Gainesville, Fla., Sep 3, 2008 (CNA) - A successful petition drive by a Gainesville, Florida civic group will place a Charter Amendment on the March 2009 ballot to revoke a Gainesville City Council decision legalizing the use of opposite-sex bathrooms by men who perceive themselves as women and vice versa.
“Citizens for Good Public Policy,” a coalition of business, religious, and community leaders, held a press conference last week to announce that 6,343 petition signatures were validated by the Supervisor of Elections. More registered Gainesville voters reportedly signed the petitions than voted for the city mayor in the most recent election.
Cain Davis, Executive Director of Citizens For Good Public Policy, commented on the successful petition drive, saying: “The citizens of Gainesville are encouraged about having the opportunity to vote on this issue, which will ensure their laws accurately reflect their beliefs and values.”
The Ann Arbor-based Thomas More Law Center, which has acted as legal counsel for the coalition and helped draft the charter amendment, said in a press release that the amendment will prevent the addition of “a multitude of bizarre special rights categories that are being pushed by radical groups with a national agenda.”
According to the Center, the amendment would invalidate the protections provided to the new “gender identity” category.
“This Charter Amendment would bring Gainesville’s anti-discrimination laws in line with the state of Florida’s,” said Richard Thompson, President and Chief Counsel of the Thomas More Law Center.
“The concept of ‘gender identity’ was fashioned by radical homosexual organizations and advocates to normalize and protect the bizarre sexual behavior of a few people because they feel more like a woman or a man than what is their actual sex. These radical groups have taken over city councils like Gainesville. In practical effect, these types of ordinances end up being used to prosecute Christians who faithfully practice their faith.”
A statement on the Citizens for Good Public Policy web site warns that a group closely allied with the City Commission is trying to persuade petition signers to rescind their signatures, charging that signatories are helping to legalize discrimination. The group also claims that Citizens for Good Public Policy are really targeting homosexual rights.
Citizens for Good Public Rights denies the charges, saying that its organizers have never protested or brought legal action against the city’s civil rights laws protecting sexual orientation, protections which have existed since 1988.
“Let us be clear: Citizens for Good Public Policy believes local laws should neither oppose nor favor sexual orientation,” the group says on its web site. “We consider sexual orientation a matter of personal choice, and therefore unsuitable as a civil rights category.”
The organization argues that the Gainesville City Council’s decision “moved matters of privacy and sexuality from private bedrooms to public restrooms, and their refusal to consider public concern precipitated the formation of Citizens for Good Public Policy.”
Washington D.C., Sep 3, 2008 (CNA) - Pro-life groups are praising prospective Republican vice-presidential nominee Gov. Sarah Palin and her family for supporting their unmarried teenage daughter in her pregnancy.
On Monday Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and her husband Todd released a statement saying, “Our beautiful daughter Bristol came to us with news that as parents we knew would make her grow up faster than we had ever planned. We're proud of Bristol's decision to have her baby and even prouder to become grandparents. As Bristol faces the responsibilities of adulthood, she knows she has our unconditional love and support.”
According to the Palins’ statement, Bristol will marry the father of her child. The Palins say the expecting parents are “going to realize very quickly the difficulties of raising a child, which is why they will have the love and support of our entire family.”
The Palins asked the media to respect the privacy of their daughter and her boyfriend, Levi.
The American Life League (ALL) in a statement said it offers “congratulations” to the Palin family.
"Human life is always something to celebrate as a gift of infinite beauty and value," said ALL president Judie Brown. "Even under trying circumstances, a child has come into the world made in the image and likeness of God. The Palin family is to be congratulated on their first grandchild."
Wendy Wright, President of Concerned Women for America Legislative Action Committee, said the announcement shows that the situation was another opportunity for Gov. Palin to “make a politically convenient choice or the right one.”
“The family could have treated the innocent baby as a 'punishment' and secretly snuffed out the child's life to avoid a high-profile embarrassment. Instead, they are embracing this unexpected baby as a child worthy of love, a human being who deserves respect, a weak member of their family who needs their care. The Palins have opened their family's challenge for all the world to see, providing a beautiful example for other families, many who have faced the same predicament.”
