Philadelphia, Pa., Mar 21, 2010 (CNA) - The theme was “Be Reconciled with the Lord,” and the Men’s Spirituality Conference held March 13 drew more than 1,500 Catholic men of all ages, some even bringing young sons, to Archbishop Ryan High School in Philadelphia on a very stormy Saturday.
It was a full day of instruction, worship and sacramental healing, with 60 priests hearing confessions, culminating with the celebration of the Eucharist by Cardinal Justin Rigali.
This was the second of what is intended to be an annual event. “Last year we had 1,200; that was a strong response,” said Dominic Lombardi, director of the archdiocesan Family Life Office. “This year is even better.”
Cardinal Rigali complimented the throng at his liturgy, telling the men, “each one of you, despite the terrible weather, in your resolution you came here and opened your hearts.”
The Mass readings, those for the Fourth Sunday of Lent, could be summed up in two words, Cardinal Rigali said, they are “mercy and reconciliation.”
The readings culminating with the Gospel parable of the prodigal son were especially fitting for the conference theme of reconciliation. “It is such a magnificent presentation,” Cardinal Rigali said. “Beyond the prodigal son it is the presentation of the merciful Father.”
The day began with prayers offered by Auxiliary Bishop Robert P. Maginnis, who headed the planning committee. It continued with a keynote address by Norristown-born and Phoenixville-raised former Los Angeles Dodgers star Mike Piazza, who is now married with two daughters and living in Florida.
Piazza spoke of his own Catholic upbringing and of later temptations that come with fame and money. He experimented with the lifestyle that goes with stardom, dating the hottest models, living the good life and having fun, but very quickly found it wasn’t fulfilling his real needs.
“I started going to Mass regularly and reading the Bible,” he said. “True power is harnessing power not exploiting it. You have to have faith. Faith is the rudder that keeps us on the straight and narrow.”
Because he was not succumbing to the hedonism that so often goes with fame, he had to contend with printed rumors that he was homosexual, which he attributes to the devil’s response to his trying to live a Christian life.
In spite of his fame, Piazza does not consider himself a better man than anyone else. It doesn’t matter where one’s talents lie, “we are all equal in God’s eyes,” he said. “The real sin is not developing your talents to the fullest. I was an all-star, but that doesn’t me make a better man than you.”
While Piazza was speaking, California lay evangelist Jesse Romero was giving another keynote to Spanish-speaking men. His afternoon reprise in English proved dynamic preaching is dynamic preaching no matter the language.
“The power of confession keeps us humble, it keeps us dependent on the Lord,” he said. “The difference between the believing Christian and the secular humanist is, I worship the triune God — Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The secular humanist worships an unholy trinity — me, myself and I.”
Other speakers for the day included Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey, Father Daniel Mackle, pastor of St. Patrick Parish in Philadelphia, Edward Lis, archdiocesan Catholic Social Services’ director of Catholic Mission Integration, Mark Houck, founder of the lay group “The King’s Men,” Augustinian Recollect Father Luis Calderon, businessman Eustace Mita and former Philadelphia Flyer Don Saleski.
Mita, who also served as MC through the day, commented on the success of the conference. “(It is) a great testament to the need and the thirst of men out there to be together in the Lord. People know they are going to get a quality day,” he said.
This is something those in the audience would second.
Joe Griffiths of St. Timothy Parish in Philadelphia observed, “It was excellent and very organized. The guest speakers were so honest and sincere. They really knew what they were talking about, and there were so many ordinary, good people there — it was special.”
Printed with permission from The Catholic Standard & Times, newspaper for the Archdiocese of Philadelpha, Pa.
CNA STAFF, Mar 21, 2010 (CNA) - Today, the universal church celebrates the feast of St. Nicholas of Flue. During his lifetime, the Swiss saint had 10 children, became a hermit and later prevented a civil war.
Nicholas was born in 1417 near the Lake of Lucerne in Switzerland. He married at the age of 30 and had 10 children. In addition to his duties as a husband and a father, Nicholas donated his talents and time selflessly to the community and always strove to give an excellent moral example to all.
The saint was also able to devote much of his private life to developing a strong relationship with the Lord. He had a strict regime of fasting and he spent a great deal of time in contemplative prayer.
Around the year 1467, when he was 50 years old, Nicholas felt called to retire from the world and become a hermit. His wife and children gave their approval, and he left home to live in a hermitage a few miles away. While living as a hermit, Nicholas soon gained a wide reputation on account of his personal sanctity and many people sought him out to request his prayers and spiritual advice.
Nicholas lived the quiet life of a hermit for 13 years. However in 1481, a dispute arose between the delegates of the Swiss confederates at Stans and a civil war seemed imminent. The people called on Nicholas to settle the dispute, so he drafted several proposals which everyone eventually agreed on.
