Archive of December 19, 2013

Vatican documents translated in Tongan spread Church teaching

Auckland, New Zealand, Dec 19, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - A priest from the Polynesian country of Tonga has translated two Vatican documents into his native tongue, so as to deepen the faith life of his compatriots.

“It is important to have the primary materials of faith in local languages so that the people can enter into a deeper dialogue with the teachings of faith that can touch the heart,” Fr. Lines Folamoelao, the translator, who is a priest of the Diocese of Tonga, told CNA Dec 14.

“This is to help the faithful to continue to carry on the fervor of the Year of Faith.”

Fr. Folamoelao, who is serving as chaplain to the 9,000 Catholic Tongan migrants in the Auckland diocese of New Zealand, released his translations of the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church and of Pope Francis' first encyclical, “Lumen fidei,” at the close of the Year of Faith on Nov. 24.

All the printed copies of Fr. Folamoelao's translations have been acquired already, and he plans a second edition to meet demand.

“It has been my hobby to translate Papal encyclicals and works of the social teaching of the Church  into the Tongan language so that our people can read and follow the teachings of the Church,” he said, adding that he now plans to translate “Evangelii gaudium,” Pope Francis' apostolic exhortation on the new evangelization.

Fr. Folamoelao is a polyglot, able to speak Tongan, Fijian, English, French, German, some Hindi, and the classical languages Latin, Greek, and Hebrew. He attended seminary in Fiji, and holds a licentiate from the Pontifical Biblical Institute.

Tonga is an island nation in the South Pacific, located near Fiji and Samoa, with a population of 103,000. It's official languages are English and Tongan, an Austronesian language. Many Tongans have emigrated to Australia, New Zealand, and the US. Nearly the entire population is Christian.

The Diocese of Tonga serves the entire country, where there are more than 13,000 Catholics, or about 13 percent of the population.

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'Extreme' judicial appointee confirmed to key court position

Washington D.C., Dec 19, 2013 (CNA) - The confirmation of Cornelia “Nina” Pillard to the D.C. Federal Circuit Court of Appeals has prompted concerns from critics worried about her “radical” views on abortion and religious freedom.

Ed Whelan, president of the Washington, D.C.-based Ethics and Public Policy Center and former clerk to Justice Antonin Scalia, criticized Pillard’s “manifest extremism on abortion” and “extremism against religious liberty.”

Whelan offered reflections on Pillard’s confirmation in two Dec. 13 posts at “Bench Memos” for National Review Online.

He pointed to the fact “that three reputedly moderate Democrats voted against the Pillard’s nomination,” saying that this is a testament to her extreme views.

However, these votes against her also deal “a severe blow” to any “ambitions that Pillard might have had to use the D.C. Circuit as a stepping stone to the Supreme Court,” he said.  

Pillard, a Georgetown University law professor, has won several significant arguments, opening Virginia Military Institute to women and securing the constitutionality of the Family and Medical Leave Act.

However, she also has a record of advocating strongly for an unqualified right to access abortion and contraception, against the ability to teach abstinence education.

In a 2007 piece entitled “Our Other Reproductive Choices: Equality in Sex Education, Contraceptive Access, and Work-Family,” Pillard argued that the promotion of abstinence education and restrictions on abortion are unconstitutional and “at odds with equal protection” clauses.

Her views have also sparked religious freedom concerns. When presenting a 2011 briefing on the then-upcoming 2011-2012 Supreme Court cases, Pillard opposed a ruling in favor of a Lutheran school’s right to hire and fire its own religious employees, saying that it was “a substantial threat to the American rule of law.”

When the Supreme Court decided the case, Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church v. EEOC, it sided with the Lutheran school in a rare unanimous decision.

In September, Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), a ranking member of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, said in a testimony before the committee that additional judges in the court were unnecessary, in part because the D.C. Circuit has the lowest number of total appeals filed annually among all the circuit courts of appeals.

