Saturday, 26 July 2008


VATICAN CITY, 25 JUL 2008 (VIS) - On Monday 28 July, the Holy Father is due to travel to Bressanone, a small city of 20,000 inhabitants located in the Italian alpine region of Alto Adige, where he will spend a period of vacation in the local seminary, until 11 August.
The fact that the Pope has chosen to go to Bressanone "represents a novelty with respect to earlier years" when he went to Les Combes in Valle d'Aosta and Lorenzago di Cadore, explained Holy See Press Office Director Fr. Federico Lombardi S.J. in an interview. "The place is associated with many memories of Pope Benedict's life", said Fr. Lombardi "and has particular value for its German-language culture. What we call Alto Adige and in German is known as Sudtirol is, in fact, a fundamental area for German-language culture and the Pope, as a highly cultured man, will certainly feel at home there".
The director of the Holy See Press Office went on to point out that during his fortnight in the mountains "the Pope has no scheduled appointments, apart from his traditional meeting with priests from the diocese and the surrounding areas" which this year will take place on 6 August, and the praying of the Angelus on Sunday 3 August and Sunday 10 August.
After his return to Castelgandolfo on 11 August, the Holy Father will begin to prepare his forthcoming trips: to the Italian city of Cagliari on 7 September, and to Paris and Lourdes in France from 12 to 15 September. In October, the Synod of Bishops on the Word of God will meet "and the Pope is already preparing himself. It is possible that he may dedicate time - if he is well-rested and able to work - to the second part of his book on Jesus or to completing his social Encyclical, which we have been expecting for some time. Or who knows", Fr. Lombardi concluded, "but that he may have something else in mind: last year he gave us his Encyclical on hope which, in a certain sense, we were not expecting".

Friday, 25 July 2008

Obama and his positions: two articles

Obama, Democrats, and the Surge
They were against it before it worked.
By Peter Wehner
Posted: Thursday, July 24, 2008

The Weekly Standard, Volume 013, Issue 43
Publication Date: July 18, 2008

This is the week that the Democratic party ran up the white flag when it comes to the surge in Iraq. Leading the surrender was none other than Barack Obama, the Democratic party's presumptive nominee for president and among the most vocal critics of the counterinsurgency plan that has transformed the Iraq war from a potentially catastrophic loss to what may turn out to be a historically significant victory.

On Monday, Obama wrote a New York Times op-ed in which he acknowledged the success of the surge. "In the 18 months since President Bush announced the surge," Obama wrote, "our troops have performed heroically in bringing down the level of violence. New tactics have protected the Iraqi population, and the Sunni tribes have rejected Al Qaeda--greatly weakening its effectiveness." A day later, Obama gave a speech in which he declared for the first time that "true success" and "victory in Iraq" were possible. In addition, the Obama campaign scrubbed its presidential website to remove criticism of the surge.

The debate, then, is over, and the (landslide) verdict is in: The surge has been a tremendous success.

Obama, in typical fashion, is trying to use the success of the surge he opposed to justify his long-held commitment to withdraw all combat troops from Iraq as quickly as possible. But turning Iraq into a winning political issue won't be nearly as easy as Obama once thought. He has stepped into a trap of his own making.

The trap was set when Obama repeatedly insisted that his superior "judgment" on Iraq is more important than experience in national security affairs. Judgment, according to Obama, is what qualifies him to be commander in chief. So what can we discern about Obama's judgment on the surge, easily the most important national security decision since the Iraq war began in March 2003?

To answer that question, we need to revisit what Obama said about the surge around the time it was announced. In October 2006--three months before the president's new strategy was unveiled--Obama said, "It is clear at this point that we cannot, through putting in more troops or maintaining the presence that we have, expect that somehow the situation is going to improve, and we have to do something significant to break the pattern that we've been in right now."

On January 10, 2007, the night the surge was announced, Obama declared, "I am not persuaded that 20,000 additional troops in Iraq are going to solve the sectarian violence there. In fact, I think it will do the reverse." A week later, he insisted the surge strategy would "not prove to be one that changes the dynamics significantly." And in reaction to the president's January 23 State of the Union address, Obama said,

I don't think the president's strategy is going to work. We went through two weeks of hearings on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee; experts from across the spectrum--military and civilian, conservative and liberal--expressed great skepticism about it. My suggestion to the president has been that the only way we're going to change the dynamic in Iraq and start seeing political commendation is actually if we create a system of phased redeployment. And, frankly, the president, I think, has not been willing to consider that option, not because it's not militarily sound but because he continues to cling to the belief that somehow military solutions are going to lead to victory in Iraq.

In July, after evidence was amassing that the surge was working, Obama said, "My assessment is that the surge has not worked."

Obama, then, was not only wrong about the surge; he was spectacularly wrong. And he continued to remain wrong even as mounting evidence of its success gave way to overwhelming evidence of its success.

