Tuesday, March 31, 2009
Well, here's a new app you may not have yet. The Archdiocese of New Orleans has launched iFaith, an iPhone application that will let you tap into all of the latest Catholic news and events happening in and around the Big Easy. At this point, iFaith will feature archdiocesan news headlines and will allow users to view the latest episodes of Issues & Faith, the archdiocesan TV show, and tune into podcasts of Archbishop Alfred Hughes' homilies.
And unlike things like iFitness or Flick Fishing, iFaith is absolutely free. So, click on your Virtual Zippo Lighter app and hold your iPhone high in honor of the Archdiocese of New Orleans and its high-tech ministry to Catholics on the go.
No word yet on the makeup of the team of bishops that performs the visitation, which the Legion says is expected to start "after Easter."
Monday, March 30, 2009
This morning, our son walked back into the kitchen for breakfast and saw the daily newspaper on the table. He read the headline: "Eight Killed at Care Facility." More challenging questions followed. What does that mean? Why would someone shoot people in a nursing home? And we could, once again, see the concern on his face, the kind of concern I remembered from 9-11, when he wondered if terrorists would knock down our house or his grandmother's Manhattan apartment building. If it can happen there, can it happen here, is what his young mind wants to know.
War, shootings, floods, disease. Every generation has to explain man-made tragedies and natural disasters to their children, but it never gets any easier, does it? And now, in our world our instant, and often graphic, communication, the questions are tinged with the added fear that seeing the visuals can cause. Of course, for many people, these kinds of questions bring them back to one place: Where was God? When I wrote my book on the catechism, I made sure I gave ample space to that eternal question, a question that has been posed to me not only by children but by friends who are curious or confused and sometimes by strangers who are unfriendly to the faith. Where was God when those bad things happened? Or, maybe more to the point of what they're really getting at, Why would God let that happen?
Well, our faith reminds us that God does not force choices upon us. He allows us to act freely, and, unfortunately, when given complete freedom, some people choose the path of evil. As I wrote in my book The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Catholic Catechism, Jesus Christ "did not come to fix the world's problems but to live amidst all the world's problems. Jesus came not only to suffer for us but to suffer with us...So God does not will evil; he permits evil out of respect for the freedom he has given all of his creation, and somehow, in ways we typically don't understand until much later on, he finds a way to bring good from bad."
Which seems perfectly fitting at this time of year, as we begin Passiontide and prepare for the sorrowful journey through Holy Week and the Triduum. Ours is a faith based on victory through the cross, death as the beginning of life. Every year, every day for that matter, we recognize that God can bring great good out of great evil, not only through the cross in Calvary, but through the daily crosses -- great and small -- that are part of the landscape of our lives.
Friday, March 27, 2009
The ads have been running in the Phoenix Diocese during Lent, and, according to a CNS story, more than 500,000 visitors from 50 states and 80 countries have visited the Catholics Come Home website since the spots began airing. All this just goes to prove that there are thousands upon thousands of Catholics just waiting to be invited back to the Church of their birth. In Phoenix, Mass attendance was up 22 percent at nine sample parishes since the ad campaign began. Do we need more proof than that?
Other dioceses, not surprisingly, want in on this phenomenon. More than a dozen other dioceses in the United States will begin airing the ads later this year, and by Advent of 2010, the campaign will be on the national networks, CNS reported.
Thursday, March 26, 2009
Notre Dame University’s recent decision to invite President Obama to address its forthcoming Commencement Exercises and to confer upon him an honorary degree caused an outcry from many Catholics opposed to the Chief Executive’s policies regarding abortion and stem cell research.
The fury transferred in many cases to “the bishops”, assuming that either the bishop of the diocese in which Notre Dame is located could stop the whole thing, or the American bishops collectively could do something.
Actually, the bishops have spoken. Several years ago, as a group, they formally resolved that Catholic colleges and universities should not invite politicians with pro-abortion records to speak on their campuses, nor should these schools give awards or honorary degrees to such political figures.
Nevertheless, the President will not be the first such figure to be lauded by an American university with a Catholic heritage. Not that long ago, the University of San Francisco, founded by the Jesuits in 1855, honored Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, whose pro-abortion views also dismay many Catholics.
To understand the situation, it is better to characterize these schools properly. There is utterly no comparison between them and the local parochial school.
This does not ignore certain Catholic symbols, or practices, in these universities, nor the often stated references in mission statements and even in specific policies to their “Catholic character” or “mission”. Rather, it recognizes other important facts.
As the Catholic community formed in the United States in the early 1800s, Catholic missionaries arrived from Europe, founding many institutions. For example, in 1789, the Jesuits started Catholic higher education by founding Georgetown College, on the outskirts of what was to become the national capital.
In 1842, a French community of men Religious, the Congregation of Holy Cross, started the school in Northern Indiana that eventually became the University of Notre Dame du Lac, to refer to Notre Dame by its official name.
Always, these Religious congregations owned and operated the schools that they had established. Even then, however, Church law gave local bishops limited jurisdiction over what happened in these schools. Why? The Religious communities in most cases were not subject to local bishops, only to their own superiors, and finally to the Pope, a fact of longstanding Church law.
Things began to change midway in the 20th Century. Vocations to Religious congregations began to fall, just as enrollments skyrocketed.
Religious communities correctly knew that soon they would not have the personnel to teach in, and to administer, these schools, at previous levels.
Then, philosophically, at the same time, the Church expressly was emphasizing lay witness. The Second Vatican Council extensively built on Pope Pius XI’s concerted push for “Catholic Action”. Bringing people other than Religious or priests into decision-making was the ideal, something the Church clearly was advocating.
So, in the 1960s, the founding Religious communities formally transferred ownership of, and rights to control, many of these famous universities to non-Church corporations which impaneled boards, overwhelmingly peopled not by Religious but by others, not reporting to the Church, to run the schools.
Now, in almost all the major universities historically Catholic, these boards set school policies and hire, and direct, college officials, very few of whom are priests or Religious, at times not Catholics.
When push comes to shove, without any truly sovereign place in the statutes of these institutions, the Religious, the bishops, and even the Vatican, only can make their case for attention to the school’s Catholic heritage, as they see it, and then hope for the best. When controversies occur at these schools, it hardly necessarily follows that Church officials either have coalesced in, or ignored, any decision.
Protesting decisions at universities such as this action at Notre Dame by appealing to bishops, rather than to those who actually operate these schools, overlooks fact.
Monsignor Campion is Associate Publisher of Our Sunday Visitor and Editor of The Priest magazine.
Back in the 1980s, a dear friend of mine, a talented young man who was more like a younger brother than a friend, got involved with the wrong people. Before long, he was addicted to cocaine and began a downward spiral into a terrible world that he did not know how to escape. I watched him suffer. I saw him try to break free. He was eventually tricked into believing that if he delivered this one packet of drugs from one dealer to another, he would save a friend in trouble. He agreed, and he was arrested, set up by someone looking to save his own hide.
