Rome, Italy, Sep 8, 2010 (CNA) - Christian leaders in Asia are criticizing plans by a Florida pastor to burn copies of the Quran on September 11, saying Muslim radicals will use the incident as motivation for attacking Christian minorities in the region.
Pastor Terry Jones of the Dove World Outreach Center in Florida said he intends to continue with his plans to burn the Quran despite the consequences it may have for Christian minorities in Asia. According to Fides news agency, the president of the Bishops’ Conference of Pakistan, Bishop Lawrence Saldanha, strongly condemned the idea and said it was “contrary to the respect for all religions, contrary to our teachings, and to our faith.”
Nazir S. Bhatti, president of the Pakistan Christian Congress called on Jones to cancel the Quran burning, saying it would be used “by Muslim radicals as a pretext for attacking Christians.”
Likewise, the president of the Bishops’ Conference of India, Cardinal Oswald Gracias, urged Christian and Muslim leaders to issue a statement rejecting this act as opposed to the teachings of Christ.
In addition, the secretary general of the Indonesian Bishops’ Conference, Bishop Johannes Pujasumarta, told Fides that the Church will continue to pray “that nothing unpleasant happens in Indonesia or the whole world because of this irresponsible act.”
Exton, Pa., Sep 8, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Author and speaker Christopher West has ended his six-month sabbatical, saying he has come to see “a need for greater balance in my life.” He reported that he will address critics of his interpretation of John Paul II’s theology of the body, adding that some have been helpful while others continue to “misunderstand or misrepresent” his work.
“I would like to offer my sincere thanks to all those who made sacrifices to afford my family and me this time, and to all who lifted me up in prayer and offered written letters of encouragement and support,” West said in a statement on his website.
According to West, taking time for “deep, prayerful examination” and giving attention to his professional, personal and family needs have helped him understand “that we must never boast of anything except the cross of Christ.”
“Among other things, I have come to see a need for greater balance in my life. All who have been impacted by my lack of balance have been beautiful witnesses to me of God's tender patience and mercy,” West continued. “I cannot thank you enough.”
He said that after time with his family, spiritual direction and spiritual study, he is returning with “insights” he will share in an extended series of articles.
“These articles will also address the criticisms my work has received,” West explained. “My critics have helped me a great deal to refine my work over the years, and prayerful reflection during my sabbatical has shown me even more ways in which they have offered constructive feedback and advice.”
However, he said some critics “continue either to misunderstand or misrepresent my work in substantial and serious ways.” He pledged to do his best to address these criticisms “with love and gratitude.”
His statement concluded with a request for prayers.
Controversy over West’s approach to the theology of the body intensified after a May 2009 interview with ABC News in which West said he thought both John Paul II and Playboy Magazine founder Hugh Hefner had rescued sex from prudish Victorian morality.
Critics of West include philosopher Alice von Hildebrand, who claimed his approach ignores the “tremendous dangers” of concupiscence, and theologian David Schindler, who said West’s views can encourage a “dangerous imprudence.”
Chastity speaker Dawn Eden also critiqued West in a master’s thesis which argued that West risks sexualizing Christianity rather than Christianizing sexuality. Eden said in a September 8 e-mail to CNA that one of her main criticisms is West's account of the development of the virtue of chastity. The danger of West's approach, she explained, is that it denies the power of the Sacrament of Marriage to turn the imperfect virtue of continence into the perfect virtue of marital chastity. Instead, West claims that perfect marital chastity is a prerequisite for marriage, which, says Eden, is not what the Church believes.
West’s defenders include philosopher Janet Smith, who said his approach is a response to “the sexually wounded and confused” and has helped encourage repentance among those who view pornography, live together before marriage or practice contraception within marriage. In her view some critics of West are not fair to him.
Ave Maria University theology professor Michael Waldstein, who helped translate Pope John Paul II’s work, has claimed that critics have made “sweeping accusations” against a position West does not in fact advocate.
