Archive of November 21, 2012

Catholic political activist looks at how much tone matters

Washington D.C., Nov 21, 2012 (CNA) - Catholic political activist Deal Hudson says the results of the 2012 elections have caused him to reflect on the tensions between evangelism and politics and the need for Christians to show patience, good humor and God’s love amid “political rancor.”

“There is an inherent tension, almost a conflict, between what Christians must do in a political campaign and what Christians do in evangelization,” he said Nov. 20 in an essay at Catholic Online.

Hudson is the president of the Pennsylvania Catholics Network and formerly led Catholic outreach at the Republican National Committee.

“In politics we focus on moral standards, standards of conduct and action; as evangelists we reach out to those whose failure to keep those standards have left them cut off from God and feeling alienated from the Church and its teachings,” he said.

Catholics in politics insist that people respect certain moral standards but as evangelists Catholics also “call these people to ‘come home’ even if they have not been living by them, if they have broken God’s laws and commandments.”

In one conversation Hudson had after the election, he noted that people become Christians “because of love, God’s love.”

“People are burdened with guilt, with their sins and failures. They need and want forgiveness, redemption from the past, hope for the future, they want a happier life and to be with God in eternity,” he said.

Hudson stressed he did not want to dismiss political efforts to defend “the Christian vision” and moral laws that protect the common good. However, the election prompted him to engage in self-examination.

“I do regret those times my own voice became angry or bitter, and I apologize to any and all who witnessed those moments,” he said.

He said Christians in politics should “pay close attention to our tone” in what they are communicating in their manner of speaking and in their presentation to the world.

“Would anyone of good will who disagrees with us see or hear that we are attempting to share a gift or would they say we are ‘puffed up’ with pride?” he asked.

“Our kindness, patience, and good humor in the midst of political rancor can be witness to the heart of our faith, to the heart of the Church,” he said.

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New March for Life president plans increased youth appeal

Washington D.C., Nov 21, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - After being named the president of the March for Life Education and Defense Fund, Jeanne F. Monahan says she plans to increase the annual pro-life march's appeal to young people.

Monahan said in a Nov. 20 interview with CNA that her “immediate goal is to do the best job possible to commemorate this somber 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, which is rapidly hitting us here in January; to do what we can to make the rally very youth accessible and interesting and to make the March as fruitful as possible.”

The fund organizes and runs the annual March for Life in Washington, D.C., which will be held Jan. 25, 2013 on the National Mall.

Monahan, who was unanimously approved by the fund’s board on Nov. 16, said her ultimate goal is to work herself “out of a job.”

She sees her position as more than just running “the largest pro-life event in the world, but to be making a difference in terms of impacting a culture of life every single day, not only around the anniversary of Roe.”

“My long term goal … is to utilize the education piece of the March for Life Education and Defense Fund.”

Monahan joined the March for Life board in June “with every intention of staying” at her job with the Family Research Council, but when the organization's founder Nellie Gray died in August, Monahan was made the interim president.

Monahan previously served as director of the Center for Human Dignity at the Family Research Council, and before that worked in various capacities at the Department of Health and Human Services. She holds a Master of Theological Studies from Catholic University of America.

“Jeanne is a strong pro-life advocate who will continue the strong leadership of Nellie Gray and bring us closer to a culture of life,” said Patrick E. Kelly, Chairman of the Board of Directors. “The Board and I are very much looking forward to working with Jeanne in this new, full-time capacity and are looking forward to our largest March in history this January.”

She said that January's event will utilize jumbotrons and will be succinct, lasting roughly an hour. A handful of legislators will speak, and they will be “leaders on both sides of the political aisle who are pro-life.”

Monahan also intends to have a celebrity speaker, as well as music that will be “interesting and engaging” for young people.

“One major goal I have … is to get all of the participants to do some kind of act of lobbying on the Hill while they're here; not only to peacefully protest, but to make an appointment with their legislators and to go and talk to them about the necessity of pro-life legislation, and to do so in a positive and compelling way.”

