Archive of October 19, 2012

LA archbishop thinks best ways to reach youth are often old ones

Vatican City, Oct 19, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - The New Evangelization needs to reach out to young people using every means available, new and old, Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles says.

“It is our mission to ask God for the grace to discover new means to reach out to young people,” Archbishop Gomez said. “We need to use all the new means of communication so that they can understand what we are talking about.”

The New Evangelization must present timeless truths in new ways, he told CNA on Oct. 18 during a break of the synod on the New Evangelization.

“Beautiful traditions, like the exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, and the time of contemplation and meditation, are very popular among young people,” he noted. “So we have to go back to that, so that they can feel, too, how important … the Catholic faith is for them.”

Young people are a major focus of the New Evangelization – which is aimed at reintroducing the faith to formerly Christian countries.

Archbishop Gomez believes the Church can accomplish this by taking action rooted in prayer.

“The first thing we need to do is to pray for them,” he said. “And then we have to come up with new, better ways to reach out to them.”

In the Los Angeles, for example, “we have specific congresses in every region of the archdiocese, and some of them try to target young people, so that they can come and participate and see how beautiful it is to know Jesus Christ. We pray for them, and entrust their needs (to God) and see that they get excited about the Catholic faith.”

That excitement is rooted not in feelings but the realization that “the Catholic faith has all the answers to all the challenges of this society,” he said. In turn, this recognition should foster “a new enthusiasm in the way that we know and practice our faith.”

Bishops at the synod say that Church-approved catechists will be instrumental in bringing people to Christ and making the New Evangelization a success.

Archbishop Gomez was excited to report that last week he presided at a Mass welcoming 3,000 new Church-certified catechists. Many of them are Spanish speakers who can minister to LA-area Latinos who may be devout and practice popular pieties but need instruction in the faith.

Before hurrying off to a late lunch, Archbishop Gomez referenced a point he made at his Oct. 9 synod address: “the teachings of the Catholic Church have not changed, society has changed.”

At that address, he said, “We need to find the ‘language’ that best presents the traditional means of sanctification – the sacraments, prayer, works of charity – in a way that is attractive and accessible to people living in the reality of a globalized, secular, urban society.

“With our rich treasury of Catholic spiritualities … and with our good news of God's ‘family plan’ for history, we possess powerful resources for our evangelization of culture in the context of globalization and the increasing secularization in our societies.”

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Pro-life activist encourages witnessing in difficult situations

Arlington, Va., Oct 19, 2012 (CNA) - Witnessing to the Catholic faith can be done in a variety of ways, depending on the situation, but they all must be founded on authenticity, love and prayer, pro-life advocate Jeanne Monahan said in a talk for Theology on Tap.

Building on an idea proposed by Pope John Paul II, Monahan explained that Catholics “don’t have to manipulate God’s plan,” lying and cajoling people into accepting it. 

“Because when it’s taught in its authenticity, it’s inherently attractive,” she said. “It’s inherently beautiful, and people want to live it.”

“And so all we need to do, essentially, is to learn it and to live it ourselves,” she stated.

Monahan, who was recently elected as interim president of the March for Life Education and Defense Fund, spoke on Oct. 15 before a gathering of young adults for Theology on Tap in Arlington, Va.

Drawing on the examples of holy men and women, along with her own experiences working for the federal government and as the current director of the Center for Human Dignity at the Family Research Council, she discussed different approaches to witnessing to the faith in a hostile environment.

“My own personal experiences are that most hostile environments with regard to the Church have to do with the Church’s teachings on marriage and family and sexuality,” Monahan said.

These environments are often unfriendly “because people are uncomfortable with those teachings, which can be highly, highly misunderstood,” she explained.

While she acknowledged that it can be tempting to keep quiet or even go along with a lie under the pressure of a challenging situation, she stressed that “we’re called to speak the truth,” in a loving and authentic manner and “it’s a disservice to the people around us when we don’t.”

“How this is going to be lived out in different scenarios is a matter of sensitive discernment,” Monahan said, emphasizing that there “is no cookie cutter approach” because each situation and set of individuals is unique.

And while Catholics must always be loving, this is sometimes expressed in tough love and other times in more gentle love, sometimes through words and other times through actions, she said.

It is important to keep in mind that the goal “is not necessarily to win the fight” but “to win souls” through acts of love, she noted.

She pointed to the examples of John the Baptist becoming a “martyr of marriage” for speaking the truth about Herod and Herodius; Pope John Paul II bringing hope to the oppressed people of Poland; and Mother Teresa speaking out against abortion in front of U.S. President Bill Clinton and Vice President Al Gore at the 1994 National Prayer Breakfast.

