Archive of January 5, 2012

Anti-Catholic cartoons become issue in NJ Hall of Fame nomination

Trenton, N.J., Jan 5, 2012 (CNA) - Voting has closed for the New Jersey Hall of Fame’s nomination of 19th-century cartoonist Thomas Nast, whose proposed induction drew criticism from Catholic and Irish groups who said his negative portrayals of Catholics and Irish-Americans made him unsuitable for the honor.

Nast is better known for creating the modern version of Santa Claus and Uncle Sam. He was a pioneer in editorial cartooning and popularized the symbols of the Elephant and the Donkey for the Republican and Democratic parties.

He also created cartoons such as “The American River Ganges,” which show Catholic bishops as alligators threatening schoolchildren. One cartoon, archived at the Catholic League website, labeled the Catholic Church a “foreign reptile.”

Other images attack Catholic opposition to public schooling, which at the time required Catholics to read from the Protestant King James Version of the Bible. One drawing shows monster-faced Irish Catholic schoolchildren kicking a Bible. Another lauds church-state separation in Europe and warns of efforts to unite the institutions in the United States.

The New Jersey Hall of Fame, created through unanimous bipartisan state legislation, is supported exclusively through private donations. Fifty New Jersey residents, living and deceased, are among this year’s nominees.

Nast’s nomination drew criticism from several state legislators and the New Jersey Ancient Order of Hibernians, a Catholic fraternal group for men of Irish descent.

Sean Pender, president of the New Jersey Ancient Order of Hibernians, said in December that Nast’s cartoons portrayed Catholics “in the most stereotypical and unflattering of ways.”

“It is hard to believe that anyone with such a prejudice towards a specific nationality and faith would be singled out for praise,” he said, according to

The public vote on the nominees closed on Jan. 1, 2012, the hall’s executive director Don Jay Smith told CNA on Jan. 3.

The Hall of Fame’s board of commissioners reviewed the concerns of the Hibernians and the Catholic League, but felt that they concerned “a very small number of cartoons” drawn over Nast’s “many-decade career,” Smith said.

“When the total body of his work was considered, we’re looking at a handful of political cartoons that were deemed offensive by these two groups.”

The board felt that they would leave the decision to the public.

According to Smith, who said he is not a historian, Nast was very critical of Irish-Americans because of their strong support for his opponents, “the corrupt Democratic political machine of Tammany Hall and Boss Tweed.”

“He was critical of the Catholic Church in two cartoons that he drew because as a progressive at the time, he believed that the Church was not supportive of the separation of church and state, which was an axiom of American life at the time.

“The bishops were campaigning to get children to leave the public schools and go to the newly formed Catholic schools, which were being funded by Boss Tweed.

“Nast didn’t like that, so he was critical in a couple of cartoons of the Catholic Church,” Smith said.

“He was a political cartoonist who skewered a lot of people.”

Smith said there was “a lot of misinformation” about Nast’s nomination. He received many e-mails comparing Nast to Hitler and saying he was anti-black. Smith rejected this idea, citing Nast’s support for the emancipation of slaves. Nast may have been critical of 19th-century Irish-Americans because they opposed emancipation, Smith suggested.

He told CNA that the Hall of Fame had been caught off-guard by the controversy because Nast had been nominated for induction for each of the past three ballots.

Smith also noted the Hibernians are also part of the Hall of Fame’s voting academy, but did not raise the issue before.

He said that if Nast fails to win this vote, it is not likely that his name will appear on lists in the near future because he has failed to win induction in the past three years.

“I feel terrible that it became such an issue,” Smith said.

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Nigerian archbishop denounces Christmas terrorist attacks

Abuja, Nigeria, Jan 5, 2012 (CNA) - A leading Catholic bishop in Nigeria denounced the terrorist attacks over Christmas and criticized media reports that depict the ongoing violence as a civil war between Muslims and Christians.

Archbishop John Olurunfemi Onaiyekan of Abuja denounced Boko Haram, an radical Islamist group, as “terrorists who cause problems for anyone in Nigeria who stands in their way.”

“They claim to act in the name of Islam, but the killing of innocents is contradictory to Islam,” he told Aid to the Church in Need on Dec. 30.

His comments followed five separate bomb attacks across Nigeria on Christmas Day, one of which targeted a crowd leaving Mass at a Catholic church. The attacks killed at least 40 people and were accompanied by clashes between the Nigerian military and Boko Haram, which claimed responsibility for the attacks.

More than 50 people died in Nigeria’s southeastern Ebonyi state in a New Year’s eve clash between the Ezza and Ezilo ethnic groups. Aid to the Church in Need said the conflict was a land dispute, though some reports have described it as a religious conflict.

Archbishop Onaiyekan said that eight imams from mosques in Abuja visited the archbishop after the attacks to express their condolences. He said he had also received many letters of sympathy from Muslims.

“Christians and Muslims go to school, to the market and to work together, and they serve together in the army. The places where they live now are where they grew up,” the archbishop said.

A purported spokesman for Boko Haram gave a three-day ultimatum for Christians to leave the mainly Muslim north of Nigeria on Jan. 2. He also asked Muslims living in the mainly Christian south to move north.

