Archive of December 20, 2012

Catholic convert and Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork remembered

Arlington, Va., Dec 20, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Judge Robert H. Bork, a Catholic convert whose defeated Supreme Court nomination helped ensure the continued dominance of legal abortion in the U.S., died Wednesday morning at the age of 85.

“We will remember him with great fondness,” Ave Maria School of Law President and Dean Eugene R. Milhizer told CNA Dec. 19. “Judge Bork was a national figure, a very important jurist, writer and academic. It was a real privilege to be a colleague of his at the law school.”

Family Research Council President Tony Perkins praised Bork as “a fellow champion of the sanctity of human life.”

He cited the judge’s “great respect for the text and history of the constitution” and his philosophy of judicial restraint.

“His brilliant legal mind also saw the truth of Christianity, and in his later years Judge Bork grew closer in his relationship with Jesus. His deep faith and trust in God is an example for all of us,” Perkins said.

Bork died at Virginia Hospital Center in Arlington, Va. from complications of heart ailments, the Associated Press reports.

President Ronald Reagan’s nomination of Bork to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1987 met with unprecedented political opposition. The vote to confirm him failed by a margin of 58-42.

Bork’s supporters cited his judicial scholarship as a Yale law professor and his experience as a U.S. Court of Appeals judge. Many supporters sympathized with his “original intent” judicial philosophy and charged that opponents used character assassination to defeat his nomination.

Bork’s opponents cited his criticisms of federal court decisions that declared contraceptives, abortion and pornography to be constitutional rights. His criticism of federal civil rights legislation, women’s rights, and his service in the Nixon administration also drew strong opposition.

After the defeat of Bork’s nomination, President Reagan successfully nominated Justice Anthony Kennedy. Kennedy voted to uphold legal abortion in the 1993 Supreme Court decision Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which was decided by a 6-3 vote.

Kennedy also helped advance homosexual causes, declaring in a 1996 ruling that sexual orientation is a legally protected class and in 2003 ruling that consensual gay sex is constitutionally protected. Both decisions helped set precedents for the advance of “gay marriage.”

Milhizer said Bork’s stress on the “faithful interpretation of the Constitution” would have led him to oppose many questionable judicial decisions.

“It’s when you get away from the plain meaning of the Constitution and when judges begin to legislate and become more inventive that you find things like the right to abortion and the recent Obamacare decision,” he said.

Following the controversy over his nomination, Bork resigned from the bench and joined conservative think tanks including the American Enterprise Institute and the Hudson Institute. He wrote three bestselling books including the 1996 work “Slouching Towards Gomorrah: Modern Liberalism and American Decline.”

Bork was married twice. He was married to his first wife, the former Claire Davidson, for almost 30 years before her death in 1980. In 1982 he married Mary Ellen Pohl, a former Catholic nun.

Bork, a former atheist who had been raised Presbyterian, converted to Catholicism in 2003 at the age of 76. Monsignor William Awalt baptized him at a Mass in the chapel of the Catholic Information Center in Washington, D.C.

“There is an advantage in waiting until you’re 76 to be baptized, because you’re forgiven all of your prior sins. Plus, at that age you’re not likely to commit any really interesting or serious sins,” he told the National Catholic Register’s Tim Drake in 2003.

He said that he found evidence of the existence of God “highly persuasive,” such as the arguments appealing to the design of the universe and the biological cell.

He found the number of witnesses to Jesus Christ’s Resurrection be “compelling” and considered the Resurrection to be “a solid historical fact.” He said the Catholic Church is “the Church that Christ established” and though it is “always in trouble” it has “stayed more orthodox than almost any church I know of.”

Bork also credited his wife Mary Ellen for helping encourage his conversion.

The judge was the first law professor named to Ave Maria School of Law and taught there for more than four years.

Milhizer said Bork was “someone who deeply believed in ideas” and who “fit very comfortably and very well at an orthodox Catholic law school.”

The announcement of Bork as an Ave Maria School of Law faculty member helped attract “many outstanding students” and gave the school “instant credibility” among the Catholic legal education community and within the broader legal culture, Milhizer recalled.

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US bishop calls for nuclear negotiations with Iran

Washington D.C., Dec 20, 2012 (CNA) - The U.S. bishops’ leader on international peace issues said that dialogue is the path to a peaceful resolution of nuclear concerns between the United States and Iran.

“Bold steps must be considered to counter this unfortunate and continually rising tide of aggressive posturing between our own nation and Iran,” said Bishop Richard E. Pates of Des Moines.

In a Dec. 18 letter to Thomas E. Donilon, national security advisor to the Obama administration, he explained that a “peaceful resolution will require direct, sustained negotiations over a considerable period of time.”

