Denver, Colo., Nov 6, 2008 (CNA) - In a genial but critical exchange reproduced on The Witherspoon Institute’s web site Public Discourse, Pepperdine University law professor Doug Kmiec and Archbishop of Denver Charles J. Chaput have exchanged further remarks concerning Kmiec’s advocacy for President-elect Barack Obama. The archbishop told the professor he welcomes a civil dialogue but also called on Kmiec to convince Obama to change his position on life issues.
Kmiec, a pro-life Republican, wrote in response to the archbishop’s Oct. 17 address to an ENDOW dinner, titled “Little Murders,” in which the archbishop commented that Kmiec has a “strong record of service to the Church and the nation” but claimed Kmiec and other pro-Obama Catholics “have done a disservice to the Church, confused the natural priorities of Catholic social teaching, undermined the progress pro-lifers have made, and provided an excuse for some Catholics to abandon the abortion issue instead of fighting within their parties and at the ballot box to protect the unborn.”
In a public letter to the archbishop dated Nov. 4, Kmiec called the archbishop “as well spoken a defender of the faith as I remember.”
However, Kmiec repeated his concern that the archbishop’s approach to the abortion issue “will lead many in parishes around the country to neglect what they can do to build up the culture of life through the promotion of the social gospel in its fullest sense.”
He expressed hope for mutual collaboration that could include “devoting the resources of parishes to the support of women facing an unwanted pregnancy, finding ways to increase adoption over abortion, and leading a national discussion on the prospect of reviving a Human Life Amendment, which I believe is the only way the law will meet the expectations you have for it.”
Kmiec regretted that, in his view, some commentators chose the method of the “dock-side bully” in order to “gain political points for their favored man.” He also lamented the “intemperate language and hyperbolic argumentation” of blogs and “one-sided think tanks” and even university faculties.
“We remain brothers in the faith who know full well that nothing is impossible in Christ.
“It is my prayer that we will draw upon the common ground we share to strengthen the respect for life in the coming months and years.
Archbishop Chaput, writing a Nov. 5 reply on The Public Discourse, expressed gratitude for Kmiec’s letter and concurred with Kmiec about the need for civility in public debate.
“Since I belong to a growing number of bishops excoriated by blogs on the cultural left--including blogs tied to otherwise respected Catholic publications and to scholars that, in the words of Prof. Kmiec, 'should know better’--I understand his discomfort with the tone of this election,” the archbishop wrote.
However, he said, “good manners do not trump facts.” According to the archbishop, Kmiec critics Ryan T. Anderson and Sherif Girgis have identified “serious falsehoods and misdirections” in Kmiec’s Obama advocacy.
“I'm disappointed that in the course of his advocacy, the professor has apparently never faced up to the facts of Sen. Obama's longstanding and extensive efforts to deprive an entire class of human beings--unborn children--of basic legal protections against homicide, or Sen. Obama's pledge to use taxpayer dollars to subsidize abortion, thus coercively implicating Catholics and other prolife citizens in the killing,” Archbishop Chaput wrote.
“Nor does Prof. Kmiec acknowledge that the foundational principle of the entire social Gospel is the right of every member of the human family to protection against unjust violent attack.”
Archbishop Chaput noted that Kmiec has a “unique opportunity” to press President-elect Obama to “reconsider his most extreme positions,” such as support for partial-birth abortion, human cloning for stem cell research, and the Freedom of Choice Act.
Yet he concluded by encouraging Kmiec to criticize Obama on these points.
“Along with many, many other Catholics and prolife citizens, I look forward eagerly to Prof. Kmiec's vocal advocacy against these profoundly unjust policies,” Archbishop Chaput wrote.
Sacramento, Calif., Nov 6, 2008 (CNA) - St. John’s Seminary in Camarillo, California has invited Pepperdine University law professor and Obama backer Doug Kmiec to give an election “post-mortem” lecture.
According to the California Catholic Daily, Kmiec will give the Thirteenth Annual Newman C. Eberhardt Lecture next Tuesday. The seminary’s web site says his lecture will examine “the prominent role played by the American Catholic community in the 2008 election, from Bishops educating candidates on ensoulment to alternative ways to be pro-life to the selection of running mates.”