But Obama is not alone. Virtually the entire Democratic party, including every Democrat running for president, opposed the surge. For example, Senator Joseph Biden--considered by some pundits a foreign policy sage--declared, a few days before the surge was announced, "If he surges another 20, 30 [thousand], or whatever number he's going to, into Baghdad, it'll be a tragic mistake."

Hillary Clinton, on the night the surge was announced, said, "Based on the president's speech tonight, I cannot support his proposed escalation of the war in Iraq."

Senator John Kerry said this in February 2007: "The simple fact is that sending in over 20,000 additional troops isn't the answer--in fact, it's a tragic mistake. It won't end the violence; it won't provide security; . . . it won't turn back the clock and avoid the civil war that is already underway; it won't deter terrorists, who have a completely different agenda; it won't rein in the militias."

Kerry's fellow Massachusetts senator, Ted Kennedy, declared that any troop increase would be "an immense new mistake."

Representative Dennis Kucinich, in this instance speaking for the mainstream of his party, put it this way: "It has been proven time and time again that troop surges don't work."

In April 2007, Senate majority leader Harry Reid declared the Iraq war "lost" and insisted, "This surge is not accomplishing anything."

Also in April, Senator Christopher Dodd said, "We don't need a surge of troops in Iraq--we need a surge of diplomacy and politics. Every knowledgeable person who has examined the Iraq situation for the past several years--Baker and Hamilton, senior military officials, junior officers--has drawn the same conclusion--there is no military solution in Iraq. To insist upon a surge is wrong."

In September 2007, Senator Dick Durbin, the Democratic majority whip, in anticipation of congressional testimony by General Petraeus, said, "By carefully manipulating the statistics, the Bush-Petraeus report will try to persuade us that violence in Iraq is decreasing and thus the surge is working. Even if the figures were right, the conclusion is wrong."

A month later Representative David Obey, asked if the surge strategy was working, offered the view that if violence is decreasing in Iraq, it may be because insurgents "are running out of people to kill."

In February of this year, Speaker Nancy Pelosi was asked by CNN's Wolf Blitzer about the success of the surge in Iraq. "Are you not worried, though, that all the gains that have been achieved over the past year might be lost?" Blitzer asked.

"There haven't been gains, Wolf," Pelosi replied. "The gains have not produced the desired effect, which is the reconciliation of Iraq. This is a failure. This is a failure."

And as recently as last month, Governor Bill Richardson, when asked if he was ready to concede that John McCain had been right in proposing the surge because it seemed to be having a positive impact, answered, "Absolutely not."

Democrats, then, have compounded their initial bad judgment about the surge with reckless obstinacy. As ethno-sectarian violence in Iraq rapidly declined, as al Qaeda absorbed tremendous military blows, and as political accommodation and legislative achievements have emerged, Democrats, rather than welcoming the progress, grew agitated. They embraced with religious zeal the belief that the Iraq war was lost; they therefore viewed the success of the surge as a terribly inconvenient development, one they sought to deny to the point that they looked silly and out of touch. Worse, Democrats acted as if they had a vested interest in an American defeat.

Rarely has a political party been so uniformly wrong, in such an obvious way, on such an important matter. And when Americans cast their vote on November 4, they should carefully consider how Barack Obama and the entire Democratic party fought ferociously and relentlessly to undermine a policy that has worked extraordinarily well and may yet prove to be among the most successful military plans in modern times.

-- Peter Wehner, former deputy assistant to the president, is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.


Obama is Right to Talk Tough on a Nuclear-Armed Iran
By Rick Santorum
Posted: Thursday, July 17, 2008

Philadelphia Inquirer
Publication Date: July 17, 2008

Over the past weeks much has been made of Barack Obama's hard right turn toward the center of the political spectrum. There's been no greater about-face than his embrace of the Bush Doctrine on the next likely foreign policy crisis - Iran.

The Bush Doctrine refers to the strategy of preemptive warfare that President Bush set forth in 2002. It's the idea that the United States will not wait for menacing enemies to attack us; we will attack preemptively in certain cases.

But how, you might ask, can the candidate of and the antiwar-forever crowd be aligned with Bush on preemptive strikes against Iran? Here's how: Last month, Obama declared, "I will do everything in my power to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, everything in my power to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon - everything."

When a would-be commander in chief says "everything" three times in one sentence - and says so publicly - he is not just talking about continued diplomacy and sanctions. He's saying that he has not taken the military option off the table.

With that statement, Obama, the definitive antiwar candidate, ended any serious debate over preemption in the post-9/11 world.

And none too soon.

International Atomic Energy Administration director Mohamed ElBaradei said last month that if Iran expelled the United Nations' nuclear watchdog agency, Iran would need six months to produce a nuclear weapon. Couple that with last week's test firing of missiles capable of delivering that weapon to Israel, and it is no wonder you have seen a rash of stories about the Israelis training for strikes against Iran.

