Archive of September 1, 2008

Sophia Institute Press to become publishing division of Thomas More College

Merrimack, N.H., Sep 1, 2008 (CNA) - Sophia Institute Press and the Thomas More College of Liberal Arts have announced a collaborative partnership making Sofia the publishing division of the college.

According to the statement announcing the partnership, the press was established to “nurture the spiritual, moral, and cultural life of souls and to spread the Gospel of Christ in conformity with the teachings of the Magisterium of the Roman Catholic Church.” It has published over 200 titles in the past 25 years, selling nearly 2.5 million books worldwide.

Mother Teresa herself once praised Sofia Institute Press in a letter to its founder, Dr. John Barger.

“I am convinced of the good your books can do in helping people grow closer to God,” she wrote.

Barger said his company is “excited to be closely associated with an orthodox Catholic college like Thomas More.”

“I am delighted that Sophia's 25-year tradition of publishing great Catholic spiritual works will continue well into the future as the publishing imprint of Thomas More College,” he said, professing his “full confidence” in the president of Thomas More College, Dr. Jeffrey O. Nelson.

Commenting in a statement, Nelson said he had begun been laying plans to establish a publishing program that further advances the mission of “evangelizing the culture by promoting the Catholic intellectual tradition.

“I have always admired the work of Sophia Institute Press, and had hoped to establish a Press that mirrored Sophia's substantial work,” he continued.

“All of us at Thomas More College are excited to have the opportunity to form a relationship with Sophia that reduces repetition and enables Thomas More College and the Institute to more fully realize their missions of serving both the Church and society.”

Dr. Nelson has become Chairman of the Sophia Institute and its press, while Dr. Barger will continue as publisher.

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Christian PAC boosts Obama in effort to ‘broaden issues’

Washington D.C., Sep 1, 2008 (CNA) - An advertisement from an independent political action committee (PAC) called the Matthew 25 Network is running advertisements which use religious appeals to encourage citizens to vote for Democratic presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama.

In one advertisement prominent evangelical leader Rev. Brian McLaren says “as a pastor, I know you can learn a lot about a man’s character by the way he treats his family.”

The Matthew 25 Network is a group of Evangelical, Catholic, Protestant, and Pentecostal Christians. As a PAC, the group is sponsoring radio, television and print advertisements targeting Christians, mostly broadcasting on Christian radio in a few key swing states.

Organizers claim Rev. McLaren’s advertisement is the first to use active clergy for a Democratic presidential candidate. The ad also includes Rev. Kirbyjon Caldwell, who has been close to President George W. Bush and recently officiated at the Texas wedding of the president’s daughter Jenna Bush.

“We’ve seen the domination of just a couple of issues surround the Christian voice in politics,” says Mara Vanderslice, the evangelical founder of the group who worked for John Kerry’s 2004 presidential campaign. “We wanted a Christian voice that better reflected the gospel values missing from the landscape.”

The PAC’s purpose, according to its organizers, is to broaden the issues of Christian interest and to counter falsehoods or smears targeting Sen. Obama

The Matthew 25 Network’s name comes from the Gospel story in which Christ exhorts his followers to “care for the least of these.”

“People like myself get a lot of attention when we talk about issues like abortion and family life, but not when we talk about helping low-income people,” says Sharon Daly, former vice president of social policy for Catholic Charities. “Matthew 25 gives us the opportunity to try to get candidates to focus on these concerns.”

PAC members are split on the abortion issue. Vanderslice said everyone in the network is “focused on reducing the number of abortions - and that’s where Senator Obama’s focus is, along with emphasizing personal responsibility, fatherhood, and having the courage to raise a child.”

Future PAC advertisements will target Catholics daily. Daly herself emphasizes that Obama became a Christian while working as a community organizer in a Catholic-sponsored program.

Daly, who once served as the director of domestic social policy for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, states she believes Catholic support for Obama will grow as “Catholics reflect on this and get to know more about him.”

Rev. Wilfredo De Jesus, a leader in the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, says he joined the network to unite with other Christians in addressing the concerns of the marginalized.

“For Hispanic Evangelicals, this is something deep in the heart,” he says.

James Dobson, president of Focus on the Family, has criticized one Matthew 25 Network advertisement in which Obama talks about his faith, labeling it “highly seductive.”

The network is endorsing only Obama in 2008, but it hopes to become a permanent group that eventually supports candidates at different levels of government, the Christian Science Monitor says.

Radio ads produced by the network will run in English and Spanish, targeting key states like Ohio, Michigan, Colorado, and Virginia.

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Hollywood author writes of his Damascus-like conversion

Hollywood, Calif., Sep 1, 2008 (CNA) - The author of the dark thrillers Basic Instinct, Jagged Edge and Showgirls is about to release a book unlike any script he has ever written.  It is the story of his spiritual conversion from a party-lifestyle to one devoted to Christ and his family.


In his book, Crossbearer: A Memoir of Faith, the former senior editor of the Rolling Stone, Joe Eszterhas, explains his conversion.


