Archive of September 28, 2012

Commentators say pro-Obama Catholics misrepresent record

Washington D.C., Sep 28, 2012 (CNA) - The Catholic commentators Deacon Keith Fournier and Deal Hudson, in their new column to run daily through the upcoming elections, have warned that some Catholic supporters of President Obama are misrepresenting his record.

Deacon Fournier said “too many Catholics and other Christians have not figured out the consequences we face on November 6, 2012 if we do not properly inform our decision on who we will elect to lead us and vote accordingly.”

He and Hudson said in a Sept. 27 column at Catholic Online that despite their own differences they have joined together to “do absolutely everything we can” to influence “the most important election in our lifetime.”

Deacon Fournier, the editor in chief of Catholic Online, and Hudson, the president of the Pennsylvania Catholics Network and a former Republican consultant on Catholic outreach, said that President Obama’s position on abortion bothers many Catholics if they are informed about it.

A poll from the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List reports that most Catholic swing voters said they would be less likely to vote for President Obama after learning of his vote against a law protecting babies who survive a failed abortion.

However, Deacon Fournier and Hudson said, “Obama and his advisors are paying little attention, hoping that voters will believe the misrepresentations of their surrogates.”

They cited as evidence the report of an unnamed Catholic woman who chairs her parish’s pro-life committee. She said she received a scripted phone call from Catholic supporters of President Obama who denied that the pro-abortion rights president and the abortion provider Planned Parenthood support abortion.

The two commentators also explained the relevance of Catholic social teaching to one’s choice in voting. They stressed the importance of respecting “every human life” whether it is in “the womb, a wheelchair, a jail cell, a hospital room, a hospice, a senior center or a soup kitchen.”

They also weighed-in on the issue of marriage, stating that it is a union of one man and one woman, the “foundation” of the family and not “some social construct which can be redefined by courts or legislatures.”

Catholic social teaching additionally emphasizes human community and each person’s social responsibilities to others, they wrote.

“The social doctrine of the Catholic Church rejects a notion of ‘freedom’ which begins and ends with the isolated, atomistic person as the measure of its application,” they said. Economic systems must serve the human person and the human family, with preference for the poor, while also rejecting “all forms of dehumanizing collectivism.”

Deacon Fournier and Hudson said that the truths of Catholic social doctrine are not only for the religious, but have their basis in reason as well.

“The Church calls us to offer them as leaven to be worked into the loaf of human culture,” the commentators said.

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US bishops offer condolences, support after Nigeria church bombing

Washington D.C., Sep 28, 2012 (CNA) - Leaders of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops offered their support to the Church in Nigeria after a suicide car bomber attacked a cathedral in the northern region of the country. 

“Our thoughts and prayers are with those who have lost loved ones in this attack and with the scores of others who were wounded,” said Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Bishop Richard E. Pates of Des Moines, who chairs the conference’s Committee on International Justice and Peace.

The clergymen expressed their sympathy over a recent suicide bombing in a Sept. 25 letter to Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama of Jos, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria.

On the morning of Sept. 13, a suicide car bomber attacked St. John’s Cathedral in Bauchi, a city in northern Nigeria, leaving at least two people dead and 45 injured, many of them seriously.

While no group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, the city of Bauchi has often been the target of violence perpetrated by Boko Haram, a militant Islamic group in Nigeria whose name means “Western education is sinful.”

Boko Haram, which rejects the Nigerian state and seeks to impose strict Shariah law throughout the country, has claimed responsibility for numerous attacks on Christians and is reportedly involved with rebels and terrorist groups in the region.

The group has been accused of systematically terrorizing and bombing churches in an attempt to force all Christians out of Nigeria.

Dozens of Christians in northern and central Nigeria have been killed or injured in recent months alone, and according to the BBC, the group has been blamed for attacks that caused the deaths of 1,400 people since 2010.

In July, a U.S. congressional subcommittee hearing discussed ways that the U.S. can respond to the continuing terrorist attacks in the country.