The new president also wants to focus specifically on helping young people lobby their legislators.
“We'll do everything we can to engage media in a positive way and to raise as much awareness about the fact that abortion is the human rights issue of today,” she said.

Monahan noted the Fund is launching a more “savvy” social media campaign by updating their Facebook page, better utilizing Twitter and reaching out to youth with new media.

Monahan sees a great deal of hope for the pro-life movement going forward, because “young people are overwhelmingly pro-life … they have their finger on the pulse that this truly does destroy a human life.”

Asked about the future of the pro-life movement, she said that “one thing I think is critical moving forward is that we show abortion is bad for women … that we use truth and technology and science, all to our advantage. All we need to do with the abortion issue is bring it into the light.”

She cited advances in ultrasound technology and understanding of fetal pain as factors which have enlightened young people about the truth behind abortion.

Monahan emphasized that she plans to “do everything I can to show the fallacy” of the slogans that abortion is a “so-called right for women and good for women's health.”

“Abortion is not good for women, and obviously not good for the babies who aren't allowed a right to life.”

As she looks ahead to January, Monahan gets “the sense that the way providence has played out, that this is going to be a very important year for the March for Life, for people peacefully protesting.”

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Kansas school upholds Catholic identity, fosters vocations

Kansas City, Kan., Nov 21, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - St. John's Catholic School in Beloit, Kan. is striving to revitalize Catholic culture by promoting openness to priestly and religious vocations among its students.

“The teachers care about us and our faith and what we're going to do when we get older,” senior Leandra Silsby told CNA Nov. 19, “so they help us be disciplined in our faith.”

“In our religion class sometimes we get to go to Adoration, and that's the best time to just sit there and pray, and focus on our vocations, on what God's plan is for our lives.”

St. John's school opened in 1879 and has managed to keep its doors open for 134 years, while Catholic schools across the nation have shuttered due to low enrollment and economic woes.

Andrew Niewald, a theology teacher at the high school, attributes this staying power to a “striving” to “teach Catholicism as it was meant to be taught.”

Niewald himself graduated from St. John's in 1998 and said that the past 10 years have seen a marked improvement in the school, which has allowed it to maintain its presence at a cost of only $700 in tuition per child per year.

He told CNA Nov. 19 that the school is three years into a “Great Books” and integrated humanities program.

Four years ago the school hired Patrick McCloskey, author of  2010's “The Street Stops Here,” as a consultant, who advised them to adopt the Great Books program.

“If we present this unapologetic approach to Catholicism to our kids in our school, think of the possibilities and the impact we'll have on our culture,” Niewald expressed.

He praised the new program for teaching kids “how to think,” and not just “what to think.”

“It's even better than we thought it would be, as far as what our students walk away with.”

The new curriculum was enabled in no small part by Julius Capital Partners, with whom St. John's partnered to develop long-term funding solutions for the school, which is sustained by a town of only 3800 people.

Niewald noted that the school is trying to give students “an experience of the faith,” rather than solely intellectual formation.

To that end, on Friday Nov. 16, St. John's high school students traveled to Lincoln, Neb. to pray at an abortion clinic there and to visit both a seminary and a convent.

Leandra Silsby reported this was her third time praying at the abortion clinic with her classmates.

“It was a great experience because a lot of us would be too afraid to go by ourselves, but going as a whole school gives us the experience of showing our faith and that we are pro life.”

Sophomore Garrett Mischler told CNA on the way back from Lincoln that he appreciated the visit to St. Gregory the Great Seminary in Seward, Neb. because “it was really interesting to see how normal these young men who are going to become priests are.”

Mischler said that regarding his vocation, while “everyone sort of leans towards the married life, I'm going to keep and open mind and pray, and try and see exactly what God wants me to do before I make any solid decisions.”

