Archive of March 12, 2013

Catholics see moral complications in drone usage

Washington D.C., Mar 12, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Amid continued debate over the use of drone strikes, Catholic thinkers warned that the U.S. drone program – particularly when used in civilian areas – raises a host of complex moral considerations.

“It would be very easy to come to reasoning that the Church would be absolutely opposed to the use of drones – foreign or domestic – in civilian areas” said Joshua Mercer, political director of civic action group Catholic Vote.

Drones are distantly controlled unmanned aircrafts that are used by the military for observation of prospective targets and for missile attacks on suspects of terrorism. The U.S. drone program was started by the Bush administration and expanded by the Obama administration.

The use of drones has been controversial in recent months, particularly with regards to their use in civilian areas, risking high levels of civilian casualties.

Robert George of Princeton University has spoken several times on the topic. In June 2012, George critiqued the Obama administration’s expansion of the use of drones in civilian areas.

He said that while the “use of drones is not, in my opinion, inherently immoral in otherwise justifiable military operations,” the “risk of death and other grave harms to noncombatants” complicates the situation.

“Having a valid military target is in itself not a sufficient justification for the use of weapons such as predator drones,” the Catholic scholar continued. “Sometimes considerations of justice to noncombatants forbid their use, even if that means that grave risks must be endured by our own forces in the prosecution of a war.”

“The wholesale and indiscriminate use of drones cannot be justified, and should be criticized,” he added. “This is something that Catholic intellectuals across the spectrum ought, it seems to me, to agree about. If we don’t speak, who will?”

George revisited the topic in February 2013, following the release of a Department of Justice paper laying out a legal argument in favor of using drones.

He criticized both political parties for foreign policy moves that exchanged civilian deaths for terrorist targets.

“Catholics and others who believe that not all is fair in love and war (or at least not in war) should have been speaking out against Obama’s overuse of drones long ago,” he said.

Mercer, who noted that Catholic Vote has criticized the use of drone strikes in civilian contexts since the Bush administration, added to George’s critique. He clarified that while the use of remotely operated aircrafts in combat situations is not specifically immoral, the use of drones in “non-combat situations” raises serious questions.

He told CNA that the Church’s tradition of Just War offers rules governing war and justice so that “we have proper procedures to follow to make sure that we don’t harm innocent people.”

Within the United States as well, there is a tradition of law and justice in which the “use of lethal force” can only be justified if someone is armed and there is no other means of stabilizing the situation, he said, noting that even Osama bin Laden was not killed by a bomb or drone, but instead by a team that could limit and avoid civilian deaths.

Conceding that he hasn’t “heard any bishop specifically address the use of drones,” Mercer explained that “the Church has outlined principles” regarding warfare and the just treatment of combatants and civilians. 

He noted that the lack of specific discussion on drones “doesn’t mean that there’s a lack of clarity over what the Church considers the right thing to do,” saying that drone use could “only be acceptable in a combat zone.”

Mercer also warned Catholics and pro-life individuals of all faiths to remember that “the ends can never justify the means.”

“We can’t ever embrace the idea that we’re going to set aside our moral principles to reach a goal,” he said.

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Young adult uses marathon to pursue her vocation

Fresno, Calif., Mar 12, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - A California-native is running 26.2 miles to support her vocation as a cloistered nun. But before Jenn Garza can join the contemplative Norbertine sisters, she must pay off nearly $53,000 in student loans.

Although Garza works two jobs, the 26-year-old said she “wouldn’t be able to pay off my student loans in any short amount of time.”

However – with a background in fitness and experience as a personal trainer in New York City – Garza said she realized through “a lot of prayer and discernment” that the best way to pay off her debt would be to ask supporters to sponsor her as she runs the southern California O.C. Marathon in May.

Dubbing it the “Litany Run,” Garza will commit to pray for each one of her supporters during the grueling 26.2 mile race by listening to a voice recording of all the prayer intentions.

Whether supporters can sponsor her financially or spiritually, Garza wants people to send her their prayer requests so she can sacrifice her race for them as to better prepare for life in the monastery.

“I really feel the Lord calling me to complete this marathon through prayer,” she said. “As a nun, I’m going to be dedicating my life to the glory of God and the salvation of souls through prayer.”

Raised Catholic, Garza said that “like many people of our generation” she “never really was exposed to any kind of idea of discernment” or the idea that a “religious vocation might be something that I should even think about.”

After high school, Garza moved to New York City where she worked and studied and even spent time in London.

“I planned on just living on the East Coast forever and being a world traveler and never coming back to California,” she explained.