The bishop, who chairs the Committee on International Justice and Peace for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, voiced “deep concern” over the “dangerous situation facing our nation, the international community, and Iran.”

Speaking on behalf of his committee, he urged the U.S. to immediately begin direct negotiations with the nation in order to avoid further escalation.

“Initiating such talks should be done without preconditions and might include extending to Iran some relief from current international sanctions,” he said.

Bishop Pates pointed to “Iran’s resistance to credible restrictions on its enrichment activities under the terms of the Nuclear Non- Proliferation Treaty” as a cause for concern. He also warned against “unjustified and unwise military action that could dramatically worsen an already critical situation.”

The justice and peace chairman reiterated Pope Benedict XVI’s call last year for “dialogue” and “joint solutions” concerning Iran.

A diplomatic resolution is needed, he stressed, “to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons capabilities while allowing them to enrich uranium for nuclear energy in compliance with international norms.”

Preventing military action is critical, the bishop emphasized, noting Catholic teaching that “serious moral and juridical questions” are raised by preventive wars when there is not “clear proof that an attack is imminent.”

He also pointed to analysts who have suggested that a preventive military strike on Iranian enrichment facilities could “lead to broader armed conflict that would likely engulf much of the Middle East.”

Bishop Pates referenced three elements that experts have identified as a necessary framework for resolution.

The international community should affirm Iran’s “right to enrich uranium” in exchange for an Iranian commitment to “limit enrichment convincingly short of weapons-grade potential as confirmed by verifiable inspections,” he said.

In addition, the United States and international community must offer credible security assurances that they will not initiate military action against Iran as long as the nation adheres to treaty obligations and “does not itself initiate attack.”

Iran should also be “assured access to international nuclear fuel cycle services at market rates.”

Bishop Pates recognized that negotiations regarding such an agreement will raise opposition, but stressed that a diplomatic solution is advantageous to all parties and preferable to military action that could yield dramatic and unforeseen results.

He urged the U.S. to vigorously pursue peaceful negotiations to resolve tensions between the two countries.

“The stakes are too high and the threats to human life too great to do less,” he said.

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Bishops urged to imitate St. Thomas More in mandate fight

Philadelphia, Pa., Dec 20, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia has held up the 16th century's Saint Thomas More as a model of courage for bishops in the face of the federal contraception mandate.

“America's Catholic bishops cannot simply grumble and shrug, and go along with the mandate now, without implicating themselves in cowardice,” he wrote in a Dec. 19 column for The Witherspoon Institute.

“Their current resolve risks unraveling unless they reaffirm their opposition to the mandate forcefully and as a united body. The past can be a useful teacher. One of its lessons is this: The passage of time can invite confusion and doubt – and both work against courage.”

St. Thomas More, a leading politician of his day, lived at the time of the Anglican schism, when King Henry VIII made himself head of the Church in England. English bishops protested the move at first, but with time all but one, Saint John Fisher, acquiesced to the move.

In his final writing, “scribbled in the Tower of London and smuggled out before his death,” St. Thomas More reflected on the apostles' sleepiness at Gethsemane while Judas was betraying Christ.

Archbishop Chaput said that the saint “then applies the parable to his own day and the abject surrender of England’s bishops to the will of Henry VIII.”

St. Thomas could see the parallel between the apostles' sleeping and the surrender of English bishops in his time.

“More urges the bishops not to fall asleep 'while virtue and the faith are placed in jeopardy,'” Archbishop Chaput noted. “In the face of Tudor bullying, he begs them, 'Do not be afraid.'”

Archbishop Chaput believes this message is apt also for America in 2012, as next year the Obama administration's Affordable Care Act “takes force and the HHS contraceptive mandate imposes itself on Christian life.”

He writes that there are multiple ways for the bishops to respond: refusing to comply, closing Christian institutions, finding a compromise, or “they can simply give in and comply with the government coercion under protest.”

To choose the last option, Archbishop Chaput believes, would be “heavily damaging to the witness of the Church in the United States.”

The contraception mandate, announced by the Health and Human Service department, requires that employers offer health insurance plans covering contraception, sterilization, and drugs that can cause early abortions, even if doing so violates their conscience and religious belief.

More than 110 business owners, non-profit organizations, and religious charities have sued over the mandate, arguing that it violates their constitutionally-guaranteed right to religious freedom.

The cases are making their way through the court system, and on Dec. 18 the District of Columbia Appeals Court decided in favor of two Christian colleges saying that the Obama administration must rewrite the mandate so that it will not harm religious organizations such as the plaintiffs Belmont Abbey College and Wheaton College.

