Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Today on Kresta - August 31, 2011

4:00 - 6:00 - Direct to My Desk
Today you have two hours to set the agenda! Raise the points, ask the questions, and discuss the topics that matter most to you. As always, we have some topics prepared, one of which is the Republican primary. We want to know what you think of the current crop of candidates. Who do you think best adheres to the 5 non-negotiables? Who do you think will best represent Catholic Social Teaching? This and a lot more conversation today on "Kresta in the Afternoon."

Voucher movement gains traction as new school year kicks off

As U.S. Catholic schools gear up for a new academic year, some have seen a spike in enrollment due to more states offering school voucher programs.
“The school choice movement has picked up during this last year and it's gained a lot of momentum,” Sr. Dale McDonald, director of Public Policy and Educational Research at the National Catholic Educational Association, told EWTN News in an Aug. 30 interview.
As of August 2011, 18 states as well as the District of Columbia have enacted policies that support school vouchers.
“School choice should be promoted because parents are the primary educators of their children and should have the right to choose the best school,” Sr. Dale stressed.
Although some parents have the means to send their children to their preferred school, “others are denied that choice because of their economic situation,” she pointed out.
“We've always felt that parents of low and modest income should have the kind of choices that parents of higher income have for their children.”
Sr. Dale's remarks come just months after Speaker of the House John Boehner (R–Ohio) showed his support for Catholic education and school choice.
During the week of the State of the Union Address on Jan. 26, he announced the introduction of a bill that restored funding for school vouchers in Washington, D.C. 
Although the D.C. program first received authorization in 2004 – and enabled 1,700 children to attend private schools – President Obama defunded the program in 2009.
Speaker Boehner's efforts, which included meeting personally with several Catholic education officials, were seen “not only a symbolic commitment to choice but something that was very much in demand by the parents here in D.C.,” Sr. Dale recalled.
She noted that the D.C. program set an example which other states are beginning to follow.
In April, the Indiana Legislature provided vouchers that allow low-and middle-income families to use public funds to help pay private school tuition.
The Indiana program, which is only the second statewide program in country, has enabled 240 religious schools, mostly Catholic, to enroll students with vouchers.
“The Indiana voucher program is a big one this year,” Sr. Dale said. “It's a victory that we're happy to promote.”
A victory, however, that may be short lived.
Opponents of the program recently filed a lawsuit claiming it violates the Indiana constitution's required separation of church and state, given that most of the non-public schools so far approved for the voucher program have religious affiliations.
Other states have encountered similar obstacles.
In Colorado, Denver judge Michael Martinez ordered the state’s Douglas County to immediately stop its scholarship program on Aug. 12. Judge Martinez similarly ruled that the initiative violates provisions in the state's constitution.
“I think it's a weak argument,” Sr. Dale said in response to the claim that vouchers threaten to blur the line between church and state.
“If the scholarship is given to the parents and the parents make the choice about where to go to school, then the government hasn't made the choice – it's provided parents with a check to make the choice.”
Sr. Dale likened vouchers to Medicare or other government assistance.
“When you're given a Medicare check or a Social Security check, you can spend it however you want it,” she said. “If I take my Social Security check and decide to give it all to the Church, nobody questions it – this is the same thing.”
“This is giving parents the money to make the choice,” she underscored. “Not all of these vouchers are used for religious schools. Some are independent or private schools.”
Sr. Dale said that an improved understanding of how vouchers actually work will eventually show individuals that “constitutionally, school choice can be supported.”

Read more:

My generation did not evangelise enough, says Pope

(Catholic Herald) Cradle Catholics have not done enough to show people that God exists and can bring true fulfilment to everyone, Pope Benedict XVI has told a group of his former students.
“We, who have been able to know [Christ] since our youth, may we ask forgiveness because we bring so little of the light of his face to people; so little certainty comes from us that he exists, he’s present and he is the greatness that everyone is waiting for,” the Pope said.
The Pope presided at a Mass yesterday in Castel Gandolfo, south of Rome, during his annual meeting with students who did their doctorates with him when he was a professor in Germany.
Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna, a regular participant in the Ratzinger Schülerkreis (Ratzinger student circle), gave the homily at the Mass, but the Pope made remarks at the beginning of the liturgy.
The Vatican released the text of the Pope’s remarks today.
Pope Benedict highlighted the day’s reading in Psalm 63 in which the soul thirsts for God “in a land parched, lifeless and without water”.
He asked God to show himself to today’s world, which is marked by God’s absence and where “the land of souls is arid and dry, and people still don’t know where the living water comes from”.
May God let people who are searching for water elsewhere know that the only thing that will quench their thirst is God himself and that he would never let “people’s lives, their thirst for that which is great, for fulfilment, drown and suffocate in the ephemeral,” the Pope told his former students.
However, it also is up to Christians to make God known to the world, the Pope said, and older generations may not have done their best.
“We want to ask [God] to forgive us, that he renew us with the living water of his spirit and that he helps us to celebrate properly the sacred mysteries,” he said.
The formal discussions of the “schulerkreis” this year focused on the new evangelisation.
The closed-door seminar was held from August 25 to 28 in the papal residence of Castel Gandolfo and was attended by 40 people, according to L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper.
The Pope chose two speakers to give lectures: Hanna-Barbara Gerl-Falkovitz, a female German theologian and professor, and Otto Neubauer, director of the Emmanuel Community’s academy for evangelisation in Vienna.
The lectures were followed by discussion among the participants, including the Pope.
Summarising the discussions for L’Osservatore Romano, Cardinal Schönborn said participants felt that World Youth Day events in Madrid represented a fresh “boost of renewed hope” for the Church.
He said older generations had suffered by first living their faith at a time when Church life was thriving, and now watching parishes lose parishioners.
But today’s young Catholics seem to realise they are a minority in a secular, relativistic world and have shown their “undaunted willingness to give witness to their peers in such an environment,” he said.
Seminar participants saw the so-called “John Paul II and Benedict XVI generations” as a whole new phase for the Church. No one thought young Catholics would be so open to being in “the courtyard of the Gentiles” to evangelise, said the cardinal.
He said the meeting also reflected on how to spread the Gospel in a secular world that nonetheless “shows that it is waiting to receive anew the Gospel message.”