St. John's atmosphere has already fostered committed discernment from one of its alumni. Justin Gengler graduated from the school and is now studying for the Diocese of Salina at St. John Vianney Seminary in Denver.

My time at St. John's “was definitely planting the seeds that are coming into fruition at this time in my life,” he told CNA Nov. 16. “I have an openness to God's will that was fostered during my time at St. John's.”

The school is committed to forming the whole person, and not solely the intellect of their students. In February some 24 kids from the school will travel to Washington D.C. for the March for Life, the seventh year St. John's has participated in the march.

Niewald teaches theology of the body to seniors at the school, and the juniors have a class on apologetics for three quarters. This year a Jehovah's Witness comes in once a week, and the students learn about his faith, and then start dialoguing and debating with him.

Last year, Niewald said, a Baptist pastor was the guest. At the end of the year, four students got up and debated the doctrine of the Eucharist with him in a public forum, and even took questions from his congregation.

“They had to come up with answers on the fly, and this to me is Catholic education,” Niewald said.

For the last quarter, the juniors take a class called “Marriage, Dating, and Family Life.” There they learn about chivalry, courting, country swing and line dancing, and “practical means of living their relationship.” These are topics that Niewald characterized as “necessary in Catholic culture, in a Catholic worldview.”

Niewald noted that “we had three families move here just this year for the school,” and prior to that families from both Idaho and Oklahoma had immigrated for the sake of sending their kids to St. John's.

“At St. John’s Catholic School, we take great pride in the fact that we ensure that the whole student is being educated,” principal Marcy Kee told CNA.

“It is important that we challenge our students not only to grow academically, socially, but spiritually as well, which I believe is the most important component in developing the whole student.”

“We can give our students all the pieces of the puzzle they need to be successful in today’s world, but their success in life will ultimately depend upon the relationship they have with God.”

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French president to support 'gay marriage' conscience rights

Paris, France, Nov 21, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - French President Francois Hollande said that his proposal to legalize “gay marriage” in the country would include a conscience protections for officials who want to opt out of presiding over ceremonies.

Hollande told the French Mayors Association on Nov. 20 that the country's leaders should enforce the measure if it passes, but that “options to delegate do exist and they could be broadened. And there is freedom of conscience.”

According to the Spanish newspaper La Razon, Hollande said the state must respect “secularism and equality” and that “the law will apply to everyone with respect for freedom of conscience.”

The proposed “gay marriage” law will be sent to the French Parliament at the end of January 2013, where it has the support of a majority of lawmakers.

Some parties have voiced opposition, however, and one hundred local mayors recently sent a letter to the president vowing to refuse to carry out same-sex unions.

On Nov. 17, some 250,000 people in ten cities across France rallied in support of traditional marriage. Paris, Toulouse, Rennes, Dijon, Metz and Marseille were among the cities where thousands turned out to oppose the proposed law.

In Lyon, Cardinal Philippe Barbarin and the rector of the city's mosque, Kamel Kabtane, marched together in support of marriage as defined as between one man and one woman.   

“We share the same fundamental values and we should defend them together,” they said.

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Pope warns Gaza conflict could spread in Middle East

Vatican City, Nov 21, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Benedict XVI is warning violence could spread through the region, after Israel continued bombing Gaza and a suicide bomb rocked Tel Aviv.

The Pope appealed for a halt to violence in his Nov. 21 general audience in the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall, as the fighting between the Palestinians and Israelis continued for the eighth day.

"I am following with great concern the escalation of violence between Israelis and Palestinians in the Gaza Strip," said Pope Benedict.

"Along with my prayerful recollection of the victims and for all those who are suffering, I feel the duty to reiterate, once again, that hatred and violence are not the solution to problems."

The Latin Patriarch of Jersualem, Archbishop Fouad Twal, said he is ''horrified by the massive damage of this war, which he considers catastrophic in human and economic terms."

Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived in the region on the morning of Nov. 20 to meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah and later with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Egyptian president Mohammed Mursi also spoke with Clinton about promoting stability in the region.

