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Archive of November 3, 2011

Wisconsin bishops stress non-violence as concealed weapon law begins

Madison, Wis., Nov 3, 2011 (CNA) -

The Wisconsin bishops urged non-violence and underscored the need for citizens to be responsible after the state legalized a measure allowing concealed weapons.

“While the Church has always upheld the right to self-defense, peaceful means of reconciling conflicts and differences, both as individuals and nations, is the preferred method,” the bishops wrote.

Over 80,000 people downloaded permit applications on Nov. 1, hours after Wisconsin's new concealed carry law took effect. Republican Gov. Scott Walker approved and signed the legislation this past July.

The new law allows anyone who is at least 21 years old, has not been convicted of a felony and takes at least four hours of firearms training to apply for a permit to carry a concealed weapon from the state Justice Department. 

However, concealed weapons are banned in numerous locations, including schools, police stations, courtrooms and at the jurisdiction of private establishments.

In a Nov. 1 pastoral letter, the bishops also asked citizens to refrain from bringing weapons into church buildings “as a sign of reverence for these sacred spaces.”

Although the bishops' statement affirmed the right to bear arms as protected by the Constitution, it warned that this right “must be exercised responsibly” and in accordance with applicable laws.

“Both natural law and our constitutional tradition uphold this understanding of individual freedom as an intrinsic human right. This freedom includes both religious liberty and the right to self-defense.”

“True freedom, however, is not license to do whatever we choose,” they stressed.

“Rather, it is the ability to do what we morally ought to do, to build a just society, and to glorify God who is the author of all liberty and the source of human dignity.”

The bishops also noted that Catholic teaching “is committed to non-violence.” They recalled the story of  Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew when he told his disciples to “to put their sword away” rather than to act violently to defend him in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Many Catholic martyrs who “suffered violence and death for the sake of the Gospel,” they added, prayed for their killers as Jesus did on the cross.

The bishops also reflected that the Catholic Church has a long tradition of sanctuary, “allowing people fleeing violence to take refuge in church buildings as a place of safety and protection.”

“Intuitively, we understand that acts of violence, destruction, and murder are antithetical to the message and person of Jesus Christ and have no rightful place in our society, especially sacred places,” they said.

“Bearing witness to the Gospel always presents challenges and opportunities,” the bishops concluded. “We encourage you to embrace this opportunity to live the example of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace.”

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Bishops blast Catholic governor's role in abortion award ceremony

Springfield, Ill., Nov 3, 2011 (CNA) - Illinois' six Catholic bishops have deplored Catholic governor Pat Quinn's role as the presenter of a “Pro-Choice Leadership Award” at an abortion advocacy group's upcoming ceremony.

“We deeply regret the governor's decision to present this award, which so closely associates him with a political action group whose purpose is contrary to the common good,” the six bishops said in a Nov. 2 statement released by the Catholic Conference of Illinois. 

“With this action, Governor Quinn has gone beyond a political alignment with those supporting the legal right to kill children in their mother's wombs, to rewarding those deemed most successful in this terrible work.”

An Oct. 27 e-mail from the abortion advocacy group Personal PAC announced that the Catholic governor “will present Jennie Goodman, Pro-Choice Leadership Award recipient, with the 2011 Award at its Annual Luncheon” on Nov. 17.

The announcement asks supporters to “join Personal PAC and over 1,000 other people in thanking Jennie for her courage and leadership on behalf of the women of Illinois!”

Personal PAC describes itself as a “political action committee dedicated to electing pro-choice candidates to state and local office in Illinois.”

Tickets prices for its 18th annual awards luncheon range from $150 to $5,000. Table service at the event is available at $2,500, $5,000, and $10,000 levels.

The Illinois bishops, including Chicago's Cardinal Archbishop Francis E. George and Springfield's Bishop Thomas J. Paprocki, quoted a 1994 statement of Blessed John Paul II  in their reaction to Governor Quinn's involvement.

The late Pope, they recalled, “asked in his 'Letter to Families,' 'How can one morally accept laws that permit the killing of a human being not yet born, but already alive in the mother's womb?'”

“Governor Quinn not only accepts these laws,” the bishops stated, “he promotes them and publicly presents awards to their advocates.”

“This approach is irreconcilable with any honest profession of the Catholic faith.”

The bishops said they would “continue to pray for (Quinn's) conversion, and the protection of unborn human life.”

Meanwhile, they declared that “those acting in the manner of the governor” should not be honored “on Church property or at functions held in support of Church ministry.”