Everyone hopes, of course, that the United States and the West might persuade Iran to give up its nuclear ambitions with measures short of military action. But things aren't looking too promising.

Either way, the fundamental issue remains: Preemption or containment - is a nuclear-armed Iran acceptable if economic sanctions and diplomatic pressures fail?

Obama's primary-season supporters would argue that a pre-emptive strike poses far greater danger than a nuclear Iran. Iran, the argument runs, can be "kept in a box," as happened with the Soviet Union during the Cold War.

Here are a few problems with that argument:

Iran's ruling mullahs and their bombastic, hand-picked president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, are not the Politburo and Nikita Khrushchev. For starters, Soviet leaders had absolute control over their weapons and launch codes. Given the leadership struggle among Iran's military, mullahs and political leadership, control of that nation's nuclear arms would be subject to ongoing internal power plays. This would increase the chance of an "unplanned" launch as well as a weapon falling into the hands of Islamic terrorists.

We trusted the Soviets to act rationally and respond rationally to our actions. History proved we were right to do so. Given the radical nature of Ahmadinejad's regime, his promise to "wipe Israel off the map" and his nation's close theological and military ties to terrorist organizations, we cannot expect the same from the Iranians.

Today's nuclear chess game would have three or more nuclear powers, not just two, playing at the same time and exponentially increasing complexity and uncertainty. On top of that the game is being played in a region where brinkmanship and deception are standard operating procedures.

Most important, Soviet leaders were avowed atheists; all that mattered to them was this life. Death and annihilation were not attractive options. Thus, the Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD) doctrine made sense. Iran's leaders believe all that matters is the next life. Killing, or being killed by, infidels in defense of Islam is the surest way to get you there with a posse of virgins at your disposal.

Thankfully, Bush, Obama and John McCain have all promised to use every means necessary to keep Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. But if we fail to deliver on this promise, what Middle East ally would then trust us to protect them? The result - more nuclear nations.

And if you think oil prices are high today, think about the power that a nuclear Iran would have to use oil as a weapon to drive the price to $250 a barrel or more.

I have heard from many sources that our allies, including our Arab allies, ask us one question and one question only today: When are we going to give Israel the green light?

Given McCain and Obama's comments to date, it appears that when that moment comes - and come I fear it will - both presidential nominees will stand behind President Bush and our allies.

Or will they?


Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Catholic Bishop threatened: Convert to Islam

PHILIPPINES Letter Demands Bishop Convert To Islam Or Pay Tax To Ensure His Safety
July 22, 2008
MANILA (UCAN) -- A southern Philippine bishop has reported receiving a letter threatening him with harm if he does not convert to Islam or pay "Islamic taxes."
pr_isabela_city_basilan_province.gifBishop Martin Jumoad of Isabela sent a copy of the letter on July 19 from Isabela City, 870 kilometers southeast of Manila, to Church-run Radio Veritas in Quezon City, northeast of Manila.
In an interview with UCA News the same day, Bishop Jumoad said a student of Claret College in Isabela, capital of Basilan province, was told to give the school secretary the letter to pass to the bishop.
The bishop also reported getting text messages from Catholics saying they too had received threatening letters. "Bishop, we are disoriented and we cannot sleep. What is our reaction to this?" he reported being asked by some.
The letter had the names "Puruji Indama" and "Nur Hassan J. Kallitut" printed at the bottom and "Mujahiddin" under each name. The purported senders introduced themselves as "Muslim warriors" who "don't follow any laws other than the Qur'an," Islam's holy book.
They said Bishop Jumoad should choose to convert to Islam or give jizya, Islamic tax, to their group in exchange for protecting him in the "place of Muslims."
If he refuses to convert or pay, the letter threatened "force, weapons or war may be used" against him. It warned him not to feel safe even if he is "surrounded by soldiers," and cited bombings in various cities.
The prelate was given 15 days to respond, with two mobile phone numbers to contact. "If we do not receive response from you, it means you will oppose," the letter added.
A document written in the local dialect, on the letterhead of "Al-Harakatul Islamiyya," accompanied the letter. The bishop said he does not recognize the names, but has encountered the phrase "Al-Harakatul" in kidnapping incidents in Basilan involving the Abu Sayyaf, a group listed on various countries' lists of terrorist organizations.
Two days later, CBCP News, the online news site of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines, reported the kidnapping of Ronnie Ando, Vilma Ayson and Wilma Suharlo and two children, parishioners of St. Vincent Ferrer in Sumisip town.
Sumisip is among nine parishes of Isabela prelature, which covers all of Basilan, where 96,000 Catholics form 30 percent of the population. Except for Isabela City, the rest of the province belongs to the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
On July 22, provincial administrator Talib A. Barahim told UCA News from Isabela City that no one has reported receiving a ransom demand for the release of the parishioners, kidnapped from a public jeep. He said Governor Jum Akbar of Basilan, the provincial police director and Basilan mayors met the previous day and planned to make a "citizen's arrest."
"We are asking other passengers and once we know who the kidnappers are, we will talk to their families to convince their relatives to free the hostages. If they (kidnappers) refuse, we will hold their relatives" until the kidnappers free their hostages, Barahim said.
The administrator added that he was aware of the threatening letters sent to Bishop Jumoad and other Catholics.
In Manila on July 21, Hamid Barra, Muslim convener of the Bishops-Ulama (Islamic scholars) Conference, stressed that according to the teachings of Islam, life is sacred. He recited a verse from the Qu'ran that says whoever kills a person without justification kills the whole of mankind.
"It is God who gave life; he is the only one authorized to take life," Barra said.
The expert on Shari'a, Islamic law, also explained that non-Muslims who are protected by an Islamic state are required to pay jizya, which the state uses to support the poor and the needy. "If we are in a state which is not Islamic, there is no such payment required of non-Muslims."
"Al-Harakatul Islamiyya" is an Arabic term which literally means "Islamic movement," he explained, "and anybody can be this." In his view, "The problem of Muslims now is there are people who can do acts in the name of Islam but are not Islamic."
The Bishops-Ulama Conference brings together Christian bishops and Muslim scholars in the southern Philippines to work for peace and development.

