Archive of August 29, 2013

Critics say Joseph Bottum's marriage essay could confuse Catholics

Denver, Colo., Aug 29, 2013 (CNA) - Critics of a recent essay rejecting continued political opposition to “gay marriage” warn that the author risks confusing Catholics and helps empower a false vision of the fundamental institution of marriage.

Deacon Keith Fournier, editor in chief at Catholic Online, wrote on Aug. 28 that Catholic thinker Joseph Bottum’s essay could significantly “undermine the Catholic Church” and its teachings on marriage.

“That is because it will confuse many of the faithful,” the deacon said, calling the essay “dangerous” at a time when the Church faces “growing persecution” for defending “the truth concerning the nature of marriage and the family and society.”

In addition, he suggested that many evangelical Protestant leaders who greatly admire the Catholic Church’s clarity and uncompromising courage in proclaiming the truths of marriage may confuse the essay with the Church’s position as a whole, losing respect for the teachers of the Catholic faith.

In a 9,000-word essay, “The Things We Share,” published Aug. 23 in Commonweal magazine, Bottum contended that federal and state recognition of same-sex “marriage” is already so far advanced that Catholics should not expend energy and resources fighting it in judicial and legal spheres.

He said that Catholic arguments against “gay marriage” are not persuasive in the wider modern culture and appear to be blinding supporters of gay unions to the Catholic Church’s other efforts at evangelizing and spreading the faith.

Bottum is a former editor of First Things magazine, an ecumenical, conservative-leaning journal with a heavily Catholic emphasis and readership.

His prominence brought major attention to his Aug. 23 essay. The New York Times characterized him as a “conservative Catholic” who “now backs same-sex marriage.”

However, Bottum told CNA Aug. 26 that he is not a dissenting Catholic and accepts Church teaching that homosexual acts are wrong and that marriage is a union of one man and one woman.

He said that he had “in some ways set myself up to be misinterpreted” by consenting to the essay’s subtitle, “A Catholic’s Case for Same-sex Marriage.” The New York Times coverage also distorted his position, he said.

Bottum acknowledged that parts of his essay may have been unclear but said that he had not been intending to undermine the bishops or diverge from Church teaching on the sacrament of marriage.
Rather, he said that he believes Catholics should tolerate civil recognition of same-sex unions as an entity separate from Church-recognized marriage. He argued that Catholics should de-emphasize their political opposition to a civil redefinition of marriage in order to focus on other methods of evangelization, working to “re-enchant” the culture.

Bottum’s essay sparked online controversy, with some critics pointing to a 2003 document from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, in which then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who would become Pope Benedict XVI, said: “In those situations where homosexual unions have been legally recognized or have been given the legal status and rights belonging to marriage, clear and emphatic opposition is a duty.”

Several commenters argued that the length, indirect style and unclear wording of the piece lend themselves to easy confusion. Others disagreed with Bottum’s conclusion that it would – or even could – be beneficial for the Church to drop its resistance to a civil redefinition of marriage.

New York Times columnist Ross Douthat, writing in an Aug. 26 blog post, characterized the “wandering, complicated essay” as “deliberately discursive – to the point of obscuring, at times, exactly what kind of argument the former First Things editor is making.”

Douthat suggested that the essay can be read as “a literary Catholic’s attempt to wrench the true complexity of his faith back out of the complexity-destroying context of contemporary political debates.”

“He’s writing as someone who loves his church, and wants everyone else to love it as he does — and I don’t blame him for imagining that perhaps, just perhaps, ceasing to offer public resistance on the specific question of gay marriage would liberate the church from some the caricatures that the culture war has imposed upon it, and enable the world to see its richness with fresh eyes,” he observed.

“I don’t think it would actually work that way, for a variety of reasons,” Douthat said, while voicing “sympathy for the impulse that animates his essay, if not the conclusions that it draws.”

J.D. Flynn, a Catholic canon lawyer in Lincoln, Neb., writing in National Review Online Aug. 27, suggested that Bottum may have adopted a utilitarian approach to marriage out of a strong sense of pro-life conviction.

Haunted by the suffering of unborn children in abortion, he said, Bottum may have hoped that “moving past arguments about natural law and common welfare and sexual complementarity” would allow a greater focus on working to fight against abortion.

