Charlotte, N.C., Nov 19, 2008 (CNA) - Following recent financial problems and bankruptcy, TAN Books, a leading publisher of traditional Catholic books, has been acquired by the North Carolina-based Saint Benedict Press.
Since its establishment in 1967, TAN Books and Publishers has published more than 600 books, including classics such as its Baltimore Catechism series, the Douay-Rheims Bible, and dozens of biographical works by and about the saints.
Last week, its assets were purchased by the owners of Saint Benedict Press.
TAN Books and Publishers will become an independent imprint within Saint Benedict Press. According to a press release, the new business relationship will allow TAN to maintain its “brand identity and publishing direction” under Vice President of Sales and Marketing, Brent Klaske, who will assume general management duties.
"This is an exciting new day for TAN," said Klaske. "As a 15-year executive employee of TAN, I am thrilled that we will be able to continue our mission of sharing faithful Catholic books with people around the world. The resources and commitment that our new ownership brings to the table will ensure the future stability and growth of TAN while still maintaining our fidelity to the Catholic Church and its teachings."
Conor Gallagher, Vice President of Publishing at Saint Benedict Press, commented on the acquisition, saying:
“We welcome TAN Books and Publishers as a great resource for traditional Catholic products and we look forward to providing a continuation of its existing publishing plan. This acquisition will make way for an increase in new titles and an ability to bring back into print many of the favorite titles which have been on permanent back-order as a result of TAN’s uncertain future.”
“Current TAN customers can be assured that the mission of TAN is not changing. We will now have the ability to meet the needs of the customers and the thousands of book stores around the world that carry TAN titles,” Gallagher said.
Baghdad, Iraq, Nov 19, 2008 (CNA) - A Christian bishop in Iraq has received a threatening letter from an Islamic extremist group belonging to Al Qaeda which orders Christians to leave the country “immediately and permanently.”
The text of the letter, reportedly written by the Islamic extremist group Ansar al-Islam, was published in Arabic on the website of Al-Ittihad, an online daily news service, SIR reports.
The letter reads:
“The Secretary General of the members of the Islamic Brigade decided to give the Christian crusader infidels of Baghdad and the other provinces the last warning, to leave Iraq immediately and permanently and join Benedict XVI and his followers, who have trampled on the greatest symbols of humanity and Islam.”
“There’ll be no room in Iraq for the Christian infidels from now on,” the letter continues, threatening that those who remain will have their throats slit as “it is happening to the Christians of Mosul.” This is more than likely a reference to a recent attack on two sisters who were killed by Muslim extremists.
Iraqi Christians have faced severe persecutions in recent years, with some being forced to pay the “jizya” or protection money and some women being made to wear a headscarf, which is known as the hijab. The Christian community has also suffered forced conversion to Islam, rapes, murders and the destruction of homes.
CNA STAFF, Nov 19, 2008 (CNA) - A group of Catholics has addressed an open letter to President-elect Barack Obama, professing an eagerness to cooperate with his administration while pleading that he reconsider his support for the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA).
The open letter, initiated by Henry C. Karlson III, has been signed by several prominent Catholic bloggers and commentators, including the Catholic apologist Mark Shea.
Praising Obama’s call to end harmful forms of partisanship, the writers of the letter said they too wanted to encourage people to “work together for the common good,” saying “It may change the hearts of many, and it might alter the path of our nation, shifting to a road leading to a better America.”
Citing Obama’s call for unity and his professed willingness to engage in dialogue with others, the letter turned to the issue of abortion.
“As men and women who oppose abortion and embrace a pro-life ethic, we want to commend your willingness to engage us in dialogue, and we ask that you live up to your promise, and engage us on this issue.”
The open letter cited Obama’s agreement to limit late term abortion with exceptions for the health of the mother, and his stated desire to work to reduce the actual number of abortions by alleviating those social issues which make women feel they have to abort.
“There is much we can do together,” the letter said. “There is much that we can do to help women who find themselves in difficult situations so they will not see abortion as their only option. There is much which we can do to help eliminate those unwanted pregnancies which lead to abortion.”