CNA STAFF, Sep 8, 2010 (CNA) - Christopher Stefanick, the Archdiocese of Denver's director of Youth, Young Adult, and Campus Ministry, has recorded a new video for Catholic News Agency, discussing the dangers that incoming college students will face as the school year begins.
A number of unprecedented challenges, Stefanick said, come with the new independence of undergraduate life. The experience of separation from family, friends, and previous parish communities, he said, was comparable to an animal being “separated from the herd” for the first time.
But while this independence is exciting and offers new opportunities, it also involves real dangers. Stefanick highlighted four key areas of life where college students must be especially careful in order to avoid compromising their futures and spiritual lives.
Credit cards, presented in an appealing manner and with attractive offers, “lead to so much financial pain and disaster in the lives of young people,” according to Stefanick. The youth minister explained how many college students overestimate their own finances and misunderstand what is being offered.
As a result, 19 percent of bankruptcies filed last year were by college students.
Stefanick also strongly warned against sexual promiscuity on campus. Between freshman year and graduation, one in four college students will become infected with one of the various sexually transmitted diseases, which cannot be reliably prevented by any means other than abstinence.
Besides the risk of infection or pregnancy, Stefanick warned against the lifelong psychological wounds left by sex outside of marriage, and the shipwreck of one's spiritual life. Explaining “how far is too far” in dating relationships, the youth minister offered a simple rule: “The moment you close the door, you just went too far. Keep the door open, you'll stay out of trouble.”
Drugs and alcohol, he recounted, also take a heavy toll on many students looking to relax or bond with friends. Stefanick advised that in addition to staying sober, new students should look for a reliable group of drug-free and responsible friends.
One of the most common difficulties in college is the onset of stress and depression. Suicide is a real danger in the college population, Stefanick noted, with freshman year providing some of the most stressful times of one's life. “Don't let shame isolate you” from seeking help from parents, trustworthy priests, campus ministers, or professional counselors, he advised.
Stefanick concluded his message by stressing the importance of developing meaningful friendships based on sharing and living the Catholic faith. Although it can be difficult to “find a new herd,” he said, it is the best way to avoid the dangers to one's present, future, and soul: “Everything can hinge on those friends you make in the first few days of being on campus.”
He encouraged students to connect with any available Catholic ministries, such as FOCUS missionaries or the college's Newman Center, or to contact the diocese if groups cannot be located, before arriving on campus.
With the aid of these resources, Stefanick assured viewers, students could thrive, rather than being “devoured” by the dangers of their new independence.
Bogotá, Colombia, Sep 8, 2010 (CNA) - The secretary general of the Bishops’ Conference of Colombia, Bishop Juan Vicente Cordoba, praised the government’s openness to dialogue and spoke of the importance of assisting the millions of Colombians displaced by violence.
The prelate noted that “openness to participation” by the government is “very positive.” “So too,” he continued, “is upfront, sincere and direct dialogue.”
Bishop Cordoba also spoke of the drama of the millions impacted by violence inside the country, saying it is important people see that those displaced are allowed to have their land back and are given assistance to re-establish their homes.
The restitution of land must be part of a government program led by knowledgeable and honest officials who can act with authority, the bishop said.
Vatican City, Sep 8, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - At today's general audience in Vatican City, Pope Benedict commented on his Sept. 16-19 visit to the United Kingdom, emphasizing his anticipation of the event and expressing his gratitude for the effort that has gone into the preparations.
“I am very much looking forward to my visit to the United Kingdom in a week's time and I send heartfelt greetings to all the people of Great Britain,” the Pope read in English on Wednesday.
“I am aware that a vast amount of work has gone into the preparations for the visit, not only by the Catholic community but by the Government, the local authorities in Scotland, London and Birmingham, the communications media and the security services, and I want to say how much I appreciate the efforts that have been made to ensure that the various events planned will be truly joyful celebrations.”
“Above all I thank the countless people who have been praying for the success of the visit and for a great outpouring of God's grace upon the Church and the people of your nation,” he noted.
