Archive of March 6, 2011

Catholic police officer remembered for living out faith

Indianapolis, Ind., Mar 6, 2011 (CNA) - All coaches have teams and players that they’ll never forget—no matter how many years pass.

And when tragedy strikes a former player, a coach often feels the heartbreak deeply because of the dreams they once shared, the triumphs they celebrated together, and the disappointments they endured together.

Roncalli High School head football coach Bruce Scifres had that feeling when he first heard the news that Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department officer David Moore had been shot four times while making a traffic stop on Jan. 23.

To help deal with the heartbreak of knowing that Moore was fighting for his life, Scifres pulled out a copy of the football yearbook that he made in 1999—the season when Moore was one of the four co-captains who helped lead Roncalli’s football team to a 15-0 record and an Indiana State High School Athletic Association championship.

“As part of the yearbook, I always ask our seniors to write a reflection about what their football experience means to them,” Scifres recalled. “His reflection was short and profound. To understand it fully, you have to know that still today, David, pound for pound, is the strongest player to ever walk through Roncalli. As a senior, he was 195 pounds, and he bench-pressed 400 pounds and dead-lifted 600 pounds. Still, his primary strength was from within.”

Scifres then shared Moore’s reflection: “The amount of success you have is dependent on the amount of faith you have. In order to achieve this faith, one must understand that no amount of iron in the weight room is equal to the iron nails of the cross.”

A tribute from a teammate

Tony Hollowell witnessed that faith and dedication every day he spent with Moore as a co-captain on that 1999 Roncalli football team—along with the other two co-captains, Greg Armbruster and Ryan Brizendine. Their bond was tight, the bond that develops when people make a commitment to a goal and each other. (Related: Father John Hollowell's tribute at Officer Moore's funeral)

When Hollowell learned the news that Moore had been shot, he remembered those 15 games in 1999 when he walked on the field, “knowing David was right by my side.”

He also remembered the last time that he saw Moore.

“I told him, ‘I am so glad that a man like you is protecting our families,’ ” recalled Hollowell, now a first-year seminarian for the archdiocese at Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology.

The full extent of the heartbreak for Hollowell and Scifres—and everyone else who knew Moore—came on Jan. 26 when the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department officer died.

When Roncalli had a school Mass to remember and celebrate the life of Moore, Roncalli’s president, Joe Hollowell, who is Tony’s father, asked Scifres to share his thoughts about Moore with the current students.

Scifres read Moore’s quote from the 1999 football yearbook. He then shared the remarkable prayer that Moore wrote and delivered at Roncalli’s all-sports banquet in the spring of 2000.

The prayer of a champion

“Dear Lord,

“We are gathered here tonight in your name to honor those athletes who have not only taken the field for Roncalli, but who have taken to the battlefield for you.

“It is not always on the sports field that we do our battle, but on the field of everyday life. We do not battle for the goals nor the touchdowns, or the blue rings, but for the cross that we will carry to you.

“Allow not our memories to be filled by the highlight tapes or the dazzling plays, but instead by the prayers that began our games and the huddles we made to praise you after our victories and even our defeats.

“Let us not only think it was the weight of the iron in the weight room or the long hours at practice that made us victorious, but the weight of the cross and the hours on our knees that made us great.

“As for the seniors who have taken off their Roncalli jersey for the last time, help us remember that the competition has just begun. For the real battle is not with the pigskin or the round ball, but with the crosses that you have laid upon us.

“Allow us to be coached by your love, and let all of us give you, our true coach, 110 percent. That is where we will find the true meaning of a champion.

“In the name of your Son, Christ Jesus, we ask this blessing. Amen.”

One more gift

For Scifres, that prayer tells people everything they need to know about Moore. It’s why Moore’s high school football coach mourns his loss and celebrates his life.

“It was just heartbreaking on so many levels,” Scifres said. “He was such a good person who had given his life in service to others. Maybe where it touched me the most was in knowing his family—knowing how much he meant to his parents, knowing how much he cared about his parents.

“As much as any kid I ever coached, he always had a keen sense of honor. He was always going to do the right thing.”

