Dayton, Ohio, May 9, 2009 (CNA) - If you think evangelization is a weird custom practiced only by fundamentalists, Mormons, Muslims, Jehovah’s Witnesses and other religious enthusiasts, think again! That was the message from noted Catholic author and apologist Patrick Madrid as he kicked off the spring season of Theology on Tap in Dayton on last month with a full audience of young adults.
Madrid’s talk focused on how to search for and “rescue” family and friends who are outside of the Catholic Church and to help them with prayer, friendship and common sense.
Jesus didn’t only call others to make disciples of all nations — He called Catholics, Madrid noted.
“The light of Christ has been kindled in our souls beginning with baptism,” Madrid said, “and it is the commission of lay Catholics to shine that light of truth, Jesus Christ, on others.”
He said that God calls Catholics to three important tasks: to explain the Catholic faith intelligently and to articulate it well; to defend their faith charitably; and to share the faith effectively.
“The goal of evangelizing is not to get people to admit that they are wrong but to bring people closer to the truth, to Jesus in His Catholic Church,” Madrid said, a charge that is more important than ever in an increasingly secular world.
“If we are going win souls back for Christ, we have to be willing to open our mouths and speak,” said Madrid, who suggested that evangelization can be done online through chat rooms and blogs or even such programs as Twitter or Facebook.
Madrid shared an experience he once had with a man on an airplane flight. A Muslim, the man spoke for almost an hour about his faith, and Madrid listened with genuine interest, even though he did not agree with much of what the Muslim man was saying.
“I showed him the courtesy of listening that I learned from the saints, and it paid off,” Madrid said. “When it was my turn to speak, he listened to me.”
A polite discussion of Islam versus Catholicism ended in an exchange of business cards. The two men swapped emails for a short time, the Muslim man sending Madrid a video on Islam and Madrid referring the Muslim to an apologetics website.
Although Madrid does not know what happened to the man, he does know that seeds were planted that day.
“Miracles of conversion are able to take place because we open our mouths,” Madrid said.
“If Catholics give in to the temptation of being relaxed and laid back, not saying anything when opportunities arise, there is no telling what occasion for grace may pass by us,” he continued.
Before addressing fallen-away or non-Catholics, Madrid suggested that Catholics study the faith so that they know it well enough to articulate it in an adult way.
He highlighted the fact that the level of knowledge of the faith of average Catholic is that of an eighth grader and theorizes that “by the time a young Catholic receives the Sacrament of Confirmation, their study of the Catholic faith has concluded. There is usually no more formal study of Scripture or of church teachings.”
Madrid’s solution to this lack of knowledge is to encourage Catholics to read one chapter of the Gospels and three paragraphs of the Catechism of the Catholic Church daily, noting that within one month people will notice a marked improvement in their understanding of the faith.
He said that Catholics don’t need to be theological experts in order to evangelize, but they must have a proper mindset towards evangelization and the people they try to evangelize.
“Our pride and arrogance can get in the way of the best laid arguments,” Madrid warned.
He reminded the audience to speak more to God about the person to convert rather than talking to the person about God.
“Recognize that the Holy Spirit does the true converting and that we are but tools of that conversion,” Madrid said.
Printed with permission from The Catholic Telegraph, newspaper for the Diocese of Cincinnati.
Rome, Italy, May 9, 2009 (CNA) - During the Papal Mass on May 10 in Amman, Jordan, Pope Benedict XVI will give First Communion to 40 Iraqi children, according to the Secretary of the Chaldean Diocese of Jordan, Msgr. Raymond Moussalli.
The SIR news agency reports that Msgr. Moussalli, who is in charge of welcoming Iraqi refugees in Amman, said Jordan children would be among the group as well. "Their desire is to pray with the Pope for reconciliation and peace in Iraq. It will be an important moment for us faithful not only in Jordan but also in Iraq."
"Everyone trusts in the words of comfort and support from the Holy Father," he continued. "Their desire is to see him in Iraq but I don’t know if or when this will be possible," the monsignor said.
"There is great hope among the Iraqi refugees in Jordan," he explained. "In addition, today a group of Christian and Muslim intellectuals from Iraq that live in Jordan have written a letter asking Benedict XVI to take note of the sufferings of the people and the Church in Iraq so that everything possible is done to stop the flow of Christians out of the country. The letter has been sent to the Nuncio," he said.