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Ambassador Fischer to Holy See to reside in Rome

THE former deputy prime minister Tim Fischer admits he is a less-than-perfect practising Catholic but the retired politician with a fondness for trains has been enlisted to help forge closer political ties with the Vatican after the World Youth Day celebrations.

The Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, yesterday introduced Mr Fischer, wearing his trademark Akubra hat, to Pope Benedict as the country's first resident ambassador to the Vatican and Holy See in 35 years.

It was not the first time they had met: Mr Fischer had spoken to the Pope at the weekend and told him: "I have some good news, Your Holiness; there has been good rain in the Riverina."

The upgrading of Australia's diplomatic relations with the Vatican would allow the Government to expand discussions with the Vatican on human rights, food security, arms control, refugees and interfaith relations.

Mr Fischer said engaging with the Vatican on these issues would be critical, given the Catholic Church's influential role.

"The Vatican may have one lone railway station but it has a worldwide network of great influence and great excellence," he said.

Mr Fischer said he was of good Catholic stock, having been schooled at St Francis Xavier College in Melbourne, but admitted his religion was another area of his life that might need some touching up.

"I am a less than perfect practising Catholic," he said. "But I am Australia's representative to the Holy See before I am a Catholic representative. There's only one true perfect practising Catholic, and he has just left Sydney this morning."

Mr Fisher's appointment suggests the Pope's visit will do more than reinvigorate the spirituality of pilgrims and inject more life in the Catholic Church. It may also lay the foundations for a deepening relationship between Australia and the Vatican.

It will be the first time since 1973, when the then prime minister, Gough Whitlam, established diplomatic relations with the Vatican, that Australia has appointed a resident ambassador. In later years the ambassador to Ireland has had responsibility for relations with the Vatican.

Addressing the Pope at Sydney Airport yesterday, Mr Rudd said: "The Holy See has expressed support for Australia's efforts, within Australia and in the region, to facilitate greater understanding between people of different faiths.

"Your Holiness, I am confident that Mr Fischer, Ambassador Fischer as he will be, will discharge this position with dignity and enable Australia and the Holy See to be able to work together on the great challenges we face in the world.

"On human rights - including religious and political freedom across the world - on poverty, on food security, on international humanitarian relief, on peace, arms control and disarmament, on the great challenge of climate change and the other great debates affecting the future of our planet."

The former deputy prime minister and Nationals leader said the Prime Minister called him seven days ago on his wife's mobile phone. The couple deliberated for a day before accepting the position but said it would be hard to leave the family farm in Wodonga.

Mr Fischer will take up his position in January, accompanied by his wife, Judy, and sons, Harrison, 14, and Dominic, 12.

Tim Fischer appointed resident Australian ambassador to Holy See

In a significant foreign policy decision, the Australian government has appointed former Nationals leader and Deputy Prime Minister Tim Fischer as Australia's first resident ambassador to the Holy See.

The West Australian reports Prime Minister Kevin Rudd announced during a farewell ceremony for the Pope that Mr Fischer, a former leader of the National Party, would take up the newly created role in Rome.

"Today I announce that for the first time Australia will have a resident ambassador to the Holy See in Rome," Mr Rudd said as the Pope sat beside him.

"And today I announce the government will be recommending to his excellency the Governor-General the appointment of the former deputy prime minister of Australia the honourable Tim Fischer as Australia's first resident ambassador to the Holy See," Mr Rudd said.