Tony Hollowell saw that character trait again in the final act of Moore’s life—when his organs were donated to save the lives of people he had never met.

“After learning about the gift of his organs to so many people, I suddenly realized something I know to be true. David just fulfilled his greatest dream, which is to lay down his life for others,” Hollowell said.

“I was watching the news conference of his parents at the hospital shortly after the announcement that he would not recover, and his mom stated, ‘If David had known that an officer was going to be shot by this man, he would have wanted it to be him.’

“It is not that he might have wanted it to be him. He wanted to be the one who stood between the bullet and our families.”

The legacy of Moore’s approach to life will endure, Hollowell said. It’s a legacy that is intertwined with the prayer that Moore wrote as a high school senior—a prayer about “the crosses that are laid upon us” and “the true meaning of a champion.”

“His legacy is that there is more to life than being alive,” Hollowell said, “and that in our death, other people may learn the purpose of our life.”

Printed with permission from The Criterion, newspaper for the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, Ind.

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Catholic League reflects on efforts to defend faith in 2010

New York City, N.Y., Mar 6, 2011 (CNA) - The Catholic League has released a summary of its efforts to defend the rights and reputation of the Catholic Church throughout 2010, particularly against what the league's president perceives as a cultural bias against the Church and its beliefs.

“There is obviously a double standard – something we have pointed out over and over again,” said Catholic League President Bill Donohue. On Feb. 28, the organization released its “Annual Report on Anti-Catholicism” for 2010.

“Assaults on Catholicism, if not Catholics, are running at a fever pitch,” Donohue stated in his summary of the report. “It is our job to confront those responsible. We do so by putting the media spotlight on them, protesting in the streets, and alerting our membership base.”

During 2010, Donohue and the league called attention to a number of controversial incidents, saying they showed an inconsistency between the treatment of Catholics' beliefs and sensibilities, and those of other groups.

Donohue expressed a particular disappointment with the New York Times' attempts to blame Pope Benedict XVI for clergy abuse incidents to which he had little or no connection.

“We were provoked into action,” he recalled, “following several weeks of stories in the New York Times that attempted to blame Pope Benedict XVI for the sexual abuse scandal.” He described many of the stories as “unfair in their accusations,” and riddled with “invidious innuendos” about the Church and the priesthood.

“What bothered us immensely,” Donohue pointed out, “was that no other institution, secular or religious, was put under the microscope about cases of alleged wrongdoing that took place over a half-century ago.”

Donohue was also frustrated by the attitude shown toward Jesus himself, among some artists whose work received government support.

He recalled that the Catholic League was “busy in the fall drawing attention to the scurrilous 'artwork' of Stanford professor Enrique Chagoya that was on displayed at the Loveland Museum in Loveland, Colorado.”

Opponents of the exhibit, which took place at a publicly-funded gallery, said that a piece by Chagoya portrayed Jesus engaged in a sex act. A Montana woman eventually destroyed the work after smashing its display case with a crowbar.

Later in the year, the Catholic League's efforts served to put a more peaceful end to another disputed art exhibit, at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. Their complaints led to the removal of a video by the late David Wojnarowicz, which used images of ants crawling over a crucified figure of Christ to portray the suffering of AIDS patients.

Donohue believed the piece was a public insult against Christ, and did not deserve to receive the endorsement of a publicly-funded gallery.

“Our position is quite simple,” he reaffirmed in the 2010 review. “If it is wrong for the government to fund religious expression, it should be equally wrong for the government to fund anti-religious expression.”

For Donohue, however, this principle of fairness still leaves room for faith in public life.

Near the end of 2010, the Catholic League “did something never done before – we sent, free of charge, a beautiful manger scene to every governor, asking that it be placed in a suitable public place.”

“We paid for it, because we didn't want to give anyone an excuse not to display a creche on public property at Christmastime,” Donohue explained. Many governors agreed to the proposal – “thus triggering another round of hate mail from the so-called 'freethinkers.'”

