Archive of April 26, 2012

Bishops join call for US to ban landmine use

Washington D.C., Apr 26, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Representatives of more than 75 nongovernmental organizations have called on the United States to join a treaty banning the use of antipersonnel landmines.

Such a ban would illustrate the U.S.'s commitment to protect “civilians from the ravages of war,” and would align with the nation's “generous support for mine clearance programs around the world,” the leaders said.

Bishop Richard E. Pates of Des Moines, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace, joined with leaders of both religious and secular groups to encourage the United States to sign the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty.

Other signatories included representatives from groups including Catholic Relief Services, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International USA.

In an April 4 letter to President Barack Obama and several members of his administration, the organization heads noted that the U.S. has already banned certain types of mines and called for a ban on the remainder as well.

The Obama administration recently concluded a multi-year interagency review of its landmine policy and is working to make a decision on future U.S. policy.

The signatories noted that the administration has received letters supporting the treaty from many Americans, including more than half of the U.S. Senators, 16 Nobel Peace Prize Laureates and several key NATO allies.

They observed that 159 countries have already agreed to the treaty, including every other member of NATO, every country in the European Union and nations such as Afghanistan and Iraq.

In addition, they said, the participation of the United States is important for “the universalization of the treaty” because some remaining countries have argued that they will not join if the U.S. does not.

The organization leaders also pointed out that the United States has not used antipersonnel landmines since 1991.

“Surely if the U.S. military has been able to defend the country for the last 21 years without using antipersonnel landmines, it can do so in the future as well,” they argued.

Calling the issue “a crucial humanitarian decision that should not be put off any longer,” the signatories urged the president to submit the treaty to the Senate without delay. 

“The last steps to acceding to the treaty are now achievable,” they said, adding that the landmine ban is “vitally important” to efforts aimed at protecting civilians, bolstering international norms and isolating irresponsible regimes. 

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Rabbi knocks atheist's misuse of evolutionary theory

Chicago, Ill., Apr 26, 2012 (CNA) - An Orthodox rabbi criticized atheism masked as science, citing a prominent biologist who said scientists should undermine religion to advance popular acceptance of evolutionary theory.

Rabbi Moshe Averick, a columnist for the Jewish magazine The Algemeiner Journal, chided a recent article by University of Chicago professor Dr. Jerry Coyne which depicted religion as an opponent of evolutionary theory and as something associated with social dysfunction.

“It is clear that Dr. Coyne is not promoting Science, he is promoting Atheism and all that it entails,” Rabbi Averick said in his April 24 column. “Coyne sees his role as being much greater than that of just a professor teaching a scientific discipline; he has donned the mantle of Atheologist and is spreading the good word wherever he can.

“It is for this reason that many Americans are justifiably antagonistic towards the worldview of Jerry Coyne.”

The rabbi focused on Coyne’s article “Science, Religion and Society: The Problem of Evolution in America,” published online by the journal “Evolution” on April 17.
“Ultimately, the best strategy to make Americans more receptive to Evolution might require loosening the grip of religion on our country,” Coyne said.

“We could best promote evolution…by concentrating on bringing Catholics and mainline Protestants into the ‘no religion’ category!”

Religion, Coyne said, is the reason why Americans “hate evolution.” He added that resistance to evolution is “truly a byproduct of America’s extreme religiosity” because evolution “contravenes many common religious beliefs.” The contradicted beliefs, in his view, include both biblical literalism and beliefs involving “morality, meaning and human significance.”

Rabbi Averick countered that much of this “resistance to evolution” is against an atheistic version of evolutionary theory. Almost 40 percent of Americans accept a theistic form of evolution, a position also criticized by Coyne.

Rabbi Averick charged that the biologist is effectively engaged in “his own form of jihad on believers who refuse to display proper fealty to Coyne’s grand atheistic/scientific, and of course, Darwinian view of reality.”

In his article, the Chicago-based rabbi – author of the book “Nonsense of a High Order: The Confused and Illusory World of the Atheist” – zeroed in what what he called the philosophical consequences of Coyne’s stance.

He prefaced that American democracy is founded upon and bound to “fundamental religious principles.”

The Declaration of Independence, he noted, says that “all men are created equal” and “endowed by their Creator” with inalienable rights. The declaration also appeals to God’s judgment and states “a firm reliance on the protection of divine providence.”

Rabbi Averick underscored that human equality rests upon religious assumptions.

“Men are created equal as they stand in front of their infinite, transcendent Creator; they do not evolve equally at all! In fact, as pointed out by G.K. Chesterton, they evolve astonishingly unequal,” he said.

The rabbi contended that Darwinian evolution is not based on accountability to a higher power but is “the pitiless, indifferent, and unrelenting pressure of survival of the fittest.” An atheistic, humanistic philosophy like that of Coyne “ascribes dignity to human beings based on a religious principle, and when no one is looking, they simply subtract God from the equation.”

