Archive of November 15, 2008

Kmiec says he will change his 'pro-Obama' position if the Pope tells him to do so

Camarillo, Calif., Nov 15, 2008 (CNA) - Doug Kmiec, a pro-life Catholic who vocally supported President-elect Barack Obama, defended his position in a lecture Tuesday at St. John’s Seminary in Camarillo, California.  The law professor told attendees that if Pope Benedict told him that his support for the pro-abortion politician was out of line with the Church’s teachings, he would stand by the Magisterium.

About 30 to 40 protesters against Kmiec’s speech stood in silence outside the seminary gates, an attendee who requested anonymity told CNA. Inside the seminary, nearly 300 people listened to Kmiec’s speech, the Thirteenth Annual Newman C. Eberhardt lecture.

Father Eberhardt was a long-time history professor at the seminary.

“Several of his students wished that he could be there to demolish Dr. Kmiec’s presentation point by point,” the attendee told CNA, claiming that the setting of the event “causes scandal to the faithful and sows confusion throughout the non-Catholic community.”

The attendee only took notes at the presentation because recording the lecture was prohibited.

Monsignor Craig Cox, the seminary rector, greeted the audience and gave a benediction. Father Richard Benson, academic dean and chair of moral theology, introduced Prof. Kmiec with a description of the “angst of the seminary administration” in inviting Kmiec.

The priest reportedly said that the administration decided to invite Kmiec in order to present differing views for consideration.

Kmiec began his lecture by referring to then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger’s 2004 letter to the U.S. bishops which advised that a vote for a pro-abortion rights candidate can be permitted “in the presence of proportionate reasons.” Kmiec, a Pepperdine University law professor and a former official in the Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations, then went on to explain how he came to support Obama’s candidacy.

An early supporter of former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, Kmiec said he was disappointed that, in his view, the Republican Party rejected Romney’s candidacy on the basis of his Mormon religion. Not finding the views of the eventual Republican nominee Sen. John McCain consistent with Romney’s positions, he looked elsewhere.

Kmiec told how he was first drawn to Obama during his “Call to Renewal” speech. Attending a meeting which included Rev. Franklin Graham, son of the famous evangelist Rev. Billy Graham, he told how he became convinced that while Obama had no religious upbringing, he is a religious man.

According to the lecture attendee who spoke to CNA, Kmiec described how his decision to support Obama included weighing the candidate’s platform with Catholic social teaching. He became part of Obama’s Catholic outreach program to secure the Catholic vote, which has consistently sided with the winner of the past ten presidential elections.

The Obama campaign’s Catholic outreach was described as “tightly organized” at the national, state, and local levels.

Kmiec noted that he had pressed Obama concerning what have been perceived to be his gaffes on abortion issues.

Questioning Obama about comments about not wanting his daughter “punished with a baby,” Obama told Kmiec “That’s not it.” The candidate then explained his belief that a child is indeed a punishment for many who do not have the economic and social support to care for a child.

Explaining his belief that the legal fight against abortion is lost, Kmiec advocated reducing the numbers of abortions through economic means and fully informing women about abortion. He also added that Obama had worked for the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, a primary vehicle for Catholic charity.

Concluding his remarks, Kmiec said he would always “bear the scar” of being refused Communion at Mass for the Catholic business leaders’ group Legatus, where a deacon believed his support for Obama should have barred him from receiving. Kmiec related how he loved his faith and didn’t know what he would do without it.

In audience questions following the lecture, a priest proposed a hypothetical situation in which Kmiec has a telephone conversation with Pope Benedict. The priest asked whether Kmiec would ask for further explanation of the letter to the U.S. bishops concerning proportionality in voting decisions.

Kmiec stated that if the Pope said, “Doug, you’re wrong,” he would then have to tear out the first 174 pages of his pro-Obama book and stand with the Magisterium.

