New Haven, Conn., Oct 4, 2011 (CNA) - The pro-family group Fathers for Good is announcing the launch of online resources for Catholics as the U.S. Church gears up to celebrate Respect Life Month in October.
“Every Catholic father should be a protector and promoter of human life in all its stages,” Brian Caulfield, site editor, told CNA on Sept. 28.
“It is important for us to learn what the Church teaches on the important life issues so we can hand these truths on to our children.”
Fathers for Good will post a different pro-life resource each week on its site, www.fathersforgood.org, starting with a recent statement from Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, chair of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities.
Cardinal DiNardo said in a Sept. 26 letter that Respect Life Month is a time for prayer, reflection and action to advance the right to life and to resist efforts that “silence” moral truth and violate religious liberty.
The Respect Life program began in 1972 and is observed in the 195 Catholic dioceses in the U.S. It begins on Respect Life Sunday, the first Sunday in October.
“Catholics must not shrink from the obligation to assert the values and principles we hold essential to the common good,” the cardinal said, “beginning with the right to life of every human being and the right of every woman and man to express and live by his or her religious beliefs and well-formed conscience.”
Caulfield explained that the Knights of Columbus started the Fathers for Good initiative in 2008 to help men strengthen their marriages and families. The site features regular articles, videos and other multimedia on the subject of Christian fatherhood.
A father of two young boys, Caulfield writes on what he called “the spiritual truths found in daily life and the issues men face while striving to live out their vocation.”
Rome, Italy, Oct 4, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Archbishop Edwin F. O’Brien is calling upon Catholics to give renewed support to Christians in the Holy Land.
“Our population there is ebbing – we are now only about two percent of the total population,” he told CNA in Rome, Sept. 27.
“The holy places where Christ walked and where monuments are established to recall his words, his death and resurrection, they are now less and less frequented. Therefore we must as good Christians around the world respect that patrimony.”
It has been one month since the Vatican asked 72-year-old Archbishop O’Brien to move from the Archdiocese of Baltimore to become the Grand Master of The Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem. Although the order has its headquarters in Rome, it is responsible for promoting and defending Christianity in the Holy Land.
“I never thought I’d leave Baltimore. It came as a surprise and even a shock to me when I received the call from the Secretariat of State,” said Archbishop O’Brien describing the move as “a jolt.” Until the Vatican appoints his replacement, he’ll continue as apostolic administrator of Baltimore. Despite all the upheaval he said he is confident that “God will take care of things.”
The order currently provides 75 percent of the annual income for the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem which cares for the Church in Israel, Palestine, Jordan and Cyprus. It also funds 40 schools in the region as well as hospitals and institutes of higher education such as the University of Bethlehem.
Despite that, the new grand master admits that the order is “not very well known even by those who are very active in the Church.” If fact, he recounts “speaking to some seminarians the other day and they had never heard to it.”
He is now motivated to make the order better known in the Church and to raise the awareness of the Holy Land among ordinary Catholics.
“I think anyone who has visited the Holy Land and walked those same streets where Christ walked for the carrying of the cross can’t help but be overwhelmed by the spirit which runs through every part of that experience,” he said suggesting that more Catholics should consider making a pilgrimage to Palestine and Israel. He also stressed that it is now very safe for foreign travelers to do so.
Holy Land pilgrims, he assured, “always return home healthy and spiritually enriched.”
Archbishop O’Brien said his own favorite places to pray when in the holy city of Jerusalem are the Cenacle, the upper room where Christ presided over the Last Supper, as well as the sights marking Christ’s passion, death and resurrection.
“There’s no question this is the source of our faith and this is the source of renewal we all should all be looking for in our spiritual lives,” he said.
“And I don’t think there’s any place better than that little plot of God’s land where that spiritual renewal can take place more effectively and more long lastingly.”
Archbishop O’Brien remains focused on helping Christians in the area regardless of the surrounding political climate.
“As I see it my role isn’t to get into the political side but we have to be aware of the political realities there if we’re to have any effect in our parishes, schools and other institutions,” he said.
“We will work very close with the Latin Patriarch in Jerusalem and take our cue from him as to how we can best put the Church’s image forward and do so effectively.”
Nashville, Tenn., Oct 4, 2011 (CNA) - Major internet media platforms and service providers have policies that hinder Christian evangelization and censor speech on controversial issues of the day like abortion and marriage, a new report says.
“Christian ideas and other religious content face a clear and present danger of censorship on web-based communication platforms,” said the National Religious Broadcasters’ report “True Liberty in a New Media Age.”