Commenting on the beatification ceremony of the Venerable John Henry Newman in Birmingham on Sept. 19, the Holy Father said, “It will be a particular joy for me.”
“This truly great Englishman lived an exemplary priestly life and through his extensive writings made a lasting contribution to Church and society both in his native land and in many other parts of the world,” the Pontiff added. “It is my hope and prayer that more and more people will benefit from his gentle wisdom and be inspired by his example of integrity and holiness of life.”
“I look forward to meeting representatives of the many different religious and cultural traditions that make up the British population, as well as civil and political leaders. I am most grateful to Her Majesty the Queen and to His Grace the Archbishop of Canterbury for receiving me, and I look forward to meeting them.”
In his concluding remarks, Pope Benedict touched on the limited nature of his visit, saying, “While I regret that there are many places and people I shall not have the opportunity to visit, I want you to know that you are all remembered in my prayers. God bless the people of the United Kingdom!”
Madrid, Spain, Sep 8, 2010 (CNA) -
The Archbishop of Barcelona, Cardinal Lluis Martinez Sistach, underscored the historical importance of Pope Benedict XVI’s upcoming visit to the city, noting that the Holy Father values the Church of the Holy Family because it “corresponds to what a church should be theologically and liturgically.”
“The Pope’s apostolic visit will be an authentic gift from God to confirm us in our faith, intensify our hope and urge us on in love,” the cardinal told Analysis Digital.
Cardinal Sistach emphasized the architectural beauty of the “Sagrada Familia” or Church of the Holy Family—created by Servant of God Antonio Gaudi—as well as its rich biblical and catechetical significance. “The empty temple is impressive enough to all for its beauty, but I think that in order to contemplate it in all its fullness we must exercise its specific purpose: the celebration of the liturgy,” he said.
The cardinal announced that November 7, 2010, the day of the consecration, “will be an historic extraordinary event to which everyone is invited.” “The words of Benedict XVI come to mind, when he said, ‘When the faith is especially celebrated in the liturgy, it encounters art and a profound understanding is created, because both can and desire to speak of God, making the invisible visible’.”
During the interview, Cardinal Sistach also mentioned the Christian faith of Gaudi, “who had a copy of the book ‘L L’Année Liturgique’ by Dom Gueranger, the Abbot of Solesmes, on his nightstand.”
The Holy Family “greatly influenced the Christian life of this man of faith, prayer and daily Mass,” he said. “I think that this consistency between Gaudi’s architecture and his Christian life is very much valued by the Holy Father.”
The cardinal noted that construction of the church began in 1882, and while some exterior parts have not yet been completed, construction of the church’s interior was finished this year, making it possible now for the consecration to take place.
Guadalajara, Mexico, Sep 8, 2010 (CNA) - The newspaper for the Archdiocese of Guadalajara, El Semanario, warned this week that overcoming the confusion between anti-clericalism and secularism is a goal that is still decades away from being achieved in Mexico.
An article, signed by Father Maurilio Martinez Tamayo, offered a reflection on the vision of secularism that prevails in the country, amidst a barrage of attempts by government officials and political groups to silence religious leaders.
Fr. Martinez began by pointing out that Mexico has always been a religious country despite attempts to silence the faith.
Neither “the separation of Church and State, promoted by Benito Juarez Garcia’s legal reforms,” which stripped the Church “of her material goods and put her in a position of subordination,” nor “the civil war, caused by the drastic application of anti-clerical laws” were able to change the profound faith of Mexicans.
“Is the current-day secularism proclaimed and demanded by so many the overcoming of the spiritual divorce we have experienced or is the revitalization of the old-fashioned anti-clericalism that the rest of the world overcame a long time ago?” the priest asked.
“President Jose Lopez Portillo Pacheco explained to Pope John Paul II that Mexico was a ‘surrealist’ country, since as a religious country it had non-religious governments and, I might add, was governed by anti-religious laws,” Fr. Martinez wrote.
