Presidential candidates and Catholic Digest

Two days ago we posted an entry on the major parties’ presidential candidates responding to an e-mail interview in the October issue of the U.S. Catholic magazine. It turns out Catholic Digest’s October election issue also contains interviews – conducted by phone and e-mail – of the two candidates.

Republican Sen. John McCain told the magazine’s contributing writer Kerry Weber that faith played a significant role in his life long before he entered politics. He also said he prays for “guidance and to do the right thing.” Democratic Sen. Barack Obama told the magazine’s managing editor Julie Rattey that prayer strengthens him and guides him through the day. He also said a president shouldn’t “shy away from applying principles that are important” to the work that needs to be done.

The candidates also spoke about the economy, parenthood, the troops in Iraq and whether a good president can change his mind on a given issue.

The election issue of Catholic Digest, published by the Bayard Magazine Group in New London, Conn., also contains a voting guide, a discussion of Catholics’ duty to vote by San Francisco Archbishop George H. Niederauer and a link to a webcast about the Catholic perspective on election issues by Bishop William E. Lori of Bridgeport, Conn.

Police pound journalist in Vietnam

Not too long after we posted a story about a controversial property dispute between the church and the Vietnamese government, we got notification that a reporter from The Associated Press was beaten by police while trying to cover the situation in Hanoi.

Ben Stoking, the Hanoi bureau chief for AP, “was punched, choked and hit over the head with a camera by police who detained him” today while he was covering a Catholic prayer vigil and demonstration, AP reported. He was released two-and-a-half hours later and required four stitches in his head.

Catholics were protesting the Vietnamese government’s move to build a garden and library on the grounds of the former nunciature, which Catholics have been saying should be returned to the church. Redemptorist priests who run a nearby parish sent the alert to Catholic news agencies, including the Asian church’s UCA News.

Vietnam’s record on religious freedom has been inconsistent and spotty. The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom released a report on this late last month.

Pius XII: Silently saving Jewish lives

VATICAN CITY — The Pave the Way Foundation spent years compiling readily available evidence to help prove Pope Pius XII did not just stand by while millions of Jews were slaughtered during World War II. It sponsored a Sept. 15-17 symposium in Rome to unveil its “stunning” proof that the widespread perception the pope did nothing was “absolutely wrong.”

Jesuit Father Peter Gumpel, a historian and investigating judge of the sainthood cause for Pope Pius XII, speaks at a symposium on Pope Pius in Rome Sept. 17. (CNS/Catholic Press Photo)

Jesuit Father Peter Gumpel, a historian and investigating judge of the sainthood cause for Pope Pius XII, speaks at a symposium on Pope Pius in Rome Sept. 17. (CNS/Catholic Press Photo)

The symposium venue was at the immense Palazzo Salviati where five decades ago, 1,000 Italian Jews were rounded up before they were sent off to Nazi death camps. CNS covered that conference and the pope’s address to participants here and here.

The foundation’s Jewish founder, Gary Krupp, reproduced evidence from the Vatican archives, compiled interviews with Holocaust survivors, and searched online in the archives of The New York Times and the Jerusalem Post (which was called the Palestine Post at the time) just using the terms “Pope Pius + Jews.”

While many critics and detractors say a final judgment cannot be made until the rest of the Vatican archives are made public (currently documents dated after 1939 are still being indexed and cataloged by staff at the Secret Archives), Krupp and other symposium panelists said there is more than enough historical evidence already out there.

The foundation assembled much of its “smoking gun” proof into a 200-page book that is being distributed free to scholars, historians, and the general public both in hard-copy form and on the Internet. Click here for the .pdf version.

The Pave the Way Web site has this page dedicated to video testimonies of eyewitnesses to Pius’ humanitarian efforts as well as the transcripts of interviews with Holocaust survivors.

