Washington D.C., Aug 16, 2012 (CNA) -
A new organization is encouraging Christians to use their “demographic size and collective buying power” to influence the movies, music and television produced by the entertainment industry.
“The goal of As1 is to restore the Church back to its historically traditionally role as patron of the arts,” said Jonathan Bock, founder of As1, which launched last week.
Bock told CNA in an Aug. 14 interview that there is a need for the Christians to be “in relationship” with the modern artistic community. Rather than painting and sculpture, the art of today entails the world of entertainment, primarily music, movies and television, he said.
There was a time when Christianity was “in partnership with great artists,” working with them to create great masterpieces, Bock observed.
Today, however, “we’ve virtually abandoned the arts,” he said, explaining that recent Christian generations have largely chosen to “walk away from pop culture and create our own subculture” in order to promote positive values and avoid the secular world’s corrupting influence.
Although this shift was “well-intentioned,” pop culture continued to thrive and needs to be engaged today, he said. Rather than denouncing artists as the enemy, we should be encouraging them to tell our story as Christians.
The current moment presents a huge opportunity for the necessary engagement, as several high profile Bible projects are currently being made, he added.
On Aug. 23, a new game show entitled “The American Bible Challenge” will air on Game Show Network. Comedian and Christian Jeff Foxworthy will host the show, in which contestants competing for charity are tested on their knowledge of the Bible.
In addition, renowned producer Mark Burnett is creating a 10-hour series on the Bible to air on the History Channel next spring.
Reports have also indicated that Russell Crowe will be starring in an upcoming film about Noah and Steven Spielberg has considered directing a movie about Moses, although the details of these plot lines are not yet clear.
Bock said that the Christian community is presented with an opportunity to target and support these Bible projects, making them into hits so that the entertainment industry will be encouraged to make more.
He compared this to the Renaissance practice of patrons rewarding artists for making the art that they wanted with generous commissions.
The faithful cannot merely wait for culture to be created and then react to it, he said. Rather, they must return to the practice of building partnerships during the creating process.
Bock hopes that As1 will be one way for the Christian community to unite in order to build such partnerships.
Those who wish to join the movement can sign up on an email list at As1.org to receive alerts about Bible projects to support.
Bock also hopes that the initiative will create a “vibrant online community.” In just the first week, As1 has attracted more than 6,000 Facebook fans, and the social media platform allows for ongoing debate, discussion and sharing of ideas among members.
Ultimately, Bock hopes the effort will lead Christians to have a greater interest in promoting and appreciating the arts, while guiding the makers of modern art to see the Christian community as an important audience.
“It’s making sure that we are a powerful, bankable audience that Hollywood desires,” he said.
Washington D.C., Aug 16, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) -
A Democratic committee has rejected efforts to broaden the party's platform in order to acknowledge and welcome “differing positions” on the issue of abortion.
Kristen Day, executive director of Democrats For Life of America, told CNA on Aug. 15 that there is a lack of understanding about the extent of pro-life support within the Democratic Party.
She explained that it can be difficult for pro-life Democrats to speak up about their views, because they face attacks not only from their Republican opponents, but from pro-abortion groups such as NARAL Pro-Choice America as well.
According to Democrats for Life, nearly one-third of all Democrats self-identify as pro-life, and in the 2008 election, about one-fourth of Obama’s supporters considered themselves pro-life.
“These numbers are not trivial,” the group said, pointing to Gallup polling information from 2011 revealing that 61 percent of Democrats support “parental consent for minors seeking abortion.”
In addition, the polling data found that 60 percent of Democrats approved of a 24-hour waiting period for women seeking an abortion, and 84 percent of party members support informed consent requirements.
Furthermore, 49 percent of Democrats are in favor of ultrasound requirements before an abortion, while 59 percent support a ban on partial-birth abortions, the data indicated.
“We represent a large contingent and a diverse group of pro-life democrats who want to be represented in the Democratic Party,” said Janet Robert, who serves as president of Democrats For Life of America.
