Archive of March 31, 2009

Archbishop encourages Spanish Catholics to oppose abortion with white ribbon

Madrid, Spain, Mar 31, 2009 (CNA) - Archbishop Javier Martinez of Granada encouraged Catholics in Spain to get involved in the different pro-life activities that are emerging, inviting them to wear a white bow during Holy Week as a sign of opposition to abortion.   

Several Catholics groups have called on the faithful to wear white bows during Holy Week to show their support for human life.  “If we wear signs so many times, for example, why can’t we put on a white bow if we want?” the archbishop asked.

Archbishop Martinez recalled that “when the Church defends life she is not going outside her tradition or her experience or her sphere, because the Christian faith is not an ideology, nor does it have anything to do with political struggles.”

The archbishop said the grace of having known Christ “is worth more than life, and we are not willing to question that.”  Therefore, he called on Catholics to publicly express the faith and to feel free “to respond to gatherings that come up in support of life.”

He also praised organizations that help mothers to welcome their unborn children and to reject the temptation of abortion.

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U.S. State Department overlooks ‘especially dire’ religious freedom violations in Iraq

Washington D.C., Mar 31, 2009 (CNA) -

Newly public information shows that the U.S. State Department in January rejected a recommendation that Iraq be named a Country of Particular concern due to “especially dire” threats to minorities’ religious freedoms. The State Department also granted waivers for Uzbekistan and Saudi Arabia, where religious freedom violations have been called “appalling.”

A U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) press release reports that on Jan. 16 Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice formally designated Burma, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, the People’s Republic of China, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and Uzbekistan as Countries of Particular Concern (CPC). The Bush administration classified the same countries as CPCs in 2006.

The latest CPC list was not made available until last week, when the State Department released it in response to a USCIRF inquiry.

The president is required to encourage improvements in CPC countries through tools such as sanctions. CPCs may be granted a waiver on such restrictions if the president determines it is in U.S. interests. Saudi Arabia and Uzbekistan were given waivers by the outgoing Bush administration, while no sanction was cited to be applied to any other country.

Lamenting official inaction, the USCIRF expressed disappointment that the State Department did not accept its recommendation to designate Pakistan, Vietnam, Turkmenistan and Iraq as CPCs.

In December 2008, with little media coverage, USCIRF released the Report of the United States Commission on Religious Freedom on Iraq.

The Commission in its report recommended Iraq be designated a CPC “in view of the ongoing severe abuses of religious freedom and based on the Iraqi government’s toleration of these abuses as described in this report, particularly abuses against all of Iraq’s most vulnerable and smallest religious minorities.”

Acknowledging a decline in violence in Iraq since May 2007, the Commission said “there has been continued targeted violence, as well as threats and intimidation against persons belonging to religious minorities, and other egregious religiously-motivated abuses are continuing and widespread. The lack of effective government action to protect these communities from abuses has established Iraq among the most dangerous places on earth for religious minorities.”

The December 2008 report said the situation is “especially dire” for ChaldoAssyrian Christians, other Christians, Sabean Mandaeans, and Yazidis. Adherents are targeted by violence and often flee to other parts of Iraq or other countries.

“These communities report that their numbers in Iraq have substantially diminished, and that their members who have left the country have not to date showed signs of returning in significant numbers,” the report said. “Legally, politically, and economically marginalized, these small minorities are caught in the middle of a struggle between the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and the central Iraqi government for control of northern areas where their communities are concentrated. The combined effect of all of this has been to endanger these ancient communities’ very existence in Iraq.”

Felice Gaer, USCIRF chair, said in a March 27 statement that the Commission is “disappointed” that Secretary Rice refused to designate any new countries and that Uzbekistan and Saudi Arabia were granted waivers.

“Religious freedom conditions in Uzbekistan and Saudi Arabia are appalling and a specific U.S. government response is required,” Gaer said.

Saudi Arabia has been a CPC since 2004 and has received a waiver every year. USCIRF said there has been “little or no improvement” in the kingdom’s religious freedom conditions.