He added that a judge currently on the D.C. Circuit Court had told him that if “any more judges were added now, there wouldn’t be enough work to go around.”

Rather than responding to a legitimate need for more judges, Grassley voiced concern that the nominations may have been an effort by the Obama administration aimed at “switching the majority” of the court.

“I’m concerned,” he said of Pillard, “by the instances where she has really stretched the limits of thoughtful reasoning…at times she appears to advance her own extreme policy preferences.”

Carrie Severino, senior counsel for the Judicial Crisis Network, told CNA last month that the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals “is the most underworked federal appeals court in the nation,” while other appellate courts – including the second, fifth and eleventh circuits – are facing “judicial emergencies” with far more cases than the judges can handle.

However, she observed, the location and structure of the D.C. Circuit make it incredibly important and powerful. The appeals court directly reviews, without prior hearing by a district court, the decisions and rules of many D.C.-based agencies within the federal government.

This means that rulemaking executed by agencies within the executive branch – such as intelligence agencies, the Federal Communications Commission, NASA, and the Federal Trade Commission, among others – go directly to this court.

Severino suggested that the additional judge may be intended to help “push” the administration’s regulatory agenda through the court.

Increased regulations have drawn particular concern in the Catholic community recently due to worries over religious freedom. Requirements such as the HHS mandate, which demands that employers provide health insurance covering contraception, sterilization and early abortion drugs for employees, have been criticized and challenged in court as an infringement on religious liberty.

Currently, the court is “evenly balanced,” Severino observed, and recent rulings against the Obama’s administration’s initiatives suggest that the court “will not be lenient enough” to “give him a pass” on initiatives that may be challenged in the future.

While the Senate initially failed to approve a cloture motion for Pillard, a change in procedural rules last month reduced the number of votes necessary to move forward in the approval process. Pillard was confirmed just after midnight on Dec. 12 by a 51-44 vote.

President Barack Obama congratulated her in a Dec. 13 statement, lauding her “landmark accomplishments on behalf of women and families,” and her “unwavering commitment to justice and integrity.”

The confirmation was also celebrated by Reproductive Health Reality Check, a contraception and abortion advocacy group which predicted that “the impact of Pillard’s confirmation could last for decades.”

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Year of Faith vivified parishes in American Samoa, priest reports

Pago Pago, American Samoa, Dec 19, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - According to a local priest, the Year of Faith was a significant kick start to the Diocese of Samoa-Pago Pago, which serves the 14,000 Catholics who live on the 76 square miles of islands comprising American Samoa.

“The Year of Faith has brought a tremendous impetus of faith life into our parishes and in the pastoral mission of our diocese,” Fr. Faitau Lemantu, pastor of Sacred Heart parish in Alao, told CNA Dec. 12.

Fr. Lemantu explained that at the beginning of his assignment, “there were three to four people for daily Mass, and the parish was pretty much dead.”

“But now, we have around 100 parishioners attending Sunday Mass and liturgical services, and the faith is growing.”

He credits this growth largely to a series of seminars conducted during the Year of Faith, which recently came to a close.

The seminars focused on reflections from Benedict XVI on such topics as the sacraments, devotions, and vocations.

“Now we have to pick up from the seminars and prepare our laity to proclaim the Gospel and to live the life of faith,” said Fr. Lemantu.

Sacred Heart parish is one of 18 in the diocese, which is served by Bishop Peter Brown and 16 priests. Alao is located on the eastern coast of Tutuila, American Samoa's largest island, and Sacred Heart parish serves the villages of Amouli and Aoa as well as Alao.

Sacred Heart is a special name in the territory. Fr. Lemantu explained that “Samoa” itself is a compound of two Samoan words: “sa,” meaning sacred, and “moa,” meaning heart.

American Samoa is an unincorporated territory of the US located in the South Pacific. It is located east of Samoa, and northeast of Fiji and Tonga.