Pope begins search for new head of Doctrine of the Faith

Federal judge strikes down Texas anti-abortion law

A federal judge has struck down parts of a new Texas law that requires doctors to do sonograms before providing abortions.  The ruling claims the law violates the free speech rights of both patients and doctors.

AUSTIN, TX (Catholic Online) - U.S. District Judge, Sam Sparks did uphold the requirement that the sonograms be performed, but another, more controversial part of the law which required doctors to describe the images of the babies to women and for the women to listen, has been ruled unconstitutional. 

The law did make exceptions for women who were the victims of rape and incest, or whose babies suffered from irreversible abnormalities. 

The law, now partially eviscerated, will take affect on Thursday. 

Supporters of the new law have explained that many women who seek abortions do not fully understand what an abortion entails--the taking of a baby's life. By requiring the sonograms and for the doctors to describe them to the patients, they argue women will have a better understanding about the choice they are making. The hoped-for result will be fewer abortions. 

Those opposing the law claim it requires doctors to describe the baby's features which could be forcing them to say something against their will. They argue doing so could violate ethical medical practices which mandate that doctors must respect a patient's autonomy and act in the patient's best interest, which could conceivably include performing an abortion. 

Sparks explained in his ruling that the law, "compels physicians to advance an ideological agenda with which they may not agree, regardless of any medical necessity and irrespective of whether the pregnant women wish to listen." 

He also indicated that he did not like the provision requiring victims of rape and incest to sign a form claiming that they were victimized in order to obtain an exemption under the law. Finally, Sparks struck down the penalties for doctors who broke the law, which including losing their license and criminal prosecution.

Texas Governor Rick Perry indicated his opposition to the ruling. In a statement released by his office, Perry wrote, " Every life lost to abortion is a tragedy and today's ruling is a great disappointment to all Texans who stand in defense of life." Perry strongly advocated for the law earlier in the year.

Texas authorities say they plan to appeal the ruling.

© 2011, Catholic Online. Distributed by NEWS CONSORTIUM.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Today on Kresta - August 30, 2011

Talking about the "things that matter most" on August 30

4:00 – Church Leaders: Alabama Immigration Law “Merciless”
Alabama Christian leaders, including Birmingham’s Bishop Robert Baker, have filed a lawsuit this week to stop the state from enacting the “nation’s most merciless” immigration law, claiming it would prohibit Christians from living out their faith and the mandates of Scripture. Al has some comments on viewing immigration through the eyes of Christ.

4:40 – “The 5th Quarter”
In February 2006, young Luke Abbate accepted a ride home from a fellow student following his high-school team practice. In a severe case of irresponsible and reckless teen-age driving, the driver lost control of the car at nearly 90 miles-per-hour, spinning off a narrow road and landing in an embankment some seventy feet below. Luke suffered irreparable brain damage, and died in the hospital two days later. Following his brother's death, Jon considered giving up his football career - but knew that doing so would not properly honor the younger brother who loved and idolized him. Upon his return to Wake Forest, Jon was given the approval of head coach Jim Grobe to change his number from his long-standing 40, to his brother's number 5. And, in so doing, dedicated the new season to the memory of his brother. Nick Thomm reviews the film “The 5th Quarter."

5:00 - Kresta Comments: Earthquakes, Hurricanes and the East Coast Media

5:20 – New Studies on Cancer and Lyme Disease Analyzed by Envita Medical Center
New studies are out that show Lyme disease on the rise and a new gene which may predict breast cancer. We talk with Dino Prato of Envita Medical Centers which does significant research and treatment for cancer and Lyme disease. It is the only clinic of its kind which offers an extensive array of advanced natural treatments from all over the world under one roof. We combine these treatment options with the best of conventional medicine to offer our patients comprehensive and complete treatment programs.

5:40 – Bush Memoir / Cheney Memoir: Are They At Odds or Does the Media Need A Story?
Former Vice President Richard B. Cheney provides an unapologetic defense of the George W. Bush administration in his memoir published today, including explanations of his own decisions on contested national security and domestic policies that often come at the expense of former Cabinet members and colleagues. Those include the justification to invade Iraq in 2003, a judgment he blames on CIA failures, and the lack of support for his urging that the United States strike a Syrian nuclear reactor site in 2007. One storyline the media is picking up on is some minor variances in the Bush memoir to the Cheney memoir. Was Cheney the one making all of the decisions for Bush? Paul Kengor answers.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Today on Kresta - August 29, 2011

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

4:00 – Facebook, Blogs, Twitter and Evangelization
This past weekend, Matthew Warner of Flocknote, the National Catholic Register and Fallible Blogma, served as emcee of “Catholicon,” a conference celebrating the Church’s latest mission field – the new media. Matt sits down with us to look at the areas of fruit that he sees in different aspects of the new media.

4:20 – Exploring a “Theology of Communication”
When we think about the Church and mass media or the Church and communication, we often think of the pontificates of Blessed John Paul II and Benedict XVI and when it comes to documents – Inter Mirifica. We talk with Fr. John Zuhlsdorf about what it means to have a “Theology of Communication” and how we can go deeper into that concept.

