South Bend, Ind., Sep 10, 2010 (CNA) - As the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy's famous Houston speech on his Catholicism approaches, Prof. Michael McConnell gave a talk at the University of Notre Dame on Friday, discussing both the positive and negative effects of the late president's words. While JFK's address may have won a “great victory” for Catholics against a social climate of bigotry, the legal expert also argued that the president's 1960 speech distancing himself from his faith contributed to the belief that churches are “irrelevant to public affairs.”
Former federal judge Michael McConnell gave his remarks in a discussion titled “Remind Me: Why Did Anyone Care if JFK was a Catholic?” on Sept. 10 in the auditorium of the Hesburgh Center for International Studies. In addition to being a former federal judge, McConnell serves as the Richard and Frances Mallery Professor of Law at Stanford University, and is a leading expert on constitutional law.
McConnell began his talk on Friday by saying, President John F. Kennedy's address “has gone down in history as one of the finest and most effective speeches ever made by a candidate for President of the United States.”
“It addressed the critics’ most powerful fear: that Catholic officeholders would follow the instructions of the Catholic hierarchy on matters of public policy such as birth control, divorce, education, or foreign policy – either because they regarded the church as having final authority on matters touching morality or because of threats of excommunication.”
“By assuring his audience that he would use his own independent judgment, Kennedy largely put that concern to rest,” he noted.
“Even so, one might find some of his language ... excessive,” McConnell said. “He is the Democratic Party’s candidate for President, who 'happens also to be a Catholic.'”
“Happens also to be a Catholic. Does anyone else find those words jarring?”
Continuing his analysis, McConnell recalled, “Senator Kennedy says that religion is his 'private affair,' apparently irrelevant to his public service. That is why it is so unfair for people to be asking these questions instead of focusing on the 'real issues.'”
However, McConnell asked, would the soon-to-be president “say the same about other important associations?”
“What if he belonged to NRA, or the Sierra Club, or Council on Foreign Relations? Or any other group that takes positions on matters of public import? Is it unfair for voters to inquire how these memberships might reflect or influence his public life? Why is religion different?”
“Kennedy appears to be saying,” McConnell noted, “that religious associations are private in a sense that other associations are not. That must be because churches are irrelevant to public affairs in a way that other associations are not.”
“This brings me to my first reservation about Kennedy’s speech: It is entirely negative and defensive. He tells us why we should not vote against him because of his Catholicism. He does not offer any hint of a reason why his Catholicism might be an attractive feature even to some non-Catholics.”
“On every issue he mentions in the speech, with one possible exception,” the judge asserted, “Kennedy distances himself from positions of the Catholic Church.”
“Was there nothing in the social teaching of the Church to which Kennedy could point with pride and approval? You would never know, from Kennedy’s speech, for example, that the Catholic Church was leading the way on the issue of racial segregation, and had been a strong and early supporter of labor unions.”
Kennedy's faith would have also influenced his stance on abortion, which was starting to become a contentious issue in 1960, said McConnell.
If “an unborn child is in fact a person, a child of God, as the Catholic Church teaches, how can that fail to affect an official’s view of proper public policy? The most fundamental commitment of the social compact is the protection of all persons, and especially the weak, from private violence.”
“I would think Kennedy’s audience would like to know whether and how Church teaching on such matters might relate to what his conscience teaches him to be the national interest. He might have found his evangelical listeners receptive to the message. It might have suggested to them an affirmative reason, grounded in the public good, to doubt that religious beliefs should be regarded as purely private.”
“More broadly,” McConnell added, “the emphasis of Catholic social thought for the past several hundred years has been on the importance of the common good – a rejection of both the radical individualism of liberal capitalism and the totalitarianism of socialism and communism.”
Addressing Kennedy’s remarks on absolute separation between church and state, McConnell recalled the late president saying that no Catholic prelate “may tell the president how to act, and no Protestant minister may tell his parishioners how to vote.”
“Is that really what the First Amendment means?” McConnell asked. “I would have thought the opposite: Catholic prelates may tell the president whatever they wish and Protestant ministers the same. It is, of course, up to officeholders and voters what weight to give these pronouncements.”