This otherwise beautiful, sweet, spiritual kid had a thriving hair salon and was well on his way to recovery when the Rockefeller drug laws ensnared him. He lost everything and had to serve hard prison time. I can remember many Friday nights during those long months when my friend would call collect from prison, desperate to hear a friendly voice amid the harsh life he faced every day. A gentle soul by nature, my friend told me how he had to act tough, scary, in order to protect himself behind bars.
My friend was one of the lucky ones but no thanks to the justice system. He managed to come out of prison as sweet and kind as ever. He rebuilt his business into something even better than it was before, and he stayed clean until the day he died of cancer a week before he would have turned 36.
I learned so much from my friend. I asked him to take me to a Narcotics Anonymous meeting so I could understand what he was dealing with. He did. I asked him to explain to me what it was like to live with the monkey of drug addiction on his back day after day. He did. He let me know a world that was foreign to me, and it helped me see the face of drug addiction in a real and powerful way. Even all these years later, I can remember being amazed by his resiliency, his determination, and his utter lack of anger toward a system that should have offered him treatment but instead locked him up with common criminals.
The Rockefeller drug laws, which the Church in New York has long opposed, have done similar things to thousands of young people, parents, families. They have ruined lives because they do not allow a judge to take into account a person's history, or lack of criminal history. Non-violent, first-time, minor drug offenders should not be incarcerated when they can be rehabilitated through the most basic treatment programs.
It is a feather in New York Gov. David Paterson's cap that he has managed to reach a deal that will dismantle these drug laws and replace prison sentences with drug treatment for minor offenders. The system must focus on dealers and drug lords and not on the people at their mercy.
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
The 17-year-olds are garnering the lion's share of the attention in the Plan B ruling right now, as should be the case since they are the ones who will be immediately affected. But somewhat hidden in the language of the 52-page ruling by Judge Edward Korman of the Eastern District of New York is a hint of what's to come if judges and reproductive rights groups are allowed to continue to run roughshod over the FDA, over parents, over the rights of young girls who clearly need counseling and medical intervention if they are in need of emergency contraception.
In his ruling, Korman told the FDA to "reconsider" any restrictions of over-the-counter sales of Plan B to girls and women of any age. Well, the only girls and women who are restricted from buying the megadoses of hormones that make up the Plan B regimen are minor girls under 17. What does it say about our society and about our concern for our children if we would allow a young girl to self-medicate with powerful drugs in hopes of avoiding -- or in some cases ending -- a pregnancy? Young teenagers in most cases do not even have the foresight to choose a healthy diet or wear appropriate clothes on a cold day. What would make us think that a young girl could understand the ramifications of taking megadoses of hormone pills, especially if those pills are sanctioned, even pushed, by the society around them?
We need to get a grip on this issue before it takes our children places they don't need to go. We have no idea what will happen to young girls who take these drugs on a regular basis. We have no way of knowing if sexual abusers will take advantage of the availability of Plan B to hide their crimes. We need to close the door on Plan B now, while there's still time to save our young daughters.
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
On Friday, March 21, Father John Jenkins, CSC, phoned to inform me that President Obama had accepted his invitation to speak to the graduating class at Notre Dame and receive an honorary degree. We spoke shortly before the announcement was made public at the White House press briefing. It was the first time that I had been informed that Notre Dame had issued this invitation.
President Obama has recently reaffirmed, and has now placed in public policy, his long-stated unwillingness to hold human life as sacred. While claiming to separate politics from science, he has in fact separated science from ethics and has brought the American government, for the first time in history, into supporting direct destruction of innocent human life.
This will be the 25th Notre Dame graduation during my time as bishop. After much prayer, I have decided not to attend the graduation. I wish no disrespect to our president, I pray for him and wish him well. I have always revered the Office of the Presidency. But a bishop must teach the Catholic faith “in season and out of season,” and he teaches not only by his words — but by his actions.
My decision is not an attack on anyone, but is in defense of the truth about human life.
I have in mind also the statement of the U.S. Catholic Bishops in 2004. “The Catholic community and Catholic institutions should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles. They should not be given awards, honors or platforms which would suggest support for their actions.” Indeed, the measure of any Catholic institution is not only what it stands for, but also what it will not stand for.
I have spoken with Professor Mary Ann Glendon, who is to receive the Laetare Medal. I have known her for many years and hold her in high esteem. We are both teachers, but in different ways. I have encouraged her to accept this award and take the opportunity such an award gives her to teach.
Even as I continue to ponder in prayer these events, which many have found shocking, so must Notre Dame. Indeed, as a Catholic University, Notre Dame must ask itself, if by this decision it has chosen prestige over truth.
Tomorrow, we celebrate as Catholics the moment when our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, became a child in the womb of his most holy mother. Let us ask Our Lady to intercede for the university named in her honor, that it may recommit itself to the primacy of truth over prestige.
Monday, March 23, 2009
Update: Here is the statement.
(In the spirit of full disclosure, I must tell you that my husband, Dennis Poust, is director of communications for the New York State Catholic Conference and is among those lobbying against this legislation.)
The editorial also goes on to state that the bill does not "explicitly target any institution." Well, let's talk about that. The Markey bill would roll back the statute of limitations for all religious and not-for-profit organizations. Public institutions, however, remain conspicuously absent from the legislation. Put another way: If you or your child were abused by a public school teacher or anyone working for a public institution, you cannot sue the school district under this legislation. You can only file if you have been abused by someone working for the Church, or another religious or non-profit group. Doesn't seem inherently fair, does it, especially in light of the following statistics:
A recent report by the Associated Press showed that in New York State and across the country, the number of children abused by public school employees, such as teachers, overwhelms the number of children abused by Catholic priests. For example, there were 485 reports of abuse in New York State public schools in just the five year period between 2002 and 2006 -- nearly 200 cases more than the total number of priests accused in New York since 1957, a period of more than 50 years. (You can read the AP story focusing on New York by clicking HERE and the AP story focusing on the national perspective by clicking HERE.)
So why not take public schools into the mix and roll back the statute of limitations for sex abuse committed there? Because this is less about justice in general and more about attacking the Catholic Church in particular. While the statistics don't excuse the heinous crimes committed by some priests over the decades, they do shed light on the fact that this is not a crime unique to the Catholic Church. It is happening right under our noses in our public schools while the same officials who cry "fairness" and "abuse" when it comes to the Church look the other way when it comes to taxpayer-funded institutions. Why different rules for different organizations and different children?
Fortunately, there is a glimmer of hope that this lopsided legislation will not see the light of day. New York Gov. David Paterson had this to say to Newsday:
"These types of cases could go back, 20, 30, 40 years, and since the evidence probably doesn't exist in any way to convict the perpetrator . . . the accusation would hinder the career of any person who was accused." (Read the full story HERE.)