However, Flynn said, this was a mistake.

“Joseph Bottum knows that without a foundation of truth, laws against abortion are a faint hope. He knows that we order our common life to natural law in order to protect the unborn, and the disabled, and the elderly.”

Flynn asserted that most Catholic leaders might have “quietly agreed” with Bottum had he said that only the fight against redefining marriage “seems largely over.”

However, he objected to Bottum’s claim that the recognition of same-sex unions “might prove a small advance in love in a civilization that no longer seems to know what love is for.”

The “falsehood” of same-sex “marriage” cannot advance truth or charity, Flynn argued; rather, legal recognition of such unions will “lead only to greater injustice.”

Tom Hoopes, former editor of the National Catholic Register, argued that even if “marriage is a losing proposition for the Church,” it is one of those “things worth losing for.”

Writing for on Aug. 27, he pointed to the examples of St. Thomas More and John the Baptist, both of whom died for their defense of marriage.

These martyrs, he said, did not succeed in “winning the marriage fight” or even “(r)eversing the tide.” But they were willing to “lose big for marriage,” sacrificing their lives as a witness.

Because they are so foundational to society, Hoopes said, “potential parents deserve a special status” and the protections and encouragement that accompany marriage, even at a civil level.

“Maybe marriage has always been a losing cause,” he reflected. “But it has also always been the fundamental building block of society.”

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Charity 5K takes on new meaning as family preps for adoption

Washington D.C., Aug 29, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - The organizer of a charitable run to raise funds for orphans in China says the event has special meaning this year as her family is in the midst of adopting a child of their own.

“God has really opened a lot of doors and moved the process forward for us. The run has been a big blessing for us and even for our kids,” Katie Murphy, founder of the Run for the Little Flowers Virtual 5K, told CNA Aug. 27.

When she organized the race last year, it was to help support and raise awareness of the world’s 147 million orphans. At that time, she and her husband Peter had begun researching adoption for themselves after learning that they may no longer be able to have children.

Although their hearts were in it, the couple discerned that it was not the right time for them to adopt just yet.

“I was really searching to know what else I could do to make a difference for these children,” Murphy said.

Out of that desire, the Run for the Little Flowers Virtual 5K was formed. Promoted mainly by word of mouth and on her blog, “Blessed with Full Hands,” the “virtual 5K” had some 250 participants from nearly all 50 states signed up to run 3.1 miles in their own hometowns on the same day.

The $3,000 that was raised from the runners’ race registration went directly to Little Flowers Projects, a charity that seeks to “build a culture of life” by providing care for orphans in need of medical attention in China.

This year, Murphy hopes to sign up 500 runners for the race, but “realistically” is aiming to raise about $5,000 which would translate to having at least 300 runners signed up.

Not only was the run last year able to raise funds for orphans in China, but it also served as a catalyst for her family’s journey to adopt, of which they are now in the early stages.

“I really think that the thing that came from the run was our family starting the adoption process,” she said.

After putting trust in God for the success of the first run, Murphy said the family’s discernment of adoption became “much more God-led.”

“Not that it wasn’t before,” Murphy added, “but we were just really waiting on the Lord – this was clearly something we both felt open to and we were just waiting on (God’s) timing.”

Now, the couple is trying to keep their trust in God’s plan as they balance planning the race and raising funds for their adoption, which will cost about $30,000.

“We’ve had the very real conversation that this run could take money away from our fundraising efforts for our adoption – both of us just approach it as a total faith thing.”

Aside from the financial difficulties, Murphy realizes that adoption poses unique challenges to family life and bringing up children.

“You have to prepare yourself and your family for the ups and downs that are going to come after you bring the child home,” she explained. “This is a child that has been abandoned.”

“There is a brokenness there, whether we like it or not, that affects a child. Anybody who’s looking at adoption has to kind of know what may come with that.”

Similar to preparing for marriage, she noted, couples looking to adopt should focus on their whole lives together with the child, not just the day they bring them home.

“All the paperwork and stuff is kind of like your engagement phase,” she said. “You go through marriage prep and they teach you all these things, but if you are only using your engagement for the wedding day, you’re going to be in trouble.”

Overall, Murphy believes that adoption is a special calling similar to religious life or marriage.

