Sunday, May 31, 2009

Kresta Commentary: Leading Abortionist Murdered

Leading Abortionist Murdered
May 31, 2009
Al Kresta

Years ago, I debated the defrocked and excommunicated Presbyterian pastor Paul Hill (1954-2003) over the question of whether or not killing abortionists was justifiable homicide. In short, I argued “Absolutely not.” He argued that he was obligated to protect the unborn by killing their murderers and thus preventing further abortions.

Paul Hill wasn’t insane or even “mean.” Rather he was in the grip of an abbreviated logic. He reasoned that since abortionists kill children then by killing abortionists we will save children.

As a moral theologian and pastor, Hill was wrong and convinced almost nobody. When it was clear that pro-life people dismissed his argument as grossly inconsistent with the moral law, he went out and killed an abortionist and his escort and wounded the abortionist’s wife. Paul Hill was arrested, convicted and, in September 2003, executed for their murder. He never publicly repented and perished in his folly imagining himself a martyr and leader: “While most Christians firmly profess the duty to defend born children with force…most of these professors have neglected the duty to similarly defend the unborn…I was certain that if I took my stand at this point, others would join with me, and the Lord would eventually bring about a great victory.” As an activist and prophet, he was also dead wrong.

He failed to see two obvious truths:
- There are many non-violent ways to stop abortions.
- Every act of abortion has multiple accomplices. Each accomplice bears differing degrees of culpability. Why should Hill’s logic stop at the abortionist and not with others who make his work possible including local law enforcement that protects clinics?

How about the one person most obviously standing between the abortionist and the preborn: the mother. Mothers call for abortions. Tiller provided them a service for a fee. As long as mothers want to get rid of a pregnancy, there will be abortions. As long as men want sex without relationships, there will be prostitutes. Both advocates for abortion and prostitution are willing to take the cash and call it empowerment for women. This doesn’t mean the law should permit either abortion or prostitution. It does recognize that we won’t get rid of depersonalized sex by killing prostitutes and we won’t end abortion by eliminating abortionists.

Absurdity as well as tragedy stain his position. Yes, abortion is a form of child-murder. But it is murder carried out with the consent of the mother uninformed as she may be. Hill, to be consistent, should have advocated the use of proportionate force to stop abortions. Following his twisted logic, he should have forcibly stopped mothers from entering clinics and, when persuasion finally failed, anesthetized her and removed the innocent child by C-section. After all, isn’t this a more justifiable use of force? Nobody gets killed. Of course, this is morally repulsive.

Killing abortionists doesn’t save lives. It takes lives. It is murder. It usurps the authority of the state by pretending to mete out justice to evildoers. It is vigilantism and diminishes respect for the rule of law.

If the moral arguments aren’t clear then the public relations argument should be. While the law needn’t permit mothers to kill their children, neither is the law enough to make mothers want to avoid abortion. For that, it is necessary to turn the heart of the mother toward her child. Paul Hill turned hearts in the wrong direction. He created unnecessary sympathy for the pro-abortion regime.

In all likelihood Tiller’s killer has not prevented the death of children. More likely, he has further hardened America’s heart against the unborn (who people can’t see) by generating sympathy for abortionists (who people can see). His act distorts the truth because it shows blood on the wrong hands. Good heavens, he was shot to death ushering in his church. Absurd.

As Fr. Pavone has written: “At this point, we do not know the motives of this act, or who is behind it, whether an angry post- abortive man or woman, or a misguided activist, or an enemy within the abortion industry, or a political enemy frustrated with the way Tiller has escaped prosecution. We should not jump to conclusions or rush to judgment.” I agree. Regardless of motive, however, Tiller’s death is an unjustifiable act of murder. His widow is bereft. His soul needs our prayers for the mercy he thought he was showing mothers but denying to their children. Tiller had mugs inscribed with the motto: “Trust women.” As an active churchgoer, it should have been “Trust God.”

Friday, May 29, 2009

Fr. Cutie Leaves Catholic Priesthood

Rev. Alberto Cutié, aka "Fr. Oprah", the Catholic priest from Miami who has been caught in a longtime affair, has now joined the Episcopal Church. Apparently he didn't even notify his bishop. This from the New York Times:

A Roman Catholic priest who admitted this month that he was torn between two loves -- his church and his girlfriend -- announced his choice on Thursday.
The priest, the Rev. Alberto Cutié, said he was joining the Episcopal Church and planning to marry his girlfriend of two years, who was also becoming an Episcopalian....
"With God's help," [Cutié] added, "I hope to continue priestly ministry and service in my new spiritual home."

To borrow from Brian St. Paul at Inside Catholic - "Whatever one thinks of a married priesthood, Rev. Cutié made a vow before God to remain celibate. Once caught in his infidelity, he brushed aside the correction of the Church he'd formerly claimed to love, and abandoned her for something else. That should be a warning to the future Mrs. Cutié."

Justified warning.

Today on Kresta - May 29, 2009

Talking about the "things that matter most" on May 29

3:00 – Holy Sex

Common wisdom portrays sex and the Church to be at odds, yet studies show that Catholics have better sex, and more often. In his witty, frank, and refreshingly orthodox way, Dr. Greg Popcak draws from the beautiful truths of Catholic teaching to show people of all faiths about rich and satisfying sexuality. Holy Sex! A Catholic Guide to Toe-Curling, Mind-Blowing, Infallible Loving

3:40 – Kresta Comments – Preparing Our Hearts for Pentecost Weekend

4:00 – Two of the Big Three in Bankruptcy – Will GM Stay in Detroit?
The US government would own 72.5 percent of General Motors under a proposed bankruptcy reorganization that now has support of GM bondholders. The US Treasury agreed to the plan to create a new company that buys the assets of the automaker and that bondholders who had rejected an earlier proposal "support the economic terms" of the new plan. US Congressman Thaddeus McCotter (R- MI) is here to discuss the bankruptcy and whether GM will stay in Detroit.

4:20 – The Apostle of Common Sense has a birthday
Today is the birthday of G.K. Chesterton, the apostle of common sense. Chesterton expert, President and co-founder of the American Chesterton Society, and author of multiple books on Chesterton – Dale Ahlquist joins us. Also with us prolific biographer Joseph Pearce, author of Wisdom and Innocence: A Life of G.K. Chesterton

5:00 – Original Sin: A Cultural History
Alan Jacobs
introduces us to the world of original sin, which he describes as not only a profound idea, but a necessary one. Replete with examples drawn from a number of different cultural expressions, including literature, film, and philosophy, he introduces us to the complexity of explaining how human beings act evilly toward one another. Original Sin: A Cultural History

5:40 – Disney’s Up
What is Up? It is a love story. A tragedy. A soaring fantasy, and a surreal animated comedy. A three-hankie weepie and a cliffhanging thriller. A cross-generational odd-couple buddy movie; a story of man and dog. A tale of sharply observed melancholy truths and whimsically unfettered nonsense. It’s Disney’s latest animated release and it is in theaters today. Steven Greydanus has the review.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Today on Kresta - May 27, 2009

Talking about the "things that matter most" on May 27

Live From the Religious Booksellers Trade Exhibit in Chicago

3:00 –Kresta Comments on Pentecost

3:40 – The Beatitudes for Children

When it comes to growing closer to God, kids (and adults) have no better teacher than Jesus. His eight Beatitudes are a positive, proactive guide for kids to love and serve the Lord as they mature in their understanding of their faith. In a great new book by Donna Piscitelli and Rosemary Gortler, each Beatitude is coupled with a kid-sized explanation that makes it easy for them to relate to these powerful statements. A family interaction page follows, featuring real-life applications that kids and their parents can participate in so the whole family is inspired to apply the Lord's instructions to their lives.

4:00 – Living the Lord’s Prayer
Father Albert Haase
is here to follow the lines of the Lord's Prayer, showing how the ideas have been understood by great people of faith, including Francis of Assisi, Martin Luther, Therese of Lisieux and others, and revealing how God can use this ancient prayer to transform your very soul and teach you to walk in the way of a true disciple of Christ.

4:20 – The Catholic Vision for Living Like Jesus
Each of us is not only called to be a leader, but we are all leaders by default. How effective are you at making a positive impact on the people around you? Discover the power of Christ's personal and practical example and make a measurable difference in the lives of those around you -- at home, at work, in the community or in your parish. Transform your leadership style in light of Jesus' compelling combination of servant, steward, and shepherd. Dr. Owen Phelps will be our guest.