Paterson instead favors legislation introduced by Assemblyman Vito Lopez (D-Brooklyn) that doesn't include the one-year window and adds two years to the statute of limitations. The New York State Catholic Conference is urging the passage of the Lopez bill because it "would extend the statute of limitations prospectively and, importantly, would amend the notice of claim requirement, leveling the playing field for all victims, so that those abused in public institutions would have the same rights as those abused in private institutions." (Read the NYSCC statement HERE.)
Saturday, March 21, 2009
From the cigarette endorsements (how passe) to the assumption of the existence of natural law (how relevant), this is an interview well worth watching. Let me know what you think. (h/t Patrick Madrid)
Friday, March 20, 2009
For background, see this. But a new development tonight: The 500+ adjunct professors at the Jesuit University of San Francisco are only offered a Kaiser health insurance plan that provides for abortion coverage. The hitch: It is more affordable than the university's non-abortion Blue Cross plan. The university hasn't told us how much cheaper it is.
The faculty union and the university hammered out an agreement yesterday afternoon. Here's a statement from USF spokesman Gary McDonald:
The University of San Francisco believes strongly in offering the best health insurance possible to its employees. Most private universities offer no health insurance at all to their adjunct faculty. USF offers health insurance to approximately 65 of its 500+ adjunct faculty, and is committed to increasing that number. A tentative agreement with the union provides coverage through Kaiser Permanente (widely considered to be the best HMO in Northern California), just as the previous contract had done. A Blue Cross plan was not offered. Health insurance through Blue Cross is considerably more expensive, and offering this plan would reduce the number of employees USF could cover, which is contrary to our goal of helping provide health care to as many employees as possible.
There's obviously a clear Catholic imperative to making sure that employees can afford health coverage. And a widely respected canon lawyer consulted by OSV says the USF arrangement is acceptable under Church law. Watch for the full story in an upcoming issue of OSV.
In "From Saint Peter's Square to Harvard Square" over at National Review Online, Kathryn Jean Lopez quotes the director of the AIDS Prevention Research Project at Harvard as saying: “The pope is correct, or put it a better way, the best evidence we have supports the pope’s comments."
Now that ought to cause some serious gnashing of teeth. To read the rest of the story, click HERE.
The occasion for the uproar this time was something Pope Benedict XVI said March 17 on the plane carrying him and a traveling press corps on a weeklong visit to Africa: “You can’t resolve [the AIDS epidemic] with the distribution of condoms. On the contrary, it increases the problem.”
Without getting bogged down in technical arguments about the safety and efficacy of condoms in fighting AIDS, I’ll only say that, just on the face of it, the pope was obviously right. After all, if you really want to halt the spread of AIDS, then you have to halt the behavior that causes it to spread. What’s to argue about?
But of course that isn’t really the issue in this controversy. The real explanation for the outburst of secularist fury that greeted Benedict’s remark lies in its implied challenge to secularist dogma.
I mean the dogma that no one ever under any circumstances can be allowed to question the wisdom, excellence, virtue, merit, and all-round good sense of permissive sex. From that point of view, the beauty of condoms is that they provide a measure of protection against HIV infection, without requiring any further modification of sexual behavior.
Yet the Church does challenge the secularist conventional wisdom about sex. Indeed, it has done so from the start. Sex is a very good thing, it says, but only when and if used within a framework of rational, moral restraint. Otherwise sex is at risk of becoming a destructive force — as in fact has happened in these latter days of Western secularism.
The disastrous consequences of denying this fundamental Christian insight about sex are overwhelmingly apparent today. Yet the secular culture has never chosen to acknowledge them, and — heaven knows! — it isn’t about to do so now.
No doubt the pope can stand up under the hammering he’s gotten — and can expect to get all over again next time he says something about sex that the secularists don’t like. The backbone issue doesn’t pertain to him but to us. For we are the ones who have to suffer the sneers directed at us by the entertainers, journalists, and chatty academics of our talking heads culture.
And in fact not all Catholics are able to handle this browbeating. More than 40 years ago, for example, many defections occurred in response to the pronouncement by an earlier pope — Paul VI — that, as the Church had taught all along, artificial birth control was indeed morally wrong. Catholic teaching on sexual morality remains a source of scandal for many of the Church’s nominal members — to say nothing of former members — today.
But take courage. Christianity faced an even tougher challenge two millennia ago in the context of the pagan Roman Empire. Then it had less access to the machinery of opinion formation than it does now. Yet the Church not only survived but prevailed, as it has continued to do amid the ups and downs of history ever since.
Survive and prevail, we believe, the faith will keep on doing until history itself comes to an end. The peculiar secular sexual obsessions of the present day will pass. The understanding of human sexuality proclaimed by the Church will remain. It has the distinct advantage of being true.
Following OSV's report in December that the Jesuit University of San Francisco's student health clinic was providing abortion and contraception referrals for students, USF has crafted a new protocol for the clinic that is consonant with the Church's stance on life issues.
The USF student clinic staff will now refer students to First Resort, a crisis pregnancy organization; the Gabriel Project, a pregnancy support organization run by the university's St. Ignatius Parish; and Catholic Charities counseling facilities.
Here's the new directive for the student clinic at St. Mary's Medical Center, provided to us by Anne-Marie Devine, a USF spokeswoman:
Termination of Pregnancy and Contraceptives
In keeping with Catholic tradition and teachings, voluntary termination of pregnancy will not be performed at St. Mary’s Hospital and referrals for abortion will not be given to a student by USF Student Health Clinic staff. In addition, contraceptives services, in all forms, will not be provided by the USF Student Health Clinic. However, hormonal therapy to regulate menstruation cycles or to reduce symptoms of dysmenorrheal (painful menses) may be initiated by USF Student Health Clinic Nurse Practitioners as a part of short-term therapy. Students will be referred to their insurance plan list for area OB-GYN for consultation. [Emphasis in original.]
A separate problem reported by OSV was that the university's two health insurance plans for employees provided abortion coverage. The USF administration says it can't do anything about a Kaiser health plan for faculty that offers abortion because it is included in a contract that was extended for three years in November. But it has changed its Blue Cross coverage, effective March 1, and has notified faculty that Blue Cross will no longer cover abortion in any form, including the drug RU486.
Also in response to the reporting, the university in December removed abortion coverage from a health insurance plan for students.
Thursday, March 19, 2009
The debate surrounding the Bush administration's controversial decisions regarding such techniques as waterboarding has been reignited by the recent revelation that the International Committee of the Red Cross had concluded in 2007 that torture was used by the United States in secret CIA prisons. Based on interviews with prisoners held by the CIA who had been sent to Guantanamo Bay, the report cited such actions as beatings, sleep deprivation and extreme confinement and temperatures.
