Washington D.C., May 22, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
In a move that could have national consequences for prayer in public life, the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear a federal case challenging the constitutionality of opening prayers at the town council meetings of Greece, New York.
“It is perfectly constitutional to allow community members to ask for God's blessing according to their conscience,” Brett Harvey, Senior Counsel with the Alliance Defending Freedom, told CNA May 21.
“A Supreme Court ruling reaffirming this historic tradition and making clear that prayer givers are permitted to pray consistent with the dictates of their own conscience would both uphold the original understanding of the Constitution and provide needed clarity to put an end to these attacks on our American heritage.”
Greece is a Rochester suburb with 90,000 people. The Alliance Defending Freedom is supporting the town’s defense against two plaintiffs, Susan Galloway and Linda Stephens.
The two claim that the public prayers which open local town council meetings unconstitutionally privilege Christianity. Since the prayers began in 1999, they objected, almost all of those who delivered prayers have been Christians.
Non-Christians who have delivered prayers include a Jewish layperson, a local Baha'i leader, a Wiccan priestess and an atheist.
The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled against the town. Judge Guido Calabresi, who authored the opinion, said that although the town allows anyone to volunteer it did not solicit volunteers or inform the general public that volunteers would be considered or accepted.
He emphasized that the court did not say that government bodies can never open a session with prayer, Reuters reports.
Rev. Barry Lynn, a United Church of Christ minister who heads the group Americans United for Separation of Church and State, opposed the prayers. He said that a town council meeting is not a church service and “shouldn’t seem like one.”
Harvey, however, said the case “defends a historic practice of opening public meetings by seeking divine guidance.” He added that the Supreme Court has ruled public prayer a part of the “history and tradition” of the United States.
“The founders prayed while drafting our constitution’s Bill of Rights,” he said. “America continues this cherished practice, and a few people should not be able to extinguish the traditions of our nation merely because they heard something they didn’t like.”
Harvey said there have been 20 different federal lawsuits filed against local governments asking that they abandon their traditions of prayer.
“A ruling against the Town of Greece would multiply the attacks on the historic practice of seeking divine guidance at public meetings and would suggest that the authors of the Bill of Rights were violating the Constitution, even as they were writing it,” he said.
A decision on the case will likely take place during the court’s next term, which lasts from October 2013 to June 2014.
New Orleans, La., May 22, 2013 (CNA) - The International Alliance of Catholic Knights has named as its deputy president F. DeKarlos Blackmon, Supreme Knight of the Knights of Peter Claver.
Blackmon, 36, said he will use his new role to deepen the faith of alliance members and all Catholics while encouraging “active and generous participation in the life and mission of the Church,” the New Orleans-based Knights of Peter Claver reported May 16.
Gene A. Phillips, Sr., past Supreme Knight of the Knights of Peter Claver, said the organization is “extremely proud to have the United States represented in the leadership of this vital organization.”
The International Alliance of Catholic Knights has 15 member orders with a combined presence in 27 countries. It was founded in Glasgow, Scotland in October 1979 to advance mutual cooperation between member orders and to help expand Catholic knighthood, the alliance’s website says. It is a Vatican-recognized association of the Catholic faithful.
The coalition aims to help evangelize the world for Jesus Christ and to support the Pope and all bishops, priest and religious. It intends to fulfill the vision of Father Michael J. McGivney, the founder of the Knights of Columbus.
The Knights of Peter Claver and the Knights of Columbus represent the United States in the alliance.
Blackmon is a pastoral associate and director of liturgy and music at St. Joseph Parish in Huntsville, Ala. He is a Benedictine oblate and a former U.S. Army chaplain.
His election drew congratulations from Auxiliary Bishop Shelton J. Fabre of New Orleans and Auxiliary Bishop Martin D. Holley of the Archdiocese of Washington, chaplain of the Knights of Peter Claver.
He has headed the only historically black Catholic fraternal organization in the U.S. since 2010. The Knights of Peter Claver take as their model the seventeenth-century Jesuit priest who ministered to Colombian slaves. They are present in about 39 U.S. states and South America.
Blackmon will serve under the International Alliance of Catholic Knights’ new president, Brother David Huppatz, a past Supreme Knight of Australia’s Knights of the Southern Cross.