The letter then turned to Obama’s January 22, 2008 pledge to pass the Freedom of Choice Act as president. This commitment to FOCA, the letter suggested, “might well undermine your engagement of pro-life Americans on the question of abortion. It might hamper any effort on your part to work with us to limit late-term abortions.”
“FOCA does more than allow for choice,” the open letter argued. “It may force the choice of a woman upon others, and make them morally complicit in such choice.”
Under FOCA, doctors and hospitals which otherwise would not perform abortions might be forced to do so “even if it went against their sacred beliefs,” the group of Catholics said.
“Such a law would undermine choice, and might begin the process by which abortion is enforced as a preferred option, instead of being one possible choice for a doctor to practice,” the letter continued.
“If FOCA can be postponed for the present, and serious dialogue begun with us, as well as with those who disagree with us, you will demonstrate that your administration will indeed be one that rises above partisanship, and will be one of change. This might well be the first step toward resolving an issue which tears at the fabric of our churches, our political process, our families, our very society, and that causes so much hardship and heartache in pregnant women.”
The letter also voiced concern about Obama’s statements that he might override some of President George W. Bush’s executive orders, encouraging him to have a dialogue with the American people on the matter and warning a change in policy would undermine the “political environment” he wishes to establish.
“Among those issues which concern us,” the letter explained, “are those which would use taxpayer money to support actions we find to be morally questionable, such as embryonic stem cell research, or to fund international organizations that would counsel women to have an abortion (this would make abortion to be more than a mere choice, but an encouraged activity).”
Calling on Obama to “set aside particular promises to a part of your constituency,” the open letter said such a move would show his plan to reject “politics as usual” and truly become “a change we need.”
The full open letter can be read at Henry Karlson's blog Vox Nova: http://vox-nova.com/.
Vatican City, Nov 19, 2008 (CNA) - On Wednesday morning, Pope Benedict XVI continued his weekly teachings on St. Paul while speaking to the thousands of pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square. The Pontiff further explained the apostle's teaching that believers are justified by faith in Christ and by the acts that flow out of love for him.
When Paul met the Risen One on the road to Damascus, the Pope began, "he was a successful man: blameless as to righteousness under the Law." Yet "the conversion of Damascus radically changed his life, and he began to consider all the gains of his honest religious career as 'rubbish' in the face of the sublimity of his knowledge of Jesus Christ."
Turning to St. Paul’s Letter to the Philippians, Pope Benedict found that "Paul understood that until then, what seemed to him a gain, in reality, in front of God was a loss. He decided, therefore, to bet all his being on Jesus Christ." In other words, "The Risen Lord became the beginning and end of Paul's existence," the Pope taught.
With this understanding of Christ’s resurrection in mind, Pope Benedict turned to the two possible ways of being made new in Christ.
"The Letter to the Philippians," the Pope said, "provides moving testimony of Paul's shift from a justice founded on the Law and achieved by observing certain prescribed actions, to a justice based upon faith in Jesus Christ. ... It is because of this personal experience of the relationship with Jesus Christ that Paul focuses his Gospel on a steadfast contrast between two alternative paths to justice: one based on the works of the Law, the other founded on the grace of faith in Christ."
In his Letter to the Galatians, Paul further explains that even Jews who have believed in Christ Jesus have done so because it is through faith in Christ and not by works of the law that they can be justified. As St. Paul states, “by works of the law no one will be justified."
Pope Benedict then addressed the interpretation of this passage by Martin Luther, who translated it as “justified by faith alone.”
“Before returning to this point it is necessary to clarify which is the 'Law' from which we have been freed and what are the works that do not justify us,” Benedict XVI said.
“In the community of Corinth,” the Holy Father explained, “there already existed an opinion, that crops up again throughout history, to the effect that it is the moral law, and that hence Christian freedom means freedom from ethics. ... Obviously this is an incorrect interpretation. Christian freedom is not debauchery, ... it is not freedom from doing good."
"For St. Paul, as for his contemporaries, the word Law meant the Torah in its entirety, ... which imposed ... a series of actions ranging from an ethical core to ritual observances ... and substantially defined the identity of the just man, ... such as circumcision, dietary laws, etc. ... All these precepts - expressive of a social, cultural and religious identity - were very important" in the Hellenistic age when polytheism was rife and Israel felt threatened in its identity and feared "the loss of faith in the One God and in His promises."
