Archive of November 4, 2010

Carl Anderson dismantles divided America myth in new book

New Haven, Conn., Nov 4, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - New York Times bestselling author Carl Anderson is arguing in his latest book that the idea of Americans being divided on moral issues is a myth. In fact, all that is required to move the country forward is courage.

“We have a moral consensus on the economy, on the need for ethics in government—and even on issues that seem intractable, like abortion, where 8 in 10 Americans can agree on certain restrictions,” Anderson says.

“What we need now,” he urges, “is for people in key institutions to act with courage on these transcendent values.”

Carl A. Anderson, the head of the Knights of Columbus, makes his case in “Beyond A House Divided: The Moral Consensus Ignored By Washington, Wall Street and the Media,” which was released on the same day as the midterm election took place, making its message all the more timely.  

Anderson encourages Americans to view politics not just as “red” and “blue” states at opposite ends of the political spectrum. That perspective focuses on the differences and then works toward compromise. Instead, Americans should focus on the core moral beliefs that everyone agrees on and then work toward compromise. 

The book presents hard numbers that debunk the myth of a polarized people and show that what division does exist is actually between certain American institutions and the American people, whose values these institutions often don't share.

Anderson shows that the Americans have an opportunity to begin a conversation “where the vast majority of the American people stand” and seek “the common ground already found in the common sense of consensus of the electorate.”

Data from recent polling by the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion and others has revealed that 49% of Americans believe that a “return to traditional moral values” is the greatest hope for the future of this nation.

When asking what was most valuable in achieving personal economic success, over 75% of Americans said either individual effort, honesty and integrity, or education was most valuable, highlighting the importance of a personal moral based work ethic. Less than 25% believe in relying on others to achieve their success, whether it is who you know, family support, luck or even government assistance.

"Time and again, polling has revealed that the moral compass of the American people is sound and continues to point an ethical way forward for our country," Anderson says.

With this new perspective on the future of the United States, the head of the Knights of Columbus argues that the country should not be guided by “a partisan political approach” but should discuss the nation's future based “on the moral sense—and consensus—of the American People.”

More information on Carl Anderson's new book can be found at

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Legalization of gay 'marriage' destroys society, says Argentinean lawyer

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Nov 4, 2010 (CNA) - Jorge Scala, a lawyer with the pro-life organization Portal de Belen in Argentina, spoke out this week, explaining the negative effects same-sex “marriage” has on society.

Argentina legalized gay “marriage” and the adoption of children by same-sex couples in July 2010.

“If they are allowed to marry and the government recognizes their marriages, then we will need to change what we teach our children in schools and tell them that when they reach the age of 18 they can marry either a man or a woman,” Scala said.

He went on to denounce Argentina’s National Institute Against Discrimination as “a sort of Gestapo of the government” that is “changing anti-discrimination laws so that anyone who says homosexual conduct is wrong will go to jail.”

“It’s one thing to tolerate homosexuality as private behavior,” he continued, “but a law that allows homosexual marriage intends not only to legitimize it but to promote it under threat of prison.”

Legalizing gay “marriage” would leave “society destroyed, because the family is the basic cell of society,” and “if I destroy the family or undermine it, I am destroying society,” Scala warned.

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Mother of deceased Cuban dissident detained on the way to cemetery

Havana, Cuba, Nov 4, 2010 (CNA) - The mother of deceased Cuban political prisoner, Orlando Zapata, was detained—and later released—by Cuban security agents on her way to visit her son’s grave.

Reina Luisa Tamayo was among 40 dissidents beat and detained by security agents on Oct. 31. Her son, Orlando Zapata, died in February 2010 after a prolonged hunger strike protesting his imprisonment and mistreatment as a political dissident.

Although she was eventually released, Tamayo said she did not know the fate of the other dissidents who were detained.

Since Zapata died, his mother and other dissidents have  marched to their parish and the cemetery every Sunday to protest his death.

Although government security agents at first blocked the protests, they eventually allowed them to take place after Church officials intervened.

