Archive of March 27, 2008

Houston church vandalized twice during Holy Week

Houston, Texas, Mar 27, 2008 (CNA) - During Holy Week a Catholic church in Houston was targeted by iconoclastic vandals who in separate incidents damaged two statues of the Virgin Mary and sprayed an anti-Catholic slur on the church building.

One vandal painted an apparent threat expressing a belief that Catholics worship idols.

The incidents took place during services on Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday at All Saints Catholic Church, the Houston Chronicle reports. 

After the 12:30 p.m. Palm Sunday Mass parishioners noticed that a four-foot tall marble statue of Our Lady of Lourdes had been pulled from its pedestal during the service.  Since 1945 the statue had been displayed at the front of the church in the parish grotto, which was dedicated to veterans of World War II.  It had been closed for renovation.

Pastoral assistant Cary Ann Nunn told the Houston Chronicle that, the statue is now missing fingers and part of its face and back.  It was likely struck with an object.

After the vandalism, parish pastor Monsignor Adam McClosky secured the statue in storage while it awaits a costly restoration.  He then replaced the statue with a 3-foot-tall statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

During the Easter sunrise Mass at 6:30 a.m., the replacement statue was placed on its head and streaked with black paint.  The vandals also painted slurs on the wall of a handicap ramp.  "Don't let them worship idols," the vandals painted in black.  In red paint, they painted the words “You are warned.”

"Everybody is so angry," Nunn said.  "It is very hurtful." 

Nunn continued saying, "We don't worship idols at all." "It is like a picture of your mother.” This reflects the Catholic belief saints only act as intercessors before God and that it is in fact God, not the saint, who answers their prayers.

A police spokesman said it was not known if the incidents were related.  He said the vandalism was not yet being treated as a hate crime, but officers were trying to determine if people were specifically targeted because of their religion.

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Catholic vote could make or break McCain, says Reagan Catholic liaison

Washington D.C., Mar 27, 2008 (CNA) - Supporters of all major party candidates for the United States presidency are angling to discover how to best appeal to Catholic voters, who could be a key swing vote in the November presidential election. According to Robert Reilly, a successful McCain campaign must win over Catholics to win the White House. 

Robert R. Reilly, who was President Ronald Reagan’s liaison to Catholics between 1983 and 1985, told CNA on Wednesday that Senator John McCain could not win the presidential election without the Catholic vote, which makes up about 25 percent of the electorate.  “The worst thing he could assume is that [the Catholic vote] is going to fall into his lap because Catholics will have nowhere else to go,” he said.

Reilly argued that McCain could emulate Ronald Reagan’s successful appeal to the Catholic vote during his 1984 presidential campaign.  Reagan’s campaign ran advertisements in Catholic newspapers featuring a photo of Reagan and Pope John Paul II smiling together.  The photo, Reilly claimed, was effective because Reagan shared positions “completely congruent with those of the Catholic Church” on issues like the family, the sanctity of human life, pornography, and school prayer.

Senator McCain, Reilly said, “cannot simply claim that point of view; he needs to promote it.”  Reilly noted that Reagan held a White House screening of Bernard Nathanson’s film of an abortion, titled “The Silent Scream.”  Reagan also published a noteworthy essay, “Abortion and the Conscience of the Nation,” in the Human Life Review.  The essay helped convince Catholic pro-lifers of Reagan’s sincerity, Reilly said.  

Reilly suggested McCain ask his Democratic opponent to watch “The Silent Scream” or an equivalent film with him.  He said McCain should write a pro-life essay similar to Reagan’s for publication in a prominent Catholic-friendly journal.

Senator McCain could also make the upcoming U.S. visit of Pope Benedict XVI an opportunity to display his understanding of the Pope’s thought on the family, the sanctity of human life, and the nature of radical Islam.

McCain needed to take risks to show his conviction in order to appeal to Catholics, Reilly claimed.

“If he throws as much conviction and energy into these issues as he did into his backing of the surge, Catholics and others will flock to his banner -- and he can win. If he tries to coast on the moral issues, he will not,” said Reilly.