Gaer criticized inaction on religious freedom violations, saying:

“State Department efforts to negotiate with certain countries to bring about improvements in religious freedom certainly might be an appropriate reason for delaying CPC designation, but the Commission concludes that the State Department should have acted years ago in the case of a number of the countries our Commission recommended for CPC designation, under our statutory authority.

“As it reviews the previous Administration's CPC designations, we hope the Obama Administration will recognize the added value that CPC status can bring to American public diplomacy on human rights.”

USCIRF’s 2009 Annual Report will be delivered to Congress, the President and the Secretary of State on May 1. It will recommend nations to be designated as CPCs and recommend nations for the USCIRF Watch List.

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Office of Legal Council nominee criticized for ‘bizarre’ defenses of abortion

Washington D.C., Mar 31, 2009 (CNA) -

Dawn Johnsen, nominee to head the White House Office of Legal Counsel, faces criticism from a pro-life group for her opposition to the federal partial-birth abortion ban and her comments characterizing pregnant mothers as “inevitable losers in the contraceptive lottery” and comparing pregnancy to slavery or being hit by a drunk driver.

The Senate Judiciary Committee on March 19 approved Johnsen’s nomination by 11 to 7 for a full vote on the Senate floor.

The Susan B. Anthony List, a pro-life group opposing her nomination, reports some of its 154,000 members have sent over 26,000 letters of opposition to their U.S. Senators.

“Johnsen's opposition to existing federal restrictions like the ban on partial-birth abortion casts doubt on her ability to perform her duties faithfully as the head of the Office of Legal Counsel,” said Susan B. Anthony List President Marjorie Dannenfelser.

The Susan B. Anthony list has voiced concerns about Johnsen’s pro-abortion rhetoric, especially as found in her amicus curiae brief in the case Webster v. Reproductive Health Services.

There, Johnsen said that abortion restrictions “reduce pregnant women to no more than fetal containers.”

Johnsen attacked arguments that pregnant women consent to their pregnancy, saying those “who are the inevitable losers in the contraceptive lottery no more 'consent' to pregnancy than pedestrians 'consent' to being struck by drunk drivers.”

She also said that the experience of abortion is “no longer traumatic” and claimed most women respond to an abortion with “relief.”

Dannenfelser responded to these comments, arguing:

“Her bizarre characterizations of pregnancy as 'slavery' and mothers as 'losers in the contraceptive lottery' expose an unacceptable disdain for commonsense abortion restrictions and motherhood in general.”

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Planning for World Youth Day in Madrid begins

Rome, Italy, Mar 31, 2009 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI has introduced his upcoming World Youth Day message, recalling “with deep gratitude” the 2008 event in Sydney and looking forward to the 2011 international event to be held in Madrid.

Marking the 24th annual World Youth Day this coming Palm Sunday, the Pope will celebrate a Mass at which possession of the World Youth Day Cross will transfer from Australian youth to Spanish youth.

Calling World Youth Day Sydney “a most memorable encounter” of spiritual renewal, he said “the joy of celebration and spiritual enthusiasm experienced during those few days was an eloquent sign of the presence of the Spirit of Christ.”

The Pope noted the World Youth Day 2009 theme is taken from 1 Tim 4:10: “We have set our hope on the living God.”

To plan World Youth Day 2011, the organizing committees of Sydney 2008 and Madrid 2011 will meet April 3 to 5 with delegates from about 70 countries. They will be joined by about 150 people who work in youth ministry around the world and representatives from 35 international Catholic communities, association and movements.

The sessions will begin on Friday with a greeting from Cardinal Stanislaw Ryłko, President of the Pontifical Council for the Laity. Speakers will hear evaluations of Sydney 2008 with talks by Cardinal George Pell and Bishop Anthony Fisher, who will speak about the fruits of the event in Sydney and in all of Australia.

A Mass presided by Cardinal Pell will conclude the first day.