She also told the story of Immaculee Ilibagiza, a Rwandan genocide survivor who hid for three months in a small bathroom as most of her family members were killed.

Instead of becoming bitter and resentful from what she had experienced, Ilibagiza allowed her relationship with God to grow in a profound way and eventually wrote a book about how her Catholic faith allowed her to forgive her family’s killers.

Monahan said that this “beautiful story of forgiveness” provides a model for all those struggling with the temptation to cling to anger against the sins of others.

She also told stories from her own life of being ridiculed and belittled by federal government coworkers for her beliefs on abstinence and how she tried to respond with prayer, love and invitations to dialogue.

An important part of being able to witness is a solid prayer life, which helps us “to talk with God, to have a relationship with him,” Monahan said, describing how she discovered “the adventure that it was to grow in a relationship with our Lord.”

Prayer also gives us strength in tough moments “to have incredible strength to do things that we never expected to be able to do,” she added, noting that sometimes we are “just given words to say” in a difficult situation.

She pointed to the example of Jesus during his agony in the garden, observing that “before he was about to go into a very hostile environment on Calvary, he spent time in prayer.”

Sometimes we are given the strength to just stand firm as a loving presence in a hostile environment, and this can plant seeds, Monahan said.

When we are overwhelmed and tempted to give up, we should keep in mind that “we’re just showing up and letting God do the work,” she emphasized.

This is important to remember, particularly when we feel inadequate, because if we allow ourselves to be instruments, “the grace of God really comes through,” she stated.

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Exit poll reductions not likely to lessen Catholic vote impact

Washington D.C., Oct 19, 2012 (CNA) - A decision to reduce the number of states included in exit polls after the 2012 presidential election is not expected to detract from the importance attached to the Catholic vote or future efforts by candidates to attract Catholics as a group.

Dr. Mark M. Gray, research associate at Georgetown University’s Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, explained that the change means “we won't be able to discern how Catholics voted nationally as quickly as we have in the past.”

However, he told CNA on Oct. 17 that he believes the votes of Catholics and other subgroups will still be a significant topic of discussion following the upcoming election.

On Oct. 4, the Washington Post reported that the decision to eliminate the polls in some states had been made by the National Election Pool, which sponsors national exit surveys of voters in order for the media to make predictions about election outcomes before all the votes have been counted.
For 20 years, exit polls after presidential elections have included voters in all 50 states. However, this year that number will be cut to 31 states, eliminating the surveys from 19 states where there is already a high level of confidence that one candidate will win. 

The change will allow exit polls to focus on gathering data from hotly-contested swing states.

ABC News elections director Dan Merkle, a member of the National Election Pool’s managing committee, said the decision was to an attempt to maintain quality while dealing with increasing costs.

An increase in early voting has necessitated a rise in the use of telephone interviews rather than cheaper in-person precinct polls.

In addition, the National Election Pool is increasing the number of precincts that will be sampled in the national survey this year, facilitating detailed analysis of subgroups.

The states that will not have exit polls this year are: Alaska, Arkansas, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, West Virginia and Wyoming. The District of Columbia will also be excluded.

As a result, analysts and researchers will not be able to see the individual state breakdown of voters by religion, sex, age or race in these states.

However, Gray explained that he does not think the change will affect the way in which campaigns appeal to the Catholic electorate.

“It does not diminish the importance of the Catholic vote either,” he added. For years, the Catholic vote has been considered an important demographic in presidential elections.

“The loss of the national exit polls simply means we won't quickly be able to discern how Catholics voted,” Gray explained. Instead, analysts will have to rely on small national surveys, such as The National Election Study, which “won't be released for some time after the election.”
Mark J. Rozell, professor of public policy at George Mason University, agreed that the change will likely not detract from the way that campaigns reach out to Catholics.

Election seasons will still include numerous polls with participants broken down by religious affiliation, he said, and individual campaigns look at voter subgroups in “minute detail.”

The biggest loss resulting from the decision to cut exit polls from some states will be to the academic community in its post-election analysis, Rozell stated.

“I don’t think it will minimize one bit the perceptions of Catholic voters,” he said.

