Washington D.C., May 1, 2009 (CNA) - The National Organization for Marriage on Thursday launched a new advertisement highlighting the efforts of some gay “marriage” advocates to characterize defenders of marriage as liars and bigots. The ad warns of the “devastating consequences” the establishment of same-sex “marriage” would have on religious liberty and claims proponents want to “silence opposition.”
The ad, titled “No Offense,” also refers to attacks on beauty pageant contestant Carrie Prejean, Miss California, after she expressed her support for marriage between a man and a woman.
Asked a question about same-sex “marriage” by Miss USA pageant judge Perez Hilton, an openly homosexual gossip blogger, Prejean replied:
“I believe that a marriage should be between a man and a woman. No offense to anyone out there, but that's how I was raised and that's how I think it should be.”
The National Organization for Marriage (NOM) ad reproduces that reply, as well as Hilton’s YouTube video calling Prejean a “dumb b----.”
The NOM ad also says the organization was attacked as “liars and bigots” for “expressing concern about how same-sex marriage would impact religious groups.”
It then excerpts an MSNBC Hardball appearance by Joe Solmonese of the homosexual activist group Human Rights Campaign.
Solmonese said “It’s no longer palatable in this country or okay to be an outright bigot. If you want to deny us these rights, you need to do it by lying and misrepresenting.”
The ad’s narrator then says:
“Gay marriage activists attack people for supporting marriage because they don’t want to debate the consequences of same-sex marriage. They want to silence opposition.”
It then adds, “some of the nation’s foremost legal scholars” warn that same-sex “marriage” can create “widespread legal conflicts” for individuals, small businesses and religious organizations.
The NOM web site presents a copy of a nine page April 20 letter to the Connecticut House of Representatives by law Profs. Thomas C. Berg, Carl H. Esbeck, Robin Fretwell Wilson and Richard W. Garnett.
The professors’ letter, referring to the book “Same-sex Marriage and Religious Liberty: Emerging Conflicts,” said “legal scholars on both sides of the same-sex marriage debate agreed that codifying same-sex marriage without providing robust religious accommodations will create widespread and unnecessary legal conflict—conflict that will work a ‘sea change in American law’ and will ‘reverberate across the legal and religious landscape.’”
The “No Offense” ad is the second produced by NOM’s $1.5 million ad campaign.
“Our mission is to protect marriage and the faith communities that sustain it," the group's executive director Brian Brown said Tuesday. "We want to highlight the very real effects on our liberties and especially on religious organizations, businesses, and individuals."
According to CNN, Brown said that NOM is concerned that those who oppose same-sex “marriage” are being cast as bigots like those who opposed racial integration.
The ad is viewable at the NOM web site http://www.nationformarriage.org
Washington D.C., May 1, 2009 (CNA) - A new poll from the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press shows a significant drop in Americans’ support for legal abortion, with 44 percent now believing the killing procedure should be illegal in most or all cases and only 46 percent supporting it being legal.
In August 2008 only 41 percent believed abortion should be illegal in most or all cases, while 54 percent thought it should be legal in most or all circumstances, the Pew Research Center said on Thursday.
The largest drop in abortion support was found among men. In August 2008 53 percent of men generally supported legal abortion, while in April 2009 only 43 percent did. About 46 percent of men said abortion should generally be illegal, an increase of four percentage points since August.
The percentage of women who believed abortion should be illegal in most or all cases remained steady at 42 percent, but the number of women supporting legal abortion declined from 54 to 49 percent.
The picture for Catholics appeared to be mixed, with Catholics surveyed by Pew in August 2008 more likely to say abortion should be illegal than those polled in April 2009, at a rate of 47 percent and 42 percent, respectively.
The number of Catholics who said abortion generally should be legal declined by two points from 49 percent to 47 percent. However, their numbers peaked at about 56 percent in mid and late October, according to two other Pew surveys.
According to the Pew Forum, support for abortion has “steadily declined” since August among white mainline Protestants, from 69 to 54 percent. Only 23 percent of white evangelical Protestants now favor legal abortion.
College graduates were most likely to support legal abortion by a margin of 58 to 33 percent, while those with a high school education or less were most likely to think it should be illegal, by a margin of 50-38. However, college-educated supporters of legal abortion dropped from 64 to 58 percent while the similarly-minded among those with no more than a high school education dropped from 47 to 38 percent.