Saturday sessions will discuss World Youth Day in Madrid, with Archbishop of Madrid Cardinal Antonio Rouco Varela and Bishop César Franco Martínez.

Bishop Josef Clemens, Secretary of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, will present the Pope’s message for the 24th World Youth Day, while Cardinal Ryłko will give concluding remarks.

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Pope initiates Apostolic Visitation of the Legion of Christ

Vatican City, Mar 31, 2009 (CNA) - Fr. Alvaro Corcuera, L.C., General Director of the Legionaries of Christ, announced Tuesday that Pope Benedict XVI has requested an Apostolic Visitation of the institutions of the Legionaries of Christ that will likely begin after Easter.

In an announcement sent to members of the Legion, Fr. Corcuera makes public the decision announced by the Vatican’s Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, in a letter dated March 10.

"I have thanked the Holy Father from the bottom of my heart for offering us this additional assistance in facing our present vicissitudes related to the grave details of our father founder’s life," Fr. Corcuera says in a letter.

"We are deeply saddened and sorry, and we sincerely ask for forgiveness from God and from those who have been hurt because of this."

"We are now preparing to receive the Apostolic Visitors who, over the upcoming months, will visit to familiarize themselves closely with the life and apostolate of the Legion of Christ," Corcuera’s letter continues.

In his letter to Corcuera, Cardinal Bertone writes: "In this holy season of Lent, a time of grace and salvation, I am pleased to remember that many people benefit from the works of education and service which the Legionaries of Christ carry out in various parts of the world."

"The Holy Father," Cardinal Bertone continues, "is aware of the noble ideals that inspire you and the fortitude and prayerful spirit with which you are facing the current changes. He encourages you to continue seeking the good of the Church and society by means of your own distinctive initiatives and institutions."

"In this regard, you can always count on the help of the Holy See, so that with truth and transparency, in a climate of fraternal and constructive dialogue, you will overcome the present difficulties."

"In this respect, the Holy Father has decided to carry out an Apostolic Visitation to the institutions of the Legionaries of Christ through a team of Prelates."

In a press release, the Legion explained the decision by saying "the Holy Father has decided to help us to overcome our difficulties through an Apostolic Visitation."

On the topic of who will be conducting the visits and when they will take place, the press release notes that "we are still awaiting notification of this information from the Holy See. Most likely, the Apostolic Visitation will begin after Easter and will last for several months."

"While the Apostolic Visitation is taking place, our life and apostolate will continue along its ordinary course. We are ready to welcome the Visitators to our centers and institutions with faith and supernatural spirit, cooperating with them and facilitating their mission," the Legionaries’ statement says.

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Benedict XVI praying that the poor and hungry will receive material and spiritual food

Vatican City, Mar 31, 2009 (CNA) -

Just after completing his trip to Africa, Pope Benedict XVI has made his prayer intentions for April public. The intentions ask that rich countries will help the poor and hungry and that Christians can bring them hope.

Pope Benedict's general prayer intention for April is: "That the Lord may bless farmers' work with an abundant harvest and sensitize the richer populations to the drama of hunger in the world."

His mission intention is: "That the Christians who operate in the territories where the conditions of the poor, the weak and the women and children are most tragic, may be signs of hope, thanks to their courageous testimony to the Gospel of solidarity and love."

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Argentinean archbishop rejects 'Spanish-style' apostasy campaign

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Mar 31, 2009 (CNA) -

During his weekly program, "Keys to a Better World," Archbishop Hector Aguer of La Plata in Argentina rejected the "campaign of collective apostasy" launched in the country that is similar to one in Spain in which ex-Catholics or those who wish to renounce their faith present letters of apostasy to the diocese with the request that their names be removed from baptismal registries.

"Who are the people promoting this? And what is that bothers them in particular? What kind of ideology is behind this campaign, as it clearly has been very cleverly put together?" the archbishop asked.