For example, look at the website of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said McConnell, which gives no shortage of commentary from bishops on all topics relevant today's society. “It is hard to believe Kennedy thought there is anything amiss about that,” he noted.
Ultimately, said McConnell, we “should not underestimate the importance” of JFK's Houston speech. “By running forthrightly, and not apologizing for his Catholicism, and winning, and showing himself to the world as a President of whom we all can be proud, John F. Kennedy won a great victory for inclusion and against bigotry,” he said.
However, “note the way in which he reduced religious belief to accident of birth, or more specifically, to baptism. The question, I would submit, was not whether 40 million Americans baptized into a certain religion are excluded from the presidency, but whether however many millions of Americans who believe in the tenets of their faith are excluded from proper political participation.”
Madrid, Spain, Sep 10, 2010 (CNA) - Bishop Demetrio Fernandez of Cordoba in Spain said this week that with the increase in abortions, a mother's womb “has become the most danger place for survival.”
During a Mass celebrating Our Lady of Fuensanta, Bishop Fernandez expressed his concern for the ease with which women can obtain abortions, while “they are offered nothing to help them continue their pregnancy.”
“Women have once again become victims of a selfish society,” he added, with “many feeling obliged to carry out this act which they will regret for the rest of their lives.”
Bishop Fernandez said women must look to Mary, whose womb “became a holy fountain of life that gave birth to Jesus, the savior Son.” The prelate also referred to the constant attacks on religious traditions “in an age in which pluralism is being fostered.”
“They cannot hurt us Christians,” he said. “They may take our lives, but never our faith.”
Vatican City, Sep 10, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - As the Vatican's spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi held a press briefing today on the Pope's upcoming U.K. visit, he explained that there is much more to the Holy Father's schedule than what is mentioned in the official itinerary. The additional details include a welcome by bagpipers in Scotland, a gathering with young people and a possible meeting with sex abuse victims.
Fr. Federico Lombardi held a press conference on Friday in which he highlighted major events, and listed some interesting and, perhaps, lesser known elements to be included in the Pope's Sept. 16-19 journey.
On the first day, next Thursday, the Holy Father will meet Queen Elizabeth II at her summer residence near Edinburgh. Fr. Lombardi confirmed that to mark his arrival and the coinciding celebration of St. Ninian's Day, hundreds of bagpipers will parade and play their instruments in the streets. Mass will be held in Glasgow that evening, after which the Pope will head to the Apostolic Nunciature in London, where he will stay for all three nights.
The following day, Fr. Lombardi said that Benedict XVI's "very intense and very rich" schedule will include ceremony to mark the 70th anniversary of the bombing of London by Nazi Germany and a meeting with four former prime ministers—Margaret Thatcher, John Major, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown—after a meeting with civil society in Westminster Hall.
Later, although the Pope will not take part, Fr. Lombardi said a dinner will be held so religious, civil and political leaders can meet to speak of matters of "common interest." The conversations will include the themes of climate change, education, disarmament/non-proliferation, health and the future of Europe.
On Saturday, after Mass at Westminster Cathedral in the morning, the Holy Father will meet with young people and Catholic pilgrims from Wales. The recitation of the evening prayer later in Hyde Park is being held by special decree from the local government - normally the city does not allow religious celebrations there. These "vespers," said the spokesman, usher in the start of "the Newman event."
Commenting on the final day of the visit, Fr. Lombardi highlighted that organizers were fortunate to have use of Cofton Park for Cardinal Newman's beatification. It was an "optimal solution" for the question of where to hold the Mass because it's located near Cardinal Newman's grave at Rednal and is also much more aesthetically agreeable for a religious celebration than the Coventry Airport.
Fr. Lombardi said that there will be other encounters, which are not traditionally announced on the schedule. Among possible audiences, he said, could be a meeting with victims of sexual abuse by clergy.
San José, Costa Rica, Sep 10, 2010 (CNA) - The Bishops’ Conference of Costa Rica has sent a message to the country’s lawmakers noting that it is an injustice to sacrifice the common good and the rights of the family in response to pressure from those who support making gay unions equal to marriage.