“Anyone who seeks to have an impact on the culture is bound to be controversial,” Donohue reflected. “Judging from the reactions that were garnered in 2010, it is safe to say we made our mark.”

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St. John of God's life of repentance remembered on March 8 feast

CNA STAFF, Mar 6, 2011 (CNA) - The Catholic Church will celebrate the extraordinary life of St. John of God on March 8. The saint lived through decades of sin and suffering before a profound conversion that led him to embrace poverty, humility and charity.

John was born in Portugal during the year 1495 to middle-class parents. Tragically, at the age of 8, he was kidnapped by a stranger and was later abandoned to homelessness in a remote part of Spain.

He worked as a shepherd until age 22, when the opportunity came along for him to join the army of the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V. This apparent stroke of fortune, however, would eventually lead John into greater misery.

For the next 18 years, John lived and fought among the emperor's foot soldiers, first against the French and later the Turks. His morals began to decline, as he completely abandoned the piety of his earliest youth for a greedy and brutal way of life.

John's conscience was occasionally troubled, particularly by the memories of his early years before he was taken from his parents. And despite falling into a lifestyle of violence and plundering, he
had a certain weakness for those who were poor or in extreme distress, and would give alms to them.

He was narrowly saved on two occasions from what seemed like certain death – once after instinctively uttering a prayer to the Virgin Mary after falling wounded in enemy territory; and again, when he was falsely suspected of theft and nearly executed but for another soldier's intervention.

Events such as these weighed heavily upon him, and when his regiment was disbanded he decided to amend his life – beginning with a pilgrimage to Spain's Santiago de Compostela Cathedral along the “Way of St. James.” There, he confessed his sins and committed himself to living a life of repentance.

Soon after this, he returned to Portugal and discovered what had become of his parents. His mother had died, brokenhearted, after the loss of her son, after which his father had become a Franciscan monk.

At age 42, John returned to Spain and picked up nearly where he had left off 20 years before, working again as a shepherd. This time, however, he was committed to living out the faith in God that he had regained.

He traveled briefly to North Africa, seeking to help Christians there who had been enslaved by Muslims. Eventually, however, he returned to Spain and settled for a time in the occupation of selling religious books and other goods, always encouraging his customers to live their faith sincerely. St. John of God's later reputation as the patron saint of booksellers derives from this period of his life.

Later, however, he felt compelled to give himself entirely to the service of the poor, sick, and vulnerable. He opened his house to them – allowing it to become a combined hospital, homeless shelter, and halfway-house, run entirely by John himself. When he was not bandaging occupants' wounded or breaking up fights between them, he would go out begging on their behalf.

The Bishop of Granada approved his work, and gave him the name “John of God.” A group of volunteers came to accompany him in his work, many of whom had first come to him while in dire need themselves.

Others, who resented his work, assaulted John's reputation by focusing on his past sins – but John, unfazed in his humility, would acknowledge the truth of what was said, as a testament to God's grace in his life. He once offered to pay a woman to tell the entire city what she had been saying about him in private.

John served the sick and poor for 15 years, before meeting his death through an act of charity. He jumped into a freezing river and managed to save a drowning man, but came home shivering and weakened from the ordeal. He lay down in one of his own hospital beds, where his condition further declined.

The Bishop of Granada came to administer the last rites. As the bishop prepared him for death, John expressed a number of anxieties.

“There are three things that make me uneasy,” he said. “The first is that I have received so many graces from God, and have not recognized them, and have repaid them with so little of my own.”

“The second is that after I am dead, I fear lest the poor women I have rescued, and the poor sinners I have reclaimed, may be treated badly.”

“The third is that those who have trusted me with money, and whom I have not fully repaid, may suffer loss on my account.”

The bishop, however, assured him that he had nothing to fear. John then asked to be alone, and summoned his last strength to rise from bed and kneel before a crucifix.

He died in prayer, with his face pressed against the figure of Christ, on the night of March 7, 1550. St. John of God was canonized in 1690, and has become the patron of hospitals and the dying.

