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.

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