“Marriage is not just any union between two human beings,” they stated, explaining that it was “founded by the Creator, who gave it a particular nature...and an undeniable purpose.” For this reason, the bishops said, they oppose all measures aiming “to make same-sex unions equal to marriage.
“The legalization of such unions distorts the understanding of fundamental moral values and undermines the institution of marriage as such.”
“In making same-sex unions equal to marriage or the family under the law, the state is acting arbitrarily and is contradicting its own duties,” the bishops continued.
They stressed that “men and women with homosexual tendencies must be treated with respect and must not be subject to discrimination.” However, the bishops then reaffirmed the Church’s teaching that “homosexual practices” are “objectively contrary to God’s plan for the human being.”
The bishops also pointed out that the vast majority of Costa Ricans are opposed to the legalization of same-sex unions,” and they rejected the argument that such a move is necessary to prevent such individuals from being deprived of their rights as citizens and persons.
“In reality, like all citizens, thanks to their private autonomy, they can always resort to common law in order to safeguard legal situations that are of mutual interest,” the bishops said. “On the other hand, it would be a grave injustice to sacrifice the common good and the rights of families in order to allow them to obtain benefits that can and should be guaranteed by means that do not harm society at large,” they added.
What these groups and their supporters are doing is nothing more than the “first step towards marriage and adoption, as in fact has occurred in other countries,” the bishops said.
San Sebastian, Spain, Sep 10, 2010 (CNA/Europa Press) - Bishop Jose Ignacio Munilla of San Sebastian in Spain said this week that the Basque separatist group ETA must disband if it wants the country to take its recent statement announcing an end to its terrorist activities seriously. Conditions for peace, the prelate continued, can only be created through “repentance, reparation, patience, dialogue, tolerance and justice.”
During a Mass on the feast of Our Lady of Arantzazu, Bishop Munilla offered prayers for a “definitive” peace in the region and cautioned for “prudence” in response to ETA’s announcement.
He said the truce announced by the separatist group must be “definitive and unconditional” and that ETA must disband. Peace must not be “used” as a means, but rather it must be sought out as a end, he continued. “Let us remember that life is an inviolable right of each human being, and does not depend on the current moment, on ideologies or on any strategy, but rather on God, the author of life, in whom we live, and move and have our being,” the bishop said.
On the other hand, he remarked, “Unless we grow in humility, there is no chance for peace,” because “pride is the mother and ultimate cause of all violence.” “The search for justice is also a necessary condition for there to be peace,” the bishop said, quoting the words of the prophet Isaiah: “Peace is the work of justice.”
The Church’s contribution to the cause of peace is to call for the conversion of hearts of each and every one of us, to call for personal humility,” he said.
Vatican City, Sep 10, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Looking forward to the Pope's visit to Great Britain next week, the Vatican's spokesman said on Friday that there is "much serenity" as the date of departure nears. He also highlighted the true and original focus of the trip, Cardinal John Henry Newman's beatification.
The much-awaited papal visit to Scotland and England was presented by the Vatican spokesman at a Friday morning press conference at the Holy See's Press Office. Fr. Lombardi waded through the event-filled four-day schedule item by item, repeating the already public schedule but also offering new pieces of information to the public, including the possibility of a meeting with sexual abuse victims.
It is the 17th trip of this papacy, said Fr. Lombardi, noting that despite what some have said, it is not the "most difficult" trip the Pope has ever made. While there has been a lot of talk leading up to the trip, he added, "there are no particular concerns either on the Pope's part or that of the organizers."
Possible demonstrations against the Holy Father's presence in the country have been publicized through the media, but apparently they have not changed any elements of the trip.
"We are going with much serenity, knowing, though, that it is a very important trip and also complex because of the richness of the events and the situations that will present themselves," said Fr. Lombardi.
Calling the complaints of those against the trip "excessive amplifications," he said that they "have had an echo superior to that which is the true sensitivity of the population."