Washington D.C., May 9, 2009 (CNA) -
President Barack Obama’s 2010 budget plan proposes to defund abstinence-only sex education initiatives, prompting defenders of the programs to say the plan ignores their "significant success."
The state grant program for abstinence education that is proposed for elimination will receive $38 million in 2009, Fox News reports.
Administration budget documents say the President wants to redirect funding from abstinence-only education programs to "evidence-based and promising teen pregnancy prevention programs."
The budget plan claims the most positive results come from programs that "provide a range of services in addition to comprehensive sex education."
A Thursday press release from the National Abstinence Education Association (NAEA) charged that the proposal "disregards the growing body of evidence supporting the effectiveness of abstinence education." The NAEA claimed research shows a 50 percent decrease in "sexual onset" among teens enrolled in abstinence programs.
Its "Abstinence Works 2009" report cites 40 studies showing "significant success" or "positive behavioral change" among the young.
"At a time when teens are subjected to an increasingly sexualized culture, it is essential that common-sense legislators from both sides of the aisle reject this extreme attempt to defund the only approach that removes all risk. Members of Congress would be well advised to listen to youth and parents in their districts who overwhelmingly support these valuable programs," said Valerie Huber, executive director of the NAEA.
Phoenix, Ariz., May 9, 2009 (CNA) - A priest from the Diocese of Phoenix has been excommunicated for joining a breakaway sect, it was announced on Monday.
The excommunication of Rev. Chris Carpenter, who had been on leave from the diocese for three years, was issued in April but made public on Monday. According to the Arizona Republic, Bishop of Phoenix Thomas J. Olmstead said the decision came because Father Carpenter had joined an offshoot church, the Reformed Catholic Church.
Father Carpenter is banned from participating in Mass, Communion or other religious ceremonies either as a participant or a celebrant. He was well-known as the movie reviewer for the Catholic Sun newspaper. Citing health reasons, he took a leave of absence in 2006 after 10 years at Christ the King parish in Mesa, Arizona.
Rev. Carpenter, who is openly homosexual, has long disputed with the diocesan leadership over ministry to the homosexual community, the Arizona Republic reports.
In an e-mail to friends, Father Carpenter said the Reformed Catholic Church supports ordination of women, full participation of homosexual members and a married priesthood. He reportedly plans to begin a parish in California.
Rev. Gene Young, another former Phoenix priest excommunicated by Bishop Olmsted, is also a member of the church.
A third priest of the diocese, Monsignor Dale Fushek, was excommunicated last year.
Washington D.C., May 9, 2009 (CNA) -
As part of Heartbeat International’s "Babies Go to Congress" campaign, mothers brought their children to Congress on Wednesday to bring attention to the way crisis pregnancy care centers changed their lives and those of their children.
Heartbeat International is a faith-based network of more than 1,000 pregnancy centers around the world, CNSNews.com reports. Affiliate staffers helped bring many women and their children to the Capitol, including Dori Eddols of Columbus, Ohio.
Eddols, now 32, became pregnant when she was 17 and unmarried.
"We were not married and I got pregnant and so we went to a Planned Parenthood because I didn’t know there was a difference between a Planned Parenthood or a pregnancy crisis center," she said. "I didn’t even know there were crisis pregnancy centers."
Believing Planned Parenthood would explain her choices, she said she and her then-boyfriend Greg, to whom she has now been married for 15 years, went in to a clinic for a pregnancy test.
Though Eddols expected she would be called back into a room to hear her test results, a staffer came into the lobby and announced that Eddols was pregnant.
"She said, ‘OK you’re pregnant,’ right there in the waiting room," Eddols told CNSNews.com. "‘When do you want to schedule your abortion?’ I just turned to my boyfriend and said, ‘We gotta get out of here."
Eddols, who went on to have three other children with her husband, brought her 14-year-old daughter Jocelyn to the Capitol. She said her mother’s decision was "awesome."
"Crisis pregnancy centers are good for America," Eddols said, describing her message to Congress. "They are good for women. It’s not just about abortion versus pro-life. It’s about these are your choices. It explains what they are."
