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Archive of August 1, 2012

Cardinal George says mayor overstepped with Chick-fil-A remarks

Chicago, Ill., Aug 1, 2012 (CNA) - Cardinal Francis E. George of Chicago says the city's mayor showed contempt for many residents' beliefs by stating that Chick-fil-A's stance on marriage was against “Chicago values.”

“Recent comments by those who administer our city seem to assume that the city government can decide for everyone what are the 'values' that must be held by citizens of Chicago,” the cardinal wrote in a July 29 online post, responding to Mayor Rahm Emanuel's assertion.

“I was born and raised here, and my understanding of being a Chicagoan never included submitting my value system to the government for approval,” Cardinal George wrote.

He wondered: “Must those whose personal values do not conform to those of the government of the day move from the city? Is the City Council going to set up a 'Council Committee on Un-Chicagoan Activities' and call those of us who are suspect to appear before it?”

“I would have argued a few days ago that I believe such a move is, if I can borrow a phrase, 'un-Chicagoan.'”

The cardinal made his remarks on the Catholic Chicago blog after the mayor ventured into an ongoing controversy about the Chick-fil-A restaurant chain.

Many homosexual “marriage” advocates took offense at company president Dan Cathy's support for “the biblical definition of the family unit” in a recent interview.

During a July 30 press conference, Mayor Emanuel said he stood by his July 25 statement that was interpreted by some as supporting a plan to bar the restaurant from the city's First Ward.

After Alderman Proco Moreno said he would block the restaurant's plan to open a new location, Emanuel issued a statement saying that “Chick-fil-A values are not Chicago values.”

“They disrespect our fellow neighbors and residents,” the mayor stated. “This would be a bad investment, since it would be empty.”

But a spokesman for the mayor told NBC 5 Chicago that Emanuel did not intend to stop Chick-fil-A from opening, despite his conviction that the Christian-run company's values were not those of the city.

In Monday's remarks, the mayor appeared to identify the city's “values” with government policy on homosexual unions, saying: “When it comes to values, there’s a policy as it relates to gay marriage. The values of our city are ones that welcome and recognize that, and I will continue to fight for that.”

Emanuel's statement also appeared to identify civil unions – which Illinois implemented in 2011 – with homosexual “marriage,” which has never been instituted in the state. The mayor personally supports a measure to redefine marriage, which was introduced in February but has stalled in the legislature. 

In his response to the mayor on Sunday, Cardinal George spoke out on behalf of Catholics, and others, whose “values” do not include what he called “gender-free marriage.”

The cardinal stressed that authentic marriage exists prior to any decree of the state or Church, due to the complementarity of the two sexes and their procreative potential.

The natural definition of marriage is not “bigotry,” nor is it unique to a particular religion, he said.

“People who are not Christian or religious at all take for granted that marriage is the union of a man and a woman for the sake of family and, of its nature, for life,” Cardinal George noted. “The laws of civilizations much older than ours assume this understanding of marriage.”

But the Chicago archbishop also pointed to Jesus Christ's teaching on marriage in the Gospel of Matthew, in which the Lord affirms marriage as the unbreakable union of a man and woman as “one flesh.”

The citation prompted him to pose a question as to whether Jesus' own “values” were still welcome in Chicago by Mayor Emanuel's standards.

“Was Jesus a bigot?” he asked. “Could Jesus be accepted as a Chicagoan?”

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Princeton professor urges hotels to remove pornography

Washington D.C., Aug 1, 2012 (CNA) - Catholic law professor Robert P. George of Princeton University is discouraging pornography use in hotel rooms by calling on hotel CEOs to consider the harm that it causes.   

“Pornography is part of a larger phenomenon that’s rooted in the fundamental misunderstanding of sexuality,” he told CNA in a July interview.

George recently teamed up with prominent Muslim intellectual Shaykh Hamza Yusuf in writing letters to the CEOs of the five largest hotel chains that offer pornography in their hotel rooms.

He explained that the move was an attempt “to re-stigmatize pornography,” which has been presented to the public as “at worst, a kind of harmless naughtiness” with no lasting personal or social effects.

However, studies show that pornography “does damage to everybody concerned,” including those involved in producing and viewing it, and the marriages and families into which it enters.

George said that rather than threatening a boycott or protest, the letter simply presents a moral appeal to the consciences of the businessmen, respectfully asking them to regard the women involved in pornography as their beloved daughters and wives.

It reminds “respectable business people” that there are some things – such as pornography – that are degrading and dehumanizing and therefore wrong even if they are legal and profitable, he explained.

“We are old-fashioned enough to believe that an appeal to conscience will sometimes do the job, that everything’s not money,” he said. “We think people are still reachable.”