If Christian content is “censored” by new media platforms like the iTunes App Store, Facebook, Google, or internet service providers, “the Good News of the Gospel could become one more casualty of institutionalized religious discrimination,” the broadcaster organization’s president Frank Wright said in the report’s foreword.
The National Religious Broadcasters was founded in 1944 to oppose government regulations and policy decisions by major broadcast networks which impeded the ability of evangelical ministers to buy radio airtime.
Some new media companies have banned Christian content, while others have public positions that make censorship “all but inevitable.”
Except for the microblogging service Twitter, all the new media platforms and services examined have policies “clearly inconsistent with the free speech values of the U.S. Constitution,” the report said.
New media companies are responsive to “market forces” and the demands by “pressure groups calling for censorship” of otherwise lawful viewpoints.
As examples of “anti-Christian censorship,” the report cited the Apple iTunes App Store’s removal of the Manhattan Declaration app that defended traditional marriage. The store also removed an app from Exodus International that said that homosexuality is inappropriate conduct which can be changed through a spiritual transformation.
Internet search engine giant Google refused to accept a pro-life advertisement from a Christian organization in England and its China-based internet service has blacklisted some religious terminology. The company’s advertising guidelines explicitly bar the phrase “abortion is murder” on the grounds it is “gruesome language.”
The report also cited Facebook and other outlets for a policy that bars ads for “politically religious agendas.”
Meanwhile, Facebook has partnered with gay rights advocates to halt “anti-homosexual” content and it is participating in gay-awareness programs. This suggests that Christian content critical of homosexuality, “gay marriage” or other practices will be at risk of censorship.
Apple, Facebook, MySpace, Google, Comcast, AT&T and Verizon all prohibit “hate speech,” which the National Religious Broadcasters report called a “dangerously undefined and political correct term” that is often applied to “stifle” Christian communicators.
“The ongoing technological convergence of these various new media platforms suggests that these free speech-inhibiting practices and unconscionable policies will be further entrenched unless corrective action is taken immediately,” the report said.
The report suggested that companies should follow a “free speech paradigm” guided by the basic First Amendment rules, even where those do not strictly apply to private businesses. It also suggested federal legislation or regulation to forbid “viewpoint censorship.”
“When we started our John Milton Project for Religious Free Speech, I sensed a gathering storm building, with 'new media' companies like Apple, Facebook and Google considering the option of censoring Christian content off their sites,” National Religious Broadcasters’ senior vice president Craig Parshall said on Sept. 13.
“Now, a little more than a year later, after finishing our extensive study, I am convinced that religious free speech rights will face a First Amendment hurricane if action is not taken immediately.”
St. Paul, Minn., Oct 4, 2011 (CNA) - A self-described Catholic group advocating “marriage equality” in Minnesota is misleading Catholics and others about the nature of marriage and is not recognized by the Church, according to church leaders in the state.
The group Catholics for Marriage Equality MN “seeks to confuse Catholics and the public about authentic Church teaching related to matters of marriage and sexuality,” the Minnesota Catholic Conference and the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis said on Sept. 29.
Both the conference and the archdiocese made it known that this group “does not speak for the Catholic Church” and has “no authority” to determine what does and does not constitute Christian doctrine and morality.
“The Archdiocese asks that Catholics avoid associating themselves with this group, and not be deceived by its messages, which are in conflict with the fundamental teachings of the Church,” the statement said.
The group proposes a false view of the Church that undermines the legitimate authority of the bishops and the Magisterium as the interpreter and teacher of the faith given to the apostles by Jesus Christ.
Catholics in good standing cannot oppose Church teaching about human sexuality and marriage, which centers on “the complementarity of the sexes and the mutual self-gift of loving spouses in marital union.”
Catholics for Marriage Equality MN had launched a series of video vignettes of Catholics supporting “gay marriage” at the Minneapolis Review Theater in response to a proposed state constitutional amendment to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman.
The group also cites several Church statements on its website.
“Anyone can selectively piece together statements taken out of context from Church documents or the writings of theologians to construct a religious worldview that suits his or her personal preferences,” said Jason Adkins, executive director of the Minnesota Catholic Conference.
“But such a pick-and-choose cafeteria religion is antithetical to Catholicism. One of the most compelling reasons for being Catholic is that we believe in the faith given to the apostles by Jesus Christ himself and handed on and safeguarded by their successors, the bishops.”