Eszterhas grew up in refugee camps in Hungary during World War II before living in the back alleys of Cleveland.  It was there that he worked as a police reporter racing to cover “countless shootings” and “urban riots,” he told the Toledo Blade. 


At the time, his life was very dark—one filled with death, murder, crime and chaos.  He describes his writing as equally dark and also “sexually graphic.” 


During the summer of 2001, Eszterhas was diagnosed with throat cancer.  His doctors worked to remove 80 per cent of his larynx and told him to immediately quit drinking and smoking.  Eszterhas was 56.  He lived a wild lifestyle and knew that changing his habits would not be easy.


His Conversion


On a day Eszterhas describes as “hellishly hot,” he was walking through a tree-lined neighborhood when he realized he had hit rock-bottom. 


Eszterhas described his frame of mind: "I was going crazy. I was jittery. I twitched. I trembled. I had no patience for anything. … Every single nerve ending was demanding a drink and a cigarette.”


He sat on the curb and began to cry.  In between fits of crying he began to pray, “Please God, help me.”


He hadn’t prayed since he was a child.  "I couldn't believe I'd said it. I didn't know why I'd said it. I'd never said it before," he wrote.


God reached out His hand


Eszterhas was immediately overwhelmed with peace.  His twitching stopped.  He no longer trembled.  He saw a "shimmering, dazzling, nearly blinding brightness that made me cover my eyes with my hands."


Similar to Saul seeing a blinding light on his way to Damascus, Eszterhas had seen the light of Christ.


Eszterhas described the experience as “absolutely overwhelming."


He went from doubting if he could make it through life without tobacco and alcohol, to knowing that he could "defeat myself and win."


Living the Catholic Faith


Since his Damascus-like experience in 2001, he and his wife have attended Mass regularly at a local Catholic church.


In his book, Eszterhas frankly includes his opinions on the clerical sexual abuse scandals.    Because of the abuse and cover-ups, Eszterhas describes his continued struggle to trust the Church.  He explains that he and his wife decided that they could not, in good conscience, donate money to the church and they are paranoid to leave their sons alone with priests at catechetical classes.


The book also describes priests’ homilies as boring and pointless.  In a search for more content and dynamism, Eszterhas attended a non-denominational mega-church.  While the sermon was powerful, he left feeling empty without the Liturgy and Eucharist.


"It may have been a church full of pedophiles and criminals covering up other criminals' sins … it may have been a church riddled with hypocrisy, deceit, and corruption … but our mega-church experience taught us that we were captive Catholics," he wrote.


"The Eucharist and the presence of the body and blood of Christ is, in my mind, an overwhelming experience for me. I find that Communion for me is empowering. It's almost a feeling of a kind of high."


Today Eszterhas continues to receive large offers for movies with dark, sinister themes.  However, he maintains he has “spent too much of his life exploring the dark side of humanity and does not want to go there anymore.”


"Frankly my life changed from the moment God entered my heart. I'm not interested in the darkness anymore.  I've got four gorgeous boys, a wife I adore, I love being alive, and I love and enjoy every moment of my life. My view has brightened and I don't want to go back into that dark place."


“Miraculously Cured”


Eszterhas' appreciation for life intensified even more last year when his surgeon told him another visit would not be necessary.


"He used the word 'cured,' a word that oncologists generally don't use," Eszterhas said. "He said I didn't have to come back for any checks, that my tissue had regenerated to the point where you cannot only not tell that there was ever any cancer there, but you can't tell that there had been any surgery there.


"Naomi and I were, of course, overwhelmed when he told us. I think it's truly a miraculous blessing."


Eszterhas was compelled to write his book as "a thank you to God" and "to tell the world what He has done for me."


His wife has consistently been supportive.  When she finished his book, she gave it a hug saying, “That's how I feel. I'm very proud of it."

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Pope asks prayers for those affected by war and for the family

Vatican City, Sep 1, 2008 (CNA) - The press office of the Holy See released the prayer intentions of Pope Benedict for the month of September this morning. The Pope’s intentions include those displaced by war or by oppressive regimes and that families will be open to the call to evangelize.

Pope Benedict XVI's general prayer intention is: "That those who, because of wars or oppressive regimes, are forced to leave their homes and country may be supported by Christians in the defence and protection of their rights."

His mission intention is: "That, faithful to the sacrament of matrimony, every Christian family may cultivate the values of love and communion in order to be a small evangelising community, sensitive and open to the material and spiritual needs of its brothers."

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Doug Kmiec explains Obama endorsement at DNC forum

Denver, Colo., Sep 1, 2008 (CNA) - Doug Kmiec, the Pepperdine University law professor, former Reagan administration official, and pro-life Catholic who has backed Sen. Barack Obama, explained his support for the pro-abortion rights presidential candidate in a meeting of the Faith in Action panel last Thursday at the Democratic National Convention in Denver.

While granting that deciding when an unborn baby gets human rights is “not above his pay grade,” Kmiec argued that the presidential nominee “understands the truth about the human person” and will work to reduce the number of abortions.

“It’s unusual to be here,” Kmiec said as he began his remarks to the audience seated in a Colorado Convention Center ballroom.

