Washington D.C., Dec 18, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - The U.S. Senate voted on Dec. 18 to repeal the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy barring open homosexuals from the military. Opponents of the repeal warned it will turn the military into a tool to impose “a radical social agenda” on the country.
In a 63 to 33 procedural vote, the Senate decided to hold a final vote on the policy. Sixty votes were necessary to prevent a Republican filibuster.
Six Republican senators voted for the motion: Mark Kirk of Illinois, Scott Brown of Massachusetts, George Voinovich of Ohio, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Maine senators Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins.
West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, who opposes repeal of the policy, was the only Democrat not to vote for cloture. He also did not vote for or against the final bill.
The final vote came Saturday afternoon, by a vote of 65 to 31. Sens. John Ensign (R-Nev.) and Richard Burr (R-N.C.) decided to back the repeal.
President Barack Obama characterized the vote as “an historic step toward ending a policy that undermines our national security while violating the very ideals that our brave men and women in uniform risk their lives to defend.”
He claimed that the policy forced thousands to leave the military “because they happened to be gay” and forced thousands to be asked “to live a lie in order to serve the country they love.”
“It is time to close this chapter in our history. It is time to recognize that sacrifice, valor and integrity are no more defined by sexual orientation than they are by race or gender, religion or creed,” continued his statement issued before the final vote.
After the final vote Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said that service members will “do what is asked of them,” the Associated Press reports.
"But don't think there won't be a great cost."
Family Research Council president Tony Perkins, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran, said it was “a tragic day” for the armed forces.
“The American military exists for only one purpose - to fight and win wars,” he argued. “Yet it has now been hijacked and turned into a tool for imposing on the country a radical social agenda. This may advance the cause of reshaping social attitudes regarding human sexuality, but it will only do harm to the military's ability to fulfill its mission.”
He said it was “shameful” that the Democratic leadership and several Republican senators “forced through such a radical change in a lame-duck session of Congress.”
While the 1993 law which allowed undisclosed homosexuals in the military was adopted after “months of debate and at least a dozen Congressional hearings,” Perkins said, the latest vote came less than three weeks after the Pentagon’s report. He characterized the vote for cloture as a “political payoff” to “a tiny, but loud and wealthy, part of the Democratic base.”
The change in policy could have significant consequences for those who assent to Christian sexual ethics.
Many backers of the repeal also support career penalties for servicemen and women who oppose homosexuality, including military chaplains.
Some chaplains have been told by superiors that they should leave the military if they have problems of conscience under a repeal.
Military officers are judged on their compliance with the equal protection goals of the military. In a November interview, Daniel Blomberg of the Alliance Defense Fund said that under a repeal of the policy on homosexuals, one of those military goals will include support for “incorporating and supporting homosexual behavior in the military.”
Archbishop of the Archdiocese for the Military Services Timothy Broglio has also opposed the repeal, citing concerns it might negatively affect the role of military chaplains. He noted that Catholic chaplains cannot accept or bless same-sex unions, and stated that no restrictions on the teaching of Catholic morality can be accepted.
In his June 1 statement, he added that moral beliefs should not be sacrificed for “merely political considerations.”
Vatican City, Dec 18, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Benedict XVI has chosen Italian Archbishop Antonio Mennini as the new apostolic nuncio to Great Britain.
Archbishop Mennini will take the place of Spanish Archbishop Faustino Sainz Muñoz as apostolic nuncio to Scotland, England and Wales. The announcement of his appointment came at noon in Rome on Dec. 18.
The 63-year old archbishop has been working as papal delegate, or apostolic nuncio, to Russia and Uzbekistan since 2003. He previously served as nuncio to Bulgaria and also worked Turkey and Uganda after entering the diplomatic corps in 1981.
Scottish Cardinal Keith O'Brien "warmly welcomed" the appointment in a Dec. 18 statement from Edinburgh.
The cardinal expressed gratitude for the outgoing nuncio's service and voiced his interest in meeting and working with Archbishop Mennini. He promised the prayers of the Church for the new nuncio's service.
A nuncio works as an ambassador from the Holy See to one or more foreign states and works closely with bishops in them.
His role is important, serving as the liaison between the country or countries of his service and the Vatican. One of his most important tasks is to work with the Vatican to advise the Pope in choosing new bishops.
Vatican City, Dec 18, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Benedict XVI's World Peace Day message is addressed to all people to say that “fanaticism, fundamentalisms and aggressive secularism are enemies of true peace,” said the director of the Holy See's Press Office.
Fr. Federico Lombardi focused this week's Vatican Television editorial on the Pope's message for Jan. 1 titled "Religious Freedom, the Path of Peace." The message was presented at a Vatican press conference on Dec. 16.