"What they really want is to protest the public and cultural presence of the Church," he continued. "What really bothers these movements is that the Church still has influence on the Argentinean people… What bothers them specifically is that the faith has become culture and the purpose here is to uproot the faith from the culture in which the people live."

"For us," the archbishop explained, "this campaign must be a motive, a sort of incentive for the renewal of our faith, not only individually but prominently in daily life and in its cultural expressions."

Archbishop Aguer called for a "recovery of the awareness that through baptism we are witnesses of Christ and we should manifest our faith in daily life, without the need for extraordinary actions but in the daily story of life," in order to "strengthen our awareness as baptized and to give thanks to God for having received this gift of baptismal grace which makes us Christians and members of the Catholic Church."

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Pope issues appeal for Red Cross workers abducted in Philippines

Vatican City, Mar 31, 2009 (CNA) - As a 2 p.m. deadline for meeting Abu Sayyaf kidnappers' demands drew near yesterday, Pope Benedict issued an appeal calling for the release of the three Red Cross workers being held hostage.

The Abu Sayyaf militants had set the deadline for beheading one of their hostages, but the time passed apparently without the threat being carried out. The kidnappers are demanding that the Filipino government withdraw troops from the island of Jolo, where the terrorist group is headquartered.

On Monday afternoon the Vatican released a statement saying that the Pope is concerned for the safety of the two Europeans and one Filipino, who were seized January 15 while visiting a water sanitation project at a jail.

According to the Vatican communique, "The Holy Father, sharing the concern of the families, and of everyone worried about the safety of the three Red Cross workers kidnapped on the island of Jolo in the Philippines, wishes to raise his voice and make an appeal that humanitarian values and reason may prevail over violence and intimidation.

"The Holy Father, in the name of God, asks for the hostages to be released and calls upon the authorities to favor a peaceful solution to the dramatic situation."

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Benedict XVI emphasizes importance of the human response to God’s call

Vatican City, Mar 31, 2009 (CNA) - Today the Holy Father’s message for the 46th World Day of Prayer for Vocations was released by the Vatican press office. In his document, Pope Benedict speaks of discerning and trusting in God’s will in order to fulfill God’s plan for salvation.

The day for vocations, which is scheduled to be celebrated on May 3, the fourth Sunday of Easter, has the theme "Faith in the divine initiative - the human response."

To read the full document, please click here:

Excerpts from the text are given below:

"The exhortation of Jesus to His disciples: 'Pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send out labors into His harvest' has a constant resonance in the Church. Pray! The urgent call of the Lord stresses that prayer for vocations should be continuous and trusting."

"The vocation to the priesthood and to the consecrated life constitutes a special gift of God which becomes part of the great plan of love and salvation that God has for every man and woman and for the whole of humanity."

"In the universal call to holiness, of particular relevance is God's initiative of choosing some to follow His Son Jesus Christ more closely, and to be His privileged ministers and witnesses. ... Responding to the Lord's call and docile to the movement of the Holy Spirit, over the centuries, countless ranks of priests and consecrated persons placed themselves totally at the service of the Gospel in the Church. Let us give thanks to God, because even today He continues to call together workers into His vineyard.

"While it is undoubtedly true that a worrisome shortage of priests is evident in some regions of the world, and that the Church encounters difficulties and obstacles along the way, we are sustained by the unshakeable certitude that the One Who firmly guides her in the pathways of time towards the definitive fulfillment of the Kingdom is He, the Lord, Who freely chooses persons of every culture and of every age and invites them to follow Him according to the mysterious plans of His merciful love.

"Our first duty, therefore, is to keep alive in families and in parishes, in movements and in apostolic associations, in religious communities and in all the sectors of diocesan life this appeal to the divine initiative with unceasing prayer."

"What is asked of those who are called ... is careful listening and prudent discernment, a generous and willing adherence to the divine plan, and a serious study of the reality that is proper to the priestly and religious vocations, so as to be able to respond responsibly and with conviction."

