CNS columnists urge attention to abortion issue

Few people — except editors at our client publications — know that Catholic News Service has a fairly robust columns package. You may even have read some of our columnists in your local Catholic newspaper and not known where they came from.

Theresa Bock prepares to ship boxes of pro-life literature and postcards at the office of the National Committee for a Human Life Amendment in Washington Jan. 26. Staff in the office were shipping boxes of literature and postcards to dioceses and others as part of a national campaign against the Freedom of Choice Act. (CNS/Paul Haring)

Theresa Bock prepares to ship boxes of pro-life literature and postcards at the office of the National Committee for a Human Life Amendment in Washington Jan. 26. Staff in the office were shipping boxes of literature and postcards to dioceses and others as part of a national campaign against the Freedom of Choice Act. (CNS/Paul Haring)

With the change in administrations here in Washington, several of the columnists have been writing about the need for Catholics to remind President Obama that they don’t agree with his position on abortion.

For instance, one columnist, Tony Magliano, who writes on social justice issues, reported on this year’s March for Life in Washington but also recalled how Obama noted the anniversary:

On Jan. 22, President Barack Obama issued a very disheartening pro-abortion statement which read in part that government “should not intrude on our most private family matters.”

However, government does intervene in private family matters when it detects child abuse. Yet, it illogically and immorally refuses to protect unborn children against the most brutal form of child abuse: abortion.

Adding insult to injury, on Jan. 23 Obama reversed the ban on federal funds to organizations that promote abortion in developing countries. Now millions of tax dollars will be available to groups like the International Planned Parenthood Federation to help them perform their deadly deeds.

But worst of all, Obama has made it clear that he hopes to sign the Freedom of Choice Act. If it becomes law, FOCA would overturn virtually every federal and state limitation on abortion.

He went on to say that participating in the U.S. bishops’  current postcard campaign to oppose FOCA would be a good place for Catholics to start.

Another of our columnists, Stephen Kent, also devotes his column this week to abortion and the new administration:

It is more important than ever that the case for the culture of life be based on the firm belief in the dignity of the human person.

Politicians can count. Postelection polls said 54 percent of the Catholic electorate voted for Obama.

“Many Catholics voted for Obama despite his position on abortion, and they have an obligation to say ‘this is not why I voted for you,’ said Richard Doerflinger of the bishops’ pro-life office. One way to tell him is through a postcard.

Kent too points to the postcard campaign as a way to remind politicians that the first priority of Catholic teaching is the dignity of the human person.

Magliano also wrote a column for early December saying that many of the president-elect’s positions “reflect Catholic social doctrine and deserve our support.” But he also called Obama’s abortion position “very troubling” and urged readers to let him know their opposition to the Freedom of Choice Act. He concluded:

Now is the best time to help President-elect Obama understand the moral concerns of America’s Catholic community!

More headlines … (1/30/09)

From some of our clients this week:

Earthquakes in Arkansas? Diocese prepares after string of tremors

Al Qaeda Targeting Calvary?

Michigan stigmatist dies after a quiet life

Students have fun, perform service during Catholic Schools Week

Six schools in Miami Archdiocese sacked by rising costs, falling enrollment

Compass to unveil new design next week

Pallotti High School stresses virtues of its namesake patron

New movie “respects Christianity”

Renee Zellweger and Siobhan Fallon Hogan star in a scene from the movie "New in Town." (CNS/Lionsgate)

Renee Zellweger and Siobhan Fallon Hogan star in a scene from the movie "New in Town." (CNS/Lionsgate)

There’s a new movie out called “New in Town” featuring Renee Zellweger that by all reports might be worth seeing. The National Catholic Register posted a blog item about it earlier this week headlined “New Film Respects Christianity.” You can read the review of the movie here from the U.S. bishops’ Office for Film and Broadcasting, plus we had a story this week about one of the co-stars, Siobhan Fallon Hogan, the mother of three children in a Catholic school in New Jersey.

Pro-life ad nixed from Super Bowl …

… But the Eternal Word Television Network is going to air it. The pro-life ad that aired in Chicago on Inauguration Day set its sights on a bigger audience — the coveted ad time during the Super Bowl — but it was rejected by NBC. However, on Jan. 30 EWTN announced it would air the commercial during “Faith Bowl II.”

