Mills also believes the bill would have gone against a state constitutional ban on same-sex “marriage.”

Marjorie Esman, who leads the American Civil Liberties Union in Louisiana, believes that a court ruling could eventually accomplish what advocates of homosexual adoption failed to achieve in the legislature, by allowing two same-sex individuals to serve as legal guardians of a child.

There is, however, no currently pending case that could lead to this outcome in Louisiana

Priests, Abuse, and the Meltdown of a Culture

The American narrative of the Catholic Church’s struggles with the clerical sexual abuse of the young has been dominated by several tropes firmly set in journalistic concrete: that this was and is a “pedophilia” crisis; that the sexual abuse of the young is an ongoing danger in the Church; that the Catholic Church was and remains a uniquely dangerous environment for young people; that a high percentage of priests were abusers; that abusive behavior is more likely from celibates, such that a change in the Church’s discipline of priestly celibacy would be important in protecting the young; that the Church’s bishops were, as a rule, willfully negligent in handling reports of abuse; that the Church really hasn’t learned any lessons from the revelations that began in the Long Lent of 2002.
But according to an independent, $1.8 million study conducted by New York’s John Jay College of Criminal Justice, commissioned by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and released on May 18, every one of these tropes is false.

One: Most clerical abusers were not pedophiles, that is, men with a chronic and strong sexual attraction to pre-pubescent children. Most of those abused (51 percent) were aged eleven to fourteen and 27 percent of victims were fifteen to seventeen; 16 percent were eight to ten and 6 percent were younger than seven. Males between eleven and fourteen account for more than 40 percent of all victims. Clerical ephebophilia (a sexual attraction to adolescents, often boys) was clearly a serious problem. But to label this a “pedophilia crisis” is ignorant, sloppy, or malicious.

Two: The “crisis” of clerical sexual abuse in the United States was time-specific. The incidence of abuse spiked in the late 1960s and began to recede dramatically in the mid-1980s. In 2010, seven credible cases of abuse were reported in a church that numbers over 65 million adherents.

Three: Abusers were a tiny minority of Catholic priests. Some 4 percent of Catholic priests in active ministry in the United States were accused of abuse between the 1950s and 2002. There is not a shred of evidence indicating that priests abuse young people at rates higher than do people in the rest of society. On the contrary: Most sexual abuse takes place within families. The John Jay study concludes that, in 2001, whereas five young people in 100,000 may have been abused by a priest, the average rate of abuse throughout the United States was 134 for every 100,000 young people. The sexual abuse of the young is a widespread and horrific societal problem; it is by no means uniquely, or principally, a Catholic problem, or a specifically priestly problem.

Four: The bishops’ response to the burgeoning abuse crisis between the late 1960s and the early 1980s was not singularly woodenheaded or callous. In fact, according to the John Jay study, the bishops were as clueless as the rest of society about the magnitude of the abuse problem and, again like the rest of society, tended to focus on the perpetrators of abuse rather than the victims. This, in turn, led to an overdependence on psychiatry and psychology in dealing with clerical perpetrators, in the false confidence that they could be “cured” and returned to active ministry — a pattern that again mirrored broader societal trends. In many pre-1985 cases, the principal request of victims’ families was that the priest-abuser be given help and counseling. Yes, the bishops should have been more alert than the rest of an increasingly coarsened society to the damage done to victims by sexual abuse; but as the John Jay report states, “like the general public, the leaders of the Church did not recognize the extent or harm of victimization.” And this, in turn, was “one factor that likely led to the continued perpetration of offenses.”

Five: As for today, the John Jay study affirms that the Catholic Church may well be the safest environment for young people in American society. It is certainly a safer environment than the public schools. Moreover, no other American institution has undertaken the extensive self-study that the Church has, in order to root out the problem of the sexual abuse of the young. It will be interesting to see when editorials in the New York Times and the Boston Globe demand in-depth studies of the sexual abuse of the young by members of the teachers’ unions, and zero-tolerance policies for teacher/abusers.

So: If the standard media analytic tropes on clergy sexual abuse in the Catholic Church in the United States have been proven false by a vigorous empirical study conducted by a neutral research institute, what, in fact, did happen? Why did the incidence of abuse spike dramatically from the late 1960s through the mid-1980s? The John Jay researchers propose that the crumbling of sexual mores in the turbulence of the sexual revolution played a significant role. As the report puts it, “The rise in abuse cases in the 1960s and 1970s was influenced by social factors in American society generally. The increase in abusive behavior is consistent with the rise in other types of ‘deviant’ behavior, such as drug use and crime, as well as changes in social behavior, such as an increase in pre-marital sexual behavior and divorce.”

This is not the entire picture, of course. A Church that was not in doctrinal and moral confusion from the late 1960s until the 1978 election of John Paul II might have been better armored against the worst impacts of the sexual free-for-all unleashed in the mid-1960s. A Church that had not internalized unhealthy patterns of clericalism might have run seminary programs that would have more readily weeded out the unfit. A Church that placed a high value on evangelical zeal in its leadership might have produced bishops less inclined to follow the lead of the ambient culture in imagining that grave sexual abusers could be “fixed.” All that can, and must, be said.

But if the Times, the Globe, and others who have been chewing this story like an old bone for almost a decade are genuinely interested in helping prevent the crime and horror of the sexual abuse of the young, a good, long, hard look will be taken at the sexual libertinism that has been the default cultural position on the American left for two generations. Catholic “progressives” who continue to insist that the disciplinary and doctrinal meltdown of the post–Vatican II years had nothing to do with the abuse crisis might also rethink their default understanding of that period. The ecclesiastical chaos of that decade and a half was certainly a factor in the abuse crisis, although that meltdown is not a one-size-fits-all explanation for the crisis and the way it was handled.

The John Jay study is less than illuminating on one point, and that is the relationship of all this to homosexuality. The report frankly states that “the majority of victims (81 percent) were male, in contrast to the distribution by victim gender in the United States [where] national incidence studies have consistently shown that in general girls are three times more likely to be abused than boys.” But then the report states that “the clinical data do not support the hypothesis that priests with a homosexual identity or those who committed same-sex sexual behavior with adults are significantly more likely to sexually abuse children than those with a heterosexual orientation or behavior.”

The disconnect, to the lay mind, seems obvious: Eighty-one percent of the victims of sexual abuse by priests are adolescent males, and yet this has nothing to do with homosexuality? Perhaps it doesn’t from the clinicians’ point of view (especially clinicians ideologically committed to the notion that there is nothing necessarily destructive about same-sex behaviors). But surely the attempt by some theologians to justify what is objectively immoral behavior had something to do with the disciplinary meltdown that the report notes from the late 1960s through the early 1980s; it might be remembered that it was precisely in this period that the Catholic Theological Society of America issued a study, Human Sexuality, that was in clear dissent from the Church’s settled teaching on fornication, self-abuse, and homosexual acts, and even found a relatively kind word to say about bestiality. And is there no connection to be found between the spike in abuse cases between the mid-1960s and the early 1980s, with its victimization of adolescent males, and the parallel spike in homoerotic culture in U.S. Catholic seminaries and religious orders in that same period? Given the prevailing shibboleths in the American academy (including the Catholic academy), it may be that no clinically or statistically demonstrable linkage will be found, but it strains credulity to suggest that there wasn’t a cultural connection here, one that bears serious reflection.