Dr. Janice Shaw Crouse, political commentator for Concerned Women for America Legislative Action Committee, said the situation is a “personal, family problem that deserves privacy.”
“We are confident that she and her family will handle this unexpected situation with grace and love,” Crouse continued. “We appreciate the fact that the Palins addressed the issue in a straightforward manner and that they are providing loving support to the teenager and her boyfriend.”
Crouse said her organization acknowledges what it says are the “courage and strength” of the Palin family “as they face up to their individual responsibilities in this circumstance.” Voicing prayers for the Palin family, Crouse said “We continue to support Sarah Palin as a top-notch candidate for the vice presidency.”
Vatican City, Sep 3, 2008 (CNA) - The Hebrew name for God is not to be used or pronounced in liturgical celebrations, songs and prayers, Cardinal Francis Arinze, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, has said in a letter addressed to the bishops’ conferences of the world.
The letter concerns the use of the “Tetragrammaton,” the name which uses the four Hebrew letters YHWH. In English the name is pronounced “Yahweh.”
Cardinal Arinze’s letter teaches that the Tetragrammaton is to be translated as the equivalent of the Hebrew title “Adonai” or the Greek title “Kyrios.” He lists as examples five acceptable translations of the title in five European languages: Lord, Signore, Seigneur, Herr, and Señor.
Regarding translations in the liturgical context, the letter instructs, “Adonai” is to be translated in English as “Lord” and the Tetragrammaton YHWH is to be translated as “God.”
“The words of sacred Scripture contained in the Old and New Testament express truth which transcends the limits imposed by time and place,” the letter explains. “They are the word of God expressed in human words, and by means of these words of life, the Holy Spirit introduces the faithful to knowledge of the truth whole and entire, and thus the word of Christ comes to dwell in the faithful in all its richness.”
Cardinal Arinze, citing the instruction Liturgiam Authenticam, explains that translators must use the “greatest faithfulness and respect” regarding the name of God.
He describes the YHWH as “an expression of the infinite greatness and majesty of God,” which he says “was held to be unpronounceable and hence was replaced during the reading of sacred Scripture by means of the use of an alternate name: Adonai, which means Lord.”
This translation tradition has importance for understanding Christ, the cardinal explains, since the title “Lord” in fact “becomes interchangeable between the God of Israel and the Messiah of the Christian faith.”
Cardinal Arinze particularly cites St. Paul’s writings in the Letter to the Philippians, in which he wrote: “God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name… every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.”
Bishop Arthur Serratelli, chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee on Divine Worship, said in a note to U.S. Bishops that the instructions do not force any changes to “official liturgical texts” but might result in “some impact on the use of particular pieces of liturgical music in our country as well as in the composition of variable texts such as the general intercessions for the celebration of the Mass and the other sacraments.”
To fulfill the directive, songs with phrases such as “Yahweh, I know you are near” will need to be modified.
Vatican City, Sep 3, 2008 (CNA) - Speaking to the pilgrims gathered at the Paul VI Hall this morning, Pope Benedict turned his attention to the conversion of St. Paul, which he said shows us that Christianity is not “a new philosophy or a new form of morality,” but an encounter with the person of Christ, an event that ignites a personal relationship with Him.
Our knowledge of St. Paul’s conversion begins with the accounts in the Acts of the Apostles. Here, Saint Luke recounts the dramatic episode on the road to Damascus which transformed Paul from a fierce persecutor of the Church into a zealous evangelizer. The Pope also noted that in his own epistles, Paul describes the experience not so much in terms of a conversion, but as a call to apostleship and a commission to preach the Gospel.
Pope Benedict explained that Paul's encounter on the road to Damascus was not with concepts or ideas but "with the person of Jesus himself." Paul, the Pope continued, "met not only the historical Jesus of the past, but the living Christ who revealed himself as the one Savior and Lord." The encounter on the road to Damascus, he said, caused Paul's own being to die and another to be born with the living Christ. This historical event was "true renewal, which changed all his parameters."
