Washington D.C., May 16, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - Using non-religious arguments, a new book says that “gay marriage” is just the latest in a cultural trend of rationalized sexual misbehavior that is undermining society and suppressing those who object.
“We have to stand up in the first place and tell the truth,” Robert Reilly, the author of “Making Gay Okay,” told CNA May 14. “People are getting rolled on this issue because they don’t know how to stand against it.”
Contemporary cultural pressure now makes it “increasingly harder, if not impossible, to speak out for virtue or to call society to any form of moral health,” he said.
Reilly is a former adviser to the Secretary of Defense and was a special assistant to President Reagan. His book, from Ignatius Press, examines how homosexual acts became rationalized through the rejection of a morality based on human nature.
Targeted advocacy in the psychiatric professions, in law, in education, in the military, and in U.S. foreign policy has made approval of homosexual behavior increasingly institutionalized and mandatory.
He said many people now see voicing objections to “gay marriage” as a “career killer” that will result in the loss of their jobs.
“If you speak up against the celebration of homosexual marriage, it is you who will be discriminated against and removed,” he said.
He cited the legal cases against businesses with moral objections to cooperating in same-sex ceremonies and the pressure placed on former Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich who resigned after “gay marriage” activists fanned controversy over his donation to a California ballot measure that defined marriage as the union of one man and one woman.
Reilly recounted his own experience of this pressure when President George W. Bush in 2002 named him director of Voice of America, U.S. government’s official broadcasting institution.
The broadcaster’s board of governors reviewed his appointment. Reilly’s critics produced small packets delivered to the board members “in plain brown envelopes” denouncing him as a “homophobe.”
His critics had cited an article Reilly had written about the rationalization of moral misbehavior. The article focused on abortion, but also called homosexual acts “inherently disordered.”
“I had to sit with adults for two days discussing if my having written that disqualified me to serve as director of Voice of America,” he recalled. “That was back in 2002. Can you imagine today? I would never be appointed.”
Reilly rejected claims that moral opposition to homosexual acts is a result of prejudice. Rather, opposition is a “result of judgment, rationally reached, about the moral character of an act.”
However, he suggested that opponents of this behavior have relied too much on religious arguments.
“Making Gay Okay” presents non-religious arguments against homosexual acts. He said that the rejection of some sexual behavior as immoral results from an examination of the human body.
“There doesn’t seem to be any problem in admitting to the natural ends of our other bodily organs. Nobody would deny the eye is for seeing or ear is for hearing,” Reilly said.
The purpose of the sexual organs is “quite clear,” he continued, noting their procreative purpose and their function in unifying man and woman in a permanent union. He added that anal intercourse between men is a “highly hygienically compromised act that ends up killing people.”
Reilly suggested that the rationalization of homosexual behavior has increased in power “because there are so many forms of sexual disorder in our society.” People engaged in their own sexual misbehavior will rationalize the vices of others.
“Every form of sexual misbehavior sort of reinforces the other forms of it and expands the community for this rationalization,” he said. Noting an increase in anal intercourse among heterosexuals, he called the phenomenon a “cross-pollination in sexual misbehavior.”
Reilly suggested that the legalization of contraceptives set in motion the rationalization of such behavior. First the drugs and devices were legalized for married couples, then for all adults, then for minors. Reilly suggested that the U.S. legalized abortion in part to avoid the consequences of contraceptive failures.
These cumulative precedents then led to the declaration of the unconstitutionality of anti-sodomy laws, which in turn set a precedent for a 2013 ruling on “gay marriage” that has provided considerable momentum in its favor.
Reilly rejected selective moral disapproval of homosexual acts, emphasizing that all human beings are flawed.
“We are all disordered in our passions, all of us are,” he said. “There’s nothing unique in a particular kind of disorder, it’s just one of a variety.”
Those with disordered dispositions “deserve a tremendous amount of compassion. But that compassion has to include the truth.”
He also said that “gay marriage” is a “counterfeit” that, like counterfeit currency, devalues the real thing. Reilly encouraged those opposed to immorality and the redefinition of marriage to speak their views.
“When unreality is being enforced upon us, we must resist it and refuse to participate in it,” he said.
“This is going to make life harder, and for some people it is going to make it very hard. But I am afraid that is the price of truth. What is the alternative?” he asked.
Rome, Italy, May 16, 2014 (CNA) -
Ecclesial movements’ work to promote peace should be “an effort to witness” that it is possible, according to Maria Voce, president of the Focolare movement.