4:40 – What Your Money Means
Countless books tell you how to make money: only this one turns to the wisdom of the ages to illuminate for you the reasons you have money in the first place, and the role it’s meant to play in your life and in the lives of others. Here, American Catholic entrepreneur and philanthropist Frank Hanna introduces us to a lean, no-nonsense explanation of the meaning of money, and a guide for dealing with it constructively.

5:00 – Ancient Christian Devotional: A Year of Weekly Readings: Lectionary Cycle C
By allowing us to read holy writings with ancient eyes, the church fathers help us drink deeply from the only water that can give us true life. A follow-up to the previous Ancient Christian Devotional, which follows lectionary cycle A, this devotional guide follows lectionary cycle C, which begins in Advent 2009. This guide to prayer and reflection combines excerpts from the writings of the church fathers as found in the Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture with a simple structure for daily or weekly reading and prayer. Editor Cindy Crosby is with us.

5:20 – Continuing to Unravel Sonia Sotomayor
With Judge Sonia Sotomayor already facing questions over her 60 percent reversal rate, the Supreme Court could dump another problem into her lap next month if, as many legal analysts predict, the court overturns one of her rulings upholding a race-based employment decision. Meanwhile, Nancy Keenan at NARAL has sent an email to members expanding on her previous public statement on Obama's nominee to the Supreme Court. She also asks NARAL supporters to contact Senators demanding specific questions of the nominee on Roe. Paul Kengor is with us to discuss the nominee.

5:40 – Longing for God
Is your soul yearning to taste God's goodness? Offering a classical model of spiritual formation, Richard Foster introduces us to seven devotional paths illustrated by Thomas Merton, Blaise Pascal, Julian of Norwich, John Wesley, and other key Christian figures. Discover how to experience the spiritual life as journey, deepen your friendship with Jesus, and more.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Prop 8 Upheld - But Gay Marriages Stand

From Larry King Live: Perez Hilton vs. National Organization for Marriage's Maggie Gallagher. This Debate took place before the Supreme Court decision upholding the will of the people in Prop 8. Worth your time to take a listen.

Today on Kresta - May 26, 2009

Talking about the "things that matter most" on May 26

3:00 – SCOTUS Gets a New Member

If confirmed by the Senate, Sonia Sotomayor will join Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg as the second woman on the current court, the third in history. She would succeed retiring Justice David Souter. She would be unlikely to alter the ideological balance of the court, since Souter generally sides with the liberals on key 5-4 rulings. But at 54, she is a generation younger that Souter, and liberal outside groups hope she will provide a counterpoint to some of the sharply worded conservative rulings. Paul Schenck has been working at the Supreme Court for years, and is here to offer his opinion.

3:20 – Sonia Sotomayor for Supreme Court
President Barack Obama chose federal appeals judge Sonia Sotomayor to become the nation's first Hispanic Supreme Court justice this morning, praising her as "an inspiring woman" with both the intellect and compassion to interpret the Constitution wisely. Obama said Sotomayor has more experience as a judge than any current member of the high court had when nominated, adding she has earned the "respect of colleagues on the bench, the admiration of many lawyers who argue cases in her court and the adoration of her clerks, who look to her as a mentor." However, that experience is being called into question by those opposed to the nomination with some calling it laughable to say she has a superior legal intellect. Robert George of Princeton University analyzes.

3:40 – North Korea test-fires 2 more missiles on the heels of a nuclear bomb test
North Korea reportedly tested two more short-range missiles today, a day after detonating a nuclear bomb underground, pushing the regime further into a confrontation with world powers despite the threat of U.N. action. Pyongyang also warned ships to stay away from waters off its western coast this week, a sign it may be gearing up for more missile tests, South Korea's coast guard said. How big of a threat is North Korea, and what can we do about the clearly rogue regime? Bruce Klinger of the Heritage Foundation has the answers.

4:00 – Will Republicans Mount an Opposition to Sotomayor?
Larry Klayman, the founder of conservative groups Freedom Watch and Judicial Watch, is praising -- in a qualified way -- the Sotomayor pick, calling the selection "a very prudent and wise decision from a far left liberal like Obama." Republican Judiciary Committee member Jon Kyl stressed the need for Republicans to have plenty of time to review Sotomayor's record. Kyl cited examples from past Supreme Court confirmations under a Republican-controlled Senate where the then-Democratic minority was afforded "ample time" to review the nominee. What will conservatives do with the nomination? Gary Bauer is here.

4:20 – CA Supreme Court Upholds Prop 8 – Also upholds gay “marriages” already performed
The California Supreme Court has upheld a voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage, but it also decided that the estimated 18,000 gay couples who tied the knot before the law took effect will stay wed. The decision rejected an argument by gay rights activists that the ban revised the California constitution's equal protection clause to such a dramatic degree that it first needed the Legislature's approval. We talk with Bill May of Catholics for the Common Good.

4:40 – The Pope in the Holy Land: A Review
In the final days of his Holy Land trip, Pope Benedict forcefully denounced the Holocaust, telling Israelis that the brutal extermination of Jews by the "godless" Nazi regime would never be forgotten or denied. His language appeared to lift Jewish disappointment over earlier remarks about the murder of six million Jews by his fellow Germans, which to Israelis had sounded cold and distant. Ending a Holy Land pilgrimage which he said made "powerful impressions" of hope and sadness, the 82-year-old pontiff also appealed for peace between Israelis and Palestinians so each can live in their own state, as trustful neighbors in security. We review the trip and ask what impact it will have. John Allen is our guest.

5:00 – Sotomayor and social issues
President Barack Obama called Judge Sonia Sotomayor at 9 p.m. on Memorial Day to say she was his pick for the Supreme Court. Sotomayor’s record on the divisive issue of abortion is murky. In 17 years on the federal bench, she has issued no opinions dealing directly with abortion rights. And in two cases dealing tangentially with the issue—involving anti-abortion protesters and the government right to limit abortion-related speech by foreign recipients of U.S. aid—the appeals court judge’s ruling favored abortion opponents. Still, anti-abortion forces are convinced that Obama would not nominate Sotomayor without being confident that she supports abortion rights. Hadley Arkes is here to look at her record.

5:20 – Victory for Prop 8 – Where Does the Fight Go From Here
The California Supreme Court upheld a voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage Tuesday, but it also decided that the estimated 18,000 gay couples who tied the knot before the law took effect will stay wed. The 6-1 decision rejected an argument by gay rights activists that the ban revised the California constitution's equal protection clause to such a dramatic degree that it first needed the Legislature's approval. The court said the people have a right, through the ballot box, to change their constitution. How big is this victory and where does the battle go from here? Maggie Gallagher has the answers.

5:40 – Kresta Comments

Thursday, May 21, 2009

2 Miles of Life

This video comes to us courtesy of pro life activist and leader Jill Stanek. You can easily count 450+ people in this video and it is reported that over 4,000 people showed up for the ND response prayer rally on campus. Compare what you see in this video with the images presented on mainstream networks and ask yourself if the MSM is trying to downplay the number of Americans who are actively Pro-Life.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Dan Brown's Religion

Self-styled spirituality has been on the rise since beatniks (yes, they existed) started cafeteria style Buddhism. Do-it-yourself religion may have reached crisis proportions according to recent polls. In a culture which prizes individualism and neglects history and tradition what can a Catholic expect? Human beings are made in the image and likeness of God; they will know Him or create some surrogate. Pity that so many refuse to ask if God has seen fit to reveal Himself, not just to me, but to the human race.

Ross Douthat makes sense of some of this in a recent NYT column.
Talking about the "things that matter most" on May 19
Live From Minneapolis, MN

3:00 – Scientists Unveil the “Missing Link” in NY
Scientists have unveiled a 47-million-year-old fossilised skeleton of a monkey hailed as the missing link in human evolution. The search for a direct connection between humans and the rest of the animal kingdom has taken 200 years - but it was presented to the world today at a special news conference in New York. The discovery of the 95%-complete 'lemur monkey' - dubbed Ida - is described by experts as the "eighth wonder of the world".They say its impact on the world of palaeontology will be "somewhat like an asteroid falling down to Earth". That’s how it’s being reported. We get a check on reality from Jonathan Wells of the Discovery Institute.

