Friday, November 29, 2013

Archdiocese of Chicago Reaches Settlement in Abuse Case, Issues Corrections Following SNAP Press Conference

Cardinal Francis George
Archbishop of Chicago

The Archdiocese of Chicago has reached a settlement in a sexual abuse survivor case involving a former priest.  The Archdiocese agreed to pay $2.3 million to the victim.  The settlement also calls for the Archdiocese to release on January 15 their confidential files regarding allegations of sexual abuse against a total of 30 priests. The files will reveal how well Church officials responded to the allegations. 

The Chicago Sun-Times has the story:
A $2.3 million settlement in a sexual abuse survivor case involving a former priest and filed against the Archdiocese of Chicago and Cardinal Francis George was announced by attorneys Tuesday.
The victim, identified only as John Doe, is now in his early 20s, and was sexually abused in his pre-teen and early teen years by Daniel McCormack between 2004 and 2006, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit alleged “McCormack would invite the plaintiff inside the rectory of St. Agatha Catholic Church, where he would sit plaintiff on his lap, unzip his pants and fondle” the plaintiff.
It also alleged that the defendants “knew or should have known of McCormack’s dangerous and exploitative propensities as a child molester.”
Read the rest here.  

Barbara Blaine
President of SNAP
Following the announcement of the settlement, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) held a press conference on November 26.  Barbara Blaine, president of SNAP, made a number of charges against the Archdiocese of Chicago for its handling of the case.  

The Archdiocese of Chicago issued a statement on November 27, correcting many of the errors which Ms. Blaine had made in talking with the press.  The Archdiocesan statement is included here in its entirety.  

Response of the Archdiocese of Chicago to statements
made during Jeff Anderson's November 26, 2013 press conference November 27, 2013
The Archdiocese of Chicago would  like to respond to several statements made during the November 26, 2013 press conference held by attorneys Jeff Anderson and Marc Pearlman, and founder and president of SNAP Barbara Blaine.

§  Statement by Barbara Blaine: “We believe the Archdiocese has a responsibility to disclose the whereabouts of these individuals. … We believe that they [the Archdiocese] have the resources to identify and find that out, and most of them are still receiving payments from the Archdiocese and are on the payroll, and their whereabouts should be made known.
§  Correction: No priests who have resigned from the priesthood or have been laicized are still on the payroll of the Archdiocese. Some may have pensions that have vested and therefore receive benefits from their pension. The Archdiocese has identified and listed on its website for many years the names of priests with substantiated allegations of abuse.

§  Statement by Barbara Blaine: “We hear from survivors all the time, and I think that a question that should be asked of the Archdiocese, because they know. … I know there are victims who are hurting, and they allege that they were abused and they have told the Archdiocese officials and, are they still in ministry? I think that it’s fair to say that we should assume there are … I can’t give a number and a name, but…”
§  Correction: No priest of the Archdiocese of Chicago with even one substantiated allegation of abuse is currently in ministry.  It is immoral to keep all Catholic priests under a cloud of suspicion.  In recent years, our personnel files have been checked three times by the civil authorities. Every allegation that is brought forward is reported immediately to the civil authorities, and each priest has received mandated reporter training.  Each priest has undergone a criminal background check. All have received special VIRTUS training to recognize the signs of possible sexual abuse in minor children.  Priests are not permitted to be alone with a child, or to drive a car with a child without another adult being present.  They have received, both while in the seminary and since, extensive training on boundary violations.

If Barbara Blaine has information about abuse of which the Archdiocese is unaware, the Archdiocese requests that she inform civil authorities and the Office for the Protection of Children and Youth immediately so that an investigation can be conducted.

§  Statement by Barbara Blaine: “No such [grand jury] investigation has happened in Illinois, the only information that has been disclosed has been voluntarily disclosed and so we don’t know the extent of the problem. I think it would be na├»ve to think that it’s any different here than any of those places…” [Philadelphia, Minnesota] “so I believe that if such an investigation [grand jury] were to occur here, similar results would be found.
§  Correction: There was a grand jury investigation in Illinois in 1992. The protocols that were put in place by the Archdiocese in 1992, including the formation of the Review Board which hears allegations against living priests, were the foundation of the Dallas Charter in 2002, so the Archdiocese of Chicago was a decade ahead of the rest of the country in terms of dealing with clergy sex abuse. Again, no priest of the Archdiocese of Chicago with even one substantiated allegation of abuse is currently in ministry.

The Archdiocese of Chicago is in full compliance with the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, adopted by the U.S. Bishops in Dallas in June, 2002. The Charter requires that no priest with even one substantiated allegation of sexual abuse of a minor can serve in public ministry. The Archdiocese of Chicago refers all reports of sexual abuse immediately to civil authorities. The Archdiocese’s independent Review Board examines the findings of all investigations and ensures that all perpetrators are permanently removed from ministry or service.