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Lives built on 'sands' of power and money do not satisfy, Pope says

Vatican City, Mar 6, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - On Christ, and not on the “sands of power, success and money,” does man find the true place to build his life, said Pope Benedict XVI at the Sunday Angelus.

From his studio window high above St. Peter's Square, Pope Benedict spoke about the Sunday reading in which Jesus says that “only the one who does the will of my Father” will enter into heaven.

During the "Sermon on the Mount" described in the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus explains that those who listen to his words and act on them are like a “wise man who built his house on rock.” Those who do not, he warns, are like the “fool” who builds his house on sand, only to have it collapse in a storm.

This conclusion, said the Pope, is an invitation to Jesus' disciples to listen to his words and put them in practice. Through this parable, Christ calls the disciple to a greater allegiance to his words.

“The invisible God out of the abundance of his love speaks to men as friends and lives among them, so that he may invite and take them into fellowship with himself,” the Pope said, quoting from a Vatican II document.

“In this vision every man and woman appears as someone to whom the Word speaks, challenges and calls to enter this dialogue of love through a free response,” he said.

This means that people of every age who have had “the grace to know Jesus,” the “living word of God,” see in him “the true face of God,” said Pope Benedict.

And, at the same time, Jesus “makes us feel the joy of being the children of the father that is in heaven, indicating to us the solid base on which to build our lives.”

Still, the Pope observed, man often prefers to build his life on “the sands of power, success and money.”

He asked, “on what thing do we wish to build our lives? Who can truly respond to the restlessness of the human heart?”

Pope Benedict summed up the response in a single phrase: “Christ is the rock of our life!”

“He is the eternal and definitive word that is not scared by any type of adversity, difficulty or unease.”

He prayed that God's word would permeate the life, thoughts and actions of all.

The Pope concluded his pre-Angelus teaching by exhorting the faithful to “make space” for God's word daily, to feed themselves with it and contemplate it always. “It is a precious aid also for keeping oneself away from a superficial activism, that might satisfy pride for a moment, but that, in the end, leaves us empty and unsatisfied.”

As Mary did, “we wish to renew our 'yes' and entrust our path with confidence to God,” he said.

After the Marian prayer of the Angelus, Pope Benedict drew his attention to the March 2 murder of Pakistani minister for minorities, Shahbaz Bhatti. He prayed that his “moving sacrifice ... might awaken in consciences the courage and the commitment to protect the religious liberty of all men and, likewise, to promoting their equal dignity.”

He also prayed for the victims of conflict in Libya. He ensured his closeness to them and all people who find themselves in “distressing situations.”

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Fidelity of new pastoral ministry program at University of Dallas questioned (Updated)

Dallas, Texas, Mar 6, 2011 (CNA) - Updated at 4:00 MST, March 7: Dr. Patrick Fagan has issued a retraction of one of his critiques against School of Ministry teacher Sr. Dorothy Jonaitis.

Due to a reporting error, quote from Dean Brian Schmisek was missing the word "formal". Added quote from Schmisek that his department does a good job at staying faithful to Ex Corde. 

Hundreds of students at the University of Dallas are questioning the idea of courses for a new degree in pastoral ministry being taught by teachers from the School of Ministry, after one critic alleged some of them have publicly disagreed with Church teaching.

Concerns about the new undergraduate major--scheduled to be launched next year--were initially raised in an article written by Dr. Patrick Fagan, director of the Marriage and Religion Research Institute (MARRI) at the Family Research Council.

Fagan wrote a March 2 column for “The Catholic Thing” expressing concern that the courses may be taught by faculty members from the university’s School of Ministry rather than the undergraduate theology department.

Fagan cited multiple instances in which School of Ministry faculty members allegedly deviated from Catholic teaching on topics including homosexuality, priestly celibacy and women’s ordination. Upon closer examination, many of the Fagan's assertions of infidelity to Church teaching were not substantiated by the original texts.

He also noted that several teachers rely solely upon textbooks by authors who challenge Church teaching on important modern topics such as euthanasia and moral relativism, as well as who oppose Eucharistic adoration as outdated as unnecessary.

