Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Glendon declines commencement honor from Notre Dame

April 27, 2009 (CWNews.com) -

Mary Ann Glendon has announced that she will not accept the Laetare Medal-- the highest honor conferred by the University of Notre Dame-- at this year's commencement exercises.

Glendon-- the Harvard Law professor who recently stepped down from her post as US ambassador to the Holy See-- has indicated that she decided to decline the Laetare Medal because of her concerns about the commencement address that will be delivered by President Barack Obama. In an April 27 letter to Father John Jenkins, the president of Notre Dame, she wrote that a prospect "that once seemed so delightful has been complicated" by the Obama appearance and by Notre Dame's response to criticism from the American bishops.

In her letter Glendon expressed dismay that Notre Dame chose to honor the President despite his clear public stand against Catholic principles on key moral issues. She also voiced her discomfort with the university's suggestion that her own speech at the commencement exercises might counterbalance the Obama appearance. A commencement celebration, she said, "is not the right place, nor is a brief acceptance speech the right vehicle, for engagement with the very serious problems raised" by Notre Dame's decision to invite Obama in defiance of clear guidance from the US bishops.

The full text of Glendon's letter follows:

Dear Father Jenkins,

When you informed me in December 2008 that I had been selected to receive Notre Dame’s Laetare Medal, I was profoundly moved. I treasure the memory of receiving an honorary degree from Notre Dame in 1996, and I have always felt honored that the commencement speech I gave that year was included in the anthology of Notre Dame’s most memorable commencement speeches. So I immediately began working on an acceptance speech that I hoped would be worthy of the occasion, of the honor of the medal, and of your students and faculty.

Last month, when you called to tell me that the commencement speech was to be given by President Obama, I mentioned to you that I would have to rewrite my speech. Over the ensuing weeks, the task that once seemed so delightful has been complicated by a number of factors.

First, as a longtime consultant to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, I could not help but be dismayed by the news that Notre Dame also planned to award the president an honorary degree. This, as you must know, was in disregard of the U.S. bishops’ express request of 2004 that Catholic institutions “should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles” and that such persons “should not be given awards, honors or platforms which would suggest support for their actions.” That request, which in no way seeks to control or interfere with an institution’s freedom to invite and engage in serious debate with whomever it wishes, seems to me so reasonable that I am at a loss to understand why a Catholic university should disrespect it.

Then I learned that “talking points” issued by Notre Dame in response to widespread criticism of its decision included two statements implying that my acceptance speech would somehow balance the event:

• “President Obama won’t be doing all the talking. Mary Ann Glendon, the former U.S. ambassador to the Vatican, will be speaking as the recipient of the Laetare Medal.”

• “We think having the president come to Notre Dame, see our graduates, meet our leaders, and hear a talk from Mary Ann Glendon is a good thing for the president and for the causes we care about.”

A commencement, however, is supposed to be a joyous day for the graduates and their families. It is not the right place, nor is a brief acceptance speech the right vehicle, for engagement with the very serious problems raised by Notre Dame’s decision—in disregard of the settled position of the U.S. bishops—to honor a prominent and uncompromising opponent of the Church’s position on issues involving fundamental principles of justice.

Finally, with recent news reports that other Catholic schools are similarly choosing to disregard the bishops’ guidelines, I am concerned that Notre Dame’s example could have an unfortunate ripple effect.

It is with great sadness, therefore, that I have concluded that I cannot accept the Laetare Medal or participate in the May 17 graduation ceremony.

In order to avoid the inevitable speculation about the reasons for my decision, I will release this letter to the press, but I do not plan to make any further comment on the matter at this time.

Yours Very Truly,

Mary Ann Glendon

Thursday, 23 April 2009

The Faith of Galileo

Four hundred years ago, during the northern hemisphere spring, Galileo Galilei, a professor of mathematics at the University of Padua, turned his first spyglass towards the night sky and gazed in wonder at the never-before-seen stars that leapt out of the darkness. The moon, considered by philosophers to be a perfect sphere -- in keeping with its place in the “immutable heavens” -- revealed her rugged surface, and Jupiter was found to have four moons of its own.

“I render infinite thanks to God for being so kind as to make me alone the first observer of marvels kept hidden in obscurity for all previous centuries,” Galileo declared, testifying to his faith and -- despite its new divisions -- the common faith of Christendom. As exhibitions, dramas and all manner of commentaries on Galileo multiply in this UNESCO Year of Astronomy, it is salutary to distinguish the Catholic believer that Galileo was from the secular saint made of him by the Enlightenment tradition.