“Although it’s extremely beautiful, it has its crosses; every family and every couple have to discern if that’s where God is leading them.”

To learn more about the Oct. 18 Run for the Little Flowers Virtual 5K, visit:

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US government condemns killings by Nigerian extremist group

Washington D.C., Aug 29, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - A spokesperson for the U.S. State Department said the United States “strongly condemns” recent killings in Nigeria and an Aug. 10 attack on a mosque reportedly perpetrated by Boko Haram-affiliated extremists.

“We extend our deepest sympathies to the families of those killed and concern for those wounded. The United States stands with the people of Nigeria to reject the indiscriminate attacks on worshippers of all faiths,” the spokesperson said Aug. 26.

The U.S. also condemned the extrajudicial executions of suspected Boko Haram members.

For the past decade, the militant Islamist group Boko Haram, whose name means “Western education is sinful,” has sought to impose Shariah law throughout Nigeria.

Suspected Boko Haram militants killed 44 people in a grisly attack on a northeast Nigerian village last week, adding to the conflict in the region.

“They set houses ablaze, shot people and even slit some people’s throats,” an emergency worker told Reuters on condition of anonymity.

The attack came in the village of Dumba in the northeastern state of Borno before sunrise on Aug. 20. The attackers may have slit their victims’ throats because gunfire would attract the attention of security forces, the Associated Press reports.

The attackers also reportedly gouged out the eyes of some survivors.

Several religious liberty groups have called on the U.S. government to officially recognize Boko Haram as a terrorist organization for its ongoing violent attacks against Christians.

Official designation of Boko Haram as a foreign terrorist group would allow the U.S. government to freeze or seize its bank accounts, to deport its members and associates, and to sanction the group’s funders.

More than 2,000 deaths have been attributed to the group since 2009.

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Pope Francis tells Augustinian order to be 'restless' in love

Vatican City, Aug 29, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Francis asked members of the Order of Saint Augustine gathered in Rome for the opening Mass of their meeting to be restless in continuing to seek the well-being of other people.

“Restlessness is also love, always seeking the good of others, of loved ones, with that intensity that also leads to tears,” Pope Francis said at the Basilica of Saint Augustine.

“The restlessness of love always encourages us to reach out to the other, without waiting for the other to express his needs,” he added Aug. 28.

Pope Francis presided over the Eucharistic celebration to launch the “general chapter” of the Augustinian order, which takes place every six years, and after several weeks of meetings results in choosing their new leader and setting out their aims until the next chapter.

The religious order gathered from five continents at the basilica alongside a number of other religious groups and lay men and women. Pope Francis greeted people who were waiting to see him along the street before entering the church.

Aug. 28 was the feast of Saint Augustine, who lived in modern day Algeria during the Roman Empire and converted to Christianity in his early thirties. The Order of Saint Augustine was founded in 1244 aimed at living and promoting the spirit of community as it was lived during the fourth the fifth centuries.

During his homily on Wednesday, the Pope spoke about the saint's restlessness, which ultimately led him to an encounter with God.

“Even in the discovery of God and in the encounter with Him, Augustine doesn’t stop, doesn’t rest, doesn’t become closed in on himself like those who have already arrived, but continues along the way,” he told the congregation.

“The restlessness of the quest for the truth, of the quest for God, becomes the restlessness of always coming to know Him better, and of going out of oneself in order to make Him known to others and this is the restlessness of love,” he explained.

The pontiff affirmed “the restless heart of Augustine has something to teach us,” which is “the restlessness of the spiritual quest, the restlessness of the encounter with God, the restlessness of love.”

“I would say to those who feel indifferent to God, towards the faith, to those who are far from God, or are abandoned, and even to us, with our distances and our abandonment towards God, little, perhaps, but there are so many in daily life: look into the depths of your heart,” he said.

“Look deep within yourself and ask yourself, do you have a heart that desires something great, or a heart that is put to sleep by material things?” the Pope remarked.

Pope Francis told the Augustinians that the saint’s restlessness became pastoral.

“Augustine is left with the restlessness from God, he never tires of announcing it, of evangelizing with courage, without fear,” he stressed.

He underscored that the saint did this “seeking to be the image of Jesus the Good Shepherd, who knows his sheep, indeed, as I love to repeat, who smells like his flock, and goes out to seek those who are lost.”

