Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Why did it take so long for this to come out?

Sheila Liaugminas | Tuesday, 28 October 2008

A radio interview of Sen. Obama from 2001 airing many views that form his political ideology has just surfaced.

One that leaps off the page is his view of the Consitution as “a charter of negative liberties.” For the “Got Hope?” crowds, NRO says look at this, in the candidate’s own words.

There is nothing vague or ambiguous about this. Nothing.

From the top [of the snip of Obama’s radio interview]: “…The Supreme Court never entered into the issues of redistribution of wealth, and sort of more basic issues of political and economic justice in this society. And uh, to that extent, as radical as I think people tried to characterize the Warren Court, it wasn’t that radical.”

If the second highlighted phrase had been there without the first, Obama’s defenders would have bent over backwards trying to spin the meaning of “political and economic justice.” We all know what political and economic justice means, because Barack Obama has already made it crystal clear a second earlier: It means redistribution of wealth. Not the creation of wealth and certainly not the creation of opportunity, but simply taking money from the successful and hard-working and distributing it to those whom the government decides “deserve” it.

Whittle makes the point that while this is socialism, many people just don’t care that it is. So he appeals to what all Americans should ostensibly still care about, the founding values of this country.

I will not only appeal to you, I will beg you, as one American citizen to another, to consider this next statement with as much care as you can possibly bring to bear:

“And uh, to that extent, as radical as I think people tried to characterize the Warren Court, it wasn’t that radical. It didn’t break free from the essential constraints that were placed by the Founding Fathers in the Constitution — at least as it’s been interpreted, and [the] Warren Court interpreted it in the same way, that generally the Constitution is a charter of negative liberties: [it] says what the states can’t do to you, says what the federal government can’t do to you, but it doesn’t say what the federal government or the state government must do on your behalf.

Nor was it intended to.

The entire purpose of the Constitution was to limit government. That limitation of powers is what has unlocked in America the vast human potential available in any population.

Barack Obama sees that limiting of government not as a lynchpin but rather as a fatal flaw…

There is no room for wiggle or misunderstanding here. This is not edited copy. There is nothing out of context; for the entire thing is context — the context of what Barack Obama believes. You and I do not have to guess at what he believes or try to interpret what he believes. He says what he believes.

We have, in our storied history, elected Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives and moderates. We have fought, and will continue to fight, pitched battles about how best to govern this nation. But we have never, ever in our 232-year history, elected a president who so completely and openly opposed the idea of limited government, the absolute cornerstone of makes the United States of America unique and exceptional.

One week out, we collectively may be about to elect a president most of us do not really know. And the media have facilitated that campaign’s unprecedented trajectory.

This Obama interview was only one more important body of information they kept from the American public. It came to light because of one guy.

It is an individual person, with no more resources than a desire to know everything that he or she can about who might be the next president of the United States and the most powerful man in the world.

I know that this person does not have teams of highly paid professionals, does not work out of a corner office in a skyscraper in New York, does not have access to all of the subtle and hidden conduits of information … who possesses no network television stations, owns no satellite time, does not receive billions in advertising dollars, and has a staff of exactly one.

Shame on the media, Whittle says, and they have lately brought plenty of that on themselves.

I know they are capable of this kind of investigative journalism: It only took them a day or two to damage Sarah Palin with wild accusations about her baby’s paternity and less time than that to destroy a man who happened to be playing ball when the Messiah decided to roll up looking for a few more votes on the way to the inevitable coronation.

We no longer have an independent, fair, investigative press. That is abundantly clear to everyone — even the press. It is just another of the facts that they refuse to report, because it does not suit them.

Remember this, America: The press did not break this story. A single citizen, on the Internet did.

I (and many other people in media and organization work) have received email from another private citizen who wanted to find out as much as he could about the candidate who is seen as the likely next president. This man is pro-life and very concerned about the extremism of Barack Obama on abortion. He did the investigative research the media have not done, and put together a lengthy, detailed, well-referenced report on the candidate. I’ll be putting up some of it in posts to come…some of what this one citizen took upon himself to produce.

What other citizens do with this information will help determine the results of next week’s election, one way or the other.

Expect Obama to Sign FOCA in the First 100 Days

An interview with Susan Wills October 28, 2008

The pundits are beginning to ponder in earnest what might transpire during the first 24 months of an Obama administration. The more obvious contentions foresee him raising taxes on high earners, ratcheting up trade protections, overseeing the retooling of financial regulations, and so on. What many seem to have overlooked is one factoid: Barack Obama is an enthusiastic supporter of the Freedom of Choice Act or FOCA. In fact, on July 17, 2007, he told the Planned Parenthood Action Fund: "The first thing I'd do as President is sign the Freedom Of Choice Act."

Sponsored by Senator Barbara Boxer (D-Ca) in the Senate (S. 1173), and Representative Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) in the House (HR 1964), FOCA is a piece of legislation designed "to prohibit, consistent with Roe v. Wade, the interference by the government with a woman's right to choose to bear a child or terminate a pregnancy, and for other purposes."

In fact, FOCA, if it became law, would go well beyond Roe, sweeping away all limits on abortion -- state and federal -- including restrictions on government funding of abortion and conscience protections for healthcare providers. We have no reason to believe Obama would hesitate to sign FOCA into law as soon as it were to passed by the 111th Congress -- a probable outcome in early 2009 if Democrats gain enough new seats in November.

To find out more about FOCA and itsSusan Wills, Esq. potential cultural impact, I recently spoke with Susan E. Wills, Assistant Director for Education and Outreach at the Committee on Pro-Life activities of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Here is what Susan had to say.

Berg: Where did FOCA come from? What is its history on the Hill?

Wills: FOCA has been introduced in Congress multiple times, in various versions, since at least 1989. Cosponsoring FOCA has become a sort of "oath of fealty" to Planned Parenthood and NARAL for those members of Congress most beholden to the abortion industry for their election. Its popularity has been limited to the hard core extremists on abortion -- those, for example, who support even late-term abortions by the barbaric partial-birth abortion method. In the past, FOCA has not posed an imminent danger to the status quo. I can't recall a time in the past 20 years when we've faced the possibility of a pro-choice majority in both Houses of Congress and a President willing to sign such a bill. The threat of a veto under President Bush during the past 8 years has kept recent versions of the bill from going anywhere.

The current version of FOCA was introduced just hours after the Supreme Court's decision in Gonzales v. Carhart upholding the federal ban on partial-birth abortion. Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) explained the rationale and timing of FOCA in an April 18, 2007 "Dear Colleague" letter: "Today, the Supreme Court declared open season on women's lives and their right to control their own bodies, their health and their destinies." The current Senate version (S. 1173) attacks Carhart for "threatening" Roe v. Wade and failing to protect women's health. Co-sponsors in the House version (H.R. 1964) number 109 and Senate cosponsors number 19.

Berg: If FOCA were to be signed into law by the next president, what series of immediate consequences do you foresee, and what would be the long-term consequences?

Wills: FOCA would call into question virtually every abortion-related state and federal law currently in force. It would immediately supersede every federal law, such as the partial-birth abortion ban, restrictions on federal funding of abortion through Medicaid, and the ban on abortions in military hospitals. On the authority of FOCA, state laws protecting the lives of unborn children and their mothers could be immediately unenforceable. All the modest and reasonable state laws of the past 35 years (which have also been successful in reducing abortions) would fall to legal challenges based on FOCA. These include the following laws: protecting parental rights to be involved in an abortion decision, ensuring informed consent, regulating abortion clinic "safety," protecting the conscience rights of doctors, nurses and hospitals to not be involved in abortion, and protecting women from non-physician abortionists among others. Significantly, taxpayers could also be forced to fund abortions for the uninsured.

FOCA not only looks backward -- invalidating all these and other abortion regulations, laws, policies, practices, actions, etc.; it also forbids all governments (state, federal, local, agencies, officials, etc.) in the future from denying or interfering with a woman's "right to choose" and forbids them from "discriminat[ing] against the exercise of the[se] rights... in the regulation or provision of benefits, facilities, services, or information."

So any time the government addresses childbirth, it must address abortion equally favorably -- superseding prior Supreme Court precedents. Public hospitals which offer maternity services must offer abortion services. Health benefits for pregnant uninsured women must include abortion services.

It's tough to gauge the long-term consequences of FOCA. A future Congress could, of course, pass legislation to undo the law. We can say with certainty that evil would occur at an even greater scale in the interim.

Modest regulations of abortion -- funding restrictions, informed consent and parental involvement laws in particular -- have been proven to be very effective in reducing abortion rates in the United States. In their absence, abortions would certainly go up. One researcher estimates an increase of 125,000 abortions annually. How does one gauge the impact on health care? Fewer hospitals offering maternity services, fewer doctors and nurses engaged in obstetrics so they won't be forced to violate their consciences? The mental health toll on parents of aborted children, the increased incidence of premature births and low-birth-weight infants due to a prior abortion with associated health problems like cerebral palsy: it's impossible to calculate the full extent of the harm to individuals and society without even touching on the slippery slope of the culture of death or the spiritual consequences of abortion. Perhaps it will take a law as extreme as FOCA to awaken people to the already appalling extent of abortion law in America.