5:00 - The Church and New Media: Blogging Converts, Online Activists, and Bishops Who Tweet
We're experiencing the biggest communication shift since the printing press. Millions have adopted Facebook, YouTube, blogs, and Twitter. What does this mean for the Church? How can Christians harness these new tools to reach out, teach, cultivate community, and change the world? Following Pope Benedict's call to evangelize the "digital continent," Brandon Vogt explores the power and risks of New Media while guiding Christians through this new environment.

Perry: Social Security is a "Ponzi scheme" and a "monstrous lie"

Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry continued his attack on Social Security over the weekend, calling it a "Ponzi scheme" and a "monstrous lie" to younger Americans who should not expect to get back their contributions upon retirement.
"It is a Ponzi scheme for these young people. The idea that they're working and paying into Social Security today, that the current program is going to be there for them, is a lie," Perry said, according to the Houston Chronicle.
"It is a monstrous lie on this generation, and we can't do that to them," Perry told a crowd a The Vine Coffeehouse in Ottumwa, Iowa.
Perry has been no stranger to controversial remarks about the retirement program. In his recent book, Fed Up, Perry called Social Security a "Ponzi scheme" and said it was created "at the expense of respect for the Constitution and limited government."
Social Security was created in the wake of the Great Depression as part of Franklin Delano Roosevelt's New Deal in an effort to create a mandatory retirement system for millions of workers.
Last week, a spokesman for the Texas governor's campaign told several media outlets, including the Wall Street Journal, that Perry's book was intended "as a review and critique of 50 years of federal excesses, not in any way as a 2012 campaign blueprint or manifesto." Those comments were seen as a softening of Perry's stance on Social Security.
Asked about his apparent backtrack later in Des Moines on Saturday, Perry said he did no such thing.
"I haven't backed off anything in my book. So read the book again and get it right," Perry told the reporter, according to the Chronicle.

Infant baptisms drop along with US birth rate, survey finds

A new study shows that infant baptisms in the Catholic Church have been declining year by year along with the birth rate in the U.S.
The numbers are “are generally moving in step with the overall fertility rate, which has also been falling, more so since the recession in 2008,” said researchers from Georgetown University's  Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate on Aug. 24.
Results show that although the numbers of those entering the Catholic Church are almost high enough to keep up with the number of Catholics who pass away each year, this may not always be the case if current trends continue.
The survey noted that in each of the past three years the number of people entering the faith of any age has dropped below 1 million. Since 1947, the annual number of new U.S. Catholics has only come in at less than 1 million at one other time, and that was during the period from 1973 to 1979.
But infant baptisms are not the only area showing lower numbers. Less children, teens, and adults are becoming Catholic as well.
Despite baptisms steadily increasing from 1997 to 2000, when they reached a peak of over 170,000, researchers said that “something happened” that they can’t pinpoint.
In just one year, from 2000 to 2001, the number of non-infant entries into the Church fell by more than 20,000 or down 12.6 percent.
“This drop predates the emergence of news of clergy sex abuse cases,” they noted. “In fact the number of entries into the Church increased from 2001 to 2002 when these stories emerged in the media.”
From 2002 the number of new non-infant entries into the Church stabilized until 2006 and 2007 where another steep decline occurred. In 2007, there were 28,000 fewer non-infant entries into the Church than in 2005, which is a decrease of over 19 percent. 
“Since then, the decline has flattened out a bit but still continues through to the numbers for 2010,” researchers added.
According to the center, as of 2011, there are over 77 million self-identified Catholics in the U.S.

Flooding 'an ongoing concern' amid Irene's destruction

Brattleboro, Vermont (CNN) -- As a much-weakened Irene entered Canada, it left behind parts of the U.S. East Coast still grappling Monday with dangerous flood waters, widespread power outages and stranded residents.
At least 21 deaths in nine states were blamed on Irene, which fizzled to a post-tropical cyclone and headed over eastern Canada on Monday.
"Hurricane Irene's damage is likely to be characterized more by the amount of inland flooding, storm surge and treefall than by direct wind damage, and flooding is still an ongoing concern for many states in the Northeast," said Risk Management Solutions, Inc., which tracks natural catastrophes.
About 3 million customers were without power along Irene's path.
Much of the remaining trouble centered on flooding from North Carolina through New England, with homes inundated and roads torn apart by floodwaters.

Some of the worst flooding since 1927 ravaged Vermont's normally tranquil countryside, turning babbling brooks into turbulent rivers and knocking homes from their foundations.
In Wilmington, Vermont, a young woman who had been standing near a river was washed away. Her body was recovered.
In all, 260 roads were affected, many of them underwater, Vermont's Emergency Management Department said Monday.
Four to six covered bridges were destroyed and others were washed out, it said.
In the capital city of Montpelier, water crested overnight at 19.5 feet, just shy of the 20-foot prediction, but levels throughout the state were receding Monday morning.
The emergency management headquarters flooded overnight and was evacuated and relocated from Waterbury to Burlington, approximately 20 miles away.
In North Carolina, more than 340,000 customers were without power Monday, down from more than 440,000 on Sunday night, the state's emergency management department said.
Dominion Power reported more than 600,000 customers were without power in Virginia and northern North Carolina.
As many as 200 residents were isolated and without power Monday on Ocracoke Island, near where Irene had first made landfall as a hurricane on Saturday. Supply transport to Ocracoke was hampered as ocean waves dislodged large chunks of a key roadway.
Dunes at Ocracoke's northern end "have apparently been spread across the road, so no one yet knows how badly the pavement is damaged," said Clayton Gaskill, manager of Ocracoke's tiny FM radio station WOVV.
And in Prattsville, New York, seven Brooklyn families who thought they had escaped the storm's wrath were stranded Monday in the Catskill Mountains after bridges crumbled around them.
"We're sitting in one room, and it's a horrible situation and there is no way out," said Irina Noveck, who was stuck along with 22 other adults and children. "Kids are getting scared, food is getting spoiled."
In all, more than 8,500 people awoke Monday morning in Red Cross shelters up and down the East Coast, a spokesman said.