As always, the Archdiocese of Chicago is concerned first and foremost with the healing of abuse victims and has maintained a victim assistance ministry for more than 25 years. In addition, the Archdiocesan Office for the Protection of Children and Youth, charged with serving victims and preventing abuse, has trained and processed background checks on more than 160,000 priests, deacons, religious, lay employees and volunteers; conducted more than 3,000 training sessions; and trained more than 200,000 children to protect themselves from sexual predators.

The abuse of any child is a crime and a sin. The Archdiocese encourages anyone who believes they have been sexually abused by a priest, deacon, religious or lay employee, to come forward. Complete information about reporting sexual abuse can be found on the Archdiocesan website at

Argentina Considers Pope Francis Commemorative Coin

Argentinian lawmakers, proud of the first pope to hail from their country, may soon honor Pope Francis by putting his face on a coin.
Argentina’s 480 million Catholics were thrilled by the announcement in March 2013 that then-Argentine Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, who served as archbishop of Buenos Aires, would become the new Pontiff.
The tribute coin was first proposed in April by Rep. Oscar Cachi Martinez, and quickly gained support from congressional committees.  The Argentinian congressman announced the successful vote yesterday on his Facebook page:
The bill will now go to the South American country’s Senate for consideration.
One of many commemorative coins which honor the election of Pope Francis
According to the text of the proposed law, the goal of the coins is
“…to commemorate an event of global dimensions, so our present and future generations remember this splendid act in the history of humanity, in which the principal actor is an Argentine.”
Beneath the Pope’s image would be inscribed,
“Tribute from the Argentine People to Pope Francis.”

Pope Francis Announces the Year for Consecrated Life

Pope Francis, speaking this morning to Superiors of religious orders from around the world, announced that the coming year will be dedicated to Consecrated Life. 

Auditorium in the Salesianum
The occasion was the 82nd General Assembly of the Union of Superiors General, which is meeting in the Salesianum, a hotel and conference center in Rome, on November 27-29.  The Holy Father had been expected to speak for just a few minutes; instead, he chose to meet with the Superiors for three hours, engaging in a “long, colloquial and fraternal discussion…composed of questions and answers.”

 The Vatican Information Service provided a detailed report of the meeting:

The first group of questions related to the identity and mission of consecrated life. A radical approach is required of all Christians, the Pope stated, but religious persons are called upon to follow the Lord in a special way: “They are men and woman who can awaken the world. Consecrated life is prophecy. God asks us to fly the nest and to be sent to the frontiers of the world, avoiding the temptation to 'domesticate' them. This is the most concrete way of imitating the Lord”.
When asked about the situation of vocations, the Pope emphasised that there are young Churches which are bearing new fruit. This naturally gives rise to a re-evaluation of the inculturation of charism. The Church must follow the example of Matteo Ricci in asking forgiveness for and looking with shame upon apostolic failures caused by misunderstandings in this field. Intercultural dialogue must press for the introduction persons of various cultures, expressing different ways of living charism, in the governance of religious institutes.
The Pope insisted upon the importance of formation, which he presented as founded upon four fundamental pillars: spiritual, intellectual, communitarian and apostolic. It is indispensable to avoid every form of hypocrisy and clericalism by means of a frank and open dialogue on all aspects of life: “formation is an artisanal craft, not a form of policing”, he commented; “its aim is to form religious persons with a tender heart, not acid, not like vinegar. We are all sinners, but not corrupt. Sinners are to be accepted, but not the corrupt”.
When asked about brotherhood, the Pope said that this has a great force of attraction, and presupposes the acceptance of differences and conflicts. At time it is difficult to live in fraternity, but without it no fruit may be borne. In any case, “we must never act like managers when faced with a brother's conflict: conflict instead must be caressed”, said the Pope. 
A number of questions were asked regarding the relationships between religious persons and the particular Churches to which they belong. The Pope confirmed that he had experience of the possible problems: “We bishops must understand that consecrated persons are not helpers, but rather charisms which enrich dioceses”.
The final questions regarded the frontiers of the mission of consecrated persons. “They must be sought on the basis of the charisms”, answered the Pope. Situations of exclusion remain the first priorities. Alongside these challenges he mentioned the cultural and educational mission in schools and universities. For the Pope, the pillars of education are “transmitting knowledge, transmitting methods, transmitting values. By these means, faith is communicated. The educator must measure up to those he educates, and must give careful thought to how to proclaim Jesus Christ to a changing generation”.
Before taking leave of the 120 Superiors General present, the Pope announced that 2015 would be a year dedicated to consecrated life. He added, “Thank you for what you do and for your spirit of faith and your service. Thank you for your witness and also for the humiliations through which you have had to pass”.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

How to Think About Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation: Two Views

Press Conference to Introduce
Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium

Just a day after the release of Pope Francis’s first apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of Faith), there have been many critics:  conservatives who fear the theme of change which permeates the document, liberals who fret that he has ruled out the possibility of ordaining women to the priesthood, those who worry about the Holy Father’s view of capitalism, and more. 