Berg: If FOCA becomes law, would the pro-life movement be forced to concede: 'game over'?

Wills: Any inclination to declare "game over" will have to be resisted with energy and determination. Overturning Roe is imperative, but it is only one aspect of what Catholics and other pro-lifers have been doing for 35 years. FOCA -- if enacted -- will shut off legislative avenues for the immediate future, so we'll need to step up our ongoing efforts in other areas:

1. Electing representatives who are pro-life and vigorously lobbying those who aren't about our fundamental opposition to killing all innocent human beings;

2. Educating about the value and dignity of human life (and the inhumanity and risks of abortion);

3. Encouraging abstinence among teens and young adults (teen abortion rates have dropped 60% since 1984 largely due to increased abstinence, not contraceptives); and

4. Expanding pregnancy-support services.

Americans oppose almost all abortions, but many have failed to understand their personal responsibility to oppose abortion by electing people who will uphold the dignity of human life. The October Marist poll, commissioned by the Knights of Columbus, again demonstrated that only 8% of Americans support unlimited abortion policy (for all nine months for any reason). Fully 60% of Americans would restrict abortion to the "hard cases" of rape, incest, of risk to the mother's life. But we have not succeeded in helping them connect the dots between their pro-life convictions and who they elect to the Senate and who sits on the Supreme Court (or who they elect to their state and federal legislatures and the kind of policies that get enacted).

Berg: Assuming FOCA fails and that Roe is overturned in the next couple of years: how exactly will that impact the availability of abortion and the pro-abortion mentality? How do you see that all playing out?

Wills: Law is a teacher and the more secular a society becomes, the more people turn to law (rather than the teaching of faith traditions) for their moral compass. Roe taught generations that an unborn child is not really a human being worthy of protection and it taught generations that one did not have to be married to conceive a child or be responsible for that child's life. The government condoned and promoted sexual activity outside of marriage and the callous disregard of children's rights by providing the escape route of abortion: "Don't worry, kids. If you get pregnant, we won't allow you to be 'punished with a baby'."

Laws that foster irresponsibility produce unintended consequences. Young men began to see abortion as an entitlement and many have become coercive, even to the point of causing the death of their unborn child when the mother resists an abortion.

When Roe is overturned, the pro-life beliefs of the majority of Americans will be validated and reinforced. Obviously abortion will continue to be available under almost all circumstances in a dozen or more states whose populations lean pro-choice, but I think the stigma associated with killing innocent unborn children will return. Already the number of abortion providers has fallen to under 1,800. Many providers are in their sixties already and would probably retire rather than relocate states where abortion would remain legal. The absence of providers does have a dramatic impact on abortions. For example, after one of two abortionists in Mississippi was indicted on dozens of counts of malpractice and violations of state abortion regulations, abortions in that state dropped 60%. Interestingly, parental involvement regulations have been shown to reduce both teen abortions and teen pregnancy rates without increasing teen birth rates. Clearly, kids are capable of avoiding behavior that could get them in trouble with their parents.

* * *

Cardinal Justin Rigali of Philadelphia addressed a letter to all members of Congress on the matter of FOCA on September 19th in which he reminded elected representatives that:

We can't reduce abortions by promoting abortion. We cannot reduce abortions by invalidating the very laws that have been shown to reduce abortions... No one who sponsors or supports legislation like FOCA can credibly claim to be part of a good-faith discussion on how to reduce abortions.

Now, is there any part of what Susan just shared or what the Cardinal states here that does not make perfect sense? I don't think so.

Thanks to Susan Wills for taking the time to talk about this transcendent issue. And I alert my readers that you can find an extremely useful FOCA fact sheet here and many other useful FOCA-related articles and materials here, courtesy of the USCCB Committee on Pro-Life activities.


Rev. Thomas V. Berg, L.C. is Executive Director of the Westchester Institute for Ethics and the Human Person.


Saturday, 25 October 2008

Fifty bishops say US election is about abortion

Rocco Palmo 25 October 2008
A quarter of America's bishops have said that the most important issue for voters in the forthcoming presidential election is abortion.

Some 50 out of the nation's 197 active bishops have published articles or given interviews during the run-up up to the election urging abortion as the key issue on which voters should decide which way to vote.

Senator McCain opposes the 1973 Supreme Court ruling on Roe v. Wade, which legalised abortion in the US, but has refused - most recently, at last week's final television debate between the presidential candidates - to impose an abortion-based "litmus test" on his Supreme Court nominees. The Democratic candidate, Barack Obama, has repeatedly indicated his support for the 1973 ruling alongside a pledge to sign a proposed Freedom of Choice Act that would invalidate any state or local ordinance intended to "deny or interfere" with a woman's choice to have an abortion.

Among the bishops who have intervened is Bishop Robert Hermann of St Louis who last Friday wrote: "the issue of life is the most basic issue and must be given priority over the issue of the economy, the issue of war or any other issue." His comment came in a column for the archdiocesan newspaper that appeared hours before Mr Obama addressed 100,000 people in the heavily Catholic city.

In Missouri - a normally Republican state where Mr Obama has taken a lead in the polls over recent weeks - Bishop Robert Finn of Kansas City-St Joseph wrote in his diocesan newspaper that "despite hardship, beyond partisanship, for the sake of our eternal salvation", Catholic voters "should never" support a candidate who favours the continued legalisation of abortion.

In Colorado, Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver made national headlines after calling Mr Obama "the most committed abortion-rights presidential candidate of either major party since the Roe v. Wade abortion decision". Later that same day, saying that he was speaking solely as a "private citizen", Archbishop Chaput told a dinner for a Catholic women's organisation in his archdiocese that the assertion by his Catholic supporters "that Senator Obama is this year's ‘real' pro-life candidate requires a peculiar kind of self-hypnosis, or moral confusion, or worse".

In a heavily anticipated discussion, the bishops are to debate the gravity of political support for abortion at their next Baltimore plenary, a week after the 4 November vote.


Saturday, 18 October 2008

The Homicides Involved in Abortion Are 'Little Murders'

Denver Archbishop's Address to ENDOW

DENVER, Colorado, OCT. 17, 2008 - Here is the address Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver gave tonight at a dinner sponsored by ENDOW (Educating on the Nature and Dignity of Women). The talk is titled "Little Murders."

* * *

I want to do three things with my time tonight. First, Terry asked me to talk a bit about my book, "Render Unto Caesar," and I’m happy to do that. Second, I want to talk about some of the lessons we can already draw from this year’s election. And third, I want to talk about the mission of ENDOW.

Before I do any of that though, I need to say what a friend of mine calls my “Litany to the IRS.” Here it is. I’m not here tonight to tell you how to vote. I don’t want to do that, I won’t do that, and I don’t use code language -- so you don’t need to spend any time looking for secret political endorsements.

I plan to speak candidly, but I can only do that if you remember that I’m here as an author and private citizen. I’m not speaking for the Holy See, or the American bishops, or any other bishop, or even officially for the Archdiocese of Denver. So the things I say tonight are my personal views, nothing more. I think they’re pretty solidly grounded in Catholic teaching and the heart of the Church, but it’s your task as Catholics and citizens to listen, evaluate and then act as you judge best.

As adults, each of us needs to form a strong Catholic conscience. Then we need to follow that conscience when we vote. And then we need to take responsibility for the consequences of the vote we cast. Nobody can do that for us. That’s why really knowing and living our Catholic faith is so important. It’s the only reliable guide we have for acting in the public square as disciples of Jesus Christ.

So let’s talk for a few minutes about "Render Unto Caesar." When people ask me about the book, the questions usually fall into three categories. Why did I write it? What does the book say? And what does the book mean for each of us as individual Catholics? This last question will be a good doorway into talking about the 2008 election, but let’s start at the beginning first. Why did I write this book, now?

One answer is simple. A friend asked me to do it. Back in 2004, a young attorney I know ran for public office as a prolife Democrat. He nearly won in a heavily Republican district. But he also discovered how hard it can be to raise money, run a campaign and stay true to your Catholic convictions, all at the same time. After the election he asked me to put my thoughts about faith and politics into a form that other young Catholics could use who were thinking about a political vocation -- and it really is a “vocation.”

That’s where the idea started. But I also had another reason for doing the book. Frankly, I just got tired of hearing outsiders and insiders tell Catholics to keep quiet about our religious and moral views in the big public debates that involve all of us as a society. That’s a kind of bullying, and I don’t think Catholics should accept it.

Another reason for writing the book is that when I looked around for a single source that explains the Catholic political vocation in an easy, authentic and engaging way, it just didn’t exist. So I thought I might as well try to write it, because a friend told me it would “practically write itself.”

Unfortunately, writing a new book is a bit like childbirth. You forget that it hurts until you’re living the labor. I didn’t remember the experience of my first book until after I signed the contract with Doubleday for my second.

So what does the book say? I think the message of "Render Unto Caesar" can be condensed into a few basic points.