The Pope also lent his support, saying, "I encourage the initiatives and efforts of those who are trying to obtain a ceasefire and to promote negotiations." 

"I also urge the authorities of both parties to take courageous decisions in favor of peace and put an end to a conflict with negative repercussions throughout the entire Middle East region, which is already tormented by too many conflicts and so in need of peace and reconciliation."

Israel has carried out over 1,500 strikes since the violence broke out on Nov. 13, killing 139 Palestinians, according to medical officials. Most of them were civilians and the count included 34 children.

The Israeli military said four Israeli civilians and one soldier have died so far.

The Israelis targeted more than 100 locations in Gaza overnight and Palestinians fired 31 rockets at Israel. The Palestinian bombardment did not result in any injuries.

Israeli airstrikes damaged media buildings for the fourth day in a row, after airstrikes killed three Palestinian reporters on Tuesday.

The first overnight attacks targeted a building of Agence France-Presse, according to an AFP photographer. An Associated Press office was also damaged and attacks were made on hotels hosting international journalists.

Israel's army confirmed hitting one media building and said the attack targeted a ''Hamas intelligence operations center."

"Israel should respect its obligations under international law and immediately halt its attacks against news media offices," Committee to Protect Journalists' official Sherif Mansour told CPJ news.

The committee said attacks also damaged office of British outlet Sky News, Russia Today, Al-Arabiya, Al-Aqsa TV, Al-Quds TV and the independent Bethlehem-based Ma'an News Agency.

The committee believes both Both Al-Aqsa TV and Al-Quds TV are affiliated with Hamas.

The Pope visited Israel and Palestine in 2009, but was not in Gaza.

In September 2012 he visited Lebanon and asked for peace in the region, while war in Syria continued.

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In Ireland abortion case, pro-lifers warn against snap judgments

Dublin, Ireland, Nov 21, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Following the death of a pregnant women in Ireland who was denied an abortion, pro-life voices are advising careful examination of the circumstances rather than abortion advocacy.

Debate over Irish abortion law has been heated since news broke of Savita Halappanavar, a 17-week pregnant woman who died in a Galway hospital on Oct. 28.

Halappanavar's autopsy has revealed that she died of blood poisoning and E. coli ESBL, an antibiotic-resistant strain of the bacterium.

“Instead of jumping to the conclusions that Halappanavar needed an abortion and that Ireland needs to legalize the killing of the youngest of its kind, the reasonable approach would be to get to the bottom of what Halappanavar’s condition was and examine how it was, or was not, responded to,” wrote Stephanie Gray, executive director of the Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform Nov. 20.

E. coli ESBL has recently spread throughout the U.K., causing urinary tract infections which can develop into blood poisoning.

“The presence of E. coli ESBL is particularly problematic if Halappanavar was given antibiotics to fight an infection that was resistant to those very antibiotics,” Gray said.

Both the Irish health department and University Hospital Galway are making independent inquiries into the circumstances of Halappanavar's death.

On Oct. 20, she went to the hospital suffering severe back pain and there found she was miscarrying. She then requested an abortion, but was told medical staff would not make such a move as long as her daughter had a heartbeat.

Prasa, the child, died four days later, and after another three days Savita succumbed to blood poisoning and E. coli ESBL.

“We have yet to hear from the hospital and the medical professionals involved as to what precisely happened, but with this report of her dying from E. coli ESBL one wonders how killing Halappanavar’s baby Prasa would have killed the E. coli,” Gray noted.

Irish pro-life groups Life Institute and Youth Defence announced Nov. 16 that abortion campaigners in the country had been given prior knowledge of Halappanavar, and planned to use her death to lobby for abortion legalization.

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin weighed in on Sunday by pointing out that pregnant women in Ireland can expect some of the best healthcare worldwide for themselves and their children.