Those making over $75,000 a year were most likely to support legal abortion.
CNA contacted the Pew Research Center for additional details and was told further analysis on the data had not been done.
The poll, which also asked about gun rights, surveyed 2,905 people in August 2008 and 1,521 people in April 2009. Pew claims a margin of error of plus or minus three percentage points for the general population surveyed in April.
Polls asking about specific cases in which a respondent would allow abortion tend to show more opposition. A Knights of Columbus-commissioned survey published in October 2008 reported that 72 percent of Catholics said they would limit legalized abortion to cases of rape or incest and to save the life of the mother, would permit it only to save the life of the mother, or do not believe abortion should ever be permitted.
The Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life also released on Thursday a poll on the religious dimensions of the torture debate. Though Catholic teaching condemns torture, the survey found that slightly more than half of white Catholics thought the practice can be justified sometimes or often, while only 47 percent said the practice can be justified rarely or never.
Scranton, Pa., May 1, 2009 (CNA) - In response to U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, Jr.’s “inconsistent” record on pro-life issues, Bishop of Scranton Joseph F. Martino, has said the Pennsylvanian Democratic senator should reflect on his actions and ask himself whether he should receive Holy Communion.
A Wednesday statement from the Diocese of Scranton reproduced Bishop Martino’s April 27 letter faxed to Sen. Casey’s office.
In the letter, Bishop Martino referred to his previous exhortation that Sen. Casey “oppose strenuously” Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius’ nomination as Secretary of Health and Human Services because of her pro-abortion record and her political relationship with late-term abortionist Dr. George Tiller.
“Despite his claims of being “pro-life,” Sen. Casey’s voting record thus far has been inconsistent,” the diocese’s statement said.
The diocese said Sen. Casey is to be “commended” for his initiatives supporting pregnant women and families and for his defeated amendment which would have provided conscience protection on abortion for healthcare workers.
However, his stand against the Mexico City Policy ensured American taxpayer funds support international organizations that perform or promote abortions.
“Neither the Helms Amendment nor any other U.S. legislation prevents that,” the diocese said.
The statement also mentioned his vote to appoint Harvard Law School Dean Elena Kagan as solicitor general. She has supported partial-birth abortion and opposed withdrawing funds from taxpayer-funded abortion clinics despite popular opposition. According to the diocese’s statement, Kagan is also likely to oppose the Federal Defense of Marriage Act and create the possibility for legislation recognizing same-sex “marriage.”
“Bishop Martino has communicated with Sen. Casey about these issues, and his responsibilities as a Catholic and a public official. The Bishop will continue to monitor the Senator’s positions and votes concerning life issues,” the diocese said, explaining that it is the bishop’s pastoral responsibility to instruct the senator about “these serious moral issues.”
“If necessary, future determinations will be made regarding whether Sen. Casey is worthy to receive Holy Communion. However, at this point Bishop Martino believes it is incumbent upon Sen. Casey to reflect on his actions and ask himself if he should receive the sacrament.”
Sao Paulo, Brazil, May 1, 2009 (CNA) - The Catholic Conference of Bishops of Brazil announced a new statement on priestly formation has been approved during its 47th Plenary Assembly.
According to a press release, the new document was passed by the 267 bishops present at the assembly. “This unanimous approval manifests the unity and communion of the Brazilian bishops. It also shows the willingness of the bishops to support and welcome the new directives in an effective way,” said Archbishop Sergio da Rocha, the president of the commission responsible for drafting the text.
The bishops said the new document would not yet be released. “It will be kept unpublished until it has been sent to the Congregation for Catholic Education in Rome for final approval. With some 300 paragraphs, the text is divided into three parts and was approved in its fourth draft.”
However, AFP reported that the document emphasizes “the requirement of celibacy for the clergy of the Catholic Church” and that “homosexuals cannot be ordained priests.”
The document also “includes recommendations referring to the sexual life of religious and criteria for discerning who is prepared for the priesthood, such as sexual maturity for maintaining celibacy, and the person’s motivation, in order to rule out that it stems from sexual identity problems or from fleeing from commitments such as marriage,” the bishops said.
