Monday, October 31, 2011

Cartoon of the Day - World is Snoozing

Shredded Evidence

Sebelius-directed Kansas agency destroyed key records in a criminal case against Planned Parenthood

By Les Sillars

(WNS)--A Kansas district judge Monday postponed a pre-trial hearing in the state’s criminal case against Planned Parenthood after prosecutors revealed in court filings that Kansas health officials shredded documents related to felony charges the abortion giant faces.

In 2005, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment was under the direction of Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, a pro-abortion Democrat who now serves as secretary of Health and Human Services in the Obama administration.

Prosecutors have until Nov. 9 to gather other evidence that proves that Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri manufactured the records of clients who had late-term abortions. The abortion provider faces 23 “false writing” felony charges, and the documents were evidence central to the prosecutors’ case. In filings last week, prosecutors said that the state health department had recently revealed to them that it had destroyed the documents in a “routine” shredding.

Some Kansas pro-lifers believe that the agency under Sebelius deliberately destroyed evidence that supported allegations that Planned Parenthood, one of the former governor’s staunchest political allies, was failing to report child rape. The health department failed to disclose that fact for six years, until it was forced to do so in the current felony case over whether it manufactured client records.

“Not even we anticipated Sebelius and her administration could stoop this low to protect abortion industry criminality,” said Kansans for Life executive director Mary Kay Culp. “Sebelius wanted to ensure that evidence of illegal abortions was removed before [Phill] Kline could use it to convict her abortion industry campaign supporters.”

In 2003, Kline, who was then Kansas attorney general, opened an investigation into Planned Parenthood and other Kansas abortion providers that would over the next six years delve into whether they were reporting child rape, as required by law, keeping proper client records, and properly determining the viability of late-term babies before performing abortions.

Kansas law requires abortion providers to submit detailed patient reports to the state health department and keep copies of the reports in the patients’ files. In 2003, Kline attempted to obtain from the health agency several dozen reports Planned Parenthood had filed. The health department initially resisted, but in 2004 it turned over to Kline’s office copies of dozens of reports.

In 2006, as the investigation dragged on, Planned Parenthood was forced to turn over redacted patient files to a judge. Those files didn’t contain the legally required copies of the health department reports, so the judge asked the organization to provide them. But when they arrived, Kline’s investigators noticed that the “copies” of the reports Planned Parenthood provided didn’t match the copies of the reports the health department had submitted. It looked to the judge like Planned Parenthood had manufactured the reports—in his words, “committed felonies to cover up misdemeanors.”

Neither the judge nor prosecutors knew at this point that the original health department reports had already been shredded the year before; the Kansas Department of Health and Environment didn’t disclose it then nor during the following two years of court battles, as the state agency continued to oppose Kline’s efforts to obtain the originals.

“This was no routine purging,” said Culp of Kansans for Life. “It really does need to be investigated further.”

The trial on the “false writing” charges could still proceed, depending on the outcome of the Nov. 9 hearing. Planned Parenthood also faces 87 misdemeanor charges for failing to keep proper records and not determining the viability of a late-term baby before performing an abortion.

The abortion provider has long denied any wrongdoing. In a court filing Friday, it acknowledged “certain idiosyncrasies” in its copies of the reports but added that the records contained the same data as in the health department’s copies.

A new Acton Institute initiative seeks to empower the poor by making them self-sufficient

By Christina Darnell

(WNS)--In a poor village overseas, a church group handed out eggs. They thought they were providing helpful aid to a community of people struggling to survive. But a few houses away from their egg distribution center, a man was running a small egg business. It was his means to make a living and support his family. The well-intentioned group giving out free eggs put him out of business. When they left, the village had to import eggs from somewhere else, at a higher cost.

Charitable aid is the most common means of poverty relief provided by governments and nonprofits, but it’s a short-term solution to a long-term problem. PovertyCure, an Acton Institute initiative launched earlier this month, uses a different approach. As an international network of organizations and individuals fighting global poverty, they seek to implement strategies that shift the focus from aid to enterprise by empowering the poor to provide for themselves. Already the initiative includes more than 125 partners and has a Facebook following of more than 30,000.

PovertyCure doesn’t offer just one solution to alleviating poverty. Instead, it provides a framework of Christian values, economic principles and the advancement of entrepreneurship through which to approach the poor. Its goal is to move from aid to enterprise, from paternalism to partnerships and from dependence to empowerment.

Michael Miller, research fellow and director of Acton Media, spearheaded the project along with a team of experts. While in the brainstorming phase, the team decided to leverage the knowledge and experience of organizations already in the trenches, searching out others who agreed that the focus of poverty relief needed to shift from aid to enterprise. They interviewed more than 100 people, including the director of Harvard’s Center for International Development, and will use the interviews to create a six-part curriculum, available next year.

“We don’t agree on everything,” Miller said, “but we found common ground by working on partnering with the poor.” Secular organizations have even joined PovertyCure, which clearly states its Christian values, because they agree with the program’s underlying philosophy.
PovertyCure’s purpose is to change the way people view poverty.

“When we look at the reality of poverty, we are called by God to do something,” Miller said. “We are called to have a heart for the poor. At the same time, we need a mind for the poor.”

People who want to help the poor need to understand economics, Miller said. Countries that have risen out of poverty, didn’t overcome through aid - they overcame through enterprise.

“We have to change our focus from what causes poverty to what causes wealth,” Miller said. Instead of poverty alleviation, PovertyCure trains people to focus on wealth creation, viewing people as a source of enterprise instead of as burdens. That approach spreads the message that human beings are made in God’s image with a capacity for creativity, Miller said.

PovertyCure also addresses the lack of the political, legal, and moral framework necessary to create wealth and prosperity in poverty-stricken areas. The biggest problem poor people face is the lack of access to markets and exchange, Miller said. Without the ability to own property, which many cannot, people have no guarantee that their enterprising efforts will result in prosperity for their families.

Before partnering with PovertyCure, Tom Davis, CEO of Children’s HopeChest, which ministers to orphans and rescues women and children out of sex trafficking, was frustrated with the lack of long-term change he saw among the people his organization tried to help. He didn’t want to use the same ineffective programs for the next 10 years, he said. Davis is now developing plans to empower children to overcome the cycle of poverty, an approach rooted in Christianity.

“Every person has dignity,” he said. “What gives dignity is to help people have dominion in their own context and lift themselves out of poverty.”

Using the research and curriculum developed by PovertyCure, Children’s HopeChest will serve as a case study for implementing its anti-poverty strategies.

“In the non-profit world, you are so wrapped up in everything, your strategies become very much the same,” Davis explains. “The great thing about PovertyCure is that they are economists, they are academics, they are thinkers. They know what best in practice looks like.”

Miller hopes PovertyCure’s principles will give poverty-fighting activists a new vision for their communities.

“People are not the problem, they are the solution,” he said.

For more information, visit

Kansas City Star VS The Catholic Church

Catholic League president Bill Donohue comments as follows:

Almost two weeks ago, we contacted the Kansas City Star about running a full-page ad on Sunday, October 30. The ad which I wrote is a critical statement about the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), and their attorney friend, Rebecca Randles. The ad was written because we strongly defend Kansas City-St. Joseph Bishop Robert Finn against the politically motivated attacks on him.