Joe Young, vice president of Ministry Support with Heartbeat International, told CNSNews.com that the non-profit group has no political action component. However, it facilitates visits to Washington, D.C. so that constituents can share their stories with their representatives and senators.
The mothers’ stories are "so powerful," he said. He described his hopes that informing Congress about the activities of pregnancy centers which help women and their families will prevent legislation that could harm the centers’ work.
"A lot of these members of Congress have a pre-conceived idea of what pregnancy centers are," Young said. "A lot of that was formed from the Waxman Report a few years ago that was very negative about pregnancy centers. So members of Congress thought that pregnancy centers were manipulative, the religious right and (were) scaring women."
Planned Parenthood has also attacked crisis pregnancy centers as "fake clinics run by people who are anti-abortion" who mislead and "scare" women into not having abortions, CNSNews.com says.
Young continued: "We actually get to bring clients and women who serve in these centers to meet members of Congress and say ‘Our heart is for women; it’s to serve women; it is not manipulative at all. We are going to lay out the truth about what we do and how we can serve you. And how we are going to serve you no matter what choice you make.’"
Young told CNSNews.com that pregnancy centers are clear about their opposition to abortion but offer post-abortion counseling for those who seek it.
The "Babies Go to Congress" campaign has produced a positive response from Congressmen. Some legislators said they had previously been ignorant about the work of pregnancy centers.
"When women share their stories about the situations they’ve come out of, what their choices were and the help pregnancy centers have given them, they’re overwhelmed," Young said.
The campaign’s next trip to the Capitol is planned for July.
Philadelphia, Pa., May 9, 2009 (CNA) -
Christopher West, a Catholic speaker on Catholic sexual ethics and the Theology of the Body, says the recent ABC television segment about him made understandable but "sensationalized" misrepresentations and distortions. In the interview, West was described as having as his "two big heroes" Pope John Paul II and Playboy magazine founder Hugh Hefner.
On Thursday ABC News published a story and a seven-minute video segment on its interview with West, describing him as "not your average sex therapist."
"As Christians, we are desperately in need of a renewed vision of our sexuality," West said. "The union of man and woman itself is meant to be here on planet Earth an image, a foretaste, a little glimmer of the eternal ecstasy that awaits us in heaven."
ABC named as West’s "two big heroes" Pope John Paul II and Hugh Hefner, reportage West later disputed.
"I actually see very profound historical connections between Hugh Hefner and John Paul II," West told ABC, which reported that West believes each man rescued sex from prudish Victorian morality.
According to ABC, West said Hefner had a "yearning," an "ache" and a "longing" for love, union and intimacy.
On the other hand, West said Pope John Paul II took the sexual revolution further in his "Theology of the Body" which taught that sexual love has been central to God’s plan for mankind.
West has sold more than a million copies of his books and more than 3 million CDs. Attendees at his retreats told ABC his talks "revolutionized" their marriages and their views of their spouses.
"Christians must not retreat from what the sexual revolution began," West said in a lecture excerpted by ABC. "Christians must complete what the sexual revolution began."
"We have to bring God and sex back together," he added.
CNA spoke with West in a Friday interview to follow up on ABC’s report, asking him to give his opinion on the report and to explain his view of the Theology of the Body and Christian marriage.
"The Theology of the Body is the vision of what it means to be human," West said. "The Theology of the Body teaches us that our bodies as male and female are a sign here on earth of the eternal mystery of the Trinity. Ultimately the mystery of the Trinity is revealed through Christ and the Church.
"Pope John Paul II says that, right from the beginning, the holy nuptials of man and woman are a primordial sacrament, a foreshadowing, a sign that points us to the love of Christ and the Church. Love is sacramental, revelatory."
He said it was "very important" to understand that the Theology of the Body is not only for married people.
It is "for everybody, married, single, or consecrated celibate, because it provides a vision for us of what it means to be human. That was very lacking of the story."
"The story [by ABC] sensationalized some of the sexual aspects," West said.
"Certainly the Theology of the Body provides a beautiful vision for us of marital love. But to reduce the Theology of the Body to its teaching on sexual morality, or to some kind of Catholic version of a sex manual is terribly missing the mark."