“As a big tent party that is open-minded and inclusive, we should be welcoming to those who are pro-life,” she explained.
“A stronger inclusive party allows us to focus on the issues that unite us such as providing economic opportunity for everyone.”
In an attempt to bring about change, Democrats for Life submitted written testimony proposing new platform language on July 20 and was permitted to subsequently provide oral testimony before the party’s drafting committee.
According to the group, it was the first time in more than 20 years that the committee had heard from a pro-life voice within the party.
The proposed platform language acknowledged that members of the Democratic Party “have deeply held and sometimes differing positions on issues of personal conscience, like abortion and the death penalty.”
“However, we can find common ground,” it added, emphasizing the party’s unity in supporting policies to aid those facing difficult pregnancies.
It also promoted “a breadth of options” for women facing pregnancies, including support and resources for adoption and parenthood, with access to education, healthcare and childcare.
“We envision a new day without financial or societal barriers to bringing a planned or unplanned pregnancy to term,” the proposed platform addition stated.
But despite the organization’s efforts, the request to broaden the party’s platform on abortion was rejected by the committee, Day said.
Despite the setback, Democrats for Life is planning to showcase pro-life party leaders at an event at the upcoming Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C.
"Our message is simple,” explained Day in a statement. “If you are pro-life and a Democrat, you can make a difference, thus the case for recognition.”
Madrid, Spain, Aug 16, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Various Spanish political leaders looked to the Virgin Mary on the Feast of the Assumption Aug. 15 to ask for help in bringing the country out of its worsening economic crisis.
Madrid’s mayor, Ana Botella, prayed for jobs during Mass in the Spanish capital, while the Mayor of Biblao, Inaki Azkuna, prayed to Our Lady of Begona.
Azkuna predicted that the upcoming financial year “will be difficult, we will have to make a lot of efforts and sacrifices, and we will need people made of iron and steel in order to endure what is coming.”
“Those of us who are believers continue to believe that we could be given some help and that we need it. All of society, and not only politicians, is going to have to make a tremendous effort,” he added.
The Mayor of Toledo, Emiliano Garcia-Page, said during a Mass in that city that Spaniards will need “hope and unity” to endure that difficult economic and social situation the country is facing.
“During times of difficulty and social and economic crisis, a spirit of solidarity is necessary for there to be unity,” he said. “We will be able to combat the crisis better together if we all do our part,” he added.
Other politicians attended religious services, including the Governor of the Canary Islands, Paulino Rivero, who went to Mass with those affected by the recent wild fires on the island of Tenerife. Likewise, the president of Cantabria, Ignacio Diego, attended Mass in the city of Selaya.
In Almonte, Mayor Jose Antonio Dominguez took part in the procession of Our Lady of Rocio, and the secretary general of the Socialist Party of Castilla and Leon, Julio Villarrubia, attended religious services in the city of Villamuriel de Cerrato.
Madison, Wis., Aug 16, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Earlier this year, when Georgetown University announced that Rep. Paul Ryan, (R-Wis.), the chairman of the House Budget Committee, would defend his budget in a public address, almost 90 faculty members at the Jesuit institution publicly denounced his interpretation of Church doctrine.
While the media generally presented the harsh judgment as a sign that Ryan’s budget proposals violated core beliefs of his Church, most news stories failed to examine why the subsequent appearance of Kathleen Sebelius, the secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, at a Georgetown graduation event did not provoke a comparable furor. Sebelius is widely viewed as the architect of a federal contraception mandate denounced by the U.S. bishops as an “unprecedented” threat to the free exercise of Catholic institutions, but the same group of Georgetown faculty apparently saw no need to register their disapproval.
During the final bruising months of a presidential election that could hinge on the shifting views of Catholic “swing” voters, Americans can expect to witness further disputes that showcase legitimate questions about the practical impact of Ryan's policies and partisan hit jobs that fail to provide a holistic treatment of Catholic teaching.