Here’s the first point. For many years, studies have shown that Americans have a very poor sense of history, and that’s very dangerous, because as Thucydides and Machiavelli and Thomas Jefferson have all said, history matters. It matters because the past shapes the present, and the present shapes the future. If American Catholics don’t know history, and especially their own history as Catholics, then somebody else -- and usually somebody not very friendly -- will create their history for them.

Let me put it another way. A man with amnesia has no future and no present because he can’t remember his past. The past is a man’s anchor in experience and reality. Without it, he may as well be floating in space. In like manner, if we American Catholics don’t remember and defend our religious history as a believing people, nobody else will, and then we won’t have a future because we won’t have a past. If we don’t know how the Church worked with or struggled against political rulers in the past, then we can’t think clearly about the relations between Church and state today.

Here’s the second point. America is not a secular state. As historian Paul Johnson once said, America was “born Protestant.” It has uniquely and deeply religious roots. Obviously it has no established Church, and it has non-sectarian public institutions. It also has plenty of room for both believers and non-believers. But the United States was never intended to be a “secular” country in the radical modern sense. Nearly all the Founders were either Christian or at least religion-friendly. And all of our public institutions and all of our ideas about the human person are based in a religiously shaped vocabulary. So if we cut God out of our public life, we cut the foundation out from under our national ideals.

Here’s the third point. We need to be very forceful in defending what the words in our political vocabulary really mean. Words are important because they shape our thinking, and our thinking drives our actions. When we subvert the meaning of words like “the common good” or “conscience” or “community” or “family,” we undermine the language that sustains our thinking about the law. Dishonest language leads to dishonest debate and bad laws.

Here’s an example. We need to remember that tolerance is not a Christian virtue, and it’s never an end in itself. In fact, tolerating grave evil within a society is itself a form of evil. Likewise, democratic pluralism does not mean that Catholics should be quiet in public about serious moral issues because of some misguided sense of good manners. A healthy democracy requires vigorous moral debate to survive. Real pluralism demands that people of strong beliefs will advance their convictions in the public square -- peacefully, legally and respectfully, but energetically and without embarrassment. Anything less is bad citizenship and a form of theft from the public conversation.

Here’s the fourth point. When Jesus tells the Pharisees and Herodians in the Gospel of Matthew (22:21) to “render unto the Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s,” he sets the framework for how we should think about religion and the state even today. Caesar does have rights. We owe civil authority our respect and appropriate obedience. But that obedience is limited by what belongs to God. Caesar is not God. Only God is God, and the state is subordinate and accountable to God for its treatment of human persons, all of whom were created by God. Our job as believers is to figure out what things belong to Caesar, and what things belong to God -- and then to put those things in right order in our own lives, and in our relations with others.

So having said all this, what does the book mean, in practice, for each of us as individual Catholics? It means that we each have a duty to study and grow in our faith, guided by the teaching of the Church. It also means that we have a duty to be politically engaged. Why? Because politics is the exercise of power, and the use of power always has moral content and human consequences.

As Christians, we can’t claim to love God and then ignore the needs of our neighbors. Loving God is like loving a spouse. A husband may tell his wife that he loves her, and of course that’s very beautiful. But she’ll still want to see the evidence in his actions. Likewise if we claim to be “Catholic,” we need to prove it by our behavior. And serving other people by working for justice and charity in our nation’s political life is one of the very important ways we do that.

The “separation of Church and state” does not mean -- and it can never mean -- separating our Catholic faith from our public witness, our political choices and our political actions. That kind of separation would require Christians to deny who we are; to repudiate Jesus when he commands us to be “leaven in the world” and to “make disciples of all nations.” That kind of separation steals the moral content of a society. It’s the equivalent of telling a married man that he can’t act married in public. Of course, he can certainly do that, but he won’t stay married for long.

I began work on "Render Unto Caesar" in July 2006. I made the final changes to the text in November 2007. That’s a long time before anyone was nominated for president, and it was Doubleday, not I, that set the book’s release date for August 2008. So -- unlike Prof. Douglas Kmiec’s recent book, "Can a Catholic Support Him? Asking the Big Question about Barack Obama," which argues a Catholic case for Senator Obama -- I wrote "Render Unto Caesar" with no interest in supporting or attacking any candidate or any political party.

The goal of "Render Unto Caesar" was simply to describe what an authentic Catholic approach to political life looks like, and then to encourage Americans Catholics to live it.

Prof. Kmiec has a strong record of service to the Church and the nation in his past. He served in the Reagan administration, and he supported Mitt Romney’s campaign for president before switching in a very public way to Barack Obama earlier this year. In his own book he quotes from "Render Unto Caesar" at some length. In fact, he suggests that his reasoning and mine are “not far distant on the moral inquiry necessary in the election of 2008.” Unfortunately, he either misunderstands or misuses my words, and he couldn’t be more mistaken.

I believe that Senator Obama, whatever his other talents, is the most committed “abortion-rights” presidential candidate of either major party since the Roe v. Wade abortion decision in 1973. Despite what Prof. Kmiec suggests, the party platform Senator Obama runs on this year is not only aggressively “pro-choice;” it has also removed any suggestion that killing an unborn child might be a regrettable thing. On the question of homicide against the unborn child -- and let’s remember that the great Lutheran pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer explicitly called abortion “murder” -- the Democratic platform that emerged from Denver in August 2008 is clearly anti-life.

Prof. Kmiec argues that there are defensible motives to support Senator Obama. Speaking for myself, I do not know any proportionate reason that could outweigh more than 40 million unborn children killed by abortion and the many millions of women deeply wounded by the loss and regret abortion creates.

To suggest -- as some Catholics do -- that Senator Obama is this year’s “real” pro-life candidate requires a peculiar kind of self-hypnosis, or moral confusion, or worse. To portray the 2008 Democratic Party presidential ticket as the preferred “pro-life” option is to subvert what the word “pro-life” means. Anyone interested in Senator Obama’s record on abortion and related issues should simply read Prof. Robert George’s essay of earlier this week, “Obama’s Abortion Extremism,” at It says everything that needs to be said.

Of course, these are simply my personal views as an author and private citizen. But I’m grateful to Prof. Kmiec for quoting me in his book and giving me the reason to speak so clearly about our differences. I think his activism for Senator Obama, and the work of Democratic-friendly groups like Catholics United and Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, have done a disservice to the Church, confused the natural priorities of Catholic social teaching, undermined the progress pro-lifers have made, and provided an excuse for some Catholics to abandon the abortion issue instead of fighting within their parties and at the ballot box to protect the unborn.

And here’s the irony. None of the Catholic arguments advanced in favor of Senator Obama are new. They’ve been around, in one form or another, for more than 25 years. All of them seek to “get beyond” abortion, or economically reduce the number of abortions, or create a better society where abortion won’t be necessary. All of them involve a misuse of the seamless garment imagery in Catholic social teaching. And all of them, in practice, seek to contextualize, demote and then counterbalance the evil of abortion with other important but less foundational social issues.

This is a great sadness. As Chicago’s Cardinal Francis George said recently, too many Americans have “no recognition of the fact that children continue to be killed [by abortion], and we live therefore, in a country drenched in blood. This can’t be something you start playing off pragmatically against other issues.”

Meanwhile, the basic human rights violation at the heart of abortion -- the intentional destruction of an innocent, developing human life -- is wordsmithed away as a terrible crime that just can’t be fixed by the law. I don’t believe that. I think that argument is a fraud. And I don’t think any serious believer can accept that argument without damaging his or her credibility. We still have more than a million abortions a year, and we can’t blame them all on Republican social policies. After all, it was a Democratic president, not a Republican, who vetoed the partial birth abortion ban -- twice.

The truth is that for some Catholics, the abortion issue has never been a comfortable cause. It’s embarrassing. It’s not the kind of social justice they like to talk about. It interferes with their natural political alliances. And because the homicides involved in abortion are “little murders” -- the kind of private, legally protected murders that kill conveniently unseen lives -- it’s easy to look the other way.

The one genuinely new quality to Catholic arguments for Senator Obama is their packaging. Just as the abortion lobby fostered “Catholics for a Free Choice” to challenge Catholic teaching on abortion more than two decades ago, so supporters of Senator Obama have done something similar in seeking to neutralize the witness of bishops and the pro-life movement by offering a “Catholic” alternative to the Church’s priority on sanctity of life issues. I think it’s an intelligent strategy. I also think it’s wrong and often dishonest.

It’s curious that nobody seems to worry about the “separation of Church and state,” or religious interference in the public square, when the religious voices that speak up support a certain kind of candidate. In his book, Prof. Kmiec complains about the agenda and influence of what he terms RFPs -- Republican Faith Partisans. But he also seems to pay them the highest kind of compliment: imitation. If RFPs are bad, is it unreasonable to assume that DFPs -- Democratic Faith Partisans -- are equally dangerous?

As I suggest throughout "Render Unto Caesar," it’s important for Catholics to be people of faith who pursue politics to achieve justice; not people of politics who use and misuse faith to achieve power. I have no doubt that Prof. Kmiec belongs to the former group. But I believe his arguments finally serve the latter.