The last time a Pope visited the U.K. was when John Paul II went in 1982 for seven days, which coincided with the crisis in the Falklands. With that trip nearly three decades behind us, observed the spokesman, this will be the first time many Britons will see a Pope.
Reflecting on the trip being a "state visit," he said that this will not change the pastoral nature of the majority of the events. He underscored the original reason for the trip, the beatification of Cardinal John Henry Newman, emphasizing that this event "remains" the focus of the trip.
Vatican City, Sep 10, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Differing from the traditional practice, the feast day of Cardinal John Henry Newman will not be celebrated on the day of his death. Instead, in his memory the Church will celebrate his feast on the day he converted to Catholicism.
With Cardinal Newman's beatification just nine days away, the missal has been published by the Holy See on its website and in print by Magnificat. Included in the missal's nearly 500 pages of information on the papal visit and liturgical details is the Rite of Beatification for the famous cardinal on Sunday, Sept. 19.
During the Eucharist celebration at Birmingham's Cofton Park, the Holy Father will pronounce what is called the "Formula of Beatification," in which he declares that Cardinal Newman should "henceforth be invoked as Blessed."
Following these words, Benedict XVI will also proclaim that from here forward Cardinal Newman's feast is to be celebrated on October 9.
In general the feast days of blesseds and saints are marked on their "dies natalis," or the day they died. In his case, despite the fact that he died on Aug. 11, 1890, the Church has decided to select the day he converted to Catholicism, Oct. 9, 1845, as the day to celebrate his feast.
Saying he knew little about the decision during a press conference on Friday, Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi joked that the Church already celebrates too many great saints in August so placing the date in October seemed like a good idea to him.
Incidentally, the Church already celebrates Sts. Denis and John Leonardi on the same date, while Aug. 11 is the Feast of St. Clare of Assisi.
Rome, Italy, Sep 10, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - In a message sent to the chief rabbi of Rome, Pope Benedict XVI hoped for the promotion of justice and peace in the world as Jews observe a string of holidays in September. The Holy Father also prayed for improved relations between the Catholic and Jewish communities of the world.
The Holy Father sent a message by telegram to the chief rabbi of Rome, Dr. Riccardo Di Segni, for the Jewish holidays of Rosh HaShanah, Yom Kippur and Sukkot. Each of the traditional holidays falls in September this year.
Recognizing these three important days on the Jewish calendar, Pope Benedict hoped that they "might bring copious blessings from the eternal and be a source of intimate joy.
"May the will to promote justice and peace, of which we have so much need in the world today, grow in all of us," he added.
Remembering his visit to the Great Synagogue of Rome last January with "gratitude and affection," he prayed that God, "in his goodness, protect the entire community and allow us to grow, in Rome and in the world, in mutual friendship."
Also on that occasion he concluded his address by hoping for improved relations between Catholics and Jews, asking God "to strengthen our fraternal bonds and to deepen our mutual understanding."
Rosh HaShanah, the Jewish new year, was marked on Thursday of this week. The Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) will be observed on Sept. 18 and the remembrance of the wandering in the desert and thanksgiving for the harvest (Sukkot) falls on Sept. 23.
CNA STAFF, Sep 10, 2010 (CNA) - Catholic dioceses in New York, Washington, D.C., and in many other locations across the country will soon be holding Masses and other ceremonies in memory of those killed in the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.
Many of the liturgical ceremonies will also honor the memory or current service of all the nation's police, firefighters, and emergency personnel.
A Blue Mass is traditionally held to honor law enforcement officers, particularly those who have died in the line of duty or otherwise demonstrated a heroic commitment to their work for the community. Fr. Thomas Dade, a Washington, D.C. priest who founded the Catholic Police and Firemen's Society, began the tradition in 1934 of celebrating an annual Mass for emergency workers, who always attend in uniform.
Fr. Dade's tradition has since spread throughout the nation. Because hundreds of police and rescue workers were killed at the World Trade Center on September 11, the date is becoming an increasingly common one on which to celebrate the Blue Mass.
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Rochester in New York will hold a Mass to “pray in a special way for all firefighters and first responders, and for all those who lost their lives at the World Trade Center tragedy nine years ago,” on September 11, 2010 at 4 p.m., with Bishop Matthew Clark as the celebrant.