Everything looked like it was good to go: on October 25, we submitted the ad exactly the way they wanted it, and indeed gave them our credit card information to pay the $25,000 fee. On October 26, we received an e-mail which said that "The Publisher has respectfully declined and did not share the details as to why."

I have been writing newspaper ads for decades, especially for the New York Times. It is common practice to fact-check an ad, asking for documentation to substantiate something in it, but never have I been turned down, much less without explanation.

We know what's going on. The Kansas City Star has long been in bed with SNAP, just as SNAP is in bed with attorneys like Randles and her mentor, Jeffrey Anderson. All are decidedly anti-Catholic. To wit: on September 25, the Star ran a 2223-word front-page Sunday news story on SNAP. To say it was a puff piece would be an understatement. Never has the Catholic Church been treated with such kid gloves.

Starting this week, we will blanket the Kansas City, Missouri area with copies of the ad that the Kansas City Star doesn't want readers to see [to read it, click here]; no secular or religious organization will escape us. They can impose a gag rule on us in their newspaper, but they cannot control us. Our campaign against the Star and SNAP will be on-going.

Contact KC Star publisher Mi-Ai Parrish:

Today on Kresta - October 31, 2011

Talking about the "things that matter most" on Oct. 31

4:00 – Silenced: How Apostasy and Blasphemy Codes are Choking Freedom Worldwide
The fatwa against Salman Rushdie awakened many westerners to the danger of being accused of blasphemy in the Muslim world. But accusations of "blasphemy," "apostasy," or "insulting Islam" are now exploding in their use by authoritarian governments and extremist forces in the Muslim world to acquire and consolidate power. These charges, which traditionally carry a punishment of death, have proved effective in intimidating not only converts and heterodox groups, but also political and religious reformers. Nina Shea has been fighting for religious freedom for decades and is here to describe hundreds of victims, including political dissidents, religious reformers, journalists, writers, artists, movie makers, and religious minorities throughout the Muslim world. She also addresses the move toward new blasphemy laws in the West and the increasing threat of violence to stifle commentary on Islam in the West even in the absence of law.

4:40 – “Mighty Macs”
"The Mighty Macs" is the fact-based story of a women's basketball team from a Catholic college who, through the grit and determination of their rookie coach, got a shot at the national title. This old-fashioned, family-friendly film is "Sister Act" without the singing, "Rocky" with basketballs, and "The Trouble with Angels" with Ellen Bursytn in the Rosalind Russell role of the mother superior. Writer, producer and director Tim Chambers joins us.

5:00 – The Book of Man: Readings on the Path to Manhood
Boys need heroes to embody the everlasting qualities of manhood: honor, duty, valor, and integrity. Without such role models, boys will naturally choose perpetual childhood over the rigors of becoming a man-as many women, teachers, coaches, employers, and adults in authority can quickly attest. Too many boys and men waste time in pointless and soulless activities, unmindful of their responsibilities, uncaring in their pursuits. Have we forgotten how to raise men, how to lead our boys into manhood? William Bennett joins us to answer that question.

5:40 – Animal rights group's lawsuit alleges Sea World is keeping orcas in slavery and violating their 13th Amendment rights
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has filed a lawsuit against Sea World for allegedly violating the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution -- which bans slavery -- by keeping orcas at parks in San Diego and Orlando, Fla. Part of the lawsuit also asserts that it is illegal to artificially inseminate the females and then take away their babies. We talk to bioethicist Wesley Smith about this case and while ridiculous, why it is also very dangerous.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Today on Kresta - October 28, 2011

Talking about the "things that matter most" on Oct. 28

4:00 – “Little Angels”
Discover the joy of learning and faith with this season’s most heavenly new collection! From executive producer Roma Downey (“Touched by an Angel”) comes a fresh, faith-based educational series that children and their parents (and grandparents!) can enjoy together in “LITTLE ANGELS.” “Little Angels” is an animated DVD series created exclusively for preschool-aged children to teach not only practical learning skills, like ABCs and numbers, but also to introduce them to the spiritual, moral and ethical principles of the Bible. Roma joins us.

4:20 – Between Heaven and Mirth: Why Joy, Humor, and Laughter Are at the Heart of the Spiritual Life
In Between Heaven and Mirth, Fr. James Martin, SJ, assures us that God wants us to experience joy, to cultivate a sense of holy humor, and to laugh at life’s absurdities—not to mention our own humanity. Father Martin invites believers to rediscover the importance of humor and laughter in our daily lives and to embrace an essential truth: faith leads to joy. Holy people are joyful people, says Father Martin, offering countless examples of healthy humor and purposeful levity in the stories of biblical heroes and heroines, and in the lives of the saints and the world’s great spiritual masters. He shows us how the parables are often the stuff of comedy, and how the gospels reveal Jesus to be a man with a palpable sense of joy and even playfulness. He joins us.

5:00 – Why We Should Call Ourselves Christians: The Religious Roots of Free Societies
The intellectual and political elite of the West is nowadays taking for granted that religion, in particular Christianity, is a cultural vestige, a primitive form of knowledge, a consolation for the poor minded, an obstacle to coexistence. In all influential environments, the widespread watchword is “We are all secular” or “We are all post-religious.” As a consequence, we are told that states must be independent of religious creed, politics must take a neutral stance regarding religious values, and societies must hold together without any reference to religious bonds. We look at why the Christian culture is still the best antidote to the crisis and decline of the West. Marcello Pera is our guest.

5:40 – A House Divided: Broken Homes, Flying Houses, Divorce, and Death in Family Fantasy Films
Steven Greydanus writes in a recent column “I think it was six years ago, coming home from a screening of Zathura, that I started seriously wrestling with the problem of what I’ve come to call the Broken Family Film. On the one hand, marriage and an intact household with father and mother raising children together is and will always be the ideal, the standard, the norm. Divorce has become “normal” in the sense that it is a matter of common experience, but we don’t want it to be normalized in the sense of being accepted as something that just happens and is just an inevitable part of life, something that is nobody’s fault or is all for the best. On the other hand, given the reality of ever larger numbers of children with parents who aren’t married and don’t live together, we can’t expect every family in the movies and TV—even in children’s entertainment—to look like the ideal. Steven joins us to discuss a house divided in film.

Today on Kresta - October 27, 2011

Talking about the "things that matter most" on Oct. 27

4:00 – Kresta Comments: Is An Argument for An America Of Catholics An Argument for a Theocracy?