Today, the expression of this surrealism is evident in the anti-clerical and anti-religious spirit of the “secular state” touted by so many, he continued, adding, Mexico is a religious country that has been forced to wear secular garb that doesn’t fit. “When a religious minister expresses an opinion about the national life and judges the actions of politicians, just as any Mexican citizen can do in making use of the right to freedom of expression, the enemies of religious life launch threats against him for daring to raise his voice against the actions of officials,” the priest noted.
Today’s secular mentality needs to be purified “of the seriously grave error of seeing religion as something that must be put up with … without seeing the positive values, the human and spiritual dimension, that religions give to individuals in particular and to society in general,” Father Martinez said.
Vatican City, Sep 8, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Continuing his focus on the contribution of women to the Church, Pope Benedict XVI turned a second time to the medieval nun St. Hildegard of Bingen, whose life demonstrates that “women make a special contribution to theology.”
The Pope gave his general audience catechesis this morning in the Paul VI Hall, dedicating his teaching to a subject he began last week with a reflection on St. Hildegard of Bingen, a twelfth-century German Benedictine religious.
Speaking on the mystical visions that the saint had throughout her life, the Holy Father commented that “they were rich in theological content.” “They referred to the main events of the history of salvation and use a mainly poetic and symbolic language,” he noted. “For example, in her best known work entitled 'Scivias' (Know the Ways) she summarized the events of the history of salvation in thirty-five visions, from the creation of the world to the end of time.”
“In the central part of her work she develops the theme of the mystical marriage between God and humankind which came about in the Incarnation,” the Holy Father added.
“Even in this brief outline,” he continued, “we see how theology can receive a special contribution from women, because they are capable of speaking of God and of the mysteries of the faith with their specific intelligence and sensitivity.”
The Pope then exhorted all women “who undertake this service to do so with a profound ecclesial spirit, nourishing their reflections with prayer and looking to the great riches - still partly unexplored - of the medieval mystical tradition, especially as represented by such shining examples as Hildegard of Bingen.”
She was also interested in “medicine and the natural sciences, as well as music,” the Pope noted. "For her, all of creation was a symphony of the Holy Spirit, Who is in Himself joy and contentment.”
“Hildegard's popularity led many people to consult her,” the Holy Father recalled. “Monastic communities, both male and female, as well as bishops and abbots all sought her guidance. And many of her answers remain valid, even for us.”
“With the spiritual authority she possessed, in the last years of her life Hildegard began to travel,” the Pope recounted. “She was considered to be a messenger sent by God, in particular calling monastic communities and clergy to a life in conformity with their vocation. Hildegard especially opposed the German Cathar movement.”
“The Cathars - their name literally means 'pure' - supported radical reform of the Church, principally to combat clerical abuses,” he explained. “She reprimanded them fiercely, accusing them of wanting to subvert the very nature of the Church and reminding them that the true renewal of the ecclesial community is not obtained by changing structures so much as by a sincere spirit of penance and a fruitful journey of conversion.”
“This is a message we must never forget,” the Holy Father emphasized.
In his concluding remarks, the Pontiff said: “Let us always invoke the Holy Spirit that He may bring saintly and courageous women to the Church, like St. Hildegard of Bingen, who using the gifts received from God, may make their precious and specific contribution to the spiritual growth of our communities.”
Vatican City, Sep 8, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Although the charismatic Christian church planning a Koran burning on Sept. 11 only has around 50 members, the spectre of the impact on Muslim relations led the Vatican's Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue to issue a statement today expressing its “great concern” over the plan and stating that “deplorable acts of violence … cannot be counteracted” by burning another religion's sacred book.
The communique from the pontifical council began by noting that the proposed “Koran Burning Day” is scheduled for the anniversary of “the 11 September tragic terrorist attacks in 2001 which resulted in the loss of many innocent lives and considerable material damage.”
Expressing its great concern, the council said, "These deplorable acts of violence, in fact, cannot be counteracted by an outrageous and grave gesture against a book considered sacred by a religious community.”