Voce spoke with CNA May 14, at the end of her trip around the world to visit Focolare communities and to preparing for the movement’s assembly, which will take place Sept. 1-28. The assembly will lead to the election of a new president and board, six years after the death of their founder, Chiara Lubich.
While Voce was in the Middle East, Pope Francis called for the Sept. 7 day of prayer and fasting for peace in Syria.
“The meeting was strong because the moment made it strong,” she said. “The Pope told me that he had really been inspired by the Holy Spirit in promoting and announcing that evening of prayer, and that he strongly felt the need to do it. It seemed to us that our trip had helped the Pope’s effort for peace.”
Maria Voce told Pope Francis Sept. 13 about her trip to Jordan, when he received her in audience along with Giancarlo Faletti, co-president of the movement.
She had been invited to speak at the Royal Institute for Interfaith Dialogue, met the king of Jordan, and spoke to nearly 600 members of the movement from across the Middle East.
Voce told the Pope of Focolare’s work for families and young people in Syria; its cultural activities in China; its dialogue with Buddhists, Muslims, and Jews; its evangelization in the Amazon; and its promotion of forgiveness and reconciliation in Africa.
Such projects’ broad reach have led some to speak of the Focolare movement as a “parallel diplomacy.”
Voce says such a characterization is mistaken: “I don’t like the term ‘parallel diplomacy’, because I do not like the movement to be considered parallel to something. The movement is in the Church, and so it takes part in the Church’s efforts for peace.”
Michele Zanzucchi, editor of the movement’s Italian-language magazine, has called the movement’s efforts a “diplomacy of life.”
The movement’s commitment for peace comes from testimony, according to Voce.
“Pope Francis speaks a lot about encounter,” she said. “We want to show that we meet all together, that we love each other, that we are not taken by the temptation to violence. Our presence is a witness of unity: I think this is what we can give for peace.”
Florence, Italy, May 16, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
An Italian bishop's comment that appeared to denigrate pro-life advocates who pray at abortion clinics drew criticism from a pro-life leader in the U.K., who said their witness helps save lives.
Bishop Nunzio Galantino of Cassano all'Jonio, who is also secretary-general of the Italian bishops' conference, told the Florentine newspaper La Nazione May 12 that “I don’t identify with the expressionless person who stands outside the abortion clinic reciting their rosary, but with young people, who are still against this practice, but are instead fighting for quality of life, their health, their right to work.”
The remark drew a response from John Smeaton, director of the U.K.-based Society for the Protection of Unborn Children.
“I thought I would let you know that I do identify with the person outside the abortion clinic praying their rosary, whether or not the person is expressionless,” he said in an open letter to the bishop posted to Smeaton’s blog May 13.
The pro-life leader noted that he constantly receives messages from a pro-life group that stands and prays outside of a west London abortion clinic. These messages recount the stories of young women who “seeing the people outside the abortion clinics praying, change their minds and keep their baby.”
Smeaton also questioned Bishop Galantino’s statement that Catholics in the past “have concentrated too much on abortion and euthanasia.”
The pro-life leader replied: “It's probably fair to say that tens of thousands of unborn children, each one made in the image and likeness of God, are killed every day throughout the world.”
“Your Excellency, if it were Catholic priests or Jews who were being killed, or threatened with being killed, by national laws in Britain or in other parts of the world – would we expect, any day of the week, ever to enter a Catholic Church for Mass without the matter being mentioned, or being prayed about at that Mass?” he said in his letter to Bishop Galantino.
Smeaton suggested that if laws allowed Catholic priests or Jews to be killed, the bishop would probably say “We can never do enough to denounce this grotesque evil.”
Smeaton, who voiced hope that the bishop’s comment had been misreported, asked Bishop Galantino to reconsider his reported position.
Bishop Galantino has also been criticized for his statement, in the same interview, that “my hope for the Italian Church is that it is able to listen without any taboo to the arguments in favor of married priests, the Eucharist for the divorced, and homosexuality.”
The Italian bishops’ conference will hold its annual assembly May 19-23. Pope Francis will for the first time give its inaugural address.
Pope Francis has taken a multi-faceted approach to abortion. He has stressed that it must be discussed in the proper context of the Christian faith.
At the same time, he has also forcefully denounced abortion as an aspect of a “throwaway culture.”
Every child “unjustly condemned to be aborted” has “the face of Jesus Christ,” he told a group of doctors at the Vatican in September 2013.
Vatican City, May 16, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
In an unprecedented session held earlier this week, members of the Israeli parliament praised St John XXIII for his efforts in improving Jewish-Christian relations, both before and during his pontificate.