Analysts will find much to discuss in the 84-page document.  Among the first responders to Evangelii Gaudium are Kathryn Jean Lopez, editor-at-large of National Review Online and a nationally syndicated journalist, and Samuel Gregg, research director at the Acton Institute and author of, among other books, Becoming Europe and Tea Party Catholic

Kathryn Jean Lopez takes a positive approach, offering some helpful insights into its broad range of topic areas and showing us how to think about the Pope’s wide-ranging exhortation.  Samuel Gregg, on the other hand, worries that the Pope does not fully understand a free-market economy.

Lopez writes:
As with interviews of months past, reactions vary to Pope Francis’ first teaching document, the apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium (“The Joy of the Gospel”), as you’ve no doubt noticed. It’s over 40,000 words in length, and we who comment — whether on op-ed pages or on Facebook or at the dinner table — each focus on different aspects. As with the America interview that appeared earlier this fall — and as with so many of his messages of God’s mercy, our responsibilities, a loving Father’s radical call for us to live selfless lives in transformative surrender to Him — we can too easily miss the heart of the matter amid a flurry of headlines that affirm or inflame our ideological comfort zones. When we do, we also miss much of the point of the Gospel — the joy, the exhortation, the call, the Christian difference. The point is that we must be challenged. The point is that we must encounter Christ, and daily, and if we do, we must be changed.
In Evangelii Gaudium, in fact, Pope Francis writes:
The word of God constantly shows us how God challenges those who believe in him “to go forth”. Abraham received the call to set out for a new land (cf. Gen 12:1-3). Moses heard God’s call: “Go, I send you” (Ex 3:10) and led the people towards the promised land (cf. Ex 3:17). To Jeremiah, God says: “To all whom I send you, you shall go” (Jer 1:7). In our day Jesus’ command to “go and make disciples” echoes in the changing scenarios and ever new challenges to the Church’s mission of evangelization, and all of us are called to take part in this new missionary “going forth”. Each Christian and every community must discern the path that the Lord points out, but all of us are asked to obey his call to go forth from our own comfort zone in order to reach all the “peripheries” in need of the light of the Gospel.
This was so much of the focus of our encuentro in Mexico City, to use a word favored by our three most recent popes. During sessions, we talked about the work of making disciples, communicating with love beyond the audiences — and congregations — bishops, priests, religious, and lay people at the sessions might have most ready access to. In front of the image of herself the Blessed Mother left a Mexican layman, we prayed that we might truly be disciples of her Son, bringing her son to those in pain, in desperation, stuck in routines — that we might be truly apostolic in all our words and works. That we might let Christ be seen through the instruments of our lives.
Back home, in light of exhortations, we jump to clarify and highlight, helping people to feel comfortable or be challenged politically and economically, often overly depending on our political persuasions. Politics is crucial. As Pope Francis points out in the exhortation and elsewhere, it’s noble work, it’s necessary work. Christians may not opt out from politics. We must bring real wisdom to it. We must discern our contributions. We must live examined lives that inform policy debates and keep justice, mercy, and charity all in deliberations.
(In his long texts and interviews, this Jesuit pope keeps dropping practical Ignatian guidance about the inevitable spiritual warfare, about how to let the Satan be conquered. That’s something else to be thankful for — the cornucopia of concrete spiritual guides and witnesses we have as Catholics.)
God is “unpredictable,” our current Holy Father writes in Evangelii Gaudium.
“The Church has to accept this unruly freedom of the word, which accomplishes what it wills in ways that surpass our calculations and ways of thinking,” he continues. We must humble ourselves because God’s will may not be ours and His ways tend not to be as well. We are called to follow and to “patience and disregard for constraints of time” as we evangelize.
Make no mistake about faith, he warns us — it’s not just a safe harbor in a storm, a harmless prayer before a holiday meal. “The disciple is ready to put his or her whole life on the line, even to accepting martyrdom, in bearing witness to Jesus Christ, yet the goal is not to make enemies but to see God’s word accepted and its capacity for liberation and renewal revealed,” Pope Francis writes.
Pope Francis is clear on life and marriage. He is challenging on politics and economics without fighting against Republicans or Democrats specifically. His position is more transcendent and fundamental. His ardent opposition is to a disposable culture that poisons all debates and is an assault on human dignity, piercing the very heart of God. It’s a culture of death and dismissal, of denial and destruction. It’s beneath us. It’s poisoning us.
The Good News is not only the Good News but that there are laborers; we must labor in prayer, sanctified by sacramental lives of union with the Trinity. As Pope Francis points out early on in Evangelii Gaudium — this fruit of last year’s synod on the New Evangelization in Rome — he means for this to offer guidance and encouragement as Catholics seek to live lives in Divine surrender, drawing the world to His mercy.
In Mexico City, pilgrims are gearing up for the December 12 feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. They were doing this even as we met in conference there, weeks before the feast. They show up at the shrine with foot-high (and sometimes two-foot high and larger) statues of Our Blessed Mother. They carry their St. Jude medals and flowers. They leave an offering. They bring home blessed trinkets of remembrance. Some of them, frequently older women (many joined by a son who watches out for them), approach the Blessed Virgin’s image on their knees. Our Lady of Guadalupe roots them to Divine Mercy, to Christian hope, to the salvation and redemption that has been won for us.
She who said “yes” to God’s will helps us say “yes” in our lives. She brings us to her Son. Do we go to her as did the poor of Mexico City or as Catholic leaders — cardinals, bishops, a mother superior, university presidents, journalists, businessmen, the faithful — discussing the New Evangelization? Do we begin and end in prayer and thanksgiving for her intercession? We did there — given the geographic realities of conferencing among pilgrims, as the bishops of the Caribbean and Latin America did when preparing the Aparecida document in which the former Cardinal Bergoglio took a leading role. Do we do this every day?
In his exhortation, Pope Francis offers a brutally cold image in his alerting us to the scandal of our lives, our routinized “discipleship,” our practical atheism. He writes of many pastoral challenges, including “obsession with immediate results makes it hard for pastoral workers to tolerate anything that smacks of disagreement, possible failure, criticism, the cross.”
He warns of dangers that creep into our Christian and supposedly apostolic lives:
…the biggest threat of all gradually takes shape: “the gray pragmatism of the daily life of the Church, in which all appears to proceed normally, while in reality faith is wearing down and degenerating into small-mindedness”. A tomb psychology thus develops and slowly transforms Christians into mummies in a museum. Disillusioned with reality, with the Church and with themselves, they experience a constant temptation to cling to a faint melancholy, lacking in hope, which seizes the heart like “the most precious of the devil’s potions”. Called to radiate light and communicate life, in the end they are caught up in things that generate only darkness and inner weariness, and slowly consume all zeal for the apostolate. For all this, I repeat: Let us not allow ourselves to be robbed of the joy of evangelization!
There’s much more.  Read the rest here