As an example, he pointed to the 1998 decision by Omni Hotels to remove pornography from all of its hotel rooms because the CEO believed that it was wrong to sell it.

“People have a basic sense of human dignity,” he said, and even if it is deeply buried, it can be reached and begin to change society.

George explained that the widespread acceptance of pornography is rooted in “a very serious problem” present in contemporary culture.

Young people are falsely taught to think of sexuality as “mere recreation” rather than something “profound” that is “founded upon the reproductive unity of male and female,” he observed.

“To totally detach sexuality from its procreative dimension is at the same time to detach it from its marital significance,” he said, adding that this ultimately renders “unintelligible the basic norms of fidelity, sexual exclusivity and the pledge of permanence” that make marriage the profound human institution that it is.  

In this way, he noted, pornography has the same fundamental cause as high levels of divorce, promiscuity, widespread contraception and a push for “gay marriage.”

All of these problems are rooted in a general misunderstanding of “the marital, conjugal significance of our sexuality,” he said.

This, in turn, is tied to a false conception of what it means to be human, George continued. He explained that pornography users come to view other people as objects to be used for satisfaction and themselves as mere bundles of appetites.

They objectify themselves and others, losing “the sense of true humanity,” he said.

The truth, however, is that we are “bearers of a much more profound dignity,” capable of self-control and not “slaves of our desires or lusts,” he explained.

“We undermine our own dignity as persons when we permit ourselves to become enslaved to our own passions,” he added.

The connection between basic human sexuality and dignity is not only a religious tenant but a “fundamental principle of reason,” he observed. Found as far back as Plato, this is “an insight that anyone of any faith and even people of no particular faith can grasp.”

George hopes that his collaboration with Shaykh Hamza Yusuf will show that “we can and we should be collaborating and working together in defending and promoting those values.”

While the two religions are sometimes depicted as being suspicious and hostile towards each other, there are “many, many values which are shared” by Muslims and Christians, he explained.

“Catholics should never hesitate to reach out across the theological divide and partner with people who share our basic values,” he said.

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St. Alphonsus helps chart the way to heaven, Pope says

Castel Gandolfo, Italy, Aug 1, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Benedict XVI praised the 18th century Italian St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori for reminding Christians of the key to heaven – prayer.

“St. Alphonsus reminds us that the relationship with God is essential in life and that only with a daily personal prayer and participation in the sacraments, can the Divine presence that directs, illuminates and makes safe and peaceful our path, even in the midst of difficulties and dangers, grow in us,” said the Pope during his General Audience address August 1.

Speaking to thousands of pilgrims gathered in the town of Castel Gandolfo’s main square, the Pope marked today’s feast day of St. Alphonsus by meditating on what the founder of the Redemptorist order had to say about the importance of prayer.

It is “a means necessary to salvation and the graces we need to achieve it,” he wrote in his 1759 treatise “Prayer: The Great Means of Salvation and of Perfection.”

“This sentence synthesizes Alphonsian understanding of prayer,” said the Pope, “St. Alphonsus wanted us to understand that in every situation of life we need to pray, especially in times of trial and difficulty.”

Therefore we “must always knock at the door of the Lord with confidence” and never be afraid “to turn to him with confidence and to submit to our petitions, in the certainty of receiving what we need.”

St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori was born into a noble family on the outskirts of Naples in southern Italy in 1696. He initially pursued a successful career as a lawyer but gave it up to enter the Oratory of St. Philip Neri in 1723 and was ordained to the priesthood three years later.

In 1732 St. Alphonsus founded the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer or Redemptorists as they are also known. He died 1787 at the age of 90.  His canonization followed in 1839 courtesy of Pope

Gregory XVI while Pope Pius IX proclaimed him a Doctor of the Church in 1871. Pope Benedict suggested that the enduring popularity of St. Alphonsus is due to his “simply, straightforward style” and his teaching on the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

“In a time of great rigor, the result of the influence of Jansenism, he recommended confessors to administer this sacrament expressing the joyful embrace of God the Father, who in his infinite mercy never ceases to welcome every repentant son,” said the Pope.

He also recalled how the saint proposed that “health and all the grace we need” are what is truly required in life, meaning “not only the health of the body, but primarily that of the soul which Jesus gifts to us.”

It is this “liberating presence” of Christ that “makes us truly fully human, and thus our existence full of joy” and can only achieved through prayer said the Pope.

To illustrate this need for prayer, St. Alphonsus would often give the example of St. Philip Neri, who “from the first moment when he woke in the morning, said to God: 'My God, beware of Philip; otherwise he will betray you.'”