Although she was involved with her youth group and many parish activities as a teen, it was not until Garza attended World Youth Day in 2011 with a young adult group that she was able to witness the
“joy” and “humanity” of priests and religious.

It was then that Garza felt that she was being called to discern the religious life.

“I discovered that religious brothers and sisters and priests are not people who are as removed from the laity, as I always had felt growing up,” Garza said.

While on the pilgrimage Garza began to “have feelings that God might be calling me into discernment” even though days earlier she had mentioned to a friend that she would “never become a nun,” as a group of them walked by her.

Garza said she began to “have some small conversations” with priests and religious in the group and even told a priest who she went to for confession that she believed God was inviting her to discern the religious life.

One evening during the trip, she and the group were unable to find shelter for the night so they took refuge under a tree. Despite a torrential downpour, Garza was struck by how joyfully the nuns sang Night Prayers.

“That was really the moment when I felt the Lord just telling me to take a look around and see all these beautiful sisters and how joyful they were in their vocations,” she said. “I felt like that was the moment he was inviting me to truly begin seriously discerning religious life.”

When she arrived home to the United States, Garza began researching and visiting various active communities.

It was not until Garza was invited to visit the website for the Norbertine Community of the Bethlehem Priory of St. Joeseph that she realized God was calling her into an even deeper life of prayer though the contemplative life in a cloistered monastery in her home diocese of Fresno, Calif.

“I was kind of like a deer in the headlights realizing that I was being hit with exactly what the Lord had been calling me to all along,” she said.

However, rather than being afraid of such a sacrifice, Garza said she recognizes the prospect as “beautiful” and exciting.”

Soon after visiting, Garza applied, was accepted and has been given an entrance date of the Feast of St. Augustine, Aug. 28, 2013.

Founded in 1121 by St. Norbert of Xanten, the order is one of the oldest still in existence today.

However, the particular community that Garza will enter was established in 1997 when the Norbertine Community of St. Michael’s Abbey in Silverado, Calif. desired to have a group of nuns dedicated to praying for the order.

Garza said that the best practice for any young adult discerning a vocation, be it marriage, religious life or the priesthood, is to make time with God a “priority.”

“When we take the time to spend with our Lord,” she explained “he starts to speak to our hearts in ways that we’re not able to hear in the world.”

To learn more about Garza's efforts, visit

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Thousands sign up for Pope election text message

Denver, Colo., Mar 12, 2013 (CNA) - Over 35,000 people have signed up for, a service of the Fellowship of Catholic University Students that sends out a free text and e-mail alert when the next Pope is elected.

“The reaction has been fantastic and overwhelming,” Kevin Cotter, FOCUS web director, told CNA March 11. “It’s been great to be at the forefront of Catholic new media and getting the word out there.”

Demand for the service has been high since its launch on Saturday March 9. As of Monday morning, over 35,000 people had registered for the service. The website received over 140,000 page views.

“It’s really exploded and caught on fire,” Cotter said. “There’s a lot of social media traction.”

FOCUS staff will use the service to notify registered users when white smoke appears from the chimney above the Sistine Chapel, the traditional signal that the next Pope has been elected. It is sponsored by the organization, which is based in the Denver area.

Cotter was inspired to launch the site because he could not find any service to alert him when the white smoke is first seen. He said the 2013 conclave marks the first time a papal election has taken place with this technology.

The web director noted that the success of and an unrelated initiative called Adopt-a-Cardinal shows that Catholics are “very excited” about praying for the next Pope, about knowing who he is and about supporting him.

Cotter said that secular media sometimes has a “downtrodden view” of Catholics relative to the papacy that ignores many Catholics.

“We’re very enthusiastic about the Church,” he said. “There are a lot of Catholics out there that have a real optimism.”

“The Church is made for greatness,” he added. “We don’t always live up to that greatness, but we aspire to it and we want to be led to further greatness to continue the work of John Paul II and Benedict XVI.”

FOCUS is attempting to expand service to meet demand in the U.S. and Canada.

The service presently requires a U.S. or Canadian phone number. Cotter told CNA that FOCUS is working to respond to the many international requests for a PopeAlarm site that can handle text messaging in other countries.

PopeAlarm will also announce the papal election through its Twitter account “@popealarm.”

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Cardinal Sodano prays for Pope generous in charity

Vatican City, Mar 12, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - The dean of the College of Cardinals celebrated Mass this morning and prayed for a new Pope that will embrace the mission of charity with a generous heart.

“My brothers, let us pray that the Lord will grant us a pontiff who will embrace this noble mission (of charity) with a generous heart,” Cardinal Angelo Sodano said in St. Peter’s Basilica on March 12.