Nigeria's military said that it killed Boko Haram’s spokesman and another leader on Sept. 17.

Calling the suicide attack “horrible and totally unacceptable,” Cardinal Dolan and Bishop Pates voiced “condolences and solidarity,” as well as “great sadness” at the news.

“It is sobering to note that the deaths and injuries could have been even worse had the Church not taken security precautions after the earlier bombing of a church in Bauchi last June,” they said.

Acknowledging “the severity of the threat of violence,” they praised Archbishop Kaigama for his “positive and courageous role of the Church in Nigeria.”

The archbishop responded to the recent attack by saying that it was “shocking,” but that “we must go on with our lives and our work, and not be intimidated by violence.”

Cardinal Dolan and Bishop Pates said they hope “the perpetrators of violence and terror will be brought to justice.”

They assured the archbishop of their “unconditional support to the Church in Nigeria at this difficult time.”

“Bishop Pates’ recent visit to Nigeria is a direct expression of that support,” they said, adding that they are also “organizing assistance for your programs in Jos with the youth.”

In addition, the prelates told the archbishop that they would call on the U.S. State Department to strengthen its support of the Nigeria’s government and civil society in their work “to end these senseless attacks, to address the root causes of the violence, and to rebuild the social fabric of the country.”

“We know that Christians and Muslims will strive to find the courage and the love to continue building right relationships that will promote peace,” they said.

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Pro-lifers say Notre Dame invite to Obama is different this time

Washington D.C., Sep 28, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pro-life advocates said the University of Notre Dame's recent invitation to President Barack Obama to speak on campus is a chance to participate in public discourse, unlike the school’s welcoming of Obama as commencement speaker in 2009.

“One is a scandal and the other is entirely appropriate,” said Eric Scheidler, executive director of the Pro-Life Action League.

In a recent press release, Notre Dame explained that it has invited both Obama and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney to speak at the school during the campaign in order to “provide the campus community a firsthand impression of the contenders and their messages.”

It noted that the university was continuing a 60-year long tradition in offering Notre Dame as a “forum for serious political discussion” by the presidential candidates.

The invitation drew some concern from those who feared it would be a repeat of the university’s 2009 decision to invite Obama as the commencement speaker and award him an honorary degree. Numerous bishops spoke out against the decision and a petition protesting it drew more than 100,000 signatures, pointing to the president’s adamant support for abortion without limits.

Obama has also recently announced support for redefining marriage to include same-sex couples. In addition, his administration has come under fire for issuing a mandate that requires employers to offer health insurance plans covering contraception, sterilization and early abortion drugs.  

Notre Dame has joined more than 80 other schools, dioceses, charitable organizations and private businesses in filing lawsuits over the mandate, arguing that it violates their constitutionally-protected right to religious freedom.

Scheidler, who led hundreds of pro-lifers in protesting Obama’s commencement speech at Notre Dame, believes that the current invitation is an “entirely different kind of situation than what we saw in 2009.”

In that situation, Obama was presented as “a fitting voice to speak to students about their futures,” while in reality, his adamant support for abortion makes him unfit to do so, he told CNA.

Conferring an honorary degree was “totally outrageous and scandalous from a Catholic perspective,” he added.

The “essential difference” in this situation, Scheidler explained, is that the president is not being given an honor in being asked to speak about his political positions in an election year.

Rather, Notre Dame is making a claim, on behalf of the Catholic faith, to “a vital place at the table of public discourse,” he said.

Scheidler argued that withdrawing from public discussion of important issues because one or more candidates oppose Church teaching is “precisely the wrong response.”

He suggested that Obama would love for Catholics to refuse to have any engagement with pro-abortion culture.

In fact, he said, the problem with the contraception mandate is that it is “driving Catholics out of the public square,” and the faithful should not willingly cooperate by removing themselves from public debate.