4:20 – Particles Faster Than the Speed of Light?
A group of physicists from Italy claim they have observed the subatomic particles called neutrinos traveling faster than the speed of light. That, of course, is the cosmic speed limit declared in Albert Einstein’s theory of special relativity in 1905. If they are right — and the jury is still out — Einstein might have some explaining to do. Among other things, a neutrino or anything else that went faster than the speed of light could go backward in time. Physicists, who are quite sure that in fact E does still equal MC squared — whatever may come of this experiment — have expressed skepticism. We talk to Dr. Anthony Rizzi, Director and Founder of The Institute for Advanced Physics

5:00 – The Case for Graphic Images of Abortion
Most abortion advocates decry the use of graphic abortion photos as unfair and manipulative. "Shock value" has no place in the abortion debate, they might argue. In reality, abortion images are no more shocking than the act of abortion itself. The pictures, in fact, are far less shocking than seeing an abortion take place in person. This topic has taken to the web in the form of a new site dedicated to the argument that graphic images work, Dr. Monica Miller, is with us to discuss the issue with Al and with you.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Today on Kresta - October 26, 2011

Talking about the "things that matter most" on Oct. 25

4:00 - 6:00 - Direct to My Desk
A few months ago the American Spectator Magazine filled an issue with a symopsium on the question "Is America In Decline?" We take up that very question and ask you the same question: Is America In Decline morally, economically, culturally, politically, religiously, legally, etc.?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Inter-religious meeting in Assisi: Cardinal Roger Etchegaray explains John Paul II's idea

Cartoon of the Day - Islamist Party Wins In Tunisia

Archbp. Naumann of Kansas City Comments on Charges Against Bp. Finn of Kansas City-St. Joseph

Coverage of recent indictment far from objective By Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann

With everyone else who cares about the Catholic community in the Kansas City metropolitan area, I was saddened by the news announced by Jackson County prosecutor Jean Peters Baker that Bishop Robert Finn had been indicted by the grand jury on a misdemeanor charge of failure to report child abuse.

I found the Kansas City Star headline on Sunday more than ironic: “How Will KC Diocese Heal?” After months of The Star repeatedly finding reasons to rehash this story with always the same undertone calling for Bishop Finn’s resignation, The Star’s question seemed merely rhetorical.

The manufacturing and dissemination of child pornography is always a horrible crime. The horror is multiplied when the person responsible is a Catholic priest. Let me be clear again: There is no place in the priesthood for perpetrators of child sexual abuse or those who view, much less create, child pornography. I have told our priests on numerous occasions that our people have every right to expect that we live our lives in a manner consistent with our promise of celibate chastity. They certainly have a right to expect their children and adolescents will not be harmed by the clergy of their church.

I witness in our parishes a great love and admiration for our priests. This respect and affection for our priests is the fruit of lives of integrity and sacrificial service that Catholics have experienced for generations by the vast majority of priests.

I ask again for your prayers for Bishop Finn and for the priests and people of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph. I have known Bishop Finn for many years, dating back to when both of us served as priests in St. Louis. I know him to be a man of integrity and with a passion for serving God and his people. I have spoken to him several times during the past months assuring him of my prayers and fraternal support.

I have not spoken with Bishop Finn in any detail about the indictment or the particulars of his legal defense. However, I have asked some in the legal profession to help me understand the nature of the charges made against Bishop Finn.

There are several aspects to this case that appear very unusual. First of all, I am told that it is quite unusual for a grand jury to be involved with an indictment of a misdemeanor. Secondly, as was apparent in The Star’s own reporting of the precedents for the indictment of Bishop Finn, none of these previous cases have resulted in convictions, except one case where the person was “convicted on a host of related charges.”

Bishop Finn has acknowledged mistakes made by him and others in diocesan leadership in this matter. He commissioned the former U.S. Attorney Todd Graves to review the policies, procedures, as well as their application. The Graves report identified some areas where the diocese had failed to follow their own procedures.

Some might ask: If the bishop has acknowledged mistakes, then why does he claim innocence to the charge made in the indictment? Again, from my layman’s understanding of the law, the difference is to plead guilty means to acknowledge “criminal intent.” In other words, the charge is more than an acknowledgement of a mistake of failing to report or even that there was negligence — the person should have known of the requirement to report. It is an admission that there was actually a conscious effort to deceive, to violate the law. From my knowledge of Bishop Finn, I find it impossible to believe this was the case.

Why, then would the prosecutor pursue such a charge? Why did the grand jury hand down an indictment? With regard to the second question, obviously the “level of proof” to bring an indictment is much less than to gain a conviction. If a prosecutor is sufficiently determined, usually they can convince the grand jury to indict.

In her press conference, prosecutor Jean Peters Baker stated: “This has nothing . . . to do with the Catholic faith.” I accept on face value the prosecutor’s claim that she is not motivated in bringing these charges by any animosity toward the Catholic Church. However, this does not preclude that the prosecutor, who must stand for election, was influenced by the steady drumbeat of negative press coverage and the advocacy of self-appointed victims’ rights groups who have called for Bishop Finn’s resignation. No prosecutor wants to be labeled by the local media or victims’ rights groups as soft on child abuse.

Another irony in this whole matter is the day after its two-day front page news coverage of Bishop Finn’s indictment, The Star published an editorial calling for the permanent disbarment of former Kansas attorney general and Johnson County Prosecutor Phill Kline. I do not have the knowledge, expertise or space to sort though the charges made about the investigatory methods employed by Kline or the countercharges that those who are now judging the former attorney general are politically motivated because they were appointed by politicians who received significant financial support from those Kline was investigating.

However, the charges made by Kline that the late George Tiller and Planned Parenthood failed to report statutory rape of minors who received abortions at their clinics have never been refuted. These serious charges have never been investigated with any vigor by the same newspaper whose most cherished mission appears not to be the protection of innocent children, born or unborn, but to lead the advocacy for the resignation of the local Catholic bishop.

I do not claim to be neutral or dispassionate in my view of the events that have unfolded in the Kansas City-St. Joseph Diocese. My love for the Catholic Church and my friendship with Bishop Finn obviously influence how I perceive these events.

At the same time, the manner in which The Star has treated these events not only on its editorial page, but also in its news section, has not been dispassionate. The way in which “news stories” have been framed, those whom they have chosen to quote, the positioning of stories, the rehashing of old stories, and the overall editing have been influenced by an ideological point of view that, in my opinion, does have an animosity — if not to the Catholic Church, then at least to much of its moral teaching.

Ask yourself this question: Can you recall The Kansas City Star ever calling for the resignation of any other religious figure from their post within their church, synagogue or mosque? Think about it.

Today on Kresta - October 25, 2011

Talking about the "things that matter most" on Oct. 25

4:00 – Afghanistan and the Plight of Christians
Exit strategy may be the hottest topic in town, but young Afghans are developing their staying power. What happens to the post-war generation? Are they destined to know only violence and conflict? Journalist Mindy Belz of WORLD Magazine has just returned from Afghanistan and is here to report on the political reality and fate of Christians in a new Afghanistan.

4:20 – Nationwide Anti-Trafficking Tour – God in a Brothel
In his book “God in a Brothel,” Daniel Walker tells the true story of an undercover investigator's experiences infiltrating the multi-billion dollar global sex industry. It is a story of triumph for the children and young teens released from a life of slavery and the rescuer who freed many hundreds of victims leading to the prosecution of dozens of perpetrators. And it is a story of haunting despair for those left behind in corrupt systems of law enforcement. Daniel is now on a countrywide Anti-Trafficking Tour challenging God's people to join in the battle that all might be freed.

4:40 – Vatican Economics: Strong on Problems, Weak on Answers
A Vatican document released yesterday called for the gradual creation of a world political authority with broad powers to regulate financial markets and rein in the "inequalities and distortions of capitalist development." The 41-page text titled "Toward Reforming the International Financial and Monetary Systems in the Context of Global Public Authority" was prepared by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. It said the current global financial crisis has revealed "selfishness, collective greed and the hoarding of goods on a great scale." It called for the establishment of “a supranational authority” with worldwide scope and “universal jurisdiction” to guide economic policies and decisions. Fr. Robert Sirico of the Acton Institute is with us to interpret the document.