Both were elected to a two-year term. Their installation will take place at the end of the alliance’s September 2013 international council meeting in The Gambia, home of alliance member the Fraternal Order of Sts. Peter and Paul.
Other member orders include the Knights of St. Columba in the U.K. and the Knights of St. Columbanus in Ireland. The alliance’s website is www.iack.org.
Greenville, S.C., May 22, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Editor and author Joseph Pearce's new work, “Shakespeare on Love,” sees the Catholic presence in “Romeo and Juliet” and corrects popular interpretations of the play, which see the pair only as victims.
“If we're not prepared to treat it as a cautionary tale, with Romeo and Juliet being in the wrong, the play is unsettling, because somehow they're the good guys and yet they finish so badly, and surely it's not fair,” Pearce, Thomas More College of Liberal Arts' writer-in-residence, told CNA May 20.
“But once you understand that actually the outcome is the consequence of their own actions, decisions, and choices, and also sins of omission of the lack of parental guidance – parental bad influence actually – all of a sudden it is seen as a profoundly Christian, cautionary tale.”
Pearce explained that his motivation for writing “Shakespeare on Love,” released in March by Ignatius Press, was to “correct the misreading of 'Romeo and Juliet' by the modern academy.” Some interpret the lovers as victims of fate, with no one at fault in their death because fortune and fate eradicate free will.
Since the 19th century and the Romantic era, when emotion was exalted over reason, the play has been read overwhelmingly through that lens, seeing Romeo and Juliet as heros for love and victims of their families' hatred for each other.
The Romantic reading of “Romeo and Juliet” distorts the meaning of love, Pearce said, making it “really about feelings, and that feeling usurps reason where romance and love is concerned, and it's become the norm for critics to read 'Romeo and Juliet' in that way.”
“But of course 'Romeo and Juliet' was not written in the light of Romanticism...but in the light of a profoundly Christian understanding of morality and love, with love being something that is connected to reason and will, and the necessity of laying down one's life for the beloved.”
“Shakespeare on Love” is meant to “rectify the non-Christian understanding” of “Romeo and Juliet,” analyzing the play's text to demonstrate how Shakespeare portrays the pair as culpable for their outcome, stuck in a self-indulgent passion that ultimately harms them both.
Pearce shows that Shakespeare portrays both Romeo and Juliet as lacking prudence and temperance, but that their elders, who ought to guide them in the virtues are similarly lacking. Pearce then sees the play as a tool for teaching morality and the nature of true love.
Since “Romeo and Juliet,” together with “Julius Caesar” is one of the most widely taught texts of Shakespeare in high schools, Pearce considered it important to correct its interpretation, saying it is “almost invariably taught badly.”
“Shakespeare is a powerful voice, a voice that's been distorted by the secular academy, and that's something that needs to be rectified,” Pearce concluded.
His reading of the the text of “Romeo and Juliet” is meant “to have Shakespeare understood as Shakespeare understood himself.”
Vatican City, May 22, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
As he hosted his weekly Wednesday audience in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis made his fourth appeal for prayer for the victims of the tornado that killed 24 people in Oklahoma.
Before he greeted all of the English-speaking people at the May 22 general audience, Pope Francis invited everyone present to pray for those who were killed or injured by the May 20 tornado that ravaged the Oklahoma City suburb of Moore.
The death toll was originally reported as 91 people, including 20 children, but subsequent counts showed that some casualties were counted twice in the chaos. According to the state’s chief medical officer Doctor Eric Pfeifer, the correct number of dead stands at 24, with nine of those being children.
Besides his request at the general audience, the Pope also sent a May 21 message to Archbishop Paul S. Coakley of Oklahoma City, in which he asked the archbishop to “convey to the entire community the assurance of his solidarity and closeness in prayer.”
“Conscious of the tragic loss of life and the immensity of the work of rebuilding that lies ahead, he asks Almighty God to grant eternal rest to the departed, comfort to the afflicted, and strength and hope to the homeless and injured,” reads the message sent by Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone.
In his first two requests for prayer – during the prayer intentions for his daily Mass and then via Twitter – Pope Francis singled out for particular prayer the tragic death of the children who were killed by the storm.
He repeated that plea in his message to the Oklahoma City archbishop, saying, “in particular way he commends to the Father of Mercies the many young children among the victims and their grieving families.”