The appeals court gave the government a deadline of March 31, 2013 to rewrite the mandate.

The administration has professed that it is working on an accommodation for religious organizations, but one acceptable to Catholic consciences has not yet been offered.

The U.S. bishops' conference is planning a second Fortnight for Freedom event to be held next summer. The Fortnight will emphasize “the need for conscience protection,” as well as faith and marriage, the conference stated.

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In rare article, Pope asks Christians to reassess priorities at Christmas

Rome, Italy, Dec 20, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Dec. 20 edition of the Financial Times featured a rare article by Pope Benedict XVI in which he advises Christians to use Christmas as a time to “reassess priorities” and reflect on how to live out their faith with eternity in mind.

“While Christmas is undoubtedly a time of great joy, it is also an occasion for deep reflection, even an examination of conscience,” he says in the article.

“At the end of a year that has meant economic hardship for many, what can we learn from the humility, the poverty, the simplicity of the crib scene?” he asks readers.

Seeing an article in a newspaper by the Pope is a very unusual occurrence.

This particular story made it to print after the paper’s editorial office saw Pope Benedict’s recently published book “Jesus of Nazareth: the Infancy Narratives,” which inspired them to request him to write about Christmas.

The Vatican press office said Dec. 20 that Pope Benedict has granted interviews in the past to the BBC, a few months after his trip to the United Kingdom, and to the Italian national television station RAI in the program “A sua imagine” during Easter.

On both occasions, like today's Financial Times article, he spoke about Jesus Christ.

But this time he reflects on how Christians should examine how they can live out their faith in the world with a view to the eternal.

“Render unto Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God, was the response of Jesus when asked about paying taxes,” he says in the piece that ran opposite the editorial page.

He notes that this response emerged from a question meant to trap Jesus into taking sides about Roman rule in the land of Israel.

“Jesus' answer deftly moves the argument to a higher plane, gently cautioning against both the politicization of religion and the deification of temporal power, along with the relentless pursuit of wealth,” he says.

The 85-year-old pontiff notes that “the birth of Christ challenges us to reassess our priorities, our values, our way of life.”

Christians should use Christmas as an opportunity to read the Gospel more, he counsels.

“It is in the Gospel that Christians find inspiration for their daily lives and their involvement in worldly affairs – be it in the Houses of Parliament or in the stock exchange,” he states.

“Christians should not shun the world, they should engage with it,” he adds, “but their involvement in politics and economics should transcend every form of ideology.”

The Pope also praises Christians' work for a more equitable sharing of the earth's resources, done out of a belief that they have the duty to care for the weakest and most vulnerable.

“Christians oppose greed and exploitation out of a conviction that generosity and selfless love, as taught and lived by Jesus of Nazareth, are the way that leads to fullness of life,” he explains.

And he says that because the goals of peace and justice are shared by so many, “much fruitful co-operation is possible between Christians and others.”

“Yet Christians render to Caesar only what belongs to Caesar, not what belongs to God,” he insists, pointing out that Christians cannot always comply with governments’ demands.

Pope Benedict then responds to the frequent assertion that Christians “refuse to bow down before the false gods proposed today” because of “an antiquated worldview.”

Christians will not comply, he says, because “they are free from the constraints of ideology and inspired by such a noble vision of human destiny that they cannot collude with anything that undermines it.”

He ends his Christmas reflection by speaking about Italian nativity scenes that include ancient Roman buildings in the background.

These displays show Jesus' birth as an end of the pagan world "in which Caesar's claims went virtually unchallenged."

“From the manger,” the Pope writes, “Christ calls us to live as citizens of his heavenly kingdom, a kingdom that all people of goodwill can help to build here on earth.”

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'Humanae Vitae' author Pope Paul VI moves toward sainthood

Vatican City, Dec 20, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Benedict XVI authorized an investigation on Dec. 20 which could result in proclaiming the late pontiff, Paul VI, a saint.

The Pope formally allowed the move as the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints wrote a decree stating that Paul VI had “heroic virtue,” the first step necessary in the canonization process.

The pontiff met with congregation head cardinal Angelo Amato on Thursday to let him begin the review of the “Humanae Vitae” author.

During their meeting, the Pope also authorized the congregation to continue several other canonization processes, which are usually long and complex.

They include Italian Blessed Antonio Primaldo and Colombia native Blessed Laura of St. Catherine of Sienna, as well as one Mexican, Blessed Maria Guadalupe, after miracles were attributed to all three.

He also gave the go ahead to continue the process for several martyrs, people with “heroic virtues,” and people who have had miracles proven to be attributed to them.