At the moment of his encounter with the Risen Lord, Paul understood that "with Christ, the God of Israel, the one true God, became the God of all nations. The wall -so he says in the Letter to the Ephesians- between Israel and the pagans was no longer necessary: it is Christ who protects us against polytheism and all its deviations; it is Christ who unites us with and in the one God; it is Christ who guarantees our true identity in the diversity of cultures. The wall is no longer necessary, our common identity in the diversity of cultures is Christ, and it is he who makes us just,” the Pope said.
Pope Benedict then offered the interesting insight that “Being just simply means being with Christ, being in Christ, that is all. The other precepts are no longer necessary. Luther's expression 'sola fide' is true, if faith is not against charity, against love. To believe is to see Christ, to trust in Christ, to become attached to Christ, to conform to Christ, to his life."
"Paul knows that in the twofold love of God and neighbor the Law is present and fulfilled. So in communion with Christ, in faith, which creates charity, the Law is realized. We become just by entering into communion with Christ, who is love. We will see the same thing in the Gospel of next Sunday, the Solemnity of Christ the King. Love is the only criteria of the Gospel of the judge," the Pope explained.
In closing, the Pope invited the faithful to "ask the Lord to help us believe, to truly believe, so belief becomes life, unity with Christ, a transformation of our lives. And so, transformed by his love, by love of God and neighbor, we can be truly just in the eyes of God."
CNA STAFF, Nov 19, 2008 (CNA) - To kick off the new Liturgical Year beginning on November 30, Catholic News Agency is pleased to announce the addition of a new column, “Road to Emmaus.” The column, written by Brian Pizzalato, will assist in helping readers come to a deeper understanding of the Sunday readings.
Pizzalato, the Director of Catechesis, RCIA & Lay Apostolate for the Diocese of Duluth, Minnesota, is also a faculty member of the Philosophy department of the Maryvale Institute, Birmingham, England. His column will publish each week, giving readers the opportunity to see the relationship in between the Old Testament and Gospel readings.
“Unfortunately, we can tend to tune out when the Old Testament is read at Mass,” Pizzalato explains. “However, if we really want to understand Christ in the New Testament, we cannot afford to tune out. Jesus longs for us to in some way experience that spiritual heartburn of the two disciples” as they walked on the Road to Emmaus. “And I don’t know about you, but pretty frequently I too am foolish and slow of heart to believe.”
Pizzalato’s column will be updated each Wednesday, with information relating to the approaching Sunday’s readings.
“Each week we will journey ‘on the road to Emmaus,’ opening up the scriptures, having our hearts burn within us, so that we might always recognize Jesus in the Eucharist, recognize that he is truly Emmanuel, God with us, and finally to proclaim this good news to the world,” Pizzalato said.
The first column for “Road to Emmaus” can be found on the left-hand side of CNA’s homepage or by clicking on the following link: http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/columns.php?sub_id=15
Madrid, Spain, Nov 19, 2008 (CNA) - Sister Presentacion Lopez Vivar, a Spanish missionary who was wounded on October 28 during an armed confrontation in Rutshuro, Congo, said this week she is “not afraid” and is “willing to return to the African country to serve the needs of its people.” She made the remarks during a press conference at the hospital where she is recovering after doctors had to amputate both of her legs.
Sister Presentacion said she felt good physically and was strong, and she took the opportunity to call for “an increase in humanitarian aid” to the Congo, saying assistance up to now has been “insufficient” in order to meet the needs of the thousands of sick and displaced people who are suffering the consequences of the armed conflict.
Despite the attack, the superior of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Gerona, Mother Urbana Sanchez, explained that the community in the Congo is “very respected” for the neutral position they took during the conflict, as well as for their work in health care. “It was an accident, they didn’t mean to hurt us, as people on both sides know and respect us. In fact, after the incident, the soldiers entered the house and took care of Sister Presentacion,” she said.