For 35 years I’ve watched thousands of good Catholic laypeople, clergy and religious struggle to recover some form of legal protection for the unborn child. The abortion lobby has fought every compromise and every legal restriction on abortion, every step of the way. Apparently they believe in their convictions more than some of us Catholics believe in ours. And I think that’s an indictment of an entire generation of American Catholic leadership.

The abortion conflict has never simply been about repealing Roe v. Wade. And the many pro-lifers I know live a much deeper kind of discipleship than “single issue” politics. But they do understand that the cornerstone of Catholic social teaching is protecting human life from conception to natural death. They do understand that every other human right depends on the right to life. They did not and do not and will not give up -- and they won’t be lied to.

So I think that people who claim that the abortion struggle is “lost” as a matter of law, or that supporting an outspoken defender of legal abortion is somehow “pro-life,” are not just wrong; they’re betraying the witness of every person who continues the work of defending the unborn child. And I hope they know how to explain that, because someday they’ll be required to.

Before I conclude and we go to questions, let me say just a couple of things about ENDOW. When you’re a bishop, you meet a lot of very good people with very good ideas. You meet a lot fewer people who know how to make good ideas work, or who have the generosity, brains, stubbornness and endurance to lead and grow a good idea into a whole movement of good people who can make a much wider difference.

Betsy Considine, Marilyn Coors, Terry Polakovic and the other women who founded ENDOW are exactly that kind of leader. And the success of ENDOW is a testimony not just to their enthusiasm and hard work, but to yours.

ENDOW succeeds because its message for women is true. ENDOW succeeds because in forming women in the truth of Jesus Christ, it serves the Church and opens the door to the most powerful kind of renewal -- the kind that comes from a Christ-based friendship between husband and wife; the kind that comes from a family shaped by Christian love; the kind that comes from real Catholic leadership by lay and religious women in their communities, in business, in education, in medicine and in public life.

These are difficult times for our country. Even within our Church, the economy, the Iraq War, the life issues in general, and this election in particular, have created a deep spirit of conflict and anxiety. But I do believe Scripture when it tells us not to be afraid. God uses each of us to renew the world if we let him. The genius of women is their capacity to love; to blend talent, intelligence and energy with patience, understanding, respect for the sacredness of life and compassion for others.

That’s the kind of leadership we need, in our communities of faith, in our public service and throughout our country. Whatever happens next month and in the years ahead, ENDOW will have a hand in sustaining and refreshing the heart of the Church. That’s not a bad achievement for an organization so young. I’m proud of your witness, proud of what you’ve accomplished and very, very grateful for your service to the Church. God bless you.


Obama's Abortion Extremism

by Robert George Oct 14, 2008

Sen. Barack Obama's views on life issues ranging from abortion to embryonic stem cell research mark him as not merely a pro-choice politician, but rather as the most extreme pro-abortion candidate to have ever run on a major party ticket.

Barack Obama is the most extreme pro-abortion candidate ever to seek the office of President of the United States. He is the most extreme pro-abortion member of the United States Senate. Indeed, he is the most extreme pro-abortion legislator ever to serve in either house of the United States Congress.

Yet there are Catholics and Evangelicals-even self-identified pro-life Catholics and Evangelicals - who aggressively promote Obama's candidacy and even declare him the preferred candidate from the pro-life point of view.

What is going on here?

I have examined the arguments advanced by Obama's self-identified pro-life supporters, and they are spectacularly weak. It is nearly unfathomable to me that those advancing them can honestly believe what they are saying. But before proving my claims about Obama's abortion extremism, let me explain why I have described Obama as "pro-abortion" rather than "pro-choice."

According to the standard argument for the distinction between these labels, nobody is pro-abortion. Everybody would prefer a world without abortions. After all, what woman would deliberately get pregnant just to have an abortion? But given the world as it is, sometimes women find themselves with unplanned pregnancies at times in their lives when having a baby would present significant problems for them. So even if abortion is not medically required, it should be permitted, made as widely available as possible and, when necessary, paid for with taxpayers' money.

The defect in this argument can easily be brought into focus if we shift to the moral question that vexed an earlier generation of Americans: slavery. Many people at the time of the American founding would have preferred a world without slavery but nonetheless opposed abolition. Such people - Thomas Jefferson was one - reasoned that, given the world as it was, with slavery woven into the fabric of society just as it had often been throughout history, the economic consequences of abolition for society as a whole and for owners of plantations and other businesses that relied on slave labor would be dire. Many people who argued in this way were not monsters but honest and sincere, albeit profoundly mistaken. Some (though not Jefferson) showed their personal opposition to slavery by declining to own slaves themselves or freeing slaves whom they had purchased or inherited. They certainly didn't think anyone should be forced to own slaves. Still, they maintained that slavery should remain a legally permitted option and be given constitutional protection.

Would we describe such people, not as pro-slavery, but as "pro-choice"? Of course we would not. It wouldn't matter to us that they were "personally opposed" to slavery, or that they wished that slavery were "unnecessary," or that they wouldn't dream of forcing anyone to own slaves. We would hoot at the faux sophistication of a placard that said "Against slavery? Don't own one." We would observe that the fundamental divide is between people who believe that law and public power should permit slavery, and those who think that owning slaves is an unjust choice that should be prohibited.

Just for the sake of argument, though, let us assume that there could be a morally meaningful distinction between being "pro-abortion" and being "pro-choice." Who would qualify for the latter description? Barack Obama certainly would not. For, unlike his running mate Joe Biden, Obama does not think that abortion is a purely private choice that public authority should refrain from getting involved in. Now, Senator Biden is hardly pro-life. He believes that the killing of the unborn should be legally permitted and relatively unencumbered. But unlike Obama, at least Biden has sometimes opposed using taxpayer dollars to fund abortion, thereby leaving Americans free to choose not to implicate themselves in it. If we stretch things to create a meaningful category called "pro-choice," then Biden might be a plausible candidate for the label; at least on occasions when he respects your choice or mine not to facilitate deliberate feticide.

The same cannot be said for Barack Obama. For starters, he supports legislation that would repeal the Hyde Amendment, which protects pro-life citizens from having to pay for abortions that are not necessary to save the life of the mother and are not the result of rape or incest. The abortion industry laments that this longstanding federal law, according to the pro-abortion group NARAL, "forces about half the women who would otherwise have abortions to carry unintended pregnancies to term and bear children against their wishes instead." In other words, a whole lot of people who are alive today would have been exterminated in utero were it not for the Hyde Amendment. Obama has promised to reverse the situation so that abortions that the industry complains are not happening (because the federal government is not subsidizing them) would happen. That is why people who profit from abortion love Obama even more than they do his running mate.

But this barely scratches the surface of Obama's extremism. He has promised that "the first thing I'd do as President is sign the Freedom of Choice Act" (known as FOCA). This proposed legislation would create a federally guaranteed "fundamental right" to abortion through all nine months of pregnancy, including, as Cardinal Justin Rigali of Philadelphia has noted in a statement condemning the proposed Act, "a right to abort a fully developed child in the final weeks for undefined 'health' reasons." In essence, FOCA would abolish virtually every existing state and federal limitation on abortion, including parental consent and notification laws for minors, state and federal funding restrictions on abortion, and conscience protections for pro-life citizens working in the health-care industry-protections against being forced to participate in the practice of abortion or else lose their jobs. The pro-abortion National Organization for Women has proclaimed with approval that FOCA would "sweep away hundreds of anti-abortion laws [and] policies."

It gets worse. Obama, unlike even many "pro-choice" legislators, opposed the ban on partial-birth abortions when he served in the Illinois legislature and condemned the Supreme Court decision that upheld legislation banning this heinous practice. He has referred to a baby conceived inadvertently by a young woman as a "punishment" that she should not endure. He has stated that women's equality requires access to abortion on demand. Appallingly, he wishes to strip federal funding from pro-life crisis pregnancy centers that provide alternatives to abortion for pregnant women in need. There is certainly nothing "pro-choice" about that.

But it gets even worse. Senator Obama, despite the urging of pro-life members of his own party, has not endorsed or offered support for the Pregnant Women Support Act, the signature bill of Democrats for Life, meant to reduce abortions by providing assistance for women facing crisis pregnancies. In fact, Obama has opposed key provisions of the Act, including providing coverage of unborn children in the State Children's Health Insurance Program (S-CHIP), and informed consent for women about the effects of abortion and the gestational age of their child. This legislation would not make a single abortion illegal. It simply seeks to make it easier for pregnant women to make the choice not to abort their babies. Here is a concrete test of whether Obama is "pro-choice" rather than pro-abortion. He flunked. Even Senator Edward Kennedy voted to include coverage of unborn children in S-CHIP. But Barack Obama stood resolutely with the most stalwart abortion advocates in opposing it.

It gets worse yet. In an act of breathtaking injustice which the Obama campaign lied about until critics produced documentary proof of what he had done, as an Illinois state senator Obama opposed legislation to protect children who are born alive, either as a result of an abortionist's unsuccessful effort to kill them in the womb, or by the deliberate delivery of the baby prior to viability. This legislation would not have banned any abortions. Indeed, it included a specific provision ensuring that it did not affect abortion laws. (This is one of the points Obama and his campaign lied about until they were caught.) The federal version of the bill passed unanimously in the United States Senate, winning the support of such ardent advocates of legal abortion as John Kerry and Barbara Boxer. But Barack Obama opposed it and worked to defeat it. For him, a child marked for abortion gets no protection-even ordinary medical or comfort care-even if she is born alive and entirely separated from her mother. So Obama has favored protecting what is literally a form of infanticide.