“Upon the local civil and religious leaders, and upon all involved in the relief efforts His Holiness invokes the Risen Lord's gifts of consolation, strength and perseverance in every good,” his telegram concluded.
Vatican City, May 22, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
The Holy Spirit made it possible for everyone to hear the apostles in their own language on Pentecost, uniting people who were divided, Pope Francis said, calling on Christians to witness to the faith in a way that reconciles and is forgiving.
“We should all ask ourselves: ‘how do I let myself be guided by the Holy Spirit so that my witness of faith is one of unity and communion? Do I bring the message of reconciliation and love that is the Gospel to the places where I live?’” the Pope said in his May 22 message for the general audience.
The descent of the Holy Spirit undid “the dispersion of peoples and the confusion of tongues” that began with the Tower of Babel, the Pope noted, explaining that the men of the time acted with “arrogance and pride” in wanting to build the tower on their “own strength, and without God.”
Pope Francis address to the crowd of around 50,000 pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square was dedicated to examining the phrase from the Creed, “We believe in One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.” The talk was part of an ongoing series of reflections during the Year of Faith on the Creed that was started by Benedict XVI.
The pontiff stated that the previous line of the Creed on the Holy Spirit has “a deep connection” to the mission and characteristics of the Church that he dwelt on today.
The Holy Spirit “gives life to the Church, guides her steps. Without the presence and the incessant action of the Holy Spirit, the Church could not live and could not accomplish the task that the Risen Jesus has entrusted her: to go and make disciples of all nations,” the Pope explained.
For that reason, he focused his reflection on three ways that the anointing of the Holy Spirit changes people, marks the Church and prepares it to evangelize.
“Sometimes it seems that what happened at Babel is repeated today; divisions, the inability to understand each other, rivalry, envy, selfishness,” the Holy Father observed.
So he asked the crowd to think about the questions, “What do I do with my life? Do I bring unity? Or do I divide with gossip and envy?”
“Bringing the Gospel means we in the first place must live reconciliation, forgiveness, peace, unity, love that the Holy Spirit gives us. Let us remember the words of Jesus: ‘By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another,’” the Pope said, quoting John 4.
The second way the Spirit prepares believers to share the Gospel is by instilling courage in them, he told the crowd.
“Here is another effect of the Holy Spirit: Courage! – the courage to proclaim the newness of the Gospel of Jesus to all, with self-confidence (parrhesia), in a loud voice, in every time and in every place,” he said.
“And this happens even today for the Church and for each of us,” Pope Francis insisted, urging people, “never be closed to this action!”
“Because evangelizing, announcing Jesus, evangelizing brings us joy! It energizes us. Being closed up within ourselves brings bitterness. Proclaiming the joy and hope that the Lord brings to world lifts us up!” the Pope proclaimed.
But all of this is not possible without a “faithful and intense relationship with God,” the pontiff said as he moved into his third point.
“I will only mention a third element, but it is particularly important: a new evangelization, a Church that evangelizes must always start from prayer, from asking, like the Apostles in the Upper Room, for the fire of the Holy Spirit.
“Without prayer our actions become empty and our proclamation soulless; it is not animated by the Spirit,” he stressed.
Pope Francis encouraged Christians to entrust themselves to the Holy Spirit because he “enables us to live and bear witness to our faith, and enlighten the hearts of those we meet.”
He finished his thoughts on the connection between the Church and the Holy Spirit by recalling Benedict XVI’s statement that the Church today “especially feels the wind of the Holy Spirit that helps us, shows us the right path, and so, with new enthusiasm, we are on our journey and we thank the Lord.”
At the end of the audience the Pope also offered a special message the Catholic in China, who will celebrate the feast of Our Lady Help of Christians on May 24.
May they proclaim Christ “dead and risen, with humility and joy; be faithful to his Church and the Successor of Peter; and live their everyday lives in service to their country and their fellow citizens in a manner consistent with the faith they profess,” he said.
Vatican City, May 22, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
The Vatican revealed that its enhanced procedures have enabled it to flag more suspicious transactions in 2012 than it did in 2011.
“I’m not saying that everything is great and perfect, but that a lot of progress has been made in the last two years,” said Rene Brülhart, director of the Financial Information Authority, at the Vatican’s press office.
“It’s important that we’re setting a system here to protect the Holy See,” he added.