The Democrats, too, are debating how to capture the Catholic vote in the presidential primary contest between Illinois Senator Barack Obama and New York Senator Hillary Clinton.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the Clinton campaign has argued that its strength among Catholics in the Democratic presidential primaries could mean their candidate would be stronger than Senator Barack Obama against Republican candidate Senator John McCain.

Clinton won 63 percent of the Democratic Catholic vote in Ohio and 65 percent in Texas.  Even in states where she lost to Obama, Clinton in some cases still won the Catholic vote in those states. 

Catholics are also poised to play a large role in the Democratic primaries since a recent survey of 19 states that have held presidential primaries this year shows  63 percent of Catholics identified themselves as Democrats, while 37 percent identified themselves as Republican.  In 2005, Edison/Mitofsky polls claimed that only 42 percent of Catholics identified themselves as Democrats.

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Man makes “miraculous” recovery from brain death after accident

Oklahoma City, Okla., Mar 27, 2008 (CNA) - A young man who was injured in an all-terrain-vehicle accident woke from his coma and showed signs of life just minutes before he was to be disconnected from life support, Dateline NBC reports.

Zack Dunlap suffered a broken collarbone, multiple skull fractures, and “absolutely catastrophic” brain injuries when his four-wheeled off-road vehicle flipped over. 

After tests revealed no blood flow to Dunlap’s brain, doctors determined he met the legal and medical requirements for declaring someone brain-dead. 

Dunlap’s family decided to remove him from life support, and a medical team prepared to harvest Dunlap’s organs for donation.  Oklahoma authorities were informed of his death, while friends and family were told to gather at the hospital to say their goodbyes.

Dunlap’s grandmother, Naomi Blackford, went in and prayed for him.  She said to Dateline NBC that she was asking for “Just a miracle. That he was too young for God to take him. It wasn't time.”

Dunlap’s cousin Christie Coffin, a nurse, said, “I sat there and I just said to him, ‘Zack, if you're in there, if you can hear me, ask God to help you.’ And I mean it probably wasn't 10 minutes later, I started getting this different feeling in my gut. And I thought, ‘he's not ready.’”

Another cousin who is also a nurse, Dan Coffin, thought the monitor recording Dunlap’s vital signs showed signs of improvement.  On a hunch he pulled out his pocketknife and scraped Dunlap’s foot from his heel to his toes.

Dunlap jerked his foot, but the attending hospital nurse believed it was only a reflex.  Dan Coffin then stuck his fingernail beneath Dunlap’s fingernail, which provoked a purposeful movement, a sign of brain activity.

Doctors immediately resumed medical treatment.  Dunlap opened his eyes after five days, and was taken off a ventilator two days later.

The following week Dunlap began responding to his neurosurgeon and spoke his first words to his parents.  Dunlap’s mother, Pam, said, “He looked around, and he said, ‘I love you’.”

He began taking steps later that day.

Dunlap’s trauma surgeon said he had no medical explanation for his recovery, and said all procedures were followed.

Doctors insisted the tests administered to Dunlap were accurate, and said the hospital would have detected his renewed vital signs before any organs were harvested.

Forty-eight days after being declared dead, Dunlap returned home, where Dan Coffin presented him with the pocketknife that proved he was still alive.
“I had heard of miracles all my life. But I had never seen a miracle. But I have seen a miracle. I've got proof of it,” said Dunlap’s grandmother.

“We both feel that God has some big plan for Zack. We'll do everything in our power to help him pursue it -- whatever it is,” said Dunlap’s mother, Pam.

Dunlap said he did not remember the accident, but he does remember the doctor declaring him dead.  “I heard it and it just made me mad inside,” he said.

Amal Moorad, medical director of the Jim Thorpe Rehabilitation Hospital in Oklahoma City where Dunlap recuperated, explained the patient’s prognosis. “Anytime you have severe brain injury, you'll never be the same again from a mental, emotional standpoint,” he said. 

“Zack will be very close to normal, but not 100 percent, and only time will tell us.”

Dunlap has resolved to pursue fishing.  “No more 4-wheeling,” he told Dateline NBC.