You may be thinking, it can't get worse than that. But it does.

For several years, Americans have been debating the use for biomedical research of embryos produced by in vitro fertilization (originally for reproductive purposes) but now left in a frozen condition in cryopreservation units. President Bush has restricted the use of federal funds for stem-cell research of the type that makes use of these embryos and destroys them in the process. I support the President's restriction, but some legislators with excellent pro-life records, including John McCain, argue that the use of federal money should be permitted where the embryos are going to be discarded or die anyway as the result of the parents' decision. Senator Obama, too, wants to lift the restriction.

But Obama would not stop there. He has co-sponsored a bill-strongly opposed by McCain-that would authorize the large-scale industrial production of human embryos for use in biomedical research in which they would be killed. In fact, the bill Obama co-sponsored would effectively require the killing of human beings in the embryonic stage that were produced by cloning. It would make it a federal crime for a woman to save an embryo by agreeing to have the tiny developing human being implanted in her womb so that he or she could be brought to term. This "clone and kill" bill would, if enacted, bring something to America that has heretofore existed only in China-the equivalent of legally mandated abortion. In an audacious act of deceit, Obama and his co-sponsors misleadingly call this an anti-cloning bill. But it is nothing of the kind. What it bans is not cloning, but allowing the embryonic children produced by cloning to survive.

Can it get still worse? Yes.

Decent people of every persuasion hold out the increasingly realistic hope of resolving the moral issue surrounding embryonic stem-cell research by developing methods to produce the exact equivalent of embryonic stem cells without using (or producing) embryos. But when a bill was introduced in the United States Senate to put a modest amount of federal money into research to develop these methods, Barack Obama was one of the few senators who opposed it. From any rational vantage point, this is unconscionable. Why would someone not wish to find a method of producing the pluripotent cells scientists want that all Americans could enthusiastically endorse? Why create and kill human embryos when there are alternatives that do not require the taking of nascent human lives? It is as if Obama is opposed to stem-cell research unless it involves killing human embryos.

This ultimate manifestation of Obama's extremism brings us back to the puzzle of his pro-life Catholic and Evangelical apologists.

They typically do not deny the facts I have reported. They could not; each one is a matter of public record. But despite Obama's injustices against the most vulnerable human beings, and despite the extraordinary support he receives from the industry that profits from killing the unborn (which should be a good indicator of where he stands), some Obama supporters insist that he is the better candidate from the pro-life point of view.

They say that his economic and social policies would so diminish the demand for abortion that the overall number would actually go down-despite the federal subsidizing of abortion and the elimination of hundreds of pro-life laws. The way to save lots of unborn babies, they say, is to vote for the pro-abortion-oops! "pro-choice"-candidate. They tell us not to worry that Obama opposes the Hyde Amendment, the Mexico City Policy (against funding abortion abroad), parental consent and notification laws, conscience protections, and the funding of alternatives to embryo-destructive research. They ask us to look past his support for Roe v. Wade, the Freedom of Choice Act, partial-birth abortion, and human cloning and embryo-killing. An Obama presidency, they insist, means less killing of the unborn.

This is delusional.

We know that the federal and state pro-life laws and policies that Obama has promised to sweep away (and that John McCain would protect) save thousands of lives every year. Studies conducted by Professor Michael New and other social scientists have removed any doubt. Often enough, the abortion lobby itself confirms the truth of what these scholars have determined. Tom McClusky has observed that Planned Parenthood's own statistics show that in each of the seven states that have FOCA-type legislation on the books, "abortion rates have increased while the national rate has decreased." In Maryland, where a bill similar to the one favored by Obama was enacted in 1991, he notes that "abortion rates have increased by 8 percent while the overall national abortion rate decreased by 9 percent." No one is really surprised. After all, the message clearly conveyed by policies such as those Obama favors is that abortion is a legitimate solution to the problem of unwanted pregnancies - so clearly legitimate that taxpayers should be forced to pay for it.

But for a moment let's suppose, against all the evidence, that Obama's proposals would reduce the number of abortions, even while subsidizing the killing with taxpayer dollars. Even so, many more unborn human beings would likely be killed under Obama than under McCain. A Congress controlled by strong Democratic majorities under Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi would enact the bill authorizing the mass industrial production of human embryos by cloning for research in which they are killed. As president, Obama would sign it. The number of tiny humans created and killed under this legislation (assuming that an efficient human cloning technique is soon perfected) could dwarf the number of lives saved as a result of the reduced demand for abortion-even if we take a delusionally optimistic view of what that number would be.

Barack Obama and John McCain differ on many important issues about which reasonable people of goodwill, including pro-life Americans of every faith, disagree: how best to fight international terrorism, how to restore economic growth and prosperity, how to distribute the tax burden and reduce poverty, etc.

But on abortion and the industrial creation of embryos for destructive research, there is a profound difference of moral principle, not just prudence. These questions reveal the character and judgment of each man. Barack Obama is deeply committed to the belief that members of an entire class of human beings have no rights that others must respect. Across the spectrum of pro-life concerns for the unborn, he would deny these small and vulnerable members of the human family the basic protection of the laws. Over the next four to eight years, as many as five or even six U.S. Supreme Court justices could retire. Obama enthusiastically supports Roe v. Wade and would appoint judges who would protect that morally and constitutionally disastrous decision and even expand its scope. Indeed, in an interview in Glamour magazine, he made it clear that he would apply a litmus test for Supreme Court nominations: jurists who do not support Roe will not be considered for appointment by Obama. John McCain, by contrast, opposes Roe and would appoint judges likely to overturn it. This would not make abortion illegal, but it would return the issue to the forums of democratic deliberation, where pro-life Americans could engage in a fair debate to persuade fellow citizens that killing the unborn is no way to address the problems of pregnant women in need.

What kind of America do we want our beloved nation to be? Barack Obama's America is one in which being human just isn't enough to warrant care and protection. It is an America where the unborn may legitimately be killed without legal restriction, even by the grisly practice of partial-birth abortion. It is an America where a baby who survives abortion is not even entitled to comfort care as she dies on a stainless steel table or in a soiled linen bin. It is a nation in which some members of the human family are regarded as inferior and others superior in fundamental dignity and rights. In Obama's America, public policy would make a mockery of the great constitutional principle of the equal protection of the law. In perhaps the most telling comment made by any candidate in either party in this election year, Senator Obama, when asked by Rick Warren when a baby gets human rights, replied: "that question is above my pay grade." It was a profoundly disingenuous answer: For even at a state senator's pay grade, Obama presumed to answer that question with blind certainty. His unspoken answer then, as now, is chilling: human beings have no rights until infancy - and if they are unwanted survivors of attempted abortions, not even then.

In the end, the efforts of Obama's apologists to depict their man as the true pro-life candidate that Catholics and Evangelicals may and even should vote for, doesn't even amount to a nice try. Voting for the most extreme pro-abortion political candidate in American history is not the way to save unborn babies.

Robert P. George is McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence and Director of the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions at Princeton University. He is a member of the President's Council on Bioethics and previously served on the United States Commission on Civil Rights. He sits on the editorial board of Public Discourse.


Friday, 17 October 2008

Myth and Lies about Pius XII

Last Oct. 9, the Church offered a magisterial example of the virtue of gratitude while remembering the 50th anniversary of the death of Pope Pius XII, one of the unsung heroes of the 20th century.

The life of Pius XII seems to have certain parallels with this summer's blockbuster film "The Dark Knight." The hero, Batman, out of love for his fellow citizens, must sacrifice recognition for his relentless battle against evil and ultimately endure persecution by the very people he is protecting.

Pius XII, who reigned from 1939 to 1958, spanning the years of the Second World War, was universally lauded for his wartime efforts after the defeat of the Nazis. But revisionists of many stripes in the late 20th century have competed with one another to besmirch his name, culminating in the scandalous label -- or libel -- of John Cornwall's "Hitler's Pope."

Obscured by the flood of false accusations, from criminal silence regarding the fate of the Jews in Germany to active participation in their persecution, the brilliantly innovative aspects of this pontificate have been completely neglected.

But the tables recently turned for Pius XII as, in the words of Vatican reporter John Allen, Benedict XVI initiated a "full court press" to redeem the name of this great Pope and push forward the cause for his beatification.

An international symposium was held in Rome last September under the auspices of the Pave the Way foundation in order to shed light on the activities of Pius XII in favor of the Jews during World War II.

This organization was founded by an American Jew, Gary Krupp, who believes that in order to create a fruitful dialogue among religions, the accusations regarding Pius XII, a source "of friction between people," must be laid to rest through the discovery of the truth.

Among the findings of the conference was that those who "lived through the brutality of the Nazis and were saved by the church's actions" had a high opinion of the Pope. The Israeli Philharmonic orchestra asked to play for Pope Pius in 1955, and at his death Israeli Foreign Minister Golda Meir mourned "a great servant of peace."