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Diocese rebukes priest’s claims that Obama voters must confess

Charleston, S.C., Nov 15, 2008 (CNA) - The Diocese of Charleston is distancing itself from the actions of a Catholic priest in Greenville, South Carolina, who made remarks in a letter to parishioners suggesting that those who voted for Barack Obama should not receive Holy Communion until they go to Confession.

Monsignor Martin T. Laughlin, Administrator of the Diocese of Charleston, said on Friday afternoon that the Catholic Church’s “clear, moral teaching on the evil of abortion” has been “pulled into the partisan political arena” by the priest’s letter which was posted on the web site of St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Greenville.

Writing in his November 9 letter, Father Jay Scott Newman said that the election has revealed “deep and bitter divisions within the United States and also within the Catholic Church in the United States.” Saying the divisions can be compared to a “culture war,” he named abortion as the “central battleground” of the conflict.

In the priest’s description of the abortion debate, one side regards abortion as “a murderous abomination that cries out to Heaven for vengeance” while the other regards it as “a fundamental human right that must be protected in laws enforced by the authority of the state.”

“Between these two visions of the use of lethal violence against the unborn there can be no negotiation or conciliation, and now our nation has chosen for its chief executive the most radical pro-abortion politician ever to serve in the United States Senate or to run for president,” Father Newman claimed.

Noting that a majority of self-described Catholic voters helped President-elect Obama win the election, the priest declared:

“Voting for a pro-abortion politician when a plausible pro-life alternative exits constitutes material cooperation with intrinsic evil, and those Catholics who do so place themselves outside of the full communion of Christ’s Church and under the judgment of divine law.”

He said such persons should not receive Holy Communion until they are reconciled to God in the Sacrament of Penance.

In judging the sinfulness of acts, moral theology distinguishes between “formal” and “material” cooperation. In the former, a person directly wills and assists in an evil act. In the latter, a person indirectly assists in an evil act without intending that act be done. Whether material cooperation is sinful depends on its proximity to the evil act.

In a September 9 joint pastoral letter, Archbishop of Kansas City in Kansas John Naumann and Bishop of Kansas City-St. Joseph Robert Finn said that “remote material cooperation” like voting for a candidate who supports intrinsic evils is permissible for “proportionate reasons.” However, they questioned whether consideration for a candidate’s sound positions on other issues could ever outweigh considerations regarding the candidate’s support for intrinsic evils.

Father Newman’s letter continued its discussion of Obama, saying “we must always and everywhere disagree with him over abortion” but he insisted Catholics must pray for the President-elect and obey him where morally permitted.

“Let us hope and pray that the responsibilities of the presidency and the grace of God will awaken in the conscience of this extraordinarily gifted man an awareness that the unholy slaughter of children in this nation is the greatest threat to the peace and security of the United States and constitutes a clear and present danger to the common good,” the priest wrote.

Father Newman told The Greenville News that the responses to his actions have been positive by a ratio of about 9 to 1. The priest said he would not actively deny sacraments to Obama voters, explaining that the Church denies no one Communion unless doing otherwise would cause “grave scandal.”

Soon after the priest’s actions were reported, Stephen Gajdosik, a spokesman for the Catholic Diocese of Charleston, told the Greenville News that calling to penance those parishioners who voted for a pro-abortion rights candidate is a question of how best to deepen a flock’s relationship to God and a matter left up to local priests. He reportedly said such a move is appropriate and in line with Church teaching.

He added that for someone to be guilty of cooperating with evil, a person would have to know the consequences of their action and purposefully vote anyway for the candidate who supports legalized abortion.

Monsignor Laughlin, the diocesan administrator, in his Friday statement charged that Father Newman’s actions have “diverted the focus” from Catholic teaching on abortion and “do not adequately reflect the Catholic Church’s teachings. Any comments or statements to the contrary are repudiated.”

The monsignor then cited the Catechism of the Catholic Church on the topic of conscience, stating “Man has the right to act in conscience and in freedom so as personally to make moral decisions.” He also quoted a passage on the formation and examination of conscience.