The ad, mentioned last week in the CNS blog,  is sponsored by the group CatholicVote.org, under the umbrella of the Fidelis Center for Law and Policy.  The ad, the first in the group’s new campaign, displays an ultrasound of a baby and text which refers to a child who will be abandoned by his father and raised by a single mother but will become the first African-American president. Then it shows an image of President Obama along with the words: “Life: Imagine the Potential.”

After the Internet spot gained 700,000 hits in a week and plenty of discussion, along with financial contributions, it was submitted for consideration to NBC — the network providing coverage of this Sunday’s game.

But after several days of negotiations, an NBC representative told CatholicVote.org today that NBC and the NFL were not interested in advertisements involving “political advocacy or issues.”

Brian Burch, president of CatholicVote.org, said this decision contradicts what NBC officials told the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA, which also wanted to run an ad in a Super Bowl slot. PETA’s ad was rejected for its sexual suggestiveness and the group was advised to edit it before it could run.

“NBC claims it doesn’t allow advocacy ads, but that’s not true,” Burch said in a statement. “They were willing to air an ad by PETA if they would simply tone down the sexual suggestiveness. Our ad is far less provocative, and hardly controversial by comparison,” he added.

Burch plans to find another home for the ad in upcoming weeks.

Stay tuned.

Two lively commentaries

Within minutes of each other this morning, two lively commentaries came across my computer screen written by Catholic press veterans.

– Greg Erlandson, president and publisher of Our Sunday Visitor, reviews “Being Catholic Now,” the Kerry Kennedy book interviewing prominent American Catholics about their lives of faith. To say Erlandson didn’t like the book would be an understatement.

There is so much wrong about it, so many proud manifestations of ignorance, so much smug self-absorption on the part of Kennedy and the many “prominent Americans” she interviewed that it is a chore to make it through a single chapter, much less the entire book.

– Christopher Gunty, associate publisher of the Florida Catholic, which publishes editions in several Florida dioceses, writes about how last week’s March for Life here in Washington, which he attended, seemed to enter a new era because of the presence in the White House of a new chief resident.

A college student best summed up the mood of the day. On the Metro, Washington’s subway system, a small group of University of Notre Dame students headed back to the parish in Virginia where they spent the nights before and after the March for Life. They seemed energized by the march, but concerned. One young man noted that in past years, when President George W. Bush would call in to the gathering with a message in support of the cause, it was enough for the marchers to focus on simply overturning Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that essentially legalized abortion on demand through all nine months of pregnancy. This year, however, with a new administration in the White House, the battles will be “more specific” he said.

Both commentaries are worth a read. Comments, anyone?

The papal general audience gone wild

POPE-AUDIENCE

Pope Benedict XVI pets a lion cub held by his tamer from Circus Medrano at his general audience yesterday. (CNS/Reuters)

VATICAN CITY — Yesterday I attended my first ever papal general audience, which takes place every Wednesday morning at 10:30 in the Vatican audience hall (during the winter, but in the spring and summer it’s in St. Peter’s Square). It was not what I expected of my first time seeing the pope!

Groups of people from all around the world gathered together to receive Pope Benedict’s blessing. My personal favorite was the Italian circus group, who performed a juggling act before the entire hall. At the end of their performance they brought in a baby lion, at which point the pope stood up from his seat to pet him! The moment revealed the pope’s warm personality and happiness to spend time among his followers.

The mariachi band from Mexico came in a close second on my list of favorites, and it, too, brought a smile to the pope’s face. I’d have to say that the Hispanic countries were the most vibrant — groups from Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Mexico, among others, performed short songs in which the whole audience joined in by clapping. The groups from the U.S. and other parts of the world were a bit more subdued (except for the many Italian children in attendance, whose cheering prompted laughter from the rest of the audience a few times), but excited nonetheless.

Pope watching jugglers

Jugglers from Circus Medrano perform in front of Pope Benedict XVI during his general audience yesterday. (CNS/Reuters)

I was surprised at how interactive the session was; I had expected the pope to speak the entire time in Italian, and I assumed that I would be pretty clueless as to what was going on. But the Scripture reading was done in several different languages, and while the pope’s main remarks were in Italian, his gestures and smiles were welcoming to all. The pope proclaimed 2008-2009 as a year dedicated to St. Paul and has been talking about the apostle at his general audience each week.