It is “only through prayer,” said the Pope, that we can accept the grace of Christ “which, by illuminating us in every situation, helps us discern the truth, and, by fortifying us, renders our will capable of implementing what we know to be good.”

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Brazilians await World Youth Day participants with 'open arms'

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Aug 1, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Church in Rio de Janeiro said locals welcome with open arms – like the massive statue of Christ the Redeemer that overlooks the city – the young people who will visit for World Youth Day in 2013.

“We are awaiting all the young people with open hearts, with our arms open,” Archbishop Orani Joao Tempesta said in an interview with Vatican Radio.

He said the preparations for the July 23-28 event next year, where Pope Benedict is slated to make an appearance, have been intense, and that organizers hope to bring the Gospel to the greatest number of young people possible.

The archbishop encouraged all Catholics to join together “and pray to God, so that young people – together with Jesus Christ – can be the ones to announce a new world in the city of Rio, Brazil and the entire world.”

Last Sunday, 50,000 Brazilian youth gathered for a pre-WYD celebration in Rio under the theme, “Prepare the Way.”

After the recitation of the Angelus on Sunday, Pope Benedict XVI addressed the gathering in Rio via satellite and said global youth event “will be a precious occasion for many young people to experience the joy and beauty of belonging to the Church and living the faith.”

The coordinator of Portuguese programming for Vatican Radio, Silvonei Protz, said the praying the Angelus with the Holy Father “was like an explosion of joy, but also made us aware of the responsibility that young Brazilians, together with the Church in Brazil, have towards all the youth of the entire world.”

According to Protz, “Prepare the Way” was a marvelous gathering characterized by the arrival of the icon of Our Lady of Aparecida, brought by Cardinal Raymundo Damasceno Assis.

The Apostolic Nuncio to Brazil, Archbishop Giovanni D’Aniello, also attended the event. He will meet with WYD organizers on August 10 to discuss the challenges, difficulties and hopes of young people.

Archbishop D’Aniello will later present the conclusions of the meeting to the Holy Father in order to “bear witness to what the young people expect of Benedict XVI in Rio.”

Protz said the Church in Brazil is really alive, as “young people see that they do not only belong to their parish, but rather to a Church that goes beyond that and that has the person of Christ at the center.”

“I think this awakening of the faith and the role of young people in our Church will bear fruit after WYD as well,” he said.

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Contraception mandate takes effect for businesses without 'safe harbor'

Washington D.C., Aug 1, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Starting Aug. 1, the owners of many for-profit businesses are being forced to pick between violating their beliefs and paying stifling fines as the federal contraception mandate goes into effect.

This initial implementation of the mandate “marks the beginning of the end of religious freedom in our nation,” said Christen Varley, executive director of Conscience Cause, a nonpartisan advocacy organization that works to defend religious freedom and conscience rights.

In a statement released shortly before the mandate was scheduled to go into effect, Varley explained that as of August 1, many employers would be faced with the “unimaginable choice” of denying their faith or paying crippling fines that could put them out of business.  

She stressed the need for Americans to “stand up and make our voices heard,” saying that if we do not, “it is only a matter of time before our other liberties come under direct assault.”

The first day of August marks the initial implementation of a controversial federal mandate that requires employers to offer health insurance plans covering contraception, sterilization and early abortion-inducing drugs, even if doing so violates their religious beliefs.
    
The mandate has not yet taken effect for non-profit organizations that do not currently provide this coverage due to their religious beliefs. A temporary “safe harbor” has been granted to these groups, delaying the implementation of the mandate for them until Aug. 1, 2013.

Although the federal government has promised an “accommodation” for these religiously-affiliated organizations, this promise has not yet materialized, and various suggestions put forward by the administration have been criticized as being inadequate to fully protect religious freedom.

For-profit private employers, however, do not qualify for the one-year "safe harbor” and are fully subject to the mandate as soon as they begin or renew an insurance plan anytime on or after Aug. 1, 2012. Failure to comply with the mandate results in fines of $100 per day, per employee, which could add up to millions of dollars annually for some companies.

On July 27, a federal judge in Colorado granted a temporary injunction for Hercules Industries, blocking the mandate from being enforced against the Colorado-based manufacturer of heating, ventilation and air conditioning units.

Although hailed as an important victory, the injunction is temporary and does not apply to any other companies.

Andy Newland, vice president of Hercules Industries, said that the mandate seemed to contradict the idea of America as “a country that was created for freedom from religious persecution.”

“For anyone who has been asked to compromise their principles, frustration is an understatement,” he said. “We’ve put 50 years into building a company with a sound history and a strong legacy. The government says either we compromise what we believe, or we pay a fine.”

Newland argued that preventing family businesses from running their companies according to their morals and principles is “a dangerous slope to start going down.”