VATICAN CITY, AUG. 28, 2011 ( Benedict XVI is expressing his distress at the terrorist attack on U.N. offices in Abuja, Nigeria, which caused more than 20 deaths and dozens of wounded.
Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Pope's secretary of state, sent twin telegrams on his behalf to the secretary-general of the United Nations and the president of Nigeria.
A suicide bomber Friday crashed a vehicle into the U.N. offices, and then detonated explosives. A local radical Muslim sect, Boko Haram, claimed responsibility for the attack.
Noting the "terrible loss of life among both local citizens and United Nations personnel," the Holy Father reiterated his appeal "to those who choose death and violence to embrace instead life and respectful dialogue."
"The Holy Father earnestly prays for the repose of those whose lives have been cut short so dramatically," the telegrams added, and he "invokes God's blessings of courage and strength upon the injured and those who mourn."

Chaput offers blessings, thanks in last local Mass

Denver Post:

Archbishop Charles Chaput said his goodbyes Sunday night to a flock that filled the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception.
He summoned people in from the foyer to fill the aisles and sit at the steps of the sanctuary and warned them that he might preach for an hour.
"Instead of saying goodbye," he said to his parishioners, "why don't we just listen to the word of God."
Chaput gave his final Mass before leaving Denver to shepherd the 1.5-million-member Archdiocese of Philadelphia, where he is to be installed on Sept. 8. He was appointed by Pope Benedict XVI in July to the task of restoring an archdiocese rocked by a sexual-abuse scandal.
Sunday night, Chaput was preceded in the ornate basilica by American
Indian drummers.
A member of the Prairie Band Potowatomi tribe of his native Kansas, Chaput is only the second American Indian to be ordained a bishop in the United States and the first American Indian archbishop.
His replacement in Denver has not yet been named.
The 66-year-old Chaput has served the Denver archdiocese for 14 years, forging a national reputation for his conservative, orthodox Catholicism.
He has taken high-profile stances against gay marriage and abortion, while championing social justice, immigration reform and cultural diversity.
In the process, Chaput has earned praise and devotion from some and criticism from others.
No critics could be found in his presence Sunday night.
"He literally just held my hand and prayed together that the Lord will provide me with a home someday," homeless parishioner Chris Orchard told 9News Sunday night.
Anna Marie Larsen considered the loss.
"Denver is really losing an incredible person and an incredible leader for our church," she told the station.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Today on Kresta - August 26, 2011

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

4:00 – Judge Allows Illinois To Cut Off Catholic Charities' Foster Care
An Illinois judge has ruled that the state has the right to end its foster care partnership with Catholic Charities in four dioceses, despite the Church ministry's contention that it was being dropped on religious grounds. In his August 18 ruling, Illinois Circuit Court Judge John Schmidt held that "no citizen has a recognized legal right to a contract with the government." Thus, he explained, the state had no obligation to renew a long-standing arrangement with Catholic Charities in the dioceses, as it had annually for over 40 years. Attorney for Catholic Charities, Thomas Brejcha, is here.

4:20 – Family Politics: The Idea of Marriage in Modern Political Thought
With crisp prose and intellectual fairness, Scott Yenor traces the treatment of the family in the philosophies of leading political thinkers of the modern world. What is family? What is marriage? In an effort to address contemporary society's disputes over the meanings of these human social institutions, Scott carefully examines a roster of major and unexpected modern political philosophers from Locke and Rousseau to Hegel and Marx to Freud and Beauvoir. He lucidly presents how these individuals developed an understanding of family in order to advance their goals of political and social reform. Through this exploration, Yenor unveils the effect of modern liberty on this foundational institution and argues that the quest to pursue individual autonomy has undermined the nature of marriage and jeopardizes its future. He joins us.

5:00 – Strategies for Fighting New Abortion Clinics
Monica Miller had been battling abortion for over three decades and has much experience in shutting down and preventing abortion clinics from opening. With a new mega-planned parenthood coming to Auburn Hills, MI, Monica uses this clinic as an example of how pro-lifers can stop abortion clinics from opening in the first place.

5:20 – Search For Human Trafficking Victims Continues With Arrest Of Suspect
International government officials and the Minneapolis-based Institute for Trafficked, Exploited & Missing Persons (ITEMP) continue their search for information about a suspected human trafficker arrested and currently awaiting formal charges in Bolivia. José Ignacio Llopis Miro, 45, was arrested by INTERPOL agents June 17 at a café in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, after a nearly three-year manhunt. He is suspected in the disappearance of two women in Bolivia. He is also wanted in Uruguay, Spain, Guatemala, Argentina, and Australia on fraud, theft, and human trafficking-related charges. Furthermore, he is under investigation in Guatemala in connection with a homicide. We talk about this case and the work of ITEMP with their founder, Patrick Atkinson.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Mosher: "Biden Understands China Policy Because I Explained It"

The Vice President has run into a buzzsaw of criticism for seeming to condone Chinese-style population control. His defenders argue that in saying that while he “fully understands” the one-child-per-family policy and is not “second-guessing” it, he was not endorsing it. Others believe that Biden is simply ignorant of the way that the one-child policy relies upon forced abortions, forced sterilizations, and other coercive measures.

Steven Mosher, an eyewitness to forced abortions in China, disagrees. “While serving as a Commissioner of the U.S. Commission on Broadcasting to China, I briefed then-Senator Biden on population control, Chinese style.

Mosher, who serves as PRI’s President, continued, “I know that Joe Biden 'fully understands' how women are arrested for the ‘crime’ of being pregnant, how they are incarcerated and browbeaten for this ‘crime,’ and how they are forced to undergo abortions and sterilizations. I know because I told him so.”