“John XXIII should serve as an example for all men of the need to bring together peoples of different races, faiths and beliefs,” former immigration and absorption minister Yair Tzeven voiced during the May 13 event, according to the Jerusalem Post.
The paper reports in a May 13 article that during the encounter members of the parliament, known as the Knesset, gave special attention to the saint’s efforts in saving Jews during the holocaust while serving as Apostolic Nuncio to Turkey.
He was also praised for laying the groundwork of Nostra Aetate, a declaration of the Second Vatican Council that was instrumental in reconciling Jewish and Catholic relationships.
Published in 1965, the document was released after the pontiff’s death and rejected former claims against the Jewish people, principally that they were guilty of Jesus’s death.
Canonized last month alongside Polish Pope Saint John Paul II, John XXIII was born in Italy as Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli, and served as the Supreme Pontiff from 1958 until his death in 1963.
While an archbishop, Roncalli was appointed as apostolic delegate to Turkey and Greece in 1934, which is a position held for the majority of World War II. While serving in Istanbul, the future Pope distributed numerous documents to Jewish refugees who were fleeing the Nazi regime and attempting to make their way to Mandatory Palestine.
The archbishop also wrote thousands of such documents to the Vatican’s ambassador in Budapest at the time, Angelo Ratti, who was working with the diplomat Raoul Wallenberg, among others, to save Jews from the terrors of the Holocaust.
Roncalli’s efforts during the war are credited for helping save thousands of Jews from the Nazi concentration camps, the Post reports, including many from Slovakia, Romania, Bulgaria and Hungary.
Speaking during the Knesset’s session, the Jerusalem Post states that Tzeven recalled how five years ago many historians, authors and public figures in Israel called on the state to recognize John XXIII’s actions during the Holocaust as well as his efforts in repairing relations with the Jewish people, and praised Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein for supporting this recognition of the pope.
“There has not been an event like today’s in the history of the Knesset, an event which is so important to our relations with the Christian and Catholic world” Tzeven explained, noting that “John XXIII should serve as an example for all men” of the need for unity.
Following Tzeven’s remarks, the Post reports that Edelstein then opened the session by stating that “Pope John XXIII was known as a humanist, a sensitive man and someone who helped save Jews during his service as a papal emissary in Turkey.”
Continuing, the Knesset speaker remarked that Rabbi Yitzhak Herzog, the grandfather of the parliament’s current opposition leader Isaac Herzog who was also present at the meeting, “recognized John XXIII as an exceptional person who served as a contact person for the various rescue operations of Jews throughout Europe (during the Holocaust).”
Rising to the podium after the Edelstein, Herzog recalled the frequent meetings held between then-Archbishop Roncalli and his grandfather, noting that “When the news from Europe first reached my grandfather, he did everything to save Jews.”
“As part of these efforts, he met many times with Roncalli and stated that at these meetings the Archbishop wept,” he continued.
“John XXIII made tremendous efforts to save Jews, and because of him thousands of Jews were indeed saved.”
Observing how “this special person served just five years as pope,” Herzog recounted how “He took up the post at age 77 and initiated a massive revolution;” one which “established that Judaism was the older brother to Christianity.”
Vatican City, May 16, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
The Holy See announced that Pope Francis’ activities today have been canceled due to a minor cold, and that his weekend visit to a Roman shrine is also postponed so he can rest before going to the Holy Land.
In a brief statement given to journalists May 16, Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi reassured that the Pope’s condition is not serious, and that he celebrated Mass this morning as always, but has taken the rest of the day off in order to rest.
“The Pope celebrated Mass at the Domus Sanctae Marthae with the faithful this morning as usual, but has postponed the audiences scheduled for this morning due to a minor indisposition.”
Fr. Lombardi also made a short statement yesterday revealing that the pontiff’s planned Sunday visit to the Sanctuary of Divine Love has been postponed in order to “lighten up” his load so that he can prepare for his upcoming pilgrimage to Jordan, Israel and Palestine which takes place next week.
Slated to occur the afternoon of May 18, the spokesman explained that Pope Francis’ visit to the shrine will be rescheduled, although there is currently no date in mind.
Officially known as the Shrine of Our Lady of Divine Love, the sanctuary lies just south of Rome and dates back to the eight century when it was a fortress called Castel di Leva. On top of one of the castle’s towers was an image of Mary portrayed as sitting on a throne with the Child Jesus.