"In the Eucharist, that perfect gift which brings to fulfillment the plan of love for the redemption of the world, Jesus offers Himself freely for the salvation of mankind. ... It is priests who are called to perpetuate this salvific mystery from century to century. ... In the celebration of the Eucharist it is Christ Himself Who acts in those whom He chooses as His ministers; He supports them so that their response develops in a dimension of trust and gratitude that removes all fear, even when they experience more acutely their own weakness, or indeed when the experience of misunderstanding or even of persecution is most bitter."

"To believe in the Lord and to accept His gift, therefore, leads us to entrust ourselves to Him with thankful hearts, adhering to His plan of salvation. When this does happen, the one who is 'called' voluntarily leaves everything and submits himself to the teaching of the divine Master; hence a fruitful dialogue between God and man begins, a mysterious encounter between the love of the Lord Who calls and the freedom of man who responds in love."

"This intertwining of love between the divine initiative and the human response is present also, in a wonderful way, in the vocation to the consecrated life. ... Attracted by Him, from the very first centuries of Christianity, many men and women have left families, possessions, material riches and all that is humanly desirable in order to follow Christ generously and live the Gospel without compromise, which had become for them a school of deeply rooted holiness."

"The response of men and women to the divine call, whenever they are aware that it is God Who takes the initiative and brings His plan of salvation to fulfillment, ... expresses itself in a ready adherence to the Lord's invitation. ... Without in any sense renouncing personal responsibility, the free human response to God thus becomes 'co-responsibility', responsibility in and with Christ, through the action of His Holy Spirit; it becomes communion with the One Who makes it possible for us to bear much fruit.

"An emblematic human response, full of trust in God's initiative, is the generous and unmitigated 'Amen' of the Virgin of Nazareth, uttered with humble and decisive adherence to the plan of the Most High. ... I want to entrust to her all those who are aware of God's call to set out on the road of the ministerial priesthood or consecrated life.

"Dear friends, do not become discouraged in the face of difficulties and doubts; trust in God and follow Jesus faithfully and you will be witnesses of the joy that flows from intimate union with Him."

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Thousands march for life across Spain

Madrid, Spain, Mar 31, 2009 (CNA) -

Thousands of Spaniards gathered this week in Madrid for the "March for Life," which had as its theme, "There is no right to kill, there is only the right to live." The march was held in opposition to a plan to liberalize the country’s laws on abortion. Eighty seven simultaneous marches also took place in cities across Spain.

Speakers at the march in Madrid included Paloma de Cendra, member of the Right to Life Committee of Experts, and an expert on post-abortion stress syndrome; Ignacio Arsuaga, president of the watchdog website; and Dr. Gador Joya, national spokesman for Right to Life. Dr. Joya read the Manifesto for Life at the event.

Cendra, who for years has been helping women who have aborted, said she has yet to find a "single one who wanted to do it." They did it, she said, out of "fear, loneliness, abandonment, pressure, discrimination, and even threats." "Is this the free choice that some proclaim?" she asked.

"It is not true that this law is defending the rights of women. It is not true that this law will be best for them. Abortion goes against women. It is not a solution to a problem. It is the real problem. It does not make their lives easy. It makes their lives a Calvary," Cedra said. "You cannot solve an unwanted pregnancy with a solution that is even more unwanted," she added. "Let’s support pregnant women, let’s defend life," she said.

Ignacio Arsuaga of said the government’s proposed law is "profoundly anti-social because it is scornful of those who are weakest—the child—and the mother, who is left alone." He called on the government to withdraw its proposal for abortion on demand. "Yes, listen, Zapatero. This is only the beginning. We are going to stop the pro-death roller of the government. We are going to win the battle for life. This movement is now unstoppable," he said.

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Left-wing group in Spain voices support for right to life

Madrid, Spain, Mar 31, 2009 (CNA) - The left-wing political group, Solidarity, in Spain has issued a press release explaining that its leftist ideology has led it to defend the right to life of the unborn from conception to natural death, in clear opposition to abortion.

