Rome, Italy, Oct 25, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - As the country approaches election day in two weeks, Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia is encouraging Catholic voters to place their faith above their allegiance to political parties.
“I’m always encouraging our people minimally to vote, maximally to run for political office, and make sure that they’re Catholic prior to being Democrat or Republican and that they put that into practice politically,” he told CNA in Rome on Oct. 22.
Archbishop Chaput echoed the calls of other American bishops to have their flocks consider their faith in the voting booth.
“We do believe in the separation of church and state, but we don’t believe in the separation of faith from our political life,” he said.
“It’s very important for Catholics to make distinctions when voting that they never support intrinsic evils like abortion, which is evil in all circumstances. That’s a lot different from different economic policies” that people can reasonably disagree on, the archbishop explained.
His remarks come as an Oct. 22 Gallup poll shows the “economy in general” is the issue rated most important by Americans as the election nears.
“But people who are practicing Catholics cannot have alternate views on abortion,” he stated. “Such foundational issues have a huge impact and it’s important that Catholics make those distinctions.”
“A person (candidate) might be right on a lot of secondary issues but wrong on the foundational issues. And if that’s the case, it would be very difficult for a Catholic to vote for someone who, for example, favors unlimited access to abortion … undermines the meaning of marriage or supports policies that really undermine the foundation of our culture.”
Archbishop Chaput sees Philadelphia as a great example of both Catholic and civic virtue. He noted that it both produced two canonized saints, John Neumann and Katherine Drexel, and was the location of the signing of the Declaration of Independence and the writing of the U.S. Constitution.
“I’m standing on the shoulders both in terms of the Church and the civic community,” the archbishop pointed out. “We have to produce new saints and be really good citizens.”
He also connected patriotism with love of parents and family, saying that “loving our country is really participating in love of our families.”
And “the meaning of family,” he asserted, is “hugely important for the future health of our country.”
“Having mothers and fathers who love us and love one another provides security for the healthy growth of children. Confused family life leads to confused participation in the broader life of the community.”
The Catholic vote has tended to follow the rest of the electorate in recent years, but with the current campaign for president running neck-and-neck, Gov. Romney and President Obama are vying for every segment of voters they can.
The latest polling from Gallup suggests that Romney has 51 percent of the Catholic vote while Obama has 49 percent.
In the 2008 election, 53 percent of Catholic voters supported Obama, and 47 percent supported GOP candidate John McCain.
Archbishop Chaput noted that “Catholics who go to church vote quite differently than Catholics as a group, and that Catholics who take their faith seriously, for them it’s much more than a cultural affiliation – it’s a very personal affiliation with Jesus Christ and his community.”
Washington D.C., Oct 25, 2012 (CNA) - The U.S. archbishop for the military services is calling on faithful men and women in the armed services to grow deeper in their relationship with Christ in order to witness to him as they serve their country.
“Your presence and your efforts in the military are contributing toward the desire of peace,” said U.S. Military Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio.
In an Oct. 11 pastoral letter on the Year of Faith, the archbishop encouraged Catholics in the military to grow in their faith through their pursuit of peace.
The Year of Faith was called by Pope Benedict XVI as an opportunity to rediscover and deepen the Catholic faith. It began on Oct. 11, 2012 and lasts until Nov. 24, 2013.
“Your unique circumstances do not dispense you from profiting from the Year of Faith,” Archbishop Broglio told Catholics who serve in the military.
“As your Shepherd, I want to encourage you in your vocation, help you to see how the Church values your service, and challenge you to deepen your relationship and devotion to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ,” he explained.
The archbishop recognized the vital contribution men and women in his archdiocese make in the pursuit of peace. He encouraged them in their commitment to defending the nation despite obstacles such as loneliness, separation and misunderstanding.
“In those unsettling experiences you must rely on the relationships of the community of faith found in the Catholic Church,” he said, recalling that “the source of all healing and peace is found in the person of Jesus Christ.”
Archbishop Broglio encouraged the faithful to memorize the Nicene Creed during the Year of Faith, to grow in their prayer life, and to study the Catechism and the documents of the Second Vatican Council, especially those that speak about the military.
He pointed to council documents that recognize the role of the military and acknowledging the importance of the particular spiritual and pastoral needs of military personnel.
In addition, he said, the Catechism of the Catholic Church expresses a “desire to avoid war and specifically the intentional destruction of human life.” It recognizes those in the armed forces as “servants of the security and freedom of nations” who contribute to peace and the common good if they serve honorably.