Empirical evidence is unlikely to shift the attention of the mainstream media or the plaintiffs’ bar from the Catholic Church in this matter of the sexual abuse of the young. It would be a good thing for the entire society, however, if the defenders of the sexual revolution would take seriously the question of the relationship between their commitment to lifestyle libertinism and this plague. If the John Jay study on the “causes ands context” of clerical-sexual-abuse problems in the Catholic Church prompts a broader public reflection on the fact that the sexual revolution has not been, and is not, cost-free, and that its victims are often the vulnerable young, then the Church will have done all of American society a signal service in commissioning this study that looks into its own heart of darkness.

George Weigel is Distinguished Senior Fellow of Washington’s Ethics and Public Policy Center, where he holds the William E. Simon Chair in Catholic Studies. His book on the abuse crisis, The Courage To Be Catholic, is available from Basic Books.

Shortage of priestly vocations suggests problems in community: Cardinal Pell

As he ordained 5 men to the priesthood, Cardinal George Pell of Sydney, Australia reflected that when a Catholic community does not produce priestly vocations, something is amiss.

When there are no vocations of any type for decades we need to examine the priorities of the Catholic community itself, said Pell.

“Some Catholic communities unfortunately are not life giving,” said the cardinal in his homily as five young men were ordained to the priesthood in an “historic celebration for the Church” at St Mary’s Cathedral last Saturday.

“Some Catholic communities can be contraceptive, even while Catholic life seems on the surface to continue vigorously.

“This phenomenon of different growth rates deserves examination and discussion, although focusing energies on the promotion of faith, on encouraging the recognition and love of Jesus as the son of God as well as the son of Mary (‘I am in the Father and the Father is in me’), on regular prayer, Catholic orthodoxy, and an explicit and regular explanation to young people of the need of priests and Catholic leadership and service in many areas is essential; and sometimes missing or obscured.”

The cardinal said whatever the other changes in society, which are often difficult to interpret, we can be sure God is calling enough men to be priests, although many might not be able to “hear the call because they are tuned in on different wavelengths or because they find too much static on the line”.

“Every priestly vocation is a mystery, a mystery where the grace of God, personal freedom, family and community interact under Divine providence,” he said.

"Church history has seen many changes; groups have come, grown strong, withered and sometimes disappeared or continued at a reduced level.

“We have seen groups of widows, hermits, monks, friars, religious orders; the so-called new movements follow these patterns in different ways. But the sacrament of baptism has
always been the foundation as Christian life is lived out in local communities served
and led by priests.”

He added: “Unless a goodly number of young men and women step forward to lead and serve we will not be able to retain the wonderful strengths we have, much less develop them further for the glory of God.

“We thank God for the fact that these five young men have answered the call and we pray that the wonderful promise of this morning is translated into many years of prayer, service and effective leadership.”

Archbishop Sheen's cause presented to Pope Benedict: a former colleague

When Bishop Daniel R. Jenky of Peoria, Ill., presented Pope Benedict XVI with two thick volumes about the life of Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, the pope surprised him by saying he had worked with the late archbishop.

Pope Benedict "told me something I hadn't known: he worked on the commission for mission at the Second Vatican Council with Fulton Sheen," Bishop Jenky told Catholic News Service. The pope served as a theological expert at the council in the 1960s.

At the end of the pope's weekly general audience May 25, Bishop Jenky presented the pope with two leather-bound volumes with golden lettering on the side: "Fultonius Ioannes Sheen."

The tomes -- totaling close to 2,000 pages -- are the "positio," the official position paper, outlining why the Catholic Church should recognize Archbishop Sheen as a saint.

Archbishop Sheen, who was born in Illinois in 1895 and died in New York in 1979, was an Emmy-winning televangelist. His program, "Life is Worth Living," aired in the United States from 1951 to 1957.

Bishop Jenky said, "I hope it helps" that the pope personally knew Archbishop Sheen, who was national director of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith in 1950-66 and attended every session of Vatican II.

For the Peoria bishop, the most impressive thing about Archbishop Sheen was his untiring evangelizing effort, which was addressed not just to radio or television audiences, but to taxi drivers and anyone else he happened to meet.

"I don't know how many people he brought to the faith; it must be thousands and thousands," the bishop said. "He never passed by an opportunity to bring someone to the faith. He was a hands-on evangelizer."

Msgr. Stanley Deptula, executive director of the Peoria-based Archbishop Fulton Sheen Foundation, joined Bishop Jenky for the trip to the Vatican.

They also gave the pope an album with more than 100 letters from cardinals and bishops in North America, Australia and Africa supporting Archbishop Sheen's cause.

Msgr. Deptula told CNS that Archbishop Sheen should be beatified and canonized because "he was a dynamic missionary, he used all the modern means available to spread the Gospel throughout the world." In fact, the archbishop was host of "The Catholic Hour" radio program for 22 years before beginning his television career, he wrote several popular books and traveled the world speaking and preaching once his TV program went off the air.

The diocesan phase of the sainthood cause concluded in 2008 and the postulator, or promoter, of the cause took the eight boxes of eyewitness testimony and "every book Sheen ever wrote" and summarized the material, creating the "positio," the monsignor said.

The Congregation for Saints' Causes will study the "positio" and if congregation members agree, they will recommend that the pope officially declare that the archbishop lived the Christian virtues in a heroic way.

Before Archbishop Sheen can be beatified, the pope also must recognize a miracle attributed to his intercession.

"We actually have two fully-documented alleged miracles of cures that seem to have been effected by God through the intercession of Archbishop Sheen," Msgr. Deptula said. "Actually, we also have a couple more that have come into our office. Really, every day I hear stories about little miracles, ways that Fulton Sheen continues to change lives today."

The best documented cases involve cures that took place in the United States, he said. "One happened in central Illinois to an elderly woman in the Champaign area. And the other, kind of the stronger case that we will probably be pursuing to present to the Holy Father, involved a baby in the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, area."

The monsignor said he could not reveal many details about the case, but "basically this baby was born ... with several life threatening diseases, any one of which would have been a very serious illness for this infant."

"The parents and family and friends prayed for the intercession of Archbishop Sheen. They had the baby baptized, (and) I believe his middle name is Fulton," he said. "It seems to have been a miracle. The baby lived and seemed to have been cured of those illnesses" and is now in the first or second grade.