He said the ABC correspondents were generally "very professional" and "very interested" in giving a fair hearing to the Theology of the Body. However, the two hour interview and four hours of speaking footage had to be reduced to a 7-minute interview.
"I can understand why they put it together the way they did. They did a decent job," he told CNA, but his concerns prompted him to encourage people to read his articles and books for "the very important context."
Responding to ABC’s characterization of Hefner and Pope John Paul II as "heroes," West said the statement was not given proper context.
"I never said Hugh Hefner is a hero, never," he remarked, explaining that Hefner said he started Playboy as a personal response to the hurt and hypocrisy of Americans’ Puritan heritage.
"The point I was making with ABC was that we as Catholics agree with Hefner’s diagnosis of the disease of Puritanism, a fearful rejection of the body rooted in heritage of Manicheanism. Sadly, that very important point did not come out in the interview."
"Let the record stand very clearly: the pornographic revolution that Hugh Hefner inaugurated, the medicine that he suggested, proves to be in many ways more dangerous than the disease itself.
According to West, Hefner has remarked that he has never "found the love that’s satisfying."
"The man is just going to the wrong menu to feed the hungry," West said.
"We disagree radically, in that we do not agree with his remedy of the disease. Pope John Paul II provides precisely the proper remedy to a ‘Manichean’ or ‘prudish’ Puritanism."
In West’s view, Pope John Paul II was in agreement with Hefner that the body and human sexuality must not be rejected.
"The very, very important distinction is that Hefner began a sexual revolution of indulgence, of indulging libido, without concern for a proper understanding of the true dignity of the human being and of human love."
While the Sexual Revolution started people talking about sex, this conversation must be brought "into the glorious mystery of why God made us this way in the first place."
"We must redeem the body, redeem sexuality," he remarked. "That’s what I mean by ‘completing the sexual revolution.’ Only Christians can do that because of the work won through the bodily death and resurrection of Jesus Christ."
The Sexual Revolution led people away from a "prudish" rejection of the body, but also led people to "wallow in the mud."
"Now we need to take a bath," he told CNA.
These points were made in his interview with ABC but were cut for the section that was broadcast, West reported.
He added that Pope John Paul II "rescued" sex both from the "fearful Puritanism" in which many Christians are raised, but also from "the pornographic distortion of sex that is rampant in our culture."
West said a hunger for the true understanding of the human body and sexuality is implanted by God, but charged that Christians have placed themselves on a "starvation diet" that leads other hungry people to the "fast food" of pornography.
"Why was Hugh Hefner a successful ‘evangelist’? Because eating fast food is a lot better than starving to death," West said. "What Pope John Paul II does is, he shows us that Christianity is considered an invitation to the banquet of love that truly satisfies."
West also disavowed the characterization that he sees the Bible as "the ultimate sex guide," saying he never made such a statement and that the phrase can be seriously misunderstood by "our pornographic culture."
"The Bible provides for us a guide to learn how to love," West told CNA. "Our culture has such emphasis on the mere physical mechanics of sex… the Bible is not a sex guide in that context. Rather, it is an ode to love, an invitation to love as Christ loves."
He also issued a response to the interview on his web site, saying that he is not a sex therapist but an educator, author, lecturer, and faculty member of the Theology of the Body Institute.
Amman, Jordan, May 9, 2009 (CNA) -
Standing on the mountain where Moses was shown the Promised Land, Pope
Benedict XVI said “It is appropriate that my pilgrimage should begin on this
mountain,” which should remind all Christians to “undertake a daily exodus from
sin and slavery to life and freedom.”
Mount Nebo, where tradition holds that Moses climbed to see the Promised Land before he died, was the scene of a prayer service and the beginning of Pope Benedict's Holy Land pilgrimage earlier this morning.
A crowd of about 50 dignitaries, Franciscan religious brothers and sisters, and a handful of bishops gathered in the remains of a third-century church as the Holy Father led the ceremony.
Speaking to the group, Pope Benedict noted the fittingness of starting his pilgrimage “where Moses contemplated the Promised Land from afar.”
“The magnificent prospect which opens up from the esplanade of this shrine invites us to ponder how that prophetic vision mysteriously embraced the great plan of salvation which God prepared for his People,” he said.