Sister Presentacion, who doctors say has made a fine recovery, underscored the “extreme state of emergency” that exists in the Congo and that its government should take an active role in the situation. “Illnesses are spreading and the displaced don’t know where or to whom to go,” she stressed.
She also pointed out the “gravity” of the situation, especially for the child soldiers who she called the “principal victims of this war.” “They are captured when they are very young and they are forced to fight without any kind of training, for this reason many families decide to marry them quickly in order to prevent this,” the Spanish missionary sister said.
Avila, Spain, Nov 19, 2008 (CNA) - The president emeritus of the Pontifical Academy for Life, Bishop Elio Sgreccia, criticized the practice of embryo selection this week and called it a “legitimization of an abuse,” similar to euthanasia, and said the Church would continue to use “all peaceful means” to “educate society” to keep politicians from assuming the right to decide on matters of life and death.
During a speech at the University of Avila in Spain, Bishop Sgreccia criticized the decision by Italy’s Supreme Court to authorize euthanasia for a 37 year-old woman who is in a vegetative state and whose family wants to disconnect her feeding tube.
He said the court “does not have the authority” to allow the death of Eluana Englaro because “life does not belong to the patient, the doctor, society or the court.”
He also referred to the case of a Spanish couple that has conceived a child in order to cure their other son his who is sick, saying they “had no right” to do so, and that selecting embryos and creating a baby to help cure another person is “the legitimization of an abuse.”
Washington D.C., Nov 19, 2008 (CNA) - Tom Daschle has accepted the position of Secretary of Health and Human Services from president-elect Barack Obama. Daschle's record of supporting anti-life initiatives is extensive enough that his bishop previously asked him to stop calling himself a Catholic.
According to FOX News, “two Democratic sources close to Daschle and with intimate knowledge of the decision” said on Wednesday that the former Senate majority leader has accepted the post.
As the new Health and Human Services chief, Daschle will be responsible for helping implement Obama’s promised government-run health plan.
What is little-known, though, is the fact that Tom Daschle has radically changed his beliefs on life issues since he first ran for office.
Joseph Bottum, a native South Dakotan who writes for The Weekly Standard, relates that Daschle began his political career portraying himself as a staunch defender of life.
“In 1978, Tom Daschle had the nuns who taught him in grade school write a letter to voters in South Dakota swearing he would always fight against abortion.”
But by the time 2002 rolled around, Bottum reports that “he was penning fundraising letters for NARAL and giving fundraising talks for EMILY's List.”
Daschle’s work for pro-abortion groups has led the former bishop of Sioux Falls to speak out against him.
Although Bishop Robert Carlson had been in conversation with Daschle for years about his voting record and beliefs about moral issues, including a public argument over partial-birth abortion in 1997, it wasn’t until April of 2003 that things began to escalate. At that point Bishop Carlson sent a letter to Tom Daschle telling him that he should removed all references to being a member of the Catholic Church from his congressional biography and campaign documents, Bottum reports.
Daschle responded to the letter from the floor of the Senate in Washington by accusing Bishop Carlson of acting in a way "more identified with the radical right than with thoughtful religious leadership."
In an interview with the Sioux Falls Argus Leader, Bishop Carlson expressed his shock at Daschle’s positions on the life issues. "NARAL claims him as one of their number-one supporters. I don't understand how he can be in touch with South Dakotans as much as he is, and yet consistently have a pro-abortion record."
Before he failed to be re-elected to the Senate in 2004, Tom Daschle had a 50 % NARAL rating. His mixed rating is the result of voting for a ban on partial-birth abortions and a vote for penalties for those who harm fetuses while committing a violent crime. On the other hand, Daschle voted to allow human cloning, expand research on human embryos and against banning privately funded abortions on U.S. military installations.
CNA attempted to reach South Dakota Right to Life for comment on Tom Daschle’s record but did not receive a reply before press time.
Lima, Peru, Nov 19, 2008 (CNA) - The third Vice President of the Peruvian Congress, Fabiola Morales, congratulated Uruguayan President Tabare Vazquez this week for his veto of a law legalizing abortion in Uruguay and described it as a true pro-life lesson for the politicians of Latin America.