Meanwhile over at The Corner, Samuel Gregg celebrates what he likes in the new document (the emphasis upon the Holy Spirit, and the practical insights into how to breathe new life into the Church).  He is candid, too, about his concerns (i.e., the conviction that Islam is a religion of peace, which stands against evidence).  

Gregg writes:
Evangelii Gaudium is in many ways a beautiful document. The emphasis upon the Trinity’s most neglected member — the Holy Spirit — in the Church’s life is especially inspiring. Then there are the practical insights about how to breathe life into aspects of the Church’s evangelical outreach that have long been moribund (as in the content-free homilies routinely endured by many Catholics in Western countries). Also helpful for theological reflection, as well as an outline for an agenda of internal reform, are Francis’s comments on how to develop greater collegiality between Rome and what Catholics call the local churches.
For all that, however, important sections of Evangelii Gaudium will strike many Catholics as less than convincing. To be very frank (which Francis himself is always encouraging us to be), a number of claims made by this document and some of the assumptions underlying those statements are rather questionable.
Most importantly, though, Gregg disagrees with the pope’s reflections on economic matters and his apparent criticism of capitalism and of “trickle-down economics”, and his hint of support for redistribution.
My purpose, however, is to focus upon some of the many economic reflections that loom large throughout Evangelii Gaudium and which are, I’m afraid, very hard to defend. In some cases, they reflect the straw-man arguments about the economy that one encounters far too often in some Catholic circles, especially in Western Europe but also in Latin America.
Prominent among these is the pope’s condemnation of the “absolute autonomy of markets” (202). This, he firmly believes, is at the root of many of our contemporary problems, not least because it helps rationalize an unwillingness to assist those in need.
If, however, we follow Evangelii Gaudium’s injunction (231–233) to look at the realities of the world today, we will soon discover that there is literally no country in which markets operate with “absolute autonomy.” 
Gregg ends with a sharp criticism of the scope of the document, and points to what he believes should have been said:
…as Francis himself writes, “Ideas disconnected from realities give rise to ineffectual forms of idealism” (232). And attention to particular realities about economic life is precisely what’s missing from parts of Evangelii Gaudium’s analysis of wealth and poverty. If we want “the dignity of each human person and the pursuit of the common good” to be more than what the pope calls a “mere addendum” to the pursuit of “true and integral development” (203), then engaging more seriously the economic part of the truth that sets us free would be a good start.
There's much more.  Here are Dr. Gregg's full reflections on Pope Francis and poverty.  

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

This Thanksgiving, Don't Let Retailers Steal Your Family Time!

By Kathy Schiffer
Ave Maria Radio

The annual Christmas Commercialization Controversy is kicking in a day early in 2013.
That’s because this year retailers across the country, clamoring for bigger profits, have extended the shopping season by one day—announcing that they will remain open on Thanksgiving Day.  That means that Thanksgiving Day, many dinners will be eaten on the fly, as mothers and their working teenage children head to the mall to shop or, conversely, to work at their retail jobs in stores where the shoppers will spend their holiday.
The competition for holiday shoppers is nothing new.  In the old days, though, I remember stores wooing my mother and enticing shoppers to open their wallets in other ways:  with twinkly Christmas lights, hymns and carols on the store’s loudspeakers, Santa ho-ho-ho-ing in the toy department.  Sears Roebuck, J.C. Penney, J.L. Hudson, smaller shops—all followed the same family-friendly schedule, and all shared a commitment to retaining “family time” around the holidays.
In fact, in those days Sundays were also family days.  In my neighborhood, stores had a sign on the door which read,

“Closed Sundays.  See you in church.”