“Like Moses, we too have been called by name, invited to undertake a daily exodus from sin and slavery towards life and freedom, and given an unshakeable promise to guide our journey. In the waters of Baptism, we have passed from the slavery of sin to new life and hope.”
The Holy Father also emphasized that Christians are called to welcome the arrival of Christ's Kingdom by “doing our small part, in fidelity to the vocation that each of us has received … .”
The Church has “long commemorated” the patriarchs and prophets, the Holy Father noted as he prayed that “our encounter today [will] inspire in us a renewed love for the canon of Sacred Scripture and a desire to overcome all obstacles to the reconciliation of Christians and Jews in mutual respect and cooperation in the service of that peace to which the word of God calls us!”
Following his address, those gathered prayed the “Our Father” and received a blessing from Benedict XVI.
Before leaving the mountain, Pope Benedict walked to a precipice overlooking the Jordan valley and gazed in the direction of Jerusalem for a few minutes.
On a clear day, Jerusalem can be seen from Mount Nebo. So perhaps this morning, when Pope Benedict gazed in the direction of the holy city, he thought ahead to his journey there on Monday. He remarked at the prayer service: “The ancient tradition of pilgrimage to the holy places also reminds us of the inseparable bond between the Church and the Jewish people.”
After speaking with members of his entourage, the Pope descended the mountain by car. As he went, he was greeted by wellwishers, local parishioners and a brass band comprised of Boy Scouts.
His next stop will be the new Catholic University of Madaba, where he blessed its cornerstone.
Amman, Jordan, May 9, 2009 (CNA) -
Shouts of “Viva il Papa” and “Benedetto” echoed through the Greek Melkite Cathedral of St. George as Pope Benedict XVI celebrated vespers and challenged Eastern Catholics to resolutely testify to the faith.
The hour and 30 minute celebration involved a procession with the Gospel, signing in Arabic by a 50-person choir, the gifting of an icon of Sts. Peter and Paul to the Pope, and a speech by the Holy Father.
In his speech, Pope Benedict encouraged the Church in the Middle East to persist in giving witness to the saving power of Jesus, despite the hardships they are suffering in several countries. The presence of Iraqi and other Middle Eastern Christians who fled persecution in their home countries was evidenced by the flags they waved to greet the Pope.
The Holy Father reminded those gathered in the cathedral that “(a)ll Christians are called to respond actively to the Lord’s mandate – as Saint George did in dramatic ways, according to popular record – to bring others to know and love him.
“In fact, the vicissitudes of history have strengthened the members of particular Churches to embrace this task with vigor and to engage resolutely with the pastoral realities of today,” he said.
As Pope Benedict exited the cathedral, the faithful swarmed to the center isle, once again wishing him a long life and chanting his name in Italian.
On Sunday, the Pope will celebrate Mass in Amman's International Stadium for tens of thousands people. Later in the day, the pontiff will visit the site where Jesus was baptized in the Jordan by John the Baptist.
Amman, Jordan, May 9, 2009 (CNA) -
Pope Benedict XVI told Jordanian leaders May 9 gathered at the Al-Hussein Bin Talal mosque that both Muslims and Christians face the challenge ofcultivating human reason in the context of faith.
Prince Ghazi Bin Muhammed Bin Talal delivered remarks prior to Pope Benedict’sspeech, noting that the midday event marked the first time in history a Popehas visited a new mosque.
The Pope’s 2006 Regensburg address, which became controversial because theHoly Father quoted a Byzantine emperor’s negative comments about Mohammed andIslam, served as a subtext to today’s meeting.
Because that quote was interpreted by some as the personal views of PopeBenedict about Islam, some Muslims reacted violently.
The Pope later clarified that he was only using the quote to illustrate apoint, not to convey his beliefs about Islam. Prince Ghazi said at the May 9meeting that Muslims appreciated the Vatican’s clarification.
After the warm and welcoming speech by the prince, Pope Benedict began his remarksby saying it was “a source of great joy” to meet with the prince and the otherdistinguished persons present. He said the prince’s numerous inter-religiousand inter-cultural initiatives were appreciated by the people of Jordan and theinternational community.
“I know that these efforts receive the active support of other members ofthe Royal Family, as well as the nation’s government, and find ample resonancein the many initiatives of collaboration among Jordanians,” the Pope continued.“For all this, I wish to express my own heartfelt admiration.”