Gary Krupp

Gary Krupp (CNS/CPP)

Krupp told Pope Benedict yesterday that the Catholic Church, under Pius XII’s pontificate helped save 860,000 Jews from death. Some interesting examples symposium panelists offered:

  • Pius XII helped facilitate many Jews’ escape, including his childhood Jewish friend, Guido Mendes, and his family; the Vatican ran a sort of “underground railroad” shuttling Jews to safety; Vatican ships carrying food also smuggled nearly 12,000 Jews to the U.S. through Cuba and Mexico.
  • He hid Jews from the fascists and occupying Nazis on Vatican territory including at the papal villa in Castel Gandolfo; the pope’s largely ceremonial Palantine Guard grew from 35 members to 4,000 during the fascist period because the pope enlisted refugees as a way to hide them from deportation.
  • The pope sent food and kosher meat butchered by rabbis hidden on Vatican territory to Jews hiding in convents and religious institutes; when the Germans came to one Catholic hospital in Rome to identify the growing number of patients, workers wrapped the Jews in ointments and bandages and told the officers not to get too close since these particular patients had infectious skin diseases.
  • The pope was ready to sell the Vatican’s portrait of The Transfiguration by Raphael in order to provide food for the Jews in hiding; when Roman Jews were asked to come up with 100 pounds of gold in 36 hours or face deportation. The pope had no problem providing the missing amount, but before the pope could hand it over, Rome’s Catholics had already come up with the 30 pounds that had been needed.
  • The pope sent Hungary’s Regent, Miklos Horthy, a telegram in June 1944 protesting the deportation of the Jews; before he was elected pope, Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli protested a proposed law brewing in Poland saying it would be “true persecution” to forbid kosher slaughtering.

As Krupp remarked at the symposium, “Anti-Semites wouldn’t do this.”

Revolution and evolution: Bringing all things Vatican online

VATICAN CITY — When the Vatican went online with its official Web site in 1997, it marked the start of the Holy See’s digital revolution – offering anyone with an Internet connection copies of Vatican documents and papal speeches in seven different languages.

But despite its leap into the digital ether a decade ago, the Vatican sometimes still moves at a centuries-slow pace. As a result, many Vatican agencies started up their own Web sites and home pages to bypass the many limitations and inconveniences of being hosted on the Vatican’s official portal.

Many of those sites, like the one the Congregation for Clergy unveiled last year or the one for Vatican City State, are colorful, informative, and easy to navigate.

Now the Vatican’s Council for Culture has made a fresh revolutionary jump by uploading an excerpt from a recent Vatican press conference on Darwin and biological evolution onto YouTube.

Broadcast with the help of SRM-Science and Religion in Media, viewers can go here or watch below to see the culture council’s president, Archbishop Gianfranco Ravasi, explain that Darwin had never been condemned by the Catholic church and that the scientist’s theory of evolution is compatible with the Catholic faith.

The archbishop’s talk is broken up into three segments and while the video is in Italian, English subtitles scroll across the screen.

Part I:

Part II:

Part III:

Priest sharing: a new trend?

An article in the Sept. 12 edition of The Catholic Sentinel, newspaper of the Portland Archdiocese, illustrates a changing picture of U.S. Catholic churches: priests serving as pastors for at least two parishes. 

Although writer Ed Langlois is just writing about the situation in Oregon, he quotes a Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate report estimating that 30 percent to 40 percent of U.S. Catholic parishes are sharing a priest. The story also notes that the Official Catholic Directory shows that more than 3,000 parishes nationwide are without a resident pastor.  One of the priests Langlois interviewed had this to say about the double-pastoring role: “It is a compromise solution in an imperfect world.”

Canada votes in October, and they’re watching us, too

Did you know that the United States is not the only major North American country having national elections this fall? Canada is, too, and they have many of the same debates we do here over things like how Catholic politicians should vote on the important social justice and life issues of the day. We had a story yesterday (which you can read here) giving a glimpse of how that debate plays out in Canada, where elections will take place Oct. 14.

And where the American bishops have issued a call for “Faithful Citizenship” for U.S. Catholic voters, the Canadian bishops have similar advice for their Catholic citizens in a new “Federal Election 2008 Guide.”