The value of peace-seeking military service is important to remember, particularly amid the wearisome repetition that can be part of military life, he said.
Archbishop Broglio also reflected on the new translation of the Roman Missal, in which the people say, “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”
This prayer comes from the Scriptures, he observed, when a centurion asks Jesus to heal his suffering servant.
He observed that the centurion is both courteous and humble, acknowledging “that Jesus has more authority and has greater command than he as a soldier will ever have.”
“The centurion recognizes himself as a servant leader who is subject to the authority of Almighty God,” he said.
In addition, the archbishop continued, the centurion respects that Jewish law would discourage Jesus from entering his house because he is a Gentile. He shows faith and accepts God’s will while also offering Jesus a way to avoid being defiled by asking him to “only say the word and my servant will be healed.”
The centurion is also a known figure of authority, speaking in front of others, Archbishop Broglio noted. His statement of faith is a witness to those around him, and he “is not worried about his position” or reputation in expressing his faith.
“Just as the centurion risked sharing what he believed in front of others, so we also must go and do the same,” the archbishop said, encouraging military personnel to recall the prayer of the centurion when they attend Mass.
There is also a great need to recognize our own sinfulness and need for healing, the archbishop added, stressing the Sacraments of Penance and Eucharist.
Archbishop Broglio recalled that a centurion was also present at Christ’s death, acknowledging, “Truly, this is the Son of God.” In the same way, we are called to profess Christ through our lives, our service and our daily prayer, he explained.
“We bring Him to others in our faithful witness, our joyful proclamation, our enduring hope, and our practice of charity,” he said.
Manassas, Va., Oct 25, 2012 (CNA) - The Cardinal Newman Society has published its 2012-2013 edition of “The Newman Guide to Choosing a Catholic College,” along with a companion magazine to help high school students and their parents pursue faithful higher education.
Patrick J. Reilly, president of the Cardinal Newman Society, explained that it is “not enough that our Catholic sons and daughters survive college with their faith intact.”
“Catholic college graduates should be wise, pure, and ready to serve with distinction in any career and vocation,” he said. “The colleges and universities in The Newman Guide provide this preparation for life.”
First published in 2007, the Newman Guide evaluates the Catholic identity of colleges to identify those that exhibit fidelity and excellence.
The latest edition of the guide includes thorough profiles of the 28 recommended colleges, offering facts on each institution’s academics, spiritual life, student activities and residence life.
The profiles have been updated to incorporate information from recent campus visits and interviews with students and employees. They include financial aid statistics and letters from college presidents to parents and students.
Also included are completed questionnaires from each college providing in-depth information about topics including accreditation, student clubs, Mass times and majors offered.
Twenty-two of the recommended institutions are four-year colleges and universities in the U.S. Most of them have been recognized by the Cardinal Newman Society in previous years, although two new colleges have been added since the last edition: University of Mary in Bismarck, N.D. and Walsh University in North Canton, Ohio.
Among the recommended institutions are Ave Maria University, Benedictine College, Franciscan University of Steubenville, Christendom College and The Catholic University of America.
Other colleges on the list include Wyoming Catholic College, University of Dallas, Belmont Abbey College, DeSales University, Aquinas College and St. Gregory’s University.
The list also includes four institutions offering English classes in Canada, Australia and Italy, as well as two online programs, Catholic Distance University and Ignatius-Angelicum Liberal Studies Program.
The Cardinal Newman Society chose not to include one institution that it had previously recommended – Providence College in Rhode Island – due to inadequate information.
In addition, this year the Cardinal Newman Society has released a companion magazine, entitled, “My Future, My Faith,” which offers over a dozen articles to aid students and parents in the college search and transition.
A few of these articles were included in previous editions of The Newman Guide, but most are new this year. Authors include Peter Kreeft, Fr. C. John McCloskey, Kathryn Jean Lopez and two U.S. bishops.
The articles offer advice on choosing a college, applications, financial considerations and campus visits, as well as suggestions about dorm life, camping dating and the pursuit of sobriety and chastity during the college years.
All of the content from The Newman Guide and “My Future, My Faith” is available free on the Cardinal Newman Society website.
Washington D.C., Oct 25, 2012 (CNA) - A group that works to offer a Catholic voice in the public square has released a new guide to inform Spanish-speaking voters of religious liberty concerns in the presidential election.
“Our Christianity – our religious fervor – is a huge part of our lives,” said Dr. Grazie Pozo Christie, director of Hispanic Outreach for the Catholic Association.