Nearly all American Samoans are Christian, with Catholics forming about 20 percent of the population.

The Samoa-Pago Pago diocese has lay catechists commissioned for each town to help the local priests in doing catechesis, and Fr. Lemantu said he hopes to train more lay people to spread the Gospel and bring families together.

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Seeking hope, Central Africans pray novena for peace

Bangui, Central African Republic, Dec 19, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - As severe violence continues to afflict the Central African Republic, Catholics are praying a novena for peace and encouraging forgiveness amid the “desolation.”

Bishop Nestor Desiré Nogo Aziagbia of Bossangoa has said that his country is in “shambles” after a year of fighting and political unrest.

“The Central African Republic has become a shadow of its former self,” said the bishop, who now considers his country to be “a failed state.”

The international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need launched a novena for the Central African Republic from Dec. 17-23 to pray for the victims of the conflict, refugees, the Catholic pastors and faithful, and for an end to violence.  

Bishop Juan José Aguirre of the southeastern city of Bangassou reflected on the need for prayer in a Dec. 11 introduction to the novena.

“After 35 years in Africa I know from personal experience that the power of prayer can cause hatred to melt. Hatred makes people bitter. Peace makes life sweet,” the bishop told Aid to the Church in Need. “To forgive without further ado loosens all knots. Unconditional forgiveness cancels out the bitterness and sadness between people.”

The violence has driven people to the brink of despair, he said, and they need to hear “that tomorrow will be better, that calm will return after the storm, that the Lord and his passion on Calvary is the key to understanding what is happening to us.”

“Where did peace hide itself in this country?” he asked. “Will it be a Christmas with cribs and carols, or one with Herod, machetes and the presidential guard?”

Bishop Aziagba explained that his diocese in the country’s northwest faces a “terrible” situation, with the pillaging of its churches, chapels, convents, pastoral centers, educational buildings and health care facilities. The crisis has prevented the diocese from continuing its health care, educational and employment programs, to focus instead on “managing an emergency situation.”

Former rebels of the Seleka coalition have brought “nothing but trials and tribulations,” the bishop said.

“It is a sinister picture. Desolation is everywhere. This banditry has gotten even worse now that these scoundrels operate openly,” he said in a Dec. 16 letter lamenting the murders, rapes, kidnappings, property theft and destruction the country has suffered, including the desecration of churches.

Hundreds of people have been killed in the national capital of Bangui this month. Food supplies are disrupted and hunger threatens the people. Bossangoa has suffered significantly and now hosts tens of thousands of refugees

About 600,000 Central Africans are now estimated to be displaced within their country, while about 80,000 have fled to neighboring countries.

The Central African Republic was torn by war from 2004 to 2007. Violence again broke out in December 2012.

The Seleka coalition, a loosely organized band of rebels that drew many Muslim fighters from other countries, installed their own leader as president in a March coup.

Bishop Aziagbia said the coup “plunged this suffering country into the depths of an abyss.”

Although the coalition is officially disbanded, some former Seleka members continue to commit serious crimes. Many are now in the government armed forces.

The bishop said that the extortion and human rights violations have caused some Central Africans to revolt and organize in self-defense militias called Anti-balaka, “anti-machete” units.

“Military clashes between the Seleka and Anti-balaka always end up in suffering for the civilian population. It is part of the criminal logic of both parties,” he said.

“The Christian and Muslim communities also got caught up and became de facto victims of these angels of death.”

The conflict has helped provoke religious tensions between Christians and Muslims in a country where such tensions were previously minimal.

The bishop urged Central Africans to avoid the tendency to lump Anti-balaka forces with Christian movements and the Seleka with the Muslims, saying both groups have members of different religions.

The African Union has several thousand droops present in the country, as do the French. The bishop praised the “bravery” of the Congolese troops of the peacekeeping forces.

He also noted that some Anti-Balaka militiamen have surrendered their weapons.