“The Vice President was clearly pandering to his Chinese hosts,” said Mosher. “This wasn’t ignorance and it wasn’t a gaffe. Biden wanted China’s communist leaders to know that he and the President he serves are more than willing to turn a blind eye to the atrocities committed in the name of the one-child policy. In other words, Joe Biden has perfected the kowtow.”
Biden now says that he finds the policy “repugnant.”

Elmhurst College to Ask About Sexual Orientation: A "yes" answer could put students in line to qualify for a scholarship

Elmhurst College put a question on its admissions application that won’t appear on any other school's application.

"Would you consider yourself to be a member of the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered) community?”

That optional question makes Elmhurst the first school in the country to ask applicants about their sexual orientation or gender identity, the Chicago Sun-Times reports.

Gary Rold, the dean of students at Elmhurst, stressed the question falls in line with the campus’ mission statement to increase diversity.

Prospective freshmen and transfer students applying for the 2012 fall semester will become the first group of applicants to check “yes,” “no” or “prefer not to answer.” Their answers will not play a role in the admissions process.

A “yes” answer could put students in line to qualify for a scholarship worth one-third of tuition at the private, liberal arts school affiliated with the United Church of Christ, said Rold.

The college also plans to direct students to groups or resources to help them feel more comfortable on campus.

"We try really hard to take good care of students, have them graduate and be successful citizens in the world,” he said.

WYD: a Martian's View

By Robert Royal

It would be easy to indulge anger over the coverage – actually the lack of coverage – of World Youth Day (WYD) in Spain this weekend. Several Catholic and even non-Catholic commentators noted the palpable bias in basically ignoring a remarkable modern phenomenon: 1.5 million young people from all over the world showed up to pray and bond with the pope and one another in the heart of secular Europe. But given the likely alternatives, maybe ignoring the event was not so bad after all.

As you probably saw, when the event was even noticed, it was usually presented in the context of Spanish political divisions, in which a few thousand protesters got equal billing with perhaps two hundred times as many participants. An early, mistaken analysis about the estimated $70 million costs of WYD – which were largely met by the young people and philanthropic sponsors – got mixed up with resentment over Spain’s need for austerity measures to deal with its economic situation.

Since Catholics are almost as dependent on secular news reports as anyone else, even a few priests protested the alleged harm being done to Spain’s poor. Under the circumstances, some of the WYD organizers were forced to justify the whole event as a net economic benefit to Spain, as did government officials, which you can see if you read to the end of this story.

If you tried to find information from other secular sources, you might be surprised that they almost all derived from this single AP report, reproduced whole or in part. All news operations face budget constraints these days, but where you choose to put resources says something about what you regard as important. Other than the AP story, there was little serious WYD news in English.

What there was reflected the longstanding practice of assigning not particularly probing or well-informed reporters to cover religion. A garbled story that women who had had abortions would be absolved at WYD, instead of being excommunicated, gave rise to cascades of misunderstanding. The initial stories gave the impression that women who have had abortions are excommunicated in confession instead of automatically being so by the act itself – an elementary error that would get you fired or reassigned in any other news area.

My personal news favorite was the NYC station that informed viewers that the pope would be celebrating the “sign of the Cross” in Spain. The context made it clear that what was meant was the Stations of the Cross – which are not exactly “celebrated” by Catholics. Even in our burned-over, formerly Christian nation, you would think that there was an odd Catholic or two tucked away in a NY media outlet who might have corrected this simple error.

It’s the slow summer season. Even the president and Congress are on vacation until Labor Day. I browsed through the media expecting that some editor somewhere with news holes to fill would realize that WYD just might be an interesting and unusual “human-interest story.” But the human-interest stories that emerged were from some quite incredible quarters.

Now, we all know that the most advanced, right-thinking people believe that Christianity is retrograde, and a spent force. That those same cutting-edge detectors of trends largely make their bones by arriving early, though not too early, at what will be tomorrow’s progressive crusades.

Yet even allowing for that settled media reality, you might have found it a little odd that, say, The Washington Post had no interest in WYD, but featured a Style-section commentary titled: “Egyptian gays buoyed by uprising.” No joke. You can look it up. Any decent person deplores the way the Muslim world treats homosexuals, but exactly how likely is a Gay Arab Spring? The smart money would bet on it being quite unlikely, now or in the lifetime of anyone old enough to read that story.

William McGowan’s Gray Lady Down is a sad look at the decline of the once prestigious New York Times. But I doubt that even he would have believed that, on the Sunday that brought WYD to a close, the newspaper would have run a full-page story on the difficulties and expense transgendered “women” encounter in looking curvy. (Note to Kathleen Sibelius: HHS needs to issue some additional riders to Obamacare.) In the Sunday magazine, another whole page lamented that: “Istanbul’s brothels sure ain’t what they used to be.”

In fairness to the Times, though my edition of the paper had nothing on WYD, the online site had a concluding account. My paper did, however, contain a story on nuns disappearing as administrators of Catholic hospitals because nuns – at least in the liberalized orders – are a dying breed.

Let me hazard a wild judgment: The proverbial man from Mars, touching down this weekend, would find the news balance outlined above as evidence that our culture has gone off the rails, so far in fact that we’re either numb to it or have accepted it meekly. We have no interest in the central religion of the West, which is likely to survive and influence people for the foreseeable future, and labor instead to find politically correct stories that are obsolete the day they appear.

But if the media don’t find WYD newsworthy, there are other events in secular Europe itself that might grab the attention of a public jaded by the usual coverage of Egyptian gays and the costly struggles of the trangendered.