Zack Dunlap's interview on Dateline NBC can be viewed at:

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Muslim convert baptized by the Pope to marry in the Church

, Mar 27, 2008 (CNA) - The Muslim journalist Magdi Allam, who was received into the Church during the Easter Vigil by Pope Benedict XVI, plans to marry Valentina Colombo in the Church on April 22, according to the Italian daily Libero.

The couple’s son, Davide, who is nine months old, was baptized a month ago, when Allam’s journey to the Catholic faith was in its final phase. 

Allam is 55 and is associate director of the newspaper Il Corriere della Sera. During the last five years he has lived under police protection due to death threats over his conversion to Christianity and his positions against Islamic fundamentalism.

During the interview, Allam said he is not afraid of death and that he will continue moving “forward” on “the road of truth, freedom and affirmation of life.”

His baptism has been criticized by both Islamic fundamentalists and Islamic moderates, including the Muslim intellectuals who attended a meeting at the Vatican this month to promote inter-religious dialogue.

The director of L’Osservatore Romano, Gian Maria Vian, said yesterday in an editorial that Magdi Allam’s baptism was “not intended to be hostile towards the great Islamic religion.”

Allam took this step “after a long personal search and the necessary preparation for taking this step,” Vian said.  “Benedict XVI’s gesture has important meaning because it affirms religious freedom in a humble and clear way” and shows that “anyone who requests baptism without constrictions has the right to receive it,” he emphasized.

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Young need lessons in morality

Smithfield, R.I., Mar 27, 2008 (CNA) - Religious educators attending a workshop entitled “Teaching Morality to Adolescents” at the 41st Annual Diocesan Religious Education Workshop Day held March 15 at Bryant University were told that prayer is an essential part of morality.

“I believe that through prayer, a person will find direction in their life,” said Samuel Roy, a member of St. Agatha Parish and a retired science and religion teacher at the Good Shepherd Regional Catholic School, both in Woonsocket.

The speaker said that many people are too superstitious, and place their trust in horoscopes.

“The answers are found in daily prayer,” he said.

Roy told the catechists that they should encourage their students “to talk with God” by just not talking to but also listening to the Lord.

“God speaks through our conscience, through Scripture and basically any way he wants to,” said Roy.

He noted that one of the basic tenets of Catholic morality is that people are created in the likeness and image of God, and “have the power to reason, the ability to make choices and the ability to be lovingly relational with other persons.”

Roy explained that God’s love is shared between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit and we and our neighbors are extensions of the Trinity.

“The two greatest commandments are ‘Love the Lord your God with your whole mind, heart and soul and strength’ and ‘Love your neighbor as yourself,’” he added.

The educator based much of his presentation on Pope John Paul II’s “Theology of the Body,” a series of 129 Wednesday talks that were the late pontiff’s integrated vision of the human person – body, soul and spirit. In these talks, Pope John Paul II encouraged a reverence for the gift of human sexuality and challenged Catholics to live it in a way worthy of our dignity as human beings.

Roy emphasized that Theology of the Body teaches that cohabitation and using birth control are immoral practices.

The educator said that for a large number of young people, morality is a subject that is often overlooked.

“Many of them have become amoral,” he emphasized. “Morality is not that important to them. Hollywood and the media are their guides.”

Roy said that unfortunately, many parents have “given up” on their adolescent children and don’t provide them with a proper moral foundation based on church teaching. “Parents don’t understand what and why the church teaches about sexual morality.” Roy believes that teaching morality should be part of every religious education program for older students.

“It will prevent many people from falling away from the church and will solidify their faith,” he noted.

Roy stated that morality influences every facet our lives, and is not just limited to sexual behavior.

“If we love another person, we will respect their property,” he concluded.

Printed with permission from The Rhode Island Catholic.

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Holy See hopes to raise John Paul II to the altars “as soon as possible”

Vatican City, Mar 27, 2008 (CNA) - In an interview with Vatican Radio, Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins, prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints, said that like many people in the world, the Holy See hopes the beatification of John Paul II will occur “as soon as possible” but that the normal process would be followed.