Having filed a lawsuit against the administration and its mandate, the university has made it clear where it stands on the subject, he said, and it would be very difficult to read the invitation as an endorsement.

The current situation is “plainly” different from 2009, agreed William Dempsey, founding president and chairman of Project Sycamore, a group of Notre Dame alumni concerned about “patterns of secularization persisting on campus.”

“They’re not conferring an honorary degree on Obama this time,” he told CNA, and they are not presenting Obama as someone to emulate.

While Project Sycamore as an organization does not have an official position on the matter, Dempsey said that he believes it is generally good for Catholic universities to be part of the public debate, inviting speakers with differing views as long as they are not being honored or given a platform to oppose Church teaching.

When deciding on speakers, it is important to adhere to the bishops’ policies, he explained. Beyond this, each individual case must be “decided with prudence.”

In this case, Dempsey said, the invitation does “raise some questions as to whether it is prudent and wise” to offer an invitation to Obama when the school is “locked in litigation” with his administration over the HHS mandate.

He cautioned that consideration must be given to what message will be conveyed by inviting someone who is a “significant adversary” in matters of fundamental religious liberty.

In addition, he noted, if Obama accepts the invitation this late in the campaign, it will only be because he “thinks it will advance his political stature in this election,” and the university may want to consider the possibility that it may be aiding the president in his bid for re-election.

Still, Dempsey said, it would be hard to read the invitation as an endorsement given the similar invitation granted to Romney, and the prudential considerations at play in this instance are not the same as the more fundamental concerns raised in 2009.

“This is quite different,” he said.

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Catholic support for Obama in polls may not tell full story

Washington D.C., Sep 28, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - A recent poll showing President Barack Obama with a 15-point lead over Republican candidate Mitt Romney among Catholic voters may not represent the actual attitudes of the Catholic electorate, analysts say.

“Keep in mind that a survey is just that – it’s a survey,” said Dr. Matthew Green, a politics professor who deals with the field of U.S. elections at The Catholic University of America. “There’s always some uncertainty.”

A poll released by Pew Research Center on Sept. 16 showed Obama with 54-39 percent lead over Romney among self-identified Catholics.

While the survey, conducted Sept. 12-16, did show Romney with a nine point advantage among those who attend church services regularly, the poll results of the general Catholic population differed significantly from those shown by other surveys.

A Gallup poll released on the same day showed Obama leading by only five points, 49-44. That poll was based on a three-week rolling average from Aug 27 - Sept 16.

Gallup’s later poll from Aug. 20 – Sept. 9 showed Obama leading by just two percentage points among self-identified Catholics, 47-45.

Analysts offered various explanations for the discrepancy with the Pew poll.

Green told CNA that a single poll is “not necessarily the most reliable measure,” and it can be helpful to look at numerous polls.

While he could not comment on which poll was more accurate, he said that he was “a little hesitant to accept the Pew numbers.”

He noted that the Pew survey was just a single poll that seems to be an “outlier,” while Gallup has been doing weekly polls on the election for months, showing “general stability” with only “gradual changes.”

In addition, he observed, Gallup averages its polls over a three-week period in order to average out irregularities that could be misleading.

While its results are not necessarily wrong, Green said that he “wouldn’t put too much weight on the Pew data.”

He explained that Pew surveyed only 540 people who self-identified as Catholic, while Gallup surveyed 2,100 people. Therefore, Pew’s data for Catholics has a “much bigger margin of error,” which indicates less certainty that the poll “reflects the true preferences of the population.”

Geoff Skelley, media relations coordinator for the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, noted that “all polls have just slightly different methodology.”

Websites that average numerous different polls can sometimes help in trying “to find a balance” and smooth out any irregularities in individual polls, he explained.

Georgetown’s Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate has aggregated data from polls on Catholics conducted by Pew, Gallup and TIPP. The results indicated a close race over the last several months, in which neither candidate consistently garnered more than 50 percent of Catholic support. 

