Washington D.C., Nov 8, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Divisions in the Catholic vote for president show the continued importance of “educating Catholics about our own faith,” said analyst Joshua Mercer, co-founder of CatholicVote.org.
“If something’s really important, you don’t just say it once,” he said in a Nov. 7 interview with CNA. Rather, he explained, the Church must be creative, working to find as many venues as possible to continue spreading its message on life, marriage and religious liberty.
While more extensive information will be available in the coming months, initial data from the Nov. 6 presidential election indicates that Catholics maintained their standing as a bellwether group that indicates trends among the general electorate.
National exit polls show that Governor Mitt Romney held a significant lead among Protestants, especially Evangelicals, while those with no religious affiliation strongly favored President Barack Obama, according to a report from the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.
When it came to Catholics, the analysis determined they were more divided.
Overall, national exit polls indicated that Catholics voted for Obama over Romney by a 50 to 48 percent margin, identical to Obama’s victory in the national popular vote.
The report found that white Catholics “swung strongly in the Republican direction relative to 2008.” Almost six in ten white Catholics voted for Romney, up from 52 percent who cast ballots for McCain in 2008.
Among Hispanic Catholics, however, 75 percent voted for Obama, with just 21 percent voting for Romney.
Differences in Church attendance also revealed patterns in voting behavior. Among voters of all faith backgrounds, those who attended religious services at least once per week preferred Romney by a 20 point margin.
Those who never attend religious services strongly favored Obama, while those attending a few times per month or per year supported Obama over Romney by a 55 to 43 percent margin.
Mercer said that these distinctions among Catholics are significant in understanding their voting behavior and reaching out with the message of the Church on critical issues.
While Catholics make up a large portion of the electorate – about one in four voters – they do not vote as a unified group, he recalled.
But Mercer said it is possible to identify at least three distinct subgroups of Catholics, each with their own voting behaviors.
While those who attended religious services regularly favored Romney, it is difficult from initial exit poll data to tell what impact issues such as religious liberty played in their vote.
The U.S. bishops have spoken out recently about threats to religious liberty, including a federal contraception mandate issued by the Obama administration that requires many religious institutions to offer insurance coverage of contraception, sterilization and early abortion drugs in violation of their beliefs.
A Pew survey shortly before the election showed that about one-third of Catholics who attend religious services at least monthly remembered hearing about religious liberty from the pulpit.
Mercer observed that it is possible that more than one-third of Catholics were present when religious liberty was discussed at Mass, but that they did not remember it because the issue was not consistently presented as an urgent matter.
The bishops have been unified in presenting a strong and clear message about the importance of religious liberty and the threat posed by the mandate, he said, and that message must continue to be proclaimed, so that the average person in the pew realizes that this “truly must be important.”
A second group of Catholic voters is comprised of those who are “cultural Catholics,” Mercer said. These individuals do not attend Mass regularly but still identify as Catholics. Although they have a basically “secular mindset,” they participate in the “rich culture” of the Church.
Among these Catholics, the faithful should see an “opportunity to evangelize” by reaching out through their shared culture and seek to deepen their understanding and appreciation of the Church, he said.
Another subgroup that is distinct in its voting behavior is the Latino Catholic population, said Mercer. Although most Hispanic Catholics are strongly pro-life and pro-marriage, this voting group heavily favored Obama, often differing from the Republican Party on immigration.
Reaching out to these Latino Catholics will require “a sustained effort,” Mercer said, explaining that teaching about the importance of pro-life and pro-marriage voting cannot be done simply through pamphlets handed out in the month before an election.
Rather, he said, there is a need to “invite our brothers and sisters who are Latino into the pro-life and pro-family movement and listen to them.”
We must recognize that this means committing to “long-term grassroots work” and investing in Hispanic communities, Mercer stressed.
If Latinos become more integrated into those movements, Mercer believes it will strengthen the pro-life and pro-marriage causes and allow different Catholic groups to learn from one another.
“It’s going to require building relationships,” he said.
Sacramento, Calif., Nov 8, 2012 (CNA) - The California Catholic Conference says it regrets the failure of a state ballot measure to repeal the death penalty, but that the effort helped to increase respect for life.
“We’re obviously disappointed that the people of California did not choose this opportunity to repeal the use of the death penalty in California,” Ned Dolejsi, Executive Director of the California Catholic Conference, told CNA Nov. 7.