The pontiff noted that St. Augustine lived what Saint Paul told Timothy, and encouraged the congregation to “announce the word, be urgent in season and out of season, announce the Gospel with the magnanimous, large heart of a Pastor that is restless for his flock.”

“Always go out towards God, go out towards the flock,” Pope Francis said. “You should always be on the journey, always restless, and this is the peace of restlessness.”

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'Month of Martyrs' in Korea draws praise from Pope Francis

Seoul, South Korea, Aug 29, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Francis sent a message today to South Korea praising the country's decision to proclaim September as the “Month of Martyrs.”

“The Holy Father was pleased to learn that the Archdiocese of Seoul has proclaimed the month of Sept. 2013 the 'Month of Martyrs' in commemoration of those who laid down their lives for the Gospel in Korea,” read an Aug. 29 statement from the Vatican.

“His Holiness trusts that all who participate in pilgrimages during this month, aided by the prayers and example of the martyrs, will deepen their communion with the Lord Jesus Christ, who laid down his life,” continued the message signed by the Holy See’s Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone.

In his remarks to the Archbishop of Seoul – Archbishop Andrew Yeom Soo-jung – the pontiff noted that he wishes the pilgrims to deepen their communion with Jesus “so we might share in the inestimable gift of eternal life.”

The Pope added that he “prays that this occasion may be an opportunity for pilgrims to rekindle the faith in their hearts and so commit themselves more fully to the urgent task of evangelization.”

“Entrusting all the pilgrims to the powerful intercession of Mary, Mother of the Church, and the prayers of the martyrs of Korea, His Holiness willingly imparts his Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of peace and joy in our Lord,” he said.

The feast day of the Korean martyrs is on Sept. 20. Around 8,000 Catholics were killed during the 1800s for refusing to deny Christ in the country.

Full persecution began in 1839 during which many European priests were killed. Many seminarians were forced to leave the country and receive formation in Macau, China.

The first native priest was Father Andrew Kim Taegon and was assassinated in 1846, a year after he returned to Korea. Blessed John Paul II canonized 103 of the martyrs in May 1984.

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Rural children, families inspired by Thai diocesan program

Si Racha, Thailand, Aug 29, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - In Thailand, the Diocese of Chanthaburi is reaching out to rural residents through a human development program offering assistance to families and children of all religions.

“Kids need to be inspired to aspire, and especially rural kids, because unlike city kids they lack exposure and facilities,” Father Giuseppe Ekapop Phonmoon, director of the Chanthaburi diocese's office of Diocesan Social Action, told CNA.

On Aug. 22-23, the office held a program at the diocesan pastoral center in Si Racha to encourage inter-religious relations and to help develop the living conditions of rural residents in the diocese.

More than 100 children, both Catholics and Buddhists, participated in the two-day program.

Diocesan Social Action is a pastoral and social initiative of the Thai bishops' conference that promotes human dignity and the capacity for improving the life of rural and poor citizens irrespective of religion in the nation.

Fr. Phonmoon said the initiative has two dimensions: one “cognitive-educative,” and a “charitable,” action-oriented dimension.

The formative dimension includes a section to expose participants to the Catholic faith life and identity.

Diocesan Social Action also helps in financing micro-credit, helping farmers to buy agricultural products so long as they regularly attend the training program.

Fr. Joseph Chalerm Kitmongkhon, Chanthaburi diocese's director of family life, was a speaker at the two-day event and told CNA that the program is a challenging one.

Many of the families who participate are of “mixed religious marriages,” he said, and the program must respect them while orienting them to Catholic faith life and helping foster inter-religious dialogue.

Program participants become ambassadors of good will, receive training and help to develop their living conditions. The training is offered free of charge to the rural poor, as similar programs offered by other groups are generally cost-prohibitive for those who need them most, he said.

Catholics are a very small minority in the south-east Asian nation. In the Diocese of Chanthaburi, they are 0.8 percent of the population, and less than one percent of all Thais are Christian. Nearly 95 percent of Thais are Buddhist, and most of the remaining population is Muslim, making inter-religious relations a notable fact of life for Thai Catholics.