Krupp noted that it has been the "subsequent generations born into the safety of the defeat of the Nazi regime" who have bought into the myth of the Pius XII as a Nazi collaborator.

During the three-day conference, the meticulous research of Sister Margherita Marchione, Rabbi David Dalin, Andrea Tornielli, Ronald Rychlak and many others was presented, refuting the spurious accusations against the Pope and demonstrating his tremendous role in saving Jewish lives.

Paolo Mieli, director of Italy's leading newspaper, "Corriere della Sera," who happens to be a secular Jew, added another interesting point in an interview published in L'Osservatore Romano when he noted that the hostility toward Pius XII did not originate among the Jews.

It was an Eastern European playwright, Rolf Hochhuth, apparently backed by the KGB, who started the ripple that turned into an earthquake with his six-hour play "The Deputy," in which the playwright accused the Pius XII of culpable silence regarding the persecution of the Jews.

The theatrical piece was quickly picked up by leftist promoters in Paris and London and soon enough, Anglo-Saxon "scholars" hopped on the bandwagon with bestselling books like "Hitler's Pope," "Papal Sin" and "Under His Very Windows."

But when Pope Paul VI announced the opening of the beatification process of both John XXIII and Pius XII in 1965, there were no objections. The Pope's decision to jointly open the two processes was a message of continuity within the Church.

The lies regarding Pius XII were welcomed and even abetted, however, by those who wanted to create a division in the 20th-century Church by drawing a line between the "good" John XXIII and the "bad" Pius XII, and between the "old" Church and the "new" Church of the Second Vatican Council.

But in this wonderful week, as Benedict XVI celebrated a Mass in honor of his esteemed predecessor in a packed St. Peter's Basilica, a giant step was taken toward putting to rest the fictitious legend and honoring the great contributions of Pius XII.

Earlier in the day, the Pope's secretary of state Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone wrote in L'Osservatore Romano of Pius XII's material assistance to the Jews. He said that if Pius XII "had intervened publicly, he would have endangered the lives of thousands of Jews who, at his request, were hidden in the 155 convents and monasteries in the city of Rome alone."

During his homily, Benedict XVI offered a refreshing new view of Pius XII indicating "a great multitude of speeches, addresses and messages delivered to scientists, doctors, and representatives of the most varied categories of workers, some of which even today still possess an extraordinary relevance and continue to be a concrete point of reference."

The current Pontiff concluded with the thought: "As we pray the process of beatification of servant of God Pius XII proceeds happily, it is well to recall that holiness was his ideal, an ideal that he constantly urged for all."

At last, a hero's welcome for Pope Pius XII.


Friday, 10 October 2008


VATICAN CITY, 9 OCT 2008 - In the Vatican Basilica this morning, the Pope presided at a Eucharistic concelebration with cardinals for the anniversary of the death of Pius XII.

Referring to the readings of the Mass, the Holy Father indicated in his homily that the Book of Sirach "reminds those who intend to follow the Lord that they must prepare themselves to face difficult trials and sufferings". He also suggested that in the light of this biblical text "we may examine the earthly life" of Pope Pius XII and his pontifical ministry, which coincided with World War II and with the Cold War.

Benedict XVI spoke of Pius XII's long service to the Church, which began under Leo XIII in 1901, then continued under St. Pius X, Benedict XV and Pius XI.

"In Germany, where he was apostolic nuncio ... until 1929", said the Pope, "he left grateful memories behind him, especially for having collaborated with Benedict XV in the attempt to stop the 'useless massacre' of the Great War, and for having understood from the start the danger of the monstrous national-socialist ideology with its pernicious anti-Semite and anti-Catholic roots. Created a cardinal in 1929 and shortly afterwards secretary of State, for nine years he was Pius XI's faithful collaborator in a period characterised by various forms of totalitarianism: the fascist, the nazi and that of Soviet communism, condemned, respectively, in the Encyclicals: 'Non abbiamo bisogno', 'Mit Brennender Sorge', and 'Divini Redemptoris'".

Benedict XVI then went on to recall "the most difficult moments of Pius XII's pontificate when, aware that all forms of human security were giving way, he felt the powerful need ... to remain with Christ, the only certainty that never fails. The Word of God illuminated his journey, ... during which ... he had to console the displaced and the persecuted ... and weep the countless victims of the war".

"This awareness accompanied Pius XII in his ministry as Peter's Successor, a ministry that began precisely at the moment in which the threatening clouds of a new global conflict were gathering over Europe and the rest of the world; a conflict that he sought in every way to evade. 'The danger is imminent, yet there is still time. Nothing is lost with peace. Everything may be lost with war', he cried out in a radio message on 24 August 1939.

"The war underscored the love he nourished for his 'adored Rome'", the Holy Father added, "a love made manifest in the intensity with which he promoted works of charity in defence of the persecuted, with no distinction of religion, ethnicity, nationality or political views. ... How can we forget his radio message of Christmas 1942? His voice breaking with emotion, he deplored the situation of 'the hundreds of thousands of people who, with no individual blame, are sometimes, because of their nationality or race, destined for death or progressive exploitation', a clear allusion to the deportations and extermination being perpetrated against the Jews".

Pius XII "often acted secretly and silently because, in the real situations of that complex moment in history, he had an intuition that only in this way would he be able to avoid the worst, and to save the largest possible number of Jews".

The Pope indicated that the historical debate over the figure of Pius XII "has not thrown light on all aspects of his multifaceted pontificate". In this context he recalled the numerous messages and discourses his predecessor had given to all categories of people, "some of which are still extraordinarily relevant even today, and continue to provide a sure point of reference. Paul VI ... considered him to be the precursor of Vatican Council II".

Referring then to some of Pius XII's documents, the Holy Father recalled the Encyclicals "Mystici Corporis" of June 1943, and "Divino afflante Spiritu" of September of the same year which "established the doctrinal norms for the study of Holy Scripture, emphasising its importance and role in Christian life. It is a document that gives evidence of great openness towards scientific research into biblical texts", he said.

Benedict XVI also mentioned the Encyclical "Mediator Dei" which was published in November 1947 and concerns the liturgy. There, he said, "the Servant of God promoted the liturgical movement, highlighting the 'essential element of worship', which 'must be the interior element. It is, in fact, necessary', he wrote, 'always to live in Christ, to dedicate oneself entirely to Him, so that in Him, with Him and for Him glory is rendered unto God".

After mentioning "the notable impulse this Pontiff gave to the Church's missionary activity with the Encyclicals 'Evangelii praecones' (1951) and 'Fidei donum' (1957)", the Holy Father pointed out that one of Pius XII's "constant pastoral concerns was the promotion of the laity, so that the ecclesial community could make use of all available energies and resources. For this too the Church and the world are grateful".

"As we pray that the cause of beatification of Servant of God Pius XII may continue favourably, it is as well to recall that sanctity was his ideal, an ideal he did not fail to propose to everybody".

The Pope concluded by pointing out that during the Holy Year 1950, Pius XII proclaimed the dogma of the Assumption of the Virgin. "In this world of ours which, as then, is assailed by concerns and anguish for the future; in this world where, perhaps more now than then, the abandonment of truth and virtue by many people gives us glimpses of scenarios without hope, Pius XII invites us to turn our gaze to Mary, assumed in heavenly glory".

Following the Mass, the Holy Father went down to the Vatican Grottoes to pray before the tomb of Pius XII.

Sunday, 5 October 2008

Obama's Dangerous Pals

By Stanley Kurtz
Posted: Monday, September 29, 2008

New York Post
Publication Date: September 29, 2008

WHAT exactly does a "community organizer" do? Barack Obama's rise has left many Americans asking themselves that question. Here's a big part of the answer: Community organizers intimidate banks into making high-risk loans to customers with poor credit.

In the name of fairness to minorities, community organizers occupy private offices, chant inside bank lobbies, and confront executives at their homes - and thereby force financial institutions to direct hundreds of millions of dollars in mortgages to low-credit customers.

In other words, community organizers help to undermine the US economy by pushing the banking system into a sinkhole of bad loans. And Obama has spent years training and funding the organizers who do it.

THE seeds of today's financial meltdown lie in the Commu nity Reinvestment Act - a law passed in 1977 and made riskier by unwise amendments and regulatory rulings in later decades.

CRA was meant to encourage banks to make loans to high-risk borrowers, often minorities living in unstable neighborhoods. That has provided an opening to radical groups like ACORN (the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now) to abuse the law by forcing banks to make hundreds of millions of dollars in "subprime" loans to often uncreditworthy poor and minority customers.

Any bank that wants to expand or merge with another has to show it has complied with CRA - and approval can be held up by complaints filed by groups like ACORN.

In fact, intimidation tactics, public charges of racism and threats to use CRA to block business expansion have enabled ACORN to extract hundreds of millions of dollars in loans and contributions from America's financial institutions.

Banks already overexposed by these shaky loans were pushed still further in the wrong direction when government-sponsored Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac began buying up their bad loans and offering them for sale on world markets.