Coyne, he noted, has said that there are no objective moral truths in a materialistic universe and has contended that free will is an illusion.

“It seems patently absurd for Coyne to argue so vehemently for his position if his audience’s beliefs – and his own for that matter – are determined, not by decisions based on arguments, but by causes and effects beyond human control,” Rabbi Averick said.

Coyne’s article said that American social dysfunction is “associated with high degrees of religious belief,” citing a study that shows the United States ranking poorly on a measure of successful societies. In response, the rabbi credited religious belief with generating American “moral fortitude” in opposition to the totalitarian ideologies of the 20th century.

Rabbi Averick ultimately suggested that the “most important realms of human thought” are areas in which science has “little or nothing to say.”

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Author warns of anti-humanism's global effects

Washington D.C., Apr 26, 2012 (CNA) - The author of a new book outlined the global dangers of “anti-humanism,” a theory which holds that people are fundamentally bad because they destroy things and waste resources.  

“Human existence is not a struggle of all against all,” said Dr. Robert Zubrin. Rather, humans actually “benefit from the existence of other peoples and nations.”

Zubrin, an aerospace engineer and author, as well as the founder of the Mars Society, spoke at an April 24 event in Washington, D.C. sponsored by science and technology journal, “The New Atlantis.”
He discussed the arguments made in his new book, titled, “Merchants of Despair: Radical Environmentalists, Criminal Pseudo-Scientists, and the Fatal Cult of Antihumanism.”

Zubrin noted that anti-humanism has surfaced in different manifestations over past centuries, masked by both left and right wing movements.

One such manifestation was the work of 19th century economist Thomas Malthus, who claimed that because population increases at a much greater rate than food supply, rising population levels will lead to a decrease in humanity’s well-being. 

However, Zubrin explained, Malthus was an employee of the British East India Company, and his theory “was largely a rationalization” for the British to continue practices that fostered starvation in other countries.

Historical data shows that Malthus’ theory is “totally wrong,” he said, pointing to statistics indicating that as human populations increase, the standard of living also rises.

This makes sense because “the more people there are, the more technological advances there are,” he explained, noting that such advances are cumulative and therefore benefit the human population greatly.

He added that a similar strain of anti-humanism has also surfaced in the famous 1968 book, “The Population Bomb,” and other campaigns calling for urgent action to limit population growth to avoid running out of resources.

This argument is flawed, Zubrin said, because it fails to recognize that “resources are a human creation.”

He explained that human technology is able to create new resources that were not previously available. For example, oil was not a resource before we had drilling technology, he said. Thus, the human gift of ingenuity prevents man from running out of resources as some have feared.

Zubrin said that the anti-humanist ideology went on to influence the eugenics movements that led to atrocities such as the Holocaust.

He highlighted the anti-humanist belief that the individual is insignificant and the race alone has value, as well as the idea that war is needed to eliminate weak races and nations.

The Holocaust was seen as “applied biology,” he said, observing that the Nazi party openly said that it wanted to eliminate those who were unfit and succeeded in committing terrible crimes
“because this ideology was so pervasive.”

In America, the eugenics movement consisted largely of anti-immigration efforts, Zubrin said. Such efforts targeted those deemed inferior, who were considered to be “threatening the complete mental degeneration of the United States.”

More recently, the anti-humanist ideology has appeared in China’s brutal one-child policy, which utilizes forced abortions and sterilizations to prevent couples from having more than one child, he added.

Today, anti-humanism can also be seen in the radical environmental movement, Zubrin said.

He offered multiple examples of efforts to suppress the human population for the sake of the environment, while ignoring the fact that “humans have improved the fertility of the biosphere.”

Opposition to chemicals and procedures that could save millions of human lives because of their effects on the environment shows a deeply anti-humanist viewpoint, he said.

“This isn’t about the environment at all,” he explained. “This is about making the case that humanity needs to be prosecuted.”

In the end, Zubrin said, this is a debate “about the nature of humanity.”

The anti-human point of view sees human beings as fundamentally destroyers whose activity must be limited and controlled, while the pro-human point of view sees human beings as essentially creators, for whom liberty is “a necessity,” he said.

Arguing that an anti-human ideology can quickly become “an incitement to genocide,” Zubrin explained that the choice is ultimately one between “war and peace, death and life, hate and love.”

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United States closing in on 'clerical World Cup' victory

Rome, Italy, Apr 26, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Rome's Pontifical North American College is only two wins away from capturing the clerical equivalent of soccer’s World Cup for the first time ever.

“There is nothing better than a bunch of guys getting together, trying to be better at something and, I think, the soccer field is a great outlet for that,” said seminarian and striker John Gibson.

The player made his remarks to CNA following his side’s 4-2 victory over the Pontifical Urbanianum University in the quarter-finals of the Clericus Cup, Saturday April 21. The semi-finals now take place this Saturday April 28.