Foreign minister Stephen Smith added that it was the right time to appoint a resident ambassador to the Vatican.

Traditionally, Australia's ambassador to Ireland has had responsibility for the Vatican, with the post of ambassador to Ireland and the Holy See presently occupied by career diplomat Anne Plunkett.

"The Prime Minister and I came to the conclusion in the run-up to World Youth Day that having established diplomatic relations (with the Vatican) in 1973, that given there are another 69 countries that have another ambassador in residence ... that it was appropriate that we become the 70th," Mr Smith told reporters today.

"The Vatican do not accept the ambassador to Italy as an ambassador to the Vatican, they are separate states.

"Our ambassador in Rome has plenty to do with our Italian relations. We came to the conclusion that it was appropriate at this point in the cycle to have a fully fledged ambassador in residence.

"(The Vatican) has significant interests and significant influence and size is not often the best qualitative judge of the influence that a particular state ... or interest might bring to bear.”

Mr Rudd introduced Mr Fischer to the Pope at Sydney airport today, giving the pair an opportunity to speak briefly before the pontiff's departure from Australia following week long World Youth Day celebrations.

Mr Smith said Mr Fischer had plenty of experience on the world stage as a former trade minister and deputy prime minister.

"Tim's a person who can strike up a conversation with anyone and I think that's a particular attribute and asset that he'll bring to bear ... he is very well regarded,” Mr Smith said.

A former Australian deputy prime minister, Tim Fischer, says it was an unexpected honour and privilege to be appointed the country's first resident ambassador to the Vatican.

Mr Fischer says Prime Minister Kevin Rudd called him a week ago with the offer of the position.

He says his role will include liaising with people from a range of religious backgrounds.

"For example, the Australian government strongly supports inter-faith dialogue in Islam, Maronite, Buddhist and so forth, and Jewish faith and so it involves activities in that regard," he said.

"It involves activities of representing Australia and a large number of Australians who at any one time are officially at the nation state of the Vatican and networking."

Mr Rudd said Australia would join 69 other nations with resident ambassadors at the Vatican.

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

The Catholic Shakespeare

Interview With Author Joseph Pearce

By Carrie Gress

NAPLES, Florida, JULY 8, 2008 - There is mounting evidence that William Shakespeare was a Catholic, says author Joseph Pearce.

In this interview Pearce discusses his latest book, "The Quest for Shakespeare: The Bard of Avon and the Church of Rome" (Ignatius Press), where he pieces together evidence of Shakespeare's Catholic faith from his life and writings.

Q: Clare Asquith's book "Shadowplay: The Hidden Beliefs and Coded Politics of Shakespeare" is perhaps best known as putting forth the thesis that William Shakespeare was a Catholic. Have there been others throughout history that also believed this?

Pearce: There is a long and illustrious history of Shakespeare scholars who have come to the conclusion that the Bard was a Catholic. From Richard Simpson's pioneering work in the 19th century the belief that Shakespeare was a believing Catholic has been reinforced by subsequent scholarly detective work. These scholar-detectives include Jesuit Father Herbert Thurston, Mutschmann and Wentersdorf, John Henry de Groot, Ian Wilson, another Jesuit, Father Peter Milward, Hildegard Hammerschmidt-Hummel and, of course, the aforementioned Clare Asquith.

Q: Why has this element of Shakespeare's life been so overlooked by most Shakespearean scholars? Many believing him to be above religion, something of a secular humanist or enlightened atheist?

Pearce: In recent years, even secular scholars have been forced to address the mounting evidence that Shakespeare was a Catholic, though many remain in obstinate denial.

The reason that Shakespeare's Catholicism has been largely unknown is due to a combination of factors. First, Catholicism was illegal in Shakespeare's time, which necessitated that all Catholics had to keep the practice of their faith a secret.

Second, the evidence for the Bard's Catholicism was studiously ignored by Shakespeare scholars during the two centuries following his death due to the anti-Catholic bias of scholars during this period. Third, much of the irrefutable documentary evidence for Shakespeare's Catholicism did not come to light, or was not properly understood, until fairly recently.

Finally, the belief that Shakespeare was a secular humanist or an atheist is due to a subjective misreading of his work by secular critics, who see only their own prejudices reflected in his plays. These misreadings are exposed by the weight of documented historical evidence that Shakespeare was a believing Catholic.

Q: As a Catholic and an Englishman, what kind of new research and insights were you able to bring together what you call the jigsaw puzzle of Shakespeare's Catholic life?

Pearce: I believe that my position as a Catholic Englishman has assisted me greatly in my research on Shakespeare's Catholicism. I know my country's history and was very "at home" in the Elizabethan and Jacobean periods that are the subject of my book.