Fannie and Freddie acted in response to Clinton administration pressure to boost homeownership rates among minorities and the poor. However compassionate the motive, the result of this systematic disregard for normal credit standards has been financial disaster.

ONE key pioneer of ACORN's subprime-loan shakedown racket was Madeline Talbott - an activist with extensive ties to Barack Obama. She was also in on the ground floor of the disastrous turn in Fannie Mae's mortgage policies.

Long the director of Chicago ACORN, Talbott is a specialist in "direct action" - organizers' term for their militant tactics of intimidation and disruption. Perhaps her most famous stunt was leading a group of ACORN protesters breaking into a meeting of the Chicago City Council to push for a "living wage" law, shouting in defiance as she was arrested for mob action and disorderly conduct. But her real legacy may be her drive to push banks into making risky mortgage loans.

In February 1990, Illinois regulators held what was believed to be the first-ever state hearing to consider blocking a thrift merger for lack of compliance with CRA. The challenge was filed by ACORN, led by Talbott. Officials of Bell Federal Savings and Loan Association, her target, complained that ACORN pressure was undermining its ability to meet strict financial requirements it was obligated to uphold and protested being boxed into an "affirmative-action lending policy." The following years saw Talbott featured in dozens of news stories about pressuring banks into higher-risk minority loans.

IN April 1992, Talbott filed an other precedent-setting com plaint using the "community support requirements" of the 1989 savings-and-loan bailout, this time against Avondale Federal Bank for Savings. Within a month, Chicago ACORN had organized its first "bank fair" at Malcolm X College and found 16 Chicago-area financial institutions willing to participate.

Two months later, aided by ACORN organizer Sandra Maxwell, Talbott announced plans to conduct demonstrations in the lobbies of area banks that refused to attend an ACORN-sponsored national bank "summit" in New York. She insisted that banks show a commitment to minority lending by lowering their standards on downpayments and underwriting - for example, by overlooking bad credit histories.

By September 1992, The Chicago Tribune was describing Talbott's program as "affirma- tive-action lending" and ACORN was issuing fact sheets bragging about relaxations of credit standards that it had won on behalf of minorities.

And Talbott continued her effort to, as she put it, drag banks "kicking and screaming" into high-risk loans. A September 1993 story in The Chicago Sun-Times presents her as the leader of an initiative in which five area financial institutions (including two of her former targets, now plainly cowed - Bell Federal Savings and Avondale Federal Savings) were "participating in a $55 million national pilot program with affordable-housing group ACORN to make mortgages for low- and moderate-income people with troubled credit histories."

What made this program different from others, the paper added, was the participation of Fannie Mae - which had agreed to buy up the loans. "If this pilot program works," crowed Talbott, "it will send a message to the lending community that it's OK to make these kind of loans."

Well, the pilot program "worked," and Fannie Mae's message that risky loans to minorities were "OK" was sent. The rest is financial-meltdown history.

IT would be tough to find an "on the ground" community organizer more closely tied to the subprime-mortgage fiasco than Madeline Talbott. And no one has been more supportive of Madeline Talbott than Barack Obama.

When Obama was just a budding community organizer in Chicago, Talbott was so impressed that she asked him to train her personal staff.

He returned to Chicago in the early '90s, just as Talbott was starting her pressure campaign on local banks. Chicago ACORN sought out Obama's legal services for a "motor voter" case and partnered with him on his 1992 "Project VOTE" registration drive.

In those years, he also conducted leadership-training seminars for ACORN's up-and-coming organizers. That is, Obama was training the army of ACORN organizers who participated in Madeline Talbott's drive against Chicago's banks.

More than that, Obama was funding them. As he rose to a leadership role at Chicago's Woods Fund, he became the most powerful voice on the foundation's board for supporting ACORN and other community organizers. In 1995, the Woods Fund substantially expanded its funding of community organizers - and Obama chaired the committee that urged and managed the shift.

That committee's report on strategies for funding groups like ACORN features all the key names in Obama's organizer network. The report quotes Talbott more than any other figure; Sandra Maxwell, Talbott's ACORN ally in the bank battle, was also among the organizers consulted.

MORE, the Obama-supervised Woods Fund report ac knowledges the problem of getting donors and foundations to contribute to radical groups like ACORN - whose confrontational tactics often scare off even liberal donors and foundations.

Indeed, the report brags about pulling the wool over the public's eye. The Woods Fund's claim to be "nonideological," it says, has "enabled the Trustees to make grants to organizations that use confrontational tactics against the business and government 'establishments' without undue risk of being criticized for partisanship."

Hmm. Radicalism disguised by a claim to be postideological. Sound familiar?

The Woods Fund report makes it clear Obama was fully aware of the intimidation tactics used by ACORN's Madeline Talbott in her pioneering efforts to force banks to suspend their usual credit standards. Yet he supported Talbott in every conceivable way. He trained her personal staff and other aspiring ACORN leaders, he consulted with her extensively, and he arranged a major boost in foundation funding for her efforts.

And, as the leader of another charity, the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, Obama channeled more funding Talbott's way - ostensibly for education projects but surely supportive of ACORN's overall efforts.

In return, Talbott proudly announced her support of Obama's first campaign for state Senate, saying, "We accept and respect him as a kindred spirit, a fellow organizer."

IN short, to understand the roots of the subprime-mort gage crisis, look to ACORN's Madeline Talbott. And to see how Talbott was able to work her mischief, look to Barack Obama.

Then you'll truly know what community organizers do.

-- Stanley Kurtz is a senior fellow with the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, DC.

Obama and Ayers Pushed Radicalism On Schools

By Stanley Kurtz
Posted: Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Wall Street Journal
Publication Date: September 23, 2008

Despite having authored two autobiographies, Barack Obama has never written about his most important executive experience. From 1995 to 1999, he led an education foundation called the Chicago Annenberg Challenge (CAC), and remained on the board until 2001. The group poured more than $100 million into the hands of community organizers and radical education activists.

The CAC was the brainchild of Bill Ayers, a founder of the Weather Underground in the 1960s. Among other feats, Mr. Ayers and his cohorts bombed the Pentagon, and he has never expressed regret for his actions. Barack Obama's first run for the Illinois State Senate was launched at a 1995 gathering at Mr. Ayers's home.

The Obama campaign has struggled to downplay that association. Last April, Sen. Obama dismissed Mr. Ayers as just "a guy who lives in my neighborhood," and "not somebody who I exchange ideas with on a regular basis." Yet documents in the CAC archives make clear that Mr. Ayers and Mr. Obama were partners in the CAC. Those archives are housed in the Richard J. Daley Library at the University of Illinois at Chicago and I've recently spent days looking through them.

The Chicago Annenberg Challenge was created ostensibly to improve Chicago's public schools. The funding came from a national education initiative by Ambassador Walter Annenberg. In early 1995, Mr. Obama was appointed the first chairman of the board, which handled fiscal matters. Mr. Ayers co-chaired the foundation's other key body, the "Collaborative," which shaped education policy.

The CAC's basic functioning has long been known, because its annual reports, evaluations and some board minutes were public. But the Daley archive contains additional board minutes, the Collaborative minutes, and documentation on the groups that CAC funded and rejected. The Daley archives show that Mr. Obama and Mr. Ayers worked as a team to advance the CAC agenda.

One unsettled question is how Mr. Obama, a former community organizer fresh out of law school, could vault to the top of a new foundation? In response to my questions, the Obama campaign issued a statement saying that Mr. Ayers had nothing to do with Obama's "recruitment" to the board. The statement says Deborah Leff and Patricia Albjerg Graham (presidents of other foundations) recruited him. Yet the archives show that, along with Ms. Leff and Ms. Graham, Mr. Ayers was one of a working group of five who assembled the initial board in 1994. Mr. Ayers founded CAC and was its guiding spirit. No one would have been appointed the CAC chairman without his approval.

The CAC's agenda flowed from Mr. Ayers's educational philosophy, which called for infusing students and their parents with a radical political commitment, and which downplayed achievement tests in favor of activism. In the mid-1960s, Mr. Ayers taught at a radical alternative school, and served as a community organizer in Cleveland's ghetto.

In works like "City Kids, City Teachers" and "Teaching the Personal and the Political," Mr. Ayers wrote that teachers should be community organizers dedicated to provoking resistance to American racism and oppression. His preferred alternative? "I'm a radical, Leftist, small 'c' communist," Mr. Ayers said in an interview in Ron Chepesiuk's, "Sixties Radicals," at about the same time Mr. Ayers was forming CAC.

CAC translated Mr. Ayers's radicalism into practice. Instead of funding schools directly, it required schools to affiliate with "external partners," which actually got the money. Proposals from groups focused on math/science achievement were turned down. Instead CAC disbursed money through various far-left community organizers, such as the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (or Acorn).

Mr. Obama once conducted "leadership training" seminars with Acorn, and Acorn members also served as volunteers in Mr. Obama's early campaigns. External partners like the South Shore African Village Collaborative and the Dual Language Exchange focused more on political consciousness, Afrocentricity and bilingualism than traditional education. CAC's in-house evaluators comprehensively studied the effects of its grants on the test scores of Chicago public-school students. They found no evidence of educational improvement.