The bishop accused the ruling government of wanting to “strangle an entire population,” noting its “lethargic” response to the crisis in Bossangoa.

Despite the situation, he recalled that Advent celebrates happiness: “God made Himself one of us in his smallness, his humility, and his fragility. He lifts us up from our degradation to fill us with his glory.”

“The God who stoops down to the poor, the orphan and the widow, will certainly dry the tears in His children’s eyes and bring them his joy,” he said.

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Humility is necessary for fruitfulness, emphasizes Pope

Vatican City, Dec 19, 2013 (CNA) - Pope Francis focused his daily homily on the importance of acknowledging the need for God in our lives in order to be fruitful Christians.

“Humility is necessary for faithfulness,” said the Pontiff on Dec. 19. “The humility to say to the Lord, ‘Lord, I am barren, I am a desert’ ...come to give us life, come to save us, because only You can. Alone, I cannot!”

In order to stress God’s ability to bring about new life, Pope Francis linked together the stories of the Old Testament in which barren women are given children by God and the image of a desert that becomes a forest.

“But can the desert blossom? Yes. Can the barren woman give life? Yes. This is the promise of the Lord: ‘I can! I can, from the dryness, from your dryness, bring forth life, salvation.  From your aridity I can make fruit grow!’” he exclaimed.

The barren women and desert imagery are symbolic of those “who do not have the hope of life.”

But salvation is “the intervention of God who makes us fruitful, who gives us the capacity to give life.”

Too many Christians, noted the Pope, try to think of “saving themselves” when in fact, “all is grace.”

“It is the action of God that brings us salvation. It is the agency of God that helps us on the path to holiness. Only he can.”

“But what can we do on our part?” asked Pope Francis.

“First, to recognize our dryness, our incapacity to give life - know this. Second, to ask: ‘Lord, I want to be fruitful. I want my life to give life. Let my faith be fruitful and go forward and be able to give it to others.’”

Each Christian must say, “Lord, I am barren, I can’t. You can. I am a desert: I can’t, You can.”

In the last days of Advent, the Pontiff encouraged, we should repeat “these beautiful antiphons that the Church gives us to pray,” recognizing in them the different titles of Jesus.

“O Son of David, O Adonai, O Wisdom - today - O root of Jesse, O Emmanuel, come to give us life.”

“And with this humility, the humility of the desert, the humility of a barren soul, (we can) receive grace, the grace of blossoming, of bearing fruit and of giving life,” he concluded.

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Vatican newspaper launches redesigned website

Vatican City, Dec 19, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - L'Osservatore Romano, the Vatican's newspaper, unveiled its revamped website Dec. 17, meant to broaden the reach of the paper and make it more friendly to social media.

“More news, more photos, more sharing through social networks,” one of the paper's journalists, Piero Di Domenicantonio wrote in an editorial published Dec. 16, saying the publication “renews and broadens its online presence and the information service it offers to the world.”

“With innovative graphics and a substantial improvement in accessibility, the new site marks a turning point in the spread of the newspaper,” he said, adding that articles “can easily be relaunched on Twitter and Facebook.”

Di Domenicantonio noted that the restyle was done in cooperation with the Pontifical Council for Social Communications and with the assistance of a Spanish firm.

The website includes the contents of L'Osservatore Romano's daily edition; its five weekly editions, including English; and its monthly edition, published in Polish, and is accessible by computer, smartphone and tablet.

The website also features a secure and easily accessible transaction system so that users can donate to the service, which is provided free of charge.

“Even in those areas which are more difficult and expensive to reach with traditional means of distributing printed newspapers, everyone will be offered the opportunity of timely access to first-hand information on the activities of the Pope and the Holy See,” Di Domenicantonio wrote.

“A little more than a century and a half after its founding, L’ Osservatore Romano is taking on this new adventure in the digital world.”

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Two firms hired to advise Vatican on communications, finance

Vatican City, Dec 19, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Vatican has hired two international consulting firms to modernize Holy See communications and to improve financial procedures throughout the Vatican's agencies.