*     *     *     *     *
This year, most of the big chain retailers have announced that they’ll be open for at least a few hours on Thanksgiving Day. Getting a head start on “Black Friday” craziness, Kmart, Walmart, Target, Sears, and Toys “R” Us will remain open for business on the holiday.  Most Macy’s locations across the nation will open at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving evening.
Why the new trend toward early-bird shopping?  As the economy has waned, more and more retailers are seeking new strategies to attract market share.  Tom Scott from the Michigan Retailers Association explains:  “A little bit earlier, a little bit earlier. Come up with a little bit more of a promotion to catch people’s attention, and now yank them away from the Thanksgiving table in order to go shopping.”
*     *     *     *     *
In our area there is one retail chainwhich has decided to keep store doors closed on Thanksgiving Day:  Menard’s.
Menard’s released the following statement on Tuesday:
As a family-owned company, Menards believes that Thanksgiving is a time for togetherness, which should be celebrated with all those we hold dear.  With this in mind, we decided to remain closed on Thanksgiving Day so you, as well as our Team Members, can celebrate this joyous time with family and friends.  We will open our doors bright and early at 6 a.m. on Friday morning, November 29th, so you can SAVE BIG with our 6 Hour After Thanksgiving Sale!
*     *     *     *     *
My advice:  Enjoy Thanksgiving with your young’uns and your family.  Eat turkey.  Watch the parade.  Watch football with Dad.  Play Mexican Train dominoes with Grandma.  Work puzzles with the kids.
And on Friday, get up early and go shopping.  My personal preference, when my children were young and home from school for a long holiday weekend, was to extend our shopping fast and enjoy our Friday, as well.  If you must shop, though, plan to hit the sales early on Black Friday.  Shop at Menard’s, even if you’ve never been there before, to show your support for their family-friendly policy.
And don’t forget that on-line shopping is increasingly popular, and is a good solution for harried mothers and fathers!
And on Thanksgiving, remember to be thankful!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

New Documentary Offers an Inside Look at Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the Man Who Would Be Pope

Francis: The Pope from the New World, the Knights of Columbus’ new documentary, is coming to television screens in Canada and in some American cities, courtesy of Salt + Light TV.
The hour-long documentary will air on Wednesday, November 27 at 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time.  At the same time, it will be live-streamed at the Salt+LightTV website.  The DVD is available for purchase at Amazon. 
Following is the description from the film’s website:

On March 13, 2013 the world was introduced to Pope Francis.  He was the first Pope from the Americas, the first Jesuit, and the first to take the name Francis.  Within days he had captured the hearts of the world through his gestures of humility and care for the common man.  Yet he remained largely unknown.
Francis: The Pope from the New World unveils the personality, passion and extraordinary faith of the new Pope.  Shot on location in Buenos Aires, and featuring interviews with close friends, collaborators, and his official biographer, this documentary film traces the remarkable rise of Jorge Mario Bergoglio.
From growing up surrounded by soccer games and tango music, to his defense of the poor and marginalized of Buenos Aires during his time as Archbishop, this film explores the abiding compassion and unwavering resolve of a priest, a bishop, and now a Pope seeking to bring the Church to the frontiers of society.  From overcoming the challenges of the day including Argentina’s Dirty War, to his tireless advocacy for the poor and marginalized, Francis: The Pope from the New World paints an indelible  portrait of a towering figure of our time.
Here is the trailer, which gives you an idea what you can look forward to.
If you can’t watch Wednesday evening, or if you’d like to see it again and again, order Francis: The Pope from the New World for your own film library.

U.S. to Downscale Its Vatican Embassy, Raising Concern Among Catholics—Including Five Former Ambassadors