Kmiec, former legal counsel for Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, has also been dean of the law school at the Catholic University of America and a law professor at Notre Dame University.
Though a pro-life Republican, in a March 23 essay in Slate magazine he endorsed the pro-abortion rights Democratic Sen. Barack Obama, saying Obama “wants to move the nation beyond its religious and racial divides and that he wants to return the United States to that company of nations committed to human rights.”
Kmiec’s justifications for supporting Obama have drawn criticism from Catholic clergy and laity. He has argued that Archbishop Charles J. Chaput’s position on the Catholic citizen’s voting duties “discounts reducing the incidence of abortion by cultural (economic and social) means” by focusing on legal remedies.
However, Kmiec insists his disagreement is not over the “essence of Church instruction” but rather the “preferred means of implementing it.”
Hamtramck, Mich., Nov 6, 2008 (CNA) - Voters in the town of Hamtramck, Michigan have overturned an ordinance which would have given legal protections to homosexual behavior, expression and attire. The regulations could also have forced businesses to permit men who perceive themselves as women to use women’s restrooms.
Any attempts to prevent such activity, according to the Thomas More Law Center, would have subjected violators to investigations, criminal prosecution, civil litigation, and fines of up to five hundred dollars a day.
The proposal, labeled as a “human rights” ordinance, was defeated 2,903 votes to 2,333.
Father Andrew Wesley, the administrator of St. Ladislaus Parish in Hamtramck and one of the leaders in the fight against the ordinance, wrote a letter published last week in Hamtramck’s The Citizen newspaper supporting overturning the ordinance and denying that the Catholics and Muslims in the town were being intolerant by opposing the measure.
Ordinance opponents knew that “this type of legislation has been used successfully by gay groups in other parts of the country to bring lawsuits against businesses because physical males were refused entrance into women’s restrooms,” Father Wesley’s letter said.
He added that the wording of the ordinance has also been used to bring lawsuits against Catholic adoption agencies which refused to allow same-sex couples to adopt children.
Richard Thompson, President and Chief Counsel of the Thomas More Law Center, commented on the ordinance opponents’ election victory.
“Radical homosexual groups have lost statewide attempts to impose their agenda on the public,” he said. “They are now engaged in a strategy of putting pressure on municipalities –in many cases successfully – to enact draconian provisions like Hamtramck’s. In this case their new strategy failed as the will of the people prevailed.”
CNA STAFF, Nov 6, 2008 (CNA) - U.S. conservative leaders reacted to Tuesday’s election results by noting that although Americans elected Barack Obama as the next president, they also agreed with conservative values on same-sex marriage.
In a phone conference on Wednesday morning, President of Let Freedom Ring Colin Hanna summarized the election by describing what it was not. “The election was not a landslide, the election was not a realignment election, and the election was not an ideological election.”
“It was not an ideological election because the winner campaigned entirely on an argument of new politics, a different kind of rhetoric, a moving away from left versus right, red versus blue, conservative versus liberal. So clearly the reception of the American people of a bi-partisan, non-partisan approach was a major factor in Obama’s success.”
No one could observe this and conclude that it was also an ideological election, Hanna remarked.
Ken Blackwell, the vice chairman of the 2008 RNC Platform Committee, agreed with Hanna’s observation, saying, “What I found interesting was California and Florida where Barack won overwhelmingly and where our issue won convincingly.”
Referring to the California Proposition 8 and the Florida Proposition 2, Blackwell clarified, “It’s important that some folks understand that we don’t put these issues on the ballot because they are wedge issues or issues to use as political tools. We really put them on the ballot because we think it’s important to get public policy that reflects the desires of the body politic.”
Connie Mackey of the Family Research Council Action also stressed that Americans had not changed their values. “Of the 134 races that we did endorse, we only lost 16. And four are undecided right now.” “We don’t just endorse somebody with just an ‘R’ next to their name. They have to be using our issues as they campaign and they have to be devoted to our issues when they’re up on the Hill.”
Mackey believes that this success rate shows that “the social issues and the culture of the country still matters.”
Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, described Obama’s election as a success for the civil rights movement before pointing out that the battle to protect the unborn from abortion is also a human and civil rights battle.