With the third anniversary of the late Pontiff’s death just a week away, Cardinal Saraiva reminisced about the events of those days.  “We all remember the day of Pope Wojtyla’s funeral.  We remember the shouts of ‘Santo subito!’ ‘Sainthood now!’ That phrase, that cry in St. Peter’s Square expressed what people were thinking.  It meant that John Paul II genuinely had a true reputation for holiness among the faithful.  And we know that is essential in the process of beatification,” he explained.

“If that reputation for holiness did not exist, a cause for beatification could not even begin,” Cardinal Saraiva stressed, noting that the process goes through a series of phases.

“Each process has two fundamental phases. One diocesan—local—and the other what we call ‘Roman,’ at the level of the Holy See. The diocesan phase was concluded on April 2 last year. Once the diocesan phase is closed, the Roman phase is opened immediately without delay, with the official handing over of all the documentation gathered during the diocesan phase to my dicastery.”

“Once this documentation is received, we immediately approve a postulator for the Roman phase, who is the same postulator that was in charge of the diocesan phase. We also appoint a relator who, guided by the postulator, puts together the so-called ‘positio,’ which is a collection of all the documents organized in a systematic and organic fashion.  This ‘positio’ is printed out and is studied by the collegiate bodies of the dicastery,” the cardinal said.

“The postulator of the cause for beatification of John Paul II is the one drafting the ‘positio’,” Cardinal Saraiva continued, noting that it could consist of volumes of documentation.  “It doesn’t depend on the dicastery, but rather on the time the postulator needs to finish his work.  I don’t know how many months, a year…I don’t know and maybe he doesn’t either,” he said.

“What I can assure you is that once we receive the ‘positio’ we will study it immediately without delay.  Because the dicastery certainly wants John Paul II to be raised to the altars as soon as possible and to be called ‘Blessed,’ responding thus to the cries in St. Peter’s of ‘Sainthood Now’.”

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Muslim medical consortium fully supports Catholic fight against U.K. embryology bill

London, England, Mar 27, 2008 (CNA) - The chorus of Catholic voices speaking out against the proposed Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill in the U.K. is being joined by several Muslim medical organizations. The Muslim groups say that if the bill becomes law it will “allow for many immoral, inhumane and undesirable procedures and outcomes.”
The Islamic Medical Association, Muslim Doctors Association, Islamic Medical Ethics Forum and the Union of Muslim Organisations jointly announced on Wednesday that they fully support the Catholic opposition to the legislation under consideration.

Echoing the comments of Cardinal Keith O’Brien, who called the bill’s promotion of creating hybrid embryos “monstrous”, the Muslim consortium added that, “This is blasphemous in Islam. It is 'monstrous' and is opposed by all believers in GOD, the only Creator, the only Designer.”

In a press release, Dr. A. Majid Katme, the spokesman for the Islamic Medical Association, also said that, “The unique divine process of fertilization and human creation is SACRED and can not be used or changed for any reason. It is against the dignity of man, as stated by the Cardinal Keith O'Brien.”

Katme pointed out that the Muslim groups are not against medical research but that it must be “ethical, humane, safe, moral and effective and blessed by GOD the Creator. This bill is none of these.”
Dr. Katme pointed to the fact that ethical alternatives, such as the use of adult stem cells, are available and that his organization fully supports their use.

“British Muslims,” said Katme, “fully support the Catholic Leaders, Ministers and MPs in their opposition to this, the worst Bill in the history of Britain, they will continue with their letter campaign to the MPs in order to oppose this inhumane, destructive and immoral bill.”

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Peru, Argentina and Ecuador mark Day of the Unborn Child

CNA STAFF, Mar 27, 2008 (CNA) - Although it was not an official holiday, thousands of people in Peru, Argentina and Ecuador celebrated the Day of the Unborn Child on March 25.

In Lima more than two thousand people marched to the Ministry of Health building, where health officials had placed a huge sign that read, “Life is First.”

Pro-life leaders presented more than 38,000 signatures in support of law 27654, which recognizes the humanity of the unborn. The vice minister of health, Meliton Arce, accepted the signatures and publicly pledged in the name of the Ministry to respect the law, which is protected by the Constitution and by other Peruvian laws, and to refrain from issuing any norm that would affect the right to life.