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Spanish youths attack Catholic school, threaten to burn priests alive

Madrid, Spain, Oct 19, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - A group of young people shouting, “Where are the priests? We’re going to burn them at the stake,” attacked the Mary Help of Christians Salesian School in Merida, Spain, leaving one teacher wounded.
According to the Salesian Press Office in Spain, the incident occurred at 1:20 p.m. local time on Oct. 18, when “some 100 young people entered the premises of the Mary Help of Christians Salesian School in Merida.”  Nearly 1,000 K-12 students attend the school.
“Custodial workers and some teachers at the school tried to stop the group, but 10 of them were able to gain entrance to the school building, shouting insults against the institution, pushing staff members who were in their way and attempting to disrupt the normal school day,” the Salesians said.
Principal Marco Antonio Romero told the newspaper El Mundo that the young people’s intention was to pull down the crucifixes. “More public education and less crucifixes,” they shouted.
The attackers carried flags from the Spanish Civil War, shouted insults at the teachers and professors and tried to steal several laptop computers from classrooms, the newspaper reported.
The red, yellow and dark purple flags were the same ones used by the Republican faction, left-wing radicals and anarchists during Spain’s bloody, anti-clerical conflict that led to the deaths of thousands of priest, seminarians, religious and laypeople between 1936 and 1939.
During the attack on the school, one teacher suffered minor wounds while trying to keep the young people from entering her classroom.
The Salesians said steps will be taken to prevent any kind of such attacks in the future and that they will be filing a lawsuit against the assailants. “This kind of conduct cannot be allowed in a constitutional state.”

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Al Smith dinner includes religious freedom references amid humor

New York City, N.Y., Oct 19, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - An annual Catholic fundraising dinner with both major presidential candidates provided a night of laughter, as well as reminders of the Church’s battle to defend its religious freedom against the federal contraception mandate.

Al Smith, former New York governor and the namesake of the charity dinner, believed that government should aid those in need by “partnering with family, church, parish, neighborhood, organizations and community, never intruding or opposing,” said Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York.

In the final weeks of what has become a very close presidential race, President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney took a night off from campaign events to attend the 67th annual Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner at the Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York.

The Oct. 18 dinner was held amid a tense struggle between the Catholic community and the Obama administration.

The Archdiocese of New York has joined with over 100 other plaintiffs in filing lawsuits against the administration’s federal contraception mandate, which requires them to violate their faith by facilitating insurance coverage of contraception, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs.

Cardinal Dolan’s invitation to the president under these circumstances drew criticism from those who feared it may send the wrong message, allowing Obama to have a photo-op with the church leader while downplaying the significance of the Church’s conflict with the administration.

While the attendance of presidential rivals is a longstanding tradition at the dinner, previous cardinals have failed to extend invitations to the contenders when Bill Clinton and John Kerry were running, reportedly due to their support for abortion.

The cardinal defended his decision in an Aug. 14 blog post, saying that his commitment to religious freedom had not waned, but that he saw the invitation as an opportunity for “engagement and dialogue.”

“In other words, it’s better to invite than to ignore, more effective to talk together than to yell from a distance, more productive to open a door than to shut one,” he said.

Laughter filled much of the evening as the candidates poked fun at themselves and each other on topics including the wealth that Romney amassed as a businessman and Obama’s poorly rated performance in the first presidential debate.

In a reference to his Mormon faith, which forbids the consumption of alcohol, Romney joked that his debate preparation includes refraining “from alcohol for 65 years before the debate.”

Touching on the subject of media bias, he said the next morning’s headlines describing the event would read, “Obama Embraced by Catholics. Romney Dines with Rich People.”

Romney also broached the subject of the contraception mandate in his remarks, saying, “Of course the president has found a way to take the sting out of the Obamacare mandates for the Church. From now on, they're going to be in Latin.”

On a serious note, Romney praised the work of the archdiocese and the Al Smith Foundation.

“You answer with calm and willing hearts and service to the poor and care for the sick, in defense and the rights of conscience and in solidarity with the innocent child waiting to be born,” he said, adding that he is proud to be an “ally and friend” in these “great causes of compassion.”

President Obama offered humorous jabs of his own, saying that he had earlier gone “shopping at some stores in Midtown,” while Romney “went shopping for some stores in Midtown.”

“As some of you may have noticed, I had a lot more energy in our second debate,” the president said. “I felt really well rested after the nice long nap I had in the first debate.”

Leaving humor behind, the president also applauded “the extraordinary work that is done by the Catholic Church.” He noted that “it's written in scripture that tribulation produces perseverance, and perseverance, character, and character hope.”

Despite their differences, he said, “I'm certain, that we share the hope that the next four years will reflect the same decency, and the same willingness to come together for a higher purpose that are on display this evening.”

Cardinal Dolan closed out the night with remarks that began jokingly but then became reflective on the nature and importance of religious freedom.