Although, she sees the election results as a political setback, Dannenfelser argued that, “The pro-life movement is just as strong as it ever was and this is not a repudiation in any way of the issues that we are lobbying on in the pro-life movement.”
CNA asked Dannenfelser what she believed was behind the failure of the South Dakota initiative to limit significantly abortion, given the strength of the pro-life movement.
“You do have to reach people where they are, and it could have been a miscalculation of where the consensus is in the state. But also, it could be that the consensus was overwhelmed by being far out spent, which we are every single time in these propositions,” she told CNA.
Shifting back to the general election, Dannenfelser said the biggest question that president-elect Obama will have to answer is whether he will go forward with his promise to sign the Freedom of Choice Act or whether he will try to find common ground with pro-life advocates.
The SBA List president summed up any losses suffered by conservatives as due to economic conditions and not because of conservative principles. “We lost on a different battleground. We lost on an economic playing field, not on the merits of the pro-life issue,” she emphasized.
Vatican City, Nov 6, 2008 (CNA) - The inaugural Catholic-Muslim Forum reached its culmination today with Pope Benedict XVI emphasizing that “only by starting with the recognition of the centrality of the person and the dignity of each human being” will Catholics and Muslims find common ground for building a “more fraternal world.”
The three day historic meeting between Muslims and Catholics was the fruit of a mutual desire for dialogue expressed by 138 Muslim leaders in a letter they sent in October 2007 and was reciprocated by a letter sent in the Pope’s name by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone in November 2007.
Over the past two days, Muslim and Catholic leaders have discussed the theme "Love of God, Love of Neighbor" from two main standpoints: "theological and spiritual fundamentals" and "the dignity of the human person and mutual respect."
Speaking in English to the assembled forum on Thursday, Pope Benedict XVI noted that the seminar "is an incentive for us to ensure that the reflections and the positive developments which emerge from Muslim-Christian dialogue are not limited to a small group of experts and scholars, but are passed on as a precious legacy to be placed at the service of all, to bear fruit in the way we live each day."
After noting that the meeting’s theme highlights “a central teaching of our respective religions,” the Holy Father delivered an explanation of how Christians believe that God is Love and that this love manifests itself in the mystery of the incarnation and the redemption.
“This infinite and eternal love enables us to respond by giving all our love in return: love for God and love for neighbor. This truth, which we consider foundational, was what I wished to emphasize in my first Encyclical, Deus Caritas Est, since this is a central teaching of the Christian faith. Our calling and mission is to share freely with others the love which God lavishes upon us without any merit of our own,” the Pope explained.
"I was pleased to learn,” Pope Benedict said, “that you were able at this meeting to adopt a common position on the need to worship God totally and to love our fellow men and women disinterestedly, especially those in distress and need. God calls us to work together on behalf of the victims of disease, hunger, poverty, injustice and violence.” In addition, the Holy Father described how “for Christians the love of God is inseparably bound to the love ... of all men and women, without distinction of race and culture. ... The Muslim tradition is also quite clear in encouraging practical commitment in serving the most needy.”
At the same time, Benedict XVI stressed that, “Only by starting with the recognition of the centrality of the person and the dignity of each human being, respecting and defending life which is the gift of God, and is thus sacred for Christians and for Muslims alike - only on the basis of this recognition, can we find a common ground for building a more fraternal world, a world in which confrontations and differences are peacefully settled, and the devastating power of ideologies is neutralized.”
This belief in the fundamental rights of people needs to be “protected for all people everywhere,” the Pope said.
In order for human dignity to be respected in both the political and the religious realms, Pope Benedict emphasized that both sets of leaders must fully respect “individual's freedom of conscience and freedom of religion.”
“The discrimination and violence which even today religious people experience throughout the world, and the often violent persecutions to which they are subject, represent unacceptable and unjustifiable acts, all the more grave and deplorable when they are carried out in the name of God,” the Holy Father said.
The Pope also lambasted the way that religion is robbed of its credibility when it is coupled with violence. "God's name can only be a name of peace and fraternity, justice and love. We are challenged to demonstrate, by our words and above all by our deeds, that the message of our religions is unfailingly a message of harmony and mutual understanding. It is essential that we do so, lest we weaken the credibility and the effectiveness not only of our dialogue, but also of our religions themselves."