The recent inconsistencies in poll results extended beyond merely the Catholic vote and into the general population as well.

Joe Garofoli of the San Francisco Chronicle observed that a Sept. 19 Pew Research poll showed Obama leading Romney by eight percentage points, while a Gallup survey taken over the same time period had them tied.

Discrepancies such as these, he said, can be attributed to the different wording of questions, differing methods of attempting to integrate cell phone users into polls and differences between polling “registered voters” and “likely voters.”

In early August, Pew was critiqued for a survey showing Obama with a 10-point lead over Romney in a poll that included nearly twice as many self-identifying Democrats as Republicans.

Pew defended its poll in a statement asserting that standardizing the distribution of Democrats and Republicans “would unquestionably be the wrong thing to do.”

The research center explained that “party identification is one of the aspects of public opinion that our surveys are trying to measure, not something that we know ahead of time like the share of adults who are African American, female, or who live in the South.”

“(S)hifts in party identification are essential to understanding the dynamics of American politics,” it said.

Some critics, however, said that such a significant inequality in party distribution could be making the polls less accurate.

Columnist Jim Geraghty complained in the National Review Online that Pew has made a “habit of including an unrealistic percentage of Democrats in their sample.”

He argued that the organization has been inaccurate in polling before recent elections because its polling samples do not reflect the fact that “the electorate is going to be more than 24 percent Republican, and self-identified Democrats aren’t going to outpace Republicans by 9 percentage points.”

Commentator Dick Morris suggested that the polls being produced by many organizations are flawed because they are using the 2008 election as a model for weighting respondents.

However, it is unlikely that African Americans, Latinos and young adults will have the same unusually high voter turnout in this election that they did in 2008, he said, pointing to surveys indicting a lack of enthusiasm and novelty, as well as a sense of disappointment, among these groups.

As a result, he argued, many polls showing Obama with a drastic lead over Romney are actually “misleading.”

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Spanish bishop tells parents to not hinder son's vocations

Madrid, Spain, Sep 28, 2012 (CNA) - Bishop Demetrio Fernandez of Cordoba, Spain called on parents to support their sons who feel they have a vocation to the priesthood and to consider it a gift from God for their families and the Church.

“Mothers and fathers, if your son says he wants to go to the seminary, don’t hinder him in any way.  Don’t be responsible for hindering something from God,” the bishop said in his weekly pastoral letter.

“Don't hold him back, for whatever excuse. If that vocational seed dries up, whose fault will it be?”

Referring to the ordination of two new priests on Sept. 29 in his diocese, Bishop Fernandez said the event will be “an occasion to thank God for these gifts, as well continue to pray that he send laborers, because the harvest is plenty and the laborers are few.”  

This year, he noted, 25 new candidates have entered the Seminary of Cordoba – nine in the major seminary and 16 in the minor.

During his remarks, Bishop Fernandez also called on priests, catechists and teachers to talk to children and young people about a call to the priesthood with love and encourage them to be open to a vocation.

“When a child or young man is excited about his future, point out to them examples of a life of priestly service, like those of so many holy priests such as St. John of Avila or the Cure of Ars,” he added.

In his letter, Bishop Fernandez touched on the new school year that has begun, the Year of Faith and the proclamation of St. John of Avila as Doctor of the Church, the 50th anniversary of the beginning of the Second Vatican Council, the 20th anniversary of the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the upcoming Synod of Bishops on the new evangelization.

“These are not separate issues, but rather they all flow towards the same objective: to know and deepen in the love of God manifested in Christ and to make others participants in the full communion of the Church, under the guidance of the Magisterium and with the testimony of the saints, so that everyone might enjoy divine life on earth and for all of eternity,” he said.

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Pope says early missionaries can inform new evangelization

Vatican City, Sep 28, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Benedict told the Episcopal Conferences of Europe meeting in the Swiss city of St. Gallen that today's Church can learn lessons from the missionaries who first evangelized the continent.