3:30 – A History of the Search for the “Missing Link”

We continue our discussion of the “missing link” by taking a survey of the history of the elusive search for a link to “prove” Darwinian evolution. Edward Larson won the 1998 Pulitzer Prize for History for his book Summer for the Gods: The Scopes Trial and America's Continuing Debate Over Science and Religion and he is with us to look at this story and it’s significance in the evolution debate.

4:00 – Kresta Comments

4:20 – Science vs. Religion: A New Battlefield Over the Missing Link?

In what could prove to be a landmark discovery, a leading paleontologist said scientists have dug up the 47 million-year-old fossil of an ancient primate whose features suggest it could be the common ancestor of all later monkeys, apes and humans. According to Darwinian evolution, humans evolved from ancient ape-like ancestors. Some 50 million years ago, two ape-like groups walked the Earth. One is known as the tarsidae, a precursor of the tarsier, a tiny, large-eyed creature that lives in Asia. Another group is known as the adapidae, a precursor of today's lemurs in Madagascar. Based on previously limited fossil evidence, one big debate had been whether the tarsidae or adapidae group gave rise to monkeys, apes and humans. This latest discovery bolsters the less common position that our ancient ape-like ancestor was an adapid, the believed precursor of lemurs. Dr. Fuzz Rana of Reasons to Believe is here to shed some light on the story.

5:00 – Re-Air 3:00 hour

Monday, May 18, 2009

Today on Kresta - May 18, 2009

Talking about the "things that matter most" on May 18
Live From Minneapolis, MN

3:00 – Inside the Joyce Center at the ND Graduation

More than two dozen pro-life protesters were arrested at Notre Dame University Sunday as President Barack Obama told a graduation ceremony at the Catholic school that both sides in the abortion debate must stop demonizing one another. Obama acknowledged that "no matter how much we want to fudge it ... the fact is that at some level, the views of the two camps are irreconcilable." But he still implored the University of Notre Dame's graduating class and all in the U.S. to stop "reducing those with differing views to caricature. Open hearts. Open minds. Fair-minded words. It's a way of life that always has been the Notre Dame tradition." We talk with Anna Mitchell of the Sonrise Morning Show who was inside the Commencement Exercises.

3:20 – “Fr. Oprah” Scandalizes the Faithful of Miami
A popular Miami priest and media personality says that he is thinking about repudiating his ordination for a woman he loves after a magazine ran pictures of the couple kissing and hugging. The Rev. Alberto Cutie said he supports the Roman Catholic Church's rule that priests cannot marry and said he does not want to become the "anti-celibacy priest." Cutie was removed last week as head of the Miami Archdiocese's international radio network and as head of his parish after the Spanish-language magazine TVnotas ran photos of him embracing a woman at a bar and at a beach. Fr. Tom Euteneuer of Human Life International joins us to look at celibacy and the priesthood.

4:00 – What Happened to the “gay gene”
A publication from the American Psychological Association includes an admission that there is no "gay" gene, according to a doctor who has written widely about the issue. A. Dean Byrd, the past president of NARTH, confirmed that the statement from the American Psychological Association came in a brochure that updates what the APA has advocated for years. Specifically, in a brochure that first came out about 1998, the APA stated: "There is considerable recent evidence to suggest that biology, including genetic or inborn hormonal factors, play a significant role in a person's sexuality." However, in the update: a brochure now called, "Answers to Your Questions for a Better Understanding of Sexual Orientation & Homosexuality," the APA's position changed. We talk with Peter LaBarbara, President of Americans For Truth about Homosexuality.

4:20 – Judge rules US family can't refuse chemo for Minnesota boy
A Minnesota judge has ruled that a 13-year-old boy with a highly treatable form of cancer must seek conventional medical treatment despite his parents' objections on religious grounds. The judge found that Daniel Hauser has been "medically neglected" and is in need of child protection services. Daniel was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma and stopped chemotherapy in February after a single treatment. He and his parents opted instead for "alternative medicines" based on their religious beliefs. Doctors have said Daniel's cancer had up to a 90 percent chance of being cured with chemotherapy and radiation. Without those treatments, doctors said his chances of survival are 5 percent. Dr. Brian Scarnecchia of Ave Maria Law School joins us to discuss it.

5:00 – Al Dissects Obama Commencement Address at Notre Dame

5:40 – Protesting at Notre Dame
Although he had initially planned to stay away from campus yesterday as President Barack Obama was honored at Notre Dame, Bishop John D’Arcy of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Indiana changed his mind and spoke at a campus pro-life rally. According to the Fort Wayne News Sentinel, the bishop spoke in front of 2,500 people protesting the university’s award to pro-abortion President Barack Obama. Initially Bishop D’Arcy had planned to boycott the graduation festivities, however he decided to appear on campus due to the school’s pro-life undergraduates. "It is certainly the place for the bishop to be here," D'Arcy said. "John D'Arcy's not important, but the office of bishop if very important and it must always be like Pope John Paul II to stand up for life all the time, everywhere without exception.” Teresa Tomeo and Monica Miller were there and they join us to discuss it.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Commencement Demonstration Details

ND Response has received official permission to host a prayerful and constructive demonstration on the campus of the University of Notre Dame on the weekend of Commencement. As students of this University, they invite all those interested in respectfully and constructively standing alongside them as they give witness to Notre Dame’s Catholic identity and affirm the sanctity of life. Click here for a schedule for Commencement weekend.

Today on Kresta - May 14, 2009

Talking about the "things that matter most" on May 14
Live From the Campus of the University of Notre Dame

3:00 – Kresta Comments – Live From Notre Dame

3:20 – At The Gates of Notre Dame

We all knew this fight was coming. The Catholic Church and the Catholic colleges have been heading toward a crash since at least 1990, when John Paul II issued Ex Corde Ecclesiae, his apostolic constitution for Catholic institutions of higher education. And now, at last, the battle is public—brought to fever pitch by Notre Dame’s bestowing of an honorary law degree on a prominent supporter of legalized abortion. Jody Bottum of First Things is here to analyze.

3:40 – Archbishop Burke: ND the “greatest of scandals”
Barack Obama. Notre Dame. Abortion. Marriage. Last week, Archbishop Raymond Burke returned to his native United States from Rome to talk about the moral and patriotic responsibilities of the Catholic American in 2009. Speaking at the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast in Washington, he addressed hot-button issues directly, and made headlines. But the Vatican official — whose role could be described as “chief justice” of the Catholic Church’s “supreme court” — did more than deliver well-received applause lines on controversial issues; at the core of this shepherd’s address were challenges and instruction to every Catholic within the sound of his voice (and, thanks to the Internet, very many more). Kathryn Jean Lopez was able to interview the Archbishop on his flight back to Rome. She joins us.

4:00 – ND Alumni Confirm $13.9 million in withheld donations
Organizers of, the online effort that asks alumni and donors to the University of Notre Dame to withhold donations, announced this week that they have tallied nearly $14 million in withheld donations from alumni and donors who feel disenfranchised by the trend of Notre Dame’s leadership to abandon its Catholic identity. The website has received over 1,400 pledges from alumni and donors promising to withhold future donations. After more than three weeks since the website was launched, the addition of new alumni and donors on the site continues daily. We talk with spokesman David DiFranco.

4:20 – The Theology of the Body: Presentation Matters
In an interview on ABC's "Nightline" last week, Christopher West, of Theology of the Body fame, compared favorably Pope John Paul II and Hugh Hefner, founder and publisher of Playboy Magazine, calling them his “muses.” Dr. Damian Federyka has spent many years studying John Paul the Great’s Theology of the Body and is here to challenge West’s presentation of TOTB.

5:00 – ND: Identity Crisis
Fr. Frank Pavone
will be present on the campus of the University of Notre Dame this weekend. Members of the senior class who have decided not to attend their own graduation have invited him to lead them in prayer at the Class of 2009 Vigil for Life, which will start at 2pm, the same time as the commencement ceremony in which President Obama will be honored. Fr. Pavone stated, “In standing with these students, I am standing with the true spirit of Notre Dame: a pro-life spirit, in harmony with human reason and Catholic Faith. The scandal that has been generated does not represent what Notre Dame is all about; it represents a radical betrayal of what Notre Dame is all about. I am encouraged by the pro-life activities of so many student groups on this campus – activities that are carried out all year round.” He joins us.