It concluded that such treatment "constituted torture" and "cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment."
Now a long-simmering debate on whether there should be a congressional investigation or some sort of Truth Commission has been resurrected, even though the Obama administration seems uncomfortable with either prospect.
Torture is a staple of the entertainment media. Counterterrorism official Jack Bauer on the popular Fox television series "24" routinely uses torture to extract information from terror suspects. Mitch Rapp, the popular hero of the Vince Flynn novels, is similarly inclined. In such fictional presentations, torture is a tool for preventing immediate threats, and those who condemn it are bureaucrats or moral pantywaists who don't understand how the real world works.
The truth is, as always, more complicated. Some military and police experts argue that information extracted under torture is generally of low value, though others say the secret nature of the war on terror precludes one from drawing such conclusions: We don't know what has worked, so we have to trust those who are on the front lines.
While the debate about the definition and value of torture will continue, the Church's teachings in this area are clear and consistent: The ends do not justify the means. Torture is an affront to human dignity and has been labeled by the U.S. bishops as an "intrinsically evil action" in their 2007 document "Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship," along with abortion, the destruction of human embryos, genocide, racism and targeting noncombatants.
All of these actions deny the immutable dignity of human life, and all are condemned. Pope Benedict XVI himself said in 2007 that "means of punishment or correction that either undermine or debase the human dignity of prisoners" must be avoided. "The prohibition against torture cannot be contravened under any circumstances."
That the ends justify the means -- be it for abortion, euthanasia or embryonic stem cell research -- has become the rationalization of choice for a host of questionable actions that our society now approves. Torture certainly fits within those categories.
What we surrender when we make such accommodations with evil, however, goes much further than simply the moral diminishment of our country and its ideals. By using legal legerdemain to justify the unjustifiable, we give cover to more despotic nations and weaken the internal restraints that keep our own society from resorting to more debased actions.
As with abortion, by appearing to tolerate and even justify an evil such as torture, Americans hasten the erosion of the moral values upon which all civilized society must be based.
Photo credit: Shutterstock
According to a Boston Public Health Commission survey of 200 teenagers, 46 percent said Rihanna was responsible for what happened, and 52 percent said they were both responsible. So that leaves, what? Only 2 percent were willing to consider that perhaps the one who allegedly did the beating was also the one responsible. I looked at those figures and at comments like this one -- "She probably made him mad for him to react like that. You know, like, bring it on?" -- and wondered what I should be doing right now to ensure that my daughters, and my son for that matter, never reach a point where they think it is ever OK to beat a woman for any reason whatsoever.
It's too bad that the radical feminists in this country have spent so much time promoting contraception and abortion as the road to equality for women when what they should have been promoting is self-respect and dignity. Once again, I hate to point out that the Catholic Church, which is often criticized by those same radical feminists for its alleged oppression of women because of the all-male priesthood, is actually quite cutting edge when it comes to women and their full and equal rights as human beings.
Here's just one small sample from Mulieris Dignitatem (On the Dignity and Vocation of Women) from Pope John Paul II:
"The personal resources of femininity are certainly no less than the resources of masculinity: they are merely different. Hence a woman, as well as a man, must understand her 'fulfillment' as a person, her dignity and vocation, on the basis of these resources, according to the richness of the femininity which she received on the day of creation and which she inherits as an expression of the 'image and likeness of God' that is specifically hers. The inheritance of sin suggested by the words of the Bible - 'Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you" - can be conquered only by following this path. The overcoming of this evil inheritance is, generation after generation, the task of every human being, whether woman or man. For whenever man is responsible for offending a woman's personal dignity and vocation, he acts contrary to his own personal dignity and his own vocation."
We need to be on guard, to warn our young girls that no one has a right to affront their dignity. We need to remind them that they, too, are made in the image and likeness of God and, as such, deserve love and respect and not the backhand of some boyfriend's wrath.
One expert told us "challenges to Catholic hospitals are more likely to come through Obama's comprehensive health care reform that might require participating hospitals to provide abortion. Moreover, the new health insurance plan Obama seems to favor would result in people going off private plans and onto new public plans, making hospitals even more dependent on public monies as government assumes more control of the system."
Our cover story in the March 29 issue explains. Read it here.
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
The Pope John Paul II Family Academy, which will be housed in the former St. Barbara's Parish School in the Bushwick section of Brooklyn, will open next fall with pre-kindergarten through third grades, adding grades four through eight in subsequent years.
What makes this endeavor particularly interesting and potentially life changing is that families in the new academy must commit to be active in the faith formation of their children. In his column, "Put Out Into the Deep," Brooklyn Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio announced that the educational model of the new academy will be "to create a covenant between the families whose children will attend the school, and the Academy."
"This means that the parents or guardians will commit to be active participants in the faith formation of their children and in the life of their local parish. For its part, the school community will offer programs to assist the family to grow in the life of our faith," he wrote. "...The John Paul II Family Academy will be dedicated to this fundamental mission to evangelize all who will attend it by providing an excellent Catholic education to its children, strengthening family life and reestablishing a meaningful relationship between parish life and a Catholic elementary school."
Amen, to that. It is time that our parishes and Catholic schools try to recapture the kind of connection that once existed between parish and home life. Too many of today's adult Catholics do not enjoy the kind of faith-infused home life that so many of their parents took for granted, which has led to a complete disconnect between many Catholics and the faith of their birth. If what happens in our Catholic classrooms and Catholic churches is left at the doorstep when we head home, it can never have a lasting impact on our day-to-day lives and the larger faith community. Kudos to the Brooklyn Diocese for recognizing that fact and taking the first step to reverse the course.
According to a story in The Tablet, the newspaper of the diocese, students at the new Family Academy, which is being funded by a single anonymous donor, will come from the immediate neighborhood. Their families must be at or below the poverty level.
News of Family Academy comes on the heels of the Brooklyn Diocese's announcement just a few weeks ago that it was considering converting several of its failing schools into charter schools.
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
"Today the President met in the Oval Office with His Eminence, Francis Cardinal George, O.M.I., Archbishop of Chicago and President of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops.
"The President and Cardinal George discussed a wide range of issues, including important opportunities for the government and the Catholic Church to continue their long-standing partnership to tackle some of the nation’s most pressing challenges. The President thanked Cardinal George for his leadership and for the contributions of the Catholic Church in America and around the world."
And now from the bishops' conference:
Cardinal Francis George, OMI, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, met at the White House with President Barack Obama during the afternoon of March 17.
The meeting was private. Cardinal George and President Obama discussed the Catholic Church in the United States and its relation to the new Administration. The meeting lasted approximately 30 minutes.
At the conclusion, Cardinal George expressed his gratitude for the meeting and his hopes that it will foster fruitful dialogue for the sake of the common good.
Updated 3/17/09 6:02 PM: Added bishops' conference statement.