Galileo’s brand of enlightenment distinguished scientific enquiry from theology without separating the two, since the God whom theology sought to understand through interpreting Scripture was also the Author of the book of the cosmos. To his pupil and friend the Benedictine monk Benedetto Castelli, Galileo wrote of “a hundred passages of Holy Scripture which teach us that the glory and greatness of God are marvellously discerned in all His works and divinely read in the open book of Heaven.” (1)

The purpose of the Bible was to reveal things bearing on salvation that man could not work out for himself, said Galileo; why would God give man an intellect and senses and not expect him to use them on what was before his eyes? As Cesare Cardinal Baronio, a former Vatican librarian, had neatly put it, the Bible teaches one how to go to Heaven, not how the heavens go. Galileo, unlike many who were to claim him as a patron saint, remained interested in both.

Possibly the first full moon Galileo looked at was the paschal moon that set the date of Easter, on or soon after the spring equinox. If so, he had reason to attend the solemn celebrations of Holy Week and Easter Sunday in 1609 with special fervour. Born after the reforming Council of Trent, he would have been aware of the obligation to confess his sins at least once a year at this season. What he did about the sin that caused his eldest daughter, Virginia, to be entered in the baptismal register as “born of fornication”, and all three of his children to be registered only in the name of their mother, Marina, is his secret.

Galileo never married Marina Gamba, who died in 1619, or shared his house with her, but lived like the bachelor that a scholar was expected to be. Clearly, the long liaison was compatible in his mind with the piety that made him give thanks to God for his astronomical discoveries, and with the Catholic instinct which led him to place his illegitimate daughters in a convent at a young age for safe keeping, and in case they should not be marriageable.

Cristiano Banti: Galileo Before The InquisitionIn the same way, Galileo’s disputes with various scholars and clerics over the Copernican theory of the universe made no difference to the fact that he was a member of the same Roman church and would remain so. It makes little sense, then, for today’s writers to speak of Galileo as spending “much of his life in conflict with the Catholic church”, as if it were something he stood outside and against, as a proto-secularist.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Galileo insisted to the end of his life that he was a faithful Catholic. One of two clauses struck out of the abjuration imposed on him by the Inquisition in 1642 concerned that very point; he would admit to illicitly teaching that the sun was the centre of the universe, but never that he had lapsed in his behaviour as a good Catholic. He subsequently wrote to a French supporter:

“I have two sources of perpetual comfort, first, that in my writings there cannot be found the faintest shadow of irreverence towards the Holy Church; and second, the testimony of my own conscience, which only I and God in Heaven thoroughly know. And He knows that in this cause for which I suffer, though many might have spoken with more learning, none, not even the ancient Fathers, has spoken with more piety or with greater zeal for the Church than I.”(2)

That was some boast, and certainly an over-statement, but it shows how Galileo wanted to be seen.

Irreverence towards individuals in the church was another thing. He tended to ridicule his opponents -- even, fatally for his cause, his erstwhile friend and admirer Pope Urban VIII -- and he impatiently forced the issue of a sun-centred universe in a way that played into the hands of unsympathetic churchmen and left those who were sympathetic little ground on which to defend him. Galileo’s piety did not always run to humility.

But even while he battled with Jesuits and Dominicans, Galileo worked his noble and clerical connections to obtain favours for himself and his children. He wangled dispensations for his daughters Virginia and Livia to enter the convent before the canonical age of 16 (they were 13 and 12). He had his son Vincenzio legitimised and obtained from Pope Urban a pension for him as a canon -- a clerical sinecure that Vincenzio rejected and that in the end went to a cousin. (Galileo himself at one stage had two clerical pensions and had his head shaved in an ecclesiastical tonsure.) He also did his best to obtain perfectly legitimate help for his daughters’ convent of San Matteo, a community of Poor Clares outside Florence.

Portrait thought to be of Suor Maria CelesteThanks to Dava Sobel’s fascinating book, Galileo’s Daughter, we know that the great astronomer had a close relationship with Virginia, whose name in religion, Suor Maria Celeste, reflected their common interest in the heavenly realm. Letters she wrote to him between 1623 and her death in 1634 (his letters to her do not survive) betray an almost doting concern for the spiritual and material welfare of her “Most Illustrious/Beloved Lord Father”. Galileo’s study in his house at Arcetri overlooked the convent, providing a constant reminder during the 11 years he spent there that what mattered most was to go to Heaven.