Filipino politician says he will risk excommunication--which is not threatened

A prominent Catholic politician in the Philippines has said that he ready to risk excommunication in order to promote an aggressive family-planning bill that the nation’s bishops have adamantly opposed.

Edcel Lagman, the main sponsor of the legislation in the Filipino parliament, seemed intent on creating the impression that he has been threatened with excommunication. But he has not—a spokesman for the bishops pointed out.

Msgr. Juanito Figura, the secretary-general of the episcopal conference, said that “there’s no threat of excommunication to him, the president or anybody.”

Leaving aside the question of formal excommunication, Bishop Arturo Bastes of Sorsogon added that Lagman’s public statement shows that the political leader wants to “separate himself from the Church.”

Illinois Catholic Charities forced out of adoption, foster-care services

Catholic Charities of Illinois has been forced to shut down its adoption and foster-care services because of new state policies that require equal treatment for same-sex couples.

Foster-care workers for Catholic agencies in Illinois have been informed that they will be laid off because of the new policy, which takes effect on June 1. Church leaders had asked unsuccessfully for a waiver from the new rules, explaining that they could not follow policies that contradicted clear Church directives.

More info forthcoming...

What Would Jesus Cut?

By Dr. Shawn Ritenour

That is the question asked by the left-leaning Christian organization, Sojourners, in its campaign of the same name. It is a most appropriate question given the battle over the budget and given this time of year, not long after the most holy holiday of the year for Christians.

Sojourners claims that, despite record budget deficits and national debt, reducing subsidies for things like vaccines and bed nets in Africa, school lunch programs, early childhood education, and income maintenance in the United States is immoral. Indeed, such subsidies, Sojourners says, “are dollars we can’t afford to not invest.”

What are we to make of these claims? Certainly we are called to love our neighbor as ourselves and this love, when directed toward the poor and needy, must manifest itself by providing real material help to those who truly need it. It is not enough merely to wish a suffering soul to be warm and well fed. We must be willing to put our money where our mouth is.

It is a mistake, however, to treat as materially poor those who merely have lower incomes than others. For example, the average officially “poor” American has more living space than the average person living in Paris or London. Sixty-two percent of officially poor American homes have satellite or cable television and nearly 75 percent own an automobile. In the United States, what passes for poor certainly does not imply destitution.

Most important, we need to remember that the ends never justify the means, especially for the Christian. Good intentions are never enough to establish an action’s ethical validity. Scripture not only ordains ends we are called to pursue; it also guides us regarding the means that are acceptable to use in achieving those ends.

We should keep these principles in mind when considering Sojourners’ campaign. The campaign correctly notes that societal righteousness is not measured by GDP or military spending; also one of the good works demonstrated by righteous people is charity to the poor. This is all true.

Yet, a fundamental problem with Sojourners’ program is the assumption that what "we" do must be done by the state. It is a large and not logically necessary leap from "We are called to be charitable to the poor," to "A righteous society will have an extensive welfare state." Consider:

In the first place, it is not clear at all that the programs mentioned above have been proven effective. There is much literature documenting the ineffectiveness of foreign aid in producing sustainable development, which is the best way to reduce poverty in less developed nations.

Domestically, the link between welfare programs and personal development is so tenuous that even Bill Clinton thought that welfare reform was wise. Like it or not, institutional entitlement payments to the poor encourages idleness, one of the primary reasons that many households earn low incomes. Along with an absent father, one of the main reasons for impoverished children in this country is parents who do not work much. Subsidizing idleness through the federal budget is not going to solve this problem.

The message from Sojourners also errs by assuming that money spent on these projects is investment. In fact, the money spent resembles government consumption. Investment is the voluntary directing of saved income toward capital accumulation and the employment of that capital in its most productive use. Calling government spending “investment,” when that spending is funded by coercive taxation or monetary inflation, is doing violence to language.

For that matter, forcing taxpayers to pay for such programs, even if worthwhile, likewise does violence to the citizenry. It is a violation of the Christian ethic of property and, hence, cannot be accepted as a truly Christian approach to ministering to the poor. If Christ wishes us to adhere to the ethics He has revealed to us in Scripture, perhaps Jesus would want us to cut a lot more government spending than Sojourners assumes.

A better solution would be for the church to be the church. Local congregations should fully fund their diaconate and charge them with earnestly ministering to the needs of the poor as they become aware. The diaconate should be pro-active and eager to minister. However, they should be wise in their ministration, so as not to promote the very problems they seek to alleviate. More importantly, the church should preach the Gospel to everyone, making disciples of all people.

This two-pronged approach will minister to both the material poverty of the poor, and, more importantly, the spiritual poverty of those who do not know Him.

Dr. Shawn Ritenour is a professor of economics at Grove City College, contributor to The Center for Vision & Values, and author of "Foundations of Economics: A Christian View."

Is Morality on the Rebound in America?

Each year, Gallup asks citizens to weigh in on the state of morality in America. Generally speaking, the results are pretty grim. But, 2011 is looking a bit more favorable.

Based on stats released earlier today, the public seems to think that the nation is on an increasingly more moral path. When asked to rate the “overall state of moral values in the country,“ 38 percent of the nation selected ”poor,” with only 23 percent claiming that the nation’s values are “excellent” or “good.”

Sure, these proportions are still discouraging, but when you look at previous years’ results, things seem to be looking up (if only slightly). Last year, a larger segment — 45 percent — of the nation claimed that America’s values were “poor.” Interestingly, Gallup claims that this decrease in negatively is directly matched with an increase of positivity regarding the nation’s moral fabric:

The seven-point decline in negative reviews of U.S. morals over the past year is roughly matched by an eight-point increase, from 15% to 23%, in those describing morals as “excellent” or “good.“ The percentage calling them ”only fair” is unchanged at 38%.

But, life isn’t static. Asking people where they think the nation currently stands is great, but what about looking into the future? Gallup has it covered:

Americans are also slightly more optimistic than they were a year ago about the direction in which the nation’s morals are headed… About 7 in 10 Americans (69%) now say moral values in the country as a whole are getting worse, down from 76% last year.

While these results show an improvement, an important question needs to be asked: Is morality truly improving or are Americans becoming more accepting of cultural changes that are often reinforced by the media?

Cartoon of the Day - California's Prisons

Today on Kresta - May 26, 2011

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

4:00 – 6:00 – Direct to My Desk
This afternoon we spend two-hours with your calls. Topics that we will hit on include why some top-tier “new atheists” refuse to debate top-tier Christian apologists, the spirituality of Oprah, Catholic Social Teaching and the budget battle and we ask if America is in decline - morally, politically, economically, and culturally.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Today on Kresta - May 25, 2011

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

4:00 – Religion, Reason, and Same-Sex Marriage
In the contemporary debate on the future of marriage, there appears to be, amid many uncertainties, one sure thing. Those who publicly defend traditional marriage can count on being denounced as haters, bigots, or irrational theocrats—and perhaps all of these at once. Matthew Franck is here to discuss the faulty reasoning behind the claim that opposition to gay marriage is an irrational prejudice.