"One cannot overcome the problem with the distribution of condoms. On the contrary, they increase the problem," the pope said, according to CNS' John Thavis, who was on the plane.
The pope also took a question about his supposed leadership solitude as an explanation for his recent controversial decision to "remit" the excommunications of four traditionalist bishops, one of whom is a longtime Holocaust-denier.
His reply: "I have to laugh a bit about this myth of my solitude. In no way do I feel alone. I am really surrounded by friends, close collaborators, bishops and laypeople."
Monday, March 16, 2009
The video is only two and half minutes. Watch it. And then click here to take action.
Sulpician Father Joseph C. Martin, a leading national figure in the fight against alcoholism, died March 9 at his home in Harve de Grace, Md. He was 84. As I read the story of his life, I wondered how it was possible, after 25 years in the Catholic press, that I had not come upon Father Martin and his ground-breaking work before this. Born in Baltimore, Father Martin was the son of an alcoholic father and went on to become an alcoholic himself. In 1958, ten years after his ordination to the priesthood, his superiors sent him to Guest House, a treatment center in Michigan, and that is where Father Martin's amazing story of recovery and blunt talk about the illness of alcoholism began.
He went on to write books and make videos and was famous for his "Chalk Talk," a video he taped for the U.S. Navy. He founded Father Martin's Ashley, a treatment center near Havre de Grace that has treated more than 40,000 people and is known, according to the New York Times, as "the Betty Ford Clinic of the east." The full obit is worth a read, and maybe even a movie of the week.
Updated 3/16 2:49 p.m.: Corrected Father Martin's first name in second paragraph.
Friday, March 13, 2009
Now, suddenly, some of those people are starting to tell the truth about embryonic stem cell research (ESCR). Unfortunately, it's too late. We needed those voice before the election. Voices like Charles Krauthammer, who was paralyzed during a 1972 diving accident and differed with President Bush on the use of 'leftover' IFV embryos . Today, in a Washington Post column, he asserts that President Obama has "left open the creation of cloned -- and noncloned sperm-and-egg-derived -- human embryos solely for the purpose of dismemberment and use for parts." Saying that he is not religious and does not believe "personhood is conferred at conception," he went on to say, however, that a human embryo is not the equivalent of a "hangnail" and that lines must be drawn -- by the likes of President Obama -- given the "well-recorded human propensity for evil even in the pursuit of good."
Well, yes, that was the point of ESCR opponents all along. A human embryo is a life, not a hangnail. It is not an appendage that can be used or discarded as others see fit. And, yes, science must be balanced by ethics or it will end up in a place that none of us want to go. Now, it seems, we're well on our way to that place.
Another Washington Post columnist, Kathleen Parker, also came out against the Obama reversal on ESCR, saying that the new president was more intent on keeping political promises than acknowledging scientific advances that would allow stem cell research to continue to move forward by leaps and bounds minus the controversial use of human embryos. Which was kind of surprising, given the contemptuous November column she wrote about religious folks, whom she referred to as the "oogedy-boogedy branch of the GOP." In fact, she literally spelled out G-O-D as the "great big problem." Now, she's trying to make nice, saying that "good people can disagree" and that the "objectification of human life is never a trivial matter."
"...every single one of the successes in treating patients with stem cells thus far — for spinal cord injuries and multiple sclerosis, for example — have involved adult or umbilical cord blood stem cells, not embryonic. And though federal dollars still won’t directly fund embryo destruction, federally funded researchers can obtain embryos privately created only for experimentation. Thus, taxpayers now are incentivizing a market for embryo creation and destruction," Parker wrote this week.
Hmm...Where have I heard that before? Oh yes, from the Catholic Church. Did everyone have cotton in their ears for the last four years? Even the New York Times, which did nothing to address the truth about ESCR in the months leading up to the election (or in the last eight years, for that matter), ran a story this week saying that the president's support for ESCR "comes at a time when many advances have been made with other sorts of stem cells. "
"For researchers, reprogramming an adult cell can be much more convenient, and there have never been any restrictions on working with adult stem cells," the Times reports. And let's add to that the fact that diseases are actually being cured right now, today, with umbilical cord and adult stem cells, and no one had to die to make it happen.
People still don't seem to understand that there are different types of stem cell research -- the kind that takes a life and the kind that doesn't. It is the latter, the uncontroversial and wildly successful adult stem cell research, that we should be pursuing. Maybe next time, instead of writing the Church off as ideologically charged and scientifically off base, people will pay attention, although I doubt it.
Thursday, March 12, 2009
We're looking for people with solid grounding in journalism, faithful knowledge of the Church, and the ability to turn 1,200-word news analysis stories around in a week or less.
We pay well and always have lots of work.
If you are interested and able, contact me at jnorton (at) osv.com. Include a resume/CV and clips of recent work if possible.
If you haven't yet read Pope Benedict XVI's letter to the world's bishops explaining his decision to "remit" the excommunications of four traditionalist bishops and apologizing for the Vatican's missteps, don't wait any longer.
In the 2,500-word letter, published today by the Vatican's press office, a clearly anguished pope appeals for unity in the Church and underscores the priorities of his pontificate.
The best analysis I've see so far is by John Thavis, Rome bureau chief of Catholic News Service, the editorially and financially independent news agency of the U.S. bishops' conference. (Full disclosure: He was my boss from 1999-2003.)
The opening sentence: "In one fell swoop, Pope Benedict XVI has taken charge of the much-criticized realm of 'Vatican communications' following his lifting of the excommunication of four traditionalist bishops, including one who denied the extent of the Holocaust."
Alejandro Bermudez reports in our March 22 issue: "From the perspective of both the local and U.S. media, the increasing power of the drug cartels operating mostly in northern Mexico, as well as the looming economic crisis, are seen as factors that could lead the country either into out-of-control violence or a revolution.
"For many, alarming signs can be found in the increasing violence in the Mexico-U.S. border -- which have already cost 3,000 lives this year -- as well as in the recent apparition of the self-styled Movimiento Armado del Norte (Northern Armed Movement), an alleged revolutionary organization that recently issued two statements [warning of its plans to change the government "from within"]. Continue reading here.
The question is worth asking: How much responsibility do we American citizens bear for Mexico's situation, seeing as we are the ones buying the cartels' drugs and selling them their weapons?
If you weren't sickened by President Barack Obama's March 9 executive order to lift limitations on federal funding for embryonic stem-cell research, you need to step away from the shrewdly heartbreaking advertising campaign behind it and take a closer look at the facts.
It puts our nation on a path that threatens not just faceless human embryos, but you, too.
We are not outraged (simply) that he did it -- after all, it was a campaign promise (as it was of his presidential race opponent, Republican Sen. John McCain).
Nor are we outraged (simply) because science itself doesn't support the move. Despite billions of dollars of private and state investment in the United States alone, this research has not yielded a single positive result, while "adult" stem-cell research that does not involve the destruction of human life has already proven successful in treating 70 diseases including autoimmune and degenerative joint diseases, multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, spinal injury and Type 2 diabetes.