Suor Maria Celeste encouraged Galileo during his trial and after to see the whole episode -- described by the late Pope John Paul II as a "tragic mutual misunderstanding" -- in the light of faith: “bearing these blows with that strength of spirit which your religion, your profession, and your age require”. She performed the penance imposed by the Inquisition (recitation of the seven penitential Psalms weekly for three years) with him -- if not for him -- and would gladly have gone to prison for him if that were possible, although the “prisons” of his confinement -- the archbishop’s house in Sienna, and his own home in Arcetri -- were far more comfortable than her own convent cell.

Back at Arcetri under house arrest, frequent visits to the convent to talk to his daughters, particularly Suor Maria Celeste, were one of Galileo’s few consolations. Her death within a year of his heresy trial left him grief-stricken for many months. In the early stages he wrote to a friend, “I am hateful to myself and continually hear my beloved daughter calling to me.”

In the end it was love that made Galileo’s world go around -- not only the cheerful, unselfish love of his daughter, but also the love of the God she served. He believed, as Pope Benedict has pointed out, that the universe is governed by love, not blind force.

Dante concludes “Paradise” with a definition of God as “the love that moves the sun and the stars”. Galileo perceived that it was the earth rather than the sun that moved, but in either case it was divine love that moved first.

Carolyn Moynihan is deputy editor of MercatorNet.


1. Galileo’s Daughter, by Dava Sobel, page 69. Other references in this article also draw on Sobel’s book.

2. Galileo’s Daughter, page 329


Saturday, 18 April 2009

Captain Richard Phillips

So often I read a story about some newsmaker and am disappointed when there’s no information about the individual’s religious life. I’ve come to expect that any detail about where, say, heroic pilot Chesley Sullenberger goes to church or doesn’t go to church will be difficult to find — much less any in-depth discussion about what religious or philosophical values may or may not motivate the person.

Saturday’s The New York Times included a lengthy page one feature on Captain Richard Phillips, the man taken hostage by Somali pirates last week. The headline was promising: A Placid Man on Land, Caught in a Drama at Sea. I read it to find details about Phillips’ religious life. Here is a sample paragraph:

But at home, friends and relatives said, Captain Phillips, 53, is a consummate regular guy who worships Boston sports teams, particularly the Celtics, shoots hoops at the Y.M.C.A., plays golf with retirees and faithfully picks up muffins for Sunday brunch with his family. When he is away, plying dangerous ocean waters as a merchant ship captain, the image his neighbors here remember is of him placidly riding his lawnmower.

I was pretty sure at this point in the story that Phillips must not be religious. Surely if the man worships God it would get mentioned somewhere near his worship of Boston sports teams. There is so much detail about the man’s life — how he is viewed by neighbors, former classmates, family members and friends — and not a single word about anything religious. We learn about his upbringing, his charity, his regular life, his family, his love of music. No stone, seemingly, is left unturned.

So I was a bit surprised to read this report the next day from the Associated Press’ John Curran:

Always a sacred day in the Catholic faith, Easter Sunday took on special significance this time at the church where hostage sea captain Richard Phillips normally worships.

In a 7:30 a.m. Mass at St. Thomas Church, the Rev. Charles Danielson urged his flock to pray for the safe return of the 53-year-old sea captain being held by Somali pirates for a fifth day.

Drawing a parallel between the resurrection of Jesus Christ and Phillips’ predicament, the church pastor told about 170 congregants that just as Christ triumphed over evil after being crucified, Phillips was attempting to triumph over the evil of his captors.

“Evil and death and sin do not have the final say,” Danielson said. “That is the essential message of Easter. Love and life, goodness and life, they always are the true realities. The world of terror and war and greed, the world of pirates and criminals large and small who prey on individuals, whole nations and regions of the world, they are the ones on the wrong side of history.”

This AP story is great but what absolutely shocked me was that The Times piece was reported on by five reporters and yet the story giving us all the details about Phillips’ life back home didn’t include anything about his church home? How does that happen?

Anyway, Curran includes details about how Danielson prayed with Phillips’ wife Andrea at the family home. A fellow parishioner is quoted and we also get some details about how the town is handling the saga. It’s a fairly brief story but it shows that it’s not that difficult to include religious information when filing stories about a newsbreaker.