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Spanish journalist notes unique timing of Pope's visit

CNA STAFF, Nov 4, 2010 (CNA) -

Spanish journalist Marian De la Fuente has reported that Spaniards in the city of Santiago de Compostela are anxiously awaiting the arrival of Pope Benedict XVI. It will be the first time a Pope visits the shrine dedicated to St. James during a jubilee year.

Speaking to the CNA, De la Fuente pointed out that John Paul II visited Santiago de Compostela “but did not do so during a Year of St. James - and thus the expectation is now even greater.”

“There is great expectation for Benedict XVI’s visit, and security is intense.  The peoples' expectations are really incredible.  I think that the meeting Benedict XVI will have with the pilgrims in some sense will be enriching for us all,” she said.

De la Fuente, who will cover the Pope’s visit to Santiago de Compostela and Barcelona, noted that some 8,000 journalists will follow the Pontiff's every step.

She added that every event on Pope Benedict's schedule will be standing room only.

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Philippines bishop rebukes gamblers' form of Marian devotion

Manila, Philippines, Nov 4, 2010 (CNA) - At first glance, they seem to have great faith—praying fervently, invoking the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and watching for signs of God's will. But these apparent signs of piety have a different meaning for some Filipinos. They're trying to pray their way to a winning lottery ticket.

Bishop Deogracias Iñiguez, a prelate in the Philippines, has criticized the religious superstitions associated with the lottery and other forms of gambling. He said on November 3, as the jackpot of Monday's Grand Lotto drawing climbed tantalizingly high, that those who pray to win a fortune need to rediscover the true meaning of faith and prayer.

According to the Manila Bulletin, more and more Grand Lotto devotees are paying visits to a museum exhibit of artwork dedicated to the Virgin Mary. They've been observed buying lottery tickets from a nearby vendor, then proceeding to the museum to pray before the Marian images. Some touch their tickets to the images, hoping for a “miraculous” win.

The Manila paper reported that a majority of ticket buyers also happen to stop by the exhibit to pray.

Bishop Iñiguez has become concerned that something is “not exactly right” with the combination of activities.

“There's a right way of expressing spirituality and religious sentiments,” he said. But praying to win the lottery, he said, was “a defect,” even as the bishops “understand the spirit behind it.”

His comments echoed the Catechism of the Catholic Church's definition of superstition, as a sin involving “deviation of religious feeling and … practices.” Superstitious individuals, according to the catechism, may ascribe a “magical” importance “to certain practices otherwise lawful or necessary.”

Gambling has become a major problem in parts of the Philippines, with one bishop saying he feared for his life after exposing a numbers racket in September. The country's Catholic hierarchy has expressed a general opposition to gambling, saying it harms the common good and presents moral and economic dangers.

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Christ cleanses conscience of 'garbage,' Pope says

Vatican City, Nov 4, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - The spirituality of St. Marguerite d'Oingt shows people still today that the light of Christ purifies and cleanses and leads a person to be transformed, said Pope Benedict XVI on Nov. 3.

The Pope’s weekly general audience took place in the Vatican's Paul VI Hall with an estimated 7,000 people in attendance. There was a certain joviality to the celebration fostered by the acapella songs of several pilgrim groups and a youth band.

Pope Benedict continued his teaching on the powerful examples of women saints in medieval times as the subject of his catechesis. He chose to focus his teaching on France's St. Marguerite d'Oingt.

She was born to a noble family in 1240 and spent much of her life within the demanding spirituality of the Carthusian order. She was known for her mysticism and wrote a series of meditations that testify to her belief that life is "a journey of purification leading to full configuration with Christ."

She considered Christ to be "the book that must be written and inscribed into one's heart and life every day, especially his salvific passion," said the Pope.

He explained that the 13th-century saint continues to invite people to daily meditation on the love and sorrow of Jesus and Mary. "This," said Pope Benedict, "is where our hope, the meaning of our existence, lies. From the contemplation of Christ's love for us arises the strength and the joy to respond with the same love, placing our lives at the service of God and of others."