5:20 – ND Response: We Want Our University Back
ND Response has received official permission to host a prayerful and constructive demonstration on the campus of the University of Notre Dame on the weekend of Commencement. As students of this University, they invite all those interested in respectfully and constructively standing alongside us as we give witness to Notre Dame’s Catholic identity and affirm the sanctity of life. The events include Bishop John D’Arcy and Fr. Frank Pavone and will take place Saturday and Sunday on the camps of Notre Dame. John Daly of NDResponse is here with the details.

5:40 – Angels and Demons: The Review
Quick, how did Copernicus die? Dan Brown readers “know” the answer: “Outspoken scientists like Copernicus” were “murdered by the church for revealing scientific truths,” according to a tag-team history lesson by Harvard “symbolist” Robert Langdon and CERN director Maximilian Kohler in Angels & Demons, the predecessor to Brown’s blockbuster sequel, The Da Vinci Code. Tomorrow the new Ron Howard adaptation of Angels & Demons — reworked as a sequel rather than a prequel to Howard’s 2006 smash The Da Vinci Code — will bring another installment of the Dan Brown version of history to millions of moviegoers. While the new film doesn’t repeat the specific charge of the murder of Copernicus, it maintains the larger historical context set forth in Brown’s Angels & Demons: the Church’s murderous persecution of science, especially in the Illuminati, a secret society that Brown claims counted Copernicus, Galileo and Bernini among its members. We have the official review with Steven Greydanus.

Tagging along with Benedict

John L. Allen Jr. is NCR senior correspondent.

His traveling with Pope Benedict XVI in Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian Territories May 8-15. The stories he has filed so far:

Today, Benedict belonged to the Palestinians (May 13)

Pope strikes new balance in the Old City (May 12)

The pope and the Hitler Youth, in Benedict's own words (May 12)

Analysis: Benedict's timeless touch noble, but tricky (May 12)

Theo-phobia, attack, illness or bad manners

Witness the words of philosopher Thomas Nagel, who confessed to a “fear of religion itself.”

"I speak from experience, being strongly subject to this fear myself: I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers. It isn’t just that I don’t believe in God and, naturally, hope that I’m right in my belief. It’s that I hope there is no God! I don’t want there to be a God; I don’t want the universe to be like that. My guess is that this cosmic authority problem is not a rare condition and it is responsible for much of the scientism and reductionism of our time. One of the tendencies it supports is the ludicrous overuse of evolutionary biology to explain everything about life, including everything about the human mind. Darwin enabled modern secular culture to heave a great collective sigh of relief, by apparently providing a way to eliminate purpose, meaning and design as fundamental features of the world."

That’s about as clear of an expression of Theo-phobia as one could want. The “cosmic authority problem.” Perhaps that is the source of atheist Richard Dawkins' zeal in his defense of Darwinism? One only wishes that he—and Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, and Daniel Dennett—were as candid about the emotional source of atheism as Thomas Nagel.

Is religion or atheism a form of child abuse?

"Why shouldn't a bunch of bible-bangers brainwash the next generation." From the lips of Law and Order's tough Detective Lennie Briscoe

“Most people are religious because they’re raised to be. They’re indoctrinated by their parents.”
So goes the rationale of my nonreligious friends.

Maybe, but a study entitled “Faith in Flux” issued this week by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life questioned nearly 3,000 people and found that most children raised unaffiliated with a religion later chose to join one. Indoctrination be damned. By contrast, only 14 percent of those raised Catholic and 13 percent of those raised Protestant later became unaffiliated.

A few of the new atheists like Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens and Sam Harris have all hinted at the dangers of religious education of children. Perhaps governments should consider it a form of abuse.

A new Pew study opens a new window on childhood religious or irreligious training. Religion is just indoctrination? Maybe it's unbelief that has to be inculculcated in order to keep the infection of faith from taking hold. See this NYT column and the Pew study behind it.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Today on Kresta - May 13, 2009

Talking about the "things that matter most" on May 13

3:00 – The Merchant of Venice

St. Augustine’s Homeschool Enrichment Program was founded to unite the best of the modern home school with the tradition of a Catholic liberal arts education. The goal of Catholic liberal arts education is to understand how everything humans can ever know fits together in a coherent image of God’s universe and how He wants us to live in it. Such learning must be lived and carried into the heart as well as the mind. The kids of St. Augustine’s will be performing the “Merchant of Venice” this weekend in SE MI. We talk with Dr. Henry Russell about the performance, Shakespeare and St. Augustine’s.
Click here to watch the video of this interview

3:20 – Hate Crime Legislation

With the state House of Representatives set to vote on the issue as early as Wednesday, a statewide family values group and its national affiliate Monday urged tens of thousands of Michigan residents to contact lawmakers in opposition to a bill that would create special "protected class" status for individuals who engage in homosexual behavior or cross-dressing and special enhanced prison sentences for crimes committed against them. Gary Glenn talks with us.

3:40 – Torture and Our Vulnerability to Radical Evil
Radical evil sets the threshold of victory so high that we risk contamination by confronting it on its own terms. Terrorists tempt us to torture them, by striking against innocent noncombatants out of the shadows. The present debate over torture is a black cloud as big as a man’s hand announcing a storm to come. How do we arrogate unto ourselves the right to inflict death and extreme pain upon innocents—leave aside not-so-innocent terrorists—without corrupting ourselves? The insidious character of radical evil seeks to contaminate us through our own response. Ordinary evil kills for profit or rapes for pleasure. Radical evil rapes and kills so that terror and horror will blot out the memory of the good and leave behind only the capacity for more evil. David Goldman looks at how the torture debate shows our vulnerability to radical evil.
Click here to watch the video of this interview

4:00 – Kresta Comments

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4:20 – Sexual Authenticity: An Intimate Reflection on Homosexuality and Catholicism
Real glimpses into the hearts and lives of other people are rare. However, columnist and author Melinda Selmys gives reader us an unusual opportunity to explore the topic of homosexuality and the Catholic Faith from a fresh, sincere perspective. Her intensely personal reflections help clarify the misconceptions that have hindered meaningful dialogue between Catholics and homosexuals. Transcending stereotypes and avoiding pat sentiments, she speaks directly to every Christian who has experienced same-sex attraction or knows someone who has. In addition to her personal story of exchanging secular lesbianism for Catholicism and resolving her own inner conflicts, she presents an enlightening analysis of history, social theory, and media influence on the subject of homosexuality. She is with us to addresses the complexities surrounding sexual identity with pronounced compassion, adding a practical discussion of the Theology of the Body to complete the circle from a Catholic perspective.
Click here to watch the video of this interview.

5:00 – Notre Dame Controversy Is A Flashpoint For A Broader Debate
Russell Shaw
predicts that no matter how the Notre Dame controversy turns out, the flap will in the future be seen as a turning-point – whether for the better or for the worse only time can tell. What all of those who are speaking out against ND’s decision understand, but the academic bureaucrats running Notre Dame do not, is that opposition to abortion and the defense of unborn life have supplied much of the glue holding American Catholicism more or less together in the last 40 years – four decades during which the unity and the Catholic identity of American Catholicism have otherwise been severely at risk. Now, in choosing to honor our pro-abortion president, Notre Dame's message to pro-life Catholics, including the bishops of the United States, is, "Get over it. It's time to grow up and move on just as we've done." Russell is here to share his thoughts.
Click here to watch the video of this interview.

5:20 – The Death of a Pope
Juan Uriarte, a handsome and outspoken Spanish ex-priest, seems to be the model of nonviolence and compassion for the poor and downtrodden. So why is he on trial, accused of terrorist activities? His worldwide Catholic charitable outreach program is suspected of being a front for radicals. Meanwhile an international conspiracy is growing, one that reaches into the Vatican itself. When the death of Pope John Paul II brings about the conclave that will elect Joseph Ratzinger as Pope Benedict XVI, a terrorist plot involving blackmail, subterfuge, and mass murder begins to fall into place... a plot that could spell disaster for the Catholic Church and the world. No, it’s not Angels and Demons, it’s The Death of a Pope by British Catholic novelist Piers Paul Read - a powerful tale that combines vivid characters, high drama, love, betrayal, faith, and redemption in a story of intrigue, church espionage, and an attempt to destroy the longest continuous government in the world - the Papacy.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Kresta Commentary: Neither Angels nor Demons (part 1)

Neither Angels nor Demons 1
May 12, 2009
Al Kresta

Last week I screened Ron Howard’s film version of Dan (Da Vinci Code) Brown’s Angels and Demons. The movie won’t turn you into either. But it will lay another dirty veneer over the popular media portrait of a corrupt Catholic Church menacing human progress and obstructing scientific discovery.