“We felt that the time was right to express this protection for the dignity of the human person, no matter how flawed, since we have bloodless means at our disposal to protect ourselves.”
Referendum 34 proposed to replace California's death penalty with a sentence of life in prison without parole. If it passed, the sentences of almost 725 convicted death row inmates would have been reduced to life in prison. It also promised to dedicate $100 million in the state budget for police agencies to solve more homicide and rape cases.
The measure failed with 52.8 percent voting against.
Dolejsi said the conference felt the ballot measure was “something that the bishops really wanted to put forward before the people.”
“We don’t get many opportunities like this in California,” he said.
“We’re very, very thankful to the thousands and thousands of Catholics who worked hard to help our culture have a little more respect for life in this scenario.”
The Catholic bishops backed Proposition 34 in a January statement, saying that the death penalty is “no longer necessary to protect the community.”
“As Catholics we hold human life as sacred. In the exercise of justice, this principle must prevail in the manner we treat one another, even for those who have done grave harm,” they said.
On another front, Dolejsi said the conference is “heartened” that a referendum strengthening prosecution for human trafficking convictions passed “overwhelmingly.” It secured 81 percent of the vote.
Californians also passed Referendum 36, changing California’s “three strikes” law to ensure that a life sentence would be given to a three-time felony offender only in the case of a serious and violent felony. The measure passed with over 68 percent of the vote.
Washington D.C., Nov 8, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Despite several narrow defeats at the ballot box on Nov. 6, marriage defenders say they remain dedicated to promoting and protecting the most fundamental social institution as the union of one man and one woman.
“Though we are disappointed over these losses, we remain faithful to our mission and committed to the cause of preserving marriage as God designed it,” said Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage.
“Marriage is a true and just cause, and we will never abandon the field of battle just because we experienced a setback,” he explained in a Nov. 7 statement. “There is much work to do, and we begin that process now.”
Voters in three states – Maine, Maryland and Washington – were faced with Nov. 6 ballot measures on the legal recognition of “gay marriage.” In Minnesota, voters were asked whether or not the state constitution should say marriage is only between a man and a woman.
In each case, the people appear to have voted against marriage as it has traditionally been understood.
This election marked the first time that voters in any state approved a redefinition of marriage to include same-sex couples. Previously, voters had affirmed marriage as the union of one man and one woman in each of the 32 instances in which the issue was put before the people.
Brown argued that “(t)he election results reflect the political and funding advantages our opponents enjoyed in these very liberal states.”
He reported that despite gathering record-breaking contributions, the National Organization for Marriage was still heavily outspent by opponents and attacked by both sitting governors and the media.
The fact that marriage defenders were able to come within a close margin of winning the liberal states attests to the truth that “Americans remain strongly in favor of marriage as the union of one man and one woman,” he said.
In Maine, voters passed Question 1, a ballot measure to redefine marriage to include homosexual couples, reversing a similar 2009 referendum that was narrowly defeated.
With 90 percent of precincts reporting, support for redefining marriage held a 53-47 percent lead.
Bishop Richard J. Malone, apostolic administrator of Portland, Maine, said that he was “deeply disappointed” by the vote but thanked Catholics “who did not abandon Catholic teachings on the nature of marriage.”
“I trust that those who voted for such a radical change did so out of concern for our brothers and sisters who struggle with same-sex attraction,” the bishop said in a Nov. 7 statement.
“Respect and acceptance of all people regardless of sexual orientation is not a point of controversy,” he noted. “It is a teaching of the Church, but so is the authentic meaning and definition of marriage.”
The Church remains committed to both respect for basic human rights and the preservation of marriage, Bishop Malone stressed.
A “same-sex marriage” referendum was narrowly approved by Maryland voters, passing by a 52-48 percent margin, with 99 percent of precincts tallied.
State legislators had already passed a bill to legalize “same-sex marriage” in March 2012. However, an amendment added to the law to make it successful in the legislature delayed it from taking effect until Jan. 2013, allowing time for marriage defenders to put the issue up for a vote on the November ballot.
Among the referendum’s strongest critics were African American leaders, who rallied their communities in opposition to the measure in recent weeks, narrowing the gap of support in the polls.
Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore has warned that a redefinition of marriage threatens the religious freedom of Catholic individuals and organizations who disagree with changing the meaning of the fundamental social institution.
“Regrettably, Marylanders decided by the narrowest of margins not to repeal the law that redefines marriage,” a Nov. 7statement from the Maryland Catholic Conference said.
“The ballot language they encountered masked the fact that this law does not simply assign civil benefits to gay and lesbian couples, but drastically dismantles in our state law the fundamental family unit of mother, father and child,” the group noted.
Its members said that they will work vigilantly to ensure that the freedom of religious institutions is upheld as the law goes into effect on Jan. 1.
In Minnesota, voters rejected a constitutional amendment to limit marriage to the union of one man and one woman. This definition of marriage is currently reflected in state law, but the proposed amendment would have reaffirmed it in the state’s constitution.
The amendment was narrowly defeated by a 51-48 margin, with 99 percent of precincts reporting.
Jim Accurso, manager of media and public relations for the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, explained that while the amendment’s defeat is “a very serious concern,” it will not prevent the Church from pursuing the common good and serving the community.
In a Nov. 7 statement, Accurso explained that the Church’s defense of marriage is motivated by an understanding that “the good of society is best served by maintaining the traditional understanding of marriage as a union between one man and one woman.”
It is this same common good that is pursued when the Church seeks “economic justice, healthcare and immigration reform, and the defense of human life and dignity from conception to natural death,” he said, reaffirming the archdiocese’s commitment to support these principles and strengthen marriage in the future.
Voters in Washington state appear to have approved a referendum affirming a law to redefine marriage in the state.
A bill to legalize “same-sex marriage” was passed by state legislators in February and was scheduled to go into effect in June. However, opponents of the bill gathered enough signatures to suspend the law until a statewide voter referendum had been conducted.
As the votes continued to be tallied into the evening of Nov. 7, it appeared that the citizens of the state had passed Referendum 74 to uphold the law by a 52-48 margin, allowing it to take effect on Dec. 6.
Archbishop J. Peter Sartain of Seattle expressed disappointment, saying, “This change in civil law is not in the best interest of children or society.”
However, he continued, the debate over the law offered “an opportunity for the Church to reaffirm its consistent teaching on marriage” and is “a starting point for a long-term effort to educate Catholics about its meaning and purpose.”
“The Church offers a vision of marriage and family life that enriches our communities and society,” the archbishop said, “and we remain committed to that vision while respecting the dignity of all persons.”
Guatemala City, Guatemala, Nov 8, 2012 (CNA) -
A relief network operated by the local Catholic Church has launched operations to help the victims of a Nov. 7 earthquake that killed 15 people in Guatemala and destroyed dozens of homes.
President Otto Perez Molina told reporters that 100 people are still missing. He placed the country on high alert and ordered public offices to close temporarily as a precaution against possible aftershocks.
Molina said two thousand soldiers are helping in the rescue effort in the San Marcos region, which was hardest hit by the 7.4 magnitude quake felt in El Salvador, Costa Rica and Mexico.
Speaking to CNA on Nov. 7, Father Antonio Calderon – who serves as the diocesan administrator of San Marcos – said Catholic relief workers have spread throughout to help those affected by the earthquake.
“There are various affected communities such as San Cristobal de Chuco. We are already providing support to victims through CONRED, the diocesan and national offices of Caritas,” he said.
Food and clothing is being distributed to families in the area, where many of the victims worked in local quarries.
Fr. Calderon said 70 homes in San Marcos were damaged or destroyed and that most were made of combination of wood, clay and stone. The churches in the region, including the Cathedral of San Marcos, suffered minor damage, he added.
Fr. Calderon encouraged Guatemalans, as well as Catholics in other parts of the world, to “join together in prayer” for all those affected.
Washington D.C., Nov 8, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) -
At their upcoming general assembly, the U.S. bishops are slated to discuss the issues of how to preach more effectively, the use of new technology for evangelization, and the state of the economy.
The annual Fall assembly is set for Nov. 12-15 and will be held in Baltimore.
A document on Sunday homilies has been prepared and will be considered by the bishops. According to Archbishop Robert J. Carlson of St. Louis, it is the first substantial work on preaching issues by the U.S. bishops' conference in 30 years.
He said the document's preparation has taken a year and a half, and encourages priests and deacons to connect Sunday homilies with their parishioners' daily lives.