The council for inter-religious dialogue also stated that religious freedom is a factor in the situation. “Each religion, with its respective sacred books, places of worship and symbols, has the right to respect and protection. We are speaking about the respect to be accorded the dignity of the person who is an adherent of that religion and his/her free choice in religious matters.”
Instead of outrageous ceremonies, the council suggested that September 11 would be much better observed by first offering “our deep sentiments of solidarity with those who were struck by these horrendous terrorist attacks” and then praying for them and their loved ones who lost their lives.
"Each religious leader and believer is also called to renew the firm condemnation of all forms of violence, in particular those committed in the name of religion,” the council affirmed.
Quoting from John Paul II's 1999 address to the ambassador of Pakistan, the council insisted, “Recourse to violence in the name of religious belief is a perversion of the very teachings of the major religions.” Pope Benedict XVI similarly expressed in 2006, “violence as a response to offences can never be justified, for this type of response is incompatible with the sacred principles of religion.”
Madison, Wis., Sep 8, 2010 (CNA) - In advance of the 2010 elections, the five Catholic bishops of Wisconsin have written a letter to provide Catholics a “framework” of Catholic social teaching to help them form their consciences in evaluating candidates and public policies. The letter called the right to life the “most essential” right.
The bishops’ Sept. 1 letter emphasized four themes: the right to life, the protection of marriage, assistance for the poor, and the protection of the environment.
“First and foremost, the right to life of every human person – from conception to natural death – is the primary and thus most essential of all human rights,” the letter stated. Both faith and reason confirm that human life is not a “privilege” but a “right” that society must protect.
“As Christians, we are called to witness to an authentic ‘human ecology’ which safeguards all human life – no matter how frail or impaired – from being manipulated or destroyed,” the bishops explained.
Discussing marriage as God’s established foundation of the family and the “vital cell of society,” the bishops said that marriage is a social as well as a sacred good that government needs to recognize and encourage. “Marriage promotes the interest of children who need the constant love, attention, and guidance of their mothers and fathers to reach their fullest potential,” they explained.
A “consistent life ethic” also means recognizing God’s special love for the poor and all those in distress, they continued, citing Matthew 25. They also quoted Pope John Paul II’ s encyclical “Centesimus Annus” which noted the need to change lifestyles and the structures of power to help the marginalized succeed economically and develop as people.
“Our natural resources are gifts from God and we are all responsible for protecting them,” the bishops added, noting that the wise use of natural resources will give everyone “the opportunity to thrive.”
The bishops’ letter recognized the need for unity on essential matters of Church doctrine as well as the disagreement possible about non-essentials or about the means of pursuing true goods.
“All of us, however, bear witness to Our Lord Jesus Christ when, in the midst of our vigorous debates, we demonstrate charity and respect for one another,” the bishops commented. “Being a faithful citizen is never easy. Yet, if Catholics continue to remain engaged, not just politically but also culturally, there is so much good that we will contribute to our nation and to our world.”
They said they wrote not to endorse candidates or to impose doctrinal beliefs but to assist the laity’s role as citizens to “bring the love and truth of Jesus Christ into a world where these are so dearly needed.”
The letter was signed by Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki of Milwaukee; Bishop Robert C. Morlino of Madison; Bishop Peter F. Christensen of Superior; Bishop David L. Ricken of Green Bay; and Bishop William P. Callahan of La Crosse.
While federal tax rules prohibit churches from endorsing or opposing specific candidates’ election, they may speak for or against specific legislation or positions.
CNA STAFF, Sep 8, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - The retired Cardinal Archbishop of Washington, D.C., Theodore McCarrick, and the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights' president Bill Donohue, have added their voices in opposition to a Florida pastor's plan to burn the Quran publicly on September 11, 2010. Both men agree that such actions misrepresent America and present a false image of Christianity.