Adkins said that Catholics have a duty to respect everyone, but this duty “does not justify the legitimization of behavior that is not consistent with moral law.”
Both the archdiocese and the conference stressed the importance of showing support and solicitude to those struggling with same-sex attraction and the importance of condemning unjust discrimination against them.
Washington D.C., Oct 4, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Iranian Christian pastor Yousef Nadarkhani still faces imminent execution, though officials no longer say he is charged with apostasy.
“I think his life is in jeopardy more than it ever has been throughout this trial,” said Jordan Sekulow of the American Center for Law and Justice, a D.C.-based human rights organization.
“The one glimmer of hope we have is that we’re shedding light on a story that never gets told in Iran until after the fact. We’re able to work on this case to try to do everything we can to try and save his life.”
The 32-year-old pastor has been imprisoned since 2009 after he complained to local authorities about his son being required to read from the Koran at school. He also sought registration for his church, the Jerusalem Post reports.
While Nadarkhani was initially charged with apostasy, on Oct. 1 Iranian state media said he faced the death penalty for rape, extortion and security-related crimes, including being a “Zionist.”
“This individual is guilty and his crime is not attempting to convert others to Christianity, rather his crimes are of a security nature,” Deputy Governor of Gilan Province Ali Rezvani told Fars news agency.
Rezvani said Iran does not punish those who choose another religion, but God will reprimand those who do.
Sekulow said the court hearings “never mentioned any other crime other than apostasy.” A June ruling from Iran’s high court sent the case back to lower courts to determine whether Nadarkhani was a Muslim at the age of 15, the age of legal adulthood, or if he should be allowed to recant his faith before execution.
After the lower court ruled, Nadarkhani was given three chances to recant his faith but refused to do so.
Iranian officials may try to move ahead with “much tougher charges,” including allegations that the pastor is a “Zionist traitor,” Sekulow told CNA on Oct. 3.
The term implies that the pastor is a traitor, a spy for Israel and an opponent of the Islamic Republic.
Sekulow charged that Iran has a disproportionate number of executions for rape and drug trafficking, a discrepancy in numbers “well known” among human rights groups across the political spectrum.
“Amnesty International and ACLJ agree,” Sekulow said. Iranian officials “always use these other criminal charges that won’t get the kind of attention they would in the Western world.
“This is what they do. They bring you in for an initial charge. If it gets picked up and there’s attention on it they switch it.”
The court has until Wednesday or Thursday to issue a written ruling, but even that may come after the execution.
Sekulow said the Iranian reaction was “good news” in a sense because it showed that the issue was on the government’s radar.
He reported that Nadarkhani’s attorney has asked the American Center for Law and Justice to keep the case in the public eye. The case has prompted criticism from prominent U.S. officials such as House Speaker John Boehner and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Sekulow said the Iranian government has a “very bizarre relationship” with the Christian world. There are a few officially sanctioned churches in Iran which serve those who were never Muslim. These tend to be Orthodox churches and their congregants are a very small percentage of the population.
While these churches face persecution in times of political upheaval, evangelical Christians and adherents of the Bahai religion tend to face the most oppression.
Three hundred Christians have been arrested so far in 2011, Sekulow said. Sometimes they are released and sometimes they are tortured. A few are still awaiting charges.
“If you are not part of the state-sanctioned Islam, a version of Shi’a Islam, then you are an enemy of the state. This applies to Sunni Muslims, evangelical Christians, anyone who is left. You’re not seen as on the side of the country.”
Sekulow said that one Iranian pastor described the situation as an unwritten “Apartheid” system like that which once governed a South Africa segregated along racial lines.
Even an explicit “Apartheid” system would be preferable for providing regularity, that pastor said. But at present, Iranian Christians “don’t know when they are going to start these waves of arrests.”
Rome, Italy, Oct 4, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Vatican daily L’Osservatore Romano has criticized a decision by the BBC television network to drop its usage of the designations “A.D.” and “B.C.”
The network plans to adopt the terms “C.E.” (Common Era) and “BCE” (Before the Common Era) when referring to historical dates, to avoid “offending” non-believers.
L’Osservatore Romano called the decision “senseless historical hypocrisy.” Numerous BBC hosts, as well as politicians such as the mayor of London, Boris Johnshon, have also denounced the plan as absurd.
In an Oct. 5 article that will be published by the Vatican newspaper, reporter Luceta Scaraffia pointed out that numerous non-Christian spokespersons have stated that they “did not feel offended in any way by the traditional dating system.”