Even a member of the president's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, a former director of the National Institutes of Health and president and CEO of the American Red Cross, recently penned a column questioning the move on scientific grounds. Writing in U.S. News and World Report, Dr. Bernadine Healy said, "Embryonic stem cells, once thought to hold the cure for Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and diabetes, are obsolete."
All that is deeply troubling, but what bothers us most is the claim of the administration that this decision restores "scientific integrity," somehow free from the influence of politics or ideology.
That is not only patently untrue -- it simply substitutes a different politics and ideology -- it seems dangerously unaware that science must be subject to ethical controls dedicated to protecting the dignity of all humans.
This may seem hyperbolic, but hear us out: The president's same rationale infused the work of those nefarious Nazi doctors who performed eugenic experiments in the name of science -- and justly so, if "scientific integrity" requires no reference to the demands of authentic human development. Without any sense that science should serve the good of all members of society, we return return to a Darwinian ethic that allows the powerful to dictate the rules, and subjects the weakest to be evaluated according to their "usefulness." Ultimately, and with very little stretch, that extends not just to faceless embryos, but to the aged, the infirm and the disabled. In each case the powerful are allowed to dictate which human life has value and which does not.
The president fails to understand that "scientific integrity" does not exist in a vacuum; it must always answer to the demands of ethics. Science is not free to pursue what it is able to do; it must be limited by what it should do in an ethical world that seeks to protect every individual as well as benefit the whole of humanity. .
The cold calculus behind embryonic stem-cell research frankly frightens us. If it is OK to "derive" stem cells from the living bodies of human embryos, causing the destruction of those innocent human lives, what does that say but that some lives have more value than others? That we may sacrifice some human lives for the benefit of others?
Don't fool yourself. Someday you'll be sick and weak, aged and infirm. A society that places no value on intrinsic human value is no place you'll want to live -- or eventually be allowed to.
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
Connecticut's Catholic Church today rallied in opposition to a proposed bill — which apparently has now been hastily tabled indefinitely — that would have given Catholic parishioners the option of severing themselves from the administrative oversight of their pastor and bishop.
Legal experts seem to agree that the bill didn't have a constitutional chance of a snowball in Hades — not only does it exclusively target the Catholic Church, it seems a clear violation of the First Amendment's separation of church and state.
Still, it was an astonishingly brazen display of anti-Catholicism that has historical precedent in the Know Nothing movement in the mid-19th century. (Check back here tomorrow for a fuller post on that from an expert in the history of U.S. anti-Catholicism.)
The Diocese of Bridgeport has created a page with a wealth of information on this at its website. Check it out here.
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
"I think it's going to be looked at, and I am not so sure it wouldn't be a good idea to decide on the basis of geography and culture not to make an across-the-board determination," the cardinal told Fred Dicker, state editor of the N.Y. Post and host of the Fred Dicker Show on 1300 Talk Radio in Albany.
Cardinal Egan, who made the comments during a 30-minute interview on Dicker's radio show while in Albany March 10 for the New York State Catholic Conference's annual Public Policy Day, said that many Eastern Rite Catholic Churches allow married priests with "no problem at all."
"Is it a closed issue? No, that's not a dogmatic stand," he said, when Dicker asked if he had "any hesitancy about priestly celibacy."
The cardinal said his inability to reverse the downward trend in priestly vocations was his "greatest disappointment" as archbishop. During the interview, he also addressed the Church's legislative priorities on issues such as abortion, same sex marriage and education. He told Dicker that he felt the Church was winning the battle of public opinion on abortion thanks to sonogram technology, but losing the battle on the same sex marriage front due to a well-funded PR campaign by proponents.
To hear the entire interview, click here. Go to the March 10 show. Cardinal Egan was on the second half of the one-hour show. His comments on celibacy came at the very end of his 30-minute interview.
Monday, March 9, 2009
The 13-year-old boy said he was "shocked" that the Catholic elements of his school were gone and wondered, "How am I going to survive?"
Well, that's a question on many lips these days. How is Catholic education going to survive and remain Catholic? Certainly what's going on at these charter schools cannot be confused with teaching the faith, as they are state-funded schools where God can never enter the picture. Here's what kids at the former Holy Name School say instead of the Our Father each morning:
"I will arrive at school each day on time and ready to work. I will treat all with respect and dignity. I will solve any conflicts that arise peacefully. I will care for and protect our environment."
A far cry from the Lord's Prayer and a nice segue for the kids into the Gospel of Nice that is quickly replacing the Gospel of Jesus not only in former Catholic schools but in many homes. Another news story today reports that a recent poll shows an increase in the number of people who say they have no religion at all. Where was the growth? Among those who consider themselves non-denominational. In other words, the folks who say they are "spiritual" but not religious. Is that the mission of Catholic education? To raise nice people with no religion? Because it seems that's where we're headed.
This conversion plan is up for consideration in other dioceses. Most recently the Brooklyn Diocese announced that it might swap four of its parochial schools slated for closure for schools of the charter variety. But there, as in Washington, students will find a poor substitute for the Catholic education they once knew. The "10 core values" pale in comparison to the Ten Commandments.
Friday, March 6, 2009
"Today many Catholics have risen to prominence and have amassed great wealth. Catholic philanthropy, however, while often generous to direct service projects, does much less to support educational, cultural and health care institutions...It is a great irony: Catholics complain that they do not influence culture, but when they have the resources to make a difference, they tend not to support the institutions that can achieve such influence," Sulmasy writes.
Good point, as is his commentary that Catholics are "opting for secular values," stripping away "a culture, a spirit and a community of faith" that once thrived. Years ago, people would choose a Catholic hospital or Catholic college over a secular one simply because they wanted the Catholic values that went along with it. Today that brand loyalty is fading -- or has already faded past the point of rescue -- and, as a result, Catholic institutions across the board are suffering.
Sulmasy does a good job of putting the state of Catholic health care into a broader context. To read the full article, click here.
Back in January, with fanfare, the Vatican announced that it was launching a site on YouTube. I confess to wondering just how many YouTube people will frequent a site featuring papal events — but give the Vatican communicators credit for trying. Here's wishing them luck.
In the meantime, though, a vast media revolution is going on in the United States and many other parts of the world with hardly a word from any responsible religious voice. I don't mean just the emergence of the Internet and electronic media — the last two popes and other religious sources have said quite a bit about that. I mean the ongoing eclipse of print media, especially daily newspapers, as places where people find out what's happening in the world.
Here is a change with huge implications for society — and by no means all of it for the best. Yet up to this time the silence from the Church and other religious bodies has been deafening.