Concluding his address Pope Benedict reaffirmed the efforts of the Catholic-Muslim Forum saying, "let us unite our efforts, animated by good will, in order to overcome all misunderstanding and disagreements. Let us resolve to overcome past prejudices and to correct the often distorted images of the other which even today can create difficulties in our relations; let us work with one another to educate all people, especially the young, to build a common future."
, Nov 6, 2008 (CNA) - At the age of 25, Nicolas Fernandez had all of the qualities needed to be a great policeman and his future in the force looked promising. However, during his daily work he discovered he needed different weapons to help the “troubled souls” he encountered, so he decided to become a priest.
Born on Staten Island of an Irish mother and a Spanish father, Fernandez has begun his six year-long formation at St. Joseph’s Seminary in Yonkers. He had been serving as a police officer for two years when, inspired by the teachings of John Paul II and the visit of Pope Benedict XVI to New York, he decided to change careers and become a priest.
According to El Nuevo Diario, the young seminarian recalls that when he was a policeman, people went to him with their problems because of the uniform he wore. “Now, they will do so because I’ll be wearing a priest’s cassock,” he said.
Fernandez was a patrolman in Brooklyn and his partner always said he could easily rise to the rank of lieutenant. “But that was the last thing I wanted,” he said.
“My choice for the priesthood was influenced by the discourses and speeches of John Paul II on the culture of death, which includes thousands of murders, suicides, homicides and national situations in which children are being abandoned or are victims of abuse in their homes because of drugs,” Fernandez said.
“For these turbulent souls, I never had an external solution as a policeman. There has to be an interior change, a change of heart and therefore, being a priest is necessary,” he added.
Vatican City, Nov 6, 2008 (CNA) - At the conclusion of the Catholic-Muslim Forum which took place at the Vatican, the participants issued a joint statement underscoring, among other themes, the importance of the defense of life as a gift from God to each person, religious freedom and the promotion of common moral values.
The text states that Christians and Muslims believe that “human life is a very precious gift from God for each person, and therefore it should be preserved and honored in all of its stages.”
After noting that the dignity of the person lies in having been created by God who is love, the participants of the forum underscored that everyone has the right “to the full recognition of their own identity and freedom as individuals, community and government, with the support of civil legislation that guarantees their rights and full citizenship.”
Men and women have the same dignity, the statement continues, and every individual and community has the right “to practice their own religion in private and in public.” It also underscores the right of religious minorities “to be respected in their own convictions and religious practices. They also have the right to their own places of worship and the images and symbols they consider sacred should be not suffer derision or ridicule.”
“We affirm that no religion or its followers should be excluded from society. Each one should be able to give its vital contribution to the wellbeing of society, in particular in service of those most in need,” the statement went on.
Catholics and Muslims, it continued, should offer to their own faithful a “healthy education in moral and religious, civil and human values and should promote accurate information about the religion of others.”
Furthermore, the statement says that “Catholics and Muslims are called to be instruments of love and harmony between believers and for all of humanity, renouncing any oppression, aggressive violence and terrorist acts, in particular those perpetrated in the name of religion, and to support the principle of justice for all.”
After encouraging the promotion of a better financial system to confront the global crisis, the Forum participants recalled that it is essential that young people “be well educated in their own religious traditions and informed about other cultures and religions.”
They also said the creation of permanent Catholic-Muslim committee is under consideration, and that the next meeting of the Forum would be held in an Islamic country in two years.
Rome, Italy, Nov 6, 2008 (CNA) - The six Catholic bishops of the region of Orissa in eastern India have issued a pastoral to the faithful being persecuted there, encouraging them to rekindle their hope, expressing their solidarity with the victims of anti-Christian violence and thanking international organizations for their support.
According to the Fides news agency, in the letter that was read in all parishes, schools, associations, convents and Christian centers, the bishops said they were “humbled by the strong adherence to the faith” shown by Christians and that they were proud of their “capacity to put up with every kind of intimidation and threat.”
The bishops asserted in their letter that the Hindu extremist violence is a response to the Church’s work “in favor of the poor and the marginalized.” “Through education, health care assistance and development programs, the Church has raised awareness among the members of the most vulnerable communities, who have begun to demand their rights. This has not pleased the powerful who see their positions threatened by the poor,” the bishops said.