Yet, Pope Benedict went on, "St. Paul did not consider the event as a conversion. And the reason", he explained, "is very clear: this transformation of his life was not the result of a psychological process, of an intellectual or moral evolution ... but the fruit of his meeting with Christ Jesus. ... St. Paul's renewal cannot be explained in any other way. Psychological analyses cannot clarify and resolve the problem; only an event, the forceful encounter with Christ, is the key to understanding what happened."
For us, the Holy Father concluded, Christianity "is not a new philosophy or a new form of morality. We are only Christians if we encounter Christ, even if He does not reveal Himself to us as clearly and irresistibly as he did to Paul in making him the Apostle of the Gentiles. We can also encounter Christ in reading Holy Scripture, in prayer, and in the liturgical life of the Church - touch Christ's heart and feel that Christ touches ours. And it is only in this personal relationship with Christ, in this meeting with the Risen One, that we are truly Christian."
Rome, Italy, Sep 3, 2008 (CNA) - Ian Ker, an expert biographer of English convert Cardinal John Henry Newman, answered the calumnies leveled against the Servant of God in recent weeks by the homosexual lobby, saying he was buried in the tomb of the Father Ambrose St. John because that was his desire and that the two enjoyed a close friendship.
In an article entitled, “John Henry Newman and the sacrifice of celibacy,” published in L’Osservatore Romano, Ker comments that “the decision to exhume the body of venerable John Henry Newman has provoked reactions, in particular on the part of the homosexual lobby,” whose leaders are attempting to manipulate the image of the cardinal in order to promote their agenda.
According to Ker, this “protest” carries an ill-intentioned implication because it spreads the idea that “Newman wanted to be buried with his friend because he had some kind of bond with him or something more than just a simple friendship.”
Ker refutes these claims with historical examples such as the case of C.S. Lewis and his brother Warnie, who both desired to be buried in the same tomb and who nobody accuses of having incestuous sentiments.
Likewise, he mentioned the case of Dorothy Collins, the devoted secretary of G.K. Chesterton, who with his wife treated her as a daughter. Collins desired that her remains be cremated and buried in the tomb of the Chestertons as an expression of her love for them.
Ker, author of the book “John Henry Newman: A Biography,” pointed out that Father Ambrose accompanied Cardinal Newman “during the difficult period of the founding of the St. Philip Neri Oratory in England and during all the subsequent trials and tribulations of Newman as a Catholic.”
The Oxford professor noted that Newman decided to embrace celibacy at the age of 15, long before his conversion to Catholicism, and he wrote in his “Apologia pro vita sua” how “during the subsequent 14 years, with only a few months of interruption and later continuing, he explained that his vocation ‘demanded such a sacrifice’.”
“Naturally, Newman spoke of marriage with a woman and of the ‘sacrifice’ that celibacy carried with it. The only reason why celibacy could be a sacrifice was because Newman, as with any normal man, desired to get married. However, while he did not belong to a church in which celibacy was a rule or an ideal, Newman, profoundly immersed in the Scriptures, knew the Lord’s words: ‘some renounce marriage for the sake of the kingdom of heaven’,” Ker explained.
He cited some of Newman’s writings in which the Servant of God, while still an Anglican minister able to marry, showed his “total effort” to persevere in the celibate life, “to which he unequivocally felt called.”
In response to those who demand that Newman’s last wishes to be buried in the tomb of his friend be respected, Ker recalls that “during his life as a Catholic, Newman always insisted that his writings could be corrected by Holy Mother Church. That was his constant thinking.”
For this reason, “If Church authorities decide to transfer his body to a church, Newman’s answer without a doubt would be that his last will, as with everything else he wrote, was subject to correction from a higher authority. If this authority decides his body should be transferred, while that of his friend is not, Newman would have undoubtedly said, ‘Amen’.”
Mexico City, Mexico, Sep 3, 2008 (CNA) - In a recent editorial, the News Service of the Archdiocese of Mexico City (SIAME) denounced the ruling the country’s Supreme Court upholding the law on abortion in the Mexican capital and warning that the society “that has lost respect for life has lost everything.”