“It is clear that respect for other religions is a mere pretext, because what they want is to wipe out any trace of Christianity from western culture.”
Scaraffia noted that this is not the first time an attempt has been made to change the historical designations. The anti-Christian French Revolution of 1789 and the 1917 Leninist revolution in Russia both included efforts to reformulate the traditional calendar to start over again in their respective years.
She called those efforts “horrible precedents” and said the current proposed change is a hypocritical move on the part of those who “seem to not know why the years are counted starting from a certain date.”
“To deny the historically revolutionary role of the coming of Christ on earth, accepted even by those who do not recognize him as the Son of God, is a complete folly. And from a historical point of view, both Jews and Muslims know it.”
She pointed out that with the coming of Christ, mankind learned that all human beings have the same dignity, and this truth forms the basis “for all human rights, by which nations and leaders are judged.
“Until that time no one had held this principle, and Christian tradition is based upon it.”
The world changed after Christ, Scaraffia continued, and knowing the God who transcends nature, “made it possible for the peoples of Europe to discover the world and for scientists to begin the experimental study of nature, which led to the birth of modern science.”
“Why deny, then, civilization’s cultural debt to Christianity? There is nothing more anti-historical and senseless, as Jews and Muslims have clearly understood. It’s a matter of reason, not of faith.”
Rome, Italy, Oct 4, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) -
A senior figure in the breakaway traditionalist group, the Society of St. Pius X, says it could be “very, very difficult” for the Vatican and the Society to agree on terms for reconciliation.
“Assisi III and even more the unfortunate beatification of John Paul II but also many other examples make it clear that the leadership of the Church now as before is not ready to give up the false principles of Vatican II and their consequences,” said the Society’s First Assistant, Father Niklaus Pfluger, in an interview posted on the Society’s website Oct. 2.
“Therefore,” Fr. Pfluger said, “any ‘offer’ made to Tradition must guarantee us the freedom to be able to continue our work and our critique of ‘modernist Rome.’ And to be honest, this seems to be very, very difficult. Again, any false or dangerous compromise must be ruled out.”
“Assisi III” refers to a planned meeting between Pope Benedict XVI and other religious leaders in the Italian town later this month.
Fr. Pfluger’s comments come only weeks after the Vatican presented the Society with a “doctrinal preamble” which outlines points of doctrine that Rome needs clarified before the decades-long rift between the two sides can be healed. If they agree, it is thought the Society could be offered a personal prelature status within the Church - a jurisdiction without geographical boundaries designed to carry out particular pastoral initiatives
Fr. Pfluger revealed that the superiors of the Society of St. Pius X will meet next week in the Albano Laziale suburb of Rome to discuss the offer. He stressed that they will not compromise on their criticism of the Second Vatican Council “and other ways of doing things for the sake of ‘pluralism.’”
“For how can we avoid giving the impression that this amounts after all to a tacit acceptance, so to speak, that would in fact lead to this parallel diversity and relativize the one truth,” he asked, adding, “that is indeed precisely the basis of Modernism.”
The Society of St. Pius X has had a strained relationship with the Vatican since its founder, Archbishop Marcel Lefebrve, consecrated four bishops against the orders of Pope John Paul II in 1988. Archbishop Lefebrve founded the Society in 1970 as a response to what he described as errors that had crept into the Catholic Church following the Second Vatican Council.
Fr. Pfluger also suggested that the Society of St. Pius X is in a stronger bargaining position in relation to the Vatican than in 1988.
“We have four bishops and meanwhile 550 priests worldwide. And the structures of the official Church are breaking down faster and faster. Rome can no longer confront the Society as it did more than twenty years ago,” he said.
“For forty-one years the Society has grown steadily, even in spite of being beaten with the ‘excommunication’ stick.”
Washington D.C., Oct 4, 2011 (CNA) -
Archbishop J. Peter Sartain of Seattle, Wash. explained at a Mass for public servants that Christ’s love is what “sets the standard for every life of humble service.”
“It is love which best manifests the presence of God in our personal and public lives,” he said.
As Christians, we must strive for “conscious participation in the sacrificial love of Christ.”
Archbishop Sartain was the homilist at the 58th annual Red Mass on Oct 2. The Mass is offered annually to ask God to bless and guide Supreme Court justices, judges, diplomats and government officials.
Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl of Washington, D.C. was the principal celebrant of the Mass, which took place at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in the nation’s capital.
The name of the Mass comes from the red vestments worn by the celebrants to represent fire, a symbol of the Holy Spirit.