She told CNA on Oct. 24 that Hispanic voters need to realize that the current administration “has been aggressive” towards religion, conscience and the Church.
Religion is “intrinsically” part of the Hispanic way of life, she said, and “it’s too central to our culture to give that up.”
Christie is currently using a “grassroots system” that reaches out through local parishes, pro-life groups and religious freedom rallies to distribute Spanish voter guides in the key battleground state of Florida.
The voter guide scores presidential candidates Barack Obama and Mitt Romney on seven key religious freedom issues, including conscience rights, abortion, religion in the public square, houses of worship and international religious freedom.
President Obama is given a failing grade for his policies, including the federal mandate that requires employers to offer health insurance plans covering contraception, sterilization and abortion drugs, even if doing so violates their consciences. Romney is given an “A+” for his actions and pledges to uphold religious freedom.
Growing up largely in Mexico with parents from Cuba, Christie said that most Hispanics in the U.S. “have left their countries because of a lack of freedom” in the economic, political or religious realms.
It is important for the Latino community to realize that persecution can happen in the U.S. too, she said, pointing to the contraception mandate as an “assault on one of our basic rights.”
Despite controversy over the mandate, Obama holds a strong lead among Latino voters in recent polls. Christie said this is due not to a lack of values but to “a lack of information and a lack of education” within the Hispanic community about threats to religious freedom.
She urged Hispanic voters to listen to the message of the Church and to be careful about the ideas presented by the mainstream media, which do not share a Catholic outlook and are not always accurate on religious freedom issues that affect Catholics.
The Church has made tremendous efforts to raise awareness about the critical issue of religious liberty, Christie said.
Ashley McGuire, senior fellow at the Catholic Association, explained that the decision to publish a Spanish version of the voter guide sprung from the overwhelming success of the English version, which was released on Oct. 4.
More than 1 million copies of the English voter guide were requested for distribution, many in swing states, she said, and the association began receiving requests for a Spanish version as well.
McGuire sees the Spanish voter guide as an opportunity to reach an important demographic in the presidential election.
She explained that “the majority of Spanish speakers in this country are Catholic and deserve to know how the candidates measure up.”
The current admiration has been “deceptive” about the impact that its policies will have on religious freedom in America, she said.
“It’s hard for English speakers to navigate it all,” she observed, let alone those for whom English is a second language.
“I truly believe that Hispanic Catholics are the future in many ways of the Church in America,” McGuire said, pointing to the growing Latino population within the Church.
Therefore, she said, it is “hugely important” for these Catholics to understand the threats facing the Church in this country.
The voter guide is now available in both English and Spanish on the Catholic Association’s website and has attracted significant media attention.
While the Catholic Church “does not tell people how to vote,” McGuire said, it is important for the faithful to maintain a well-formed conscience.
She encouraged voters to look beyond jobs and the economy to consider “what is right and wrong on a fundamental level” and how each candidate will respond to these basic issues.
“I think that message will resonate with Hispanic Catholics,” she said.
Vatican City, Oct 25, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Today the Pope’s ex-butler was taken to prison for stealing his boss’ private documents and leaking them to the press in the so-called “Vatileaks” scandal.
“The sentence in the trial of Paolo Gabriele, which has now become final, puts a full stop to the end of a sad affair which has had very painful consequences,” read an Oct. 25 announcement from the Vatican’s Secretariat of State.
Gabriele was sentenced Oct. 6 and ordered incarcerated in the Vatican prison to begin his 18-month sentence.
The Vatican communiqué declared the sentence “lenient and just.”
“A personal offense was done to the Holy Father” and “the right to privacy of the many people who…addressed themselves to him was violated” began the litany of wrongs.
The Holy See and affiliated institutions also “suffered prejudice,” “communications between the bishops of the world and the Holy See were hindered,” and “scandal was caused among the community of the faithful.”
The statement also underscored that the media sensation and speculation about Vatican conspiracies disturbed “the serenity of the working community which daily serves the Successor of Peter.”
The Secretariat of State, headed by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, pronounced that the trial was a just one. The facts were discovered, it stated in today’s communiqué, and they showed that Gabriele “had carried out his criminal plans not at the instigation of third parties, but on the basis of his own convictions. Various conjectures about the existence of plots” or third-party involvement have also been “shown to be false.”
In a separate Oct. 25 statement, the Vatican’s official spokesman, Father Federico Lombardi, confirmed that the sentence “has become final,” the “promoter of justice this morning ordered the guilty party be imprisoned,” and “the order will be carried out during the course of the day.”