The editorial slams the ruling for placing the entire health care industry in the Mexican capital at the service of ending the lives of the unborn. “Medicine must be at the service of life and not death. The human drama of women who abort clandestinely has been resolved by an immoral and unjust decision,” the article states.
It also criticized some members of the court who said the “Mexican Constitution does not protect the right to life, nor does any other international document. To hear this kind of legal aberration coming from the highest court of justice speaks of the social degradation that has befallen us and of the legalism that has lost all sense of objectivity and justice.”
“The justices have not found reasons to protect the life of the unborn,” the editorial states. “If this first of all rights cannot be guaranteed, what purpose do the others serve? For the justices, respect for the plurality of opinions is more absolute than the respect for life.”
The editorial calls on doctors and nurses to appeal to conscientious objection, on the Church to give “clear and effective testimony through her institutions” and on the faithful in general to show the Church’s “commitment to women and her respect and love for life from conception to natural death.”
“The society that has lost respect for life has lost everything,” the editorial states. “The consequences can be plainly seen.” “Today we are in mourning but today, as believers, we face a greater challenge: to give witness to the love of life and of our commitment to true justice.”
Konigstein, Germany, Sep 3, 2008 (CNA) - The secretary of the Catholic Biblical Commission of Pakistan and pastor in Lahore, Father Emmanuel Asi, explained this week that Christians in the country live “in fear and constant threat,” as they are considered to be part of the lowest level of society, they are persecuted, exploited in the work place and discriminated against in a nation that is 95% Muslim. Despite the difficulties, he explained, they still live with hope.
Father Asi made his comments to the international Catholic organization Aid to the Church in Need. He pointed to the example of a 13 year-old girl who only recently had been kidnapped and raped by a Muslim man.” Such incidents are a regular occurrence, he said.
Christians in Pakistan are "proud and happy" that they are Christians, Father Asi explained, because they understand their faith to be "a grace and great blessing," although their lives are "painful and full of fear and frustration."
“We know, in the case of the early Christians, that persecution and oppression played an important role in the deepening and spread of the Faith. In Pakistan we are experiencing the same thing," the priest said.
He also underscored the positive effect of the testimony of Christians on Muslims, who see Christians as “different.” Women, for example, feel attracted by the “freedom and joy” that Christians convey, because “they “can go to church with the men and they can sing in the choir.”
Father Asi also pointed out that powerful witness of Catholic nuns. Many Muslim girls enjoy attending Catholic schools, for the Church places great emphasis on the education of women. It is from the women especially that Father Asi is hoping for a transformation of society.
Rome, Italy, Sep 3, 2008 (CNA) - The Italian Bishops’ Conference is inviting all Italian dioceses to join in a day of prayer and fasting on Friday, September 5, for an end to the anti-Christian violence in India.
The day of prayer, which will be held “as a sign of spiritual closeness and solidarity with our brothers and sisters who so harshly tried in their faith,” especially in the state of Orissa, will take place on the “liturgical memorial of Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta or on another day established by the Diocesan Bishop,” Fides news agency reported.
Likewise, the Bishops’ Conference said the day of prayer would be an expression of the concern of the Italian Catholic community” in conjunction with “the call made by the Holy Father Benedict XVI, firmly condemning all attacks against human life and urging the search for harmony and peace.”
Boulder, Colo., Sep 3, 2008 (CNA) - Archbishop of Denver Charles J. Chaput and his auxiliary Bishop James D. Conley are scheduled to celebrate an open-air Mass at the University of Colorado at Boulder on Sunday to mark the one-hundredth anniversary of Catholic campus ministry at the school. Over two thousand people are expected to attend the noon Mass, which will be held at the center of the university’s Boulder campus, on the Norlin Quadrangle.
“This celebration of the Eucharist and 100 years of Campus Ministry at CU is a great way to start the new school year. I hope students will take this opportunity to begin the year rooted in their Catholic faith,” stated Archbishop Chaput.
Explaining that the archdiocese considers campus ministry a “vital ministry for our Church,” he continued: “Strong Catholic campus ministry provides students with Catholic formation and a community of support for living out their faith that can be a sturdy foundation for the rest of their lives.”