Pope Benedict put aside his notes as he pointed out that St. Marguerite's life and thought might seem "far away" from the way people think and act today. "But," he said, "if we look to the essential of this life, we see that it touches also us and should become the essential also of our existence."

Marguerite, he explained, saw Christ as mirror of her own conscience, from which light entered into her heart. "She let the Word enter, the life of Christ in her very being, and so was transformed," he said. And, in this way, he explained, "her conscience was illumined, it found criteria and light and was cleansed."

People today also need to "allow the words, the life, the light of Christ to enter into our consciences so that they might be illumined and understand that which is true and good, and that which is evil, that our conscience might be illumined and cleansed," he added.

"The garbage is not just in the different streets of the world. There is also garbage in our consciences and in our souls," he observed.

"It is only the light of the Lord, his strength and love that cleanses us, purifies us and gives us the straight path," the Pope concluded. "So, we follow St. Marguerite in looking to Jesus. Let us read in the book of her life, let ourselves be illumined and cleansed, to learn true life."

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White House aligns with Supreme Court conservatives in religious schools case

Washington D.C., Nov 4, 2010 (CNA) - As the Supreme Court considered a case involving tax credits and religious education on November 3, indications of a surprising agreement emerged between some of the court's most conservative justices and the Obama administration.

The case pits the Arizona Christian School Tuition Organization against a group of citizens charging that a 1997 government tax credit program amounted to a state establishment of religion. The program allowed taxpayers to donate money toward a variety of private scholarship foundations, rather than paying the same amount to the government through taxes.

In 2002, the Supreme Court ruled that a school voucher program in Ohio which gives parents a tuition grant to be used toward a range of secular or religious schools did not violate the establishment clause. In April 2009, however, a panel of judges on the 9th  U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the Arizona tax credit program might still amount to an establishment of religion.

The Obama administration disagreed—noting that the Arizona statute does not privilege religious education, and maintaining that it passes the constitutional test at least as easily as the Ohio vouchers. As the high court heard oral arguments in the case on November 3, Justices Antonin Scalia, Samuel Alito, and Chief Justice John Roberts seemed to agree with the White House's position.

In a strong gesture of support for the Christian tuition organization, acting U.S. Solicitor General Neal Kaytal said opponents of the tax credit had no case. “Not a cent” of taxpayers' money was even indirectly funding religious schools, the solicitor general observed. “Not a fraction of a cent … As you track the taxpayers' dollars, it doesn't actually fund any religious program.”

Thus, the Obama-appointed solicitor general said, challengers of the Arizona law could not bring a complaint as taxpayers, nor could they claim an establishment of religion.

Pursuing this line of reasoning, Chief Justice Roberts questioned Paul Bender, a Phoenix attorney representing those questioning the law. The Chief Justice asked Bender how the state could be “discriminating on the basis of religion” if it “doesn't care” whether individuals receive the tax credit for donating to religious or secular scholarship funds.

Justice Scalia went further, indicating that he saw no real difference between Arizona's tax credit system, and the widespread practice of tax deductions, which individuals can claim for their donations to religious charities.

Bender responded that although the statute as written was religiously neutral, the government was nevertheless allowing private money that it could legitimately claim, to be directed instead toward religious schools in a majority of cases.

The money, Bender asserted, was actually “not a contribution” to the tuition charities, since the government was forcing individuals to choose between paying it in taxes or directing it to the scholarship funds.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor articulated Bender's argument as an assertion that the scholarship money “does belong to the state,” even though it is never actually taxed. She said it could be considered “tax money … that private individuals are using.”

Justice Alito, however, objected to that response, saying it amounted to an assertion that “all (private) money belongs to the government” except the amount it “doesn't take” by taxation.

According to the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, the court's eventual ruling –expected before the summer—could affect a number of ongoing lower court cases that directly challenge religious groups' legal privileges.