“The experience of St. Gallen, like that of many other protagonists of evangelization in Europe’s land and throughout the world, teaches that the Christian message is sown and rooted effectively where it is lived authentically and eloquently by a community” the Pope in his Sept. 27 letter to the episcopal gathering.

St. Gallen was one of the twelve disciples of 6th century Irish abbot Saint Colombanus. The missionary group set forth from Ireland to evangelize the continent of Europe. After an illness forced St. Gallen to remain near the Arbon district of northern Switzerland, he decided to dedicate himself to the hermitic life.

“His reputation for holiness attracted many to him, giving birth to a monastic community that would become, in turn, the driving force for more missions among many people,” the Pope noted.

The Plenary Assembly for the Council of the Episcopal European Conference is taking place from Sept. 27-30 in St. Gallen, which has been the seat of the Council’s secretariat since 1978.

This year also marks the 1400th anniversary of St. Gallen’s arrival in the canton of Switzerland that now bears his name. The meeting comes only weeks before the opening of the Synod of Bishops in Rome, convened by Pope Benedict to discuss the “new evangelization” of the contemporary world.  

“Therefore, the memory of St. Gallen and his work, on the eve of the Synod Assembly on the New Evangelization, will stimulate the Plenary of this Council to look with faith and hope – through the eyes of Christ the Lord – the great ‘harvest’ that it is the people Europe, in the wake of Vatican II and the teachings of the Supreme Pontiffs who have implemented them,” the pontiff said.

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American Jesuit wins 2012 Ratzinger Prize

Rome, Italy, Sep 28, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Jesuit Father Brian Edward Daley of Notre Dame University is one of two winners of the 2012 Ratzinger Prize in Theology.
“Fr. Daley,” Cardinal Camillo Ruini said, “is a great historian of patristic theology, but also a man entirely committed to the life and mission of the Church, an exemplary model of the fusion of academic rigor with passion for the Gospel.”
Also winning this year’s prize is the lay French philosopher Rémi Brague, whom Cardinal Ruini described as “a true philosopher and, at the same time, a great historian of cultural thought who unites a profound and unequivocal Christian and Catholic faith to his speculative ability and historical vision.”
The two men will collect their award in Rome on Oct. 20 during the Synod of Bishops on the New Evangelization. Their financial reward is 50,000 euros each.

Fr. Brian Daley is the Catherine F. Huisking Professor of Theology at Notre Dame. A student at Fordham, Oxford and Frankfurt, he was ordained a priest of the Society of Jesus in 1970. Beginning in 1978, he taught historical theology at the Weston Jesuit School of Theology in Cambridge, Mass., before moving to Notre Dame in 1996.

Fr. Daley is active in the field of ecumenism, particularly relations between Catholics and Orthodox. He currently serves as the executive secretary of the North American Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consultation.

Among other many works, he is the author of “The Hope of the Early Church: A Handbook of Patristic Eschatology” and has edited an anthology of texts of Jesuit spirituality entitled “Companions in the Mission of Jesus.”

He is also a contributor to the English edition of Communio magazine, which was founded in 1972 by, amongst others, Hans Urs von Balthasar, Henri De Lubac and Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI.
Away from the seminar room, the Jesuit priest is also a certified rowing and a boxing coach, serving as the “cut and bucket man” during Notre Dame’s annual “Bengal Bouts” student boxing competition, which raises money for the Holy Cross Missions in Bangladesh.
Now in its second year of existence, the Ratzinger Prize is already being referred to as the “Nobel Prize of Theology.”

It is sponsored by the Joseph Ratzinger Vatican Foundation, which was founded with the approval of Pope Benedict XVI in 2010. Its stated aim is to “promote the publication, distribution and study of the writings of former university professor Joseph Ratzinger.” It also provides grants to doctorate students of theology and organizes high-level academic conferences. The activities of the foundation are financed through the publication and sale of Pope Benedict’s works.

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