Friday, 10 April 2009

Obama and abortion

by Helen Alvaré

During his time in the Illinois legislature, Barack Obama acted personally to ensure that that legislature would not pass a law banning the killing of disabled newborn children, born alive following botched abortions. In connection with his tenure as a U.S. Senator, he distributed fundraising circulars to raise money on the grounds of his support for continuing the practice of partial-birth abortions (a technique involving partially delivering live infants outside the bodies of their mothers, save for their heads, which are then stabbed and suctioned, before being fully delivered, now dead). As a candidate for president, he promised that one of his first legislative acts would be the passage of a law (the Freedom of Choice Act) to remove all existing regulations from the practice of abortion in the United States. On the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, and as against the tens of thousands of pro-life marchers gathered in the January cold of Washington, D.C., he issued a public statement supporting the decision that overturned every state's decision to shield the unborn from being killed. He later issued several executive orders releasing hundreds of millions of federal dollars for abortion groups operating overseas, and for researchers killing human embryos. In the context of the latter order, he both excoriated defenders of embryonic life as ideological and political versus "scientific," and claimed the mantle of morality, and scientific purity for himself. He also claimed support for his decision based upon a national "consensus" and his "faith," but failed to give evidence of the former claim, or to confront the facial irrationality of the latter claim. Despite excoriating his opponents as anti-scientific, he himself refused to acknowledge the scientific data confirming the humanity of the embryo, or the emerging scientific consensus that adult stem cells offer a superior therapeutic and moral alternative to embryonic stem cells. President Obama furthermore is readying the federal government to strip conscience protections from doctors and hospitals morally opposed to performing abortions. And he has literally filled the White House and powerful federal agencies with lawyers from the nation's foremost extremist abortion-advocacy groups, the groups that have bitterly opposed every effort of the Catholic Church, both here and overseas, to protect the lives of the unborn and their mothers from abortion.

Helen Alvaré is a senior fellow in law for the Culture of Life Foundation, and an associate professor of law at the George Mason University School of Law in Arlington, Virginia. In 2008, Benedict XVI named Professor Alvaré a consultor to the Pontifical Council for the Laity.

Friday, 3 April 2009

Father Lombardi, papal spokesman

The Condom controversy

Father Lombardi, in good spirits throughout the interview, also spoke frankly about the controversy in the Western media over the Pope's comments on AIDS and condoms.

Benedict XVI had told journalists on the plane to Cameroon that the problem of AIDS "cannot be overcome by the distribution of prophylactics: on the contrary, they increase it." The Pope was simply re-iterating the Church's teaching, but the debate over his remarks still continues.

"It's very clear," the papal spokesman said, "that those who want to understand the meaning will, and if they don't, then they will never understand." He added that the Pope "wasn't particularly disturbed" by the outcry, and he alluded to other times the largely Western media has latched onto an aspect of Church teaching and misrepresented it.

"You have to reflect and judge it with a long-term perspective," Father Lombardi said. "For a couple of days, people are against what he has said, but afterward they can reflect a little and see the truth of the Pope's words and what his intention was." He referred to how the Holy Father's comments at the University of Regensburg in 2006 later led to a better understanding between Muslims and Catholics.

However, what upset many was that someone modified the transcript of the Pope's words so the sentence read condoms "risk increasing" the problem of AIDS rather than simply "increase it." Father Lombardi was not responsible for the change but it originated in the Secretariat of State.

A well-intentioned official there was trying to put the Pope's words into better Italian -- something that is often done to the Pope's extemporaneous remarks. However, the official appears to have genuinely made the mistake of changing the meaning of the Pope's words in the process. Father Lombardi said he was aware of the irritation that caused (it happened once before, on the Pope's 2007 trip to Brazil). That part of the text has since been changed back again to the Pope's original words.

So will the Pope continue to speak freely to journalists on the papal plane when he travels to the Holy Land next month? "We will see, I think yes," said Father Lombardi. That visit will be especially delicate, but the papal spokesman appears resolute not to tone down or spin the Pope's words in any way. "In every situation you can have misinterpretations or problems. If you fear this, you'd have to stay in Rome and say nothing," he said.

In spite of this mistake and various media brouhahas over recent years, commentators say that the Pope's message continues to resonate with vast numbers of people. Father Lombardi agreed: "Misinterpretation of the media is not the entire world," he said. "One is able to think with one's own mind and understand. [Many people] appreciate the Pope's teaching and understand he is saying things that are important for today's world."

But I ask him whether today's 24-hour news cycle and the Internet require a more careful approach. "This is naturally a risk and part of the situation -- that is clear," said Father Lombardi. "But I think you also have to be confident that what you are doing is right, that what you are doing is being done with good intentions, otherwise you will be blocked by the other person."

Father Lombardi continued: "Whoever has a bad view of the Pope and the Church has already decided we shouldn't think, that we should be absent and disappear from the world. But no -- we go on. The Pope has a very clear message of spirituality, of peace and reconciliation, which he tries to convey even if it is difficult."