5:00 – Suicide of a Superpower: Will America Survive to 2025?
America is disintegrating. The “one Nation under God, indivisible” of the Pledge of Allegiance is passing away. In a few decades, that America will be gone forever. In its place will arise a country unrecognizable to our parents. This is the thrust of Pat Buchanan’s Suicide of a Superpower. The author of six New York Times bestsellers traces the disintegration to three historic changes: America’s loss of her cradle faith, Christianity; the moral, social, and cultural collapse that have followed from that loss; and the slow death of the people who created and ruled the nation. Pat is here to make his case.

5:40 – Monthly Discussion with Archbishop Vigneron: New Deacons, the CCHD, a Visit with the Patriarch of Jerusalem, Respect Life Month and More
Today in our monthly discussion with Archbishop Allen Vigneron of the Archdiocese of Detroit, we discuss the events surrounding Respect Life Month, we look at the deaconate boost with 10 newly ordained men, we hear about the upcoming women’s conference and we hear about the Archbishop’s recent visit with the Patriarch of Jerusalem.

US bishops to vote on creating health care subcommittee

EWTN News:

The United States bishops will vote in November on whether to establish a Subcommittee on Health Care Issues.
The subcommittee was proposed by the conference’s Committee on Priorities and Plans, led by conference secretary Bishop George V. Murry, S.J. of Youngstown, Ohio.
The bishops will vote on the subcommittee, which would fall under the doctrine committee, at their annual fall meeting in Baltimore, Md., to be held Nov. 14-16.
Creation of a permanent subcommittee was recommended by a three-year task force on health care issues that held its last meeting in June 2011.
The task force had been mandated to coordinate the activities of the bishops’ conference that relate to health care and to help decide what type of permanent structure would best address the various health care concerns that arise.
Among the issues that the task force addressed were guidance of the implementation of the bishops’ Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, conscience protection and health care reform, non-Catholic hospitals within the Catholic health care system, for-profit Catholic health care and the canonical status of Catholic health care facilities.
The task force suggested that the Priorities and Plans Committee establish a permanent subcommittee to deal with ongoing health care concerns.
If approved, the subcommittee is expected to be composed of representatives from the U.S. bishops’ committees on canon law and church governance, doctrine, pro-life activities and domestic justice and human development.
The documentation provided to the bishops in advance of the November meeting stated that “members of the subcommittee could include bishops who represent the committees of the Conference that address various aspects of health care as well as consultants from organizations that relate to the health care ministry of the Church.”
The United States bishops have long called for health care reform, stressing the importance of “adequate and affordable health care for all.”
In recent years, health care in the United States has become a topic of heated discussion, especially in regard to abortion funding and rights of conscience.
The bishops criticized the health care reform bill passed during the 2010 session of Congress for failing to adequately ensure that taxpayer money would not be used to fund abortion. 
The bishops have also argued in favor of stronger conscience protection regulations for health care employees, to ensure that such workers are not required to participate in abortions if they morally object to doing so.
Recently, the bishops have spoken out strongly against a mandate issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that would require almost all private health plans to cover sterilization procedures and contraceptives.
In a July 22 letter to Congress, Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, chairman of the U.S. bishops' pro-life committee, criticized the mandate for forcing employers to choose between violating their moral convictions and ceasing to provide for the health care needs of their employees.
Such a choice, the cardinal said, “would be as much a threat to universal access to health care as it is to freedom of conscience.”

Herman Cain tops Mitt Romney in latest poll

CBS News Poll analysis by the CBS News Polling Unit: Sarah Dutton, Jennifer De Pinto, Fred Backus and Anthony Salvanto.
Businessman Herman Cain is now atop the field of Republican White House hopefuls, squeaking past former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney in the latest CBS News/New York Times poll.
Cain garnered 25 percent support of Republican primary voters in the poll released on Tuesday, compared to Romney's 21 percent.
The poll was conducted Oct 19-24 among 1,650 adults. 1,475 interviews were conducted among registered voters and 455 voters who said they plan to vote in a Republican primary. The margin of error among primary voters is plus or minus four percentage points.

Survey shows Catholic opinion shift on church leadership, authority issues

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Catholics favor a variety of responses to the priest shortage but give less credence to official church teachings than they formerly did, according to the results of a survey commissioned by National Catholic Reporter newspaper.

At least two-thirds of the respondents supported each of a number of alternatives -- priest-sharing, parish mergers, bringing in priests from another country, cutting the number of weekend Masses, having a deacon or layperson run the parish, and occasionally substituting Mass with a communion service.

A growing majority -- 58 percent, compared to 53 percent six years ago -- also said "most priests don't expect the laity to be leaders, just followers." And at least three-quarters of the respondents agreed that laypeople had the right to decide how parish money should be spent, select their new pastor and decide on parish closings.

It was the fifth such survey commissioned by the newspaper since 1987 and the first since 2005, when Pope Benedict XVI succeeded Blessed John Paul II as pope.

Details of the survey, "Catholics in America," were published in the newspaper's Oct. 28 issue and released at a news conference Oct. 24 at the National Press Club in Washington.

A majority of respondents for the first time said individuals had the final say in what is right or wrong in the areas of abortion, homosexuality and sex outside of marriage. A growing majority said the same about contraception, and 47 percent agreed on the subject of divorce and remarriage, up from 42 percent. A minority held that both individuals and church leaders had the final say in these five matters, while a smaller minority said church leaders alone should have the final say.

One number that climbed substantially from the 2005 survey was the percentage who said one could be a good Catholic without giving to the poor. In 2005, that percentage was 44 percent; in 2011, the figure jumped to 60 percent.

"This shift may be evidence of a loosening of Catholics' felt obligations to the poor. But it may also reflect other factors," said Michelle Dillon, who chairs the sociology department at the University of New Hampshire, in an essay accompanying the survey findings. "It may, for example, reflect the fact that Catholics, like many Americans, have experienced economic losses since the recession hit in 2008 and have responded to the recession, in part, by giving less priority to the poor as they themselves struggle to make ends meet."

Similarly, 58 percent felt it important to give time or money to their parish, down from 71 percent six years ago, which Dillon said may also be attributable to the recession.

In assessing the clergy sexual abuse scandal of the past decade, 83 percent agreed that it had hurt church leaders' political credibility either "a great deal" or "somewhat," and 77 percent said it had likewise "hurt priests' ability to meet the spiritual and pastoral needs of their parishioners," with strong majorities cutting across all demographic groups agreeing with the statements. But they assessed their own bishop's handling of the crisis in a "somewhat more positive" manner than the U.S. bishops overall, most so among weekly Mass attendees, said a survey team report.

In the 2011 survey, 63 percent of Catholics are white, compared to 86 percent at the time of the 1987 survey; 54 percent are married, compared to 62 percent in 1987; 34 percent are 55 or over, compared to 27 percent, and only 10 percent are between the ages of 18 and 24, compared to 17 percent a generation ago.

The survey was taken by Knowledge Networks for NCR. The first four surveys had been conducted by Gallup, but NCR found Gallup's fee too high to do a survey with a representative number of Hispanic Catholics. Hispanics now account for 32 percent of all Catholics, compared to an estimated 10 percent in 1987.

Because the information was gleaned from self-administered online surveys instead of phone interviews as in the past, "care must be exercised when interpreting change over time," the survey team said.