“References to the most popular cultural expressions – which at times can be surprisingly replete with religious motifs – can be an effective way to engage the interest of those on the edge of faith,” the document says.
Homiletics programs at American seminaries have been responding to mixed verdicts about the effectiveness of preaching, said Archbishop Carlson.
A document titled “Contemporary Challenges for the Teaching Ministry of the Diocesan Bishop” has also been drafted.
The document on the challenges to episcopal authority comes as more and more bishops embrace blogs, iPads, and Facebook.
It notes that “a bishop's voice on the internet can appear to be just another in the competition for attention,” and that bishops therefore need to explain their teaching authority.
However, the benefit of new media is that “they offer the bishop the possibility of communicating with people in a relatively unmediated fashion.”
The document on the economy will “demonstrate the new evangelization in action” and will “advance the bishops' priority of human life and dignity,” according to the assembly's press release.
The assembly will also consider revisions to fund raising and a proposal to establish a collection for the national military archdiocese.
On liturgical matters, the bishops will evaluate the implementation of the English translation of the third edition of the Roman Missal, will discuss the revision of the Liturgy of the Hours, and will examine a document on Confession.
Bishop Edgar M. da Cunha, auxiliary of Newark, will present on World Youth Day 2013, and Msgr. Jeffrey Steenson will report on the status of the Anglican ordinariate for the United States.
Both Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, president of the conference, and Archbishop Carlo M. Vigano, apostolic nuncio to the United States, will address the plenary assembly.
Silverado, Calif., Nov 8, 2012 (CNA) -
The Norbertine brothers of St. Michael's Abbey in Calif. have shared the beauty of Gregorian chant by releasing a new album on Nov. 6.
“Beauty is supposed to elevate the faithful, to edify them, so that they can give ever more pleasing worship to the Father,” Father Ambrose Criste, novice master at the abbey, told CNA Nov. 1.
The 13 tracks of “Gregorian Chant: Together on the Way,” includes liturgical texts, hymns, and a litany. The songs were recorded in the St. Michael Abbey chapel, located in Silverado.
Father Chrysostom Baer, the abbey's cantor, said he chose the selected pieces as “the most Catholic things I could get my hands on.”
The selections were originally sung by the Norbertine canons to introduce and complement three performances by the Pacific Symphony Orchestra in Costa Mesa, Calif.
“We were going to give them some Catholic prayers,” said Fr. Baer, “and hopefully through the beauty of the moment, they would join their hearts to ours.”
The selections sang by the Norbertines at the concert hall in February of last year were then recorded so as to bring the music to a wider audience.
“It's a really excellent vehicle for evangelization,” said Fr. Baer. “I ran into someone just two weeks ago who recognized our habits from one of those concerts, who had more questions and wanted to come visit.”
Fr. Criste noted that their music is so beautiful because chant plays a major role in the Norbertine life. “It's something we do throughout the day, every day,” he said.
The abbey's public mass is chanted four days a week, and every day the Liturgy of the Hours is chanted. The seminarians of the order have choir practice five days a week, “which consists almost entirely of Gregorian chant.”
Fr. Criste said that chant is not just for religious communities. In the parish, “ideally, I would think it should play a daily role,” he reported.
“The (Second) Vatican Council was clear that pride of place goes to Gregorian chant, and that's just following in the tradition of the 20th century, all the way back to Pope St. Pius X.”
While acknowledging that not all parishes can have as wide or difficult a repertoire as can abbeys, he said, “everybody could sing some chant.”
Fr. Baer said the community hopes that its dignified, traditional liturgy “gives people an experience of what we know the Council was asking for in the public celebration of the liturgy.”
St. Michael's Abbey was founded by a group of refugees from a Norbertine abbey in Hungary in the 1950s which was threatened by Soviet control. The community currently numbers 76, including both priests and seminarians.
“God has blessed us immensely with constant vocations,” Fr. Criste said. “Every year we get a handful of young men who want to join our way of life, and given today's culture where they can do anything else that would be more 'exciting', that really says something about the grace of God.”
Norbertines are an order of canons regular also known as Premonstratensians. Though they are based in an abbey, they have pastoral ministry as well.
The primary apostolate of St. Michael's Abbey is its prep school for boys, though it also teaches and ministers at schools and parishes in the Orange and Los Angeles dioceses. Nearly all the public celebrations of Mass in the extraordinary form are celebrated by canons of St. Michael's Abbey.