Father Lombardi disagrees with critics who say he is too overloaded with work (he is head of Vatican Radio and Vatican Television as well as director of the Vatican Press Office). "This is up to my superior to judge," he said. "They have given me these jobs, I didn't look for them, so whoever has given me this work can also tell me, 'Thank you, I'm going to give it to another.'" He stressed that his other position that is sometimes cited -- assistant to the Superior General of the Society of Jesus -- is not labor intensive.

"I have done this [work as Vatican Press Office director] with good will and I will do it until they say otherwise," Father Lombardi said cheerfully, adding that he was aware of the rumor being spread that he might be wearing too many hats. "I don't know if someone has started this [rumor] to produce some effect," he said with a laugh. "That is possible, but for me having this work is no particular problem."



VATICAN CITY, 2 APR 2009 - The Holy See Press Office released the following communique at midday today:

"From 30 March to 1 April, the commission established by Benedict XVI in 2007 to study questions of importance concerning the life of the Catholic Church in China held its second meeting in the Vatican .

"With intense interest and a deep-felt desire to offer service to the Church in China , the commission examined the main theme of the meeting: the formation of seminarians and of consecrated people, and the permanent formation of priests.

"In association with the bishops of the Church in China - who bear prime responsibility for the ecclesial communities - it will be sought to promote a more adequate human, intellectual, spiritual and pastoral formation of clergy and of consecrated people, who have the important task of acting as faithful disciples of Christ and as members of the Church, and of contributing to the good of their country as exemplary citizens. In this context, the words of the Holy Father Benedict XVI's 2007 Letter to Chinese Catholics shone out as guidance: 'The Church, always and everywhere missionary, is called to proclaim and to bear witness to the Gospel. The Church in China must also sense in her heart the missionary ardour of her Founder and Teacher. ... Now it is your turn, Chinese disciples of the Lord, to be courageous apostles of that Kingdom. I am sure that your response will be most generous'.

"The participants, drawing also on their own sometimes-harsh experiences, highlighted complex problems of the current ecclesial situation in China, problems deriving not just from internal difficulties of the Church, but also from the uneasy relations with the civil authorities. In this context, news of the re-arrest of Bishop Julius Jia Zhiguo of Zhengding was greeted with profound anguish. Situations of this kind create obstacles to that constructive dialogue with the competent authorities which, as is known, the Holy Father in his above-mentioned Letter expressed the hope might be pursued. This is not, unfortunately, an isolated case. Other ecclesiastics are also deprived of their freedom and subject to undue pressures and limitations in their pastoral activities. To all of them the participants wish to send assurances of fraternal closeness and constant prayers in this time of Lent, illuminated by the Paschal Mystery.

"The meeting concluded with an audience with the Holy Father who, as Peter's Successor, perpetual and visible source and foundation of the unity of the episcopate, underlined the importance of helping Catholics in China to tell others of the beauty and reasonableness of Christian faith, and to present it as the proposal offering the best answers from an intellectual and existential standpoint. The Pope also thanked those present for their commitment in the field of formation, and encouraged them to continue their service for the good of the Church in China ".


Thursday, 2 April 2009

Notre Dame Students Organize Prayer Rally Protest

Holy Cross Superior Makes Pro-Life Appeal to Obama

By Genevieve Pollock

SOUTH BEND, Indiana, APRIL 1, 2009 (Zenit.org).- A coalition of student groups at the University of Notre Dame will hold a prayer rally to protest the school's choice to honor President Barack Obama at this year's commencement.

The rally, to take place on Palm Sunday, is sponsored by Notre Dame Response, a coalition that formed to speak out against the Catholic university's decision to invite the U.S. president to give its commencement speech, and to receive an honorary law degree.

In a press statement released Tuesday, the coalition noted its hope "that through this prayerful and public demonstration on Palm Sunday, the university community will be respectfully reminded to celebrate its Catholic character and to defend those non-negotiable principles for which Notre Dame stands, including an overarching recognition of the inherent dignity and value of all human life.

The event will include an address on the role of Catholic institutions in the abortion debate, praying of the rosary and an offering of flowers at the Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes.

The coalition reiterated its commitment to "acts of witness that will be characterized by respect, prayerfulness, outspoken fidelity to the Church, and true concern for the good of our university."


Stephen Wallace, president of the St. Thomas More Society, a law school student group and part of the coalition, told ZENIT that the university's choice of commencement speaker is "deeply and bitterly disappointing."

The law student described Notre Dame as a whole, a "serious Catholic institution" in which "the sacraments are a vital and ever-present part of campus life."

Wallace explained that the school's decision to honor Obama "sends conflicting messages to the faithful and encourages dissent against the rightful authority of the bishops, who as a body have spoken clearly on this matter."

"Those are wounds against the Church that are heavy to bear," he added.