Nicholas' work prevented civil war and solidified the country of Switzerland. But, as a true hermit, he then returned to his hermitage after settling the dispute.
He died six years later on March 21, 1487 surrounded by his wife and children.
Colorado Springs, Colo., Mar 21, 2010 (CNA) - National officials with the U.S. Postal Service have overruled a Colorado post office’s refusal to ship materials critical of homosexuals in the military at a reduced rate for non-profits. The local post office had claimed the material was “obscene” and incited resistance against the government.
The Family Research Institute (FRI) had produced a four-page newsletter with research and an interview with a female enlistee recalling her experiences with homosexuals in basic training. It also advertised that its latest statistical report about “rapes in the military” were available for $25.
While the organization claimed local Colorado Springs officials refused to mail out the newsletter, U.S. Postal Service community relations official Ron Perry said they did not refuse to mail it. According to KKTV.com, the office would not mail it at a reduced non-profit bulk rate because they believed it violated guidelines stated in the Domestic Mail Manual for obscene content.
“We have mailing standards that we have to uphold," Perry commented.
FRI Chairman Dr. Paul Cameron countered that the content was acceptable.
"We're Americans,” said FRI Chairman Dr. Paul Cameron. “Where does the post office get off enforcing Obama's rules and thinking, on us, because we disagree with them."
On Wednesday the U.S. Postal Service Pricing and Classifications Board ruled that the mailing did not violate guidelines. FRI will be allowed to mail out their newsletter at the non-profit rate three cents less than the standard mailing rate.
The newsletter itself reprints a letter from retired U.S. Navy Capt. Lawrence R. Jefferis to Admiral Michael G. Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Capt. Jefferis, who served 31 years on active duty, warned about problems of sexual favoritism and misconduct.
He recounted that when he was executive officer of the USS Catamount in 1967, five of the ship’s Radarmen were exposed as part of a male prostitution ring. They told investigators that their instructors had convinced them they could augment their military pay by providing sexual services to homosexuals in San Francisco.
Capt. Jefferis also noted other requirements for enlistment and behavior, such as the Uniform Code of Military Justice’s proscription of unlawful cohabitation, adultery and prostitution.
“Minor criminal records are a bar to enlistment. Visible tattoos and piercings are not permitted. Are these aberrations more damning than sodomy? Is it your contention that cohabitors, adulterers, prostitutes, young men and women with tattoos, those with only GEDs, or the obese cannot serve as well as homosexuals?
“If we get to pick and choose which laws we uphold, which laws are next on the line to ignore?”
By way of example, he speculated that a serviceman or woman who has carnal relations with a minor could perform duties “as well, if not better, than a homosexual.”
The debate on homosexuals in the military flared again nationally on Thursday when retired U.S. Marine Corps Gen. John Sheehan, a commander of Atlantic-based NATO forces in the 1990s, testified about the issue before the Senate Armed Services Committee.
He said that European armies were weakened by “social engineering” and homosexual soldiers were part of that effort. He reported that the Dutch told him their homosexual soldiers were “part of the problem” in Serbian forces’ domination of Dutch peacekeeping forces in Srebrenica in 1995, where thousands of Bosnian Muslim men were massacred.
According to the Navy Times, Gen. Sheehan also cited the problem of sexual assault. He recounted how a male-on-male foxhole sexual assault in his unit during the Vietnam War had a divisive impact.
The general also told the Senate committee that seven percent of the 3,230 recorded sexual assault incidents in the Pentagon’s fiscal 2009 report on sexual assault were male-on-male. The Navy Times said this figure was closer to five percent.
Manila, Philippines, Mar 21, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Knights of Columbus in the Philippines are preparing to rally against the government’s pro-contraceptive campaign as lawmakers debate population control programs that promote condoms and birth control pills. One organizer said the program is “an immoral and misguided weapon.”
Last year thousands of knights filled the streets of major cities from Luzon to Mindanao. This year, protest organizers expect participation to be higher, the CBCPNews reports.
“We challenge the government to redefine its attitude to contraceptives,” said Alonzo Tan, the Knights of Columbus’ Luzon Deputy, whose group is organizing a rally in Manila.
He said he expected between five and six thousand protesters to march on this morning, though the size is still “difficult to say.”
The “Walk for Life” will begin with a 6 a.m. Mass at San Agustin Church, presided over by Bishop of Cubao Honesto Ongtioco.
Simultaneous rallies will be held by Knights and their allies in other cities.
The Philippines’ Department of Health has been advocating contraceptives and condoms to stop unwanted pregnancies and to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS.
“Like what others are saying, we believe that there’s no such thing as safe sex,” Tan added, according to CBCPNews.