The survey interviewed 1,442 Catholics, including an oversampling of Hispanics and young people under age 32. The results were adjusted to account for the oversampling. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

Monday, October 24, 2011

CCHD declares former grant recipient ineligible because of condom-distribution program

WASHINGTON, D.C., October 21, 2011 (

The U.S. Bishops’ Conference has cut off a social justice grantee after it was revealed the group, which distributes condoms in New York City, had lied about its adherence to Catholic teaching against contraception.

The change followed upon an independent report released last month presenting evidence that numerous grants by the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD), the bishops’ domestic social justice arm, were allegedly funding objectionable groups.

Last month, the Reform CCHD Now Coalition pointed to the NYC AIDS Housing Network as one such group, as it was listed as a condom distributor on a government website. Within weeks, private investigators corroborated the information by contacting the group, which told callers it provided condoms.

After the USCCB was questioned about this on their Facebook page Thursday, it said the group would be deemed ineligible for funding.

“NYC Aids Housing’s CCHD grant expired in June of 2011. In the future, NYC Aids Housing Network would not be eligible for CCHD funding,” the USCCB wrote Thursday afternoon on their Facebook page.

“During the time it was funded by CCHD, the organization went through the same rigorous vetting process that included the support of the bishop,” the USCCB wrote. “If at any point the the dioceses or CCHD had found evidence that the organization was in any way involved with condom distribution, the grant would have been immediately canceled. There was no evidence of this.”

Michael Hichborn of American Life League, a lead researcher for the most recent report, said the affair raises doubts about the effectiveness of CCHD’s vetting processes.

“We met with CCHD staff 4 times in the past year, even going over the evidence slide-by-slide,” he said. “When we asked CCHD why they will be defunding only one group (Centro Campesino, for distributing condoms), they said that they thoroughly vetted each individual grantee by calling the local archdiocese and the grantees.”

CCHD officials had initially responded by saying the report, which alleged 54 CCHD grantees were implicated in activity contrary to Catholic teaching, was “without substance” but one allegation, and otherwise poorly investigated and a recycling of old accusations. They named Hichborn and American Life League president Judie Brown, and charged that they had “unfairly attacked” CCHD.

Regarding the NYC AIDS Housing Network, Hichborn said in their meetings CCHD leaders had suggested the government website was wrong in listing the group as a condom distributor, because officials had been told by the group that they were unaware of the listing.

The NYC AIDS Housing Network, a former CCHD grantee, protests for condoms in prisons in 2004.Although the USCCB further claimed on Facebook that the NYC group “was totally in line with CCHD criteria and guidelines” at the time of its funding, Hichborn noted that a press release from 2004 shows that the group had organized a protest supporting the distribution of condoms in prisons.

They also organized a “condom conga line” at the U.S. Social Forum in June 2010 shortly before receiving the grant from CCHD.

Provided with this information, the CCHD issued a follow-up statement to LifeSiteNews emphasizing that the group only received funding for one year, and with the approval of the local bishop, Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn.

“The information regarding the grantee and condoms was not known to CCHD staff during the grant approval process or while it was funded,” they wrote.

“Had this information been available during the grant period, the charges would have been reviewed and the grant likely cancelled,” they continued. “The grantee did not reapply for CCHD funding, reportedly because of the strengthened application and assessment mandated by the CCHD Review and Renewal.”

But Hichborn is continuing to stand by his claim that CCHD’s vetting process is still lacking. “If NYC AIDS Housing Network lied about its participation, how many other grantees lied to CCHD staff in order to maintain their grants?” he asked.

After the Reform CCHD Now Coalition (RCN) released several major reports between August 2009 and March 2010 detailing abuses of funds, at least twelve U.S. bishops had chosen not to contribute to national CCHD collections based on the findings. The CCHD subsequently rolled out a major renewal campaign in October 2010, including the establishment of a review board and new guidelines for grantee approval.

Pope canonizes three new saints in St. Peter's Square

Cartoon of the Day - After Gadhafi

Lybia Liberation: Now Sharia Law and No Limit on Number of Wives

The transitional government leader Mustafa Abdul-Jalil called on Libyans to show "patience, honesty and tolerance" and eschew hatred as they embark on rebuilding the country at the end of an 8-month civil war.

Abdul-Jalil set out a vision for the post-Qaddafi future with an Islamist tint, saying that Islamic Sharia law would be the "basic source" of legislation in the country and that existing laws that contradict the teachings of Islam would be nullified.

In a gesture that showed his own piety, he urged Libyans not to express their joy by firing in the air, but rather to chant "Allahu Akbar," or God is Great. He then stepped aside and knelt to offer a brief prayer of thanks.

"This revolution was looked after by God to achieve victory," he told the crowd at the declaration ceremony in the eastern city of Benghazi, the birthplace of the uprising against Qaddafi began. He thanked those who fell in the fight against Qaddafi's forces. "This revolution began peacefully to demand the minimum of legitimate rights, but it was met by excessive violence."

Tens of thousands gathered in the eastern city of Benghazi Sunday as Libya's transitional leader declared his country's liberation, three days after ousted dictator Muammar Qaddafi was captured and killed.

President Obama congratulated Libya on their declaration of liberation.

"After four decades of brutal dictatorship and eight months of deadly conflict, the Libyan people can now celebrate their freedom and the beginning of a new era of promise," Obama said in a statement.

Read more:

Vatican council proposes a global financial authority

The Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace released a document today calling for a radical reform of the world's financial and monetary systems. It also proposed the creation of a global political authority to manage the economy and a new world economic order based on ethics.

The note entitled “Towards reforming the international financial and monetary systems in the context of the global public authority” was presented to journalists at a press conference today presided over by the President of the Council, Cardinal Peter Turkson.

“We are talking about finding solutions to issues, finding solutions to problems”.

Cardinal Turkson also told Lydia O’Kane, who participated at the conference, that the document was also a way of giving a voice to the voiceless.

“Definitely, that’s part of it and in fact in asking the G20 to pay attention to this or currently start doing a reflection in this direction, it is actually in view of those who suffer from this phenomenon, so giving a voice to the voiceless, that’s what it is”.

Below are samples of stories and editorials on this document:

Read the entire document here

EWTN News: Vatican council proposes a global financial authority

Reuters: Vatican calls for global authority on economy, raps “idolatry of the market”

Catholic League: Vatican Council Calls for Financial Reform

Sam Gregg: Catholics, Finance, and the Perils of Conventional Wisdom

Catholic News Service: Vatican document calls for global authority to regulate markets

Thomas Peters: Pope Benedict Calls For “Central World Bank” … Only He Didn’t. Here’s Why.

Today on Kresta - October 24, 2011

Talking about the "things that matter most" on Oct. 24

4:00 – The Politicization of the Justice Department
The Department of Justice is America’s premier federal law enforcement agency. And according to J. Christian Adams, it’s also a base that has become a tool used to impose an agenda on the American people. A five-year veteran of the DOJ and a key attorney in pursuing the New Black Panther voter intimidation case, Adams recounts the shocking story of how a once-storied federal agency has become a political weapon.