Now into its sixth year, the Clericus Cup in an annual soccer tournament for the pontifical seminaries and universities in Rome. Matches take place on the Knights of Columbus playing fields behind the Vatican and in the shadow of the dome of St. Peters basilica.

“The Church gives value to sport as an instrument of pastoral formation,” said tournament organizer, Felice Alborghetti, “so, we see the priests and seminarians who find themselves in the university, who besides finding a beautiful game on the field are also able to express important religious sentiment.”

The United States team goes by the name of the North American Martyrs and – patriotically – the uniform is red, white and blue. Despite two runner-up positions in previous years, the Martyrs have yet to lift the Clericus Cup.

There on the field success is, in part, inspired by the loud and colorful support they bring to each game with many fellow seminarians attending.

“It is a lot of fun,” said supporter Deacon Alex Roche, “It is just a great way to bring the whole community together and to get everybody excited about one thing and, you know, just to get people outside, having fun, cheering for their brothers.”

The U.S. side take their sport seriously with coaching sessions twice a week on the artificial turf of the North American College’s full-size soccer pitch. “It is worth it,” said Deacon David Santos, “we see the soccer field as a microcosm of a community.”

He believes that soccer teaches the team numerous lessons that they will implement hopefully implement as priests including “fraternity, camaraderie, fairness, honesty, integrity.”

“Those are definitely things that we practice on the field that one day, God willing, we will take with us into the priesthood.’

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Seven-year-old girl fulfills dream to hug Pope Benedict

Vatican City, Apr 26, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - A 7-year-old Italian girl got her wish granted after this week’s Wednesday General Audience in St. Peter’s Square, when she was able to give a hug to “her friend” Pope Benedict XVI.

Miriam Gentile, who suffers from cerebral palsy, was born in the city of Catanzaro on April 22, 2005, three days after Benedict XVI’s election to the papacy. She has been receiving treatment for her condition at the Gemelli and Bambino Gesu Hospitals in Rome.

At the conclusion of the General Audience on April 25, she personally greeted the Pope and gave him what the Vatican daily L’Osservatore Romano described as “an unforgettable hug that was simple, spontaneous, and an expression of joy and affection.”

Her father, Marino Gentile, said Miriam “watches the Pope on television all the time, because seeing him makes her happy.”

Among those attending the General Audience this week was a group of children aged 5-12 from the Italian city of Parma participating in a program to promote sports as “a healthy way to have fun,” said the group’s spokesman, Giuseppe Formisano.

Olympic gold-medal skier Maria Hofl-Riesch of Germany also attended the audience to offer the pontiff best wishes for his 85th birthday on April 16, and the seventh anniversary of his pontificate on April 19.

The German skier is one of many celebrities who shared their testimonies about the Pope in a new book entitled, “Benedict XVI: Celebrities Talk About the Pope,” published to mark his birthday.

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Vatican stresses fidelity to Church in evangelization of China

Vatican City, Apr 26, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - The evangelization of China hinges on fidelity to the Church and the Pope, says the 5th Commission for the Catholic Church in China hosted by the Vatican April 23-25.

“Obedience to Christ and to the Successor of Peter is the presupposition of every true renewal and this applies to every category within the People of God,” read the communique issued April 26.

Although “aware of the particular difficulties of the present situation,” the commission said, “evangelization cannot be achieved by sacrificing essential elements of the Catholic faith and discipline.”

China has an estimated eight to twelve million Catholics, with about half of those people worshiping in government-controlled Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association. Founded in 1957, it does not acknowledge the authority of the Pope.

Today’s communique paid particular tribute to the “bishops and priests who are detained or who are suffering unjust limitations on the performance of their mission.” Admiration was also expressed for the “strength of their faith and for their union with the Holy Father.”

Pope Benedict XVI himself set out his policy on China in 2007 in an open letter to Chinese Catholics. He criticized the limits placed by the Chinese government on the Church’s activities, including the right to appoint bishops.

The lifting of such restrictions, said today’s document, is crucial so that “the face of the Church may shine forth with clarity in the midst of the noble Chinese people.”

This clarity is “obfuscated,” however, by “those clerics who have illegitimately received episcopal ordination” and “by those illegitimate bishops who have carried out acts of jurisdiction or who have administered the sacraments.”

This week saw the episcopal ordination of Bishop Methodius Qu Ailin in the Chinese diocese of Hunan. The 51-year-old had the approval of both the Holy See and Chinese Government. In attendance, however, was at least one bishop ordained in recent years without Rome’s blessing.

“The behavior of these bishops” said the communique “in addition to aggravating their canonical status, has disturbed the faithful and often has violated the consciences of the priests and lay faithful who were involved.”

The communique concluded with a reminder that May 24 has been set aside as a Day of Prayer for the Church in China. The date marks the feast of Our Lady, Help of Christians and will “provide a particularly auspicious opportunity for the entire Church to ask for energy and consolation, mercy and courage, for the Catholic community in China.”

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