In its statement, Solidarity said, "We are socialists and we oppose abortion and its legalization. We oppose all attacks on life: the death penalty, torture, hunger, the arms race, war, slavery."

The group called abortion "an odious act of violence carried out against the unborn and against mothers."

The statement later indicated that "the womb of the mother should be the most protected place in nature. Society must also protect children and mothers before and after birth."

One of the members of the group, Jesus Berenger, 41, explained, "I am part of the left and the left before used to defend life, the weakest, but now the parties are driven by their interests. I defend the dignity of the person. I am against hunger, exploitation and abortion, which is murder."

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Colombian bishop says dialogue rather than military force will resolve conflict

Bogotá, Colombia, Mar 31, 2009 (CNA) - The president of the Bishops’ Conference of Colombia, Archbishop Ruben Salazar, said this week that military force has never been the way to solve conflicts in the world and that Colombia should instead take the path of political dialogue.

"We are convinced that this conflict will not be solved by force. These kinds of disputes are never resolved by the military," especially "in Colombia, where drug trafficking is present, which makes the tension unending," the archbishop told the Colombian daily El Tiempo.

He went on to point out that conditions in the country are different and therefore dialogue with the guerrillas is not doomed to fail. "The conditions have changed, and specifically the success of President Uribe’s democratic security effort has made conditions change. Dialogue can take place now, without abandoning the policy of democratic security," the archbishop said.

He acknowledged that currently "there is no chance" that the government and guerrilla forces will sit down for talks "because their positions are completely polarized." "One of the objectives we are seeking is precisely this: to create an environment for dialogue within Colombian society," Archbishop Salazar stated.

Regarding the humanitarian accord to free hostages, the archbishop said it would be a first step that must be "put into the context of a general solution to the conflict." "We must achieve an agreement that is not only a solution for the problem of the hostages, but rather is a solution for the entire armed conflict," he added.

"The country has learned that the guerrillas need to be kept on a tight rein, but there must also be dialogue with them. This is precisely what we are seeking: that the guerillas be forced to dialogue because they have no military future."

Archbishop Salazar stressed that the Church seeks to work for reconciliation and forgiveness. "The Church cannot remain marginalized in the establishing of peace for the country," he said.

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Retiring Cardinal Egan to host final show on The Catholic Channel

New York City, N.Y., Mar 31, 2009 (CNA) - Cardinal Edward Egan, the retiring Archbishop of New York, will host a retrospective covering his nine years in New York City in the final episode of his radio show “A Conversation with the Cardinal,” which will be broadcast on April 2.

The show will air on The Catholic Channel from 3:00 to 4:00 pm Eastern time on SIRIUS channel 159 and XM channel 117.

Cardinal Egan will look back at his years as archbishop, talk about his future plans and recall some highlights of his career, according to a SIRIUS XM press release.

He has hosted his show since December 2006 with Catholic Channel program director Rob Astorino. The cardinal answered listener e-mails, discussed a variety of significant issues and also addressed current events in the archdiocese.

The cardinal described his appearances on the radio show as “a splendid way” to talk directly with people from across North America.

“It has also been a great deal of fun,” Cardinal Egan said. “I’m grateful to the audience who have listened and asked so many interesting questions. Their comments and their support were tremendously inspiring and I will miss having the opportunity to be with them each week.”

SIRIUS XM pointed to the success of the show by reproducing a letter from a longtime listener who converted to the Catholic Church 12 years ago. The son of two ordained clergy in the Evangelical Friend Church (Quaker), the listener told how his father admired Cardinal Egan’s show and was particularly struck by an episode in which the cardinal defended the Catholic understanding of the Eucharist using a biblical passage from 1 Corinthians 11.

“I cannot thank you enough, Your Eminence, for the witness of authentic Catholic Christianity you have been to my father through the Catholic Channel,” the listener wrote. “I will be forever grateful and pray for you to have a blessed and productive retirement.