However, the possibility that Gabriele could receive a pardon from Pope Benedict XVI still remains, the Secretariat of State noted.
But that “reasonably presuppose(s)” Gabriele’s repentance “and a sincere request for pardon to the Supreme Pontiff” and the others his theft “unjustly offended.”
When Italian police officers searched Gabriele’s apartment May 23, following the publication of several confidential letters in Italian journalist Gianluigi Nuzzi’s book “Your Holiness,” they discovered approximately 1,000 incriminating documents and 82 boxes of evidence.
During the week-long trial, the judges heard how Gabriele stole copies of confidential documents from the Papal Apartments. These included personal documents sent between the Pope and various cardinals, along with encrypted communications from papal ambassadors across the world.
Some of the papers were marked “to be destroyed” in German and were written in the Pope’s handwriting.
The judges made the distinction that Gabriele’s actions constituted theft and not embezzlement, since his actions showed no intention to obtain economic benefit.
During his trial, Gabriele told judges, “I do not feel like I’m a thief,” adding that he “acted only out of visceral love for the Church of Christ and for its visible head on earth.”
In his final court address, he said he acted alone and without accomplices.
Yet the Vatican announced Oct. 23that the Claudio Sciarpelletti, a computer technician accused of helping Gabriele steal confidential papal documents, will go on trial Nov. 6.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Oct 25, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) -
A delegation from the Vatican arrived in Rio de Janeiro Oct. 24 to visit the sites where World Youth Day 2013 will take place and decide on whether to approve them.
World Youth Day 2013 will take place in July of 2013 and will be attended by Pope Benedict XVI. The Holy Father was the first to register for the event through the website www.rio2013.com.
According to the Archdiocese of Rio de Janeiro, the coordinator of the papal trips, Alberto Gasbarri, will be the one to evaluate the proposed sites for the closing World Youth Day Mass, which was originally going to take place at the Santa Cruz Air Base.
The site could be changed “for the good of the event and of the pilgrims,” the archdiocese said.
The Apostolic Nuncio to Brazil, Archbishop Giovanni d’Aniello, will join the delegation on its tour of the venues.
Washington D.C., Oct 25, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan said Oct. 24 that he believes reforming poverty aid programs and allowing religious and civil institutions to flourish is the most effective and compassionate way to help the millions of Americans in poverty.
“Americans are a compassionate people, and there’s a consensus in this country about our fundamental obligations to society’s most vulnerable,” he said in a policy address at Cleveland State University on Wednesday.
“Those obligations are not what we are debating in politics,” he explained. “Most times, the real debate is about whether they are best met by private groups or by the government.”
Ryan argued that the poor will receive more relief from “a dynamic, free-enterprise-based economy that fosters economic growth and opportunity and upward mobility” than from expansive federal government programs.
The Wisconsin congressman – who is Catholic – has faced criticism from numerous poverty relief groups over his recent budget proposal, which would cut funding levels of several prominent social aid programs.
Ryan rejected accusations that he believes the poor should be left to “fend for themselves.” Rather, he argued that he believes in “true compassion and upward mobility” based on “real reforms for lifting people out of poverty.”
A country’s compassion is not simply measured by how much the federal government spends, he said, calling for Americans to “take a hard look” at the federal government’s approach to poverty in the last 50 years, which he described as “centralized, bureaucratic, top-down.”
This system has caused problems, he said, leading to dependency and harming families and communities. These problems became so apparent that by the 1990s a major welfare reform law was “passed by a Republican Congress and signed by a Democratic president,” he noted.
Ryan argued that the reforms were successful, leading to lower welfare enrollment without increases in hunger or poverty. Millions of Americans achieved greater levels of independence, while employment levels for single mothers rose and child poverty rates fell more than 20 percent in four years.
Due to their success, the congressman asserted, these reforms should be applied to other anti-poverty programs as well.
“In most of these programs, especially in recent years, we’re still trying to measure compassion by how much government spends, not by how many people we help escape from poverty,” he said.
In the past year, Ryan said, the federal and state governments spent the equivalent of $22,000 per poor American on need-based programs. Yet one in six Americans remains in poverty, and the number of food stamp recipients has increased by 15 million in recent years.
Ryan promoted helping those in poverty by more efficiently using funding and giving states more power to tailor anti-poverty programs to fit “the unique needs of their citizens.”
This approach was beneficial when applied to welfare and can also be used in Medicaid and food stamps, he said.