4:20 – The Divorce Survival Kit
Catholic author Rose Sweet has written and produced a powerful series featuring divorced Catholic men and women who share their inspiring stories. Unlike any other program, the CDSG includes the counsel of some of the brightest and best in Catholic media. Too many people stay stuck in their pain and don’t know how to find their way “home”. The CDSG was created to move the divorce or separated Catholic past the pain of divorce so they can find the Love that truly satisfies in the Sacraments. Rose joins us.

4:40 – The John Jay Report: An Analysis
A $2 million study commissioned by the U.S. bishops is not likely to put to rest questions about the causes of the sexual abuse crisis in the priesthood. The study by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York cites the sexual permissiveness of the 1960s and poor seminary training as the root causes of the crisis. Despite the report showing that nearly 80 percent of victims were post-pubescent and adolescent males, the study concludes that clinical data “do not support the hypothesis that priests with a homosexual identity ... are significantly more likely to sexually abuse.” Dr. Richard Fitzgibbons, a top psychiatrist and authority on treating sexually abusive priests said that he is “very critical” of the findings because they avoid discussing important causal factors in clerical sex abuse cases, namely homosexuality. Dr. Fitzgibbons is here to make his case.

5:00 – Harold Camping and the “Rapture Trap”
May 21 has come and gone and born-again Christians are still here. When his prophecy did not come true, and after hiding out in a motel over the weekend, Harold Camping now says that a “spiritual judgment” did take place over the weekend. He says the rest of his prophecy of the Rapture will come true on October 21, as scheduled. Paul Thigpen, author of The Rapture Trap: A Catholic Response to "End Times" Fever, is here to draw from Tradition, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Church history, and contemporary experience to reveal the shortcomings of the rapture doctrine and the larger tangle of twisted religious teachings to which it is tied.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Today on Kresta - May 20, 2011

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

4:00 – One Year Since the Shroud of Turin was packed away until 2035
Last year the Shroud of Turin was on public display for just the 18th time in its history in Turin, Italy. Over two million pilgrims viewed it and one year ago this weekend it was taken off display until 2035. Catholic journalist Mark Armstrong was there and joins us to discuss the history, science and impact of the Shroud.

4:20 – The Myth of Junk DNA
Man cannot be "merely a random product of evolution," Pope Benedict said in his Easter homily. And he's got science on his side. It's now clear, insists Dr. Jonathan Wells, that Darwinism's chief argument against an intelligent Designer directing evolution is false. Darwinists have long claimed that most DNA is the non-functional left-overs from random mutations that led nowhere. The problem, Wells explains, is that the "junk DNA" hypothesis isn't true. In his new book, The Myth of Junk DNA, Wells exposes the dogmatism of Darwinists-ome of them scientific celebrities who cling to the discredited party line.

5:00 – “Raptured” at 6:00 p.m. Local Time Tomorrow?
An American radio preacher gives the world as we know it until 6:00 p.m. local time tomorrow. Harold Camping's Family Radio network, based in Oakland, Calif., has put up signs across the country warning of "Judgment Day May 21." Without support from churches -- which he says are ruled by Satan -- Camping gives mathematical formulas he says are encoded in the Bible as proof that on Saturday, believers will be "raptured" into heaven and the rest of mankind will endure torment and tribulation until God destroys the world Oct. 21. Al looks at Camping, the “rapture” and more.

5:20 – Restoring Beauty: The Good, the True, and the Beautiful in the Writings of C.S. Lewis
More and more in our modern and postmodern culture the twin concepts of beauty and truth have been separated both from each other and from their individual connection to the divine source of Beauty and Truth. Even as our public schools move further and further away from their connection to the universal moral code, the world of art (both "high" and "low") embraces an aesthetic that privileges ugliness over beauty, nihilism over form, and radical self-expression over the pursuit of higher truth. As both an effective apologist for truth-based education and as a sub-creator of his own beauty-enhancing fiction, C.S. Lewis is the ideal guide for those who would seek to restore truth and beauty to their proper place and role in our modern world. We talk with Louis Markos about Restoring Beauty: The Good, the True, and the Beautiful in the Writings of C.S. Lewis

5:40 – “What’s Hot in the Catholic Blogosphere?”
We continue our new weekly segment on “What’s hot in the Catholic blogosphere.” Each week we will bring together 2 of the most popular Catholic bloggers to discuss the topics that have generated the most interest over the past week. Today we have Tim Drake of The National Catholic Register and Fr. John Zuhlsdorf of What Does the Prayer Really Say?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Rome’s exorcist finding Bl. John Paul II effective against Satan

(CNA/EWTN News).- The chief exorcist of Rome is seeing a rising number of young people coming under the influence of evil, but he has found in recent years that Blessed John Paul II is a powerful intercessor in the battle for souls.

A small, unassuming office in south-west Rome seems a rather ordinary setting in which to play out a grand battle between good and evil. It is here, though, that Father Gabriele Amorth has carried out most of his 70,000 exorcisms over the past 26 years.

“The world must know that Satan exists,” he told CNA recently. “The devil and demons are many and they have two powers, the ordinary and the extraordinary.”

The 86-year-old Italian priest of the Society of St. Paul and official exorcist for the Diocese of Rome explained the difference.

“The so-called ordinary power is that of tempting man to distance himself from God and take him to Hell. This action is exercised against all men and women of all places and religions.”

As for the extraordinary powers used by Satan, Fr. Amorth explained it as how the Devil acts when he focuses his attention more specifically on a person. He categorized the expression of that attention into four types: diabolical possession; diabolical vexation like in the case of Padre Pio, who was beaten by the Devil; obsessions which are able to lead a person to desperation and infestation, and when the Devil occupies a space, an animal or even an object.”

Fr. Amorth says such extraordinary occurrences are rare but on the rise. He's particularly worried by the number of young people being affected by Satan through sects, séances and drugs. He never despairs though.

“With Jesus Christ and Mary, God has promised us that he will never allow temptations greater than our strengths.”

Hence he gives a very matter-of-fact guide that everybody can use in the fight against Satan.

“The temptations of the Devil are defeated first of all by avoiding occasions (of temptation), because the Devil always seeks out our weakest points. And, then, with prayer. We Christians have an advantage because we have the Word of Jesus, we have the sacraments, prayer to God.”

Not surprisingly, ‘Jesus Christ’ is the name Fr. Amorth most often calls upon to expel demons. But he also turns to saintly men and women for their heavenly assistance. Interestingly, he said that in recent years one man – Blessed Pope John Paul II – has proved to be a particularly powerful intercessor.