4:30 – The Color of Rain: How Two Families Found Faith, Hope, and Love in the Midst of Tragedy
This real-life Brady Bunch story is about what it means to endure the unthinkable---and still open one's heart to what's next. When two childhood friends die of cancer six weeks apart, the shared experience of loss brings their grieving spouses together. After months of late-night phone calls, family dinners, and countless dreams and tears, this unlikely pair builds a trust, a love, and a shared life. Along the way, they discovered that God can restore the darkest circumstances---and even from death, He can bring new life. Michael and Gina Spejn’s gripping story of 'growing new hearts' will inspire us not only to survive loss but also to receive the new courage, faith, and identity that God gives in the midst of tragedy.

5:00 – New In Paperback - The End and the Beginning: Pope John Paul II--The Victory of Freedom, the Last Years, the Legacy
“As March gave way to April in the spring of 2005 and the world kept vigil outside the apostolic palace in Rome, the pontificate of Pope John Paul II, then drawing to a poignant end, was already being described as one of the most consequential in two millennia of Christian history.” With these words, world-renowned author and NBC Vatican analyst George Weigel begins his long-awaited sequel to the international bestseller Witness to Hope: The Biography of Pope John Paul II. Now out in paperback, Weigel tells the dramatic story of the Pope’s battle with communism in light of new and recently disclosed information and brings to a close the landmark portrait of a man who not only left an indelible mark on the Catholic Church, but also changed the course of world history. George is here.

5:30 – Vatican Calls for Universal Monetary Bank and Regulations?
A Vatican document released this morning called for the gradual creation of a world political authority with broad powers to regulate financial markets and rein in the "inequalities and distortions of capitalist development." The 41-page text titled "Toward Reforming the International Financial and Monetary Systems in the Context of Global Public Authority" was prepared by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. It said the current global financial crisis has revealed "selfishness, collective greed and the hoarding of goods on a great scale." It called for the establishment of “a supranational authority” with worldwide scope and “universal jurisdiction” to guide economic policies and decisions. We hear from the Acton Institute to interpret the document.

Catholic high schools in West Michigan strategize ways to stay viable

GRAND RAPIDS (MLIVE) — In June 2009, Grand Rapids Catholic Secondary Schools recognized it had to address some issues if its high schools were going to serve families and the community for another 100 years.
“Our top priority was getting our house in order,” said Tom Maj, president of Catholic Secondary Schools. “We had to get out of debt and stop deficit spending. Had we done nothing, the high schools (Catholic Central and West Catholic) wouldn’t be here today.”
Catholic schools nationwide are facing the challenges of rising expenses, shrinking enrollments and possible closure, and Grand Rapids is no different than other urban Catholic school districts.
Maj said a three-year management plan started in 2009 has the system on track to be back in the black by the end of this school year — emerging from a debt in excess of $2 million.
“There is a lot of history in Grand Rapids that coincides with the Catholic Church and its schools, and we want to continue to be around to add to that history,” Maj said.
Catholic Central, 319 Sheldon Blvd. SE, was established in 1906. West Catholic, 1801 Bristol Ave. NW, opened in 1962 to address overcrowding.
In August 2010, leaders adopted a vision and 12 strategic priorities, including student academic success, financial viability, fundraising and increasing enrollment.
Enrollment has exceeded projections but still is declining. At Catholic Central, enrollment is at 677 students, down 51 students from last year. West Catholic has 507 students, 34 fewer than last year.
This school year, officials made some key moves aimed at growing its enrollment, increasing fundraising, re-engaging alumni and bettering communication. In fact, communication seemed to be a major issue for some people last year, when administrative and other changes were occurring in an attempt to make the schools more efficient.
There now are admissions directors assigned to each school who are focused on retaining and recruiting families, a communication director for the system and part-time alumni directors to bolster relations.
There also is support from families — who sacrifice to pay the $7,855 in tuition in a tough economy when they could send their students to other schools also known for rigorous academics, including Grand Rapids City High, Forest Hills and East Grand Rapids high schools.
“We have the choice, and we are making it because the difference is a Catholic education is faith-filled and it’s woven throughout the day, not just in a 50-minute religion class,” said Nancy Moran, of Cascade Township, whose son is a sophomore at Catholic Central. “The schools seem to be on the right track with the changes made the last few years.”
Moran, whose family also has lived in East Grand Rapids, said they have two other children who graduated from Catholic Central. She said their education extends beyond high-quality academics to a sense of faith and community that will serve them well in their adult life.
Catholic leaders attending a conference this month regarding their elementary and secondary schools said the key to their survival is promoting such a mission.
“We not only care what students know, but we care who they become,” Maj said. “It is the very foundation of the Catholic Church. It’s not just about teaching subjects, but how to use what you learn to serve the community.”
That appeals to many Catholic families, but some say they just can’t make the financial commitment and also save for costly college tuition. With parish support, the price drops $885 to $6,970. Catholic Secondary Schools also provides tuition assistance, and scholarships are available through the bishop. Thirty percent of Catholic high school students receive tuition assistance. But for families with more than one child, it still can be a challenge.
Maj said officials know that’s an issue and want to raise more money to keep costs down and to provide tuition help to even more families in need.
“Recessionary times have hit us all hard,” said Diane Coddington, who lives in the Coopersville school district and has a senior, junior and freshman at West Catholic. “Our son will matriculate on to college next year. We feel the academic rigors and challenges of our investment have served us well, allowing him to attend any college in the nation.”
With the schools’ social commitment as their guide, she said she also is proud her son has been able to serve the community, too.
Call Coddington, 18, volunteers at Saint Mary’s Clinica Santa Maria. He said after he completed all the Spanish courses offered at school, his Spanish teacher encouraged him to get out into the community to both serve and learn the language more.
“The religion class is one thing, but the other half is inspiration from teachers,” said Call, who said he has benefited from the student-to-teacher ratio. “Every lesson pertains to life.”

Vatican signs deal to collaborate on adult stem cell research

LA Times:

As chairman and chief executive of her own company, Dr. Robin Smith is a significant player in the world of biopharmaceutical products and research. Self-confident, poised and well traveled, she is used to dealing with movers and shakers. But when she negotiated an agreement with her company's latest business partner, she didn't deal directly with the top executive.
He is, after all, the pope.
 In an agreement that tends to elicit the response "Really?," the Vatican recently signed a $1-million compact with Smith's New York company, NeoStem, to collaborate on adult stem cell education and research.The partners will hold a conference in Rome in November that is expected to attract some of the world's leading experts on adult stem cells, the less controversial cousins of embryonic stem cells. 

The Roman Catholic Church staunchly opposes the use of embryonic cells in research or medical therapy, a position that has put it at odds with many scientists and many practicing Catholics.

The agreement enables the church to be seen as taking a constructive role in one of the most promising areas of medical research. For NeoStem, the advantages are obvious.

"It's like when you have the Good Housekeeping seal of approval," Smith said. "This is the Vatican seal of approval."

Smith, who was in Southern California recently for a stem cell conference in Pasadena, was quick to emphasize that the Vatican is not investing in her company, which is publicly traded on the New York Stock Exchange. Most of the collaboration will involve a nonprofit company established by NeoStem, the Stem for Life Foundation, she said. The Vatican's role will include fundraising, launching educational campaigns, contributing to research and sponsoring the Rome conference, Smith said.

The partnership is rare, perhaps unprecedented. "It is unusual, " said Father Tomasz Trafny, the Vatican's point man on the deal. "Never in history [have] we entered into such [a] collaboration."