In the city of Piura some two thousand young people marched through the streets led by Archbishop Jose Antonio Eguren.  Before the march, the archbishop celebrated a special Mass in which he blessed dozens of pregnant women.

Archbishop Eguren, who is also president of the Peruvian bishops’ Committee on the Family, noted that the defense of life is a never-ending mission of all Peruvians.  “Only a country that loves and defends life from conception to natural death will be a great country,” he said.

The Day of the Unborn Child was celebrated in Argentina with a rosary for life at the basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar in Buenos Aires.  In the Church of St. Ignatius of Loyola a statue of St. Gianna Beretta—who gave up her life rather than risk her unborn child—was enthroned.  In Neuquen, lawmakers proposed making the day an official holiday, and in Parana, the archbishop celebrated a special Mass.

In Guayaquil thousands marched in support of human life and pro-life leaders collected signatures against possible constitutional reforms that would legalize abortion in the country.

Sonia Maria Crespo, representative of the Family and Future Foundation said the signatures would be delivered to the Constitutional Assembly to show that “87% of the Ecuadorian people will not support a constitution that permits abortion.”  She said the march was proof that “the Ecuadorian people want to defend life.”

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Benedict XVI names deaf priest “Prelate of Honor”

Madrid, Spain, Mar 27, 2008 (CNA) - A Cuban priest who works on the Spanish island of Tenerife has been named an honorary Prelate by Pope Benedict XVI. Father Saturnino Agustin Yanes Valer is 80 and is deaf.

Msgr. Yanes, as he is now referred to in his diocese, received the honorary title after 50 years of pastoral service to the deaf in Spain.

One of his most recent projects is the blog, which offers the readings of the Mass in simple language and a Sunday homily in sign language.

Msgr. Yanes was born in Havana, Cuba on February 26, 1929.  His parents, natives of Spain, returned to Tenerife when he was only seven months old.  At the age of five he was diagnosed with an illness that left him deaf. 

He has several brothers who are also priests.

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Eugenic practices in Spain leading to “extinction” of Down’s syndrome children

Madrid, Spain, Mar 27, 2008 (CNA) - The director of Fundacion Vida in Spain, Manuel Cruz, said cases of “Down’s Syndrome have been reduced by half due to prenatal diagnosis and selective abortions.”

In recent statements, Cruz said, “Many of these children who would make their families happy have been forgotten and left among the 1.1 million fetuses killed in Spain since 1985 when abortion was partially legalized.”

After noting that “in merely fifteen years we have gone from 1 in 600 babies with Down’s Syndrome to 1 in 1000,” Cruz stressed that in Spain women are having children at an older age, while the rate of Down ’s syndrome, rather than increasing, is diminishing.” He called this “a silent and dramatic paradox” that leads to the conclusion that “children with Down’s Syndrome are in danger of extinction.”

Cruz noted that in countries where abortion is legal, prenatal testing has led to a three percent increase in the risk of abortion and a decrease in the number of children born with Down’s syndrome.

“There is no question that having a child with special needs can be difficult, but it also brings a series of satisfactions sometimes unimaginable.”  He pointed to the example of Maria Victoria Troncoso and her husband Jesús, who 31 years ago adopted their daughter Maite, who suffers from Down’s.  In their book they write about how Maite, “with her abilities and values show us she is happy and that she knows how to make others happy.”

She shows affection and kindness in different ways to many people, they said.  “She is sensitive and helpful. She thinks of others and that makes her feel good,” her parents wrote in the book.

“Lives like those of Maite and Maria Victoria show that abortion solves nothing, while life enriches,” Cruz said.

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Two California conferences to mark 40th anniversary of Humanae Vitae

San Bernardino, Calif., Mar 27, 2008 (CNA) - The California Catholic Daily reports that the Diocese of San Bernardino and the Diocese of Oakland will host two separate conferences this year marking the fortieth anniversary of Humanae Vitae.  They will examine the encyclical of Pope Paul VI that discussed contraception and marital love.

The San Bernardino conference, sponsored by the California Association of Natural Family Planning, will take place April 11-12.  It will discuss both Humanae Vitae and the U.S. bishops’ 2006 document “Married Love and the Gift of Life.” 