The chief value of my book is that it assembles the vast wealth of evidence within the pages of a single volume. Prior to the publication of "The Quest for Shakespeare" it was necessary to read many separate works in order to assemble all the pieces of the jigsaw together. Now all the pieces are available in one place!

As for new insights, I believe that my book contains a number of such insights, interpreting the evidence in a way that has not been done previously. Perhaps the most obvious way in which my insights differ from those of most other scholars of Shakespeare's Catholicism is my belief that he was considered to be a "safe" Catholic by Queen Elizabeth and King James. I believe that his Catholicism was not unknown but was an open secret, which was tolerated by the powers-that-be.

Q: What kind of evidence can be found for his Catholicism in his family?

Pearce: The evidence that Shakespeare's family were militantly and devoutly Catholic is overwhelming. His mother's family was one of the most notorious Catholic families in England, and several of Shakespeare's cousins were executed for their involvement in so-called Catholic plots. Shakespeare's father was fined for his Catholicism, as was Shakespeare's daughter, Susanna. The discovery of a spiritual will, signed by Shakespeare's father, also points unequivocally to his Catholicism.

Q: Was the access his plays had to Queen Elizabeth's court not evidence that he had embraced he state religion of Anglicanism?

Pearce: Many known Catholics, considered to be "safe" by the Queen, had access to the court. These include William Byrd, the court composer, who was a known and an unabashed Catholic, and also the Earl of Southampton, Shakespeare's benefactor, who was a favorite of the Queen in spite of his Catholicism. It is, therefore, not an argument against Shakespeare's Catholicism that his plays were performed for the Queen.

Q: You make the case that Shakespeare's life was a constant tightrope walk between convenience and conviction. How so? Was this evidenced in his plays?

Pearce: The tension of this "tightrope," in which Shakespeare tried to keep his balance between expressing his beliefs without finding himself condemned for them, is evident in the tortured tension in his plays. Although the Catholicism is in evidence, it is always expressed in a circumspect way, and this subtlety and circumspection is the reason for the plays being so often misread by secular critics. The Catholicism is certainly in the plays, however, and a true critical reading of the plays will discover the wealth of Catholic morality that is present.

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On the Net:

"The Quest for Shakespeare":

Thursday, 3 July 2008

Barack Obama - True Believer by Stanley Kurtz

Obama was for black-liberation theology before he was against it.

By this point, nobody can seriously suggest that Barack Obama was unaware of the hate-filled rhetoric emanating from the pulpit at Trinity United Church of Christ until it was, very recently, pointed out to him. The church's long history of radical-leftist and anti-white sermons by Jeremiah Wright, Michael Pfleger, and others has been made so unmistakably clear that even the mainstream media eventually had to notice, forcing the candidate to offer his half-hearted resignation from the church. With that act, Obama hoped to close the book on his Trinity connection, putting an end to the questions about what he knew and when, and why he waited so long to leave the church.

A more interesting question, though, is why Obama joined Trinity in the first place. Some of his defenders suggest he did so to advance his career as a community organizer: The residents he needed to reach and the contacts he needed to make went to Trinity, so he went there too. In this view, Obama was merely being practical, not radical.

Don't believe it. This was no matter of convenience or expediency. Obama's connections to the radical-left politics espoused by Pfleger and Wright are broad and deep, and he largely approved of their political-theological outlook. Obama shared Wright's rejection of black "assimilation," individual self-improvement, and the pursuit of "middle-classness." His goal was not to repudiate religious radicalism but to channel its fervor into an effective and permanent activist organization. How do we know all this? We know it because Obama himself has told us.

A key source for deciphering his political views is a 1995 background piece on Obama that appeared in the Chicago Reader, a left-leaning "alternative" weekly. Hank De Zutter's "What Makes Obama Run?" gives us an in-depth picture of Obama's worldview on the eve of his career in electoral politics. In it, Obama presents his political hopes for the black community as a third way between two inadequate alternatives.

First he rejects, in De Zutter's words, "the unrealistic politics of integrationist assimilation -- which helps a few upwardly mobile blacks to 'move up, get rich, and move out.' " Obama, we are told, "quickly learned that integration was a one-way street, with blacks expected to assimilate into a white world that never gave ground." He also criticizes "the politics of black rage and black nationalism" -- although less on substance than on tactics. De Zutter says Obama is "tired of seeing the moral fervor of black folks whipped up -- at the speaker's rostrum and from the pulpit -- and then allowed to dissipate because there's no agenda, no concrete program for change." The problem is not the fiery rhetoric, but merely the wasted anger.

De Zutter lays out Obama's ties to such radical groups as Chicago ACORN, whose lead organizer at the time, Madeline Talbott, practiced the sort of intimidating and often illegal "direct action" that ACORN remains famous for. Talbott is quoted affirming that "Barack has proven himself among our members . . . we accept and respect him as a kindred spirit, a fellow organizer." The article also mentions Obama's early organizing work for the Developing Communities Project, which was "funded by south-side Catholic churches." Clearly, this early work cemented Obama's close ties to Father Pfleger, whose support formed a critical component of Obama's grassroots network. Because of this early link, Pfleger threw his considerable support behind Obama's failed 2000 bid for Congress.