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Iraqi priest warns of more attacks against Christians

Rome, Italy, Nov 4, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Sunday’s massacre of 58 Catholics at a Baghdad cathedral fits a disturbing pattern of violence against Christians, according to an Iraqi priest with long experience of ministering in the region.

"Everyone watches as Christians are killed and no one tries to put an end to these attacks,” Father Firas Benoka told CNA.

“This, for me, indicates the constant will to eliminate Iraqi Christians definitively,” he said. “So we are mistaken if we think that the recent attack on Christians will be the last."

A local diocesan priest serving in Mosul, north of the Iraqi capital, Father Benoka complained of growing intolerance from Muslim extremist groups, often with cooperation from elements in the local Iraqi governments.

Mosul is located in the traditionally Christian area of the Nineveh Plain, a region Father Benoka called "the last zone that is historically ours."

In recent years, many of the Christian villages and cities that dot the plain have struggled to maintain their identities in the face of growing government pressure to change the area's demographics, he charged.

Father Benoka has been a priest for five years and teaches philosophy at the seminary in Mosul while studying for his doctorate in Rome. He is a native of Bartella, one of the Christian cities near Mosul.

Government officials have sought to encourage settlements by “foreign, non-Christian communities to destroy the united and Christian face of this area,” he said, adding, "I would say that these governments have been successful in doing so."

He called the brutal Oct. 31 attacks on Catholic worshipers at Baghdad’s Our Lady of Salvation Cathedral a “massacre” that will only confirm Iraqi Catholics’ feelings that they are viewed as unwanted “infidels” in their own land.

At the same time, Father Benoka praised the heroism of those who were killed while celebrating Mass. The blood of "martyrs” has been spilled on this land for "thousands of years," he said. And this blood remains the greatest proof that the Christians of Iraq are indeed Christian. It also demonstrates Iraqi Catholics’ love for their country.

Violence has increased since the U.S. led war against the regime of Saddam Hussein in 2003. The resulting disruption contributed to a mass migration of Christians from the area. Estimates put the pre-2003 number of Christians in Iraq at between 800,000 and one million. According to the United Nations, the current number is about half that.

Political and religious leaders blame the Iraqi government and security forces for the Oct. 31 attack, and Father Benoka agreed.

Christians are not left completely unprotected, he said. He described the "humble projects" initiated by some communities "to keep evil at a distance as much as possible." But, he added, these internal measures "cannot resist strong attacks."

To ensure peace and the survival of the Christian community, he said, Iraqi Christians must be recognized in the country’s constitution as having equal rights with Muslims.

The "nucleus of misunderstanding" and "discrimination" is contained in the very articles of the Constitution, he pointed out.

The Constitution establishes Islam as the official religion of the state and the fundamental source of legislation. At the same time, the constitution also prohibits laws that contradict or oppose the fundamental principles of Islam.

"Because of these and other articles, Christians are forced to follow Islamic law in the administration of justice," Father Benoka explained. This extends to areas where Muslim law conflicts greatly with Christian teaching – mixed Muslim-Christian marriages, women's rights, and freedom of speech.

The law also restricts Christians’ ability to share their faith and imposes limits on Muslim conversion to Christianity.

"We need international protection seeing as the Iraqi government continues to fail in our protection," Father Benoka said.

Archbishop Basil Casmoussa of Mosul has also called for help from the U.N.

"When we see that, especially by the authorities, there is not a adequate response, we feel without protection,” he told Vatican Radio, Nov. 2. “So it is necessary that the United Nations enters in play, it is now indispensable to safeguard this little community!"

These points, along with the reconciliation of political parties in the country through the selection of a moderate government "far from the patronage of political Islam," are "important to protect the rights of Christians and so maintain their presence in Iraq," the archbishop said.

In the meantime, explained Father Benoka, the Christian communities of the Nineveh Plain are preparing for the arrival of Christians from Baghdad who are fleeing the recent upsurge in violence. The attack on Our Lady of Salvation has been followed by numerous car bombings in recent days that have caused chaos in the city.

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