“The facts show us we have in fact one of the lowest levels of maternal mortality in the world, which means that whatever practices we have are producing the results that we should respect,” he told The Irish Times Nov. 18 outside a parish in Whitehall, a Dublin suburb.

“When I look at the standards of maternal care that exist in this country...I would hope that we will be able to maintain that.”

The Republic of Ireland is one of the safest countries in the world for pregnant mothers. Only three of every 100,000 women die in childbirth in the country. The average number in Europe and North America is 14 per 100,000.

Before Nov. 14, Halappanavar's husband Praveen, an engineer, told the BBC he had “no doubt about it” that Savita would still be alive had she been allowed an abortion.

On Nov. 20, The Irish Times reported that Praveen said, “I haven't a clue who is at fault. I just want to know the truth,” noting that the care Savita received in the intensive care unit was very good.

In response to the situation, the Irish Catholic Bishops' Conference stated Nov. 19, “we believe in upholding the equal and inalienable right to life of a mother and her unborn child,” and that “where a seriously ill pregnant woman needs medical treatment which may put the life of her baby at risk, such treatments are ethically permissible provided every effort has been made to save the life of both the mother and her baby.”

Abortion in Ireland is governed by an 1861 law which bans the procedure. The 1983 constitution recognizes unborn childrens' right to life, “with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother.”

In 1992, the country's Supreme Court ruled that abortion was lawful if there was a substantial risk to the life of the mother as a result of her pregnancy.

Yet in the 20 years since the ruling, lawmakers have refrained from revising Irish abortion law, leaving a complicated legal process for women who believe they need an abortion. In April, the lower house of the Irish parliament rejected a bill that would have legalized the procedure.

Stephanie Gray reiterated that “jumping to the conclusion that abortion should be legalized in Ireland overlooks” Halappanavar's “underlying medical condition and makes the dangerous assumption that we need to kill one person to save another.”

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Spanish group calls for bolstering of disabled children's rights

Madrid, Spain, Nov 21, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - On Universal Children's Day marked worldwide on Nov. 20, the organization Down Spain called for increased protection of the rights of children with Down's Syndrome.  

According to the group, the rights of children who suffer from disabilities “are still being violated in areas such as health care and education, which makes it difficult for them to be fully included in society.”

The organization recalled that article 7 of the International Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities establishes that “States Parties shall take all necessary measures to ensure the full enjoyment by children with disabilities of all human rights and fundamental freedoms on an equal basis with other children.”

This is something “that has not yet been achieved in our country,” Down Spain said.

The group called on the Spanish government “to ensure equal opportunity for all handicapped children and to offer them the support they need at each stage of their lives, so that they can be citizens of full right and make a contribution to an inclusive society that recognizes and respects the diversity of all persons.”

Down Spain also noted that the Convention obliges the Spanish government to ensure “that handicapped children have the right to freely express their opinions about all matters that affect them” and “to receive appropriate assistance in accord with their handicap and age in order be able to exercise this right.”

Since its founding, the organization has worked to help children with Down's Syndrome to develop their skills and become autonomous. It also works to defend and promote their rights through various initiatives and programs.

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Pope: Faith is reasonable, leads to joyful life

Vatican City, Nov 21, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Benedict XVI continued his series of teachings on faith by examining how it is “reasonable and not in conflict with science.”

People from all over the world gathered in the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall on Nov. 21 to hear the Pope’s catechesis, which he delivers every Wednesday.

“The Catholic faith is reasonable and also nurtures trust in human reason," he told the audience of thousands. "It's crucial for people to open up to faith and know God and his plan of salvation in Jesus Christ."

Pope Benedict explained that there is a fruitful link between understanding and believing, which is rooted in the harmonious relationship between science and faith. Scientific research, he added, leads to knowledge of the truth about man and the cosmos.

“Also important are investigations to discover the secrets of our planet and the universe, with the knowledge that man is the crown of creation, not to exploit it foolishly but to keep it and make it habitable,” he said.