The archbishop rejected the idea as one that would plunge the country into a deeper crisis.

“One cannot suddenly resettle all the Muslims in the north and all the Christians in the south and divide up the country,” he said.

Some media reports said that Nigerian Christians are arming themselves after the attacks. Archbishop Onaiyekan called on all believers to refrain from violence.

“Jesus Christ would not want us to retaliate,” he said.

The archbishop said it was equally wrong for the media to present Christians as either helpless or as “being prepared to defend themselves with armed force,” as some reports have suggested.

Archbishop Onaiyekan concluded his remarks by asking Christians throughout the world to pray for peace in Nigeria.

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Jews and Evangelicals stand with Church against contraception mandate

Washington D.C., Jan 5, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Evangelical and Jewish leaders are supporting the Catholic Church's opposition to proposed federal rules requiring contraception and sterilization coverage in most new health care plans.

In a Dec. 21 letter to President Barack Obama, more than 60 religious leaders affirmed that “religious organizations beyond the Catholic community have deep moral objections” to providing abortion-causing drugs and other controversial services.

Authors of the letter included Orthodox Jewish representatives, along with figures from various Christian organizations, including National Association of Evangelicals President Leith Anderson, Ron Sider of Evangelicals for Social Action, and Christian Legal Society Executive Director Fred L. Potter.

They expressed “solidarity” with the Catholic leaders and organizations that have already spoken out against the contraception mandate proposed by the Obama administration's Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.

The rule, published in August 2011 as part of federal health care reform, would allow a religious ministry to opt out only if it has “the inculcation of religious values as its purpose,” and primarily employs and serves “persons who share its religious tenets.”

In their letter to President Obama, the Christian and Jewish leaders made it clear that Catholics are not the only groups opposed to the rule.

“Most press reports on the controversy concerning the contraceptives mandate portray the opposition as coming only from the Catholic Church and Catholic organizations,” they noted.

“But this is wrong. It is emphatically not only Catholics who deeply object to the requirement that health plans they purchase must provide coverage of contraceptives that include some that are abortifacients.”

They pointed out that many religious believers share the Catholic Church's objection to a “narrow exemption” that does not cover “churches with a social outreach and other faith-based organizations” whose work “goes beyond worship and prayer.”

Neither Evangelicalism nor Judaism holds a single consistent position on contraception, a fact the signers of the letter acknowledged.

Despite differences in their moral teachings, however, all of the authors said they were “deeply concerned about the narrow exemption, including proposals made to expand it while still leaving unprotected many faith-based organizations.”

The Department of Health and Human Services stopped accepting feedback on the proposed mandate at the end of September 2011. A Health and Human Services official told CNA Jan. 4 that there is “no statutory deadline by which a final rule must be issued” after the end of the comment period.

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Pro-life group urges Spain to overturn abortion law

Madrid, Spain, Jan 5, 2012 (CNA/Europa Press) - Right to Life in Spain recently gave the country’s health official 300 pacifiers representing the number of abortions that take place each day in the country, urging an end to abortion.

On Jan. 4, the group implored Ana Mato, minister of Health, Social Services and Equality, to do “whatever is in her power” to reverse Spain's abortion law.

According to Europa Press, around 60 people participated in the event, with one member of the organization dressed up as Gaspar—one of the three Magi—to deliver the pacifiers.

Right to Life also gave Mato a letter reminding her of a statement she made a few months ago when she called abortion “a tragedy for women and a failure for all of society.” 

The power to “overturn the law” is “in her hands,” the organization said, and “the more the necessary political action to combat this scourge is postponed, the more responsibility she bears.”

Right to Life asked Mato to help ensure that “no woman would be deprived of being able to experience the treasure of motherhood” and that no baby would be “deprived of life.”

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Chilean Church launches campaign for forest fire victims

Santiago, Chile, Jan 5, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - The bishops of Chile urged local Catholics to participate in a Church campaign to help those affected by forest fires that have swept across the southern part of the country.

“To begin the year with this tragedy that has claimed the life of one person and has caused so many poor families to lose everything they have worked to obtain their whole lives saddens us,” the bishops said in a Jan. 4 statement.

“For this reason, a gesture of solidarity by the entire country is essential, in order to urgently meet the most pressing needs of the moment,” they added.

Chilean media reported that the fires in the Biobio region have scorched nearly 62,000 acres and destroyed 160 homes, leaving more than 600 people homeless.

Fires in the Maule region have burned some 16,000 acres and over 30 homes, with 200 families now without a roof over their heads.

The president of Caritas Chile’s pastoral ministry, Bishop Manuel Camilo Vial, said volunteers have come forward to provide spiritual and psychological assistance to the victims.

“In many areas where the fire literally engulfed everything in its path, the emotional impact on the victims and the volunteers combating the flames was even greater than during the 2010 earthquake,” he said.

“This catastrophe is truly a tragedy for people and for families which we wish to alleviate by bringing assistance, solidarity, care, concern and words of hope and encouragement.”