“I have asked the demon more than once, ‘Why are you so scared of John Paul II and I have had two different responses, both interesting. One, ‘because he disrupted my plans.’ And, I think that he is referring to the fall of communism in Russia and Eastern Europe. The collapse of communism.”

“Another response that he gave me, ‘because he pulled so many young people from my hands.’ There are so many young people who, thanks to John Paul II, were converted. Perhaps some were already Christian but not practicing, but then with John Paul II they came back to the practice. ‘He pulled so many young people out of my hands.’”

And the most powerful intercessor of all?

“Of course, the Madonna is even more effective. Ah, when you invoke Mary!”

“And, once I also asked Satan, ‘but why are you more scared when I invoke Our Lady than when I invoke Jesus Christ?’ He answered me, ‘Because I am more humiliated to be defeated by a human creature than being defeated by him.”

The intercession of the living is also important, though, says Fr. Amorth. He reminds people that exorcism is a prayer and, as such, Christians can pray to liberate a soul or place from the Devil. However, three things are needed.

“The Lord gave them (the Apostles) an answer that also for us exorcists is very important. He said that overcoming this type of demon, you need much faith, much prayer and much fasting. Faith, prayer and fasting.”

“Especially faith, you need so much faith. Many times also in the healings, Jesus does not say in the Gospel it is me who has healed you. He says, you are healed thanks to your faith. He wants faith in the people, a strong and absolute faith. Without faith you can do nothing.”

Florida: controversy over Mass intention for repose of bin Laden’s soul

Praying for the soul of a dead man. How Outrageous!!! How UnAmerican!!!

Congrats to the pastor for defending Catholic common sense.

Does anyone disagree with this?

World Ends This Saturday!!!

Just ignore that annoying "But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only" part of Scripture.

Cartoon of the Day - Skype Sale

Today on Kresta - May 18, 2011

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

4:00 – Fatima for Today: The Urgent Marian Message of Hope
Though the apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima took place nearly a hundred years ago, Our Lady's call to prayer and penance for the salvation of souls and peace in the world is as relevant now as when first delivered to three Portuguese peasant children in 1917. Much of what Our Lady of Fatima said was revealed soon after her appearances, but the third and final "secret", which was not a message but a prophetic vision seen by the children, was not unveiled by the Vatican until 2000. Pope John Paul II, who read the third secret while recovering from the attempt upon his life in 1981, believed the vision signified the sufferings the Church had endured in the twentieth century. Because of the prophetic nature of her messages, Our Lady of Fatima has been the subject of much controversy and speculation. Father Andrew Apostoli is here to carefully analyze the events that took place in Fatima and clears up lingering questions and doubts about their meaning. He also challenges us to hear anew the call of Our Lady to prayer and sacrifice, for the world is ever in need of generous hearts willing to make reparation for those in danger of losing their way to God.

5:00 – Toward the Gleam: A Novel
Between the two world wars, on a hike in the English countryside, Professor John Hill takes refuge from a violent storm in a cave. There he nearly loses his life, but he also makes an astonishing discovery - an ancient manuscript housed in a cunningly crafted metal box. Though a philologist by profession, Hill cannot identify the language used in the manuscript and the time period in which it is was made, but he knows enough to make an educated guess - that the book and its case are the fruits of a long-lost, but advanced civilization. It’s the plot of the novel Toward the Gleam, and author T.M Doran is here in studio.

5:40 – The Indecipherable Writing of Thomas Aquinas
Fr. Robert Barron was in Rome the past couple of weeks, giving lectures at the North American College, the great seminary for Americans, Canadians, and Australians at the Vatican. There he was invited to view some “autographs” of St. Thomas Aquinas, that is to say, some writings in Thomas’s own hand. He was approaching this appointment with enormous enthusiasm, for Thomas, the church’s greatest theologian, is his hero, patron saint, and the person who, more than any other, had directed him toward the priesthood, and the scholar whose work he has been studying and writing about most of his adult life. He is here to tell us about the experience.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

US bishops see profound injustice in immigration status quo


Last week the U.S. Catholic bishops urged President Obama to act faster on his promises of federal immigration reform. In the meantime, they want Catholics to understand how the current patchwork of local laws is affecting 12 million people living and working in the country.

“Our position is that the system's broken,” said Kevin Appleby, Director of Migration and Refugee Policy at the U.S. bishops' conference. “The law needs to be changed.”

“We think that a lot of these people need to be brought out of the shadows. They've been working and contributing to society, despite the fact that they're out of legal status.”

The bishops, Appleby said, understand the importance of the rule of law – but they also see a fundamental injustice in the current state of affairs.

Almost all Americans, he explained, benefit from illegal immigrants' labor. But some citizens push for these same immigrants to be deported, and many others simply ignore the problem.

“We use their work, but we don't give them any protection of the law,” said Appleby. “If they're going to be working and contributing to the country, we have to give them that protection – we can't have it both ways.”

In recent years, the federal government has shifted much of its traditional responsibility for enforcing immigration law onto the states. Consequently, many states have begun to pass or consider measures targeting illegal immigrants, similar to those now being challenged in Arizona and Utah.

The states have also relied upon two local enforcement programs Appleby says are fraught with problems despite their good intentions – the Congressionally-authorized 287(g) program, and the Department of Homeland Security's Secure Communities initiative.

The first program authorizes local police to enforce federal immigration laws, while the second aims to prioritize the deportation of felons.

“We certainly agree with the goal of getting seriously criminal aliens out of the country, and the 'Secure Communities' program has that stated goal,” said Appleby.

The problem, he explained, is that “a lot of the people getting caught up in it haven't committed any offenses at all, other than being out of status.”

“Although the purported reason for this program is to deport criminal aliens, at least a third of the deportees have never committed a crime whatsoever,” he pointed out. If Secure Communities “worked properly,” he said the bishops “would have no problem with it. It's just not working properly.”

Secure Communities' failure to focus on the “worst of the worst” offenders is not the only problem. It's also made immigrant communities reluctant to cooperate with police at all, making many communities significantly less safe.

And, Appleby noted, it's diverted local police departments' attention away from their ordinary responsibilities, by saddling them with the task of enforcing federal immigration law.

“On the surface,” he said, the Secure Communities program “looks very reasonable. But when it's applied in local communities, there are some ill effects that really need to be scrutinized.”

But these programs, and state laws with similar or greater unintended effects, will most likely continue in the absence of comprehensive, nationwide immigration reform.

Appleby thinks the discussion about immigration reform should be refocused – from a gridlocked debate pitting humanitarian concerns against the rule of law, to a discussion about what is truly in the best interest of the United States.