Now, Bishop Robert Morlino of Madison, Ryan’s bishop, has waded into this election-year minefield, clearly concerned that a valued member of his flock is being unfairly attacked by partisan forces.
In a column posted on his diocesan website Aug. 16, Bishop Morlino vouches for Ryan’s Catholic bona fides, but stresses that his remarks should not be viewed as an endorsement of Ryan or any candidate.
“I know him very well. He is in regular communication with his bishop.
“I am defending his reputation because I am the one who, as his diocesan bishop, should have something to say about this, if anyone does,” Bishop Morlino told the Register during an Aug. 15 telephone interview.
“Since others have, I believe, unfairly attacked his reputation, I have to look out for his good name. That is Church law. If someone disagrees with Paul, he is free to do that. But not on the basis of reputation destruction, really calumny,” he added.
“They say things about him that aren’t true. I am not a defender of Paul Ryan; I am a defender of reputations of Catholics in the public sphere whose reputations are unjustly attacked.”
The bishop did not cite specific examples to document his charges regarding Ryan’s more outspoken critics, though an Internet search quickly locates headlines like "Paul Ryan's Violence." In recent weeks, however, one political ad on television sought to connect Romney with the death of a cancer victim, who allegedly could not receive treatment because Bain Capital, the private equity firm founded by Romney, had closed the company that once provided her husband with health insurance.
Critics began to challenge Ryan’s moral and intellectual credibility in April, after the congressman asserted in an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network that his economic policies, designed, in part, to get the poor off government assistance, were consistent with Catholic teaching.
“The preferential option for the poor, which is one of the primary tenets of Catholic social teaching, means don’t keep people poor, don’t make people dependent on government so that they stay stuck at their station in life; help people get out of poverty, out onto life of independence,” he stated in the interview.
That month, when Ryan was slated to deliver a prestigious lecture at Georgetown, irate faculty members issued an open letter to the House budget chief.
“Your budget appears to reflect the values of your favorite philosopher, Ayn Rand, rather than the Gospel of Jesus Christ,” says the letter, which the faculty members sent to Ryan.
Ayn Rand’s Influence?
Ryan’s selection as Romney’s running mate has fired up his critics, and similarly harsh judgments have surfaced on political and Catholic blogs and news sites.
Today, one such critique was posted by Charles Reid, a professor of law at the University of St. Thomas. Published by The Huffington Post, it notes the early influence of Ayn Rand on Ryan’s thought and broadly attacks his approach to Catholic social teaching.
“These philosophical premises, of course, stand in contradiction to the social thought of the Catholic Church, as developed over two millennia of experience. Paul Ryan surely knows this. His tepid protest that he reads the Bible and so cannot be a follower of Ayn Rand rings hollow,” charges Reid.
“The record of his public life is that of a man in thrall to a curdled, warped individualism. I, for one, would like to know what he thinks about the magisterium of the Church regarding the positive value of the state.”
During an Aug. 13 appearance on the O’Reilly Factor, Sister Simone Campbell, the executive director of Network, the liberal social-justice lobby, criticized the Ryan budget for failing to secure programs that aided the poor and underemployed, while cutting taxes for the rich.
Sister Simone did not issue any personal attacks on the candidate, but asserted that “the Ryan budget shifts money to the top, not to the bottom. So the Ryan budget won’t do anything to stimulate the economy.”
In his column, Bishop Morlino sought to tamp down the rhetoric and encourage the kind of civil discourse that assumes the good intentions of a Catholic in good standing who is arguing about matters on which people of good will are free to disagree.
“Where intrinsic evils are not involved, specific policy choices and political strategies are the province of Catholic lay mission,” he states in a column that emphasizes the distinction between intrinsically evil choices that must always be opposed and policy positions shaped by prudential judgments, which should be guided by the principles of subsidiarity and solidarity with regards to those most in need.