In a recent article, after noting that the approval of the law was marked by numerous irregularities, Morales pointed out, “Making use of the faculty granted him by the Constitution, Vasquez resisted the enormous pressure of his own party that unanimously approved the motion. Days earlier the Uruguayan media even reported that no minister would support the president and would make a veto impossible.”
“This was totally refuted by public statements by the Minister of Health, Maria Julia Munoz, and by the Minister of Tourism, Hector Lescano. In the end it was Munoz who joined the president and signed the veto.”
Morales later recalled that Vasquez said he would veto such a measure on several occasions during his tenure and that his consistency and swiftness in issuing the veto were a sufficient testimony to his political clarity. “Nevertheless, the statements that legally and politically sustain the veto issued by the President of Uruguay are a true lesson in the defense of life for politicians,” she added.
She also questioned how abortion promoters could paint Tabare as a religious fundamentalist in a far right-wing party for opposing those who consider the murder of an unborn child a right.
Madrid, Spain, Nov 19, 2008 (CNA) - Dozens of prestigious doctors, lawyers, politicians, historians and other experts in Spain have signed a manifesto in defense of human life from conception to natural death and rejected the “very grave process of depreciation” of this right in the country.
The manifesto, part of which was published by local media, denounces the Socialist Party and other groups for promoting proposals to liberalize abortion laws.
The group of academics lamented the “gradual and relentless” imposition on Spanish law of the possibility of experimenting with human embryos, ignoring that their genetic patrimony from the moment of fertilization is “unique and unrepeatable.”
They also call for Article 15 of the Spanish Constitution, which reads “Everyone has the right to life and to physical and moral integrity,” to be modified to include the phrase, “from the moment of conception to natural death.”
They also questioned Health Minister Bernat Soria’s statements in support of the legalization of euthanasia under the term, “assisted suicide.”
Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, Nov 19, 2008 (CNA) - The Bishops’ Conference of the Dominican Republic warned this week that the passage of a law on religious associations would generate serious problems, including the celebration of marriages by unqualified ministers and the creation of “make-your-own churches.”
According to the Fides news agency, the Bishops' Commission on Legal Affairs presented the Justice Commission of the House of Representatives with a copy of its observations on the draft bill. “The draft bill does not go against the nation's Constitution, however, its approval would imply a series of risks, of various kinds, for the people of the Dominican Republic,” the commission said.
One of these risks, the bishop’s indicated, is “the possibility of celebrating marriages presided by ministers without sufficient preparation and experience, which would become a serious problem without the presences of a legal structure on which to rest such affairs, such as in the case of matrimonial law which is almost non-existent among religious denominations.”
All this would be a grave difficulty for the country, in “the registration and control of religious marriages and the processes that would be created in the thousands of churches and places of worship that now exist and that will come to exist in the future of our country,” they said.
“The law opens the doors to persons who invent a church/religion simply as a means for personal economic gain,” the commission also warned.
Washington D.C., Nov 19, 2008 (CNA) - Proposed federal rules prohibiting recipients of federal money from discriminating against pro-life medical professionals and other conscientious objectors continue to attract opposition. However, an official with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops argues that the rules are necessary to enforce existing rights and to prevent conscience-burdening practices from dominating the medical profession.
The rules proposed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) would also bar hospitals, clinics, doctor’s offices and drug stores from requiring employees with conscientious objections to “assist in the performance of any part of a health service program or research activity,” the New York Times reports.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Catholic Health Association, which represents Catholic hospitals, both support the proposal.
Sister Carol Keehan, president of the Catholic Health Association, told the New York Times on Tuesday that in recent years “we have seen a variety of efforts to force Catholic and other health care providers to perform or refer for abortions and sterilizations.”
President-elect Barack Obama has objected to the proposed rules, arguing they would raise barriers to women seeking abortions or contraceptives. According to Obama’s aides and advisers, he will try to repeal the regulations after he comes to office but the process could take three to six months.
Three officials from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), including Bush-appointed legal counsel Reed L. Russell, argued that the regulations are unnecessary because the Civil Rights Act of 1964 already prohibits employment discrimination based on religion, including moral and ethical beliefs about right and wrong.