“Together on the Way” will be St. Michael's fourth CD release. All are part of an effort to get the word out about the community, as they aim to build a new monastery and school to accommodate their vocations boom.
The album can be ordered here.
Havana, Cuba, Nov 8, 2012 (CNA) -
The president of the Cuban Bishops' Conference said the Church is doing everything possible to help the thousands of victims of Hurricane Sandy, and urged the country to continue trusting in God.
“Here in the Church we are trying to fix the things that can be fixed so that communities can continue celebrating the Eucharist with some dignity,” Archbishop Dionisio Garcia told CNA on Nov. 5.
“We need to pick ourselves up, the time for rebuilding will come.”
Archbishop Garcia said Sandy battered the eastern provinces of Cuba for almost four hours last week, nearly devastating the city of Santiago.
“We Christians were praying to God, and I am very sure that most people turned to God, because this is a religious people, even though they do not systematically practice their beliefs.”
“What I heard from people on the street was that the hand of God prevented more misfortune from occurring than already did,” he added.
“The people asked, what is God trying to tell us with this? What should we think? Because God is able to bring good out of bad things for those who love him. We have to learn how to read the signs of the times,” Archbishop Garcia said.
Cubans must “put great trust in Him, let us strive to seek first the Kingdom of God and his justice, and everything else will be added,” he said.
Archbishop Garcia said eight churches in Santiago were totally destroyed, and the Cathedral which was already under repair, was also severely damaged. Eight-five percent of the parishes in the archdiocese suffered some level of damage, he explained.
The priests, religious and faithful of the archdiocese, together with Caritas, “are trying to help people by visiting them and bring them the little that, thanks be to God, we have to distribute, with a priority for those most in need.
Priests and laity from other dioceses have also come to help. And we are very close to the people, because that is what we can do: be with them,” the archbishop said.
Vatican City, Nov 8, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Pope Benedict XVI said cooperation between science and faith is necessary for world peace and man's destiny, as he addressed the Pontifical Academy of Sciences this morning.
“I am convinced of the urgent need for continued dialogue and cooperation between the worlds of science and of faith in the building of a culture of respect for man, for human dignity and freedom, for the future of our human family and for the long-term sustainable development of our planet,” he said in a speech given Nov. 8 at Clementine Hall.
“Without this necessary interplay, the great questions of humanity leave the domain of reason and truth, and are abandoned to the irrational, to myth, or to indifference, with great damage to humanity itself, to world peace and to our ultimate destiny.”
This morning the Pope received in audience the participants in the Plenary Assembly of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, which took place Nov. 5-7. The theme was “Complexity and Analogy in Science: Theoretical, Methodological, and Epistemological Aspects.”
About 70 scientists, philosophers, and theologians – most of them members of the academy – participated in the Plenary Session and many are joining in a following Nov. 8-10 working group on “Neurosciences and the Human Person: New Perspectives on Human Activities.”
Pope Benedict said the topics of complexity and analogy in science point toward “a new vision of the unity of the sciences.” The gift of reason allows man to “constantly expand his knowledge of truth and order it wisely for his good and that of his environment.”
“An interdisciplinary approach to complexity also shows too that the sciences are not intellectual worlds disconnected from one another and from reality,” he said, “but rather that they are interconnected and directed to the study of nature as a unified, intelligible and harmonious reality in its undoubted complexity.”
This in turn shows the complementarity of scientific study with philosophy and theology in the Christian tradition.
The idea of “participated being” in Christian thought is a “fruitful point of contact” with complexity and analogy in science.
Participated being holds that “each individual creature, possessed of its proper perfection, also shares in a specific nature and this within an ordered cosmos originating in God’s creative Word.”
“It is precisely this inbuilt 'logical' and 'analogical' organization of nature that encourages scientific research and draws the human mind to discover the horizontal co-participation between beings and the transcendental participation by the First Being.”
The assembly examined the intelligibility of nature from a variety of perspectives, ranging from physics and maths, to environmental sciences, to free will and neuroscience, to the origins of the human mind.
Pope Benedict concluded by thanking the Pontifical Academy of Sciences for its efforts in strengthening the relationship between reason and faith, and drew their attention to the Year of Faith.