This is the only issue I’ll deal with in this column. I am not writing a movie review. Nor am I denying the film’s wealth of talent and fine production values. I am also ignoring the film’s outrageous claims about the Illuminati, the bizarre invention of a Galileo code which riddles the world with secret messages and clues to the combat between science and faith, or the claim that the Church hunted down and killed scientifically progressive souls.

I am deliberately avoiding all of the above nonsense and irrelevancies so I can focus on the most important problem with the film: its monstrously unjust portrayal of the Church’s relationship to scientific investigation. This one thing I do.

First, an exhortation: Get ready to do some historical apologetics. Let’s establish the Church’s reputation as the greatest single contributor to the rise of modern science. I will equip you to make that claim. When you finish reading this column and its forthcoming sisters, you will know more about the Catholic Church and the rise of science than ninety percent of those who will see the movie. So seize the evangelistic day. Embrace the movie’s release as a great opportunity to reveal the work of Christ through His Body, the Church. Okay. I’ll show my age. Sing it: Shine Jesus shine.

Second, a warning: Don’t be put off by the excuse that Angels and Demons is just fiction or that the movie isn’t as anti-Catholic as the book or that Ron Howard’s climax pulls its punch against the new pope. Would you applaud a segregationist just because he’s not with the KKK? Would you shrug off as harmless a movie that presents the International Red Cross as intentionally poisoning millions of those it claimed to be healing?

Third, the thesis: Hear me clearly, the problem with Angels and Demons is not that it criticizes the Catholic Church or takes artistic liberties with sacred materials. No, the problem is that its premise runs directly counter to the truth. What is the key truth suppressed here? That the Catholic Church has consistently advanced- not obstructed- the cause of scientific investigation- not perfectly but consistently, reliably, predictably and benevolently! There isn’t another competitor in Her league because Jesus does all things well.

You needn’t take my word for it. Hear Oxford researcher and American Historian of Science John Heilbron’s prize winning study, The Sun in the Church: Cathedrals as Solar Observatories (2001). "The Roman Catholic Church gave more financial and social support to the study of astronomy for over six centuries, from the recovery of ancient learning during the late Middle Ages into the Enlightenment, than any other, and, probably, all other, institutions."

Let me break the news gently to Dan Brown and Ron Howard. The Galileo case is the exception that proves the rule. We deceive ourselves and others when we take this complex case and use it as the grid through which all other church/science conflicts can be assessed. {See Donald Demarco’s excellent exposition of the Galileo Affair For a broader look see Lawrence Principe’s Science and Religion. Lectures 2-6 are especially on point.}

Fourth, truth matters - even in fiction. Good fictional as well as good non-fictional storytelling is expected to fiddle with the facts to achieve dramatic effects. Think of the following Sports films: Cinderella Man, Sea Biscuit, Rocky Balboa, Remember the Titans, Bring It On, Karate Kid, We are Marshall, Chariots of Fire, Rudy are not judged as though they were documentaries like Hoop Dreams, The Fight, or Spellbound.

Ron Howard and Dan Brown probably don’t see themselves as purveyors of violence. But their hostile re-invention of a community’s factual background can only create frustration and frustration leads to aggression. When tellers of tales marginalize, stereotype and demonize various groups, they are reading a people out of history. When storytellers wildly distort, by commission or omission, the narrative of a neighborly charitable, educational and, (dare I claim it?), a Divinely established institution, it is just plain wrong regardless of the movie market’s willingness to have its ears tickled with lies.

Fifth, Howard and Hanks know what they are doing. On the Catholic Church and science, even Hollywood should get it by now. The evidence is not unclear. Angels and Demons is not novelistic license; it is exploitation. In spite of their talent Ron Howard, Tom Hanks and Dan Brown are, in this instance, par with snake-oil salesmen trading on the credulity of an uninformed public desperate for healing.

Just how absurd is Howard’s picture of the Catholic Church and science? What does it look like? Like a Barnum and Bailey circus program where the lion-taming act is followed by a march of the Missionaries of Charity swaying single-file like a family of dancing elephants, Mother Teresa at the lead. Nobody looks good in that parade…not even P.T. Barnum. The version of history presented in this movie is so unfair that Church authorities denied Howard and company permission to film in the Vatican. Who can blame them? Why should Catholic pastors be party to a huge commercial plan that presents Christ’s Bride as a centerfold?

Let’s recall the premise of the movie. The film’s Vatican administrator (camerlingo) sets it up: “Since the days of Galileo our Church has tried to slow the relentless march of progress sometimes with misguided means.” Nonsense. There is no “Vatican’s centuries’ old reluctance to embrace science” as slop/pop TV documentaries put it. Real historians of science dismiss this legend as, at best, little more than a good yarn, an entertaining story pitting an authoritarian, hierarchical institution against free-thinking, progressive, democratic dissenters. This “yea-boo”, “cheer-jeer” version of history never happened. You might even say it’s the angels vs. demons approach to the past. Tom Hanks reduces the Church’s concern for truth to a disguise for guarding its own survival interests. “When it comes down to protecting one’s turf…it’s a very basic protagonist/antagonist dilemma. That’s really important to Angels and Demons.”
Sixth, how bad is the film’s distortion? We need to get our proportions straight. Over-reaction can undermine our mission as much as apathy. So just how off-base is the Brown, Hanks and Howard version of the relationship between the Church and science? Hear Lawrence Principe, professor of History of Science, Technology and Chemistry at Johns Hopkins University. He is unambiguous about the scholarly opinion: “Let me be clear; the idea that scientific and religious camps have historically been separate and antagonistic is rejected by all modern historians of science.”

Seventh, how do they get away with this? “History is bunk” said Henry Ford and many of us implicitly agree. But we’re a little ashamed of ourselves. I mean we know that if we ignore the past we are more likely to be suckers in the present. But even the best of us don’t really know very much outside our work and hobbies. Test yourself. (Trust me; I do have a point to the following questions).

How many of the Founding Fathers of the United States can you immediately name? Washington, Franklin, Jefferson. Maybe Madison, Adams and Hamilton. If you can go beyond that, most of your fellow citizens would respect you as an operator in the “smart zone.”
How about Civil War generals? Definitely Lee, Grant, Sherman and Stonewall Jackson. For those who care more than the average bear, we remember Pickett, McClellan, Longstreet, Jeb Stuart, George Meade. Now if you grew up near Ken Burns in Ann Arbor, then maybe Hooker, Burnham, Nathan Bedford Forest, A.P. Hill, Halleck. Don’t feel bad: there were hundreds of generals you’ve never heard of.
How about the women most responsible for securing the right to vote? I’ll wager no more than two come to mind. Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Did anybody also get Lucretia Mott? Probably not unless you’ve taken a Woman’s Studies course or bothered to watch a PBS documentary.

So how do Brown and Howard get away with it? Very simply: the ignorance of their audience. When I say “Catholic Church and science”, why does only one name come to everyone’s mind? Galileo. Even though historians of science agree that the Galileo case is the exception not the rule. Yet it persists.
Why does Galileo, the “Father of Observational Astronomy” dominate?
Why not these other Catholics of varying degrees of devotion but still of exceptional intelligence and giftedness and blessing to humanity?
Why not Msgr. George Lemaitre, the “Father of the Big Bang theory”?
Or Abbot Gregor Mendel, the “Father of Genetics?”
Or Franciscan Friar, Roger Bacon, the “Father of Scientific Laws?”
Or St. Archbishop Nicolas Steno, the “Father of Geology”?
Or Rene Descartes, the “Father of Modern Rationalism?”
Or Fr. Marin Mersenne the "Father of Acoustics?"
Or Andreas Vesalius, the “Father of Modern Anatomy and Physiology?”
Or Antoine Lavoisier, the “Father of Modern Chemistry”
Or Blaise Pascal, the “Father of Hydrostatics?”
Or Louis Pasteur, the “Father of Pasteurization?”
Or Archdeacon Nicolaus Copernicus, “the Father of Heliocentrism?”
Or Pierre-Duhem, “the Father of the History of Medieval Science?”
Or Fr. George Coyne, the discoverer of asteroid 14429 Coyne?
Or Dr. Martin Nowak, Harvard mathematics and biology where his discoveries in evolutionary dynamics argue that cooperation as much as competition has driven natural selection. "Genes cooperate in cells, cells cooperate in organisms, and individuals cooperate in societies."
Or Guglielmo Marconi, “the Father of Radio?” and recipient of the 1909 Nobel Prize in Physics.