The Vatican’s Financial Information Authority made the statistics public at a May 22 press conference, where it made its first-ever annual report available.
The report shows that in 2012 there were six reports of suspicious activity, versus one in 2011.
Brülhart said this proves that his department and its system, which became operational in April 2011, are working well.
The director explained that the six suspicious transactions involved sums of money greater than 10,000 Euros ($13,000) but would not provide additional details.
He also revealed that the Financial Authority asked the Promoter of Justice’s office within the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to study two of the cases and said that they could be related to money laundering.
He stressed that international cooperation to help combat money laundering was “absolutely key and crucial” and that the Vatican is “a key player in global fight of money laundering.”
The Financial Information Authority was set up to help combat money laundering and the financing of terrorism and hired Brülhart as its director just a few months ago.
According to the Swiss native, combating money laundering in the Vatican began back in 2010 after Pope Benedict XVI released a “motu proprio” that laid out the procedures.
“There’s no financial sector in the Vatican, no stock exchange, so it’s a completely different environment,” Brülhart said.
He noted that his office has two functions: to work as an intelligence unit and to supervise the so-called Vatican bank, which is officially called the Institute for Works of Religion.
The Vatican bank also recently received a new president, Ernst von Freyberg, who announced May 13 that it will make its annual report public and launch a website to better inform the public about its mission.
Vatican City, May 22, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Pope Francis thanked the Missionaries of Charity for their work and described one of their houses located inside the Vatican “a beautiful reality” and “a school of charity.”
“I thank all those who in various ways support this beautiful reality of the Vatican,” said Pope Francis during a May 21 evening visit to celebrate the residence’s 25th anniversary.
“This house is a place that teaches charity, a school of charity, that teaches us to go out to every person, not for profit, but out of love,” he stated at the Gift of Mary House.
He noted that “at the border between the Vatican and Italy, it is a powerful reminder to all of us, to the Church, to the city of Rome, to always be more of a family, a home in which we are open to welcome, to attention, and to fraternity.”
Blessed John Paul II placed the house under the care of the sisters on May 21, 1998.
“How many people have you fed in these years, how many wounded, above all wounded spiritually, have you cared for!” he emphasized.
“My presence here tonight is to give first of all my heartfelt thanks to the Missionaries of Charity, founded by Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, working here for 25 years, with many volunteers, in favor of so many people in need of help, thank you!” he told them.
Around 25 homeless women are allowed to live in the residence, and the sisters feed around 60 people each day at the house.
“A home represents the most precious human wealth, that of encounter, that of the relationships between persons of different ages, cultures, and histories who live together and who, together, help one another to grow, and that is what this house has sought to be for 25 years,” said Pope Francis.
Archbishop Georg Gänswein, Prefect of the Papal Household, and Monsignor Alfred Xuereb, the Pope’s personal secretary, accompanied the pontiff on his 5:30 p.m. visit.
The meeting was held in the courtyard located between the Gift of Mary House, the Palace of the Holy Office and the Atrium of the Paul VI Hall.
Cardinal Angelo Comastri and the Mother General of the Missionaries of Charity, Sister Mary Prema Pierick, welcomed Pope Francis.
The sisters then placed a garland of flowers around the Pope’s neck, following Indian tradition.
Over 100 people were also at the house, including its patrons, employees, friends and guests as well as Missionaries of Charity from other different communities around Rome.
The Pope described the homeless women living at the house as its “gift” and “a gift to the Church.”
“You tell us that loving God and our neighbor is not something abstract but profoundly concrete,” he stated.
“It means seeing in every person the face of the Lord to serve and serving him concretely,” he added.
According to the Pope, people everywhere must recover the entire sense of gift, gratuity and solidarity.
“A savage capitalism has taught the logic of profit at any cost, give in order to get, exploitation without looking at persons, and we see the results in the crisis we are living through!” said the pontiff.
Pope Francis noted that another feature of the house is that it is “qualified as a gift of Mary” and she is an example of living charity towards our neighbor, “not out of social duty, but starting from God's love.”
Vatican City, May 22, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Every human person despite his or her beliefs can do good, and a sharing in good works is the prime place for encounter among those who disagree, Pope Francis said at his Mass today.
“The Lord created us in his image and likeness, and we are the image of the Lord, and he does good and all of us have this commandment at heart: do good and avoid evil. All of us,” the Pope taught in his homily May 22 at St. Martha's residence in the Vatican.