Trafny, a Polish-born priest who heads a science and theology unit within the Pontifical Council for Culture, said the church decided to collaborate with NeoStem for two reasons.

"First, they have a strong interest in … searching for the cultural impact of their own work, which is very unusual," he said. "Many companies will look at the profit and only at the profit.

"And the second, of course, is that they share the same moral, ethical sensitivity.... Because of that ethical position, we entered into this unique collaboration."

Along with many evangelical Christians, the Catholic Church opposes the use of embryonic stem cells in medicine for the same reason that it opposes abortion, because the procedure destroys embryos that some consider to be human life.

Stem cells are valuable in medicine because they have the ability to develop into many cell types and can be used to replace damaged or destroyed tissue in various parts of the body. NeoStem, for instance, is testing stem cells that it hopes will heal the heart after a heart attack.

In the form of bone marrow transplants, adult stem cells have been used in cancer therapy for many years.

Although adult stem cells are generally harvested from the patient and re-implanted in his or her own body, embryonic cells are taken from early-stage embryos that have been developed through in-vitro fertilization but never implanted in a woman's body.

Embryonic cells are believed to have certain advantages over adult stem cells because they have the ability to develop into any kind of human cell. Scientists, however, tend to support research on all types of stem cells.

"I'm interested in things that work for patients," said Alan Trounson, president of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine. "I'm not interested in the source of the cells. I mean, if you've got adult stem cells that work, terrific."

The California institute was established in 2004 under Proposition 71, which supported research into stem cell therapy. The state's Catholic bishops opposed that initiative, saying "Killing human life is never justified, even when the intent is to benefit other humans."

Opponents of embryonic cells also say they are not as safe to use as adult cells.

Many scientists, however, argue that embryonic stem cell collection should not be seen as destroying life, because the embryos involved would not have developed into babies. Better, they say, to use them to save lives than to discard them. They also say it is too early in the research to draw conclusions about the safety of one cell type over another.

Trounson was acerbic about the Vatican's partnership with NeoStem. "Maybe they know something I don't know," he said. "Who buys into a company when the stock prices are falling?"

NeoStem's stock is down about 70% from its 52-week high. Like many research-oriented start-ups, the company has not yet made a profit. Smith said share prices have been hurt by the poor national economy, among other factors, but that the company's future looks bright. She stressed again that the Vatican owns no shares.

A financial analyst who follows the stem cell industry, Stephen Brozak of WBB Securities, said NeoStem has great potential but has been hurt by a "depressionary economy" in biotechnology. He declined, however, to comment on the effect on the company's stock of the Vatican partnership.

"I do not get paid to opine on religious matters," Brozak said.

The Vatican's Trafny, who does get paid to opine on such matters, said he hopes the collaboration will help dispel misunderstandings that have arisen about stem cell treatments in general and perhaps heal some of the perceived divisions between the church and science.

"Some people," he said, "will easily oppose this technology … saying, you know, now man is trying to play God. Maybe we should think how marvelous nature is, how it was made that it has within it some capabilities that are so extraordinary."

Report: Death toll rises to 217 after massive earthquake in Turkey


Battling near-freezing temperatures and darkness, rescue workers and residents in eastern Turkey early Monday scoured the wreckage wrought by the country's most-powerful earthquake in more than a decade, hoping to find survivors.
They used flashlights, shovels, heavy machinery and their hands to lift the debris, and climbed over collapsed buildings in search of victims.
At least 217 people were killed in Sunday's quake, said Turkish Interior Minister Idris Naim Sahin, the Anatolian news agency reported Monday. The previous official toll was 138.

Pope Benedict canonizes three new saints

EWTN News:

Pope Benedict XVI has canonized three new saints at a ceremony in St. Peter’s Square in Rome, describing the heavenly triumvirate as “a model for all believers.”

“Let us be attracted by their examples, let us be guided by their teachings, so that our whole existence becomes a witness of authentic love for God and neighbor,” the Pope Benedict said to tens of thousands of enthusiastic pilgrims Oct. 23.
The three new saints are Sister Bonifacia Rodriguez y Castro, Archbishop Guido Maria Conforti and Father Luigi Guanella.
Sr. Bonifacia was born in the Spanish city of Salamanca in 1837. She dedicated her life to the welfare of poor female workers.  In 1874 she co-founded the Servants of St. Joseph that offered work to poor unemployed women.

Archbishop Guido Maria Conforti was born near Parma in Italy in 1865. As a young man he dreamed of becoming a foreign missionary but ill-health saw him turned down by various orders. His solution was to found his own missionary order, the Xaverian Missionaries, in 1895.  He also served as bishop of Ravenna and later of Parma.
Fr. Luigi Guanella was born in the Italian province of Como in 1842.  He dedicated his life to the care of the poor and needy. He founded the Daughters of St. Mary of Providence in 1881 and Servants of Charity in 1908.
Drawing upon today’s Gospel in which Christ tells an enquiring Pharisee that “you shall love your neighbor as yourself,” the Pope said that “the visible sign that the Christian can show the world to witness to the love of God is the love of their brethren.”
“How providential is then the fact that today the Church should indicate to all members three new saints who allowed themselves to be transformed by divine love, which marked their entire existence,” said the Pope, explaining that “in different situations and with different charisms, they loved the Lord with all their heart and their neighbor as themselves so as to become a model for all believers.”
Present among the pilgrims today was 30-year-old William Glisson from Springfield, Pa. His 2002 miraculous recovery from serious head injuries sustained while rollerblading was attributed to the heavenly intercession of Fr. Guanella. It was that miracle which led to today’s canonization.
“It’s truly amazing and it’s extremely humbling that this could be happening,” William told CNA. He is still grateful to all those who prayed to Fr. Guanella on his behalf.
“Their prayers were answered and I was healed because of that and that he became a saint is just amazing.  And the fact that I'm even here, this place is amazing. It’s just hard to even describe, to put into words.”
A minor disruption of today’s ceremony happened when a man, thought to be Romanian, climbed onto the colonnades in St. Peter’s Square and proceeded to burn a Bible.
“Pope, where is Christ?” he shouted in English before throwing the charred Bible to ground below. The man was talked out of further actions by, among others, the Pope’s chief bodyguard Domenico Giani.
The Pope himself seemed totally unfazed by the incident and simply carried on with the celebration of Mass.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Key points for understanding the Inter-religious gathering in Assisi

Cartoon of the Day - Are You Better Off?

Vatican recognizes Libya's post-Gadhafi gov't

The Vatican has announced that it considers Libya's interim government the legitimate rulers of the country now that Moammar Gadhafi has been killed.

The Vatican press office said in a statement Thursday that Gadhafi's death ended a "long and tragic" fight to crush a "cruel and oppressive regime."

It says that for several weeks now Vatican officials have had contact with members of the National Transitional Council in Rome at the Libyan embassy to the Holy See and in New York at the U.N. General Assembly.

It says that while it hadn't gone through a formal diplomatic recognition of the former rebel movement, "the Holy See considers it the legitimate representation of the Libyan people, conforming to international law."

Other world leaders have also seized upon the death of former Libyan ruler Moammar Gadhafi as an opportunity to turn the page on four decades of authoritarian rule.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy, one of the leading players in the campaign against Gadhafi, said Thursday that Gadhafi's demise is a milestone in Libya's battle to free itself from dictatorship.