They also thanked the international institutions that have raised their voice in defense of the Christians of Orissa, and they criticized “the local government and the police force for not stopping the aggressors.” At the same time, the bishops expressed their support for all the victims of the violence, inviting the faithful to renew their hope and courage.
Washington D.C., Nov 6, 2008 (CNA) - Despite the defeat of pro-life state ballot initiatives and the victory of presidential and congressional candidates who favor legalized abortion, pro-life leaders are nonetheless hopeful about the future of the movement.
Seeing the election results, national campaign director of 40 Days for Life David Bereit said in a press release: “some pro-lifers may feel a sense of despair today.”
“However, we have every reason to be optimistic about the profound pro-life shift that is beginning to take place below the radar,” he continued, reporting that the 40 Days for Life campaign of prayer, fasting, vigils at clinics, and pro-life outreach had saved more than 540 babies whose mothers were considering abortion.
He added that a number of clinic employees “experienced a change of heart and quit the abortion business due to this effective pro- life outreach,” noting that and many abortion centers cut back hours or closed for whole days during the campaign, which he resolved will continue “regardless of who holds elective office.”
The next session of the 40 Days for Life Campaign is to begin February 25.
"The winning presidential candidate ran on a nebulous platform of 'change,' but 40 Days for Life provides something far more powerful - hope. Hope demonstrates that, with God's help, hundreds of lives can be spared from death by abortion. This fall, a political battle was lost," said Bereit, "but hundreds of lives were won. I am convinced that those victories will have far greater impact."
Melinda Delahoyde, President of the pregnancy center network Care Net, noted that while legislative efforts to protect the unborn “may be limited in future years,” pregnancy centers are “advancing stronger than ever before and in places where our help is needed most - our nation's inner cities.”
“The 'pro-life good news story of the week' is the movement afoot among urban African American church leaders who want to see abortion statistics reversed in their communities and are opening up local pregnancy centers,” Delahoyde said in a press release. “Through practical help and emotional support, nine out of ten women who visit a pregnancy center are empowered to carry their pregnancy to term.”
Rev. Herbert H. Lusk, II, a former Philadelphia Eagle, heads the “People for People” community outreach organization which on Friday is opening The Hope Center in central Philadelphia. Organizers note that they are opening a center in an area where abortion providers greatly outnumber pregnancy centers and where 40 percent of Pennsylvania’s abortions occur.
“If you don't do anything about abortion, you're not part of the solution, which means that you're part of the problem," Rev. Lusk said. "The good news is I am no longer part of the problem.”
Delahoyde said the opening of the pregnancy center is “a sign that a culture of compassion instead of hopelessness is emerging in some of the neediest places of our country.”
Dr. Alveda King, Pastoral Associate of Priests for Life and niece of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., challenged pro-lifers, especially those who voted for pro-abortion rights candidates, to be vocal about their pro-life beliefs.
“To everyone who said, 'I am pro-life, but I will vote for a pro-abortion candidate this time,' I say now is the time to prove your commitment to the unborn," said Dr. King. "March for truth and justice. Flood the White House and Congress with messages that you do not agree with the slaughter of innocent children. Stand up for 'the least of these.'"
"Preachers, preach life; warriors, pray for life; soldiers, fight for life,” she exhorted. “The pro-life battle begins anew. We march on!"
Sacramento, Calif., Nov 6, 2008 (CNA) - Opponents of California’s Proposition 8, which on Tuesday successfully restored the definition of marriage to be between one man and one woman, have filed suit asking the California Supreme Court to overturn the measure. Counsel for the Yes on 8 campaign responded, calling the lawsuits “frivolous and regrettable.”
The lawsuits were filed by lawyers for same-sex couples that received state marriage licenses during the recent period in which the Supreme Court mandated that homosexual marriages be recognized.
The plaintiffs argue that Proposition 8 rises to the level of a constitutional revision because it fundamentally altered the guarantee of equal protection. Further, they claim that Prop. 8 is illegal because a constitutional revision must be approved by the legislature before being proposed to voters.
Joseph Grodin, a former California Supreme Court justice and an opponent of Proposition 8 who assisted in earlier legal challenges to the measure, said he believes the argument has legal merit.