“Vice-presidential candidate Ryan is aware of Catholic social teaching and is very careful to fashion and form his conclusions in accord with the principles mentioned above. Of that I have no doubt,” Bishop Morlino asserted, providing an unusually explicit defense of the candidate.
In a statement that expresses pride in the accomplishments of a “brother in the faith” and promises prayers for a candidate facing “the unbelievable demands of a presidential campaign here in the United States,” the bishop notes the responsibilities and limits of his own role as a teacher of faith and morals.
“It is not for the bishop or priests to endorse particular candidates or political parties. Any efforts on the part of any bishop or priest to do so should be set aside. And you can be assured that no priest who promotes a partisan agenda is acting in union with me or with the universal Church.”
“It is the role of bishops and priests to teach principles of our faith, such that those who seek elected offices, if they are Catholics, are to form their consciences according to these principles about particular policy issues.”
Many Republicans welcome Ryan’s ability to stir debate about the nation’s budgetary priorities amid an economic crisis with a ballooning national deficit. Ryan has a knack for explaining budget tradeoffs. And he is comfortable raising questions about whether increased govenment spending on social programs necessarily translates into improved outcomes in poor neighborhoods.
Increasingly, Capital Hill's heated discussions about budgetary realities, the future of once secure social entitlements and the needs of the poor have introduced a parallel debate within the U.S. bishops' conference.
Last spring, Bishop Stephen Blaire of Stockton, Calif., the chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, critiqued the Ryan budget, sending letters to Congress that attacked proposed cuts in food stamps and benefits for children of immigrants as “unjust.”
The bishops’ conference is now developing a document, “Reflections on Work, Poverty and a Broken Economy,” that will review Catholic social teaching, examine the “costs” of the crisis, and express solidarity with the unemployed and those at the margins. The stated goal is to stir “Catholic conversations” on the moral responsibilities of people and institutions at the center of the economy.
But during the bishops’ semi-annual meeting in Atlanta earlier this year, a number of bishops expressed concern that such statements had been hijacked by partisan forces. They questioned whether the endorsement of specific policies went beyond their competence as teachers of faith and morals and whether the conference’s tendency to embrace government programs ignored a new reality of budget-busting debt.
Bishop Morlino described himself as a bystander in the conference’s internal discussions. But he had clear views about the tendency of some self-described “social justice” Catholics to ignore or even repudiate Catholic teaching on abortion, marriage and religious liberty.
Addressing what he called an “artificial divide” between “life and social justice” issues, he noted during his interview that “there is one group of ‘justice issues,’ and they are placed in a certain hierarchy with regard to how fundamental they are to being Catholic.”
His column, he said, attempts to bridge that artificial divide by providing a framework with which to approach a range of policies and party platforms.
“The formation of conscience regarding particular policy issues is different depending on how fundamental to the ecology of human nature or the Catholic faith a particular issue is,” he notes in the column.
“Some of the most fundamental issues for the formation of a Catholic conscience are as follows: sacredness of human life from conception to natural death, marriage, religious freedom and freedom of conscience and a right to private property.”
Yet Paul Ryan’s confident references to Catholic social doctrine also serve as a reminder that some Catholics leaders seek to challenge the predictable arguments and politics appropriated by “social justice” Catholics.
Asked during the interview if Ryan represents a uniquely American type of Catholic politician, born and bred in a free-market environment that sharply departed from the European experience, Bishop Morlino paused for a moment and then observed that during a U.S. recession overshadowed and worsened by Europe’s cascading debt crisis, Americans are struggling to compare and contrast the two systems.
“Some say, ‘How can we compare America to Greece?’ Others say, ‘As Greece goes, so America goes.’
"We do have a distinctive way of looking at this,” but Church teaching on a just society transcends the European experience, providing essential moral and practical guidance for all Catholics, he said.
American Catholics are “shaped by an economic culture that fosters, really reinforces, a self-centered ethos,” he said, stressing the vital importance of a properly formed conscience.