Thus these directives would be in accord with the teachings of the Church, concretely following the “Instruction on the Criteria for Vocational Discernment in Relation to Persons With Homosexual Tendencies and their Admission to the Seminary and to Sacred Orders,” published on November 4, 2005, by the Congregation for Catholic Education.
New York City, N.Y., May 1, 2009 (CNA) - This week New York Governor David Paterson attended a gay pride rally and lashed out at religious leaders for opposing gay "marriage" saying they were "motivated by a five letter word: guilt." Catholic supporters of traditional marriage responded by calling the governor’s remarks "confusing, offensive, and just plain mistaken."
Paterson, whose approval ratings have plummeted to all-time lows, has recently deflected attention from the poor state of the economy in New York and begun to publicly push for same-sex "marriage" in the state.
"Where were these leaders of faith when college students of gay and lesbian orientation were beaten and often brutalized for expressing their feelings for each other?" he asked during a speech at the "LGBT Equality Justice Day" event.
The New York governor said that since "most of the religious leaders that I hear speaking out now did not do it at the time. Had they done so I think they would have better moral standing to speak at this moment on this legislation even though I disagree with them."
According to Paterson, many religious opponents are suffering from a "five-letter word: guilt."
He further went on to ask why religious leaders didn’t speak out in protection of homosexuals in the past, saying that they were silent when gays were "collectively blamed" for the expansion of HIV in the early 1980s.
Dennis Poust, the Director of Communication for the New York Catholic Conference, said that he thought Paterson’s comments were directed at the Catholic Church because the Church has clearly been the "most outspoken advocate in favor of preserving marriage."
Poust said Paterson’s remarks were "confusing, offensive, and just plain mistaken."
Contrary to the governor's claim that opponents of same-sex "marriage" were silent in the 1980s, Poust said that the Catholic Church in New York was "one of the first responders" to the AIDS crisis. "We’ll hold our record up against anyone’s when it comes to supporting the dignity of all people, including homosexual men and women" he said.
"The governor in his remarks, that was the most offensive thing, was the idea that we somehow didn’t do anything for people with AIDS," Poust said.
The Church was the first to react in the early ‘80s to the HIV crises, by establishing clinics and care facilities for people suffering from the "death sentence," he emphasized.
Then Archbishop of New York, Cardinal John O’Connor "would quietly volunteer in the evenings, late at night, when the city was asleep; he would be changing bed pans and ministering to people dying of AIDS. They didn’t have the medication back then, it was a death sentence, and it was a scary time, and the Cardinal led the way at the time, making it very clear that each and every person was a child of God," Poust recounted.
Other services and programs were established to care for homosexuals suffering from HIV and AIDS by the Missionaries of Charity and Catholic Charities to care for children and homeless people affected by the spread of the disease, "without questions [about] how it was transmitted."
At the time, recalled Poust, Governor Mario Cuomo "praised the Church for really being the leader in the entire state of serving those with this deadly disease."
The Church has consistently spoken out against the abuse of all people, including those of sexual orientation because those acts are "shameful" and "repugnant to everyone," Poust maintained.
"That’s what made the remarks so confusing," explained the New York Catholic Conference spokesman. "It’s impossible that he wouldn’t know what the Church has done and what the Church has said regarding the dignity of every human person."
Responding to Paterson’s claim that the Church is being motivated by guilt, Poust said, "The remarks are confusing to everyone. No one seemed to know what he meant. We certainly haven’t been motivated by any guilt feelings; we have no guilt over our position. Our position is based upon what’s best for society."
The Catholic Church, Poust said, has "always spoken for everyone’s rights: from the child in the womb, to the prisoner on death row, to the homosexual person, to the victim of AIDS, to the elderly. We don’t question the motivations" of the proponents of gay marriage, but offered that traditional marriage is a fundamental reality, and establishing gay marriage is not how you address problems with inheritance rights, or visitation rights, or any of the other rights that are so often cited and named for same-sex marriage."
Poust also said that the Church’s argument against gay "marriage" can also be a "secular one" because every study that he has seen supports the fact that children do better in school, live healthier lives, and become better contributors to society when raised by "both a mother and a father in the same household."