“We’ll end up with businesses operating with no ethical or moral principles at all,” he said.

Hercules Industries is one of more than 50 plaintiffs that have filed lawsuits challenging the mandate.

While these lawsuits will continue to move forward in the courts, proponents of religious liberty warn that the current implementation of the mandate only solidifies the idea that for-profit employers can be forced to act against their religious convictions.

“August 1st will be remembered as the day our most cherished liberty was thrown in a government dumpster and hauled away,” said Matt Smith, president of Catholic Advocate, a non-partisan group that encourages Catholics to be faithful to Church teaching through their political activity.

“While the courts have provided a reprieve for one family business in Colorado, the government will never be able to repair the broken conscience of thousands of others until this mandate is removed,” he said.

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Oxford Oratory to host Chesterton library

London, England, Aug 1, 2012 (CNA) - A new library at the Oxford Oratory in England will host the archive and museum of the famous Catholic convert and writer G.K. Chesterton.

The G.K. Chesterton Library said Aug. 1 that many people think Chesterton was “one of the best – as well as one of the most amusing – writers and thinkers of the twentieth century.”

Organizers are preparing the collection to be opened in 2013 based on materials collected by Chesterton scholar Aidan Mackey, who was a friend of Chesterton’s secretary Dorothy Collins. The initiative has garnered substantial support from the Thomas More College of Liberal Arts in New Hampshire.

The library intends to support and encourage the study of Chesterton, his contemporaries and his ideas “in close collaboration” with other Chesterton-friendly societies and organizations across the world.

Chesterton lived from 1874 to 1936. Under the influence of his wife Frances, he became a devout Anglican Christian. He converted to Catholicism in 1922.

He enjoys a reputation as a writer with a taste for wit and a love of finding truth in paradox.

The author wrote journalistic essays, novels, poetry, plays philosophical works and Christian apologetics. He created the character of Father Brown, a Catholic priest who solves murder mysteries.

His books include “Orthodoxy,” a defense of Christian faith, and “The Everlasting Man,” a reflection on the role of Jesus Christ and Christianity in history.

In the latter work, he stressed the power of Christianity to renew itself through Jesus.

“Christendom has had a series of revolutions and in each one of them Christianity has died,” he said. “Christianity has died many times and risen again; for it had a God who knew the way out of the grave.”

Chesterton devised a political philosophy called Distributism, whose ideal is the widespread ownership of economically productive property. He was also a staunch opponent of eugenics and birth control.

Those influenced by Chesterton’s writings include C.S. Lewis, Mahatma Gandhi and E.F. Schumacher.

The library’s collection includes a complete run of his newspaper “GK’s Weekly,” with some annotations by Chesterton. It includes many of Chesterton’s books, including some first editions. It has a background library of writers like Hilaire Belloc and Fr. Vincent McNabb, the U.K. journal Second Spring reports.

The G.K. Chesterton Library has launched an appeal to secure financial support. More information is available at: http://chestertonlibrary.blogspot.co.uk.

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Italian priest gives tips on evangelization in cyberspace

Rome, Italy, Aug 1, 2012 (CNA) - He is the Italian Jesuit who coined the word “Cybertheology,” and is now trying to coach Catholics on how to best evangelize through the internet.

“The Church is called to be there where man is and today man is also on the internet,” Fr. Antonio Spadaro S.J. told CNA in Rome.

“So, my efforts are meant to try and understand the world, to comprehend its dynamics so as to be present also as people of the Church, to assist others to also be so in this environment.”

Fr. Spadaro, 46, is a professor at the Jesuit’s Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome and also the editor of the order’s publication La Civiltà Cattolica.

His academic career has combined philosophy, theology and social communications. Those disciplines came together to help create his book “Cybertheology; Thinking Christianity at the time of the Net” which was published in Italian in March 2012.

“Cybertheology, as I call it, consists of this reflection on the faith in the information age. Whereas in other ages it was difficult to exchange information, today we are substantially immersed. You could say there's an information overload. Information inundates us.”

His writings, therefore, attempt to help the Christian understand, consume and use social media more effectively.

“For me, it is a great honor to apply my work in this area of the Universal Church and I seek to pick up on the greatest demands that are being made of the Church today.”

His writings are also available at his similarly named website www.cyberteologia.it. Regularly updated, his latest postings make available the best advice for evangelizers seeking to spread the Gospel through social networking sites such as Facebook.

“The question of God is a strong one, but we see it coming up everywhere, also in social networks. A desire for prayer arises,” he observed.

Hence his desire “to understand and to analyze” what is going on and then to help Catholics best use technology to explain Jesus Christ to the online community.

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