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Spanish religious sister remembered for devotion to immigrants

Barcelona, Spain, Aug 29, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Franciscan Sister Teresa Losada, known in Spain as “the nun of the immigrants,” died Aug. 25 at the age of 70 in the town of San Vicente dels Horts after a long battle with cancer.

Mayor Oriol Junqueras of San Vicente dels Horts was among the hundreds who attended her funeral Mass. He said Sister Teresa’s life and work were “filled with values, wisdom, generosity and humility.”

The town of San Vicente dels Horts has decreed three days of mourning for Sister Teresa’s death. Flags around the town were ordered to be flown at half mast.

Sister Teresa, who held a doctorate in Semitic languages, was an expert on the Islamic world. She taught for several years at the University of Barcelona, until she decided to devote herself entirely to the care of Muslim immigrants, especially those arriving from northern Africa to find work.

In 1977 she founded the Bayt-Al-Thaqafa (House of Culture) Center in Barcelona, which became a model for dialogue between Christianity and Islam. 

Today the center is run by the Franciscan Missionary Sisters of Mary and the Hospitaller Brothers of St. John of God. It provides employment training, personal development workshops for women, legal counsel and language courses for more than 4,000 people each year.

The center maintains a staff of 70 people, including religious sisters, professionals and volunteers.

Because of her work with the immigrants during almost three decades, Sister Teresa was named a consultor to the Pontifical Council for Religious Dialogue in 2000.

She received many other recognitions and awards.

In 2001 she was named an adoptive daughter of the town of San Vicente dels Horts. In 2002 the government of Catalonia honored her with the St. George’s Cross award, one of the highest civil distinctions granted to individuals and organizations that have made significant contributions to Catalonia, either through service to society and culture or by promoting Catalonia’s identity.

In 2012 she was given the Cassia Just award.

The following year, she received the Emmanuel Mounier award in recognition for “her commitment and work in support of Arab immigrants and for her conviction that mutual respect between cultures and religions is positive for all.”

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Pope and Jordanian king urge dialogue to end Syrian violence

Vatican City, Aug 29, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Francis met with King Abdullah II and Queen Rania of Jordan on Thursday morning, giving special attention to the Syrian conflict at a time when Western countries are considering military action.

Their Aug. 29 meeting reaffirmed the importance of dialogue and negotiation between all groups in Syrian society, L’Osservatore Romano reports. The meeting concluded that with the international community’s support, this dialogue is the only option to end the conflict.

Since the Syrian conflict began in spring of 2011, over 100,000 people have died. More than 2.5 million Syrians are estimated to have fled their homes. Many have become refugees inside or outside the country – some in neighboring countries such as Jordan.

U.S. President Barack Obama and leaders of several other Western countries are now considering military strikes against Syria following reports that Syrian government forces recently used chemical weapons in a major attack outside Damascus, killing hundreds of citizens.

The Syrian government has denied responsibility for the attack, instead blaming rebels. However, both Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron said this week that they do not believe it is possible that the opposition forces could have carried out the attack. The countries are still weighing military options in response.

The United Nations Security Council declined to authorize action against the regime after Russia voiced opposition. U.N. officials currently in Syria are still investigating the attack.

Both Vatican and local Church leaders have pleaded against military action from Western nations, stressing the harm such attacks could have on a large scale.

In addition, Pope Francis has called repeatedly for dialogue and cooperative efforts to address the growing crisis.

In a June 5 address to Catholic groups helping Syrian refugees, the Pontiff emphasized the importance of “the entire Christian community in this important work of assistance and aid.”

“Faced with the continuing violence and abuse, I strongly renew my appeal for peace,” he said.

Stressing “the good of the person and the protection of his dignity,” he urged support for “fruitful dialogue with the aim of putting an end to the war.”

Last weekend, he again called for an end to the violence in the country, offering prayers and solidarity to those who have been affected by the “multiplication of massacres and atrocious acts.”

Pope Francis’ Thursday discussion with King Abdullah and Queen Rania also covered other concerns in the Middle East, focusing in particular on restarting negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians.

King Abdullah later met with Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone and Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, Secretary for Relations with States.

The meetings voiced appreciation for King Abdullah’s commitment to interreligious dialogue and for his initiative to convene a conference in Amman in September to discuss the challenges presently facing Christians in the Middle East.

The meetings also noted the positive contributions of Christians to the Middle East.

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