According to Poust, society is seeing the results of "causal divorce" from the '70s and the "out of wedlock children" of the '80s, as the children of this generation now have "all these [psychological] problems" and warned that if gay "marriage" is passed, we will see a "further devaluation of the traditional family" and the result will be a "disaster."
Washington D.C., May 1, 2009 (CNA) - Supreme Court Justice David Souter plans to retire from his seat on the country's highest court when it completes its current term, according to news reports. Hearing the announcement, some pro-life groups are promising to vigorously oppose any Obama appointee that does not support the right to life of the unborn.
Souter's retirement comes as a bit of a surprise since he is 69—younger than both of the other liberal Justices Ruth Bader Ginsberg and John Paul Stevens, who are 76 and 89 respectively.
Currently, the court has finished hearing oral arguments for the term and will spend the time between now and June issuing rulings and opinions.
Almost as soon as news of Souter's retirement hit the wires, speculation began about who President Obama would appoint to replace him.
At a speech to Planned Parenthood in July of 2007, then-Senator Obama explained to the crowd what his ideal Supreme Court justice looked like.
"And then there's another vision of the court that says that the courts are the refuge of the powerless. .... And we need somebody who's got the heart -- the empathy -- to recognize what it's like to be a young teenage mom. The empathy to understand what it's like to be poor or African-American or gay or disabled or old -- and that's the criteria by which I'll be selecting my judges."
Later, while on the campaign trail in Ohio in 2008, Obama further described this type of justice, saying, "I want people on the bench who have enough empathy, enough feeling, for what ordinary people are going through."
Observers note that since the president is likely to appoint a liberal to replace Souter, the ideological balance of the court will not likely change from its current makeup.
Troy Newman, president of the pro-life group Operation Rescue, argued that recent polling data showing a slip in public support for legal abortion means that Obama will have to be careful about where his nominee stands on the issue.
"Obama has been spanked over the past 100 days on the issue of abortion. There has been a growing grassroots opposition to his invitation to speak at Notre Dame, along with the Sebelius fiasco. On Wednesday he backed away from the Freedom of Choice Act, something he promised to sign as his first act as president, saying it was 'not the highest legislative priority,'" Newman stated in a press release.
Marjorie Dannenfelser of the Susan B. Anthony List pointed to President Obama's promise to seek "common ground" to work to reduce abortions and stated that choosing a nominee "who wants to enshrine the right to an unrestricted abortion in the United States Constitution would certainly be a step in the wrong direction."
Mexico City, Mexico, May 1, 2009 (CNA) - In a statement released this week, Archbishop Jose Fernandez Arteaga of Chihuahua, Mexico reflected on the health crisis facing the country and said the situation reveals that “we depend on God.”
The archbishop said while God “has given us the commandment to increase, multiply and care for the earth, we know that he continues to be the owner of ‘our’ bodies, of ‘our’ members and of ‘our’ health.”
The archbishop went on to recall that “the fifth commandment (Thou shall not kill) commands us to respect the life that we call our own and that of others,” and therefore “the precautions that we freely take are a way of manifesting the love we have for others, in order to protect their health and ours, and thus we fulfill the will of the Lord.”
Referring later to the cancelation of Masses on Sunday, the archbishop encouraged Mexicans to take time to converse with the Lord and with their families. The Church “asks us that on Sunday the faithful (in addition to the obligation to attend Mass) ‘abstain from work and activities that inhibit the worship of God, relish the joy that is proper to the day of the Lord or enjoy the due rest of mind and body.’ This will continue making that day anointed,” he said.
“I don’t want to suggest a particular ‘prayer’ or ‘form of prayer’ for these days with the Eucharist,” he added. “The prayer of contemplation, of listening, of expressing that which is born from deep within our being, will be a manner of celebrating the day of the Lord,” the archbishop said.
He also encouraged Catholics to make visits to the Blessed Sacrament and said priests should celebrate the Mass in private “that God might free us from this epidemic and its consequences.”
Washington D.C., May 1, 2009 (CNA) - While Catholics have mixed reviews regarding President Obama’s invite to speak at Notre Dame, research released by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life on Thursday finds that those who attend Mass regularly are more likely to oppose the invite. Less frequent Mass goers are more apt to support Notre Dame’s decision.