“Let us pray that the future Pope may continue this unceasing work on the world level,” he added.

Cardinal Sodano gave his homily in Italian and drew out themes from the two readings and the Gospel.

He focused on the importance of love in charity with his reflections on the reading from Isaiah, the necessity of unity in the Church with the reading from Ephesians, and the mission of the future Pope in his thoughts on the Last Supper account from St. John’s Gospel.

Expanding on the importance of love for the new Pope, Cardinal Sodano looked back at “the last popes” who have been “”builders of so many good initiatives for people and for the international community, tirelessly promoting justice and peace.”

The Mass was celebrated in Latin at 10:00 a.m. local time and finished just before noon.

“The basic attitude of every shepherd is to lay down one’s life for his sheep,” Cardinal Sodano said. “This also applies to the Successor of Peter, pastor of the Universal Church.

“As high and universal as the pastoral office is, so much greater must be the charity of the Shepherd,” he added.

Cardinal Sodano filled out his description of charity by underscoring that Jesus entrusted “the mission of mercy” to the pastors of his Church and that it “must be embraced by every priest and bishop, especially the Pope.”

“It is important, however, to remember that the greatest work of charity is evangelization, which is the “ministry of the word,” he stated, quoting Benedict XVI’s encyclical on charity.

“There is no action more beneficial, and therefore more charitable, towards one’s neighbor than to break the bread of the word of God.”

Today’s Mass proceeds the Conclave, which will officially begin once the Sistine Chapel’s doors are closed at around 5:30 p.m. local time.

The cardinals will process from the Pauline Chapel to the Sistine Chapel by passing through Regia Hall, beginning at around 4:30 p.m. local time.

They will sing the Litany of the Saints while they walk, and once they arrive in the Sistine Chapel they will sing Veni Creator Spiritus.

Then, at around 4:45 p.m., the cardinal electors will all take a general oath together, which will proceed an individual oath.

The papal master of ceremonies, Monsignor Guido Marini, will then declare “extra omnes” and the doors will be shut.

A possible first vote for the new Pope could take place this evening, and if that happens, the smoke will be seen around 8:00 p.m.

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Cardinals will begin conclave with songs, prayers and oaths

Vatican City, Mar 12, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - The doors of the Sistine Chapel will be closed this evening with the declaration “extra omnes” – everyone out, beginning the Conclave that will choose the next Pope.

The ceremony, called the “Rite for Entrance into Conclave,” will begin with a procession from the Pauline Chapel to the Sistine Chapel, a walk of about 50 yards through Regia Hall.

The procession will be led by the cross, followed by the Book of Gospels, the Secretary of the Conclave, Cardinal Prosper Grech – who will lead the final meditation before the voting starts – and finally the rest of the cardinals in the reverse order of their hierarchical precedence (deacons, priests, bishops).

The first person in today’s procession will be American Cardinal John M. Harvey and the last one will be Italian Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re.

There are three orders of cardinals – deacons, priests and bishops – and their rank generally corresponds to the type of ministry they are engaged in.

Cardinal deacons lead departments within the Roman Curia, cardinal priests shepherd the dioceses around the world, and cardinal bishops are senior members of the College of Cardinals who are engaged in full-time work with the Curia. The Pope also gives Eastern Catholic patriarchs the title of cardinal bishop.

As they process from the Pauline Chapel to the Sistine Chapel, the cardinals will sing the Litany of the Saints, asking for their prayers as they head into the Conclave.

Once the cardinals reach the Sistine Chapel they will sing the hymn Veni Creator Spiritus (Come Holy Spirit), and then proceed to take their oaths of secrecy, which have both a general and individual component.

The papal master of ceremonies, Monsignor Guido Marini, will then declare “extra omnes” and the doors will be closed.

The cardinals could vote tonight, but they are not required to, Vatican press office director Father Federico Lombardi told the press on March 12.

The first smoke is expected to appear around 8:00 p.m. Rome time.

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Black smoke, no Pope yet

Rome, Italy, Mar 12, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Black smoke rose from the chimney atop the Vatican's Sistine Chapel at 7:42 p.m. local time on March 12, signaling that the College of Cardinals has not yet come to an agreement in electing the Church's new Pope.

Voting will continue on March 13, starting at approximately 9:30 a.m. local time. Four votes are held per day - two in the morning and two in the evening.

Smoke is sent up after the two morning votes – around noon – and then again after the afternoon set of votes – around 7:00 p.m.

However, if the first vote of either the morning or afternoon set results in the election of a new Pope, the smoke will be seen earlier.

In addition to casting their votes, the cardinals spend much of their day in prayer – including Mass and the Rosary – as they call upon the Holy Spirit to guide them in choosing the successor of Peter.