In an editorial article published Tuesday in the Notre Dame student newspaper, law professor Charles Rice denounced the university's leadership as "reckless" for making the invitation to the pro-abortion president.

Our leaders, he asserted, "have committed, in perception but also in fact, the name and prestige of Notre Dame to the side that is hostile to the imperatives of faith and reason affirmed by the Catholic Church."

The professor continued: "Our leaders act in what they think is the best interest of Notre Dame. But that is no excuse. The invitation should be withdrawn. It implies no personal animosity to suggest that Father Jenkins and the other fellows and trustees responsible for this fiasco should resign or be removed."

He suggested responding to this situation with an appeal "to a higher authority," by "peaceful prayer" during the commencement ceremonies, "to make reparation and to petition Notre Dame, Our Lady, for Notre Dame, our university."

Superior appeal

In a letter dated March 22, publicly released this week, the superior general of the Congregation of Holy Cross, the founding order of the university, wrote to Obama with a pro-life appeal.

Father Hugh Cleary told the president, "I have been deluged with angry e-mails regarding Notre Dame's decision to invite you to campus for the honors you are to receive."

He noted his inability to influence these decisions, given the legal alienation of the congregation from the university, and the primary role of the boards of fellows and trustees.

However, in his role as superior of the school's president, the priest asked the president "to rethink, through prayerful wrestling with your own conscience, your stated positions on the vital 'life issues' of our day, particularly in regard to abortion, embryonic forms of stem cell research and your position on the Freedom of Choice Act before Congress."

"It is clear," he noted, "that your positions on some of the fundamental 'life issues' of our nation can neither be supported by the mission and ministry of the Congregation of Holy Cross, the University of Notre Dame nor the faithful Catholic community."

Father Cleary stated: "Mr. President, may I be so audacious as to suggest that you have made a mistake in your position supporting abortion rights as the law of the land.

"May I suggest, with all humility for I am far from perfect, that you give your conscience a fresh opportunity to be formed anew in a holy awe and reverence before human life in every form at every stage -- from conception to natural death. For we are all the Children of God."

He appealed to Obama to take the Catholic views and principles seriously, and to "stand up for the truth of life, walk through that door and take us, as a nation, with you."

Law student Wallace concluded: "This isn't about academic freedom or judging the president by Catholic standards or anything like that. This is about what a Catholic university has chosen to say, and in this case it has chosen to speak falsely.

"Those who know and love this institution, as I do, and who understand how important it is will take this as a call to renew their efforts to conform that which is lacking at Notre Dame more completely to God's Will for it."


Spanish Left opposes abortion


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All the parliamentary right and left-wing political parties defend the present capitalist system, and they are all pro-choice.

In the last eight years under the Popular Party’s administration, abortion has risen by 37%, reaching almost 80.000 abortions per year. The Popular Party’s policy regarding this issue has resulted in free abortion practice during the first three months of pregnancy. Zapatero has legitimised abortion as a legal right. With such a “pseudo-progressive” measure as abortion advocacy a so-called socialist party, headed by Zapatero, has explicitly put forward a neoliberal political and economic capitalist program.

We strongly disapprove of abortion because we are left-wing. Likewise, we are against any assault on life, such as death penalty, torture, hunger, armament, war, destruction of the environment... We therefore proclaim that these are values the Left must vindicate.

We are left, socialist and self-managed, because we defend the socialization of means of production, because we fight against any form of exploitation of human beings, because we are against the oppression of people by any imperialist power. Also, because we defend human life as a supreme value.

In world history, abortion has been legalised by totalitarian, comunist nazi and liberal capitalist regimes. People, such as Robert McNamara - from Vietnam - and the World Bank, have goaded abortion acceptance. They have imposed it as something convenient for multinational capitalist dominance. Hitler rejected it for his aria "race" but enforced it for those under his rule.

There’s life, a unique human life in the fertilised human ovum of the mother’s womb. This life is destroyed by using the cruelest methods. It is not just another part of the woman’s body, it is a unique individual; as well as elderly people, the handicapped, the mentally disabled, the terminally ill. All those people that would be included on a list of future targets by accepting abortion, because they might not be considered human beings with a right to live, but instead bothersome, unwanted members of a society that does not regard them as “productive.”

Despite whatever may be said, there is not any more reactionary claim than a person demanding a right over an unborn child. It is the most inconceivable claim of property, still worse than claiming a master’s right to enslave. It is a shame that the Left should defend this so-called right. Moreover, in doing so, they are letting the Right hypocritically monopolise the opposition to it.