The Pew survey, which was conducted as part of Pew’s April News Interest Index which examines the public reaction to current events asks: “How much, if anything, have you heard about each of the following? Have you heard a lot, a little or nothing at all?”
The Notre Dame portion of the question is worded: “Criticism of Notre Dame by abortion opponents for inviting Barack Obama to speak at its graduation and receive an honorary degree.”
Similar to views of the general public, only 48% of Catholics are familiar with the Notre Dame controversy and only 19% know a great deal about it. However, looking at non-Hispanic Catholics who attend Mass weekly, 35% have heard a lot about the invite while out of those who attend Mass less, only 10% know a large amount about the controversy.
The follow-up question asks: “Do you think it was right or wrong for Notre Dame to invite Obama to give their graduation speech and receive an honorary degree?”
Also in line with the public, almost half of Catholics agree that inviting Obama was the right choice, 28% say that it was the wrong decision and 22% had no opinion. However, of those who attend Mass at least weekly, 45% say it is wrong for ND to invite Obama while 37% believe it is the correct choice. Of those who do not attend Mass weekly, only 23% say it is wrong and 56% agree with Notre Dame President Father Jenkins.
Pew reports that the numbers are not surprising because 54% of all Catholics voted for President Obama in the November election.
The survey was based on 2,003 adults over the age of 18. Pew notes that for results based on the total sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the error attributable to sampling is plus or minus 2.5 percentage points.
For more information about the survey, visit www.people-press.org.
Vatican City, May 1, 2009 (CNA) - Before meeting with Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican on Thursday, President Alvaro Uribe of Colombia attended a Mass celebrated by the President of the Pontifical Ecclesia Dei Commission, Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, who said in his homily that this visit “will mean peace for Colombia.”
During the Mass celebrated at the Church of Santa Ana, the cardinal pointed out, “We are here for a visit between the President and the Pope, amidst a Eucharist in which Christ is present: Christ is the Prince of Peace. We are asking the Prince of Peace to give us that which all Colombians need.”
“I have seen that the families of soldiers, of guerrillas, of poor families, of rich families, those who are at the highest levels of thought and at the lowest levels of work, we all need and want peace,” he added.
The Colombian cardinal also underscored the advances Colombia has made in the peace process and the efforts of the Uribe government in this sense. “They are known to all, their titanic efforts in the material, economic and social development of Colombia, that despite a thousand difficulties we are on the road to peace and progress,” he said.
President Uribe thanked the cardinal for his words and visited the tomb of the late Colombian Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Truillo, who was president of the Pontifical Council for the Family.
St. Meinrad, Ind., May 1, 2009 (CNA) - The world’s oldest Benedictine monk died in Indiana on Wednesday at the age of 108.
Fr. Theodore Heck, OSB, was a monk and priest of St. Meinrad Archabbey in St. Meinrad, Indiana. He was born in Chariton, Iowa on January 16, 1901 to Henry Heck Sr. and Margaret (Steinbach) Heck. He received the name Henry John at baptism.
He enrolled in the minor seminary at St. Meinrad in 1918 and entered the novitiate in 1922, St. Meinrad's Archabbey says. He professed his simple vows on September 8, 1923 and was ordained to the priesthood on May 21, 1929. He would have celebrated his 80th anniversary as a priest next month.
After his ordination, Fr. Theodore taught in the minor seminary. In 1932 he began graduate studies at the Catholic University of America, where he earned his PhD in education in 1935. He returned to Saint Meinrad and for over fifty years taught in the minor and major seminaries.
He served as director of studies from 1936 to 1966 and was rector of St. Meinrad School of Theology for ten years. During his academic career, Fr. Theodore was responsible for gaining accreditation for all of St. Meinrad’s schools at that time: the high school, college and school of theology.
For 17 years he served as subprior in the monastery and for three years was prior. A founding member of the American Benedictine Academy, he served as its first president from 1947-1957.
At the age of 70, he began 17 years of pastoral service as vicar of St. John Chrysostom Parish in New Boston, Indiana while continuing to teach on the college faculty.
The Office of the Dead was scheduled to be prayed at 7 pm on Friday in the Archabbey Church, followed by visitation. Visitation was scheduled to begin on Saturday at 8 am, followed by the funeral Mass at 10. Afterwards, burial will take place in the Archabbey Cemetery.