“Widespread and indiscriminate promotion of condoms is an immoral and misguided weapon in our battle against AIDS.”
The Knights of Columbus is a Christian fraternal and charitable order founded in the United States in the late nineteenth century. It has 250,000 members in the Philippines and over 1.7 million members worldwide.
Vatican City, Mar 21, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) -
The Holy Father prayed the Angelus with the faithful in St. Peter’s Square today, their numbers increased by pilgrims taking advantage of a long weekend due to the Solemnity of St. Joseph. On the Fifth Sunday of Lent, he offered a perspective on the day’s liturgy in which Jesus condemns the sin and saves the sinner.
Sunday’s Liturgy offers the story of Jesus defending the adulterous woman from the scribes and Pharisees. Wanting to condemn her to death by stoning, they present the case to Jesus’ judgment, wishing also to put him to the test.
“The scene is loaded with drama,” said the Pope at the Angelus, “the life of that person depends on the words of Jesus, but his life does too.”
When the “hypocritical accusers” entrust the case to the judgment of Jesus, “in reality it is actually him that they want to accuse and judge.”
“Jesus, though, is ‘full of grace and truth,’” pointed out the Pope. “He knows the heart of every man, he wants to condemn sin, but save the sinner and unmask hypocrisy.”
Benedict XVI cited the observation of St. Augustine on the Biblical account. Augustine examined the meaning of Jesus’ bending down to write on the earth with his finger while under the insistent interrogation of the accusers.
“This gesture shows Christ as a divine legislator,” he said, alluding also to God’s action of writing the law with his finger on the stone tablets.
“Therefore, Jesus is the Legislator, he is Justice in person.”
Jesus’ words that call for the man without sin to cast the first stone are “full of the disarming force of the truth, that topples the wall of hypocrisy and opens the consciences to a greater justice, that of love, in which consists the full fulfillment of every precept.”
He added, “It is justice that saved also Saul of Tarsus, transforming him into St. Paul.”
As the accusers leave the scene Jesus absolves the woman of her sin, said the Holy Father, therefore giving her “a new life oriented to the good.”
This is the same grace, pointed out the Pope, that later influenced the Apostle’s words to the Philippians, “Just one thing: forgetting what lies behind but straining forward to what lies ahead, I continue my pursuit toward the goal, the prize of God's upward calling, in Christ Jesus.”
“God desires for us only the good and life,” summarized Pope Benedict. “He provides the health for our soul by way of his ministry, freeing us from evil with the Sacrament of Reconciliation, so that no one is lost, but all have a way of repenting.”
He continued with an exhortation to all priests to follow the model of St. Jean Vianney, patron of priests, in the ministry of Sacramental forgiveness, “so that the faithful rediscover the meaning and the beauty, and may be healed by the merciful love of God…”
The Pope concluded by calling for us to learn from Jesus’ example “to not judge and to not condemn our neighbor” and “to be intransigent with sin – starting with our own! – and indulgent with people.
“May the holy Mother of God who, exempt from every fault, is mediatrix of grace for every repentant sinner, help us,” he prayed.
After the Angelus, Pope Benedict recalled the celebration of the 25th anniversary of World Youth Day on Palm Sunday. He said he expects numerous youth at St. Peter’s Square on Thursday to celebrate the milestone in a special encounter.
Washington D.C., Mar 21, 2010 (CNA) - Leading pro-abortion groups such as the National Organization of Women (NOW), Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice America have harshly criticized President Obama’s decision to issue an executive order to reassure pro-life Democrats that there would be no federal funding for abortion.
The executive order was published by the White House minutes before Congressman Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) announced that he and his bloc of pro-life Democrats would be providing the missing votes to allow the health care bill to pass Sunday evening by a 219-212 margin.
During his press conference, Stupak noted there were only 45 votes in the Senate for his language. “We would all love to have a statute that would be stronger. We can’t get sixty votes in the Senate. The reality is we can’t do it.”
“This bill was going to go through,” Stupak said, saying he believed backers of the Senate bill had enough House votes before he and his pro-life colleagues decided to support the legislation.
To protect the sanctity of life, Stupak said, his coalition went for the “best enforceable” option and settled for the President’s executive order.
The order reads: “it is necessary to establish an adequate enforcement mechanism to ensure that Federal funds are not used for abortion services (except in cases of rape or incest, or when the life of the woman would be endangered), consistent with a longstanding Federal statutory restriction that is commonly known as the Hyde Amendment.”
The executive order requires the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to draw up in six months’ time a set of guidelines which states must follow to ensure that federal funds don’t pay for abortion coverage. Any such coverage under the state insurance exchanges to be created would have to be paid for by the person insured.