It was moving to see people from diverse backgrounds so genuinely pleased to have the opportunity to be together before the pope. Although they weren’t able to communicate well with one another, they shared a common bond in their love and eagerness to see the Holy Father.

I spoke briefly afterwards with a group of students from the University of Delaware who are spending their winter term, which lasts through the end of January, here in Italy. After attending vespers on Sunday and sitting only six rows back from the pope today, they were excited and energized at being blessed by the Holy Father. Like me, they were surprised that the pope and bishops in attendance spoke so many different languages, and they agreed that the experience was worthwhile, exceeding their expectations.

Pope: “I still have three things to communicate”

VATICAN CITY — It is not unusual for Pope Benedict XVI to end his weekly general audience by telling his thousands of visitors that he has a special appeal to make — normally for peace in some troubled part of the world.

POPE-AUDIENCE

Pope Benedict XVI watches a juggler from Circus Medrano performing at the end of his general audience. (CNS photo/Reuters)

But today’s audience was totally out of the ordinary, and not just because the pope watched some jugglers and petted a lion cub from a circus.

“I still have three things to communicate,” he said when the performance was over and the bouncy music had ended.

First, he expressed his pleasure over yesterday’s election of Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk and Kaliningrad as the new Russian Orthodox patriarch of Moscow.

Next, he explained why he lifted the excommunication of the four traditionalist bishops ordained without papal permission in 1988 by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre.

And, third — without mentioning traditionalist Bishop Richard Williamson, who has denied that the Nazis used gas chambers to kill millions of Jews — Pope Benedict highlighted the importance of yesterday’s International Holocaust Remembrance Day and expressed his solidarity with the Jewish people, the people with whom God first chose to establish a covenant.

It really felt like the pope was doing some juggling of his own.

Under construction

When the Catholic Mobilizing Network to End the Death Penalty announced its launch Sunday in Harrisburg, Pa., the Web site that is to be one of its primary contributions to the debate over capital punishment was not quite ready. But the section of the Web site of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops that deals with the death penalty was recently redesigned, so organizers of the network are directing supporters to that site, until its own site comes online. Stay tuned, they say.

SOA Watch defendants sent to prison

The annual protest outside the gates of Fort Benning in Georgia has been going on since 1990. (CNS/Catholic Explorer)

The annual protest outside the gates of Fort Benning in Georgia has been going on since 1990. (CNS/Catholic Explorer)

A federal judge this morning found six people guilty of trespassing for entering the Fort Benning Army Base in Columbus, Ga., during the annual School of the Americas Watch vigil and demonstration Nov. 23.

The six are:

– The Rev. Luis Barrious, 56, chairman of the Department of Latin American and Latina/o Studies at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and an associate pastor at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in New York.

–Theresa Cusimano, 40, director of Colorado Campus Compact at Regis University in Denver.

– Kristien Holm, 21, a student at Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago.

–Ursuline Sister Diane Pinchot, 63, professor of art at Ursuline College in Cleveland; she also teaches ceramics to homeless women.

– Al Simmons, 64, a preschool teacher in Richmond, Va.

– Louis Wolf, 68, staff member of Rock Creek Free Press newspaper in Bethesda, Md.

Judge G. Mallon Faircloth had sentenced everyone but Cusimano and Wolf as of mid-afternoon. The others received two-month sentences in federal prison. Rev. Barrios and Holm also were fined $250.

The trial has become an annual ritual in the west Georgia city. It also has been a way for School of Americas Watch, founded by Maryknoll Father Roy Bourgeois, to focus attention on the institute’s training methods, which activists believe include practices that can be used to violate human rights.

U.S. Army officials deny the charge, saying the school, known as the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation since 2001,  promotes democracy and preserves freedom while serving to professionalize the military in neighboring countries.

The school has been the focus of an annual protest/vigil by a largely Catholic movement since the 1989 killings of six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper and her daughter at the University of Central America in San Salvador.

UPDATE: Late this afternoon Cusimano was sentenced to two months in prison and fined $500 while Wolf was sentenced to six months of house arrest and a $1,000 fine.

Parishes help unemployed members

What are parishes doing to help their newly unemployed members in a recession? Our Sunday Visitor has a roundup of several examples of parish activity, from a “Job Transition Network” that operates at one Minnesota parish to a New York parish that has been running a “Employment Assistance and Resource Network” since 1989.

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