“Federal law is explicit and unwavering in protecting federally funded medical practitioners from being coerced into providing treatments they find morally objectionable,” Russell told the New York Times.
Richard Doerflinger, Associate Director of Pro-life Activities at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, spoke about the proposed regulations and objections to them in a Wednesday phone interview with CNA.
He emphasized that the conscience protection regulations are broad in scope and are not limited to pro-life medical professionals.
“Some of these provisions protect people against discrimination for being willing to perform abortions,” he remarked, lamenting that many opponents of the proposed rules did not acknowledge this.
Doerflinger also criticized claims that conscience concerns are already addressed in the Civil Rights Act of 1964, deeming it a “totally separate law that has totally separate scope.”
“It only covers religious freedom, it doesn’t specifically relate to objections to medical procedures,” he explained, saying the new regulations “simply implement statutes passed by Congress over the past 35 years” and specifically relate to health programs.
“Two of the three statutes even have nothing to do with religion,” he said, saying they apply in circumstances where the issue is not employment, which would otherwise be regulated by the Labor Department’s Equal Opportunity Commission.
Rather, the regulations are relevant to whether an organization is qualified to participate in a federal program and apply to applicants to nursing or medical schools and to hospital privileges, Doerflinger said.
Before a 1973 statute protecting applicants to medical school was passed, a congressional study found that medical students were being refused entry to medical school, Doerflinger told CNA.
Naming another threat to the freedom of conscience, he also referred to a recent case in Alaska where the state Supreme Court told a community hospital it was not allowed to have a policy against doing elective abortions.
“The court interpreted the Alaska constitution as providing right to abortion that is not only a right to be let alone, but a right to an entitlement,” declaring that everyone has an obligation to provide access to an abortion.
Explaining that a state legislative effort to overturn the decision failed by one vote, he reported the hospital was forced to provide access to its facilities for the local late-term abortionist.
General ignorance about legal rights and duties to protect conscience is another justification for the proposed regulations, Doerflinger said.
“A lot of people just don’t know these protections are out there, and they’re not respecting them.”
He cited a recent American College of Gynecologists and Obstetricians (ACOG) document on the limits of conscientious objection. The document claimed OB/GYNs should consider themselves ethically obligated to provide or refer abortions and should locate their practices near abortion clinics so their patients have easier access.
“The fear among a lot of pro-life OB/GYNs was that ACOG’s ethics standards get worked into the board certification requirements for OB/GYNs to have hospital privileges. So this is very frightening. You could end up being kicked out of hospitals because you don’t subscribe to this ethics committee’s view.”
“That got the attention of the Secretary of HHS,” Doerflinger said, reporting that the secretary wrote to ACOG to inform them their ethical standards ran counter to the conscience protection policies of the federal government.
“This helped him realize that there is a need for people to know more about what is in the law. These regulations clarify what the protection is, and give them a place to go, the HHS Office of Civil Rights, if they are being discriminated against.”
The regulations also help health programs certify to the government that they understand and respect conscience protections rights.
“The regulation doesn’t create any new rights, they’re just being ignored by some,” he stressed.
CNA asked Doerflinger to respond to the argument that conscience protection regulations force the beliefs of pharmacists or doctors on their patients.
In fact, he argued, the regulations “keep the government from forcing its preferences upon doctors.”
“Most of these statutory protections basically have to do with whether the government can go after you because you’re pro-life. It doesn’t allow the physician to do anything to his patients, it’s just that nobody can force the physician to be involved in actions which violate his conscience. It leaves everybody’s conscience free.”
“If you go to a hospital, every hospital there is, there is something people might want that it does not provide. There is a little-known fact in this debate that over 80 percent of hospitals do not do abortions as part of their regular practice.
“If I go to hospital and they say ‘we don’t do that here,’ that doesn’t force me to do anything. I can go someplace else.
“Hospitals refrain from providing services for all sorts of reasons far less serious than moral or religious conviction,” he added, explaining they have decided some services are not cost effective.
Alluding to a popular argument, he noted the bumper sticker which reads: “Don’t want abortion? Don’t have one!”
“Why doesn’t that work the other way around? ‘In favor of abortion? You do them'!"
“Don’t make us do them,” Doerflinger said.