“An advisory role has been entrusted to McKinsey & Company for the development – in close collaboration with the heads of the relevant offices – of an integrated plan to render the organisation of means of communication within the Holy See more functional, effective and modern,” the Holy See press office announced Dec. 19

The decision was made the previous day, on the initiative of the Pontifical Commission for Reference on the Organization of the Economic-Administrative Structure of the Holy See, after a bidding and selection process. The commission was established under Pope Francis to study and streamline Vatican administration.

“The consultancy project will aim to provide the Commission with the information needed to make appropriate recommendations to the Holy Father,” the press office's communique noted.

The Vatican has six different communications departments: the press office;a television station; a radio broadcaster; a newspaper; an internet office; and a communications council, which exercises an academic and policy-making role.

McKinsey & Company is a US-based company that describes itself as a “management consulting firm,” the mission of which is “to help our clients make distinctive, lasting, and substantial improvements in their performance.” The firm declined to comment to CNA about the partnership, citing its confidentiality policy.

The decision to hire the firm to improve the Holy See's communications efforts follows quickly upon the launch of a revamped website for the Vatican's newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, on Dec. 17.

In addition to its communications makeover, the Holy See announced it is hiring Dutch-based KPMG to “align the accounting procedures of all agencies of the Holy See with international standards.”

The hire of KPMG, a “global network of professional firms providing audit, tax and advisory services,”  comes in the midst of ongoing financial reform at the Vatican, and is the latest in a series of external hires.

Promontory Financial Group has been hired to review the accounts and procedures of the Institute for Religious Works, or “Vatican bank,” and Ernst & Young is auditing the Vatican's internal finances.

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Koch grant consistent with Church teaching, CUA tells critics

Washington D.C., Dec 19, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Catholic University of America has defended a $1 million gift from the Koch brothers against “presumptuous” criticisms that accepting the grant would cause scandal and obscure Church insight on economics.

“The aim of the Charles Koch Foundation grant – to support research into principled entrepreneurship – is fully consistent with Catholic social teaching,” the university said in a Dec. 16 statement.

“The negative attention to the grant has all been externally driven by organizations with a political agenda,” the university later continued.

In Jan. 2013, the Catholic University of America created a separate business school, drawing business, finance, and economic-related courses of study from the School of Arts and Sciences. The school later received a $1 million grant from the Charles Koch Foundation to go towards supporting the new school.

The gift was criticized in a letter organized by Faith in Public Life and in a petition drive sponsored by Faithful America receiving over 28,000 online signatures, claiming that CUA's acceptance of the gift sent “a confusing message to Catholic students and other faithful Catholics” on Church teachings of economics.

The letter, addressed to President John Garvey and Dean Andrew Abela, alleged that the grant would give the faithful the impression that the university and the Catholic bishops have given “the blessing” to the “Koch brothers’ anti-government, Tea Party ideology.” The associated petition called the donations “incompatible with the educational mission of the Catholic University of America.”

In its reasons for opposing the grant, the letter criticized the brothers’ support of “sweeping deregulation of industries and markets,” and opposition to Medicaid expansion and sweeping deregulation of industries and markets, which the letter’s authors claim go against Church economic teachings.

The letter continued, saying that businessmen Charles and David Koch are trying to attain an “absolute autonomy of the marketplace” which the “Catholic intellectual and social tradition” critiques.

Catholic University called the claims “presumptuous” in their attempt to act as “arbiters of political correctness regarding Charles Koch Foundation grants” and their effort “to instruct Catholic University of America’s leaders about Catholic social teaching, and do so in a manner that redefines the Church’s teaching to suit their own political preferences.”

The letter, the statement said, overlooked the university’s strong background in Catholic social teaching and mission to promote “respect for the human person in economic life, based on the principles of solidarity, subsidiarity, human dignity, and the common good” in the new business school.