He suggested that the annual dinner “shows the United States of America and the Catholic Church at their best,” uniting people of diverse faiths, economic backgrounds and political views in “an atmosphere of civility and humor.”

Despite their differences, he said, those gathered are grateful “to be people of faith and loyal Americans, loving a country which considers religious liberty our first and most cherished freedom, convinced that faith is not just limited to an hour of Sabbath worship, but affects everything we do and dare and dream.”

The cardinal concluded the evening by acknowledging “the ‘uns’ of the world,” including “the unemployed, the uninsured, the unwanted, the unwed mother, the innocent, fragile unborn baby in her womb, the undocumented, the unhoused, the unhealthy, the unfed, the undereducated.”

He recalled Al Smith’s conviction that government “should be on the side of these ‘uns,’” by cooperating with private individuals and religious groups “since, when all is said and done, it’s in God we trust, not, ultimately, in government or politics.”

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Vatican condemns Beirut car bomb attack

Vatican City, Oct 19, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Vatican’s spokesman is condemning the car bomb attack in Beirut which killed a leading Lebanese security official and seven other people while wounding dozens.

“The attack in Beirut deserves the firmest condemnation, for the senseless murderous violence which manifested itself and because it runs counter to the efforts and commitment to preserve a peaceful coexistence in Lebanon,” Fr. Federico Lombardi, director of the Vatican’s press office, said Oct. 19.

He cited Pope Benedict XVI’s call for Lebanon to be a witness to “peace and hope” for its residents and throughout the region.

He said the Holy See shares in the grief over the deaths and injuries of so many people and hopes that the “horrible act” does not cause the further spread of violence.

The deadly Oct. 19 attack on the convoy of Brig. Gen. Wissam al-Hassan took place in the mainly Christian neighborhood of Achrafieh. The blast tore the balconies off nearby apartment buildings, the Associated Press reports. At least 60 were wounded, 20 critically.

The security official had led the investigation into a bomb plot that led to the arrest of the pro-Syrian Lebanese Information Minister Michel Samaha. Samaha allegedly confessed to transporting explosives in his car from Syria to Lebanon to kill Lebanese figures opposed by the Syrian government.

A military court indicted Samaha and indicted in absentia Syrian Brig. Gen. Ali Mamlouk for plotting terrorist attacks inside Lebanon. The Syrian President Bashar Assad recently appointed Mamlouk to head Syria’s National Security Bureau.

The conflict in neighboring Syria between government and rebel forces has killed an estimated 30,000 people. There are fears the violence could spread further into Lebanon, which has already witnessed occasional gun battles in the north.

Lebanon’s Sunni Muslims tend to back the mainly Sunni Syrian rebels, while Lebanon’s Shiite Hezbollah movement allies with Assad. Assad is a member of the Alawite branch of Shiite Islam, which is a religious minority in Syria.

Lebanon’s last major bombing was in 2008. A senior Lebanese anti-terrorism police official and four others were killed and 38 wounded in a bomb attack in the mainly Christian neighborhood of Hazmieh.

Pope Benedict visited Lebanon in September. At the close of this three-day visit, he appealed to members of all religions to be “peacemakers.”

“In a world where violence constantly leaves behind its grim trail of death and destruction, to serve justice and peace is urgently necessary for building a fraternal society, for building fellowship,” he said to hundreds of thousands gathered in Beirut for his visit’s final Mass Sept. 16.

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Miami archdiocese sues over 'real threat' from HHS mandate

Miami, Fla., Oct 19, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Archdiocese of Miami and two other Catholic entities filed a lawsuit today against the HHS mandate, adding to the dozens of lawsuits already filed in the matter.

“The HHS mandate represents a real threat … we cannot just sit back and let our religious freedoms be taken away from us,” Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski of Miami told CNA Oct. 19.

Bolstering Catholic identity and teaching what it means to be a Catholic were also on the archbishop's mind.

“I think listening to Vice President Biden's remarks at his debate when he alleged there was no problem with the Church and the administration, also underscores the urgency of the problem, that there is a problem.”

The archdiocese in the person of Archbishop Wenski, Catholic Health Services, and Catholic Hospice are the plaintiffs in the suit. It challenges the mandate as a violation of Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and of three parts of the First Amendment: its free exercise, establishment, and free speech clauses.

“If we can rescind the mandate, we will be able to maintain our freedom to serve in ways that are congruent with our Catholic identity and our Catholic principles, and therefore (the rule) will not present us with an obstacle that could in fact jeopardize our individual salvation,” Archbishop Wenski said.

Archbishop Wenski emphasized that the suit would help the Church in Miami continue providing health services and other care to the people of southern Florida.