In an article on National Review Online, I explored the possibility that Obama may also have used his seats on the boards of a couple of liberal Chicago foundations to direct funds to groups that served as his de facto political base. The threads of this political network are pulled tighter as Obama turns to a "favorite topic": "the lack of collective action among black churches." In this year's presidential campaign, Obama has rationalized his ties to Trinity Church by citing its community-service programs. Yet in 1995 he was highly critical of churches that focused exclusively on food pantries and other services while neglecting the sort of politically visionary sermons, local king-making, and political alliance-building favored by Pfleger and Wright.

Obama rejected the strictly community-service approach of apolitical churches as part of America's unfortunate "bias" toward "individual action." He derogated this as "John Wayne" thinking and the old "right wing . . . individualistic bootstrap myth," which needs to be replaced: "We have some wonderful preachers in town -- preachers who continue to inspire me -- preachers who are magnificent at articulating a vision of the world as it should be. . . . But as soon as church lets out, the energy dissipates. We must find ways to channel all this energy into community building." If anything, Obama wanted to give the political visions of Wright and Pfleger greater weight and substance, by connecting them to secular-leftist political networks like ACORN.

Another part of Obama's strategy was to stay outside traditional political channels. As a Chicago organizer and attorney, Obama took care to maintain friendly ties to the Daley administration, but in his 1996 campaign for state senate, he specifically avoided asking the mayor or the mayor's closest allies for support. Obama's plan was to make an end run around Chicago's governing Democratic political network by building a coalition of left-leaning black churches and radical secular organizations like ACORN (perhaps with de facto help from liberal-foundation money as well). This coalition would provide Obama with the flexibility to play out a political career some distance to the left of conventional Illinois Democratic politics. And sure enough, Obama's extremely liberal record in Illinois proved to be of a piece with his strategy.

It could be argued that the new and supposedly moderate Obama of 2008 is the real Obama. Unfortunately, that argument is unconvincing. As De Zutter notes, Obama gave up a near-certain Supreme Court clerkship to come to Chicago and do community organizing, so he must have felt strongly about it. (See "The Organizer," by Byron York, in this issue.) He could have joined one of the many other, less-radical black churches on the South Side of Chicago, if that was all he needed to launch a political career. And given his good relations with the Daley administration, Obama could have asked for its support in his bid for the state senate. Yet at every turn, Obama took a riskier path. That suggests he was operating from conviction. Trouble is, the conviction in question was apparently Obama's belief in the sort of radical social and economic views held by groups like ACORN and preachers like Wright and Pfleger.

If there is any doubt about the accuracy of De Zutter's detailed account, we get the same message from a little-discussed but revealing and important piece by Obama himself. In 1988, just after he joined Trinity, Obama wrote an article titled "Why Organize? Problems and Promise in the Inner City" (which was reprinted in the 1990 book After Alinsky: Community Organizing in Illinois). It shows exactly what Obama hoped to make of his association with Pfleger and Wright.

Obama begins by rejecting the false dichotomy between radicalism and moderation: "From W. E. B. DuBois to Booker T. Washington to Marcus Garvey to Malcolm X to Martin Luther King, this internal debate has raged between integration and nationalism, between accommodation and militancy, between sit-down strikes and boardroom negotiations." Unsurprisingly, Obama proposes to use the best from both approaches. Of course, even James Cone, the radical founder of black-liberation theology, sees himself as synthesizing the moderation of Martin Luther King Jr. with the radicalism of Malcolm X.

Obama continues: "Nowhere is the promise of organizing more apparent than in the traditional black churches. Possessing tremendous financial resources, membership and -- most importantly -- values and biblical traditions that call for empowerment and liberation, the black church is clearly a slumbering giant in the political and economic landscape of cities like Chicago." After expressing disappointment with apolitical black churches focused only on traditional community services, Obama goes on to point in a more activist direction:

Over the past few years, however, more and more young and forward-thinking pastors have begun to look at community organizations such as the Developing Communities Project in the far south side . . . as a powerful tool for living the social gospel, one which can educate and empower entire congregations and not just serve as a platform for a few prophetic leaders. Should a mere 50 prominent black churches, out of thousands that exist in cities like Chicago, decide to collaborate with a trained and organized staff, enormous positive changes could be wrought.
Give me 50 Pflegers or 50 Wrights, Obama is saying, tie them to a network of grassroots activists like my companions from Acorn, and we can revolutionize urban politics.