Above Mary’s head is a dove descending on her as a symbol of the Holy Spirit, who is Divine Love. The frescoed image was highly venerated during the time and several miracles have been attributed to it, including a man who was saved from wild dogs after crying out to the Virgin Mary for protection upon seeing the image.
Despite Pope’s cold and the postponement of his visit to the sanctuary, Fr. Lombardi revealed that the pontiff’s other scheduled events for the weekend will still occur, which include two audiences Saturday and his weekly Regina Ceoli address Sunday at 12.
Vatican City, May 16, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
In his daily homily Pope Francis explained that it takes more than intellectual assent to truly get to know Jesus – we must also develop a personal relationship of joy through prayer and works.
“Ideas by themselves do not lead anywhere and those who pursue the path of their own ideas end up in a labyrinth from where they can't get out again!” the Pope stated in his May 16 daily Mass.
Addressing those present with him in the chapel of the Vatican’s Saint Martha guesthouse, the Pope explained that getting to know Jesus is the most important work in our lives, and warned that just studying about him or having an idea is not enough.
Noting how often times those who pursue their own ideas end up trapped in them, the pontiff pointed out that “It’s for this reason that heresies have existed from the very beginning of the Church.”
“Heresies are this: trying to understand with our minds and with only our personal light who Jesus is,” he observed, adding that “A great English writer wrote that a heresy is an idea that’s gone crazy.”
“That’s right! When they are ideas by themselves they become crazy…This is not the right path!”
Going on, Pope Francis said that in order to really get to know Jesus there are three doors that we must open, naming the first as “praying to Jesus.”
“You must realize that studying without prayers is no use. We must pray to Jesus to get to know him better” he noted, explaining that “the great theologians did their theology while kneeling.”
“Pray to Jesus! By studying and praying we get a bit closer… But we’ll never know Jesus without praying. Never! Never!”
Pope Francis went on to say that the second door we need to open is that of “celebrating Jesus,” because “Prayer on its own is not enough, we need the joy of celebration.”
“We must celebrate Jesus through his Sacraments, because these give us life, they give us strength, they nourish us, they comfort us, they forge an alliance with us, they give us a mission,” the pontiff observed, adding that “Without celebrating the Sacraments, we’ll never get to know Jesus.”
“This is what the Church is all about: celebration” he repeated, stating that “the third door is imitating Jesus. Take the Gospel, what did he do, how was his life, what did he tell us, what did he teach us and try to imitate him.”
Entering these doors “means entering into the mystery of Jesus,” the Bishop of Rome continued, “and it’s only in this way that we can get to know him and we mustn’t be afraid to do this.”
Bringing his reflections to a close, Pope Francis encouraged attendees to think “about how the door leading to prayer is proceeding in our life,” warning that “prayer from the heart is not like that of a parrot!”
“How is prayer of the heart? How is the Christian celebration in my life proceeding? And how is the imitation of Jesus in my life proceeding? How must I imitate him?” he asked.
“Do you really not remember!” the Pope chastised, explaining that “The reason is because the Book of the Gospel is full of dust as it’s never opened!”
In opening the bible and reading it “you will discover how to imitate Jesus” the pontiff observed, so “Let’s think about how these three doors are positioned in our life and this will be of benefit to everybody.”
Following Mass Pope Francis canceled his morning meetings and appointments due to having a minor cold, but is expected to be present for all of his engagements over the weekend with the exception of his visit to a Roman shrine, which was postponed so that he can prepare for his upcoming pilgrimage to the Holy Land.
Caracas, Venezuela, May 16, 2014 (CNA) -
A 22-year-old Venezuelan man has won a contest held by Israel’s Ministry of Tourism to travel to the Holy Land for Pope Francis’ historic visit May 24-26.
Gustavo Adolfo Franco Picaza of Maracaibo, Venezuela, made the winning video for a contest held via Instagram at #PopeinHolyLand.
In a message to the organizers of the contest, Picaza said he would carry a special intention on his pilgrimage to the Holy Land: “To pray for peace in my country of Venezuela and for peace in the entire world.”
“I come from a very Christian family and ever since I was a child it has been a dream… [I] prayed every day to go and see the land of Jesus, the land promised by God to his people, the land where God sent his son to save the world, to visit the Holy Land, to walk its streets, but above all to pray in its churches. It’s a dream I have always had and now that by God’s grace you have given me this opportunity, I cannot pass it up,” Picaza said.
He thanked God for the chance to experience this pilgrimage during Pope Francis’ visit.