But just because we Americans are largely ignoring the Canadian elections (quick: name for me two of the major Canadian political parties) doesn’t mean that the Canadians are ignoring us. Our good friend Joe Sinasac, publisher and editor of The Catholic Register in Toronto, wrote this yesterday:

We know Canadians love hearing about the American election. Barack Obama and Sarah Palin are just way more interesting than our blancmange politicians up here.

(Note to self: look up “blancmange” on the Internet.)

Joe’s point to his Canadian readers was to plug our new CNS Election 2008 page as a way of getting “a truly Catholic perspective on the U.S. campaign.” Nice guy that he is, he said that CNS had “compiled a truly impressive Web site for its election articles.”

So it’s only fair that we plug his paper’s “Election Canada ’08″ page, too. If you’re the least bit curious about how the church in other countries, in the words of the The Catholic Register, “views the duty of Catholic voters and politicians,” make sure you spend some time there.

Presidential candidates respond to U.S. Catholic

U.S. Catholic, the Chicago-based magazine published by the Claretians, has put out a special election issue for October featuring an interview with the major parties’ presidential candidates based on questions submitted to each of them by e-mail.

The questions answered by Republican Sen. John McCain and Democratic Sen. Barack Obama cover a wide range of topics such as abortion, stem-cell research, the death penalty, economy, the environment, health care and immigration. Claretian Father John Molyneux, the magazine’s editor, said he was pleased the candidates took the time to address concerns of Catholic voters. He also said the interview with presidential candidates is a first for the 73-year-old magazine.

“The Catholic Church’s positions don’t fit neatly with either of the two parties,” the priest said in a statement. “Our strong commitment to respect for life is complemented by an equally proud tradition of Catholic social teaching which promotes social justice, a preferential option of the poor, the common good, and peace.”

Vatican Museums tour integrates art history, philosophy and theology

I’ve taken a lot of tours over the decades, from an audio-guided exploration of Alcatraz near San Francisco to a human-directed excursion through the seedy streets of London for a Jack the Ripper expedition.

But when I took a trip through the Vatican Museums with an art history professor named Elizabeth Lev, I felt like I experienced the mother of all tours.

Lev — who teaches art history at Duquesne University’s Italian campus – took me and a group of my fellow journalists through the museums. We were attending a seminar called The Church Up Close: Covering Catholicism in the Age of Benedict XVI, held Sept. 8-14 at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross School of Church Communications in Rome.

Her enthusiasm for art, history, philosophy and theology was infectious as she took us on a journey through a Christian time capsule. She used the stone, canvas, architecture and painted walls and ceilings as props in conveying the stories of Nero, St. Peter, Michelangelo and more popes than I could possibly mention.

In the former papal apartments leading up to the Sistine Chapel, Lev showed us how the artist Raphael married reality with spirituality, and philosophy with theology.

I have to admit, I hate crowds and don’t go through tourist attractions often because I dislike being crammed into rooms with too many other people. But Lev made enduring the swarm of sightseers worthwhile and the lessons learned became one of the highlights of the seminar.

Bravo, Elizabeth!

Getting to school on time

In the U.S., the typical student takes the big yellow bus to school. But children in Kenya run for miles and students in the Philippines will hop on motorcycles to ride in crowded traffic to get to school before the bell rings.

This interesting look into how children around the world get to school was compiled by the Christian Foundation for Children and Aging, a lay Catholic organization.

Church’s role isn’t to be ‘party boss,’ telling people how to vote, says bishop

“When church leaders speak on issues such as immigration, poverty, health care, abortion, war or embryonic stem-cell research, we are not telling people how to vote,” writes Miami Archbishop John C. Favalora. “We are reminding them of the moral teachings that should inform their lives, and as a result, their votes.”

The archbishop made the comments in a Sept. 12 column headlined: “Why we don’t take sides on candidates.” He was writing in response to an announcement from the Alliance Defense Fund that it plans a nationwide challenge Sept. 28 to Internal Revenue Service rules that prohibit preaching in support of one candidate over another from the pulpit.

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