In the last decade, for example, 1.5 million pilgrims have walked to Compostela in Spain from many nations. Every year, several hundred thousand celebrate the feast of Cyril and Methodius even in Levoca, a small city in Eastern Slovakia, to say nothing of the large numbers in Fatima, Lourdes, Knock, Czestochowa.

There’s a scoop waiting here. And these people are all part of a marginalized and socially ridiculed minority that inclusive and sensitive journalists will not want to ignore.

Robert Royal is editor-in-chief of The Catholic Thing, and president of the Faith & Reason Institute in Washington, D.C. His most recent book is The God That Did Not Fail: How Religion Built and Sustains the West, now available in paperback from Encounter Books.

Phoenix Cathedral Limits Altar Serving to Boys to Promote Vocations

The rector of the Diocese of Phoenix’s Sts. Simon and Jude Cathedral has decided to allow only boys to be altar servers, while girls will be sacristans. He hopes the change will help avoid “gender confusion” and will help promote vocations to the priesthood and religious life.

“There’s evidence that shows that when we honor that God-given differentiation of male and female, both men’s and women’s vocations flourish,” Fr. John Lankeit told EWTN News on Aug. 22. “We don’t discourage one or the other, but we honor them for what they are, both male and female.”

“We live in a society where there is deliberate gender confusion. I want to make sure that we don’t allow that to happen, especially in the Church.”

Fr. Lankeit said he had “felt the brunt” of the priest shortage in his own life, since he was made rector just before the fourth anniversary of his ordination. “That’s a sign of how deep the issue is. You get thrown into the fire that quickly,” he said.

He noted that boys’ service at the altar has long been “part of the apprenticeship for the priesthood.” The “vast majority” of seminarians have served at the altar, which he said was a “very important factor” in his decision.

“A particular service points to a very particular vocation. That’s why I think it’s important that we’re very clear about that,” he said.

Altar service for boys exposes them to the ministry of the priest “very closely,” he explained. “They can see what happens on the altar. They can see the importance of fatherly leadership.”

The priest at Mass stands in the person of Christ and in the role of father. Altar boys “get to see that modeled in a very clear way,” Fr. Lankeit said.

Girls will be offered the role of sacristan, the person who prepares the church and the altar area before Mass.

The sacristan plays an important role because he or she helps provide a “smooth liturgy” without distractions because things are not set up properly.

That allows the focus to be “where it needs to be: on the proclamation of God’s word and on the body blood, soul and divinity present on the altar.”

The sacristan is “an incredibly important role,” the rector said. “When you have somebody that has great attention to detail and great care, and really sees the important of that service, it enhances the liturgy amazingly.”

“We have very good sacristans at the cathedral. It makes me privileged to be a priest to celebrate Mass there, because I can concentrate on sharing the Gospel and making Christ present for the people, and I don’t have to worry about the details,” he added.

Fr. Lankeit noted that girls’ earlier maturity and their “great attention to detail and conscientiousness” at an earlier age means the role is “perfectly suited to them.”

Although the cathedral is the home church of Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted, Fr. Lankeit explained that he made the decision on his own authority.

Phoenix resident Bob Lutz, a Catholic with three grown daughters, was critical of the move.

“It is a shame on how the church continues to abuse the females,” he told the Arizona Republic. “Church attendance is shrinking now, and this adds more fuel to the fire on how females are treated as second-class citizens.”

Fr. Lankeit responded to Lutz’s criticisms in his remarks to EWTN News.

“I would encourage him to hesitate (in) saying something like that that to the adult women who serve wonderfully in my cathedral as sacristans. I think they would take great offense at that to be belittled.”

The priest suggested that society sometimes shows a “backlash” against decisions like his because it views the change as a denial of rights. However, it is an error to think that serving at the altar is a right rather than a privilege.

“Starting with the priest, there is no right to serve in any particular ministry,” he added. “As a single Catholic man, I had no right to the priesthood. When I went in believing to be called by Christ to be a priest, the Church could have said ‘no’ at any moment.”

He repeated his belief that there is “an incredible amount of gender confusion.”

“We live in a society where there are some people who would say that a man can be a wife and a woman can be a husband,” he said, cautioning against allowing that mindset to be the paradigm for the Catholic Church.

The Diocese of Phoenix also explained the change in an Aug. 22 statement.

“The first girls to train in the cathedral's sacristan program are learning quickly, serving well and enjoying the important responsibility of sacristan,” the diocese said.

The cathedral parish is also working with a contemplative women’s religious order to hold a vocation event at their monastery for interested women.

Priests in China arrested for not supporting illicit ordination

Kenya: 3 men face execution for murder of priest

Three men have been sentenced to death for the 2009 murder of Fr. Gerry Roche, an Irish priest working in Kenya as a member of the St. Patrick’s Missionary Society.

Nine suspects had been accused in the death of the 68-year-old priest. On Aug. 23, three were found guilty of murder and sentenced to death by a court in Kericho. Two others were found guilty of handling stolen property, a cell phone. They were given the maximum sentence of 14 years.

The other four were acquitted.

The priest was tortured before being killed. He had fresh wounds and his hands were tied with a rope when his body was discovered on December 11, 2009, according to the Kenyan newspaper The Daily Nation.

Some of his parishioners thought the attackers were after information in the priest’s files. Two cell phones, a laptop computer and an undisclosed amount of cash were stolen.

Some speculated that the thieves may have been after information relating to a disputed sale agreement at Fr. Roche’s previous assignment. The sale involved land being transferred to the Catholic Church.

Fr. Niall Martin, East Africa assistant regional leader of the St. Patrick’s Missionary Society, expressed relief at the closure of the case and the professional manner in which the Kenyan police and judiciary dealt with the matter.

“It is important to note that while the death penalty is still given in Kenya, no one has been executed since 1987,” he said Aug. 24. “St Patrick’s Missionary Society, as Christian missionaries, is totally against the death penalty, as it is against every act of violence.”