“We cannot be complacent about our market system,” he concluded. “Private property is a natural right, but it’s not an absolute right.”
Reprinted with persmission from the National Catholic Register.
Joan Frawley Desmond is the Register's senior editor.
Panama City, Panama, Aug 16, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) -
President Ricardo Martinelli of Panama said that a new statue of Santa Maria la Antigua will be the largest one ever made of the country's patroness.
In a public ceremony on Aug. 14, Martinelli said the statue of the Virgin Mary will be erected on the coast in Panama City and will rise 100 meters – seven more than the Statue of Liberty in New York.
The project is part of the 500th anniversary in 2013 of the discovery of the “South Sea,” the name first given to the Pacific Ocean by Spanish explorers, and the creation of the first diocese on South American soil.
“It will be an icon of this city for the 500th anniversary of the discovery of the South Sea and for the first Catholic church on land,” President Martinelli said.
While he did not say when construction of the monument would begin, he said both public and private funds would be used to finance the project.
On Sept. 9, 1513, Pope Leo X created the first South American diocese in what was once the city of Santa Maria la Antigua de Darien. The city was founded three years earlier by Vasco Nunez de Balboa and Martin Fernandez de Enciso on land that is now part of Colombia.
Washington D.C., Aug 16, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - A man suspected of shooting a security guard at the Family Research Council headquarters in Washington, D.C. is expected to have his first court appearance on the afternoon of Aug.16.
Tony Perkins, president of the pro-faith and family organization, said that authorities “are investigating this incident.”
The suspect, identified as 28-year-old Floyd Lee Corkins II of Herndon, Va., has been charged with assault with intent to kill as well as federal firearms charges.
Corkins allegedly entered the lobby of the Family Research Council’s headquarters – which is located in the Chinatown area of Washington, D.C. – shortly before 11:00 a.m. on Aug. 15.
According to an FBI affidavit, the suspect made a statement to the effect of “I don’t like your politics” before opening fire.
The gunman shot security guard Leo Johnson before being wrestled to the ground and disarmed. Johnson was transported to a hospital and is reported to be conscious and in stable condition.
“Our first concern is with our colleague who was shot today,” said Perkins in a statement shortly after the incident.
Authorities praised Johnson’s heroism and said that his actions may have prevented a tragic mass shooting.
“The security guard here is a hero, as far as I’m concerned,” D.C. police chief Cathy Lanier told reporters. "He did his job. The person never made it past the front.”
The shooting was condemned by both pro-family and gay advocacy organizations, along with White House spokesman Jay Carney and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.
According to Fox News, authorities are investigating the attack as “a case of domestic terrorism,” but have not yet determined a motive.
Corkins, who was taken into custody for questioning by the FBI, had been volunteering at the D.C. Center for the LGBT Community for several months, according to the center’s director.
Gay advocates had labeled the Family Research Council a “hate group” for its views on marriage. Perkins had recently spoken out in defense of Chick-fil-A president Dan Cathy, who made national headlines by saying that he supported a traditional, Biblical view of marriage.
Reports indicate that the gunman was carrying a 9mm handgun, 50 rounds of ammunition and 15 Chick-fil-A sandwiches when he entered the building.
After his gun was wrestled away from him by the security guard and others, the man said, “Don’t shoot me, it was not about you, it was what this place stands for,” sources told Fox News.
The FBI affidavit also said that the suspect’s parents told them that he has “strong opinions” about those whom he believes “do not treat homosexuals in a fair manner.”
Czestochowa, Poland, Aug 16, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Participants in a decades-old pro life initiative and a centuries-old pilgrimage in Poland received affirmation from Pope Benedict on the feast of the Mary's Assumption into heaven.
In an Aug. 15 telegram to mark the 25th anniversary of a prayer project known as the “Spiritual Adoption of the Unborn Child,” the Pope told pilgrims traveling from Krakow to Jasna Gora that their prayers are appreciated and are promoting a culture of life, Vatican Radio reported.