Previously, Governor Quinn drew a sharp response from Bishop Paprocki, for saying in November 2010 that his “religious faith” moved him to support a same-sex civil unions law. 

On that occasion, Bishop Paprocki – whose diocese includes the state capitol – said the governor's motivation was “certainly not the Catholic faith,” which “does not support civil unions or other measures that are contrary to the natural moral law.”

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Offices attacked after magazine mocks Islam

Paris, France, Nov 3, 2011 (CNA/Europa Press) -

The attack against the offices of the French satirical magazine, “Charlie Hebdo,” has been unanimously condemned in France.

The front-page of the latest issue, subtitled "Sharia Hebdo," a reference to Islamic law, showed a cartoon-like man with a turban, white robe and beard smiling and saying in an accompanying bubble, "100 lashes if you don't die laughing." 

The magazine also "invited" the Prophet Muhammad to be its guest editor for the week.
 
The offices of the magazine were firebombed with Molotov cocktails early on Nov. 2. Computer hackers also posted pictures of a mosque on Charlie Hebdo's website with the words: “There is no god besides Allah.”
 
French Prime Minister Francois Fillon called for an investigation into the attack and said those responsible would be prosecuted. The country's interior minister, Claude Gueant, expressed support for the magazine, saying, “(f)reedom of expression is sacred” in France.

The mayor of Paris and other French publications have offered to provide the magazine staff with temporary office space.

Also condemning the attack was the Organization for Cooperation and Security in Europe. Dunja Mijatovic, a spokesman for the group, said, “(r)egardless of the motives, attacks against the media and journalists are intolerable.”
 
Freedom of expression, he added, represents a pillar of “democratic and open societies.”

The firebombing was also denounced by the French Muslim Council, who at the same time expressed disappointment that the magazine chose to poke fun at Islam and its leader. However, the organization “strongly reaffirmed its total opposition to any act or form of violence.”
 
The head of the French Association of Imans, Tareq Oubrou, denounced the arson attack as well and urged Muslims not to give in to “provocations.”

“I personally call on Muslims to keep an open mind and to not take this too seriously,” he said in a television interview. 
 
In 2005, the decision by a Danish magazine to publish cartoons mocking Muhammad unleashed a wave of violence in the Muslim world, leaving over 50 people dead. 

A former director of “Charlie Hebdo,” Philippe Val, was investigated by French officials after reprinting the cartoons in 2006.  He was eventually cleared of any wrongdoing.

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Catholics Come Home announces ad campaign on major networks

Atlanta, Ga., Nov 3, 2011 (CNA) - Catholics Come Home has announced a major prime time evangelization initiative set to air on American TV networks beginning in mid-Advent and ending after Christmas.

The initiative’s advertising campaign aims to reach 250 million television viewers in over 10,000 U.S. cities and in every U.S. diocese.

“These inspiring messages are sponsored by 30,000 Catholic families who want to invite neighbors, relatives, and co-workers to the largest family reunion in modern history,” said Catholics Come Home founder Tom Peterson.

The ad used in the campaign notes the beauty and history of the Catholic Church. It mentions Catholics’ traditions of prayer, help for the poor, and work in education.

“Guided by the Holy Spirit, we compiled the Bible,” it says, stating that the Church was “started by Jesus.”

“If you’ve been away, come home to your parish, and visit CatholicsComeHome.org today,” the ad says.

Catholics Come Home says the ad is scheduled to air over 400 times from Dec. 16 through Jan. 8.

The ad, available in English and in Spanish, will air on CBS, NBC, Univision, TBS, USA, TNT, CNN, Fox News and other networks. Targeted shows include 60 Minutes, NCIS, NBC Nightly News, The Today Show, Late Night with Jay Leno, The O’Reilly Factor, major sports events and highly rated sitcoms.

The organization hopes to inspire as any as one million Catholics to return to local parishes. Since it began its media campaigns in 2008, Catholics Come Home has increased Mass attendance an average of 10 percent in the markets where the ads have shown and has brought 300,000 people back to the Church.

Only about 33 percent of U.S. Catholics attend weekly Mass, according to statistics from Georgetown University’s Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate. This means about 42.7 million Catholics do not attend weekly.

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Pope: resurrection depends on Christ, not nature

Vatican City, Nov 3, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - At a Mass for those cardinals and bishops who have died during the last year, Pope Benedict XVI said that the promise of the resurrection rests only on Christ and not any sort of naturalistic power.
 
Pope Benedict began his Nov. 3 homily in St. Peter’s Basilica by noting that Christ’s victory over death was foreshadowed eight centuries beforehand by the Prophet Hosea.
 