The Catholic Channel is produced by the Archdiocese of New York and SIRIUS XM. The channel says its mission is to entertain people of all ages with a “refreshingly unexpected approach” to matters of faith and spirituality. The channel aims to “educate, enlighten and inspire” adults of all ages.

Its website is located at

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Holy Cross Superior writes to Obama over Notre Dame invite

Bridgeport, Conn., Mar 31, 2009 (CNA) - Today Holy Cross Superior General, Fr. Hugh W. Cleary, released an open letter to President Barack Obama addressing the Notre Dame scandal and claiming that Obama has “made a mistake” on his support for legalized abortion. However, Fr. Cleary said that he is unable to rescind the invitation since Notre Dame is legally seperate from the Holy Cross order.

Opening his letter to Obama, Fr. Cleary explained the history of the University of Notre Dame and its founding by the Congregation of the Holy Cross, of which he is the Superior General.

Fr. Cleary was also careful to note that he does not have authority over the decision -making of the university, a power which rests in the hands of its Board of Fellows and Board of Trustees. He did say, on the other hand, that he exercises personal authority over all Holy Cross priests, including Fr. John Jenkins, the university's president.

The Holy Cross Superior General then congratulated the President for being awarded an honorary Doctor of Law degree and spent the next 13 pages of his letter addressing Obama’s support for abortion rights and posing the question, “How are we Catholics to participate in all levels of government without betraying our consciences?”

After complementing Obama's intellect and understanding of “the issues of our day,” Fr. Cleary then asked Obama not to “dismiss [Catholic] views too off-handedly, without giving them the serious attention and reflection they deserve.”

Already, said Fr. Cleary, many faithful Catholics “feel out of the mainstream” when it comes to our “nation’s direction and decision making.”

Brushing aside the idea that the Notre Dame outrage is “partisan politics,” Fr. Cleary said that he wants to “rejoice in [Obama’s] presence at Notre Dame,” but wonders how Catholics should “deal with [him], or any other government leader, who upholds what we believe to be the intrinsic evil of abortion.”

Fr. Cleary called on Obama to re-evaluate the “civil laws framing our United States cultural values” which see a human embryo growing as just “new tissue, a kind of cancerous, biological growth infecting a woman’s body and threatening a woman’s independent way of life.”

In a reference to slavery, Fr. Cleary said that the United States has a history of defining “parameters of human life when it suits our self interest” saying that slavery was a way of “denying that a black human being of African decent” was not fully human for the sake of “economic progress,” just like many argue an unwanted child could be for a struggling mother.

He also questioned how a Catholic should respond to a government and a president that are willing to support the Freedom of Choice Act, which would force faith-based hospitals to perform abortions, or deny health care workers their freedom to choose life. Obama’s logic would then make it “lawful to choose abortion but it [would] be a crime to choose life,” a postiion that Fr. Cleary believes would be a government “persecution of the Catholic Church.”

Pondering the possible passage of FOCA, he wondered if it would mean that Catholics should “flee to Canada in protest” or the desert as early Christians did to escape the “sinful society seemingly beyond conversion.”

The Pope’s visit to Africa, Fr. Cleary said, is another example of “Catholic bashing” and persecution of the Church by the “free press.” By focusing on a sound-byte by the Pope, instead of his entire “thoughtful and gracious answer” the “industrial news media complex” has shown it is more eager to “make news and money” than properly report and enforce the values. Cleary also said he feared that media owners have become the “new teaching hierarchy of the culture wars,” which the Catholic Church cannot compete with.

Drawing his letter to a close, the Holy Cross superior told President Obama that “[Catholics] want to be taken seriously. We insist on taking ourselves seriously, that is why there has been so much protest and turmoil in regard to your presence at Notre Dame.” He then offered a topic for Obama’s commencement speech: “how Catholics can be taken seriously for our faith convictions without being dismissed off-handedly and shunned.”

CNA was able to obtain the full letter Fr. Cleary sent to President Obama. To read the letter, please click here.

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