While pastor Terry Jones of the Dove World Outreach Center says that his intention in burning the book is to raise “hard questions” about its content and the nature of Islam, Cardinal McCarrick and Bill Donohue – along with many representatives of other religions - have concurred with the sharp warnings expressed by General David Petraeus, the top U.S. general in Afghanistan.
General Petraeus stated on Tuesday that he believes a public burning of the Quran would endanger Americans abroad, particularly those serving in the military. Images of the planned event at the Dove World Outreach Center, Petraeus warned, would be used in propaganda intended to recruit terrorists and incite anti-American violence for years to come.
Speaking for the Catholic League, Bill Donohue compared the small evangelical group's planned actions to those of homosexual protestors, who burned a Bible in 1998 to protest an appearance of the conservative Catholic political figure Pat Buchanan.
The comparison by the Catholic League's president did not imply an equivalence of the Bible with the Quran, but rather suggested that both forms of protest were incoherent and irresponsible forms of “agitprop.” Donohue stressed that pastor Jones “must be unequivocally condemned” for actions that would only “inflame passions” and promote a “twisted understanding of Christianity.”
“There are plenty of legitimate ways to protest the wrongdoing that took place on September 11, 2001,” Donohue concluded. “Burning copies of the Koran is not one of them.”
Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, the former Archbishop of Washington, D.C., voiced his own criticisms of the planned demonstration at a press conference for various religious leaders hosted by the Islamic Society of North America. Religious leaders, the cardinal said, “cannot stand by in silence when things like this are happening.”
Noting the contributions to the common good made by many non-violent Muslims in America, he said the burning of the Quran would be felt as a personal insult by many who are “playing a role in our society which is constructive and which is excellent.”
The cardinal emphasized the importance of not alienating Muslims through an incorrect representation of the Gospel message. Instead, he suggested, “I think we have to reach out to them, and say, 'Look, we're happy you're here. We love you.'”
The message that would be conveyed through the burning of the Quran, he stressed, would not correctly represent either the Christian faith or “the real America.”
America, the Cardinal remarked, should be known around the world not for opposition to a particular religion, but for protection of religious liberty, promotion of the common good, and a climate of love for one's neighbor. “America was not built on hatred,” he emphasized. “America was built on love.”
Elkton, Md., Sep 8, 2010 (CNA) - A four-state abortion business is under investigation after an abortionist allegedly critically injured a woman during an abortion and used a private car rather than an ambulance to take her to a hospital. The business has a habit of moving late-term patients across state lines. Police also removed 35 late-term fetuses or their parts from one facility.
Steven Brigham, 54, would initiate abortion procedures at his Voorhees, New Jersey abortion clinic and then lead a caravan to his facility in Elkton, Maryland to continue the abortions. When one 18-year-old woman suffered a critical uterine perforation during surgery at the Elkton branch, the bleeding, semiconscious woman was put into the back of a rented Chevrolet Malibu and driven to a nearby hospital emergency room, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports.
According to medical board documents, Brigham and the responsible abortionist Nicola Riley originally contemplated taking the patient by wheelchair to the hospital about two blocks away. The two abortionists reportedly dodged questions “about who they were, what had happened, and from where they had come.”
The patient’s injuries were so complicated that she had to be flown by helicopter to Johns Hopkins Hospital. Riley “returned to the Elkton office … to perform another abortion,” the documents report.
The Maryland Board of Physicians and Elkton police are investigating Brigham’s abortion business, American Women’s Services, which has clinics in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia.
On Aug. 25 the Maryland Board of Physicians ordered Brigham to stop performing abortions in its state, where he has never been licensed to practice medicine, the Associated Press reports. The Board also suspended the licenses of Riley and George Shepard Jr., who ordered medication for AWS’ Maryland facilities and took part in the arrangement of starting abortions in one state and having patients drive across state lines to complete the killing procedure.
Police who raided the Elkton facility removed 35 “late-term fetuses and fetal parts.” The remains were frozen and records showed fetal ages of up to 36 weeks, two weeks short of full-term.
The police also raided the Voorhees, N.J. headquarters of the 15-clinic abortion chain.