More than 1,300 people attended the Red Mass, including many public servants.
Among those in attendance were U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justices Samuel Alito, Stephen Breyer, Anthony Kennedy, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley were also present.
In his homily, Archbishop Sartain explained that followers of Christ are called to go beyond the worldly standards that surround them.
“A Christian cannot live a life of integrity or peace when wittingly or unwittingly stuffing oneself with or indifferently absorbing the superficial and the fleeting,” he said.
“A sound, healthy soul will be truly nourished only by the good and the beautiful, the noble and
The archbishop explained that Christians have a duty “to do the good and to deliberately manifest in our lives the One who is good.”
“St. Paul recognized that Christian freedom is not only freedom ‘from’ the constraints of sin, but freedom ‘for’ positive striving for fulfillment in Christ,” he said.
As humans, we are not fully alive unless we “give ourselves to someone beyond ourselves.”
“In the end, it is in our relationship with the Lord that we find the spiritual health that reveals and makes possible true balance, true integrity,” the archbishop said.
He noted that “sound, integrally healthy lives given to public service lift up and transform society.”
Archbishop Sartain called on Christians to imitate Christ as they perform acts of service for others.
“We pray that we will be humble servants like him, who seek to do only his good,” he concluded.
“It is that for which we were made, and it is that for which we are sent into the world.”
Washington D.C., Oct 4, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) -
With the campaign for the 2012 presidential race gaining speed, the U.S. Catholic bishops are saying that their 2007 statement on the political responsibilities of Catholics must not be misused or distorted to justify supporting candidates whose stances on fundamental issues make them unfit for office.
The bishops warned against “misguided appeals to ‘conscience’ to ignore fundamental moral claims, to reduce Catholic moral concerns to one or two matters, or to justify choices simply to advance partisan, ideological, or personal interests.”
An Oct. 4 statement from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops announced that conference president Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan of New York, along with the chairs of nine different committees, are reaffirming their 2007 document "Forming Conscience for Faithful Citizenship," and issuing it with a new introductory note.
The note was discussed at the bishop’s June meeting and authorized at the Administrative Committee meeting in September. It does not modify “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship” but clarifies its use and intent.
In the note, the bishops observed that the statement on the political responsibilities of Catholics “has at times been misused to present an incomplete or distorted view of the demands of faith in politics.”
They explained that the topics outlined in the document are not “issues for equal consideration.” Rather, they said, it “makes important distinctions among moral issues.”
The introductory note acknowledged that some issues “involve the clear obligation to oppose intrinsic evils which can never be justified,” while others raise “serious moral questions” and should lead the faithful to “pursue justice and promote the common good.”
Catholic voting became a heated issue in the 2008 election when several prominent Catholic intellectuals voiced support for then-candidate Barack Obama.
In one of the most notable instances, Doug Kmiec, a law professor at Pepperdine University and a former official in the Reagan administration, endorsed Obama and encouraged other Catholic and conservative voters to do the same.
Kmiec called Obama a “bridge-builder” and said that despite Obama’s opposition to Catholic teachings on moral issues, including abortion and same-sex “marriage,” there were proportionate reasons to support him.
Kmiec said he believed that Obama’s opposition to the Iraq war and focus on “the social justice of economic arrangement” made him “closer to the Church’s teaching” than his opponent, John McCain.
In the new introduction to “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship,” the bishops called on Catholics “to form their consciences in the light of their Catholic faith and to bring our moral principles to the debate and decisions about candidates and issues.”
They explained that the document on faithful citizenship “does not offer a voters guide, scorecard of issues, or direction on how to vote,” but rather, “applies Catholic moral principles to a range of important issues.”
The introductory note lists six “current and fundamental problems” that remain “pressing national issues.” These issues include: abortion and other threats to those who are vulnerable, sick or unwanted; efforts to force Catholic ministries to choose between violating their consciences or ceasing their services to those in need; intensified efforts to redefine and undermine the nature of marriage; an economic crisis that has increased levels of unemployment, poverty, hunger and debt; a “broken” immigration system; and wars, terror, and violence, especially in the Middle East.
The bishops’ note also emphasized the importance of religious liberty. They defended the “right to bring our principles and moral convictions into the public arena” and said that these rights need to be “both exercised and protected.”
The U.S. bishops’ conference has also launched a new website to assist the faithful in the formation of conscience. The website, which can be accessed at http://usccb.org/issues-and-action/faithful-citizenship/, offers formation tools for parishes, organizations and individuals.