The thought “Catholic Church and science” produces “Galileo” with as much certainty as saying “tissue” and thinking “Kleenex.” Angels and Demons is your chance to elevate your neighbors’ understanding of the Faith by letting Jesus shine through His Church. Share some of this information and they will no longer be enslaved to longstanding cultural conditioning processes. No longer will they hear the ringing of the “Catholic Church and science” bell and then unthinkingly salivate “Galileo.”

How did the Catholic Church’s vital role in the development of modern science get obscured by the much misunderstood Galileo incident? We actually know and I’ll tell you in the next column.

" Since the same God who reveals mysteries and infuses faith has bestowed the light of reason on the human mind, God cannot deny himself, nor can truth ever contradict truth." "Consequently, methodical research in all branches of knowledge, provided it is carried out in a truly scientific manner and does not override moral laws, can never conflict with the faith, because the things of the world and the things of faith derive from the same God.” (CCC, 159).

Watch live video from Kresta In The Afternoon's channel on

Today on Kresta - May 12, 2009

Talking about the "things that matter most" on May 12

3:00 – Christian History Project Back on Track – Volume 7 Published

To publish the last six volumes of the landmark book series called “The Christians: Their First Two Thousand Years,” and to better access the opportunities for the series rapidly opening in the television field, the Christian History Project has turned the series over to a new non-profit society, organized by the series’ general editor Ted Byfield. Ted is with us to look at the struggle to get the project back on track and the latest release – Volume 7 – on the Crusades.
Click here to watch the video of this interview.

3:40 – Obama Gets His First Crack at the Supreme Court – What Should We Expect?
President Barack Obama today met with key Senate leaders from both parties as he moves closer to choosing a nominee to replace Justice David Souter on the Supreme Court. Obama talked at the White House with Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid, Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell and Sen. Jeff Sessions, the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee. The White House has ruled out that Obama will name his Supreme Court pick this week. Souter is retiring in June, and Obama wants to have a nominee confirmed when the next Supreme Court session starts in October. What can we expect from Obama’s first nomination? Gary Bauer offers his opinion.
Click here to watch the video of this interview.

4:00 – Kresta Comments

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4:20 – Pope’s Trip Meets Turbulence

Jewish leaders are criticizing Pope Benedict’s address at Jerusalem’s Yad Vashem Memorial to victims of the Holocaust. Charlotte Knobloch, the president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, called the speech “half hearted.” Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, chairman of the Yad Vashem Council, said it lacked “an expression of empathy with the sorrow” and that “there certainly was no apology expressed here.” He continued, “Something was missing. There was no mention of the Germans or the Nazis who participated in the butchery, nor a word of regret.” The former chief rabbi of Israel added on Israeli television, “There is a clear difference between ‘killed’ and ‘murdered’. There is a difference between saying millions in the Holocaust and saying six million. The word six was not said.” Six hours earlier, during the welcoming ceremony at Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv, Pope Benedict had said, “It is right and fitting that, during my stay in Israel, I will have the opportunity to honor the memory of the six million Jewish victims of the Shoah, and to pray that humanity will never again witness a crime of such magnitude.” Ron Rychlak joins us for analysis.
Click here to watch the video of this interview.

4:40 – Where Will This Year’s Graduates Find a Model of Manhood?
Brad Miner
has a challenge to modern men: recover the oldest and best ideal of manhood—the gentleman. He outlines a manly model who is neither prude nor prig nor fop. The gentleman is a classic combination of strength and selflessness, contemplation, correct action and, yes…cool. He is the aristocrat not of wealth or birth, but of virtue. Miner is too wise in the ways of young men to think they will respond to a lecture or another guidebook on which fork to use or how to keep a bowtie from spinning. Instead he tells a story of an ideal and the men throughout history who have tried—always imperfectly—to live up to it. We look at The Compleat Gentleman: The Modern Man's Guide to Chivalry.
Click here to watch the video of this interview.

5:00 – Direct to my Desk

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Sex Selection? No problem

Swedish health authorities have ruled that gender-based abortion is not illegal according to current law and can not therefore be stopped. In February a woman from Eskilstuna in southern Sweden had twice had abortions after finding out the gender of the child. The woman, who already had two daughters, requested an amniocentesis in order to allay concerns about possible chromosome abnormalities. At the same time, she also asked to know the baby's gender. Doctors at Mälaren Hospital expressed concern and asked Sweden’s National Board of Health and Welfare to draw up guidelines on how to handle requests in the future in which they "feel pressured to examine the foetus’s gender" without having a medically compelling reason to do so. The board has now responded that such requests and thus abortions can not be refused and that it is not possible to deny a woman an abortion up to the 18th week of pregnancy, even if the baby's gender is the basis for the request.

Monday, May 11, 2009

My Muses: Pope John Paul II and Hugh Hefner

In an interview on ABC's "Nightline" Christopher West, of Theology of the Body fame, compared favorably Pope John Paul II and Hugh Hefner, founder and publisher of Playboy Magazine.

Here is a column written by Father Angelo Geiger who takes issue with Christopher's approach.

Here is a clarification from Christopher regarding some of his statements made on the program.

View the video below and decide for yourself. Strikes Gold Again

Here's the latest from Catholic It debuted at the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast on Friday. In case you missed it a couple months ago, the first commercial (which was banned from airing during the Super Bowl) is below as well.

Today on Kresta - May 11, 2009

Talking about the "things that matter most" on May 11

3:00 – Taking Humanitarianism Seriously

Lady Caroline Cox is a member of the British House of Lords, founder and CEO of an organization called the Human Aid Relief Trust (HART) and has dedicated her life to humanitarian causes, particularly relating to disability. HART works to provide aid and advocacy for those who are, or who have been, suffering oppression and persecution, and who are largely neglected by the international media. It relies on first-hand evidence of human rights violations, using this as a basis for a powerful twin-track program of international advocacy in such arenas as the House of Lords and the media, and targeted aid-work focusing on sustainable community development, local partnership and regional networks of support. We talk with Baroness Cox about her life and work.

3:20 – Race, Murder, and the Search for Justice in the American South
I AM N-N-NOT DYING! screamed Willie Francis, a 17-year-old African-American convicted of murder by an all-white Louisiana jury in 1946, during the failed electrocution. Francis's story is emblematic of the time and place—a prominent white man in a Cajun town was gunned down, and soon Francis was picked up and, under duress and without an attorney, confessed to the crime. Despite no eyewitnesses and scant physical evidence, Francis was convicted and sentenced to death. After surviving the first execution attempt, he waited in prison nearly a year while the battle over his fate went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. Drawing on extensive research and interviews, Gilbert King offers us a compelling examination of American racism and justice.

4:00 – Kresta Comments

4:20 – With the Pope in Jerusalem

“Even though the name Jerusalem means 'city of peace,' it is all too evident that, for decades, peace has tragically eluded the inhabitants of this holy land,” Pope Benedict said in Israel this morning, as he called for “every possible avenue” to be pursued to find peace. The Pope was welcomed to Israel at Ben Gurion International Airport by a military honor guard, a cadre of religious and civil officials and Israel's president, Shimon Peres today. Benedict XVI delivered a speech in which he first noted that he stands “in a long line of Christian pilgrims to these shores, a line that stretches back to the earliest centuries of the Church’s history ... I come, like so many others before me, to pray at the holy places, to pray especially for peace – peace here in the Holy Land, and peace throughout the world.” So what can we expect from the Holy Father’s visit to the Middle East? Steve Ray is there and offers his perspective from the ground in Jerusalem.