The list includes 33 Spaniards killed in the country's civil war between 1936 and 1939, a period when the revolutionaries killed numerous religious and practicing Catholics.

“It is more than likely that Paul VI will be beatified in 2013 at the end of the Year of Faith,” wrote La Stampa journalist Andrea Tornielli in Vatican Insider.

He noted that, just like with John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI “has closely followed the steps that has led to today's decree.”

Paul VI was the one who named Pope Benedict a cardinal, which allowed to participate in choosing a pope in two conclaves held in 1978.

The late pontiff, born Giovanni Battista Montini, was the son of a middle class lawyer, who was also a politician and journalist.

He was ordained a priest aged 22 and served as pope from 1963 to 1978, and ended the Second Vatican Council after his predecessor, pope John XXIII, had initiated it one year earlier.

He was the last pope to be crowned after he dissolved many of the Church's old traditions.

Paul VI also concluded the Second Vatican Council in 1965, the largest revision of the Church's Liturgy and the first major revision since the Council of Trent, held 400 years earlier.

He published the controversial encyclical “Humanae Vitae” in 1968 which reaffirmed the Church's stance against contraception, as well as firm affirmation of the merits of priestly celibacy.

According to Vatican journalist Tornielli, the congregation will investigate an alleged miraculous healing of a then unborn child took place 16 years ago in California.

Doctors told the pregnant mother to abort after finding a serious problem in the fetus, which normally results in brain damage.

But she entrusted her pregnancy to Paul VI and the baby, now around 15 years old, was born without problems.

The congregation may also investigate an alleged miracle after a nun with a tumor was suddenly cured.

The Church has three main steps in making a deceased person a saint, with the first providing proof that the person had “heroic virtue.”

This means the person has practiced outstanding faith, hope and charity as well as extraordinary virtuous actions with readiness over a period of time. The person who the Church declares to have had heroic virtue is given the title “Venerable,” and is also called a “Servant of God.”

The second step is “beatification,” which means the Church recognizes the person is in heaven after a miracle is proven titling them “Blessed.”

And the final step is “canonization,” where the Pope himself officially proclaims the person a saint.

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Hobby Lobby turns to Supreme Court for mandate relief

Washington D.C., Dec 20, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Arts and crafts giant Hobby Lobby will appeal to the nation’s highest court after an appeals court ruled the federal contraception mandate does not impose a “substantial burden” on the owners’ religious freedom.

“The Green family is disappointed with this ruling,” said Kyle Duncan, general counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which is handling the case.

He explained that the Christian family that owns and operates Hobby Lobby must now “seek relief from the United States Supreme Court.”

“The Greens will continue to make their case on appeal that this unconstitutional mandate infringes their right to earn a living while remaining true to their faith,” Duncan said.

On Dec. 20, an appeals court denied the plaintiffs’ request for a temporary injunction to block the federal contraception mandate from being enforced against them while their case moves forward in the court.

The mandate requires employers to offer health insurance covering sterilization and contraception, including drugs that may cause early abortions. As Christians, the Greens are morally opposed to funding any type of abortion, including those caused by “morning after” and “week after” pills.

In its decision, the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said that the mandate did not impose a “substantial burden” on the Greens’ religious freedom because it only forces them to fund “someone else’s participation” in an activity that their religion condemns.

Started in a garage in Oklahoma City in 1972, Hobby Lobby now has more than 500 stores in 41 states. Its owners, the Greens, have said that they seek to serve God through all of their endeavors, including their business decisions.

The company donates considerable amounts to charity, maintains a minimum wage that is much higher than the federal requirement and closes all of its stores on Sundays, sacrificing profit to allow its employees to rest and worship with their families.

A lower court ruled last month that as a “secular, for-profit” corporation, Hobby Lobby does not have a constitutional right to freedom of religion, even if its owners see its management as part of their call to Christian stewardship.

Forty-two separate lawsuits challenging the mandate have been filed on behalf of religious schools, hospitals and charities, for-profit businesses and individual states. Rulings in the cases have been split. Among for-profit businesses, four have been granted preliminary injunctions and two have been denied them.

Hobby Lobby is the largest business to file a lawsuit challenging the mandate. If it is not granted relief from the regulation, it will be forced to pay $1.3 million per day in fines for refusing to comply with the objectionable provision.

The company will now turn to the Supreme Court to ask for an injunction protecting its right to religious freedom.

“It is by God’s grace and provision that Hobby Lobby has endured,” said David Green, founder and CEO of the company. “Therefore we seek to honor God by operating the company in a manner consistent with Biblical principles.”

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