Although Catholics have been taking part in the pilgrimage honoring Our Lady of Czestochowa for over three centuries without interruption, it was not until 1987 that a group began interceding specifically for children who are at risk of being aborted.
Since then, the prayer project has spread to nations across the globe.
During a nine month period, participants “spiritually adopt” a child, vowing to pray a decade of the Rosary daily in the hope that the baby will be spared from abortion.
In addition to the Rosary, participants may include variations to their intercession, such as praying in front of the Blessed Sacrament or fasting for the child, as well as praying for the parents and any difficulties they may be facing.
The Pope said that he appreciates the efforts of those involved with “spiritual adoption” and believes their prayers are working to promote a culture of life in all areas that are contrary to the Gospel message.
Washington D.C., Aug 16, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Family Research Council president Tony Perkins called for an end to the “reckless rhetoric” that may have motivated a gunman to open fire on a security guard at the organization’s headquarters.
At an Aug. 16 press conference, Perkins said that alleged shooter Floyd Lee Corkins II may have felt justified in his actions because several gay advocacy groups – including the Southern Poverty Law Center – have designated Family Research Council as a “hate group.”
He warned of a dangerous increase in the use of the term over the last two years against anyone who disagrees with “gay marriage.”
Perkins has rejected the label, arguing that his organization should be free to express its beliefs in favor of marriage without being accused of hatred.
On the morning of Aug. 15, Corkins allegedly entered the lobby of the Family Research Council’s headquarters in Washington, D.C.
An FBI affidavit indicated that the suspect made comments about the organization’s political views before firing the gun.
Security guard Leo Johnson was shot by the gunman before disarming him and wrestling him to the ground.
Perkins said that Johnson is doing well and that he had been with him when he came out of surgery shortly after midnight.
He explained that Johnson is actually an unarmed building operations manager who doubles as a security guard, making his actions particularly heroic.
Perkins also expressed gratitude for the outpouring of concern and prayers from around the world, including from gay advocacy groups that have condemned the violence.
Family Research Council has attracted publicity in recent weeks in a debate surrounding the Atlanta-based food chain, Chick-fil-A, whose president made headlines by saying that he supported a traditional, Biblical view of marriage.
In the days that followed, attention was drawn to the fact that Chick-fil-A had once donated money to the Family Research Council, which has been targeted as a “hate group” by gay advocates for its views on marriage.
According to reports, the gunman was carrying 15 Chick-fil-A sandwiches, along with a 9mm handgun and 50 rounds of ammunition, when he entered the building.
In addition, the director of a D.C. gay and lesbian community center acknowledged that Corkins has been volunteering there for several months.
Corkins has been charged with assault with intent to kill, as well as federal firearms charges. At an Aug. 16 court hearing, a judge ordered that he be mentally evaluated and held without bond. He will appear again in court on Aug. 24.
In an interview on Fox News shortly before the press conference, Perkins said that the suspect may have felt that the “hate group” designation was a “license” to kill.
“I’m not saying that the Southern Poverty Law Center is responsible for the shooting,” he emphasized. “Mr. Corkins is responsible for the shooting.”
However, he said, the repeated “hate group” accusations contribute to an “environment” in which people who are “imbalanced” feel justified in attempting to kill those who disagree with them.
In a democratic society, which requires a robust debate about important issues, there is “no room” for the “reckless labeling of organizations that they disagree with,” he said.
Perkins explained that he had rejected the term “hate group” when it was originally used against his organization two years ago and had asked the Southern Poverty Law Center to engage in a debate over the use of the label. However, he said, the law center did not respond.
Perkins emphasized the need for open discussion about important issues in society rather than violence intended to intimidate and silence those who disagree.
He added that the Family Research Council will not allow the incident to frighten them into backing away from their beliefs.
“We are more committed today than we were yesterday,” he said.