By Kathy Schiffer
The United States is scaling back its diplomatic mission at the Vatican—making plans to close its Vatican Embassy headquarters, and instead conduct its operations in a smaller building within the walls of the U.S. Embassy to Italy.
The Obama Administration cites“security concerns” following the attack in Benghazi, and claims that they can better protect embassy staff in a consolidated compound.  According to government authorities, once construction is completed in 2015, the Vatican Embassy will have a separate entrance and it will be apparent that it is a completely separate operation.
But many Catholics—among them five former U.S. Ambassadors to the Holy See—strongly disagree, calling the plan a “massive downgrade” in U.S./Vatican relations.
Former U.S. Ambassador James Nicholson, who served as Secretary of Veterans Affairs under George W. Bush and as chairman of the Republican National Committee, said, “It’s turning this embassy into a stepchild of the embassy to Italy.”  Speaking to National Catholic Reporter’s John Allen, Ambassador Nicholson said:
“The Holy See is a pivot point for international affairs and a major listening post for the United States, and to shoehorn [the U.S. delegation] into an office annex inside another embassy is an insult to American Catholics and to the Vatican.”
Ambassador Francis X. Rooney, author of The Global Vatican who served as U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican from 2005 to 2008, agrees.   ”In the diplomatic world,” Rooney said, “ if you don’t have your own separate space, you’re on the road to nowhere.”
Ambassador Ray Flynn, former Boston mayor and Ambassador from 1993-1997, concurred.  Flynn called the relocation “shortsighted” and told the National Catholic Reporter,
“It’s not just those who bomb churches and kill Catholics in the Middle East who are our antagonists, but it’s also those who restrict our religious freedoms and want to close down our embassy to the Holy See.”
Ambassador Flynn saw the move as illustrative of the Obama Administration’s broader secular hostility to religious groups, the Catholic church in particular.
Former Ambassador Mary Ann Glendon, who is the Learned Hand Professor of Law at Harvard and who held the Ambassadorship in 2008-2009, noted that both the U.S. and the Vatican are global actors, and their spheres of influence are worldwide.  She insisted that the importance of America’s relationship with the Vatican merits its own location and profile.
Ambassador Thomas Patrick Melady, who served in the role from 1989-1993, told NCR that regardless of the “official” reason for the change, no matter how the Administration seeks to justify the move, it will be perceived in diplomatic circles as scaling back.
Only the two Vatican Ambassadors who were appointees of President Obama—Miguel Diaz and current U.S. Ambassador Ken Hackett—support the Obama Administration’s plan.  Hackett has said that he sees no diminishing in the importance of the U.S.’s relationship with the Vatican, and adds that the two governments have enjoyed a better relationship now, during Pope Francis’ papacy, than they have in quite a while.  And Ambassador Miguel Diaz (2009-2012) defended the company line, insisting that the security issue was a serious matter and that the move would better enable the government to ensure the safety of U.S. diplomatic personnel.  He added that the move would promote collaboration among the three American embassies in Rome, which he saw as advantageous.

What message, exactly, does the Administration's plan for convey to the world?

First to address the “opportunity for collaboration” cited by Miguel Diaz:  Imagine, if you will, that the nations of Western Europe came together in a single embassy in Germany.  France, Portugal and Denmark all closed their embassies, in order to better “collaborate” with one another.
Would that serve the interests of each individual country? 
Of course not.  Each of the European nations is unique, and each enjoys a unique relationship with the United States.  Each diplomatic relationship faces unique challenges.  It would be absurd to imagine that bringing them together into a single space would achieve positive diplomatic results.
Likewise, the U.S. embassy in Rome and the embassy to the Holy See are unique—in fact, more unique because of the unusual nature of the two governments, that of Italy and that of the Vatican City-State.  Perhaps the U.S. government imagines that Vatican-City, occupying only 109 acres, is a “mini-state” not warranting a full ambassadorial relationship.  In fact, though, the Catholic Church, with 1.2 billion adherents around the world, is a resounding leader in establishing social policy world-wide, not only within its walls.
Perhaps I’m a little sensitive.
The Obama Administration has repeatedly picked fights with the Catholic Church, most notably on religious liberty issues, as well as on abortion and other life issues and same-sex marriage.  I worry that the President’s disdain for Catholic social teaching may affect his willingness to interact on matters of mutual concern.  But I’m just not buying that this is not a radical “downgrade” in U.S. interaction with the Holy See.
The United States and the Holy See did not enjoy a full diplomatic relationship until January 1984.  Before that, due in part to anti-Catholicism in the U.S., this country did not recognize the Vatican City-State as a nation.  President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Postmaster General James Farley was the first high ranking government official to normalize relations with the Holy See.  In 1933, Farley had an audience with Pope Pius XI and dinner with Cardinal Pacelli, who would succeed to the papacy in 1939.  Between 1939 and 1951, the U.S. had no ambassador but sent an emissary to discuss matters of mutual concern.  Then from 1951 through 1968, the U.S. had no relations with the Vatican.
Presidents Nixon and Carter appointed “personal representatives” to interact with the Holy See in the late ‘60s and ‘70s.  Then finally, on January 10, 1984, the United States recognized the Holy See as an independent legislative body, and established the Vatican Embassy.
There exists a real risk that that long overdue relationship may continue to decline during the Obama Administration.  In 2009, the ambassador position was vacant for an extended period, reflecting U.S./Vatican tensions over abortion and marriage.  During the months that the position was open, Caroline Kennedy and Douglas Kmiec were proposed; but both were ultimately rejected because of differences regarding these important issues.
The seat was vacant again from November 2012 through mid-2013, after Ambassador Miguel Diaz left the office to teach at the University of Dayton.
The current rollback portends a weakening of U.S./Vatican relations.  The move signals to the Church, to this nation’s 78.2 million self-identified Catholics, and to the world that the United States is too busy with other things to bother protecting its embassy in the smallest but arguably the most influential nation in the world.