British Prime Minister David Cameron said that "people in Libya today have an even greater chance, after this news, of building themselves a strong and democratic future."

And while Libyan exiles in Britain also celebrated the news, there was an undercurrent of anxiety about the future.

Outside the Libyan Embassy in London, 37-year-old Amani Deghayes said she hoped "there will be real democracy, not another crazy regime."

European rabbis urge Pope to suspend SSPX talks following Williamson remarks

The president of the Conference of European Rabbis has called upon Pope Benedict XVI to suspend talks aimed at restoring full communion between the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) and the Holy See.

“There must be no rapprochement within the Catholic Church for those of its flock who seek to preach words of hate,” said Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt.

The rabbi’s comments followed recent remarks by SSPX Bishop Richard Williamson, who criticized Pope Benedict for “enabling journalists to jump to the conclusion that the Jews must no longer be held responsible for deicide.”

“Only the Jews (leaders and people) were the prime agents of the deicide because it is obvious from the Gospels that the Gentile most involved, Pontius Pilate, would never have condemned Jesus to death had not the Jewish leaders roused the Jewish people to clamour for his crucifixion,” Bishop Williamson wrote. “Certainly the learned leaders were more guilty than the unlearned people, says St Thomas Aquinas, but they all cried together for Jesus’ blood to come down upon them and their children.”

“Has there ever been a race-people-nation on the face of the earth more proudly self-identifying as identical down the ages?” added Bishop Williamson. “Collectively also, meaning there are always noble exceptions, they have remained faithful to that rejection, so that they changed their religion from that of Abraham and Moses and the Old Testament to that of Anas [sic], Caiphas and the Talmud … they seem bound to choose to go on acting, collectively, as enemies of the true Messiah.”

“Bishop Williamson's remarks are further evidence that the Society of St. Pius X has no place in the mainstream Church,” said Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League.

Earlier this year, Bishop Williamson was fined over $9,000 by a German appeals court for public statements questioning the extent of the Holocaust.

The Roman Catechism (Catechism of the Council of Trent), issued in 1566, teaches that

"sinners were the authors and the ministers of all the sufferings that the divine Redeemer endured …We must regard as guilty all those who continue to relapse into their sins. Since our sins made the Lord Christ suffer the torment of the cross, those who plunge themselves into disorders and crimes crucify the Son of God anew in their hearts (for he is in them) and hold him up to contempt.

"And it can be seen that our crime in this case is greater in us than in the Jews. As for them, according to the witness of the Apostle, "None of the rulers of this age understood this; for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory." We, however, profess to know him. And when we deny him by our deeds, we in some way seem to lay violent hands on him."

Outrage of the Day - Anti-Semitic Occupy LA Protester Fired By School District, Media Mostly Mum

Death of a Bad Dude: Kaddafi’s Removal, 30 Years Late?

By Paul Kengor

In the 1980s, I was an unrefined adolescent from blue-collar Butler, Pennsylvania. I knew nothing and cared nothing about politics. I had no idea if I was a conservative or liberal, Democrat or Republican, or much of anything else. But I knew one thing: Moammar Kaddafi was a bad dude. This was expressed in a rather unsophisticated way by the bumper-sticker affixed to my white Chevy Chevette, which declared simply and succinctly: “Kaddafi Sucks.”

Yep, Moammar Kaddafi was a bad dude. And now, three decades later, and some 40-plus years after coming to power, he is gone, dispatched to the ash-heap of history with other murderous terrorists and dictators: Osama Bin Laden, Saddam Hussein, Pol Pot, Mao Tse-Tung, Joe Stalin, Vladimir Lenin.

I will not here add to reports of how Kaddafi met his final fate, but I would like to share a valuable piece of information that was revealed to me by Bill Clark, Ronald Reagan’s right-hand man and national security adviser when Kaddafi was ramping up in the 1980s.

It was early 1981. President Reagan had just been inaugurated. Alexandre de Marenches, the director of France’s external intelligence agency, SDECE, came to the White House with a highly sensitive plan to remove Kaddafi. The plan was to assassinate the Libyan dictator during a parade, by use of an explosive device placed near the reviewing stand. “Our answer,” said Clark, “was that we understood their feelings toward the man, but we don’t do assassinations.”

That was because there was an executive order banning assassinations, first signed by President Gerald Ford and supported by President Carter. The Reagan team had no intention of violating the order as one of the first acts of the new administration.

Intelligence sources I consulted confirmed Clark’s recollection of de Marenches’ request. “He came over to the U.S., probably in early February 1981,” said one source, a high-level CIA “operations” person. “His interlocutor was Vice President Bush. The purpose of the visit was to discuss the removal of Kaddafi. He came to try to get us involved operationally in the plan…. He wanted not just our moral or political support but to get us involved in the actual operation.”

This same source pointed to the “Safari Club,” which was a group of countries—France, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, and the Shah’s Iran—that had banded together for two primary purposes: 1) to fight the spread of Soviet communism in Africa; and 2) to counter Kaddafi, particularly his adventures in neighboring Chad. The group was formed by intelligence ministers in the mid-1970s, and de Marenches was its catalyst. The group was appalled by America’s unwillingness to no longer stand up to the Soviets; it was post-Watergate, post-Vietnam, Americans had elected an incredibly liberal Congress, and Jimmy Carter was president. The Club sought to fill the vacuum.

De Marenches’ offer against Kaddafi was consistent with the concerns of the Safari Club.

As an indication of the confidential nature of his overture, de Marenches did not discuss his offer to the Reagan administration in either of his 1986 and 1992 books. But he did note yet another intention to kill Kaddafi: He said that on March 1, 1978, Egyptian leader Anwar Sadat had asked de Marenches for help in “disposing of him [Kaddafi] physically.”

Think of the irony here, and how tragically history unfolds: It would be Sadat who was assassinated in 1981—on October 6, 1981. He was killed at a reviewing stand at a parade, shot by Islamists for his “crime” of making peace with Israel.

While Sadat died, Kaddafi was permitted to live. Sadat made peace. Kaddafi left a trail of blood and violence.

And here’s another irony still: Just weeks after de Marenches’ offer to Reagan to assassinate Kaddafi, Reagan was shot, on March 30, 1981, and nearly bled to death.

In retrospect, should President Reagan have agreed to the French request to take out Kaddafi? A lot of innocent lives would have been spared. Terrorist attacks from Lockerbie, Scotland to the Mediterranean would have been averted.

Alas, such action by Reagan would indeed have been illegal, and was not the mission or foreign-policy plan of his incoming administration. Had Reagan started his presidency by violating an executive order on assassinations, liberals in that post-Watergate/post-Vietnam Congress would have run him out of town with impeachment papers before his historic two-term takedown of the Evil Empire could commence.

Reagan did what he could—or couldn’t.

Nonetheless, this is a very intriguing tale of what happens behind the scenes—and what might have been. The death of Kaddafi had to wait—it had to wait a long, painful 30 years. Only now, finally, this bad dude is gone.

Dr. Paul Kengor is professor of political science at Grove City College, executive director of The Center for Vision & Values, and author of the newly released Dupes: How America’s Adversaries Have Manipulated Progressives for a Century. His other books include The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism and God and Ronald Reagan.