We absolutely reject this shameful vindication, and considering the currently existent knowledge about embryology, the Left should not support this position. We are not only left-wing and we reject abortion, but also we are against it because we are left-wing.

Human life is a supreme value from its conception to natural death. In line with this, we must take measures against abortion by fighting its causes, by assisting single mothers socially and legally in an efficient way, those who want to keep their children as well as those who decide to give them up for adoption.

Abortion is an atrocious violent act against unborn children and their mothers. The Left should fight to make women’s wombs the safest place for children because this is naturally so. Likewise, society as a whole should protect mothers and children, before and after their birth.

Christian Cultural Movement

SAIn Political Party
(Internationalist Self-Management and Solidarity)


Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Africa: Church Needs Formidable PR Machine to Counter ignorant Media

Fr. Deogratias Ekisa

Just as I was gathering my thoughts to shoot an article to CISA on the media coverage of Pope Benedict's visit to Africa, Henry Makori beat me to it by penning an excellent analysis of the relationship between the media and the Vatican. I would like to discuss further some points the CISA editor raises.

Experts in interpersonal relationships say that when there is a breakdown in communication, it is best to start the discussion by taking the blame. For example, if someone did not understand something you said it is better to say, "I am sorry, it seems I was not very clear," rather than, "I am sorry, you did not understand me." In the recent media blitz against the Pope, however, I will dispense with the political correctness of this principle and lay the blame squarely where it lies.

As Makori hinted, much of the Western media is clearly the handmaid of secularism. (Secularism is an ideology which must be distinguished from the ideologically neutral concept of secularisation, the process of separating religion and secular society). Now secularism has an agenda, which is to drive out (not merely separate) religion from the public square. This ideology, which believes in the absolute primacy of reason and utility, considers religion to be an obstacle to its most cherished values. And so, if anybody seriously thinks that the recent media onslaught on the pope was about condoms, then they need to think again. For much of the Western media, this was a chance to put down religion and show how silly and opposed to scientific "progress" religion, especially the Catholic religion is.

But leaving aside the media's secularist and ideological intentions, the modern press is inherently incapable of understanding what the Church teaches, since they operate in a different worldview and paradigm. The media looks for literal, straightforward meanings; the Church for the fundamental meaning of life. In the condom case for example, it is very clear for the media that condoms save physical lives; but that point of view is markedly different from the Pope's position who is not commenting on the scientific capabilities of condoms, but on their capacity to promote a lifestyle that is inimical to life (both physical and spiritual). It is like the Pope and Western media were speaking different languages, since they were starting from different fundamental premises.

Even worse, much of the media is either incapable of understanding the subtleties of profound intellectual thought or merely ignores them. That is why they rightly consign scientific, economic and other specialised disciplines to esoteric specialist magazines and occasionally call in the help of expert scholars to enlighten the public about these complex issues. Religion, however, is considered to be a common man's possession and is not conceded that luxury. But how can we expect the theologically untrained journalists to understand the theological nuances of Christian thought? Most of them do not even make the effort to inform themselves on the subject. Besides, religious thought does not seem to fit the categories of sound bites, which are the bread and butter of media coverage.

But we cannot blame the media alone. As I said earlier, any breakdown in communication could be caused by either the sender or recipient or both. We Catholics are sometimes unwitting supporters of this secularist attack on religion. This happens especially when we dissent loudly and virulently against the Pope and Church teaching. Of course there has always been internal dissent in the Church. One just has to refer to the differences between Paul and Peter on the requirement that non-Jewish converts observe Jewish laws. Various Early Fathers of the Church approached and explained the mystery of Christianity differently, sometimes disagreeing bitterly. Even saints have sometimes disagreed, like the different takes on the sacrament of penance by the Dominican position of St. Thomas Aquinas and by the Franciscan position of St. Bonaventure. These agreeable disagreements, however, have never been about the fundamental message of God's saving love in Jesus Christ and his Church, which is an instrument of that message.

Now of course today's disagreements by Catholics are on such issues as contraceptives, abortion, war, immigration, excommunications etc. One might argue that these are still those peripheral issues that are only tangentially related to the fundamental message of the Church. And sometimes that is truly the case. Often, however, is a naive interpretation of the situation. As I have said above, if anyone for one moment thinks that the "condom" issue on the recent papal trip to Africa was a debate about condoms, then they have another thing coming. This was a debate about the fundamental role of religion in life, with the media towing the secularist line, and the Pope promoting the Catholic vision of things. And so, when a Catholic who disagrees with the Pope on that or any issue attacks him like the media has done or dissents in a vehement way, he is in effect promoting the more fundamentalist secular agenda and not just that specific issue.