Did Gay Waitress Lie About Family That Refused to Tip?

By Kathy Schiffer
Ave Maria Radio

Last week the Internet was abuzz over the story of a gay server at a restaurant in Bridgewater, New Jersey, who claimed that a customer denied her a tip and wrote her a hateful note on the receipt.
Dayna Morales, a former Marine who works as a waitress at Gallop Asian Bistro, told the Huffington Post that a family had left no tip on their $93 bill, and instead scribbled a line through the receipt with a note which read, "I'm sorry but I cannot tip because I do not agree with your lifestyle."  

Morales posted a photo of the receipt on-line and sent an angry email to Have a Gay Day, a pro-homosexuality organization.  Morales’ email, which was was later posted to the site’s Facebook page, read:
I am THOROUGHLY offended mad pissed off and hurt that THIS is what her kids will grow up learning and that I served in the Marines to keep ignorant people like them free. Sorry lady but I don't agree with YOUR lifestyle and the way you're raising your kids but you didn't see me throwing that in your face and giving you shitty service. Keep your damn mouth shut and pray we never cross paths again.
Readers, offended by the customer’s blatant prejudice against homosexuals, sent checks and monetary gifts as a sign of solidarity against the kind of prejudice Morales had faced.  To date, Morales has received more than $3,000 from people who oppose discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

But not so fast!  After the story aired on NBC New York, a family contacted the station to report that it was their bill which Morales had posted—only it had been altered, they did leave a tip, and they did not write a message of hate on the bill.  As evidence, they produced their copy of the receipt which showed a large tip, and which had the same date/time stamp and dollar amount as the receipt Morales had posted on social media. 

According to NBC New York:
The husband and wife, who asked to remain anonymous, showed NBC 4 New York a receipt that appeared to be printed at the same minute, on the same date, for the same $93.55 total, except with an $18 tip. 
They also provided a document they said was a Visa bill, which appears to indicate their card was charged for the meal plus the tip, for a total of $111.55. 
The couple told NBC 4 New York that they believed their receipt was used for a hoax. The wife says she is left-handed and could not have made the slash in the tip line, which she said looks to be drawn from the right. 
"We've never not left a tip when someone gave good service, and we would never leave a note like that," the wife said.
Gallop Asian Bistro has no explanation for the discrepancy, and is now investigating the incident.  Dayne Morales stands by her story.  She is still waitressing at the restaurant, and pledges to donate all the funds she’s received to help support the Wounded Warrior Project.

BREAKING: Supreme Court to Hear HHS Mandate Case - Will Be Historic Ruling on Religious Liberty

The US Supreme Court has agreed to hear two cases challenging to the contraceptive mandate in the "Obamacare" health policy.    In a conference on today, the justices decided to hear two cases in which employers have challenged the HHS mandate. The High Court chose to hear a case brought by Hobby Lobby, an Oklahoma firm; and another brought by Conestoga Wood Specialties of Pennsylvania. A federal appeals court had sustained the Hobby Lobby challenge, while a different court rejected a similar challenge by Conestoga.     The split opinions in federal appeals courts, the dozens of challenges to the contraceptive mandate, and the need for a clear-cut decision on the federal health-care policy all weighed in favor of a Supreme Court hearing on the arguments.    The key question to be resolved is whether the mandate violates the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 by requiring business owners to pay for services they consider morally objectionable. The High Court has already ruled that corporations should be treated as persons for purposes of their political activity. The Hobby Lobby and Conestoga cases will revolve around the issue of whether corporations should be free to operate according to the religious principles of the individuals who control them. If the Supreme Court finds that corporations can have religious principles, the Obama administration will be forced to show that the federal government’s interest in providing contraceptive coverage is sufficiently urgent to outweigh the ordinary demands of religious freedom.     The Supreme Court will probably schedule arguments in the cases for the spring of 2014, with a decision likely by June. Either way it will be a landmark ruling on religious liberty with significant future ramifications.

Below is a round-up of articles published in the last couple hours.

U.S. Supreme Court to Hear Landmark Hobby Lobby Case - Beckett Fund

Supreme Court accepts Pa. Mennonite cabinetmakers’ challenge to abortion pill mandate - Alliance Defending Freedom

Supreme Court will take up new health law dispute - Associated Press

Supreme Court to decide Obamacare birth control mandate - Washington Times

Can a corporation have a religion?: Hobby Lobby challenge to contraception mandate heads to Supreme Court -

The Supreme Court Prepares to Consider the Contraceptive Mandate - The Wire

Friday, November 22, 2013

The Real Richard Dawkins?

November 21, 2013
To The Source
by Dr. Benjamin Wiker
 side barside barside barside barside barside barside barside barside barside barWhat do we find out about Richard Dawkins in his recently-penned autobiography? Maddeningly little.

We find that Dawkins—Clinton Richard Dawkins, to be precise—had a kind of romantic beginning living in Africa. He was born in Nairobi, Kenya to kind and loving parents who treated him well, and who remained married until his father passed away at 95 years old, just a bit after the couple's 70th wedding anniversary.