He said that the writings of Hosea were “deeply impressed on the heart and mind of Jesus” who would quote from them, and in the case of Hosea 6:2, actually live it out. In that passage, Hosea predicted that God “will revive us after two days; on the third day he will raise us up, to live in his presence.”
 
Jesus takes this verse and “makes it his own and realizes it in His paschal mystery,” so that when “the Lord Jesus went to meet his Passion,” the “oracle of the prophet Hosea rang true in his own words,” the Pope said.

He noted that just as the disciples “did not understand the saying,” of Jesus and “were afraid to question him,” so “we, too, faced with death, we cannot but feel the feelings and thoughts dictated by our human condition.”

We, with our natural fear of death, are “always surprised and superseded by a God who is so close to us that He does not even stop before the abyss of death, which indeed he goes through, remaining in the tomb for two days.”

Thus, “the mystery of the ‘third day’ takes place,” said the Pope, explaining that it then became apparent that Christ took on our mortal flesh “so that it may be invested with the glorious power of God.”
 
Toward the end of his homily, Pope Benedict explained that the Jews of Hosea’s time were tempted to mingle Judaism with the “naturalistic religions of the land of Canaan,” so that the promise of resurrection “was in danger of being reduced to an illusion, a symbol derived from the rhythm of the seasons: ‘like autumn rain, like spring rain.’”

Similar temptations must be avoided today, he said, since “it is in Christ alone that this hope finds its basis in reality.”
 
“The new and eternal life is the fruit of the tree of the Cross, a tree that blooms and bears fruit because of the light and strength that comes from the sun of God.
 
“Without the Cross of Christ, all the energy of nature is powerless before the negative force of sin,” the Pope said.
 
He then commended the souls of each of the deceased bishops and cardinals to God, through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, so that “this mystery of communion, which filled all their lives, may be fully accomplished in each of them.”

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Baltimore video incident exposes lax attitudes towards porn

Baltimore, Md., Nov 3, 2011 (CNA) - Lax law enforcement and a society desensitized to pornography may be partly to blame for the widespread “viral” distribution of a pornographic video of two Baltimore 14-year-olds filmed on school property, one expert says.

“Widespread availability of pornography has created a voyeuristic society and those who consume porn are used to seeing others have sexual relations,” Morality in Media chairman Patrick Trueman said in reaction to the incident.

“There is certainly a link between the normalization of pornography and the spread of child pornography,” he told CNA. “It is not possible for society to be lax about adult pornography and strict about child pornography. We are seeing what happens as a result right now.”

Millions of people around the world have watched the sex video even though it is classified as child pornography, Baltimore CBS affiliate WJZ reports.

The 14-year-old girl who was involved said she wasn’t aware she was being taped in the incident, which took place outside a building on Baltimore City school property.

“She was forced to do this. She was bullied, harassed into doing this,” her father, who was not identified, told WJZ.

He asked why social network sites like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube allowed the video to remain posted for four days.

“They did nothing to protect my daughter and I’m furious. I mean, any parent would be,” he said.

The teenage girl involved in the video has transferred out of the school. Baltimore City police are working with school officials to investigate.

Trueman, a former U.S. Department of Justice division chief who supervised the prosecution of child pornography and obscenity, said that government inaction is allowing the spread of pornographic material.

“For several years, the U.S. Department of Justice has been very lax about enforcing adult pornography laws. President Obama and his Department of Justice have refused to enforce those laws. The result is that we have a boom in child pornography,” he said.

Trueman advised parents to warn their children about pornographic material and to monitor their children’s Internet and phone access to it.

He noted that production and distribution of child pornography are two separate crimes, both punishable by years in federal prison.

“If a child is involved, anyone who shares a link or distributes (it) can be prosecuted under federal law. Mere possession of two or more pieces of child porn is a violation of federal law.”

“Those who videotaped this and those who posted it to the Web should be prosecuted,” he said of the Baltimore video.

Fr. Michael O’Loughlin, who regularly works with youth and is the pastor of Holy Protection of the Mother of God Byzantine Catholic Church in Denver, spoke about the needs of the teens involved in the video.

They need “both the comfort and support of their family as they deal with the long term consequences of both the infamy they now have as a result of the proliferation of the video, and also of the abuse of the God-given gift of their sexuality,” he told CNA.

He suggested that those who posted the video “didn’t expect these consequences--although he or she should have--and they need to understand how hurtful their actions can be.”