As I sat down to draft this column, the Rocky Mountain News published its last issue. I was never a reader of that Colorado daily, so its demise had no direct impact on me. But the story caught my attention anyway. This was just the latest in a growing number of American newspapers calling it quits. There will be more.
Circulation and advertising have plummeted. Some papers are in bankruptcy. Others are contemplating desperate measures like publishing print editions only on weekends, and existing as Internet sites the rest of the week. Huge cutbacks in staff and coverage have taken place. Even giants like The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post have been hard hit.
One disturbingly common response to these developments is: So what? Lots of people don't like daily newspapers. The press is considered to be biased, elitist, and — in the view of conservative Catholics — hostile to the Church. Moreover, there's plenty of evidence to support those judgments.
But shoulder-shrug reactions to what's happening miss the point. The ongoing flight of audiences from newspapers has to a large extent been a flight away from serious news. Many Americans have turned to replacements like talk radio, cable TV, and blogs, while for others the new media world mainly means larger than ever doses of entertainment, sports and pornography.
This is a far cry from the golden future envisioned only a few years ago. The proliferation of sources of news and information in electronic media was hailed then as enriching people's understanding of the world. Alas, it hasn't worked out quite like that. For some people — yes. They're the ones Paul Starr in The New Republic calls "those with the skills and interest to take advantage of this new world of news." For the large majority — no. Many people appear now to be less in touch with the world around them than before.
The Church can't reverse or even significantly influence the media revolution, driven as it is by a seemingly irresistible combination of technology and economics. But what the Church can and should do in response is to provide its members with media education — formation, if you will — concerning the contours of the emerging news and information environment and the opportunities and challenges that it presents to them as media consumers.
Some daily newspapers will survive, but far fewer of them, reaching far fewer people, than in the recent past. Probably it's too late to save the rest. There is still time to save the audience. But not an awful lot.
Thursday, March 5, 2009
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The newspaper reported that "upwards of 450 people" celebrate the sacrament in one of the parish's 15 weekly time slots for confession (including prior to almost every Mass).
For some, the availability of anonymous confession has made it easier for them to avail themselves of the sacrament than when the parish offered only a face-to-face reconciliation room.
Personally, I have somewhat of an aversion to the old-style confessional that dates back to the years I lived in Rome, where that's pretty much all that was available.
About once a month I'd head to St. Peter's Basilica where there was always at least one confessional with "English" among other languages advertised. These were the classic wooden stand-alone confessionals; the priest sat in a center box hidden behind a curtain, and penitents took to a kneeler on either side.
I dreaded it.
Europeans don't have our concept of personal space. If I stood back at a discreet distance to avoid overhearing the person ahead of me, someone, usually a nun, would cut in front, standing virtually on the soles of the kneeling penitent.
Then, when it finally came my time to confess, I always had the uncomfortable impression kneeling there that there was someone, usually a nun, standing close enough behind to touch me.
Add to that the fact that St. Peter's Basilica is a major tourist destination. Until 2000, when the confessionals were placed in a roped-off area, it was not uncommon for curious and baffled Asian tourists to peer into the confessional to figure out what you were doing.
You see how scarred I am. But that explains why, these days, I prefer to visit soundproof, spacious reconciliation rooms, especially if there's a screen and kneeler to use.
A popular Catholic blog recently hosted a discussion among readers as to their preference: screened, or face-to-face.
It was fascinating reading. Two of the many comments stood out to me. One advocate of the face-to-face approach argued that it was better preparation for the embarrassment of Judgment Day: "I want the full impact of what I have done or not done with a face-to-face."
On the other side of the question, someone argued that the risk of face-to-face is that the penitent can be distracted by watching the priest's facial expressions and body language to see how he's receiving what's being said. A screen keeps the focus on Christ.
What is your preference? Why? Leave your preference in the comments
(Photo credit: Shutterstock)
I have to admit, justice and fairness are a big part of who I am. I want to see justice done, not just for myself but for those around me. I hate to bring in astrology here, but I truly live up to my classification as a Libra with its blatant need for balance on that symbol of the scales. So when I picked up my Lenten reflection for the day, I was smacked right between the eyes with this statement:
"We are called to follow a way of life that is unconventional, drastically different. The nicely balanced scales of justice are not our logo. Our logo is the cross."
OK, I get it. Message received, even if it isn't an easy message to hear. The scales of justice make a lot more sense in our society than the cross does. In fact, for many people, the cross doesn't make any sense at all. All the more reason that those of us who follow Christ have to live by his commandment to love others as ourselves or, even one better, to love our enemies and those who hate us.
No one wants to willingly take up the cross, and yet that is what we are called to do. So maybe in place of preaching my credo to live right to get a just reward, I can remind my children to love right. The reward will come later. Much, I hope.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops just launched an e-mail campaign urging Congress to maintain pro-life policies and to oppose the federal funding and promotion of abortion.
"Recent polling shows that Americans strongly support laws limiting or regulating abortion, including laws honoring parental involvement in a minor daughter’s abortion decision, laws upholding the conscience rights of health care professionals, limits on abortion funding, and bans on partial-birth abortion," says the conference.
"To guard against the erosion of current pro-life measures—and to keep abortion from becoming a federal entitlement—our voice is needed now more than ever."
Click here to participate.
(Photo credit: Shutterstock)
The Oregon province of the Society of Jesus' decision to file for bankruptcy in the face of hundreds of sexual abuse claims -- most related to Jesuit missionary activity decades ago in the Alaska bush -- opens uncharted territory that may jeopardize the financial health of Gonzaga University, Seattle University and other Jesuit educational institutions.
"One of the major arguments in this case is going to be, what are the Oregon province's assets?" Frederick J. Naffziger, professor of business law at University of Indiana, South Bend, and a specialist on the impact of U.S. bankruptcy laws on Catholic Church properties, told Our Sunday Visitor.
"The Oregon province says the universities are separate from [it] and therefore do not belong to [it]. But they could be separate and still belong to the province," he said.
Read the entire story in the March 15 issue of Our Sunday Visitor. Should abuse victims be allowed to go after Jesuit universities and schools for relief? Or is this just a cynical money grab by fee-greedy plaintiffs' lawyers?
Wednesday, March 4, 2009
Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City counts among his flock Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, a Catholic and a strong supporter of abortion rights, who was just tapped by President Obama to head the Department of Health and Human Services.
The archbishop last year publicly asked her to not receive Communion until she changed her views and made a sincere sacramental confession.
In an interview with OSV this morning, he disclosed some of the back story to his decision, said that claims by a Catholic group that she is actually pro-life are "very, very dishonest," described the process — on a case-by-case basis — bishops need to take with a pro-choice politician in their jurisdiction, and reacted to pro-life Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback's warm reception of Sebelius' nomination.
Full transcript below.
Valerie Schmalz, OSV contributing editor: What precipitated writing Gov. Sebelius last May to tell her not to receive Communion?