A concert in honor of the fallen will be held at Saint Patrick's Cathedral in New York City at 7 p.m. on the same day.
Although Archbishop Donald Wuerl already celebrated a Blue Mass earlier this year at St. Patrick Catholic Church in Washington, D.C., a public memorial ceremony will be held at the Catholic University of America on September 10, including a reading of the names of all 2,974 victims of the 9/11 attacks. The ceremony will begin at 3:15 p.m. and be followed by a candlelit vigil at 5:30 p.m.
John Miller, associate director of the Archdiocese of Denver's Office of Liturgy, described the universal appreciation of the annual Blue Mass in his community. “We have both Catholics and non-Catholics attend this event every year,” he said.
The annual ceremony is “a wonderful opportunity for the Church –and the entire community—to come together and recognize our First Responders,” Miller reflected. “We thank God for the sacrifices they make, every day, for the protection of our well-being.”
Denver's Auxilary Bishop James Conley will be the celebrant at his archdiocese's Blue Mass, to be held at the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, September 11.
Rome, Italy, Sep 10, 2010 (CNA) - Responding to Lybian leader Muammar Gaddafi’s call for an Islamic Europe, a missionary priest has warned that this future is possible if the continent continues its denial of its Christian roots and its demographic decline. Returning to Christianity would also solve “the problem of empty cradles,” he added.
"The fact is that, as a people, we are becoming ever more pagan and the religious vacuum is inevitably filled by other proposals and religious forces,” commented Fr. Piero Gheddo of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions, according to Zenit.
He said that with the exception of the Italian episcopal conference’s Avvenire, no newspaper has “seriously taken into consideration how to respond to this challenge of Islam, which sooner or later will conquer the majority in Europe.”
"The challenge must be taken seriously,” continued Fr. Gheddo, who also founded the missionary news agency Asia News. “Certainly from a demographic point of view, as it is clear to everyone that Italians are decreasing by 120,000 or 130,000 persons a year because of abortion and broken families; while among the more than 200,000 legal immigrants a year in Italy, more than half are Muslims and Muslim families, which have a much higher level of growth.”
While news media “never” speak of this, in his view, an answer must be found “above all in the religious and cultural fields and in the area of identity.”
He saw a “religious vacuum” growing with the decline of Christian Europe’s religious practice and the spread of indifference.
“If we consider ourselves a Christian country, we should return to the practice of Christian life, which would also solve the problem of empty cradles,” the priest commented, according to Zenit.
Detroit, Mich., Sep 10, 2010 (CNA) - The Michigan Catholic Conference announced on Sept. 8 that they have chosen a new president who will succeed current leader Sr. Monica Kostielney as she steps down after 38 years of service.
New MCC president Paul A. Long previously served as the conference's vice president for Public Policy.
“For more than two decades Paul Long has presented to state government the Conference’s advocacy agenda with integrity and the utmost level of professionalism. His years of service and commitment to the Church make him an exemplary candidate to lead the Conference into the next decade,” said Detroit Archbishop Allen Vigneron who is chairman of the MCC Board of Directors.
“Sister Monica Kostielney for nearly forty years has been a tireless advocate for the poor and the unborn,” he added, “a passionate and commanding voice on matters concerning education and economic justice, Sister Monica has directed the Conference with humility and grace.”
According to the MCC, Long was raised in St. Clair Shores Michigan and graduated from Michigan State University’s James Madison College in 1988. After working for both the House of Representatives and state Senate while attending school, Long took on a position at the MCC as public affairs associate. Long was then appointed as vice president for Public Policy in November 1994, serving as the chief liaison between the state government and the Catholic Church in Michigan.
In his duties as vice president for Public Policy, Long assisted with numerous pieces of legislation including a ban on assisted suicide, the creation of a state earned income tax credit, and moving the ban on human cloning through the the state’s Legislature.
“I am humbled today,” Long said on Wednesday, “and eagerly look forward to steering the Conference forward in its mission to develop sound public policy and administer benefit services with a dedication to integrity and excellence.”