So it would appear that Obama's own writings solve the mystery of why he stayed at Trinity for 20 years. Obama's long-held and decidedly audacious hope has been to spread Wright's radical spirit by linking it to a viable, left-leaning political program, with Obama himself at the center. The revolutionizing power of a politically awakened black church is not a side issue, or merely a personal matter, but has been the signature theme of Obama's grand political strategy.

After the 2004 election, there was some talk of the Democratic party's "purging" such radical elements as MoveOn and Michael Moore. Far from purging its radical Left, however, the Democratic party is now just inches away from placing it in the driver's seat. That is the real meaning of the fiasco at Trinity Church.

-- Mr. Kurtz is a senior fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Center.

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

Vatican Publishes Study on 4th Crusade

Seeks Impartial Look at Event That Cemented 1054 Schism

VATICAN CITY, JULY 1, 2008 .- A study of the famous 4th Crusade of the 13th century -- which was called to rescue Jerusalem from Islam but resulted instead in a sack of Christian Constantinople -- has been published by the Vatican.

The Vatican Publishing House has released a volume collecting the addresses in various languages from a conference held in 2004 on the 4th Crusade. That year was the 800th anniversary of the crusade that went awry. The 13th-century event is considered to have cemented the Great Schism with the Orthodox that had occurred in 1054.

The 2004 conference was organized by the Pontifical Committee of Historical Sciences, in collaboration with the Institute of Byzantine History of the University of Athens and the Institute of Byzantine and Neo-Greek Studies of the University of Vienna.

The volume is titled "The 4th Crusade Revisited" and it has an interdisciplinary scope, including considerations of the political, anthropological and theological implications of the crusade.

Monsignor Walter Brandmuller, president of the pontifical committee, wrote in the prologue that the volume was edited with the intention of "contributing to the completion of the historians' great project and to the purification of memory, which has been indicated by the path that has to lead to the coexistence of men, nations and religions, characterized by reciprocal understanding and benevolence."

He said the congress welcomed the invitation of the Pope, convinced that a "serious and impartial writing of history" without prejudices and based in "rigorous historical method" would be an indispensable tool in reaching this goal.

The volume brings together texts prepared by people of various nations and religious creeds, seeking what they call the step from suspicion to truth in charity.


Canonization Cause Opens for St. Gianna Beretta's Brother

Prelate Calls Them "Spectacularly Important Siblings"
By Alexandre Ribeiro
SÃÃO PAULO, Brazil, JULY 1, 2008 - The brother of a woman canonized after she opted to risk her life to save her unborn child is also being considered for official recognition as a saint.
The cause for Friar Albert Beretta, brother of St. Gianna Beretta, opened in Italy last month. Friar Albert was an Italian missionary in Brazil for 33 years, and is also an "example of the ideal of holiness," a bishop who worked with him told ZENIT.
Retired Bishop Serafim Spreafico of Grajau, Maranhao, in northern Brazil, reflected on the life of his countryman and fellow Capuchin, and that of his sister.
"They are two spectacularly important siblings for today's world, extraordinary examples of fraternity, of family holiness," he said.
The bishop and Friar Albert worked closely together for 20 years, both in Italy and Brazil.
Albert Beretta was born in Milan in 1916. He was already a doctor and surgeon when he was ordained a priest in the Capuchin Order in 1948. He left for Brazil a year later.
Bishop Spreafico described Friar Albert as "a witness of the beatitudes. [……] He was a witness of God's presence in every person, from the beginning to the end."
The bishop recalled an episode involving Friar Albert: "He had been praying for some time before the tabernacle when I arrived. Then he asked me: 'Will we be closer to God in heaven than we are here at this moment, before the tabernacle?'
"I must say I was surprised by the very simple way he asked me that, his simplicity in living in the presence of God.
"I then answered, 'yes,' and in heaven we will be immersed in God, as St. Thomas says. At that moment, in silence, he returned to pray."
Also a missionary
Gianna (1922-1962) also wanted to go to Brazil, to work as a missionary beside her priest brother, Bishop Spreafico said. She trained for seven years to be able to go, but her frail health impeded her.
"In the spiritual dimension, she was and is a missionary in Brazil, so much so that it was in that country that the two miracles took place that raised her to the order of saints," he noted.
Gianna was a physician like her brother. She married and had four children. During her pregnancy with her daughter, Gianna Emanuela, she developed a fibroma in her uterus. Rather than choosing an abortion or a hysterectomy, Gianna chose to have the fibroma removed, though further complications were anticipated. She gave birth to little Gianna Emanuela, but died a week later.
She was beatified in 1994 and canonized in 2004. Her husband and Gianna Emanuela were present at the ceremony.
Bishop Spreafico said that he always entrusts himself to the intercession of St. Gianna and Friar Albert.
"As members of my diocese, though St. Gianna [only] in the spiritual dimension, the two siblings must obey me," the bishop quipped. "So I pray to them to grant many graces and holiness to the Church in Brazil."