“Christ gives us freedom to explore our own conscience and to make our own decisions while adhering to the law of God and the teachings of the faith,” the monsignor commented. “Therefore, if a person has formed his or her conscience well, he or she should not be denied Communion, nor be told to go to confession before receiving Communion.”

“The pulpit is reserved for the Word of God. Sometimes God’s truth, as is the Church’s teaching on abortion, is unpopular. All Catholics must be aware of and follow the teachings of the Church,” Monsignor Laughlin continued.

He closed his Friday statement with an exhortation to pray for the president-elect and all elected officials “with a view to influencing policy in favor of the protection of the unborn child.”

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U.S. Army restores Baghdad college property to Chaldean Church.

Rome, Italy, Nov 15, 2008 (CNA) - Possession of the Baghdad premises of Babel College, the only Christian theological school in Iraq, was restored to the Chaldean Catholic Church on November 6 by the U.S. Army, which had occupied the college since the end of March 2007.

“The Americans decided to vacate the buildings and signed an agreement with the Chaldean Church, under which they also undertake to restore any damage and replace what has been destroyed: the classroom equipment, for instance, and the printing works,” said Chaldean Bishop Jacques Isaac, the head of the faculty, according to SIR.

There was no damage to either the library or the chapel, the latter of which was continued to function under the care of a chaplain while the Americans were there.

According to Bishop Isaac, the Chaldean Church wants to wait “until the works are finished” before it will say whether it is happy with the move.

“We are still at the beginning. We gave the U.S. Army a detailed list of all that was in the buildings before they became a military base. At any rate, it will take months for everything to be fixed,” the bishop said.

At present, the site’s security is provided by the Iraqi army.

In January 2007 Babel College, an associate of Rome’s Pontifical Urbaniana University, was relocated to Ankawa in the north for security reasons. It now holds classes there.

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‘Yes on 8’ supporters and religious leaders unite against vicious post-election attacks

Santa Ana, Calif., Nov 15, 2008 (CNA) - On Friday, leaders representing California’s Proposition 8 called on Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Senator Diane Feinstein and leaders of the ‘No on Proposition 8’ campaign to denounce attacks against citizens who support the constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman.

Leaders of the coalition and approximately 500 supporters of “Yes on Proposition 8” gathered in Santa Ana to voice their opposition to the increasing attacks and harassment against supporters of traditional marriage.

"Amidst all this lawlessness, harassment, trampling of civil rights and now domestic terrorism, one thing stands out: the deafening silence of our elected officials. Not a single elected leader has spoken out against what is happening,” noted the campaign co-manager, Frank Schubert.

“Where is Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger while churches are being attacked? And where is Senator Dianne Feinstein while people are losing their jobs and grandmothers are being bullied by an angry mob?" he asked.

Schubert spoke at the first press conference of the Protect Marriage coalition since the election, which saw Proposition 8 pass with 52.5% of the vote.  Since then, hostility has dramatically increased against those who supported the measure.

Another leader, Pastor Jim Garlow recalled that, "For 14 months, we have been called bigots and hatemongers and we have not retaliated against these unprecedented attacks. But we will not be silenced."

Around California, supporters of Prop. 8 have been targeted by their opponents.  According to a press release, in addition to church vandalism across the state, in Sacramento, a musical theater director was forced to resign after he was blacklisted for contributing $1000 to the initiative.  In Los Angeles, a Mexican restaurant owner was boycotted after a relative donated to the coalition. 

The most recent attack occurred yesterday when the headquarters of the Knights of Columbus and several LDS temples were mailed an unknown white powder, reminiscent of the Anthrax scare in 2001.

The white powder was tested on Friday and was found to be non-toxic.

The Associated Press reported that the FBI is investigating the white powder incidents because it is illegal to release a powder or substance to threaten harm and scare the public.

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