Father Kevin Augustyn, pastor and director of campus ministry at the St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Center in Boulder, explained why he decided to hold Mass to kick off the 100th anniversary celebrations.
"This anniversary provided us with an opportunity to celebrate Mass on campus and to be a witness of Christ's light and love for the University of Colorado. We hope to attract more students to our already vibrant ministry, express our faith in the public square, reach out to non-Catholics by making our presence more visible and known and, of course, contribute to the diversity and excellence of the University as we have done for the past 100 years,” he told CNA.
Fr. Augustyn also spoke about the theme that the center has chosen for its centennial celebration: “Christ’s light beckons you to be guiding stars for others.” The theme comes directly from Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to the U.S. this past April.
“We have chosen this as our theme for the centennial celebration because it encompasses everything that we strive for at the Catholic Center,” Father Augustyn said. “We are trying to provide them with opportunities and guidance to answer the Holy Father's call; to energize, encourage and embolden them to be proud of their Catholic Faith in the context of the modern university culture and become leaders and evangelists for our Church and our world.”
The pastor also pointed out the historic nature of the event. “We have organized many events on campus but never on this scale, nor in the center of campus. It is a very exciting time for us and we are looking forward to future events similar in nature."
Vatican City, Sep 3, 2008 (CNA) - Archbishop Jean Benjamin Sleiman of Baghdad has denounced Iraqi media and government officials for ignoring the numerous cases of Christians being kidnapped, which he said are motivated primarily by Islamic extremism.
According to Vatican Radio, Archbishop Sleiman, responding to requests by family members and friends of kidnapped Christians that they be released, urged the government to address the issue and to “stop the wave of kidnappings that are affecting the Christian community.”
Likewise, the archbishop said it was disturbing that the government and the media are ignoring this phenomenon, which has become an urgent problem for the Iraqi people.
New Dehli, India, Sep 3, 2008 (CNA) - Contrary to an earlier report by Fides, the outbreak of anti-Christian violence in India is not lessening. Some Christian converts victimized by extremist Hindu attacks in the Indian state of Orissa are now being forced to return to Hinduism and attack their Christian churches. The violence has prompted Sister Nirmala, head of the Missionaries of Charity, to urge the country to “put down the weapon of hatred and violence and put on the armor of love.”
As of Monday, it was reported that a church was destroyed by fire in Mondasore, under Raikia Block. Two Christians were killed in the fire. A convent, two hostels and 82 houses were also burned, the Catholic Bishops Conference of India reports on its web site.
Mobs of extremists have also destroyed ten prayer halls in Kundra in the Jayapur district and attacked and looted five villages in Tikabali Block. A Rapid Action Force has been deployed to several places in the area of Kandhamal with specific instructions to “shoot on sight,” but the violence has continued.
Shri Naveen Patnaik, the Chief Minister of Orissa, has assured India’s Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh that the violence would be brought under control.
Despite such assurances, the Indian bishops report they have found that “there has not been much improvement in the riot hit areas of Kandhamal.”
“Even though security forces have been deployed in Kandhamal, the fundamentalists continue to attack Christians and their institutions freely.”
The bishops appealed to the Orissa chief minister to “act firmly against those who are taking law into their hands” and to safeguard Christians, their houses, and institutions. They also asked that the state government investigate the forced re-conversions of Christians, calling the practice “a gross violation of their Constitutional right to live in the country without fear.”
Sister Nirmala, who heads the Missionaries of Charity religious order founded by Mother Teresa, exhorted people in Orissa and all over India to end the violence.
“Let us not forget our true identity as the beloved children of God our Father,” Sister Nirmala exhorted. “We are brothers and sisters of one another no matter what our religion, race, culture or language is, whether we are rich or poor. Nothing should separate us.”
“Above all,” she continued, “let us not use religion to divide us. The essence of all religion is love - love of God and love of one another. Violence on the ground of religion is an abuse of religion.”
Quoting Blessed Mother Teresa, whose feast day is September 5, Sister Nirmala said: “Religion is meant to be a work of love. It is not meant to destroy peace and unity. Works of love are works of peace. Let us use religion to become one heart full of love in the heart of God.”