Fr. O’Loughlin explained that the Church teaches pornography use is sinful because human sexuality and the sexual act are “means God gave us to grow closer to each other and therefore to him.”

While Internet pornography is a new phenomenon, he noted that throughout history the Catholic Church and families have had to deal with various vices becoming more easily available.

“When this happens, we need to update our Christian ‘arsenal’ to defend ourselves and our families against the culture's acceptance and even promotion of idea and actions that separate us from God and our calling,” he said.

He suggested that parents have to help their children to “think critically” and consider the long-term effects of “even the quickest, easiest and most ‘popular’ of actions.”

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Group says faith should be respected in 2012 election

Washington D.C., Nov 3, 2011 (CNA) -

A group of nearly 40 Catholic lay individuals has issued a statement urging “harmony and understanding among all faiths” in the upcoming U.S. presidential election and “rejecting bigoted questions and comments about personal religious beliefs.”

The statement, which was signed by “Catholic citizens of different political persuasions,” called for the avoidance of “all inclinations to raise the issue of personal religious affiliation.”

It asked that “civility be maintained in the public discourse.”

Thomas P. Melady, former U.S. ambassador to the Holy See, released the statement at a Nov. 2 press conference at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.

A press release announcing the event said that the individuals who signed the statement “are concerned about the manner in which religion is surfacing in the current political public discourse.”

It explained that the signatories fear “signs of a regression back to the use of religious bias when discussing candidates for political office.”

The statement was issued in response to a comment made in October by Robert Jeffress, the senior pastor at First Baptist Church in Dallas.

Jeffress endorsed Rick Perry at the Values Voter Summit in Washington, D.C. and called Mormonism, the faith of GOP candidate Mitt Romney, “a cult.”

Adding to the controversy, Rev. Jeffress was quoted last year as saying that the Roman Catholic Church was the outgrowth of a “corruption” which he called “Babylonian mystery.”

“Much of what you see in the Catholic Church today doesn’t come from God’s word,” he said. “It comes from that cult-like pagan religion. Isn’t that the genius of Satan?”

Once Jeffress’comments were brought to Gov. Perry’s attention he disassociated himself from the pastor.

The signers of the call for civility noted that the U.S. has a “history of anti-Catholic bias,” citing the 1928 presidential election in which “religious bigotry” was exhibited against Catholic candidate Al Smith.

Smith’s great grandson is among the signatories of the statement.

Although progress has been made, Melady explained that Jeffress’ comments have raised concerns that religious bigotry may flare up again in the upcoming election.

The statement lamented “the unfortunate prospect that the discussion of a man’s particular religious belief may become a major divisive political issue.”

It acknowledged “that a candidate’s character, moral beliefs, and reputation for integrity should be subject to public review,” but denounced attempts to allow “the question of a candidate’s religion to be subject to public ridicule.”

At the Wednesday press conference, Melady emphasized the need to “focus on the issues.” He called for a “discussion conducted civilly” with “respect for the other point of view.”

Melady said that the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ ad hoc committee on religious liberty would receive a copy of the statement.

Among those who signed the statement were Douglas Kmiec, former U.S. ambassador to Malta, and Fred Rotondaro, chair of the left-leaning group Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good.

Other signatories included Dr. Stephen Schneck, director of the Institute for Policy Research and Catholic Studies at The Catholic University of America; Owen Smith, chairman of the board of trustees at the Institute of World Politics; and Frank Fahrenkopf, former chairman of the Republican National Committee.

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Beliefnet to manage CNA's e-mail subscriptions

Denver, Colo., Nov 3, 2011 (CNA) -

The world's largest religious website, Beliefnet.com, will begin managing Catholic News Agency's mailing list on Nov. 7, offering improved service for those who receive CNA's daily news e-mail.

“The choice of Beliefnet’s platform guarantees a more efficient and first-class service for our users, especially now that our mail list has grown so much,” said Alejandro Bermudez, executive director of CNA.

Beliefnet.com, an online portal that covers issues related to all faiths, will soon include content from CNA on its English-language channel. The website boasts one of the largest networks of mailing list servers in the world.
 
Beginning on Nov. 7, subscribers to CNA’s daily news will receive e-mails through a highly secure system that protects personal information and guarantees instant delivery.
 
Beliefnet will also include a minimal amount of advertising in line with CNA’s mission.

Bermudez explained that Beliefnet's “non-intrusive advertising, which may be of interest to our users, will give CNA another revenue source that will allow readers to continue to receive our services free of charge.”

To sign up for CNA's e-mail service, visit: http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/subscribe.php

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