Additionally, the conference will address the nature of Natural Family Planning and how it differs from contraception, the impact of contraception on society and married couples, what saying “yes” to children at the altar means, and whether couples have to leave their family size “entirely to chance.”

The conference’s speakers will include Dr. Janet Smith, who is a consulter to the Pontifical Council on the Family and an ethics professor at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit.

The Diocese of Oakland will hold a similar conference on August 9 at St. Mary’s College in Moraga in cooperation with the St. Anthony of Padua Institute.  Titled “Humanae Vitae:  Cornerstone of a Culture of Life,” the conference will feature in addition to Dr. Smith, the Archbishop of St. Louis Raymond Burke, Father Brian Mullady, O.P., and Dr. Mary Davenport, who will also be at the San Barnardino conference.

Both conferences will examine Humanae Vitae’s practical implications for women’s health and for couples and families.

Cliff Price, a member of the board of St. Anthony of Padua Institute, explained the goals of the conference.

“Many people know Humanae Vitae came out sometime in the past and prohibited artificial contraception,” Price said.  “What they haven’t known, because it hasn’t been taught, is the actual teaching of Paul VI. Any consistent discourse about the culture of life has to take into account his teaching on contraception.”

In their document “Married Love and the Gift of Life” the U.S. bishops explained Catholic teaching against contraception, writing, “when married couples deliberately act to suppress fertility… sexual intercourse is no longer fully marital intercourse. It is something less powerful and intimate, something more ‘casual.’ Suppressing fertility by using contraception denies part of the inherent meaning of married sexuality and does harm to the couple’s unity. The total giving of oneself, body and soul, to one’s beloved is no time to say: ‘I give you everything I am -- except….’ The Church’s teaching is not only about observing a rule, but about preserving that total, mutual gift of two persons in its integrity.”

The document says that Church teaching does not require married couples to leave their family size entirely to chance, but in “serious circumstances” a couple who wish to avoid “for a good reason” having a child may engage in marital intimacy during the naturally infertile times of a woman’s cycle “without violating the meaning of marital intercourse in any way.”

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George Weigel discusses implications of Pope’s baptism of Muslim convert

Washington D.C., Mar 27, 2008 (CNA) - George Weigel, a Catholic scholar and biographer of Pope John Paul II, in a recent interview with National Review Online addressed Pope Benedict XVI’s Easter vigil baptism of Magdi Allam, a prominent Italian journalist from a Muslim background. 

Weigel also discussed the relevance of Allam’s baptism to relations between Muslim and non-Muslim countries and to debates about religious freedom in the Muslim world.

“Magdi Allam,” Weigel said, “has courageously defended the religious freedom of all while sharply criticizing those currents of thought in Islam which would deny the right of religious conversion to Muslims. Now he fights the war of ideas from a different foxhole, so to speak.”

Weigel said the most effective Muslim allies in war against jihadism will be “those Muslims who want to make an Islamic case for tolerance, civility, and pluralism.”

He said Osama bin Laden’s version of Islam, in addition to being the enemy of much of the non-Islamic world, is also the enemy of those Muslims who do not share his conception of what Islam requires.

Weigel, drawing on the themes of his recent book “Faith, Reason, and the War against Jihadism,” said that Pope Benedict’s Regensburg Lecture “identified the linked problems at the center of a lot of turbulence in world politics today.”  These problems, according to Weigel, included both the detachment of faith from reason, as shown in jihadism, and the loss of faith in reason, as manifested in western Europe and American “high culture.”  The Muslim theological separation of faith from reason encourages the idea that God can and does command the irrational, such as the killing of innocents.  Westerners’ loss of confidence in reason, Weigel said, “leaves the West intellectually disarmed in the face of the jihadist challenge.”

At Regensburg, Weigel said, the Pope gave the world a “vocabulary with which to deal with these problems,” which Weigel characterized as “the vocabulary of rationality and irrationality.”

Weigel suggested that the United States would be much less likely to achieve victory in a contest with Islamic radicalism if its next president does not understand “the nature of the enemy or the multifront struggle in which we are necessarily engaged.”

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