“Dear Brothers and Sisters,” Sister Nirmala resumed, “in the name of God and in the name of our own humanity, created for greater things, to love and to be loved eternally, and in the name of our country and its noble heritage, and in the name of the poor, the children, and all our suffering brothers and sisters who are victims of this senseless violence and destruction, I make this appeal: let us pray, opening our mind and heart to the light and love of God. Let us put down the weapon of hatred and violence and put on the armor of love. Let us forgive one another and ask forgiveness from one another for the wrong we have done to each other and reach out in love to each other.”
She then offered prayers for Swami Laxamananda Saraswati and his four associates, whose murder at the hand of suspected Communists sparked the violence.
“Let us pray for each other and ask our Mother, Blessed Teresa of Calcutta to pray for us so that we may become channels of God's own peace, love and joy to one another and builders of the civilization of love!” she said.
Washington D.C., Sep 3, 2008 (CNA) - Following last week’s remarks by U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi claiming that Church teaching on the sinfulness of abortion has changed, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Pro-Life Activities has issued a two-page fact sheet called “Respect for Unborn Human Life: The Church’s Constant Teaching” to explain that it has not.
Rep. Pelosi, a California Democrat, made what a USCCB press release calls “misleading remarks” in an August 24 interview with Tom Brokaw, where she cited an interpretation of St. Augustine as justification for her stand on abortion. On August 26 Cardinal Justin Rigali, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Pro-Life Activities, joined Bishop William Lori, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Doctrine, in issuing a statement to correct their remarks. Other bishops released similar statements of their own.
“This well documented fact sheet will help Catholics and others form their consciences in accordance with the Church’s unchanging teaching in defense of unborn human life,” said Deirdre McQuade, Assistant Director for Policy and Communications at the USCCB’s Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities.
The fact sheet quotes the Catechism of the Catholic Church’s paragraph 2271, which states “Since the first century the Church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion. This teaching has not changed and remains unchangeable. Direct abortion, that is to say, abortion willed either as an end or a means, is gravely contrary to the moral law.”
The fact sheet tells how the earliest Christians were distinguishable from pagan cultures in part because of their rejection of abortion and infanticide, as shown in early Christian writings such as the Didache and the Letter of Barnabas.
Pre-modern Christian thinkers generally drew from the biological writings of the fourth century, BC philosopher Aristotle. Such theories taught that there is a period of between the conception of the fetus and its reception of a soul in a process called “ensoulment.” However, the fact sheet explains, “such mistaken biological theories never changed the Church’s common conviction that abortion is gravely wrong at every stage.”
Turning to St. Augustine, the 5th century AD bishop quoted by Nancy Pelosi, the fact sheet insists “rejection of abortion at every stage was affirmed by the great bishop-theologian St. Augustine.”
Noting that Augustine based his thoughts regarding abortion on both ancient biology and a mistaken Bible translation, the fact sheet says he nonetheless “wisely warned against misusing such theories to risk committing homicide.”
“He added that God has the power to make up all human deficiencies or lack of development in the Resurrection, so we cannot assume that the earliest aborted children will be excluded from enjoying eternal life with God,” it continues.
While granting that Church law was often informed by ancient biological theories, and thus distinguished between late and early abortions, “abortion at all stages continued to be seen as a grave moral evil,” the fact sheet says.
After the advances of nineteenth century biology, the fact sheet explains, “from 1869 onward the obsolete distinction between the ‘ensouled’ and ‘unensouled’ fetus was permanently removed from canon law on abortion.”
“Modern science,” the fact sheet insists, “has not changed the Church’s constant teaching against abortion, but has underscored how important and reasonable it is, by confirming that the life of each individual of the human species begins with the earliest embryo.”
The fact sheet says that the Church’s opposition to abortion rests upon the principle that “each and every human life has inherent dignity, and thus must be treated with the respect due to a human person.” Claiming that some living human beings should not be treated as persons because of changeable factors like “age, condition, location, or lack of mental or physical abilities,” is to deny that there is such a thing as inherent human worth.
“Such a claim undermines respect for the lives of many vulnerable people before and after birth,” the fact sheet concludes.