The Catholic University of America also noted that the “grant has not engendered any controversy on our campus,” with no students, faculty or staff contacting President Garvey or Dean Abela to voice their concerns.

“The Catholic University of America welcomes constructive input from all who share an interest in advancing and supporting its mission,” the university said, affirming that it “has no intention of revisiting its decision to accept the grant from the Charles Koch Foundation.”

In addition, the letter continued, receiving funding from the Charles Koch Foundation has not been linked with “any serious claim of interference” from the organization into how universities use their funding. The organization frequently funds higher education, and their donations are “widespread and, on balance, non-controversial,” CUA said.

The statement pointed out that 15 signers of the letter from universities across the country are employed at institutions “'guilty' of the same association they chastise The Catholic University of America for.”

Furthermore, the statement added, the letter and petition drive seem “to be the latest campaign against the Catholic Church and related institutions sponsored by Faith in Public Life.” The Catholic University of America also provided a link to documentation alleging  that Faithful America is an affiliate of Faith in Public Life.

It noted that in “recent weeks Faithful America has also launched three separate petition drives against one Catholic bishop and two Catholic cardinals” for statements upholding the Church’s position on abortion and same-sex marriage.

CNA previously reported on Faith in Public Life, including on a leaked email in which the organization allegedly presented a “backgrounder” email containing talking points and examples of adversarial questions to ask Catholic bishops on its challenge to the HHS mandate.

The leaked email claimed that the Church used “inflammatory and irresponsible rhetoric” that conflates “working through complex policy issues with a fundamental attack on the Catholic Church” in its struggle to affirm conscience rights to decline coverage of contraceptives and abortion-causing drugs. The email also instructed members of the media to reject the Church’s claims that the mandate poses a serious threat to religious liberty or to the Church as “fiction.”

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Pope Francis documentary becomes Amazon bestseller

Washington D.C., Dec 19, 2013 (CNA) - A recent documentary on Pope Francis, “Francis: The Pope From The New World,” has become a bestseller on and at one point ranked number four in the documentary category.

“This documentary arrives as the world realizes that a very special man has assumed the leadership of the Catholic Church, and this begins — but does not end — with his gestures of humility and care for everyone,” Carl Anderson, an executive producer of the documentary, said Dec. 17.

Anderson said many of the details of the Pope’s life “remain largely unknown to the public,” including “the ways in which he has defended the voiceless and Catholic principles.”

“This documentary delves into those stories,” he said.

Anderson is Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic fraternal charitable organization with over 1.8 million members worldwide. The Knights said the documentary will help people learn more about the man who was recently named Time Magazine’s “Person of the Year” for 2013.

The hour-long documentary begins with the Pope’s election on March 13, 2013 and revisits his background in Argentina, where he served as Archbishop of Buenos Aires and as a Jesuit provincial.

Pope Francis, formerly Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, is the first Pope from the Americas and the first Jesuit elected to the papacy. He has long been an advocate for those struggling economically, including those who lived in the slums of Buenos Aires. He also helped protect those endangered in Argentina’s Dirty War.

The documentary includes interviews with the Pope’s close friends, his fellow priests, his co-workers, his biographer, and the poor of Buenos Aires. It covers his personal life, including his family relations and his support for the San Lorenzo soccer team.

It also addresses how his work sometimes drew opposition from Argentina’s political elites.

The online retailer has had to reorder DVDs of the movie several times because it ran out of stock. It is presently selling the English-language DVD for $14.96. The DVD is also available in Spanish.

The documentary has been broadcast on U.S. cable television, and Mexican broadcasts are planned.

Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles has praised the film.

“The whole world is talking about Pope Francis,” he said, adding that such interest is “a sign that millions in our secularized societies are still seeking God – and they’re still looking to the Catholic Church to show them the way.”

The documentary, he said, “presents a Pope who has a beautiful vision for human happiness and a Pope who is calling the Church to deeper love for Jesus and a new desire to bring our neighbors to God.”