CAC also funded programs designed to promote "leadership" among parents. Ostensibly this was to enable parents to advocate on behalf of their children's education. In practice, it meant funding Mr. Obama's alma mater, the Developing Communities Project, to recruit parents to its overall political agenda. CAC records show that board member Arnold Weber was concerned that parents "organized" by community groups might be viewed by school principals "as a political threat." Mr. Obama arranged meetings with the Collaborative to smooth out Mr. Weber's objections.

The Daley documents show that Mr. Ayers sat as an ex-officio member of the board Mr. Obama chaired through CAC's first year. He also served on the board's governance committee with Mr. Obama, and worked with him to craft CAC bylaws. Mr. Ayers made presentations to board meetings chaired by Mr. Obama. Mr. Ayers spoke for the Collaborative before the board. Likewise, Mr. Obama periodically spoke for the board at meetings of the Collaborative.

The Obama campaign notes that Mr. Ayers attended only six board meetings, and stresses that the Collaborative lost its "operational role" at CAC after the first year. Yet the Collaborative was demoted to a strictly advisory role largely because of ethical concerns, since the projects of Collaborative members were receiving grants. CAC's own evaluators noted that project accountability was hampered by the board's reluctance to break away from grant decisions made in 1995. So even after Mr. Ayers's formal sway declined, the board largely adhered to the grant program he had put in place.

Mr. Ayers's defenders claim that he has redeemed himself with public-spirited education work. That claim is hard to swallow if you understand that he views his education work as an effort to stoke resistance to an oppressive American system. He likes to stress that he learned of his first teaching job while in jail for a draft-board sit-in. For Mr. Ayers, teaching and his 1960s radicalism are two sides of the same coin.

Mr. Ayers is the founder of the "small schools" movement (heavily funded by CAC), in which individual schools built around specific political themes push students to "confront issues of inequity, war, and violence." He believes teacher education programs should serve as "sites of resistance" to an oppressive system. (His teacher-training programs were also CAC funded.) The point, says Mr. Ayers in his "Teaching Toward Freedom," is to "teach against oppression," Justify Fullagainst America's history of evil and racism, thereby forcing social transformation.

The Obama campaign has cried foul when Bill Ayers comes up, claiming "guilt by association." Yet the issue here isn't guilt by association; it's guilt by participation. As CAC chairman, Mr. Obama was lending moral and financial support to Mr. Ayers and his radical circle. That is a story even if Mr. Ayers had never planted a single bomb 40 years ago.

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

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

India Bishops on Anti-Christian Violence

"Derives From Fear That Deprived Communities May be Empowered"

NEW DELHI, India, SEPT. 30, 2008 - Here is the text of a statement issued Friday by the executive body of the Indian bishops' conference, regarding the ongoing wave of persecution against Christians at the hands of Hindu extremists.

* * *

Shocked and grieved by the incidents of extreme violence unleashed against the Christian community recently in various parts of our Country, the members of the Standing Committee (Executive Body) of the Catholic Bishops Conference of India express their utter disappointment at the apathy and inaction of the Governments at the Centre and in the States.

Tragic events

Innocent people were murdered, women were molested, churches and religious places were desecrated, pulled down and burnt, houses of Christians were destroyed in Kandhamal and several other districts of Orissa. The State Government kept giving an assurance that things were normal and security arrangements were perfect. Yet when representations were made, it pleaded inability to control the mobs that vandalized church property assailed religious personnel and Christian population. It was evident that the perpetrators of these hideous deeds were trained agents of radical Hindutva activists who were acting under instructions and executing a master plan of destruction. Even as the Christian community in India was still agonizing under these most painful events, attacks and vandalism spread to Karnataka, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh Madhya Pradesh and Chattisgarh

It is India’s ancient civilization that is being humiliated and the values such as Ahimsa, Truth, Tolerance, and Respect for Religions that She has jealously preserved for centuries that are being dragged to the dust. It is India’s fair name that has been tarnished and her secular and democratic image seriously damaged before the international community. These recent horrors in various parts of our country have disgraced the high ideals and principles that our wise men and saints upheld and the vision that our Founding Fathers cherished.

We appreciate the initiative of the Government of India in sending a fact-finding team to study the situation in Karnataka. At the same time we express our disappointment because no corresponding action has been taken until now in the State of Orissa, where the violence and destruction were of much greater magnitude.

Our demands

We make the following demands:

-- That stronger and stringent action be taken against all kinds of anti-social and anti-religious elements that violate human rights and terrorize innocent people;
-- That culprits should be brought to book and legal action be taken against them;
-- That adequate compensation be immediately given to the affected people and institutions;
-- That CBI inquiry be immediately ordered to investigate the Orissa incidents and their nexus to attacks on Christian communities in other States;

-- That a ban be imposed on fundamentalist groups that train “terrorists” under the banner of Hindutva or any other name;
-- That the leaders who act on a communal agenda, or who inspire organized violence against persons of another community, or who use religion for political purposes be restrained.
-- That in the event of people taking the law into their own hands, the police be instructed to act in accordance with the demands of law and order, with justice and without prejudice.

The teaching of the Church

We are convinced that the allegations of forced conversions by Christian communities is merely a strategy developed by vested interests in order to prevent Christian services of health, education, poverty alleviation and development on behalf of deprived communities. Conversion by force, allurements or deception goes against the teaching of the Catholic Church: “The Church strictly forbids forcing anyone to embrace the Faith, or alluring or enticing people by worrisome wiles. By the same token, she also strongly insists on this right that no one should be frightened away from the Faith by unjust vexations on the part of others.” (Vatican Council II). Further Church Law prescribes: “No one is ever permitted to coerce persons to embrace the Catholic faith against their conscience.”

It is truly humiliating to the poor to claim that they easily yield to the temptation of converting to any religion for some material advantage. In fact, the poor who choose Christianity forfeit so many benefits guaranteed by the Constitution. Some have even sacrificed their lives for refusing to reconvert.

The Catholic Church respects other religions and holds what is true and holy in them as a precious heritage of humanity. Her teaching in this matter is clear. “The Catholic Church regards with sincere reverence those ways of conduct and of life, those precepts and teaching which, though differing in many aspects from the ones she holds and sets forth, nonetheless often reflect a ray of that Truth which enlightens all men.” She exhorts all her children “prudently and lovingly, through dialogue and collaboration with the followers of other religions and in witness of Christian faith and life, to acknowledge, preserve and promote the spiritual and moral goods, found among these people, as well as their values in their society and culture.” (Vatican Council II)

We perceive that the Hindutva opposition to Christian activities derives from the fear that many of the deprived communities may be so empowered as to assert their own rights and resist exploitation. No matter how great the threat that may confront us, we cannot renounce the heritage of love and justice that Jesus left us. He said, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach the good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed.” (Gospel of Luke 4:18). When Jesus went about healing the sick, associating with outcasts and assisting the poor, those works were not allurements but the concrete realization of God’s plan for humankind: to build a society founded on love, justice and social harmony. The Church therefore is walking in the footsteps of her Master when she exerts herself to the utmost for the benefit of humanity, especially those who are poor and marginalized.

Our constitutional rights

Every citizen and community of our Country has an inalienable right to freedom of conscience and religious liberty. The Indian Constitution, article 25 § 1, upholds that “all persons are equally entitled to freedom of conscience and the right freely to profess, practice and propagate religion.” It is this right of every citizen to embrace the religion which best satisfies his/her quest for God and for fulfillment. This constitutes an essential part of Human Rights. We belong to a civilization that attaches great importance to this right.

Christian response

Ultimately, Christian response to harassment and persecution may be expressed in one word: forgiveness, and this while we seek to have our rights safeguarded and justice done. If however, some choose to consider the sufferance of the Christian community as a weakness, they are seriously mistaken. We wish to remind everyone that we are citizens of this great country. We too have had a share in shaping this civilization and continue to contribute a great deal to the growth and development of this nation. The Catholic Church in India has always played an active role in promoting inter-religious dialogue and inter-religious harmony. It is with absolute resolve to live in harmony and in happy collaboration with everyone around us, that we seek to serve God and our Nation.

We are heartened by persons of Hindu society and of other communities who have come forward to condemn the evil deeds of a fringe group of fundamentalist activists and to help the victims of violence in many ways. We are grateful that the majority of the people of our Country recognize the small Christian minority as a peace-loving community, ever eager to render service to people of all social strata and religious affiliations, especially those who are poor and needy.

We express our solidarity with the hapless suffering victims of violence, especially those in Orissa who have been rendered homeless, who are forced to flee into forests, who still languish in relief camps and who are being still cruelly threatened to give up their Christian faith, and in their name we appeal to the Governments concerned to take appropriate and effective action without any further delay and to bring relief and justice to them.
We invite everyone to join in prayer for our great nation, for leaders of the Governments and for Civil Authorities, for all those who have suffered in the recent violence and also for those who were the cause of our sufferings. May God bless our country and lead us on the way of peace and justice.

Bangalore September 26, 2008

Cardinal Varkey Vithayathil, President CBCI
Archbishop Stanislaus Fernandes, Secretary General - CBCI