Describing how the Catholic vote is important because of its size, potential, and record of voting for the winning presidential candidate, Kmiec said Catholics “know how to pick a winner, and I picked Barack.” He supported Obama, Kmiec explained, because “he’s a man of faith” with the “best articulation of church-state problems.”

“This man understands the truth of a human person,” Kmiec argued.

Saying the phrase “culture of life” is used a lot, Kmiec declared “I too am pro-life.” However, he commented, being pro-life “has to be a commitment to all life.”

He argued that not providing a living wage is one way in which some self-professed pro-lifers are not committed to all life.

Kmiec claimed that some people are making arguments “in the disguise of faith” that is a sin to vote for Obama. He said this was a “false statement.”

Can a Catholic vote for Obama? 

“Unequivocally, yes,” he answered, attacking voter guides that say otherwise as “fundamentally dishonest.”

Recounting a conversation he witnessed between Obama and a minister, Kmiec recalled the senator’s answer when the minister asked if Obama believes Jesus Christ is “the way, the truth, and the life.”

“He thought very carefully,” Kmiec said, before answering: “Reverend, he is my way.”

When the minister pressed him on this answer, Obama referred to his mother, whom he called “the person in my life who was greatest of service.”

“She never had the blessing of baptism,” Obama said, as told by Kmiec. “It’s my understanding that I will see her again, that she is not lost.”

In conversation after the conclusion of the panel, Kmiec further explained that he thought too many pro-life voters act as if voting for a candidate who promises to change the makeup of the Supreme Court fulfils their pro-life responsibilities, when that does not help “real women with real circumstances.”

Telling how he and his wife help advise women in crisis pregnancies, he said college students often come for counseling.

His wife tells them “let’s just talk, and I want to spend some time with you.”

“And of course you discover how much fear and anxiety they have about telling their parents, but also you discover they’re worried about getting registered for class, they’re worried about whether they need a permanent job,” or whether they may be forced to end their educational plans.

Kmiec said his wife goes down a checklist of these worries and says “We can help you with all of that. Now what else do you need?”

“Obviously, it takes much more than just voting a single day in a single election, but it’s far more fulfilling as a matter of faith and far more effective,” he said.

The Democrats have not been heard on the other questions, he said, because of their view of abortion as a right, and because of their desire to talk about it “only as a right, in legal terms.”

“This year, Obama comes in, and says, ‘Let’s talk about what we’re really good at, namely helping people in their community’.”

Kmiec said Obama built that aspect into the Democratic Party platform, “not in the way I would write it, but it’s there.”

CNA asked Kmiec his opinion regarding how the Democratic National Convention has gone for pro-life Democrats and Catholic Democrats.

“I think the convention has gone well because the candidate intended to be nominated got the nomination,” Kmiec replied. “And I think Joe Biden is a choice that will be of great advantage to talking with the Catholic community, because they will identify with his story, they will see themselves” he continued, noting Biden’s attendance of parochial school and how his family is “animated and guided by its faith.”

They will see someone “who wrestles with faith questions now, including the difficult one we’ve been talking about for the past few minutes.”

“It’s not enough to say complacently ‘I just accept Roe,’ which is what the Democrats have said in the past,” Kmiec emphasized. “‘Roe is untouchable,’ that’s all they’ve said in the past. This year, it seems to me, they’ve decided that they’re going to have a nominee, both Barack Obama, and a Catholic Joe Biden, and he’s going to say ‘Quite frankly, we need to consciously think of ways to reduce the number of abortions. What’s the most effective way to do that?’”

He argued that both the Common Good for the Common Ground study and a Center for Disease Control study both show a positive correlation between poverty and abortion. According to Kmiec, they also show that the largest numbers of abortions are obtained by women in the “meanest, cruelest circumstances.”

“We also know that rates of abortion go down when the country is prosperous,” he claimed.

CNA asked Kmiec how he could claim Barack Obama “understands the truth about a human person,” considering his remarks at an August forum at Saddleback Church in which he said the question of when a baby acquires human rights is “above my pay grade.”

“Well, Sen. Obama and I both have occasions to misspeak, and not use the most felicitous statements,” he answered.

“I told him, following the Saddleback Forum, that I thought it was not above his pay grade. And it was very clear in the full answer he gave that what he was trying to express was that God’s mind is not fully known by man,” a position Kmiec said is “basic Catholic teaching” opposed to the sin of presumption.

“Further, he was saying that, quite appropriately and consistent with what the panel was ending up with, there are different faith traditions in this country that see life and personhood as beginning as at a different point than the Catholic tradition does. Presbyterian, Methodist, much of the Jewish tradition,” Kmiec explained.

“We have said in Dignitatis Humanae, that it’s not because a particular statement is true, but because of a human person’s dignity, we have complete religious freedom.”

Asked whether this denies the capacity of reason to reach shared conclusions about human nature, Kmiec replied:

“No, it merely says we have to keep talking, because reason hasn’t persuaded us all yet.”

“If we in fact haven’t all come to the same table having reached the same conclusion, we’ve got some talking to do,” Kmiec said.

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