“Those who are against immigration would make the argument that it's in their best interest that all these people go away,” Appleby acknowledged.

But he explained that the bishops consider this position shortsighted and impractical, as well as unfair.

“Immigrants, by and large, benefit our country. We need these immigrants, because they do a lot of things for our country that we need. But our laws aren't fit to make them legal.”

“Immigration reform may, in fact, be helpful over the long run for our economic future,” Appleby noted. He pointed out that it could help the U.S. government's own financial situation, by bringing underground sectors of the economy into the open where they can be taxed.

“Solving this problem is important to the common good of everyone,” he said.

Politicians, however, have plenty of incentive to accept the status quo.

“From Washington's perspective, it's working to have a hidden underclass doing these jobs,” Appleby observed. “It keeps the economy going, but we don't have to offer them the protection of the law. That's wrong.”

Debt, Finance and Catholics

Crisis Magazine
By Sam Gregg

Debt and deficits seem to be on everyone’s minds these days. Whether it be worries about the American government’s fiscal woes, Europe’s fragile banking system, or the debt-as-a-way-of-life culture that disfigures so many lives, many people are seeking guidance about how to extradite ourselves from this mess with our souls intact.

In this regard, Catholics instinctively turn to Catholic social teaching for direction. Unfortunately, modern Catholic social encyclicals have relatively little to say about financial questions. Even the 2004 Compendium of Catholic Social Doctrine confines itself to very broad statements about finance and foreign debt, and it never really addresses the moral dimension of private and public debt.

This absence of sustained contemporary Catholic reflection on financial questions is puzzling. Because once we get past the Dark Ages propaganda and Black Legend mythology that distorts so many people’s vision of the Middle Ages and Catholicism more generally, we discover most of the practices of finance and banking took form in a medieval Christian world — one shaped and nourished by the Catholic Church.

Indeed, for many centuries, Catholic bishops and theologians invested considerable energy in understanding the world of money because of the usury question. Catholic thinkers were consequently among the first to identify money’s primary functions, illustrate how money in the conditions of economic freedom could assume the form of capital, demonstrate the moral legitimacy of charging interest on money-as-capital, and assess the moral status of different debts in different contexts.

Here it’s worth noting that early-modern Catholic theologians assailed governments who tried to escape their debts by measures such as inflating the currency or borrowing more money to pay for interest payments on existing public debt, or who spent large portions of the taxes they raised on servicing debt or on activities that were either morally evil or simply did not fall within the core functions of constitutionally limited governments.

Sound familiar?

Today one looks in vain for Catholic thinkers studying our debt and deficit problems from standpoints equally well-informed by economics and sound Catholic moral reflection. We don’t, for instance, hear many Catholic voices speaking publically about the moral virtues essential for the management of finances such as prudent risk-taking, thrift, promise-keeping, and assuming responsibility for our debts — private or public.

Instead, one finds broad admonitions such as “put the interests of the poor first” in an age of budget-cutting. The desire to watch out for the poor’s well being in an environment of fiscal restraint is laudable. But that’s not a reason to remain silent about the often morally-questionable choices and policies that helped create our personal and public debt dilemmas in the first place.

One Catholic who has proved willing to engage these issues is none other than Pope Benedict XVI. In his 2010 interview book Light of the World, Benedict pointed to a deeper moral disorder associated with the running-up of high levels of private and public debt. The willingness on the part of many people and governments to do so means, Benedict wrote, “we are living at the expense of future generations.”

In other words, someone has to pay for all this debt. And clearly many Western Europeans and Americans seem quite happy for their children to pick up the bill. That’s a rather flagrant violation of intergenerational solidarity.

But Benedict then sharpened the argument. This willingness on the part of governments, communities, and individuals to live off debt means that people are “living in untruth.” “We live,” Benedict stated, “on the basis of appearances, and the huge debts are meanwhile treated as something that we are simply entitled to.”

In fact, it’s possible to go further and argue such attitudes reflect a mindset of practical atheism: living and acting as if God does not exist, as if the only life is this life, as if the future does not matter. Only people who have no hope — no hope in God, no hope in redemption, no hope for the future — will think and act this way.

The economist John Maynard Keynes once famously wrote, “In the long run, we are all dead.” To be fair to Keynes, he was making a specific point about monetary theory. But his words are evocative of a mindset that should trouble Catholics and other Christians.

For if we choose to live our lives according to a perspective dominated by immediate gratification or pursue economic policies forever focused on the short term (which is, more or less, Keynesianism’s Achilles’ heel), then living off debt is entirely rational. But what does that say about our priorities and conception of human flourishing?

Taking on debt is not in itself intrinsically evil. In many circumstances, it’s an entirely reasonable decision. Nevertheless, a situation of inexorably increasing debt and a failure to confront its moral and economic causes can slowly corrode our personal sense of responsibility for our freely undertaken obligations and severely tempt us to live in a fantasy world of moral and fiscal unreality.

Such attitudes don’t just weaken economies. The damage to our personal moral well being, not to mention entire societies’ moral ecology, is immeasurable.

Benedict XVI asks missionaries to not be afraid of persecution

Young Christian woman raped and murdered in Orissa, Christians in shock: "The massacre continues"

A targeted killing against the Christian community in Orissa: banita Pradhan, a 17 year old Christian girl was raped and killed. According to Christians, extremist groups that continue to rage with impunity on Christian minorities in the state are responsible for the murder.

The body of Banita Pradhan, a college student, was found yesterday, May 15, by the police, with signs of wounds, her face disfigured, near G Udayagiri, in Kandhamal district, the scene of anti-Christian violence in 2008 . The girl was kidnapped on May 9 and the family was in pain. According to the victim's father, suspicions fall on the Hindu activist Dinesh Naik and other militants, who first raped and then killed the girl.

"There is great fear among the population. The massacre of Christians continues as a trickle. The fear is that mass violence could be repeated. Today we pray and invoke God's protection. We ask the police to look into the matter seriously and they have promised a verbal commitment, but so far there have been no results, " said Asit Mohanty, regional director of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC ) in Orissa, non-governmental organization that works to defend the rights of Christians to Fides.

According to GCIC, behind the murder are the same Hindu fundamentalist groups responsible for the pogrom of 2008, but an investigation to try and punish the guilty is needed: "If the police and civil authorities will not engage - for well known reasons of collusion with extremists - this murder will go unpunished " Mohanty tells Fides.

The delegate recalled that in recent years cases of Christian girls kidnapped, raped and killed are increasing, and the phenomenon is a subtle form of intimidation to the Christian community. The GCIC has written a letter to the Prime Minister of Orissa, with an appeal to the federal Indian, so that they respect the law of the state, "where lawlessness and impunity condemn the persecution of Christian minorities."

The Christians also recall another murder mystery, that of Pastor Saul Pradhan, found dead in January 2011 in the same district. Currently, two Hindu extremists suspected of murder, were arrested.