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Denver archbishop laments passage of civil unions bill

Denver, Colo., Mar 12, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Archbishop Samuel Aquila of Denver called the Colorado legislature's passage of a civil unions bill a “regrettable move” harming families, children, and religious freedom.

“Today our state and federal Constitutions have been dealt a troubling blow,” he said March 12.

“Marriage is a stabilizing institution at the foundation of civil society. Religious liberty is a civil rights issue. Today both have been grievously harmed.”

The Colorado House approved the bill which would allow same-sex couples to form civil unions by a 39-26 vote in which the Democrats were joined by two Republicans to support the bill.

The bill had previously been approved by the state Senate, and now heads to the desk of Democratic governor John Hickenlooper. He has said he plans to sign it into law, and the ceremony is expected to take place this month.

Archbishop Aquila called the bill “the beginning of an effort to redefine the family in Colorado and to undermine the right of all children to have a mother and a father.”

“Civil unions are not about equality, tolerance or fairness. They create an alternate reality in which all institutions can be self-defined. Make no mistake: Civil unions are the first step to redefining marriage and to radically redefining the concept of civil rights.”

He said that civil rights, properly understood, are matters of “protecting individuals and institutions from tyranny or oppression,” rather than “providing legal endorsement to all conceivable social arrangements and constructs.”

The archbishop said that while the Church recognizes and affirms the dignity of every human person, it does not follow from this that all relationships are equal.

“Marriage is a unique social relationship between a man and a woman which exists for the good of children and as the foundation of all human communities. Marriage has been uniquely protected in law for millennia in order to preserve and promote the foundations of all social stability.”

He said the bill is “particularly troubling” because it fails to include a religious liberty provision which would ensure that adoption agencies would not be required to place children with same-sex or unmarried couples.

“The ability for religious-based institutions to provide foster care and adoption services for Colorado’s children is now dangerously imperiled,” noted Archbishop Aquila.

Republican efforts to include religious liberty exemptions were defeated, and the bill's senate sponsor, Pat Steadman, said his response to those concerned for religious freedom was, “Get thee to a nunnery and live there then. Go live a monastic life away from modern society, away from the people you can’t see as equal to yourself.”

The archbishop called these comments “woefully antagonistic to Catholics, to Christians and to all people of faith and good will.”

The previous year's version of the bill had included a provision for religious liberty, but was defeated by the then-Republican controlled legislature.

Archbishop Aquila said that “marriage is a stabilizing institution at the foundation of civil society. Religious liberty is a civil rights issue.”

“Today both have been grievously harmed,” he concluded.

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Businessmen join in spiritual bouquet for cardinal electors

Denver, Colo., Mar 12, 2013 (CNA) - The Catholic Business Journal is encouraging its readers, radio audience and online subscribers to join in a spiritual bouquet to pray for the cardinal electors as they gather to choose the next Pope.

“We take action with our vibrant prayers, for the cardinals themselves, and for the Church,” said Karen Walker, founder of Catholic Business Journal, an online business platform for networking, faith building and the exchange of ideas.

The spiritual bouquet, which will be presented to the next Pope after his election, is being organized by Catholic Action for Faith and Family, a group that works to defend Catholic teaching.

“Now is a time for great prayer,” said Dick Lyles, host of a radio show produced by Catholic Business Journal and aired on the EWTN Global Catholic Network.

“As Catholic business professionals, we are called to be faithful, right where we are...prayer remains the most important way we can support our cardinals at this time.”

Spiritual bouquets consist of prayers and penances, such as attendance at Mass, holy Communions, rosaries, litanies and fasting, which one offers for someone else.

“The idea of a spiritual bouquet is that each prayer is like a flower,” explained Thomas McKenna, founder of Catholic Action for Faith and Family.

“The collection of prayers is like a bouquet mystically offered as a gift to God for a particular intention,” he added.

McKenna said the idea of this spiritual bouquet came to him after a conversation with Cardinal Raymond Burke.

“I asked Cardinal Burke if there was anything I could do and he responded that his only request was for prayers,” McKenna said.

Walker noted that while “we are not cardinals...we can certainly take action in (the) historic choice of a new pope.”

“We are encouraging our audience of Catholic business professionals to lead the way for prayer in their communities, by participating in the Spiritual Bouquet of prayers initiated by Catholic Action for Faith and Family,” she added.

All those wishing to join in the bouquet can go to to register their prayer offerings.

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Vatican details how new smoke signals are produced

Vatican City, Mar 12, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Varying chemical compounds have replaced wet straw and pitch to produce the Vatican smoke signal that is used to communicate the result of conclave voting sessions.