“The federal government would continue to provide the resources, but we would remove endless federal mandates and restrictions that hamper state efforts to make these programs more effective,” he explained.
Ryan also underscored the need for strong communities.
He explained that “there has to be a balance – allowing government to act for the common good, while leaving private groups free to do the work that only they can do.”
Civil society – defined as families, neighborhoods, churches, charities and private associations – makes up the “vast middle ground between the government and the individual.”
These institutions are critical because they are “where we live our lives,” he said. “They shape our character, give our lives direction, and help make us a self-governing people.”
Ryan told stories of communities rallying around those in need during times of trouble.
“What’s really at work here is the spirit of the Lord, and there is no end to the good that it can inspire,” he said. “Government can’t replace that.”
Rather, he said, government must respect the rights and freedom of institutions that perform “essential and honorable work” in society.
But standing in contrast to that vision of government and society is the federal mandate that requires Catholic hospitals, charities and universities to violate their principles by offering contraception, sterilization and related products in their health insurance plans.
“This mandate isn’t just a threat to religious charities. It’s a threat to all those who turn to them in times of need,” the congressman said. “In the name of strengthening our safety net, this mandate and others will weaken it.”
Instead of “more taxes and coercive mandates,” he said, there must be a greater respect for the work of private associations in aiding the poor in ways that government alone cannot.
Beijing, China, Oct 25, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - For the past decade and a half, an American couple living in China have cited total reliance on God as the source of their success in giving aid to hundreds of medically-fragile orphans.
“You really have to have an absolute dependence on God that the money's gonna show up when you need it,” Brent Johnson of China Little Flower told CNA Oct. 17.
Founded in 1998, China Little Flower is the parent organization of Brent and Serena Johnson's “apostolic hobby,” Little Flower Projects, a charity that seeks to reach out to the most vulnerable of China's population by providing medical care to abandoned orphans and children.
The two first met in China in 1990 while there studying Chinese. Brent later converted to Catholicism and the couple married on December 28, 1991.
When they returned to China as teachers shortly after the birth of their eldest son, Thomas Becket, in 1993, the Johnsons were confronted with the “unbelievable” conditions of Chinese orphanages.
“It was a confrontation with the truly ugly side of humanity,” Johnson said. “So we said, 'We gotta do something.'”
Although conditions in the government-run orphanages have improved since the 1990s, for a variety of very complex reasons and difficulties, he said about one-third of the country's roughly 700 facilities still maintain very high infant mortality rates.
The Johnsons asked the orphanage leaders if they could foster one of the children in their own home and were granted permission.
“We were just kind of ordinary, young Catholics living our faith, trying to do the right thing,” Johnson said. “When we started this, we didn't think of ourselves as on any special kind of a mission.”
After fostering the first child, the couple worked hard to convince others in China to do the same, especially Chinese families and also began to help pay for the costs of the care.
“For us, this wasn't any great leap in brilliance…this was just doing what (Serena's) parents had done,” Johnson said, referring to his in-laws in Connecticut who had three adopted children, three biological children and had served as foster parents for several years.
Since then, the Johnsons and their work with Little Flower Projects have given aid to 1,400 orphans who would have otherwise have perished.
In 2005, the organization also began to arrange group homes for children with physical disabilities, where they can live and be educated in a family-like setting and eventually live independent lives.
“We feel this incredible pressure to just save as many babies as we can,” he said.
Johnson, who works full-time as a business manager and now has 6 children of his own, said the charity generally only boasts about 2-3 months worth of funding in the bank at one time.
“I don't know if it's bad management on my part,” he said with a laugh, “or God's plan.”
Johnson added, “The truth of the matter is that every time we get ahead with money, we start a new project.”
Some people call such a move financially irresponsible, but Johnson generally ignores such criticism.
“I think, 'Well, I have this money now – I can save 100 babies this year that otherwise wouldn't be saved.'”
Regardless of one's opinion of China, Johnson said it is important that Americans not “forget the little people” who make up the “bottom rung” of the country's nearly 1.4 billion person population.
Prayer and educating oneself about China's orphans is the best way to get involved, he added.
Those who are interested can receive updates about the organization and the children they serve by “liking” their Facebook page, which frequently adds prayer requests and photos of the children in their care.
“As I said in the beginning, I think this is God's hand at work here and I'm not one of those kinds of Christians that says that lightly,” Johnson said.
To find out more about China Little Flower, visit http://www.facebook.com/pages/Little-Flower-Projects/230680524654.