“These health services that we offer and our Catholic charities … are a witness to what we believe about the human person, about human dignity, which is informed by our faith,” he explained.

The lawsuit was announced at a 3:00 p.m. press conference at the archdiocese's Pastoral Center on Oct. 19.

The mandate requires that virtually all employers, even religious ones, provide employees with health insurance that covers contraception, sterilization, and abortion-inducing drugs, despite any moral and religious reservations of conscience they might have.

To date, more than 100 plaintiffs have filed at least 33 other lawsuits against the federal government challenging the Department of Health and Human Services mandate.

Plaintiffs include religious organizations, for-profit businesses and private individuals. Several non-Catholic employers and religious institutions have challenged the suit, including Hobby Lobby, Wheaton College, two Baptist universities and the Bible publisher Tyndale House.

The Obama administration has proposed an accommodation for religious employers, but the details are not yet clear and have not been finalized. The administration has opposed congressional efforts to provide a broad religious exemption to the controversial mandate.

Employers who do not comply with the mandate face fines of $100 per employee per day.

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Soviet propaganda posters show importance of religious freedom

Denver, Colo., Oct 19, 2012 (CNA) - Some 40 Soviet propaganda posters against Christianity will soon be displayed at Denver’s Catholic cathedral as part of an exhibit dedicated to religious liberty.

“These posters remind us that societies can turn very deadly when you have a kind of radical secularism which manifests in an anti-Christian attitude … you see it in all its ugliness through the lens of these posters,” Father Doug Grandon told CNA Oct. 17.

The posters displayed at the cathedral are part of the collection of Fr. Grandon, parochial vicar at St. Thomas More parish in Centennial, Colo.

The October 1917 revolution in Russia led to the atheistic, communist government of the Soviet Union which hoped to eradicate religion, and in particular the Catholic Church, from its empire.

To do this, the government produced thousands of different propaganda posters which denigrated Christianity and which the Soviet Central Committee described in 1931 as “a powerful tool in the reconstruction of the individual, his ideology, his way of life, his economic activity.”

Between 1919 and 1922, 7.5 million of these posters were distributed in the Soviet Union. As many as 250,000 copies of a given poster could be made in the 1930s. The propaganda posters continued to be made through 1983.

The posters showing the Bolshevik worldview fall into three basic categories: icons of the worker, women, and the enemy. The Soviet government also produced anti-religious cartoons and postcards.

The posters contain such imagery as Lenin sweeping clergy from the earth, hypocritical priests, and Christians as sheep being fleeced by their priests.

A poster from 1965 shows a young woman throwing out her icons while she watches a satellite in space on television. The poster says, “the bright light of science has proven there is no God.”

Fr. Grandon first encountered the posters at a flea market in Moscow in 1999. “When I first saw them I was fascinated by the blatant and ugly attack on religion that the posters represented,” he recalled.

He believes the posters are important for Coloradans to see because they “give us a warning that this could happen again. Where you have a disrespect for the freedom of religion, a rampant kind of secularism, this could happen again.”

“If we forget these horrific historical examples, and if we become lethargic in our political involvement, our prayers, in our practice of religion, our culture could be lost. It could happen even here.”

The communist government of the Soviet Union suppressed the Russian Orthodox Church and appropriated control over its institutions in 1917, killing over 1,200 clergy and 12,000 laymen in the process. Fr. Grandon reported that many remaining clergy of the Russian Orthodox Church became informants for the KGB.

The Russian Orthodox Church was allowed to operate openly again in 1945. 

The Catholic Church was attacked in 1923, and by the end of the decade it had virtually disappeared from the U.S.S.R.

In 1946, all property of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church was transferred to the Russian Orthodox Church, and that Church was not allowed to operate again until 1989.

Fr. Grandon described Soviet religious persecution as “not just on religion, but an attack on the human spirit, freedom, capitalism, human aspirations. It really did destroy the human spirit of the average Russian.”

He noted that even today, very few Russians practice any religion, and the country suffers from alcoholism, divorce, and devastating abortion rates.

“Communism really was devastating to the human soul, and they're still experiencing the consequences of that,” said Fr. Grandon.

Fr. Grandon is on the board of the Mary Mother of God Mission Society, which works to revive the Catholic Church in Far Eastern Russia.

“Protect Freedom of Religion” will be exhibited at the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception on Friday, Oct. 19 from 6 to 9 in the evening, and on Oct. 20 from 9 a.m. until noon. It is being presented by the Denver archdiocese's Office of Social Ministry.

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