Archive of June 21, 2008

Snapshot of a shipmate: LTJG Philip Johnson

Washington D.C., Jun 21, 2008 (CNA) - By Fr. David Daigle

Philip Johnson, an officer in the United States Navy and graduate of the United States Naval Academy was just promoted to Lieutenant Junior Grade (LTJG) and will soon be joining the USS IWO JIMA (LHD 7) as the Fire Control Officer.  At only 24-years old, Phil has a great career and future ahead of him. But there is something more - Phil wants to be a priest.

Serving as a chaplain in the Navy has brought me into contact with many fine individuals and many talented people. Phil is both. He is an exceptional man and a talented young officer. With that in mind, I'd like to share some background on Phil—who he is, where he's from, and what he believes is the path God is leading him to in life.

Phil’s inspiration for attending the Academy and why he decided to become a naval officer came from his father who served in Vietnam as a Marine. This life experience had a huge impact on Phil; growing up, he had great respect for the military, and the sacrifices men and women make in service to the country.

Although he had been raised in a devout Catholic household, the years of high school were not a time of deep spiritual growth. He partied a great deal and was not particularly close to the Church. When the time came for college, he felt drawn to pursue life in the military, and saw the Naval Academy as the pinnacle of military education.

Accepted to the Academy, he put aside all other college options. That first year was very tough with physical and intellectual difficulties that seemed almost insurmountable. The drill instructors were unrelenting and constantly pounded the midshipmen, seeking out any weakness of character. The schedule was extremely demanding with every moment of the day was structured. In essence, there was no time to spend alone for reflection or to pursue personal interests. That is, except on Sundays when the midshipmen were permitted to attended religious services. It was then that Phil's life changed. He relished the quiet time, and the chance to pray. He turned to the Lord for strength, and his spiritual life began to be revitalized after some years of dormancy. He returned to Mass, and eventually to the Sacrament of Reconciliation after many years of being away.

With the spiritual tide of his life changing, the high watermark occurred after completing the grueling "Plebe Year" of the Naval Academy in 2003. Midshipman Johnson was offered the chance to attend a month-long retreat in Europe with other college students. On this retreat, he sensed a deepening awareness of God through the sacraments and in the spiritual inspiration he received by visiting the soaring Catholic basilicas and cathedrals in France, Italy, Germany, Switzerland, and Liechtenstein. Notably, his trip culminated in a private audience with then-Cardinal Ratzinger where he professed his filial respect to the future pontiff.

Spiritually renewed, he returned to the Academy a changed person. He began attending daily Mass and participating in all the events of the Catholic groups. For two years, he had been dating someone he describes as "the perfect Catholic girl." But things had changed so much in his spiritual life, that he had begun contemplating the idea of being a priest. At Mass, he began to imagine himself in the role of the priest celebrating the Holy Sacrifice. The strength of his desire for serving God even brought with it the thought of leaving the Academy before graduation and entering the seminary. However, knowing the education and experience of the Naval Academy was not something to set aside lightly he decided it was best for him to graduate and work in his chosen profession. By gaining some life experience, he determined that if the calling to the priesthood was true, it would not only survive but grow stronger.

Commissioned as an Ensign, a junior ranking officer, he took his first assignment on a cruiser. During his first deployment to the Persian Gulf in 2007, he had no access to a priest or the sacraments for many months. The lack of access to a priest and the sacraments was something he said was very difficult on him spiritually. It did, however, help him truly appreciate the ministry of the priest even more.

Flashing forward to the present time, I met Phil because will soon be transferring from the VELLA GULF to the IWO JIMA in August. Between underways, I’ve been visiting the other ships of the strike group, getting to know the Catholic lay leaders and the Catholic faithful onboard. For my part, I consider it a big honor and a blessing to be a part of LTJG Johnson’s life as he grows in his faith and discerns a calling to the priesthood. The story of Phil’s life underscores how very important it is for the presence of priests alongside servicemen and women in the military.

I thank God everyday for allowing me to serve as a priest in the military. Although it is a challenging ministry, I thank God for allowing me to meet wonderful men and women of every faith looking for God and seeking Him out within the circumstances of their lives. But, in a particular way, I derive my greatest joy and satisfaction as a priest bringing God's presence to Catholic men and women in and through the sacraments. With a grateful heart, I offer a special word of thanks to my bishop, William E. Lori, for releasing me for this service.


Fr. David Daigle writes for from aboard the USS Iwo Jima, (LHD7). Copyright 2008 Used with permission.


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Bishop’s book to aid parishes understanding the role of music in divine worship

Washington D.C., Jun 21, 2008 (CNA) - On July 8, “Sing to the Lord,” a statement of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops on the role of music in the liturgy, will be available for purchase in the form of a book.  According to the USCCB Publishing director, Paul Henderson, the new book “has long been anticipated by American Catholic musicians.”

In a press release from the USCCB, Henderson noted that the new book will assist parishes in better understanding the role of music in divine worship. Although the statement has been on the USCCB site since November 2007, “the book’s availability will make it easier for music leaders to apply the bishops’ norms and principles to their ministry.”