Before the executive order was announced, NOW, NARAL and Planned Parenthood had felt comfortable with the language of the Senate bill.
Paradoxically, the language also received the support of Catholic organizations such as the Catholic Health Association (CHA) and NETWORK, the latter being a group of some 60 dissenting Catholics, mostly sisters from older religious congregations. They claimed it was sufficiently “pro-life.”
However, Stupak’s successful pressuring of the president to promise an executive order drew a harsh reaction from the leading pro-abortion groups on Sunday afternoon.
“We are incensed by Obama’s executive order designed to appease a handful of anti-choice Democrats who have held up health care reform in an effort to restrict women's access to abortion,” said NOW President Terry O'Neill in a statement emailed to reporters.
“Contrary to language in the draft of the executive order and repeated assertions in the news, the Hyde Amendment is not settled law -- it is an illegitimate tack-on to an annual must-pass appropriations bill. NOW has a longstanding objection to Hyde and, in fact, was looking forward to working with this president and Congress to bring an end to these restrictions. We see now that we have our work cut out for us far beyond what we ever anticipated. The message we have received today is that it is acceptable to negotiate health care on the backs of women, and we couldn't disagree more,” O’Neill said.
Following suit, Cecile Richards, President of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, issued a statement regretting that “a pro-choice president of a pro-choice nation was forced to sign an Executive Order that further codifies the proposed anti-choice language in the health care reform bill.”
Nevertheless, Richards rejoiced at the fact that the president's executive order did not include what she called “the complete and total ban on private health insurance coverage for abortion that Congressman Bart Stupak had insisted upon.”
Pro-Obama groups such as Catholics United and Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good have also objected to the abortion funding restrictions on subsidized health insurance plans.
“So while we regret that this proposed Executive Order has given the imprimatur of the president to Senator Nelson's language, we are grateful that it does not include the Stupak abortion ban,” Richards continued.
Catholics United has agreed with Planned Parenthood’s argument that Stupak’s restrictions went “too far,” but that language was backed by the U.S. bishops and other pro-life groups.
In its statement on the executive order, NARAL said “on a day when Americans are expected to see passage of legislation that will make health care more affordable for more than 30 million citizens, it is deeply disappointing that Bart Stupak and other anti-choice politicians would demand the restatement of the Hyde Amendment, a discriminatory law that blocks low-income women from receiving full reproductive-health care. Today's action is a stark reminder of why we must repeal this unfair and insulting policy. Achieving this goal means increasing the number of lawmakers in Congress who share our pro-choice values. Otherwise, we will continue to see women's reproductive rights used as a bargaining chip.”
During the press conference announcing his last hour support for the bill, Stupak said: “the statutory language, we’d love to have it. But we can’t get it through the Senate. And we’re not giving up. If there was something we missed, we’re coming back with legislative fixes. These right-to-life Democrats, who really carried the right-to-life ball throughout this whole debate, we will continue to do that. We will work with our colleagues to get the job done.”
Stupak’s leadership has been praised by several media commentators as a turning point in the Democratic Party.
Commentator and former presidential candidate Pat Buchanan said on MSNBC that the executive order looks like “a tremendous victory” for Stupak and other pro-life leaders.
“For Democrats to have a strong pro-life contingent, which fights inside that party, and then comes out with a victory, I think helps the party because Democrats are known as a pro-choice party,” he explained.
Another MSNBC commentator remarked that Stupak's actions present a “very high profile” and a “new sound” for pro-life Democrats.
Nevertheless, according to Richard Doerflinger, Stupak’s deal will be useless in defending life.
“The statutory mandate construed by the courts would override any executive order or regulation … Only a change in the law enacted by Congress, not an executive order, can begin to address this very serious problem in the legislation."
Susan B. Anthony List President Marjorie Dannenfelser announced that the organization had been planning to honor Rep. Stupak at its third annual Campaign for Life Gala on Wednesday for “his efforts to keep abortion-funding out of health care reform.”
“We will no longer be doing so. By accepting this deal from the most pro-abortion President in American history, Stupak has not only failed to stand strong for unborn children, but also for his constituents and pro-life voters across the country,” Dannenfelser charged. “Courts could and have a history of trumping executive orders.”
Family Research Council President Tony Perkins said that “by offering an executive order as a so-called solution, President Obama is finally admitting there is a problem with a bill that will force taxpayers to pay for elective abortions for the first time in over three decades. However, there is no way that an executive order will protect the unborn or prevent the greatest expansion of elective abortion since Roe v. Wade.”
"President Obama and the Democratic leadership know that such a plan, due to legal precedent, will be worth little in the long run. Court rulings in cases such as Commerce of U.S. v Reich and Hamdan v. Rumsfeld make it very clear that such an executive order likely wouldn't survive," Perkins added.