Father Rodrigo Tupper, the vice president of Caritas Chile’s pastoral ministry, said that contributions made by Chileans will “go immediately to our brothers and sisters and help alleviate the anguish that we all experience with them.”

Those who wish to make a donation can write to: [email protected]

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Guidelines for celebrating Year of Faith revealed

Vatican City, Jan 5, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Vatican issued guidelines Jan. 5 for how the Church at all levels should celebrate the Year of Faith, which starts in October 2012.

A summary of the guideline document, which was produced by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, was released on Jan. 5, but the full text will be published Saturday, Jan. 7.

The introduction to the guidelines explains that the Year of Faith is “intended to contribute to a renewed conversion to the Lord Jesus and to the rediscovery of faith, so that the members of the Church will be credible and joy-filled witnesses to the Risen Lord, capable of leading those many people who are seeking it to the door of faith.”

The Year of Faith was announced by Pope Benedict XVI last year in his apostolic letter “Porta Fidei.” It will begin on October 11, 2012, the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council. It also coincides with the 20th anniversary of the publication of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The year will end on November 24, 2013, the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ Universal King.

The document from the Vatican’s doctrinal congregation offers a sketch of what should take place at every level of the Church during the Year of Faith.

At the universal level, the Pope will engage in various events, including the solemn opening of the Year of Faith, the Assembly of the Synod of Bishops in Rome, and World Youth Day 2013 in Brazil. There will also be “various ecumenical initiatives” aimed at “the restoration of unity among all Christians,” including “a solemn ecumenical celebration in which all of the baptized will reaffirm their faith in Christ.”

Bishops’ conferences will focus on increasing the “quality of catechesis.” Some of the efforts in this area will involve examining “local catechisms and various catechetical supplements in use in the particular Churches,” in order “to ensure their complete conformity with the Catechism of the Catholic Church.”

The Vatican body also hopes that the bishops’ conferences will use the media to evangelize, such as “television and radio transmissions, films and publications focusing on the faith, its principles and content.”

At the level of dioceses, the Year of Faith is expected to provide an occasion for “renewed creative dialogue between faith and reason,” among both the academic and artistic communities. It should also be a year for “penitential celebrations” in which Catholics can “ask for God's forgiveness, especially for sins against faith.”

In local parishes, the Vatican would like to see a focus on the liturgy, especially the Eucharist, since in it the “mystery of faith and source of the new evangelization, the faith of the Church is proclaimed, celebrated and strengthened.”

Religious institutes, new communities and ecclesial movements are also expected to take their lead in celebrating the Year from the pastoral guidelines.

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith hopes that the Year of Faith will make the Second Vatican Council and the Catechism “more widely and deeply known” throughout the Church.

“From the beginning of his pontificate, Pope Benedict XVI has worked decisively for a correct understanding of the Council,” says the document, “rejecting as erroneous the so-called ‘hermeneutic of discontinuity and rupture’ and promoting what he himself has termed ‘the ‘hermeneutic of reform,’ of renewal in continuity.’”

The Vatican’s doctrinal congregation says that their pastoral recommendations are aimed at helping people encounter Christ and grow in their understanding of the Catholic faith. At the same time, it adds, the guidelines are not meant to rule out “other initiatives which the Holy Spirit will inspire among Pastors and faithful in various parts of the world.”

The document concludes by announcing the creation of a secretariat to help coordinate the Year of Faith. It will be established within the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization.

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Vatican will not discount consistory reports

Vatican City, Jan 5, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) -

The Vatican is refusing to deny media speculation that Pope Benedict XVI will announce a list of new cardinals as early as tomorrow.

“You will have to wait for an announcement but there is no announcement to be made at the moment,” Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi told CNA Jan. 5.

Several Italian newspapers are claiming that the Pope will announce he is convoking a consistory in Rome for Saturday, Feb. 18.

If Pope Benedict calls for a consistory – the gathering at which new cardinals are installed – it will be the fourth since his election in 2005.

At present, there are 192 members of the College of Cardinals. By the time a February consistory is convened, there will be only 107 of them under the age of 80, which is the limit for voting in a conclave to elect the next Pope. A conclave can have a maximum of 120 electors.

The United States currently has 17 cardinals but only 10 of them can serve as electors.

The two American archbishops who are expected to receive the red hat at the next consistory are Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York and Archbishop Edwin O’Brien, the Grand Master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem. Now based in Rome, Archbishop O’Brien was formerly the Archbishop of Baltimore until August 2011.

It is customary that the honor of being named a cardinal is not given to any bishops whose predecessor is also a cardinal and under the age of 80. In the case of Archbishop Dolan, though, his predecessor Cardinal Edward Egan will turn 80 on April 2.

Other names being suggested in the Italian media include several senior members of the Roman Curia, such as Archbishop Fernando Filoni, Prefect of Propaganda Fide, Archbishop Giuseppe Versaldi, President of the Prefect for the Economic Affairs of the Holy See, and Archbishop Giuseppe Bertello, President of the Governorship of the State of Vatican City.

Other names most tipped for a red hat are Archbishop Rainer Woelki of Berlin, Archbishop Thomas Collins of Toronto, and Archbishop Wim Eijk of Utrecht, Holland.

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