The challenge for Muslims and Christians, he said, is to cultivate the “vastpotential of human reason” in the context of “faith and truth.”
“Christians in fact describe God, among other ways, as creative Reason,which orders and guides the world. And God endows us with the capacity toparticipate in his reason and thus to act in accordance with what is good,” heexplained.
“Muslims worship God, the Creator of Heaven and Earth, who has spoken tohumanity. And as believers in the one God, we know that human reason is itselfGod’s gift and that it soars to its highest plane when suffused with the lightof God’s truth,” Pope Benedict stated.
“In fact, when human reason humbly allows itself to be purified by faith, itis far from weakened; rather, it is strengthened to resist presumption and to reachbeyond its own limitations.”
This practice “emboldens” human reason and extends, rather than confining ormanipulating public debate, the Pope commented. Genuine adherence to religionprotects civil society from “the excesses of the unbridled ego which tend toabsolutize the finite and eclipse the infinite.” It ensures that freedomaccompanies truth, and it “adorns culture with insights concerning all that istrue, good and beautiful.”
This understanding of reason reminds Christians and Muslims that humanrights hold equally for every man and woman, “irrespective of his or herreligious, social or ethnic group.”
“In this regard, we must note that the right of religious freedom extendsbeyond the question of worship and includes the right – especially ofminorities – to fair access to the employment market and other spheres of civiclife,” he said.
He also addressed the idea that religions fail to build unity and harmonyand are an inherent cause of division whose place in the “public sphere” mustbe minimized.
“Certainly, the contradiction of tensions and divisions between thefollowers of different religious traditions, sadly, cannot be denied. However,is it not also the case that often it is the ideological manipulation of religion,sometimes for political ends, that is the real catalyst for tension anddivision, and at times even violence in society?”
In a situation where opponents of religion seek not only to silence it butto replace its voice with their own, “the need for believers to be true totheir principles and beliefs is felt all the more keenly,” he said.
“Muslims and Christians,
precisely because of the burden of our common history so often marked bymisunderstanding, must today strive to be known and recognized as worshippersof God faithful to prayer, eager to uphold and live by the Almighty’s decrees,merciful and compassionate, consistent in bearing witness to all that is trueand good, and ever mindful of the common origin and dignity of all humanpersons, who remain at the apex of God’s creative design for the world and forhistory,” Pope Benedict insisted.
He then praised efforts made by Jordan’s leaders to ensure the public faceof religion reflects its “true nature.”
Benedict XVI pointed to his Friday visit to the Our Lady of Peace Center,where Christians and Muslims assist and educate disabled children, and alsoMadaba University, where Muslim and Christian adults are educated side by side.
These initiatives should prompt Christians and Muslims to deeply probe the“essential relationship” between God and his world, to ensure that society“resonates in harmony with the divine order,” he stated.
Pope Benedict also acknowledged “in a special way” the presence of thePatriarch of Baghdad Emmanuel III Delly.
“The international community’s efforts to promote peace and reconciliation,together with those of the local leaders, must continue in order to bear fruitin the lives of Iraqis,” he said, expressing appreciation for those rebuildingIraq.
The Pope closed by saying he trusted his comments would create “renewed hopefor the future.”
“May reason, ennobled and humbled by the grandeur of God’s truth, continueto shape the life and institutions of this nation, in order that families mayflourish and that all may live in peace, contributing to and drawing upon theculture that unifies this great Kingdom!”
At a press conference following Pope Benedict’s appearance at the mosque,Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi again addressed the controversy overthe 2006 Regensburg speech.
He stressed that the Pope has delivered many speeches of relevance toMuslim-Christian dialogue since the “misunderstanding,” and said that those whowere able to receive the explanation now understand it, while those who don’t“will not understand it.”
Dialogue between Muslims and the Vatican is “going on very well,” hereported.
Fr. Lombardi also responded to a question about whether Pope Benedict hadtaken off his shoes at the mosque, in accordance with Muslim custom.
He said the Pope had not removed his shoes because the organizers found away to avoid this situation by laying down a carpet from the mosque entrance tothe lecture hall.
“But everyone was ready to take their shoes off,” he remarked.