Not only will “Sing to the Lord” offer “criteria for selecting a performance repertoire for various occasions,” but it will also describe “how participants are to engage music in liturgical celebrations according to the norms established by the Second Vatican Council’s Constitution on the Liturgy. The instruction defines the singing role assigned to bishops, priests, deacons, the choir and the congregation.”

The statement also encourages “the cultivation and use of Gregorian chant due to its unifying role, especially when liturgical celebrations use Latin.”

Executive director of the USCCB Office of Divine Worship, Monsignor Anthony Sherman, emphasized the value of the new book.  “This is a useful tool for musicians in particular because it really demonstrates music’s role in unifying a diverse assembly of Catholics into one body gathered for worship.”

“Sing to the Lord” can be purchased online at

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Major newspapers’ editorials critical of California same-sex marriage decision

Manassas, Va., Jun 21, 2008 (CNA) - An analysis of major newspaper editorials published in response to the California Supreme Court’s decision to overturn a ban on same-sex marriages shows that the editorials opposed the ruling by a 7-4 margin.

The analysis, provided by the Institute for Marriage and Public Policy (iMAPP) in a research brief, examined twenty of the highest-circulation newspapers in the United States. Twelve of the twenty published editorial reactions to the California court’s decision.

Of these twelve editorials, seven were opposed to the decision while only four were in favor. One major paper published both favorable and opposed views, focusing on the Florida marriage amendment.

“Given that major newspapers are located in metropolitan areas and are historically liberal, this response is striking,” iMAPP said. The editorials opposed to the decision, often voiced fears that “the undemocratic imposition of same-sex marriage will spark a ‘culture war’ similar to that sparked by Roe v. Wade’s overturning of abortion laws, and that the gay rights movement would be better served by trusting the democratic process and the rapid change in opinions among their fellow citizens,” according to iMAPP.

Joshua K. Baker, Legal Analyst for iMAPP told CNA that the editorial’s stance was unexpected.  “I think [it] is significant and somewhat surprising. It suggests that much of the nation is still looking for a compromise, and isn't willing to have a handful of judges making social policy for the nation." 

When asked why the predominately liberal papers printed negative editorials regarding the ruling, Baker replied, that in addition to igniting a culture war, “several papers expressed concern about a voter backlash, suggesting that the court ruling might actually defeat its own purposes by lending new energy to supporters of the constitutional amendment effort already underway in California."

The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, and the Boston Globe editorials all supported the California Supreme Court’s decision to instate same-sex marriage. Editorials in USA Today, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Post, the Washington Post, the Chicago Tribune, the Dallas Morning News and the Cleveland Plain Dealer all opposed the decision.

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KY abortionist charged with fraud and ‘gross negligence’ told screaming patient to ‘shut up’

Lexington, Ky., Jun 21, 2008 (CNA) - A Kentucky abortionist has had his medical license suspended and is now under scrutiny for allegedly running a gruesome abortion clinic in Lexington where he committed Medicare fraud and put patients at risk in unsanitary, painful and possibly illegal abortions.

WHAS 11 reports that Dr. Hamid Sheikh has been indicted for allegedly billing Medicare for abortions he performed. The Attorney General’s fraud probe led the medical board to investigate further, leading to more allegations from the Kentucky medical licensure board. A consultant for the board has concluded the abortionist committed “gross negligence” and “put his patients at risk.”

Dr. Sheikh denies the allegations.

Seven former patients have told investigators that the doctor did not perform ultrasounds to see if they were pregnant. Most claim they did not receive pain pills or anesthetics during procedures. Several reported dirty gowns, one reported blood on medical equipment, and another said Dr. Sheikh tried to perform a vaginal exam without a cover on the wand.

“There are some allegations in the medical board’s complaint that we didn’t feel comfortable describing,” WHAS 11 says in its report. 

According to WHAS 11, a 17-year-old patient reported unbearable pain under the doctor’s care, while another woman alleges that Sheikh told her to “shut up” so women in the waiting room wouldn’t hear her screaming.

State investigators examined the records of 22 patients of Sheikh, finding that eight apparently did not wait the required 24 hours before their abortions. The clinic still stocked outdated medications and bio-hazardous materials from abortions had not been removed from the clinic in 12 weeks.

One Kentucky senator said that the problems might have been discovered sooner if Kentucky required inspections of offices that provide abortion services.

Dr. Sheikh says that he has served as a doctor for 33 years and has had no complaints until last year. He claimed that the state investigator was biased against him and in a written response to the medical licensure board he denies all the allegations against him.

Sheikh said he personally sterilizes his instruments and observes the 24-hour waiting period for an abortion. He asserted that those complaining about his work had a low threshold for pain or were upset they did not get any cash back.

The abortionist told a WHAS 11 reporter that he retired earlier in June.

“The horrific conditions discovered at Sheikh's mill are not the exception; they are what we have come to expect from America's failing abortion industry," said Operation Rescue President Troy Newman in a press release.

"Doctors that are concerned about helping and healing people do not go into the abortion business,” Newman continued. “Therefore, what the abortion industry is left with is the bottom of the barrel. When abortion mills are inspected and laws are enforced, we can expect to see pulled licenses and closed clinics. Unfortunately, abortion mills are all too often given a free pass, but even that is beginning to change as the public becomes more aware of incidents like this.”

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