I am reminded of an incident a couple of years ago when President Hugo Chavez made a bitter attack on President Bush at the United Nations in New York; he compared him to the devil himself etc. When this happened, even starry-eyed left-wing Democrats who are naturally opposed to Bush and tend towards the liberal mindset of the Venezuelan President abandoned Chavez and ran to the defence of their President, because they realised that the stakes here were higher; it was the presidency itself and their country that were under attack and not Bush's particular ideological stand.

Similarly, it is time for Catholics to discern when they can reasonably disagree with the Pope and Church teaching and when their disagreement constitutes an attack on the very foundations of the Christian faith. This call goes not only to the more progressive members of the faithful whose rebellion tends to be the loudest, thanks to the more liberal media, but also to the right-wing sections of the Church, who have been known to wage silent but equally vituperative attacks on certain members of the hierarchy whom they consider too liberal for their liking. Actually, in the 1960s and 1970s, the attacks from the right were the ones damaging the Church. Now when confronted by a common enemy, secularism, it is time for us to lay aside our ideological differences and confront that enemy. The very survival of God's Church is at stake. If we let it fall, or in fact, if we assist in pushing it over, then we shall have failed in our mission, which is to establish the Kingdom of God here on earth. It is time to stand up and be counted. The battle lines have been drawn; on which side are we fighting?

An effective weapon to include in the Church's arsenal for this battle is a radically new communication attitude and strategy for dealing with the media. Here I am not talking about the usual spiel about using the mass media for communicating Jesus' message; we are doing this already through Catholic television, Catholic radio and Catholic print-media. I am instead suggesting a more profound public relations exercise. Let me explain what I mean with two examples.

Several years ago when I was a first-time parish priest, I had to preside over the election of the Parish Council officials. Naively, I thought that the best people would be elected, since "good always prevails over evil." And so, I did not share with anyone my thoughts on the candidates, nor try to "campaign" for any candidate, trusting in the "inherently" just process of democracy. To my surprise, the candidates I thought would have been elected, barely got any votes; I later found out that some members of the Council, for obviously private interests, had done their homework and had ensured they had the votes to push their men into office. I admit that I failed miserably, in putting forward my vision of what kind of Parish Council leadership I thought was best for the parish.

I now turn to an example as far removed from the parish situation as possible. I recently learned that in the recent war between Georgia and Russia, the news we were getting about the war (or at least most of it) was being managed or influenced by two Western European public relations agencies based in Brussels. So, both sides hired (at great cost I suppose) two professionals to put their side of the story to the world.

This is the kind of strategy we need in the Church today: a full-fledged, professional, well-financed PR team to front the message of Jesus to the world. It is this kind of team that would advise, for example, whether a particular papal document would be more effective if released on a Friday rather than on a Monday. Such a professional PR machine would know who to contact in particular media houses or particular temples of power for the achievement of a specific goal. It is such a PR strategy that would organize a major media blitz to counter certain situations or to explain them.

Now some people might find my idea objectionable, on the grounds that God's everlasting message is being subjected to secular concerns and being managed by methods more suited to the things of this world. Such an objection does not stand up to scrutiny, if one critically looks at how God has dealt with the world throughout the history of salvation. A cursory look at the Old Testament reveals that imperfect men Moses and David, imperfect institutions like sacrifice, imperfect methods like wars were used to achieve God's plan of salvation. Even more fundamentally, the fact that the Son of God took on human nature (an imperfect condition), to bring about salvation shows that the things of this world can certainly be used for the achievement of God's glory and the salvation of humankind. Even in post-biblical times, the Fathers and the Scholastics both used pagan philosophy to explain the mysteries of God. The structure of our Church has largely followed secular models of both monarchy and democracy.

And so, while the basic message of Christ has not changed, the way it has been expressed and presented to the world has changed over time. Today we need a serious public relations campaign to overcome the media machine that has been kidnapped by secularism or at least that chooses to operate on purely secularist principles. It is quite naive and disingenuous for anybody to think that because God's Kingdom is the truth, it will just establish itself.

I repeat: the survival of the Church is at stake. The predator is attacking. We need to stock the Church's armoury with the necessary weapons to help us win this battle. I suggest that part of this arsenal has to be not just a prayerful and exemplary life from all Catholics, but a media-savvy approach and all Catholics pulling together to publicly counter what is becoming a death blow to religion, even if it is often clothed in convincingly reasonable sheep's clothing. It is time to wake up from our slumber!

[Fr. Ekisa is a priest of the Archdiocese of Tororo, Uganda, now at Pontificio Ateneo Sant'Anselmo, Rome]