Fr. Martin again expressed the society’s “deep sympathy” to Fr. Roche’s family and to his parishioners in Kenya.

“Fr. Gerry worked for 41 years in Kenya and had a deep love for the Kenyan people. He had a lifelong commitment to them, with a strong sense of justice,” Fr. Martin said.

The murdered priest’s funeral Mass was held in his home parish of Athea in County Limerick, Ireland.

Outrageous Statement of the Day

David Letterman (who appears to reveal that he is a big fan of MSNBC) welcomed NBC News' Rachel Maddow to "The Late Show" last night for a healthy round of Republican bashing. During the segment Maddow mocks McCain for Meeting Gaddafi in 2009. She obviously forgot that Sen. Obama met with Gaddafi one month prior. Oops.

Cartoon of the Day - Quake

•Legalizing Euthanasia by Omission, And Making It a Doctor's Order

E. Christian Brugger, a moral theologian at Denver’s archdiocesan seminary, warns that POLST (Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment) documents--which have become part of legislation in 12 states--are paving the way for a more widespread “euthanasia by omission.”

Brugger explains:

The document consolidates on a single form provisions formerly dispersed over several documents: it acts as a living will specifying the scope of medical interventions a patient wishes in case of incapacitation; it makes specific provision for a do-not-resuscitate order (DNR); it has a box to check in the event a patient wishes to refuse treatment with antibiotics; and it allows a patient to designate a proxy decision maker.

Why is the document problematic? … POLST-type legislation removes the condition that a patient is terminally ill or diagnosed in a PVS before a refusal order is actionable. In other words, the new law permits any adult patient to refuse any treatment at any time for any reason in the event they lack decisional capacity; and health care professionals, directed by a doctor's medical order, ordinarily would be (and are) required to carry out the order …

The POLST-type law grants adults the civil right to direct healthcare professionals to remove life-sustaining procedures when those procedures are not futile and when the burden imposed by them would be offset by a reasonable hope of recovery. It juridically extends the ordinary context for the refusal of life-support to include the motive of bringing about death. Without using the term, the new law authorizes euthanasia.
Read more here.

Biden amends statement, states opposition to China’s 1-child policy

Stung by public criticism, US Vice President Joseph Biden has backtracked from recent remarks in which he said that he “fully understand[s]” and is “not second-guessing” China’s brutal one-child policy.

“The Obama administration strongly opposes all aspects of China’s coercive birth limitation policies, including forced abortion and sterilization,” said Biden spokeswoman Kendra Barkoff. “The vice president believes such practices are repugnant.”

“The Obama administration has yet to issue a clear call to end the policy, which is harmful both to the Chinese and American people,” responded Chai Ling, leader of the student democracy movement at Tienanmen Square. “While the vice president’s retraction certainly clarifies the White House’s position on forced abortions and forced sterilizations, it still falls short of what is required--action.”

Today on Kresta - August 25, 2011

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

4:00 – After Qaddafi-- Insurgency, Democracy or Jihad?
Libyan Foreign Minister Abdul Ati al-Obeidi said yesterday morning, "It's over for Gadhafi…If I was in charge, I would tell them to lay down their arms.” By seizing most of Tripoli and fighting what's left of the pockets of resistance of Qaddafi forces, Libyan rebels have now almost dislodged the old regime and are expected to begin building their own government. Middle East expert Walid Phares says now one big question remains regarding the future: Insurgency, Democracy or Jihad?

4:20 – Why Politics Needs Religion: The Place of Religions Arguments in the Public Square
Can religion and politics mix? Many voices reply, "No way!" Yet Brendan Sweetman argues against this charge and the various sophisticated arguments that support it. As we witness the clash of religious and secular worldviews he claims that our pluralistic democratic society will be best served when the faith elements of secularism are acknowledged and the rational elements of religious arguments are allowed to inform the momentous debates taking place in the public square. In fact, Sweetman contends that "politics needs religion if it is to be truly democratic, concerned with fairness among worldviews, equality and a vigorous public discussion." He joins us.

5:00 – Discovering the Camino de Santiago: A Priest’s Journey to the Tomb of St. James
Fr. Greg Markey, a priest-pastor chronicles the month-long life and times of a pilgrim, in a delightful yet sober account, as he endures, and enjoys, the much-celebrated Camino de Santiago. This peaceful journey Web-free, phone-free, and TV-free generated an astonishing array of brief but meaty spiritual reflections. There was plenty of private time along the 500-mile trail for Fr. Markey, a 41-year-old pastor of St. Mary's in Norwalk, Connecticut. Mission: successful, but not without incident, and not without fruitful discussion with a wide variety of Christians struggling or lost in personal crises...reflecting upon great personal loss... re-discovering Christ as the Focus of their lives. Fr. Markey joins us to share his experience.

5:40 – The Federal Reserve to Meet Tomorrow / Gold / The Markets and More
Gold bounced back by as much as 1 percent on Tuesday after the previous session's steep correction, with investors wary of selling the precious metal ahead of news from tomorrow’s U.S. Federal Reserve meeting in Jackson Hole and as a rebound in equities faded. George Schwartz of Schwartz Investment Counsel Inc. and the Ave Maria Family of Funds is here to look at the Fed, gold, the markets and more.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Today on Kresta - August 24, 2011

Talking about the "things that matter most" on August 24

4:00 – St. John of Avila – Newest Doctor of the Church
Coming as a surprise to almost everyone, last week at a Mass with seminarians in the Cathedral of Santa María la Real de la Almudena in Madrid, Spain, Pope Benedict XVI announced his intention to name Saint John of Avila the 34th Doctor of the Church. In Madrid for World Youth Day, the Holy Father declared that he "would hope that the word and the example of this outstanding pastor will enlighten all priests and those who look forward to the day of their priestly ordination."So who is St. John of Avila? Matthew Bunson introduces us.