Fr. Thomas Rosica, assistant to the Vatican press office director, explained that since 2005 the Vatican has used chemical compounds to better communicate the result of the conclave.

“For a Church that has made much progress in the area of modern communications, computer technology, Internet and Twitter, the conclave still relies on smoke signals to let the world know of its results,” he said in a March 11 statement to the press.

In the past, wet straw was used to create the white smoke, while pitch – a tar-like substance – was used to create black smoke.

Due to a number of “false alarms” in the past, Fr. Rosica explained, the Vatican has sought the help of “modern chemistry” to produce more easily distinguishable shades of smoke.

Now, the black smoke is produced by a mixture of potassium perchlorate, anthracene, and sulphur, while the white smoke is made by burning a mixture of potassium chlorate, lactose, and rosin – a natural amber resin.

A traditional stove inside the Sistine Chapel is used to burn the ballots following a voting session, while a separate stove that sits alongside it helps produce the distinctive black or white smoke.

Depending on the result of the vote, an electronic control panel is used to request chemical compounds that have been pre-mixed by Vatican technicians which will then produce either shade of smoke.

Although two separate units are used to create the smoke, the plume comes out of one chimney by the time it emerges above the Sistine Chapel. The smoke stack is pre-heated and contains a backup fan to help ventilation if necessary.

Black smoke, as was seen at 7:42 p.m. Rome time March 12, indicates a failed conclave. By contrast, white smoke accompanied by the ringing of the Vatican bells will signal that a new Pope has been selected.

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Congress, UN petitioned for release of Iranian pastor

Washington D.C., Mar 12, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Efforts have intensified to free an American citizen imprisoned in Iran for his work as a Christian pastor, with religious liberty advocates appealing to both the United Nations and U.S. lawmakers.
“Saeed’s imprisonment is a clear violation of the rule of law and of his fundamental right to exercise his religion of choice,” said Dr. Grégor Puppinck, director general of the European Centre for Law and Justice.

Puppinck testified on March 5 before the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, where he called for the pastor’s release from prison.

Abedini, who grew up as an Iranian Muslim, converted to Christianity in 2000 and has been a United States citizen since 2010, following his marriage to his American wife.

The pastor worked with house churches in Iran until the government ordered him to stop doing so in 2009, when he turned his attention to non-religious orphanages.

However, despite complying with the regime’s demands, he was arrested in September 2012 during a visit to work with these orphanages. Charged with posing a threat to national security for his earlier work with the churches, Abedini was sentenced to eight years in Tehran’s Evin Prison, which has a record of harsh treatment for its inmates.

The European law center and its American counterpart have been working to secure Abedini’s liberty, petitioning the U.S. State Department and organizing a petition that has garnered nearly 450,000 signatures.

According to the American Center of Law and Justice, while in prison, “Saeed has been repeatedly beaten, denied access to medical care, subjected to intense interrogations, and threatened with death all because he peacefully exercised his Christian faith.”

In addition, the organization says that while the pastor was arrested for threatening national security, “Iranian media and his attorney have reported that Saeed was put on trial solely because of his religious activities.”

“It is absolutely imperative to stand up for the most basic of human rights,” the group stressed.

Puppinck’s testimony appealed to the United Nations’ Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which prohibit “restricting religious freedom on the basis of national security.”

He argued that Abedini’s “peaceful, private religious gatherings are not a threat to national security” and emphasized that “the primary holders of religious freedom are the individuals.”

In order to ensure that individuals are not “prisoners” of their religious groups, he explained, “their individual right and freedom to change religious affiliation, to convert, must be protected, especially for those who leave the majority religion to join a minority religion.”

The American Center for Law and Justice also plans to call attention to Abedini’s plight at a March 15 hearing before the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, a bi-partisan council in the U.S. House of Representatives that aims to “promote, defend and advocate internationally recognized human rights norms.”

“This hearing represents a significant opportunity to elevate Pastor Saeed's plight and to encourage our State Department and White House to engage this case at the highest levels,” said the group’s chief counsel, Jay Sekulow.

“For a U.S. citizen to be facing years in one of Iran's most deadly prisons - beaten and abused daily - simply because of his Christian faith - is unconscionable,” he stressed.

Sekulow will be testifying at the hearing, along with Abedini’s wife, Naghmeh.

He explained that “more than 100 members of Congress” have recognized the religious freedom threat found in Abedini’s imprisonment and “have called for the release” of the pastor.

The American center for law and justice is “grateful for the opportunity” to stand up for Abedini and for “the human rights and religious freedom of those who are facing similar situations because of their faith,” he added.

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