4:40 – TBA

5:00 – In the Footsteps of Benedict

Even before Pope Benedict XVI began his trip to the Middle East, saying that he would travel as a “pilgrim of peace,” the world's media outlets offered their perspectives on the likely political outcome of the papal voyage. The New York Times saw the trip as a fence-mending mission, while BBC more tendentiously suggested the need for the Church to atone of centuries of anti-Semitism. Al Jazeera offered a comparatively mild view of the Pope's arrival in Jordan, saying that he had shown respect for Islam. While some Muslim leaders had demanded a formal apology for the Regensburg speech, the papal spokesman, Father Federico Lombardi, said with some asperity that “we cannot continue until the end of the world to repeat the same clarifications.” That comment might apply as well to the Israeli religion minister who demanded another papal condemnation of Holocaust-denial. We talk to our own journalist, Patrick Novecosky, who traveled with the Holy Father in Amman, Jordan.

5:20 – The “Republican War on Science”
Journalist Chris Mooney recently wrote a book entitled The Republican War on Science. The basic thesis is that science and scientists have less influence with Republicans than at any time since the Eisenhower administration. He argues that science is politicized by conservatives, spun or distorted to fit the speaker’s agenda; or, when they’re its too inconvenient, ignored entirely. Now, MSNBC host Chris Matthews is taking this argument to new heights in the last week in interviews with Rep. Mike Pence and former Congressman Tom Tancredo. We play portions of these interviews and analyze them with Dr. Michael Behe.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Tom Hanks isn't a historian but he slept at a Holiday Inn last night

Seeing Ron Howard’s film version of Dan Brown’s Angels and Demons won’t turn you into either one. But the movie sure spreads another noxious layer of glaze over the devilish portrait of a Catholic Church forever locked in mortal combat with progress and science. Brown even has the camerlengo telling the assembled Cardinals at conclave: “Since the days of Galileo our Church has tried to slow the relentless march of science.” Not a red hat spun or pious eye blinked.

Most people- not historians of science- see the Church's relationship to science through the small and twisted lens of the Galileo incident. The distortion is enormous and confers political and cultural benefits to certain interest groups.

During 18th and 19th century England, America, and much of Europe Protestants and secularists, both eager to undermine the political and theological influence of the Catholic Church, found it easy to exaggerate the Galileo affair while simultaneously ignoring Catholic contributions to the scientific revolution.

I'll have an extended historical commentary on this persistent nonsense. Here's a taste:

Senior research fellow at Oxford John Heilbron’s prize winning study The Sun in the Church: Cathedrals as Solar Observatories (Harvard University Press) argues that the Catholic Church gave more financial aid and social support to the study of astronomy for over six centuries from the late Middle Ages into the 18th century than perhaps all other institutions. The Vatican still maintains two observatories staffed with top level astronomers.

We also know that the Papal medical school, now the University of Rome, pioneered in anatomy and physiology. Yes, they permitted autopsies and dissections.

A recent history of early electrical science awarded the Jesuit order the honor of being the single most important contributor to experimental physics in the 17th century.

The still misunderstood Galileo affair is the exception not the rule...That is, unless you want to play literary parasite on the corpse of a grotesque body of lies. Maybe that's where the demon or at least the incubus comes in.

Lots more to come.

Al shares his reaction to "Angels and Demons"

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Chris Matthews Sets Up the Ultimate Straw Man

Chris Matthews of MSNBC interviewing U.S. Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN) on Tuesday and plays the typical game of "Republicans are anti-science because they don't believe in global warming or support stem cell research." But then he goes on to actually claim that many Republicans believe that liberal scientists planted dinosaur bones in the earth to disprove religion and the Bible. You have to watch it to believe it.

Al's Reaction to the interview

Today on Kresta - May 8, 2009

Talking about the "things that matter most" on May 8

3:00 – Kresta Comments

3:20 – Angels of God: The Bible, the Church and the Heavenly Hosts

Angels are everywhere. As a matter of fact, they are right at your side – right now. Forget the sweet-faced cherubs of popular culture, however, and brace yourself for a far more potent reality: powerful heavenly beings who play a significant role in the personal drama of daily life - your life. Drawing on Scripture (where angels appear often, carrying out crucial tasks), the words of the Saints and Church teaching, Mike Aquilina shows how developing our fellowship with the angels is not an ornament on our religion, it's a life skill.

4:00 – Kresta Comments

4:20 – Prominent Legionairre Defects

Fr. Thomas Berg, prominent priest of the Legion of Christ and Executive Director of the New York-based Westchester Institute for Ethics and the Human Person, has announced that he will be leaving the Legion to join the Archdiocese of New York and will continue his ministry as the head of the institute. The name of Marcial Maciel now seems destined to become a byword for duplicity and manipulation of the most craven and cynical kind. In the wake of Maciel’s disgrace, a lively debate has ensued over the future of the religious congregation that he founded. Some charge that the Legion of Christ is bound so inextricably to the persona of its founder that the congregation cannot continue and must be suppressed or merged into another order or congregation. However, defenders of the Legion and its associated lay organization Regnum Christi argue against suppression, pointing to their good works and the undoubted existence of many faithful members who played no part in the Maciel fraud. We take the opportunity to examine – with canon lawyer Michael Dunnigan - theological and canonical reflections on religious life in view of the Maciel disgrace.

5:00 – Direct to my Desk

Thursday, May 7, 2009

My "Hand of Hope"

Nearly 10 years after a stunning photograph of his tiny hand traveled the world, Samuel Armas has a firm grip on what "The Hand of Hope" means to him.

"When I see that picture, the first thing I think of is how special and lucky I am to have God use me that way," Samuel told "I feel very thankful that I was in that picture."

On Aug. 19, 1999, photographer Michael Clancy shot the "Fetal Hand Grasp" — his picture of a 21-week-old fetus grasping a doctor's finger during innovative surgery to correct spina bifida. Nearly four months later, on Dec. 2, Samuel Armas was "born famous."

Julie Armas, Samuel's mother, said her eldest son has a "very strong sense of right and wrong" and understands the impact of his unconventional first baby photo.

"He identifies it more in terms of a pro-life message more than anything," she said. "This photo happened and God used it to show people that this baby in mom's tummy is alive. He's pleased that his photo conveyed that message."

Read more here...

Can Obama Be Converted?

EXCELLENT article written by Fr. Edward Oakes, S.J. in First Things that we just interviewed him on. We'll have the audio of the interview posted soon, but here's the article in the meantime.

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Click Here for part 2 and Here for part 3 of this segment.

Today on Kresta - May 7, 2009

Talking about the "things that matter most" on May 7

3:00 – Annunciation Radio Dinner – Thurs., May 28
Annunciation Radio is a Catholic media apostolate serving Northwest Ohio and surrounding areas. In response to God’s call, their mission is to lovingly proclaim the truth of Jesus Christ, in union with the Magisterium of the Church. They are in the process of purchasing a station in Toledo and Al will be speaking at a fundraising banquet for them on May 28. We look at their mission and the importance of Catholic Radio with their president Deacon Mike Learned.

3:20 – Can Brark Obama be Converted on Abortion?
Can Brark Obama be Converted on Abortion? Fr. Edward Oakes says the short answer to that question is: probably not. But based on his campaign autobiography, he says he holds to at least this small—and therefore truly audacious—hope: When it comes to abortion, Barack Obama does not like being compared to Stephen Douglas. Maybe the President of Notre Dame could redeem himself on Commencement Day this May 17th by introducing the President of the United States to the assembled graduates as “our nation’s second Stephen Douglas.” Fr. Oakes is with us.

3:40 – Angels and Demons – Al’s Analysis

4:00 – TBA

4:20 – The Takeaway
When all is said and done, what will your kids take away from you? Pat Williams has had 19 cracks at it. As parents, we try to teach our children important lessons—but are usually left wondering, Is anything I'm saying getting through? As children, we tend to think our parents' advice is old school and doesn't apply to our lives. But guess what? They were listening, and it does apply. Pat Williams, father of nineteen multicultural children and senior vice-president of the Orlando Magic, and his daughter Karyn Williams, a rising music star, remind us of twenty simple, yet essential, truths for living a happy and fulfilled life. These memorable jewels of wisdom are lessons for all time that everyone can take away and apply to their lives. Practical and profound, this straightforward book can change your life for the better!