4:20 – SNAP Exposed: Unmasking the Survivors Network of Those Abused By Priests
The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) held a conference in Washington, D.C. last month that was open to the public. Trusted sources of the Catholic League were there, and their findings are the basis of a report that Bill Donohue wrote, "SNAP EXPOSED: Unmasking the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests."This report puts an end to the debate over the real motives of those involved in the victims' lobby. SNAP, along with BishopAccountability and the lawyers they work with, are an agenda-driven movement that uses victims, real and alleged, to smear and sunder the best interests of the Catholic Church. Bill joins us.

4:40 - After Qaddafi-- Insurgency, Democracy or Jihad?
Libyan Foreign Minister Abdul Ati al-Obeidi said this morning, "It's over for Gadhafi…If I was in charge, I would tell them to lay down their arms.” By seizing most of Tripoli and fighting what's left of the pockets of resistance of Qaddafi forces, Libyan rebels have now almost dislodged the old regime and are expected to begin building their own government. Middle East expert Walid Phares says now one big question remains regarding the future: Insurgency, Democracy or Jihad?

5:00 – Biden Under Fire for 'Not Second-Guessing' China's One-Child Policy
Vice President Joe Biden is under fire for appearing to condone China’s one-child policy during a speech Sunday at Sichuan University in Chengdu. Addressing social and budgetary challenges faced by the U.S. and China in the wake of respective population booms, Biden told his audience, “Your policy has been one which I fully understand -- I’m not second-guessing -- of one child per family.” He has since back-tracked a bit, but we talk with China expert Steven Mosher.

5:20 – Kresta Comments – A Christian Plot for US Domination?
Michelle Goldberg recently wrote and article entitled “A Christian Plot for Domination.” She writes that “Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry aren't just devout—both have deep ties to a fringe fundamentalist movement known as Dominionism, which says Christians should rule the world…we have the most theocratic Republican field in American history, and suddenly, the concept of Dominionism is reaching mainstream audiences.” Al has a response.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Today on Kresta - August 23, 2011

Talking about the "things that matter most" on August 23

4:00 – Why Catholics Are Right
Columnist, television host, author, and Canadian Catholic Michael Coren is here to examine four main aspects of Catholicism as they are encountered, understood, and more importantly, misunderstood, today. For some Catholicism is the only permanent, absolute body of truth, while for others it is the last permanent, absolute body that has to be opposed and stopped. Coren then traces Catholic history, with a discussion of the Crusades, Inquisition, Holocaust, and Galileo. He looks at Catholics and theology, explaining what and why Catholics believe what they do — Papal infallibility, Immaculate Conception, and Tradition vs. Bible alone. Finally, Coren outlines the pro-life position and why it is so important to Catholicism. Michael draws on history, politics, and theology to present the arguments for the truth of Roman Catholicism. He is with us today.

5:00 – “The Myth of Religious Tolerance”
Religious Freedom – It’s a topic on many people’s minds as reports come in that 2010 was the bloodiest year for Christians in decades. Persecution is rampant across the Middle East and elsewhere. Fr. Thomas Williams, LC has written an article entitled “The Myth of Religious Freedom is which her that a respect for religious freedom stands head and shoulders above a supposed tolerance for religious belief — with the relativism, indifference, and subtle disdain for religion it so often comprises. He is here.

5:30 - Raising Good Kids: Back to Family Basics
Everything You Wanted to Know About Parenting You Already Know. If the last thing you need is another parenting book, Raising Good Kids: Back to Family Basics is the parenting book for you. Tell-it-like-it-is radio host Dr. Ray Guarendi is a firm believer that the secret of good parenting isn't about knowing what to do. It's doing what you already know. With examples from his own experience as a father of 10, insight from his years as a clinical psychologist and radio host, as well as a healthy sense of self-depreciating humor, Guarendi provides a practical outlook that can help other dads and moms identify and follow through with the basic building blocks of successful parenting. He joins us.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Today on Kresta - August 22, 2011

Talking about the "things that matter most" on Aug. 22

4:00 - Five common misconceptions about Islam among Catholics
Muslims often claim that Islam is a misunderstood religion. This is partially true, insofar as many people do not understand the nature of Islam or what it teaches. Catholics are called to proclaim the Gospel to all people, including Muslims. However, it can be difficult to communicate Christ to a Muslim if one does not understand what the Muslim believes. The fact that Muslims have been aggressively proselytizing Catholics and other Christians has added to the confusion about Islamic theology. Let’s take a look at five common misconceptions about Islam among Catholics. Catholic Islam scholar Andrew Bieszad is our guide.

5:00 – A Guide to the New Translation of The Mass
Remarkable change is taking place this year in Catholic Churches across the United States. The publication of the third Roman Missal, which goes into effect Advent 2011, has presented parish educators with a unique moment to catechize the lay faithful on one of the most basic and foundational aspects of our faith: the Mass. Much is changing with this new Missal, and parishioners will need to learn new responses, a new Gloria, and a new Creed, among other changes. They will hear the priest using liturgical phrases and responses different from those they have heard for the past forty years. Dr. Edward Sri is author of A Guide to the New Translation of The Mass and joins us today.

5:40 – 2012 Eucharistic Congress in Ireland
A Eucharistic Congress is an international gathering of people which aims to promote an awareness of the central place of the Eucharist in the life and mission of the Catholic Church, to help improve our understanding and celebration of the liturgy and to draw attention to the social dimension of the Eucharist. The 50th Eucharistic Congress will be held next year in Ireland and our Ireland correspondent Gareth Peoples has prepared a report for us.