Fagan's column also drew attention to a 2007 interview with Dean Brian Schmisek in which he told the National Catholic Register that after a pre-hire screening process, no formal system exists within the School of Ministry to ensure that its teachers adhere to the Magisterium of the Church. At the same time, Schmisek said, “We do a pretty excellent job of fulfilling the mandate of Ex Corde Ecclesiae. 

Fagan, who describes himself as the “proud father of five UD alumni children,” called for the university to investigate before moving forward with the program. If they do not, he cautioned, “I and many like me will be telling like-minded parents to send their children elsewhere.”

Nevertheless, news of the article spread rapidly. Within hours of its release on March 2, a Facebook group to oppose the decision had grown to include more than 350 members, drawing largely from the university’s undergraduate population of about 1,350 students.

“It is becoming evident that the School of Ministry is being led by people who have publicly expressed views that conflict with important and fundamental beliefs of the Catholic Church,” said senior Katie Prejean. “I’m worried about the future of the school.”

Prejean said that the strong student response was an indication of commitment to Catholic teaching. “Such a negative reaction is coming out of this because we are truly opposed to it,” she explained. 

Pam Beeler, a current student in the School of Ministry, told CNA that Dr. Fagan’s article “raises legitimate concerns” about the orthodoxy of the department’s faculty.

Beeler, who graduated with her undergraduate degree from UD in 1987, is required by the diocese to take additional graduate level classes at a Catholic university in order to continue teaching theology in a Catholic high school.  Because she lives several hours away, she is completing the degree online.

Beeler said that while her professors in the undergraduate program had proven dedicated to Church teaching, her current experience with the School of Ministry teachers has raised questions in her mind that the school is “not in keeping with what is going on at the rest of the university.”

Alumni and parents joined students in voicing their concerns. An online petition generated more than 200 signatures overnight and grew to over 300 the next day. In addition, the university’s president, Thomas Keefe, received more than 100 e-mails on Wednesday evening. In response, he called a forum on Thursday to discuss the matter with the students.

At the forum, Keefe described the incident as a “miscommunication.” He told students that their concerns were “unfounded” and that Fagan’s article was a misrepresentation of the facts.

“It was intended to scare you. It was intended to raise fear within the constituent group to stop the pastoral ministry degree,” he said.

Keefe said that the instances cited had been taken out of context or were from the past. “It was at one time, a decade ago, appropriate in this Church to talk about women’s ordination,” he said.

The president said that everything in Fagan’s article would be investigated, but he declined to answer students’ questions regarding the incidents and faculty members mentioned in the article.

“This has nothing to do with individuals,” he said, explaining that students could arrange a private meeting with him if they still had concerns.

Keefe said that the people referenced in the article had been deeply hurt. “They don’t deserve it,” he remarked. “They have devoted their life to the Church. Now maybe not the way you all think they should, and maybe your theology is different, but their sacrifice is every, every bit as compelling as anyone else’s.”

“There are some very talented people in the School of Ministry who are undervalued and underknown here,” said Keefe, adding that he would like to see the undergraduate college work more closely with the School of Ministry in the future.

“One of the problems that we’ve had, I believe, before I came here, is we allowed the School of Ministry to exist, but we kept our distance from it,” he said. “Now we’re actually going to invite them to the table, and we’re actually going to break bread with them, and we’re going to find out that they are people of good faith, working hard.”

Keefe explained that decisions have not yet been made on who will teach the pastoral ministry classes next fall. Bishop Kevin Farrell of Dallas will be responsible for approving teachers in the new major, although he will not oversee the program. 

“I guarantee you, no heretical teachings will take part in the pastoral studies degree program,” Keefe stated.

In a video message, Bishop Farrell also responded to the Dallas community. He began by explaining that he had asked the university to develop a pastoral ministry major because of the need for additional help in the parishes of the diocese.

The bishop then acknowledged that concerns about fidelity to Church teaching in the new program had been raised. He assured the people of the diocese that he will always be “deeply concerned” about the “Catholic identity and the Catholic structure that is given in this degree program.”

“That is my responsibility. I do not take it lightly,” he said.

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