One of the "most striking" affirmations in the Pope's message is that Christians are the religious group that is most persecuted for their faith worldwide, said Fr. Lombardi. It is "right" to emphasize this fact, he said, but it isn't the “core” of the message.
The Pope's emphasis on religious freedom as a way to peace is meant for "the good of all humanity, appealing to the dignity of the human person, of every human person, and demanding a fundamental right for them," he said.
The Pope uses the direct experience of the persecution of Christians to "demand for all the right to seek God, recognize Him and honor Him with their lives, privately and together with others."
Fr. Lombardi warned it is impossible to establish peaceful communities if this right is not respected, because "fanaticisms, fundamentalisms and aggressive secularism are enemies of true peace."
Another Dec. 18 editorial from Fr. Vito del Prete, acting director the Vatican's Fides news service, added "if we want peace, we must ensure that the right to choose and profess our own faith is guaranteed to every human being."
All political institutions and world and religious leaders must work to promote and protect religious freedom, "a true weapon and the way to peace,” he wrote.
The 44th World Peace Day, or World Day of Peace, will be celebrated on Jan. 1, 2011. Pope Paul VI first celebrated the event on New Year’s Day of 1967.
Los Angeles, Calif., Dec 18, 2010 (CNA) - A new study showing that teen girls are depicted sexually on prime-time TV more than adults has critics condemning the trend as a sinister fixation on underage young women.
The Parents Television Council issued a report on Dec. 15 which found that in popular TV series, underage female characters appearing on screen increases the amount of sexual content in a given show.
The council also found that teen girls demonstrate almost no negative response to being sexualized and that the vast majority of sexual incidents are depicted as occurring outside of a committed relationship.
The study, called “New Target: A Study of Teen Female Sexualization on Primetime TV,” used Nielson data and was based on content analysis of the most popular prime-time broadcast shows among 12 to 17 year-olds during the 2009-2010 TV season.
While only 29 percent of adult characters were viewed in sexual incidents in these shows, 47 percent of the characters involved were underage females. Of the young girls that were depicted sexually, only five percent communicated any dislike or opposition to the situations they were in. Additionally, a whopping 98 percent of the time, sexual encounters involving the girls were shown as taking place outside of any form of a committed relationship.
The report compiled video clips with examples, showing a high school girl in bed with a young man in the hit show “Gossip Girl,” a female character from “90210” drinking alcohol while disrobing, a kiss between two female cheerleaders on “Glee” and young characters in shows such as “The Vampire Diaries” in violent, hyper-sexual encounters.
“Storylines on the most popular shows among teens are sending the message to our daughters that being sexualized isn’t just acceptable, it should be sought after,” Parents Television Council president Tim Warner said.
Aside from being disturbed by the sexual depiction of female minors, Warner said that the affects of these TV shows prove most harmful to young American women because they reduce their perceived worth as people.
“The results from this report show Tinseltown’s eagerness to not only objectify and fetishize young girls, but to sexualize them in such a way that real teens are led to believe their sole value comes from their sexuality,” Warner said.
He noted that the report is less about the “shocking” numbers that detail “the sickness of early sexualization in our entertainment culture.” Rather, Warner said he's concerned more about the generation of young girls “who are being told how society expects them to behave.”
Terry Polakovic, founder and director of national Catholic women's group ENDOW, echoed Warner's assessment.
“This is another instance where Hollywood has shown the most callous disregard for the psyches of impressionable girls who will be most adversely affected,” Polakovic said in a Dec. 17 e-mail.
She emphasized the need for parental involvement in counteracting the societal message to young women as depicted in the prime-time shows.
“My advice for parents is to re-teach yourself what God’s plan is for authentic relationships between men and women and share that truth with your children,” Polakovic added.
“If we leave this piece of their education to Hollywood, we will surely be disappointed but we shouldn’t be surprised.”
Vatican City, Dec 18, 2010 (CNA) - The Vatican is preparing its traditional Nativity scene and giant Christmas tree in St. Peter’s Square. Pope Benedict said the display and tree help create the right context in which to experience the “mystery” of Jesus’ birth.
Behind a curtain wall encircling the obelisk in St. Peter’s Square, laborers and construction workers are building the Vatican’s Nativity scene. Meanwhile, tailors are preparing the costumes for the larger-than-life statues of Jesus, Mary and Joseph.
Pope Benedict XVI said the Christmas tree enriches the “symbolic value” of the Nativity scene, whose message is one of fraternity and friendship. The Nativity scene is also an invitation to unity and peace and an invitation to “make space for God in our life and society.”