Some months ago the local Church of Orissa had denounced to Fides the existence of "alarming reports of trafficking of young women on a large scale in Orissa. The victims are mainly Christian girls. The violence against Christians in 2008 gave the opportunity for criminal groups to find easy prey among the refugees and the poor. " Banita Pradhan may have been the subject of the aims of criminal groups engaged in human trafficking.

Ron Paul Accuses MSNBC’s Matthews of Playing Race Card

Cartoon of the Day: Anti-Birthers

Today on Kresta - May 17, 2011

Talking about the "things that matter most" on May 17

4:00 – Vatican Instruction demands equal dignity for Extraordinary Form
In a new Instruction, the Vatican has made it clear that the use of the extraordinary form—the traditional Latin liturgy—should be available to all the faithful. Universae Ecclesiae, released on May 13, follows up on the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum and clarifies the intent of Pope Benedict XVI. The Instruction says that the extraordinary should be given equal dignity in the Latin liturgy, and should be available whenever the faithful request it. Liturgical expert Fr. Peter Stravinskas explains.

4:20 – GOP Primaries: Huckabee / Trump Out – Gingrich In But Stumbling. What are Catholics Thinking?
Republicans are just beginning to assess the damage that presidential candidate Newt Gingrich has done to the GOP budget plan currently before Congress. On "Meet the Press" Sunday, Gingrich denounced House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan's plan to restructure Medicare, saying, "I don't think right-wing social engineering is any more desirable than left-wing social engineering.” Meanwhile, Mike Huckabee and Donald Trump have announced that they will NOT be candidates for President. Catholic political analyst Paul Kengor is here to look at what this all means for 2012.

4:40 – Four Days Until The End of the World?
An American radio preacher gives the world as we know it less than a week to go. Harold Camping's Family Radio network, based in Oakland, Calif., has put up signs across the country warning of "Judgment Day May 21." Without support from churches -- which he says are ruled by Satan -- Camping gives mathematical formulas he says are encoded in the Bible as proof that on Saturday, believers will be "raptured" into heaven and the rest of mankind will endure torment and tribulation until God destroys the world Oct. 21. We look at Camping, the “rapture” and more.

5:00 – New Vatican Document on Sexual Abuse of Minors / Rights of Priests
The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has issued a circular letter “to assist episcopal conferences in developing guidelines for dealing with cases of sexual abuse of minors perpetrated by clerics.” All episcopal conferences will have until May 2012 to complete these guidelines, which will outline “clear and coordinated procedures in dealing with these instances of abuse.” What are the changes and emphases? Matthew Bunson, co-author of Pope Benedict XVI and the Sexual Abuse Crisis: Working for Reform and Renewal, is with us.

5:20 – Streetwalking with Jesus: Reaching Out in Justice and Mercy
For over two decades Deacon John Green's vocation has been ministering to inner city men on the margins of society in downtown Chicago. Green didn't set out to be another Dorothy Day or Mother Teresa, and would be quick to tell you he hasn’t become one. A product of middle class, church-going comfort and values, he heeded God's challenge to found Emmaus Ministries, which serves some of the modern-day lepers that are in our midst. Deacon Green's lessons learned regarding these hard questions are set against stories of men who struggle to escape poverty, addiction, and sexual sin while encountering Christ in the process. He joins us.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Heaven is a 'fairy story', says Stephen Hawking

British scientist Stephen Hawking has branded heaven a "fairy story" for people afraid of the dark, in his latest dismissal of the concepts underpinning the world's religions.
The author of 1988 international best-seller "A Brief History of Time" said in an interview with The Guardian published on Monday that his views were partly influenced by his battle with motor neurone disease.

"I have lived with the prospect of an early death for the last 49 years. I'm not afraid of death, but I'm in no hurry to die. I have so much I want to do first," he told the newspaper.

"I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when its components fail. There is no heaven or afterlife for broken down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark."

Hawking's stance on religion has hardened significantly in the nearly quarter century since the publication of his seminal work on the cosmos.

In "A Brief History of Time" he suggested that the idea of a divine being was not necessarily incompatible with a scientific understanding of the Universe.

But in his 2010 book "The Grand Design" he said a deity no longer has any place in theories on the creation of the universe in the light of a series of developments in physics.

Hawking has achieved worldwide fame for his research, writing and television documentaries despite suffering since the age of 21 from motor neurone disease that has left him disabled and dependent on a voice synthesiser.

“Progressives” Criticize Colorado School District for Holding Graduation at Church

For a decade, Colorado’s Lewis-Palmer school district has held graduation at the U.S. Air Force Academy, but increased security this year forced a last-minute change of plans.

New Life Church offered its massive auditorium for free, and the school district — which is located several miles north of the church and the academy, as well as Focus on the Family — gladly accepted. The relocation reportedly is saving the district $3,700.

As if on cue, ProgressNow Colorado — which aims to “counter the messaging capacity of the far right” — objected, calling it “fundamentally wrong” to hold the May 17 graduation at a church that adheres to biblical truths.

“It’s not going to be a church service,” said John Borman, principal of Lewis-Palmer High School. “It’s going to be a graduation ceremony.”

Kelly Shackelford, president and CEO of Texas’ Liberty Institute, said he’s seen many similar scenarios. “Some people are so intolerant that they don’t want to ever come in contact with any place where anyone else has ever been that had a thought that they disagreed with,” he said, “but that’s not the approach we take in America.”

Head of 2012 Olympic Team Resigns after Criticism from Gay Activists

Who's really intolerant here?

WNS - It’s apparently not very popular to support marriage these days — even though 31 states have affirmed the one-man, one-woman definition through popular vote.

In late April, gay activists convinced a top-tier law firm to stop defending the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

And in early May, two-time gymnastics gold medalist Peter Vidmar resigned as head of the 2012 U.S. Olympic team after scathing criticism from gay athletes and activists. His crime? He donated $2,000 to support Proposition 8, the 2008 ballot initiative that amended California’s Constitution to protect marriage.

Olympic figure skater Johnny Weir, who is gay-identified, called Vidmar’s position on marriage “disgraceful.” Jessica Mendoza, a gold medalist in softball, said she was “very disappointed.” And Aimee Mullins, the head of the 2012 U.S. Paralympic team, said she was “concerned and deeply saddened.”

For its part, the U.S. Olympic Committee said it supported Vidmar’s “right to religious freedom.” But Vidmar said he didn’t want his religious beliefs to become a distraction.

Maggie Gallagher, chairman of the National Organization for Marriage, said it’s clear the gay activist network was at work.

“Simply because he donated to Prop. 8, he was declared by the gay rights movement to be unacceptable for public office,” she said. “This is a campaign to stigmatize, marginalize and repress faith communities’ views on marriage.”