“It would be awesome to bump into the Holy Father on the street while visiting the land of Jesus and be able to tell him: ‘Holy Father, I am praying for you and for the peace of the world in Venezuela and in the land God promised to his sons and daughters.’”
“In one of his messages, Jesus tells us to go to Galilee, where we will see him and find him. This is something I want to experience. Undoubtedly visiting the Holy Land is a gift from God and a privilege that everyone in the world should have, and I am sure that this visit will help me,” Picaza said.
Picaza’s winning video can be seen at: http://instagram.com/p/mlGuwHQsYh/
Khartoum, Sudan, May 16, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
A pregnant woman who was raised as a Christian has been sentenced to execution by a Sudanese court that contends she has apostatized from Islam, drawing worldwide condemnation.
“Mrs. Ibrahim’s willingness to stand-up for her faith – even in the face of death – is a true mark of uncommon courage and bravery,” Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) said May 15.
Meriam Yehya Ibrahim, 27, is recognized as Muslim under Sudanese law because her father was Muslim. Her father abandoned the family when Ibrahim was six years old and she was raised as a Christian by her Ethiopian Orthodox mother.
Ibrahim married Daniel Wani, a Christian from South Sudan, and is now eight months pregnant.
She was arrested in August 2013; a Khartoum court convicted Ibrahim May 15 of apostasy from Islam, and adultery, on the grounds that marriage between Muslim women and non-Muslim men is not recognized.
Smith called the death sentence “an egregious violation of basic human rights” and “an affront to religious freedom everywhere.”
Ibrahim rejected the charges. “I am a Christian and I never committed apostasy,” she told the court.
Three potential witnesses who went to court to testify about the woman’s lifelong Christian faith were prevented from giving evidence, the U.K.-based religious liberty group Christian Solidarity Worldwide reports.
Ibrahim has been held in a women’s prison along with her 20-month-old son, who is suffering illnesses due to the prison’s poor hygiene and insect control. She will face 100 lashes on the adultery charge, and execution by hanging on the apostasy charge, reportedly after she gives birth.
Her lawyers plan to appeal to a higher court to have her sentence overturned.
“I’m so frustrated. I don't know what to do,” Wani told CNN May 15. “I’m just praying.”
Several dozen Sudanese protesters gathered outside the court to object to the decision.
The embassies of the U.S., Canada, the U.K., and the Netherlands in Sudan objected to the decision, urging the government to “respect the right to freedom of religion, including one's right to change one's faith or beliefs.”
The death sentence has drawn criticism from around the world.
Andy Dipper, chief operating officer of Christian Solidarity Worldwide, said the sentence is “inhumane, unwarranted and unacceptable.”
Christian Solidarity Worldwide called for the “immediate release” of Ibrahim and her son. The organization cited her religious freedom rights under the Sudan’s interim constitution and under the international conventions the country has signed. The detention of her son violates the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child, she noted.
Manar Idriss, Amnesty International's Sudan researcher, said May 15 that “the fact that a woman has been sentenced to death for her religious choice, and to flogging for being married to a man of an allegedly different religion is appalling and abhorrent.”
“Adultery and apostasy are acts which should not be considered crimes at all,” he added. “It is flagrant breach of international human rights law.”
A U.S. state department spokesperson said May 15 that the U.S. is “deeply concerned” by the sentences and urged the Sudanese government to “respect the right to religious freedom.”
“We call on the Sudanese legal authorities to approach this case with the compassion that is in keeping with the values of the Sudanese people.”
Smith said the U.S. and the international community should demand a reversal of the sentence, calling the Sudanese government’s refusal to recognize religious freedom a motivation for the region’s lengthy civil war.
Sudan fought a civil war from 1983 to 2005 which led to autonomy for southern Sudan, and the formation of an independent South Sudan in 2011. Sudan's population is 97 percent Muslim.
Sudan scored an 11 out of 100 in Transparency International's 2013 Corruption Perceptions Index, ranking at 174 out of 177 among nations based on the perception of their public sector corruption – ahead of only Afghanistan, North Korea, and Somalia.
Since 1999, the U.S. state department has listed Sudan as a country of particular concern due to religious freedom violations.
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, which advises the U.S. government, said in its 2014 report that Sudan’s government “continues to engage in systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of freedom of religion or belief.” The report noted that the country’s “restrictive interpretation of Shariah law” is imposed on both Muslims and non-Muslims.
Christian Solidarity Worldwide called on the Sudanese government to address the “high degree of societal hostility” towards religious minorities, including “derogatory statements that may address hatred.”