“He offers us His omnipotent love through the fragile figure of a child, because He wants us to respond freely with our own love,” he continued. Together, the Nativity scene and the Christmas tree help create the right spiritual and religious context “in which to experience the mystery of the birth of the Redeemer.”
This year, the traditional Nativity scene figures will be complemented by a set of nine Filipino figures designed by Kublai Ponce-Millan, according to the Filipino bishops' conference. These include musicians playing indigenous instruments and a family in a boat pulling a burgeoning fishnet. The scene also includes baskets filled with different Philippine tropical fruits, vegetables, fishes and shells intended to highlight the bountiful harvest of the earth and sea.
The work is expected to be finished on Dec. 24, in time for the official opening and blessing that evening. Pope Benedict XVI will participate in the unveiling ceremony from the window of the papal apartments.
Mercedes Tuason, Philippine Ambassador to the Holy See, presented the project to the Governorate of the Vatican City State to mark the 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the Philippines and the Holy See.
In a letter to Cardinal Giovanni Lajolo, the president of the governorate of Vatican City State, Tuason said the inclusion of the figures will be “most meaningful” for Filipinos, since Christmas is perhaps their most popular celebration.
In response, Cardinal Lajolo said the gesture would be meaningful for the “vast” Filipino community in Italy, which he described as “hard working” with “great faith and family values.”
Workers in St. Peter’s Square are also preparing the Christmas tree donated by the town of Luson in Bolzano province of northern Italy. The 93-year-old tree, a Norway spruce, is more than 110 feet high. Cardinal Lajolo presided over a public ceremony on the evening of Dec. 17 in which the tree was lit.
The town of Luson has also donated 50 smaller trees to decorate various sites in the Vatican.
The 2010 Christmas tree is one of the tallest the Vatican has ever used. In past years the giant trees have come from other areas of Italy, Austria and Belgium.
Biloxi, Miss., Dec 18, 2010 (CNA) - Father Dominick Fullam was drawn to cartooning at an early age but a higher calling erased any aspirations he ever had of becoming a full-time cartoonist.
Recently, however, the St. Martin native, who is diocesan Vicar General and Moderator of the Curia as well as pastor of St. Mary Parish in Woolmarket, was at the Atlanta airport when something happened that rekindled his interest in cartooning.
“I was at the airport in Atlanta drawing a cartoon character on an iPad, and a lady seated next to me asked if I drew cartoons for a living. I laughed and said I was just passing time, but that I used to do a not-so-great cartoon in my high school newspaper,” he said.
“She told me what I'd done looked really good to her. A seed was planted.”
That seed has since developed into a new comic strip titled “Off by a Mile.”
“First I thought of reviving the comic strip I drew in high school called ‘It Ain't Easy.’ I learned that name had been used for both a song and a movie. So I decided to come up with something new and different,” Father Fullam said.
“I wanted the cartoon's title to have the word ‘off’ in it, suggestive of something of a different twist on things. After rejecting ‘Fifty Percent Off’ as sounding like a sales website, I found that offbyamile.com was available. I thought it had a certain ring to it.”
Since then, Father Fullam has tried to crank out a couple of cartoons each week.
“It takes about an hour from start to finish. That's fairly quick because they're not done on paper, and I no longer have to mess with India ink as I did back in high school,” he said.
“As for their origins, these are just thoughts that pop in my head. I've noticed a tendency to have 80s references, TV shows, and songs. I guess that's where my mind is.”
Father Fullam has always been a cartoon aficionado.
“Yes, I do read the funnies and not just on Sundays,” he said. “I miss some of the ones that have been retired or scaled back over the years like ‘Bloom County,’ ‘The Far Side,’ and ‘FoxTrot.’ Over the last year, I've really come to appreciate ‘Zits’--not acne, of course, the comic strip.”
Father Fullam hopes to attract more visitors to his website but, for the time being, he’s still reluctant to invest too much time his recently re-discovered hobby and has no plans to submit his cartoon for syndication.
“Syndication isn't something I'm pursuing or expecting. I have my share of responsibilities right now, and while I enjoy the creative process, I don't think I'd enjoy having to crank these out regularly,” he said.
“Never say never, though. Right now, I'm just trying to create an opportunity for a laugh or a chuckle for whoever wants to join in.”
And that’s what he hopes visitors to his site get out of the experience – chuckles.
“I think laughter is one of God's gifts and that the world can always use a little more good clean fun.”
To check out Father Dominick’s cartoons, visit www.offbyamile.com
Printed with permission from Gulf Pine Catholic, newspaper from the Diocese of Biloxi, Mississippi.