“We must meet one another doing good. ‘But I don’t believe, Father, I am an atheist!’ But do good: we will meet one another there.”
The Mass was concelebrated by Cardinal Bechara Boutros Rai, the Maronite Patriarch of Antioch, and attended by employees of the Vatican's governorate, or executive branch.
During his homily, the Bishop of Rome reflected on Christ's response to his disciples, who thought that anyone outside their group could not do good.
“If he is not one of us, he cannot do good. If he is not of our party, he cannot do good.” This viewpoint, Pope Francis said, “was wrong...Jesus broadens the horizon.”
He went on to explain that all human persons are created in the image of God, who is goodness himself and the source of goodness.
“But, Father, this is not Catholic! He cannot do good.' Yes, he can. He must. Not can: must! Because he has this commandment within him.”
The pontiff called this view, that only Catholics can do good, an intolerance and a “closing off” that can lead to war and blasphemy. Blasphemy, he explained, includes “killing in the name of God.”
He emphasized the universality of Christ's saving act on the cross as a compliment to the universal call to holiness, regardless of religious belief.
“The Lord has redeemed all of us, all of us, with the Blood of Christ: all of us, not just Catholics. Everyone.”
“Even the atheists. Everyone,” Pope Francis stressed.
He said that the saving blood of Christ “makes us children of God of the first class. We are created children in the likeness of God and the blood of Christ has redeemed us all. And we all have a duty to do good.”
The Pope said that because to do good is inscribed on the human heart and does not derive from creeds, “it is an identity card that our Father has given to all of us, because he has made us in his image and likeness. And he does good, always.”
Similarly, doing good “is a duty” for all people. The universal commandment to do good, he said, “is a beautiful path towards peace.”
“If we, each doing our own part, if we do good to others, if we meet there, doing good, and we go slowly, gently, little by little, we will make that culture of encounter: we need that so much.”
Noting the memorial of Saint Rita of Cascia, he concluded saying, “let us ask of her this grace, this grace that all, all, all people would do good and that we would encounter one another in this work.”
Washington D.C., May 22, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
In letters to top government officials, the U.S. bishops' conference urged a public discussion on the use of unmanned targeted killings, also known as drones, and their moral implications.
“Targeted killing should, by definition, be highly discriminatory,” wrote Bishop Richard E. Pates of Des Moines, Iowa, in the May 17 letter.
“The Administration’s policy appears to extend the use of deadly force to alleged 'signature' attacks and reportedly classifies all males of a certain age as combatants,” he asked.
“Are these policies morally defensible? They seem to violate the law of war, international human rights law, and moral norms,” the bishop said.
Bishop Pates is the chair of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace.
The letters were sent to National Security Adviser Thomas Donilon and to leaders of the Committees on Armed Services, Foreign Affairs, Foreign Relations, Homeland Security and Government Affairs, Judiciary, Oversight and Government Reform and the Select and Permanent Select Committees on Intelligence in both the House of Representatives and the Senate.
The bishop requested that these organizations reassess the use of drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles, in carrying out targeted killings.
The policy has come under public scrutiny for its use in civilian areas against non-military targets, low cost to the United States, and thus risk for overuse, increased risk of civilian casualties, and for whether or not it is a proportional response to a risk of terrorist attacks.
Bishop Pates noted that the United States and other countries have a right to defend themselves, but stated that the success of “a counter-terrorism campaign cannot be simply measured in terms of “combatants killed.”
He urged the organizations to consider the “serious moral questions” raised by drone use and requested that the administration open a “broader discussion” with the public about the morality and consequences of the drone policy.
The bishop also warned that unjust policies and high civilian casualties related to drone use “are likely to exacerbate anti-American sentiment, encourage recruitment by extremists, and undermine the international collaboration necessary to combat terrorism.”
Instead, the United states “should employ non-military assets to build peace through respect for human rights and addressing underlying injustices that terrorists unscrupulously exploit,” and help to advance “international norms, standards and restrictions” for the use of drones.
Bishop Pates challenged the government officials to create “a more comprehensive, moral and effective policy to resist terrorism,” and hoped that expressing the bishops’ concerns “will contribute to the formulation of a more comprehensive, moral and effective policy to resist terrorism.”