Gallagher said Vidmar faced little choice but to resign. “Peter Vidmar is one of the leading corporate motivational speakers. That’s how he makes a living,” she said. ““When the gay rights movement decided to go after him, he recognized that his entire career, his entire livelihood, could be severely damaged.”

Record Number of Foster Kids Find Adoptive Families

Just in time for National Foster Care Adoption Month, researchers have announced that the number of adoptions out of foster care has reached a record high.

In 2009, 57,000 U.S. kids in foster care found forever families, up from 37,000 in 1998, according to a Child Trends study reported in The Washington Times.

Kelly Rosati, vice president of community outreach at Focus on the Family, said the church is to thank for some of the progress. “We’ve been excited to see an increase in the willingness of Christians to simply ask themselves, ‘Does God want to use the blessing of our family on behalf of a child without one?’” she said. “And as Christians across the country continue to pray that prayer, I think we’re going to see these numbers increase.”

Researchers also found that the number of children waiting for adoption fell to a record low of 115,000 in 2009, down from 135,000 three years earlier. The average wait to be adopted fell to a record low 35 months, down from 48 months in 1998.

The Washington Times report mentioned Rosati and Focus’ Wait No More initiative, which holds events across the country to help families start the process of adoption. Nearly 6,000 people have attended the events, and nearly 1,500 have decided to pursue the adoption process.
But many more families are needed, Rosati said.

Chuck Johnson, president and CEO of the National Council for Adoption, agreed there is more to be done. “There’s a lot of work we can do together,” he said, “to help make adoption a more positive choice.”

In Texas schools, a picture's worth 1,000 calories

Smile, schoolchildren. You're on calorie camera.

Health officials trying to reduce obesity and improve eating habits at five San Antonio elementary schools unveiled a $2 million research project last week that will photograph students' lunch trays before they sit down to eat and later take a snapshot of the leftovers.

A computer program then analyzes the photos to identify every piece of food on the plate — right down to how many ounces are left in that lump of mashed potatoes — and calculates the number of calories each student scarfed down.

The project, funded by a U.S. Department of Agriculture grant, is the first of its kind in the nation. The cameras, about the size of pocket flashlights, point only toward the trays and don't photograph the students. Researchers say about 90 percent of parents gave permission to record every morsel of food their child eats.

"We're trying to be as passive as possible. The kids know they're being monitored," said Dr. Roger Echon, who works for the San Antonio-based Social & Health Research Center, and who is building the food-recognition program.

Here's how it works: Each lunch tray gets a bar code sticker to identify a student. After the children load up their plates down the line — cole slaw or green beans? french fries or fruit? — a camera above the cashier takes a picture of each tray.

When lunch is over and the plates are returned to the kitchen, another camera takes a snapshot of what's left. Echon's program then analyzes the before and after photos to calculate calories consumed and the values of 128 other nutrients. It identifies foods by measuring size, shape, color and density.

Parents will receive the data for their children, and researchers hope eating habits at home will change once moms and dads see what their kids are choosing in school. The data also will be used to study what foods children are likely to choose and how much they're eating.

Nine-year-old Aaliyah Haley went through the lunch line at W.W. White Elementary with cheesy enchiladas, Spanish rice, fat-free chocolate milk and an apple. Two cameras, one pointed directly down and another about tray-level, photographed her food before she sat down to eat.

"I liked it. It's good food that was good for me," Haley said.

Just how healthy it was researchers don't know yet. Echon is still developing the program and expects to spend the first year of the four-year grant fine-tuning the equipment. By the 2012-13 school year, the Social Health & Research Center plans to have a prototype in place.

Echon has already made some changes to the project. Echon learned that mashed potatoes served on some campuses are lumpier than those served on others. The program now accounts for consistencies and texture.

The database already includes about 7,500 different varieties of food. Echon said he started from scratch because there was no other food-recognition software to build upon. He insisted on creating technology to record meals because asking 8-year-olds to remember what they ate and write it down is seldom accurate.

Researches selected poor, minority campuses where obesity rates and diabetes risk are higher. Among those is White Elementary, which is just off a busy interstate highway on the city's poor east side, on a street dotted with fast-food restaurants and taquerias.

In Bexar County, where the five pilot schools are located, 33 percent of children living in poverty are obese.

Researchers warn that obesity is not always the result of children eating too many calories. A previous study by the nonprofit center reported that 44 percent of children studied consumed calories below daily minimum requirements, but nearly one-third were still obese. Seven percent screened positive for type 2 diabetes.

Mark Davis, the school's principal, said getting consent from parents hasn't been a problem. He suspects the small number of parents who withhold consent don't understand the project, perhaps thinking it limits what their child can eat at school.

"Nothing in the program says they can't have something," Davis said. "It just says we're tracking what it is."

Beatification of priest who was martyred at Dachau

Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, presided at the May 15 beatification of Father Georg Häfner (1900-42), a parish priest who perished of malnutrition at Dachau. The beatification took place at the cathedral in Wuerzburg.

Described as quiet and prayerful, Father Häfner refused to make the Hitler salute and continued to teach religion classes in defiance of Nazi authorities. The Vatican has declared his death to be a martyrdom.

“In the confusion of National Socialism, Georg Haefner was willing, as a faithful shepherd, to protect his flock and deliver the sacrament and the water of life to many people, until the end of his life,” Pope Benedict said following his Regina Caeli address. “He forgave those who wronged him, and in a letter to his parents from prison, he wrote, ‘We want to be at peace with everyone.’”

English bishops reestablish meatless Fridays

Catholics in England and Wales will be obliged to abstain from meat every Friday beginning September 16--the anniversary of the first day of Pope Benedict’s 2010 trip to the United Kingdom.

“Every Friday is set aside by the Church as a special day of penance, for it is the day of the death of our Lord,” the bishops of England and Wales said in a May 13 statement. “The law of the Church requires Catholics to abstain from meat on Fridays, or some other form of food, or to observe some other form of penance laid down by the Bishops' Conference.”

“Respectful of this, and in accordance with the mind of the whole Church, the Bishops' Conference wishes to remind all Catholics in England and Wales of the obligation of Friday Penance,” the bishops continued. “The Bishops have decided to re-establish the practice that this should be fulfilled by abstaining from meat. Those who cannot or choose not to eat meat as part of their normal diet should abstain from some other food of which they regularly partake.”

“Many may wish to go beyond this simple act of common witness and mark each Friday with a time of prayer and further self-sacrifice. In all these ways we unite our sacrifices to the sacrifice of Christ, who gave up his very life for our salvation.”

Sexual Abuse of Minors: Vatican requires Episcopal Conferences to take new action

Outrageous Statement of the Day

CNN Anchor: Are Conservatives Angry About Common’s White House Appearance Because He’s Black? I'll give you one guess as to what the answer was.