5:00 – Torture is a Moral Issue
Waterboarding? Electric shocks? Enhanced interrogation techniques. References to torture can be found in newspapers, radio and TV programs, and even in cartoon these days. Barak Obama has released “torture” memos from the Bush administration and many are pushing for prosecutions. One thing we know for sure is that torture is a moral issue. Dr. Patrick Lee, philosopher and Director of the Institute of Bioethics at Franciscan University of Steubenville joins us.

5:40 – Star Trek
The fate of the galaxy rests in the hands of bitter rivals. One, James Kirk, is a delinquent, thrill-seeking Iowa farm boy. The other, Spock, was raised in a logic-based society that rejects all emotion. As fiery instinct clashes with calm reason, their unlikely but powerful partnership is the only thing capable of leading their crew through unimaginable danger, boldly going where no one has gone before. It is, of course, Star Trek, and its latest version opens in theaters everywhere this weekend. Steven Greydanus has the review.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Attempt to Censure the Pope

Spanish bishops are denouncing a legislative proposal in their country to censure Pope Benedict XVI for his recent remarks on condoms. Cardinal Carlos Amigo Vallejo of Seville sees the measure as a manifestation of a “new inquisition,” and Cardinal Antonio Cañizares Llovera, the prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, calls it an “attack and a disgrace against a man of God, a good and just man, the utmost defender of humanity, of its dignity and fundamental rights, promoter like few others of the culture of peace and a civilization of love.” Read more here.

You Might Be an Extremist If...

You are Jewish, an animal rights activist, a Christian identity extremist, a black separatist, pro-life, anti-immigration, anti-technology, in favor of Cuban independence, or resist taxes. Welcome to the club!!!

Fox reports that the "Domestic Extremism Lexicon" has been shelved. The bright light at DHS that came up with it in the first place deserves a place on the same shelf.

Today on Kresta - May 6, 2009

Talking about the "things that matter most" on May 6
Guest Host Nick Thomm

3:00 – TBA

3:20 – A Mother’s Rule of Life in the Domestic Church
Do you struggle to balance the many duties and countless responsibilities entailed with being a wife, mother and baptized believer? How can a woman find lasting fulfillment in today's world yet not compromise her core Christian values? In a Bible study for Catholic women, A Mother's Rule of Life in the Domestic Church, you will discover how to prioritize the many details and pressing obligations of life to become a woman of faith. With Mother’s Day upon us this weekend, Kimberly Hahn joins us.

4:00 – Craigslist Crack-Down?
South Carolina's top prosecutor is calling on Craigslist to take down ads about prostitution. Attorney General Henry McMaster said Craigslist needs to do more to combat postings that either advertise or solicit prostitution. Last year, he and attorneys general from dozens of other states entered into an agreement with Craigslist to improve the Web site's safeguards. Apparently they have not done enough to satisfy the AG. He joins us to explain the problem and his legal approach.

4:20 – Obama to be prayer day no-show
President Obama is distancing himself from the National Day of Prayer by nixing a formal early morning service and not attending a large Catholic prayer breakfast the next morning. All Mr. Obama will do for the National Day of Prayer, which is tomorrow, is sign a proclamation honoring the day, which originated in 1952 when Congress set aside the first Thursday in May for the observance. Jim Moore brings together hundreds of prayers composed largely by Americans from all walks of life to create an unparalleled and comprehensive collection of “home-grown” expressions of spirituality and religious conviction. We look at a history of prayer in America.

5:00 – Sports and the Catholic Family
Participation in athletic activities and playing on sports teams has been viewed as contributing in positive manner to the character development of children. However, a remarkable change has occurred over the past 20 years in regard to the degree of involvement on sports teams by children. Today, many children are under extreme pressures from both coaches and parents to commit themselves to give an unprecedented amount of time and effort to participation in team sports, including those teams which travel regularly on weekends and during the summer. One coach commented that some children now play up to 80 baseball games over the course of a summer, including playing in double headers and in repeated weekend tournaments. This significant change in regard to children's and families’ relationship with sports has damaged marriages, family life and the ability of a large number of children to enjoy sports as a pleasant, relaxing childhood activity. Psychiatrist Rick Fitzgibbons is here to address a number of issues related to this important area of child development and family life.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Bishops now number 62: One urges no more donations

A total of 62 bishops have publicly condemned the Notre Dame scandal, with three more bishops now expressing solidarity with Notre Dame's Bishop John D'Arcy and U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) policy against honoring pro-abortion politicians.

Bishop Reymundo Pena of Brownsville, TX has published a letter addressed to both President Obama and University President Fr. John Jenkins condemning the scandal. He said in part, "Mr. President, less than 18 months ago, Pope Benedict XVI canceled a speaking engagement at La Sapienza University in Rome, simply because some of the students reacted negatively to the announcement of his coming. Rather than risk throwing the university into turmoil, the pope humbly withdrew. I respectfully ask you to consider freely withdrawing your commitment to speak at Notre Dame University, for the same reason."

Bishop Robert Hermann of St. Louis, MO encouraged Notre Dame alumni to "organize the alumni in such a way that funding and students would be withheld until there is a change of direction on the Board of Directors. I am quite confident that if there is a change of direction on the part of the board, Father Jenkins will quickly change or leave."

See the full list of 62 bishops here.

Today on Kresta - May 5, 2009

Talking about the "things that matter most" on May 5

3:00 – Soft Despotism. Democracy’s Drift

In 1989, the Cold War abruptly ended and it seemed as if the world was at last safe for democracy. But a spirit of uneasiness, discontent, and world-weariness soon arose and has persisted in Europe, in America, and elsewhere for two decades. To discern the meaning of this malaise we must investigate the nature of liberal democracy, says Paul Rahe, and he joins us to do so. He argues that many early political thinkers anticipated the modern liberal republic's propensity to drift in the direction of “soft despotism”—a condition that arises within a democracy when paternalistic state power expands and gradually undermines the spirit of self-government. Such an eventuality, feared by Tocqueville in the nineteenth century, has now become a reality throughout the European Union, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the United States. So Rahe asserts, and he explains what must be done to reverse this unfortunate trend.

4:00 – New Survey Shows U.S. Religious Giving to Developing Countries at $8.6 Billion
A national survey of U.S. religious giving from congregations of all denominations to the developing world, combined with other data, found that religious congregations gave $8.6 billion to the developing world in 2007. The Index is the sole comprehensive guide to the sources and magnitude of private philanthropy from U.S. foundations, corporations, private and voluntary organizations, volunteers, colleges and universities, and religious congregations to the developing world. This year’s Index finds that these sources contributed a total of $36.9 billion in 2007, over one and one-half times U.S. government aid for the same period. We look at the significance of such numbers with Carol Adelman of the Hudson Institute.

4:20 – Horse Soldiers: The Extraordinary Story of a Band of US Soldiers Who Rode to Victory in Afghanistan
Horse Soldiers is the dramatic account of a small band of Special Forces soldiers who secretly entered Afghanistan following 9/11 and rode to war on horses against the Taliban. Outnumbered forty to one, they pursued the enemy across mountainous terrain and, after a series of intense battles, captured the city of Mazar-i-Sharif, which was strategically essential if they were to defeat the Taliban. The bone-weary American soldiers were welcomed as liberators, and overjoyed Afghans thronged the streets. Then the action took a wholly unexpected turn. During a surrender of six hundred Taliban troops, the Horse Soldiers were ambushed. At risk were the military gains of the entire campaign: if the soldiers perished or were captured, the effort to defeat the Taliban might be doomed. Until now, the full story of the Horse Soldiers has never been told. Doug Stanton is with us in studio.

5:00 – Kresta Comments

5:20 – Exorcism and the Church Militant
Exorcism is a part of the Catholic Church that is still very little known, but very real nonetheless. Fr. Tom Euteneuer has faced the devil, and that the devil is real and walks among us. "The manifestation of demons can be very frightening, but you never have to be afraid of the devil because we always have the power of Christ to deal with him," he said. Fr. Euteneuer is an exorcist and says his work will be increasing after Pope Benedict XVI recently announced his intention to greatly expand the practice of exorcism, in a matter the world hasn't seen in centuries. Fr. Euteneuer is with us to look at Exorcism and the Church Militant.