Archbishop Joseph Naumann: I had actually written the August before that, in 2007, asking her not to present herself for Communion and I did not make that public. But then she violated that in March, and so in May I had written her again and made that public. Since then to my knowledge she has not presented herself for Communion.
OSV: She violated it by going to Communion in March (2008)?
Archbishop Naumann: Yep.
OSV: What does the appointment of Gov. Sebelius to HHS mean in terms of her policies? There are a whole bunch of people, like Doug Kmiec and others, who are saying when she was governor abortion dropped by 10 percent. This letter (from Catholics for Sebelius) says, “She’s made clear she agrees with Church teaching that abortion is wrong and has lived and acted according to that belief.”
Archbishop Naumann: I think that’s very, very dishonest and not at all accurate. It’s true that abortion dropped during her term as governor but I don’t think she really had anything to do with it, although she likes to take credit for it. And in fact, during that time she vetoed measures that could have helped prevent abortion. At one time, she struck from the budget a pregnancy maintenance initiative that gave state funding to crisis pregnancy centers. Only when the legislature passed it by such an overwhelming margin that it was highly probable she would have been overridden, she allowed it to stay in the budget.
She’s on Emily’s List. During her last campaign she identified herself as one whose always been a leader in protecting a woman’s right [to abortion] and one who has tried to keep abortion safe legal and rare. Clinton I think perhaps was the one who originally developed that language and of course it's never safe for the child. What she did in the state of Kansas in terms of vetoing efforts to try to better regulate abortion clinics, certainly didn’t show a real concern for the safety of women either. And you perhaps know, although Kansas has some of the most restrictive laws on late-term abortion, no thanks to the governor, we’re kind of a center for late-term abortions because those laws are generally not enforced. And as the legislature has tried to do things to try to make them be enforced, again she has blocked those with vetoes.
She accepted money early in her political career from Dr. [George] Tiller who is a notorious abortionist in Wichita, and after that became politically not very convenient for her to do, Dr. Tiller formed a [political action committee] in which she was the principal beneficiary along with other equally staunch abortion-supporting politicians, and he put in hundreds of thousands of dollars to get her elected and re-elected. So I really think they may support Gov. Sebelius for this appointment, but they certainly can’t support her because she’s faithful in living the teaching of the Church on the life issues.
OSV: What do you think this says about President Obama’s concerns about the Catholic Church at all? The Church’s teaching on life issues? Obviously it is no secret that he supports abortion rights, but rather than appointing someone who is not a Catholic, he appoints someone who is a Catholic who is not in good standing with her Church to head the department that’s probably going to be at the forefront of repealing some of the protections that are in place now, including the right of conscience?
Archbishop Naumann: I personally find it offensive that he would choose a pro-legalized-abortion Catholic to head this office. I think, as I interpret Sen. [Sam ] Brownback’s and Sen. [Pat] Roberts’ support of sorts for the nomination — it’s simply saying we elected President Obama with the positions he took. We can’t expect that he’s going to appoint someone to these cabinet positions that do not share his views. And in a sense I can understand that. When there is a pro-life president, we resent if there is an effort to try to prevent the president from appointing people who share his vision. So, I can understand why they might acquiesce, I guess, is the best way to put it, to her appointment.
But I think from the Church’s point of view, it’s sad because it places another high-profile, pro-abortion Catholic into national leadership along with Vice President [Joe] Biden and Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi and a raft of others that are in the Congress. And so I think it makes our job as bishops more challenging, because we have to be even more clear that this is not acceptable for a person in public service to say that they are Catholic and then to support these policies that are anti-life, you know go against the most fundamental of all human rights, the preservation of innocent life.
And I think her appointment at Health and Human Services is particularly troubling because of the importance of that position and particularly the influence the secretary there will have on conscience rights as well as the health care reform. One of the frightening things about the proposed health care reform could be the inclusion of abortion as a fundamental right as part of the health care package, and it could really put Catholic doctors, nurses and health care institutions in a real bind. So it’s not helpful to have someone with her record and history as the head of HHS, but I think although many people voted for President Obama, not because of his support for legalized abortion but despite it, they have to realize that in electing a president with his views, they empowered him to make these types of appointments in his administration and even more devastating, I think to our courts.
OSV: Is there anything you could do from your standpoint, in terms of the persuasive pulpit, in terms of Gov. Sebelius and HHS?
Archbishop Naumann: The pastoral action I took, my hope was that it would provoke, in a good sense, Gov. Sebelius to reconsider her position and to have a change of heart. I have asked the people here in the archdiocese to pray for her and I pray for her regularly too because I am concerned about her own spiritual welfare and you know her involvement with this intrinsic evil. One of the tragedies of this appointment, it places her where she is either going to have to go against the person who appointed her or she is going to be persisting in these positions that promote, encourage and support abortion. So, I’m concerned about her. I think the other thing, though, that why I did what I did was to protect others from being misled by her actions and I think as a Church, those of us responsible for teaching in the Church, we have to continue to make that clear to our people that this just isn’t acceptable. It’s not a morally coherent position to say I’m personally opposed but publicly I’m going to do all of these things that support abortion.
OSV: Both the archbishop in San Francisco and the bishop in Delaware have not chosen, so far, to do anything in public. Well, Archbishop [George] Niederauer publicly called on Nancy Pelosi, but he has not gone any farther. And Bishop [W. Francis] Malooly has said he will not go any farther [with Biden]. So if she is in Washington will she still be within the Archdiocese of Kansas or in Washington and could she just go to Communion in Washington then?
Archbishop Naumann: First, of all, I placed the responsibility upon her and pointed out how her actions make it inconsistent for her to receive Communion so that doesn’t change whether she is in Kansas or goes across the state lines wherever.
In terms of the jurisdiction, I’m not sure if she is confirmed whether she will maintain a domicile here in Kansas, it is possible she would, and then it’s also a question of where she lives when she’s in Washington, it could be in Arlington, it could be Washington, D.C., it could be in Baltimore. The fundamental problem for her remains the same.
Whether a bishop tells a Catholic politician, they shouldn’t go to Communion or not, the sacrilege remains. Now, they can perhaps plead ignorance if they haven’t been so instructed. But with Archbishop Niederauer, we don’t know what kind of continuing communication and dialogue is going on there. Certainly, I wasn’t prepared to take the action that I did until I had exhausted what I thought were prudent efforts to try and inform her, and catechize her, and persuade her. I think each bishop has to judge the individual situations. But together — regardless what we may do in terms of instructing politicians whether they should present themselves to Communion or not — we have to be clear in our teaching how their conduct is simply inconsistent with our Catholic belief and we have to make sure our people understand that.
OSV: What is your opinion of Catholics United as an organization?
Archbishop Naumann: I don’t think they have much impact and I don’t pay much attention to them personally. And I think from what you just read, they’re either not very honest or they’re not very competent in the research that they do.