“Faith,” the Pope reflected, “enables an authentic knowledge of God that involves the whole person: it is a knowledge that gives a new taste to life, a joyful way of being in the world. It's expressed in the gift of self for others in fraternity that makes solidarity."

Turning to the love of God, Pope Benedict said that it allows us to know the whole of reality, beyond the narrow perspectives of individualism and subjectivism which disorientate consciences.

“God isn't absurd, if anything He is a mystery. The mystery isn't irrational but an overabundance of a sense of meaning and truth,” he said.

The Pope compared the experience to a person looking directly at the sun and seeing only darkness.

“But who would say that the sun isn't bright, when it's the source of light? Faith allows us to look at the 'sun' that is God, because it welcomes His revelation in history.”

"At the same time God's grace illumines reason and opens new, immeasurable and infinite horizons."

After giving his catechesis, the Pope greeted the thousands of participants in several languages.

He also offered a ''cordial greeting'' to the participants of the Catholic and Muslim cooperation conference, and the English and Welsh Catholic charity CAFOD, in gratitude for 50 years of work. 

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Assault of pro-life advocate leads to arrest of alleged serial rapist

Denver, Colo., Nov 21, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - The arrest of a prominent Denver realtor who allegedly assaulted a senior citizen collecting signatures for a pro-life petition has lead to new developments in three unsolved rape cases.

“Were it not for Mr. Costello’s arrest at the grocery store in July, there would have been no new leads, and there would have been no charges filed in connection with these three unsolved sexual assaults,” Lynn Kimbrough of the Denver District Attorney’s Office told CNA Nov. 21.

The man now identified as William Costello, a prominent Denver-based realtor, was asked by Everett Stadig if he had signed a petition in support of the Personhood Amendment, a bill designed to extend the protection of the law to “all human beings at any stage of development.”

“I didn’t want to confront him,” Everett Stadig, the 69-year-old resident of Aurora, Colo. told CNA Nov. 21. Stadig was assaulted in July while collecting signatures for the Personhood Amendment at the King Soopers grocery store on Quebec St. and East 28th Ave. in Denver.

Stadig is a self-described “Lincoln look-alike” who is often seen around Denver holding signs in protest of abortion.

When he approached Costello and asked him to sign the petition, Stadig received a response in “an angry tone” and “swearing.”  Costello declared that he was pro-choice and that he would not sign the petition.

At that point, Costello walked away and Stadig “thought he was done with him.” But moments later Costello returned to tell the elderly man that he “didn’t have a right to be here.”

While standing with “the bike in one hand and the Personhood petition in the other,” Stadig said Costello grabbed him by both shoulders and “shoved” him to the ground. A witness observed the assault and took down Costello’s license plate number before he fled the scene, according to the affidavit.

Stadig sustained a broken hip and had to have surgery to repair it. Costello was charged with second-degree assault of an at-risk adult.

Due to “Katie’s Law,” a Colorado state law requiring DNA testing of anyone arrested for assault, Costello has now been linked to three unsolved rapes cases from 2008, 2010 and 2011.

“Praise the Lord that it happened that way and now the victims are going to get compensated and not just me,” Stadig said.

The Denver Police Department was notified Oct. 30 that Costello’s DNA matched that filed with the rape of a 13-year-old girl in March 2008, a 22-year-old woman in August 2010 and a 49-year-old woman in September 2011.

Costello is now being charged with two counts of kidnapping, two counts of sexual assault on a child, three counts of sexual assault and two counts of impersonating a police officer.

In one case, the perpetrator had a two year-old boy in his car while he sexually assaulted a 13-year-old girl who was running away from the Denver Children’s home.

In two cases, Costello used force and told victims he was a police officer.

At the time he was arrested on Nov. 5, Costello was dropping yard signs off at a political campaign office in Durango, Colo. and driving a car belonging to the Democratic political consultant Mike Stratton, the Denver Post reported.

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