While his parents, John and Jean, were non-religious, they were not anti-religious. We don't find an overbearing religious tyrant-father against whom the son could rebel, or a model of militant atheism to devotedly imitate.

His parents didn't take him to church while they lived in Africa, but he did go (in good English fashion) to boarding schools where students went regularly to chapel, and said communal prayers every evening. Young Dawkins is quite happy to sing and pray along with everyone else—he loves hymns and prays nightly just like every other child-like child. If anything, boarding school caused belief to blossom.

So, when his family moved to England, his boarding school experiences only deepened his faith. Near the end of his time at Chafyn Grove, when he was thirteen years old, young Richard was confirmed at St. Mark's Anglican Church. "I became intensely religious around the time I was confirmed. I priggishly upbraided my mother for not going to church," he reports. A very interesting sort of rebellion against one's parents, given his later career.

The year after his confirmation Dawkins went from Chafyn Grove to another prep school, Oundle. He began, as before, with prayers and chapel, but would end up, within three years, refusing to kneel or pray with the others. Why?

As a first phase of the transformation, he came to reject what he calls "the particulars" of Christianity as a result of doubts sown by his mother when he was just nine. She told him that there were other religions than Christianity, "and they contradicted each other." So, Dawkins reasoned, five years after this seed was planted, "They couldn't all be right."

The result was interestingly mixed. He gave up anything particular (as in, the "particular" beliefs of the "particular" religion that surrounded him as a "particular" English Anglican adolescent) and embraced an "unspecified creator…because I was impressed by the beauty and apparent design of the living world, and—like so many others—I bamboozled myself into believing that the appearance of design demanded a designer."

In a very strange and ironic twist, having given up Christianity, Dawkins now imagined himself to have a vocation, a calling "to devote my life to telling people about the [unspecified] creator god—which I would be especially well qualified to do if I became a biologist like my father."

If Dawkins had continued on that trajectory, he might have become as famous for his arguments on behalf a designing God as he is now famous for his arguments against a designing God.

What happened? "I became increasingly aware that Darwinian evolution was a powerfully available alternative to my creator god as an explanation of the beauty and apparent design of life." Interestingly, "it was my Father who first explained it [i.e., natural selection] to me but, to begin with, although I understood the principle, I didn't think it was a big enough theory to do the job….I went through a period of doubting the power of natural selection to do the job required of it."

One wonders what would have happened if Dawkins had followed through on these doubts. That would have put him among those evolutionists who believe in God precisely because they find that atheistic natural selection alone is woefully insufficient as an explanation for the drama of the majestic development of life.

Read the rest here:

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Today on "Kresta in the Afternoon" - November 21, 2013

Talking about the "things that matter most" on November 21

4:00 – How to Share Your Faith with Anyone: A Practical Manual of Catholic Evangelization
Recent popes have challenged all Catholics to participate in the New Evangelization. But most Catholics feel ill-equipped to take up the challenge. Terry Barber, founder of St. Joseph Communications, has written a practical guide that takes much of the pain and uncertainty out of sharing one's faith. Based on Barber's decades of personal experience as an effective evangelist and masterful communicator, and drawing on the perceptions, examples, and lessons of other great evangelists and apologists, How to Share Your Faith with Anyone informs, entertains, and inspires would-be, as well as, seasoned evangelists and teachers. Terry is here to discuss it.

5:00 – Pope Francis: Why He Leads the Way He Leads
From choosing to live in a simple apartment instead of the papal palace to washing the feet of men and women in a youth detention center, Pope Francis’s actions contradict behaviors expected of a modern leader. Chris Lowney, a former Jesuit seminarian turned Managing Director for JP Morgan & Co., is here to show how the pope’s words and deeds reveal spiritual principles that have prepared him to lead the Church and influence our world—a rapidly-changing world that requires leaders who value the human need for love, inspiration, and meaning. Drawing on interviews with people who knew him as Father Jorge Bergoglio, SJ, Lowney challenges assumptions about what it takes to be a great leader. In so doing, he reveals the “other-centered” leadership style of a man whose passion is to be with people rather than set apart. 

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Today on "Kresta in the Afternoon" - November 20, 2013

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

4:00 – 6:00 – JFK Special Broadcast
Many items make up the searing images from the assassination of President John F. Kennedy — from the ill-fated presidential limousine to the gravesite eternal flame, to the historic Air Force One plane where Lyndon B. Johnson took the oath of office. Friday marks the 50th Anniversary of JFK’s assassination and we devote the day today to the 35th President and our nation’s first Catholic President. It was a year before his election that he gave his now-famous speech to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association. In front of the Protestant ministers in attendance at the Rice Hotel in Texas, the presidential candidate gave his justifications on the “religious issue”—that is, how a Catholic president would navigate church-state relations while in office. Anti-Catholic sentiments ran high, as did fears the pope would influence his decisions. We talk about that speech, it’s impact, the JFK presidency, his moral issues, and much more.