The documentary’s website, which includes a movie trailer, is at

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Duck Dynasty suspension over gay comments sparks criticism

Washington D.C., Dec 19, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - The recent suspension of “Duck Dynasty” patriarch Phil Robertson over comments made on homosexual behavior has prompted a storm of controversy and major boycott threats.  

Robertson and his family are the focal point for the A&E show “Duck Dynasty,” which follows the Louisiana clan’s home, business and recreational life as successful duck-call manufacturers.

The show attracts a weekly viewership of around 14 million people, according to the Nielsen Company’s television ratings reports, and has broken records for the most-watched nonfiction cable telecast in history. In addition, the family has been involved in a number of books, speaking events and merchandise.

The family has also gained attention for its outspoken defense of Christian beliefs, including support of pro-life positions and for marriage.

In an interview with GQ magazine for its January edition – released online Dec. 18 – Robertson commented on his beliefs about homosexual behavior.

“Everything is blurred on what’s right and what’s wrong,” Robertson said of the acceptance of sin in modern culture. “Sin becomes fine.”

“Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there,” he said when asked what he believed to be sinful. “Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men.”

He also commented that sin in general is “not logical,” saying that it did not make sense to him why men would find same-sex interactions as “more desirable” than heterosexual sex.

Despite believing this behavior to be sinful, he said that he did not judge people, explaining, “We just love ‘em, give ‘em the good news about Jesus – whether they’re homosexuals, drunks, terrorists. We let God sort ‘em out later.”

In response to his statements, A&E announced that it had “placed Phil under hiatus from filming indefinitely.”

“We are extremely disappointed to have read Phil Robertson’s comments in GQ,” the network said, adding that Robertson’s views do not reflect those of Duck Dynasty or of A&E Networks, which have “always been strong supporters and champions of the LGBT community.”

The network has since received an outpouring of complaints. In less than 24 hours, a Facebook page entitled “Boycott A&E Until Phil Robertson Is Put Back On Duck Dynasty” garnered more than 930,000 likes, surpassing A&E’s Facebook page by more than 350,000.

In addition, more than 73,000 people signed an online petition labeled #IStandWithPhil.

Robertson later released a statement clarifying that his mission is “to go forth and tell people about why I follow Christ and also what the Bible teaches,” adding that “part of that teaching is that women and men are meant to be together.”

“However, I would never treat anyone with disrespect just because they are different from me,” he stressed. “We are all created by the Almighty and like Him, I love all of humanity. We would all be better off if we loved God and loved each other.”

Gay advocacy group GLAAD denounced Robertson’s remarks as “some of the vilest and most extreme statements uttered against LGBT people in a mainstream publication.” The organization said his comments were hateful and discriminatory and applauded his indefinite suspension.

Others, however, came to the defense of the Robertsons. Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal called them “great citizens of the State of Louisiana” in a Dec. 19 statement. He criticized the “politically correct crowd” for stigmatizing viewpoints “they disagree with.”

“It is a messed-up situation when Miley Cyrus gets a laugh, and Phil Robertson gets suspended,” Jindal continued, in a reference to pop singer Cyrus’ highly publicized sexual gestures during performances.

Doug Napier, senior legal vice president for Alliance Defending Freedom, argued in a Dec. 19 statement that “one-sided censorship of the cultural and political elites” has damaged the “free marketplace of ideas” and “open discussion about important cultural issues.”

National Organization for Marriage president Brian Brown called Robertson’s statements a “traditional Christian view of homosexuality – decry the sin but love the sinner.”

“It’s what every major Christian leader including Jesus Christ himself has taught us,” Brown said.

He criticized A&E’s deference to gay advocacy organizations, saying that doing so is giving in to intolerance.

These groups, he said, “will brook no objection, tolerate no dissent and accept no disagreement when it comes to their orthodoxy.”

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