The state’s high court has struck down ballot measures as illegal constitutional revisions twice before, but Grodin said the proposals involved “a broader scope of changes.”
The lawsuit, which was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Equality California was soon joined by another from the lesbian couple that was the first to be married after the Supreme Court overruled California voters previous ban on gay marriage. The San Francisco City Attorney’s office has also told the San Diego Union Tribune that “he plans to challenge the validity of a ballot measure that would change the state constitution to ban gay marriage.”
Frank Schubert, co-chairman of the pro-Proposition 8 campaign, criticized the legal actions.
“If they want to legalize gay marriage, what they should do is bring an initiative themselves and ask the people to approve it," Schubert said to the Los Angeles Times. “But they don't. They go behind the people's back to the courts and try and force an agenda on the rest of society."
The General Counsel of ProtectMarriage.com – Yes on 8, Andrew Pugno, called the lawsuit by the ACLU “frivolous and regrettable,” characterizing it as an attempt to “invalidate the decision of California voters to enshrine traditional marriage in California's constitution.”
“These same groups filed an identical case with the California Supreme Court months ago, which was summarily dismissed,” Pugno said in a Wednesday statement. “We will vigorously defend the People's decision to enact Proposition 8.”
According to Pugno, the ACLU made the same “constitutional revision” claim in a “nearly identical matter” in Oregon concerning that state’s marriage amendment. Their claim, decided in the Oregon case Martinez v. Kulongoski, was unanimously rejected.
"This is the second time that California voters have acted to define marriage as between a man and a woman,” Pugno continued. “It is time that the opponents of traditional marriage respect the voters' decision.”
He also attacked the lawsuit as “completely lacking in merit.”
“It is as if their campaign just spent $40 million on a losing campaign opposing something they now say is a legal nullity. Their position is absurd, an insult to California voters and an attack on the initiative process itself.”
Pugno argued that the right to amend California’s constitution is not “granted to the People,” but rather “reserved by the People.” He cited as precedent a California Supreme Court ruling which held that the death penalty was a “violation of fundamental state constitutional rights,” a decision overturned through the state’s initiative amendment process.
“Even a liberal jurist who vehemently disagreed with the People's decision on the death penalty, Justice Stanley Mosk, nevertheless acknowledged the People's authority to decide the issue through the initiative-amendment process,” he noted."The coalition that has worked so hard for the past year to enact Proposition 8 will vigorously defend the People's decision against this unfortunate challenge by groups who, having lost in the court of public opinion, now turn to courts of law to pursue their agenda," Pugno concluded.
Madrid, Spain, Nov 6, 2008 (CNA) - In a recent pastoral letter, Bishop Jose Ignacio Munilla of Palencia in Spain denounced the growing secularization and atheistic secular ideology that is persecuting young people to the point of making them feel “neurotic and ashamed” of their Christian faith.
In his letter, the bishop recalled the words of Pope Benedict XVI to the young people gathered for World Youth Day in Sydney, where he criticized the growing secularism in which young people have to live.
“Without reaching the point of physical persecution, in our days there exist very subtle and effective means of coercing a young person, so that in practice, his religious freedom is limited. The secularized concept of existence, united with secularist ideology, finds decisive support in those who promote public cultural initiatives, as well as wide diffusion by most of the mass media.”
“This contributes,” he said, “to making the Christian faith seem countercultural in our society.”
Bishop Munilla went to note that this kind of persecution is extremely effective and merciless, as it makes its victims “feel neurotic and embarrassed about themselves.” “Is it normal that immigrants of other faiths feel more comfortable practicing their religion in the West (which has Christian roots!) than Catholic young people themselves?” he asked.
After recalling that during WYD 2000 in Rome, John Paul II did not hide from young people “the difficulty of following Christ in the present moment, but rather at the same time gave them a message of hope,” Bishop Munilla pointed out that the “pontificate of Benedict XVI has added a philosophical reflection to denounce the same existential situation described by John Paul II. In effect, it was Joseph Ratzinger who coined the phrase, ‘dictatorship of relativism’.”
“In these last years we have been witnesses repeated times to how the appeal to the ‘principle of tolerance’ has been nothing more than the first step to imposing an obligatory secularist ideology,” he added.