Closing the American Embassy at the Vatican and Frogs

Former American Ambassador to the Holy See Raymond Flynn

Five former American Ambassadors to the Holy See, who were appointed by both Democratic and Republican presidents, are unanimous in their condemnation of the closure of the American Embassy at the Vatican.

I made no comment about this embassy closure at first because I didn’t know what it was about. I changed my mind when I read these former ambassadors’ statements. I take the unanimous opinion of five former ambassadors seriously.

Here are a couple of things I don’t take seriously.

First, I don’t take the Vatican’s public statement that they aren’t disturbed by the move seriously. What did you expect them to say? It would have been destructive to whatever diplomatic relations they have left with the Obama administration if they had, as we say in this part of the world, pitched a fit over the closure.

In politics, it’s always wise not to let them see you sweat. It’s also wise not to close off dialogue. I put the Vatican’s public statements about this situation in that column.

Second, the fact that the current ambassador to the Holy See backs the president who appointed him means nothing. It’s this guy’s job to take the administration line in matters pertaining to the Vatican. If he went off the rails over this and joined his fellow ambassadors to the Holy See in their condemnation of the action, he’d be packing for the next flight home.

And now, I’ll talk about the thing that I have begun to take extremely seriously. I think President Obama is an anti-Catholic bigot. I think he uses his position in the White House to engage in faith-baiting against Catholics. The HHS Mandate stands alone in the audacity of its attack on the First Amendment, religious freedom and the Catholic Church.

The regulation, as the president first signed it, was an outright broadside against the faith practices of the Catholic Church. It was an open attack on Catholic institutions, ranging from hospitals to schools to counseling and on through pastoral activities.

Congressman Stupak and President Obama Before the Lies Came Down

In addition, it made the assurances that President Obama gave Democratic Congressman Bart Stupak about abortion and the Affordable Health Care Act appear to have been manipulative lies. Congressman Stupak issued a statement about the HHS Mandate. Here is part of what he said (emphasis mine):

Two and a half years ago, I sat in a small storage room on the fourth floor of the Cannon Building to begin negotiations between the Obama Administration and a group of Pro-Life Democratic Members of Congress.  These Democratic Members, myself included, formed a small handful of critical votes necessary to secure passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, National Health Care legislation.

These negotiations … resulted in Executive Order 13535, signed by President Obama, and upheld the principles contained in the 40 year old Hyde Amendment which prohibits the use of taxpayer dollars to fund abortions.  The Executive Order also reaffirmed the “conscience clause” which states that no person or institution can be forced to accept, provide or comply with health care policies or medical procedures contrary to their religious and moral beliefs.

Upon his signing of the Executive Order, President Obama assured me this was an “iron-clad agreement”

I am, therefore, perplexed and disappointed with the recent mandate put forth by HHS requiring faith-based employers to provide contraceptive coverage in their health care plans, including birth control, use of the RU-486 morning after pill, and contraceptive services resulting in the abortion of embryos.

… No individual or organization should be forced by government to set aside deeply held religious convictions, abdicate moral beliefs, or deny one’s own conscience.  Yet, the recent HHS rule requires faith based employers to abandon principles and provide contraception coverage for all employees.  This rule clearly violates Executive Order 13535.

Section One of the Executive Order states that

“…longstanding Federal laws to protect conscience (such as the Church Amendment 42 USC 300a-7) and the Weldon Amendment, section 508(d)(1) of Public Law 111-8) remain intact and new protections prohibit discrimination against health care facilities and health care providers because of an unwillingness to provide, pay for, provide coverage of, or refer for abortions”.

The President lied to Congressman Stupak in order to get the votes to pass Obamacare. He also lied to the American people. The HHS Mandate is proof that he lied.

Last summer, the president issued a statement assuring churches that he was not going to require them to perform gay marriages. Inherent in that statement was his assumption that he had the right to force them perform gay marriages if he wanted. I believed then and believe now that this statement was just another of his positions of the moment and could “evolve” into something sinister any time the president thinks he can get away with it.

All these things play into the equation that led to what I wrote earlier about the closure of the American Embassy at the Holy See. When five former ambassadors from both political parties take the unprecedented step of a unanimous public condemnation of an action of the United States Department of State and the President of the United States, I take that seriously, too.

In fact, I think that if you don’t take it seriously, it’s because you either don’t understand just how unlikely it is for such a thing to happen, or you want to back anything President Obama does, no matter what it is.

When was the last time you saw five former American Ambassadors to Great Britain or Spain or Taiwan unanimously  condemn the diplomatic position taken in those countries by a sitting American president?

Can’t think of one?

That’s because this sort of thing doesn’t happen.

Here is what they said:

It’s a “massive downgrade of U.S.-Vatican ties,” said former U.S. Ambassador James Nicholson in the National Catholic Reporter. “It’s turning this embassy into a stepchild of the embassy to Italy. The Holy See is a pivot point for international affairs and a major listening post for the United States, and … [it’s] an insult to American Catholics and to the Vatican.”

Mr. Nicholson — whose views were echoed by former envoys Francis RooneyMary Ann GlendonRaymond Flynn and Thomas Melady — also called the justification for closing the existing facility a “smokescreen,” Breitbart reported.

“That’s like saying people get killed on highways because they drive cars on them,” he said in the report. “We’re not a pauper nation … if we want to secure an embassy, we certainly can.”

Moreover, the existing facility has “state of the art” security, he said.

Mr. Flynn, meanwhile, said the administration’s announcement reflects a hostility toward the Catholic Church.

“It’s not just those who bomb churches and kill Catholics in the Middle East who are our antagonists, but it’s also those who restrict our religious freedoms and want to close down our embassy to the Holy See,” he said in the National Catholic Reporter. “[There’s no] diplomatic or political benefit to the United States” from the relocation at all, he added.

Read more: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2013/nov/26/obamas-call-close-holy-see-embassy-slap-face-catho/#ixzz2lrEVl1qP
Follow us: @washtimes on Twitter

Will our lives change because of this specific collapse of this specific embassy into that of another government?

Not directly and not immediately.

Will our lives change because the President of the United States is using his office to attack our Church, and the American people, including a good many Catholics, are going along with him about it? I am afraid they will.

American Catholics and Christians today are like the frog in the pan of water that is slowly heating up. We just keep on sitting there until we are cooked.

Pope Francis Dedicates 2015 to Consecrated Life

Pope Francis announced that 2015 will be dedicated to consecrated life.

His message to consecrated people is consistent with the message he has been delivering since his papacy began. He called them to “go out to frontiers, working first and foremost with people excluded from society … to avoid hypocrisy and clericalism and to develop a tender heart.”

This message is not just for the consecrated, but for all of us. It is a call to convert the world and to begin that work by following Christ in our own lives.

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Former Vatican Ambassador Calls Out Obama for Hostility Toward Church

President Obama, the most virulent anti-Catholic President in modern history, took another shot at the Church when he closed the US Embassy to the Holy See.

In one of the most specious explanations I’ve read in quite some time, the administration says that the United States needs to close the US Embassy at the Vatican because of  – get ready for this now — “security reasons … because of last year’s attack on the American facility at Benghazi.”

When someone comes up with a “reason” as stupid as that, they’re trying to insult you.

Former American Ambassador to the Holy See, Raymond Flynn, said what I think has become obvious when he stated that this action “reflects this administration’s hostility toward the Catholic Church … It’s not just those who bomb churches and kill Catholics in the Middle East who are our antagonists, but it’s also those who restrict our religious freedom and close down our Embassy to the Holy See.”

This president is not just pro abortion or pro gay marriage. He is aggressively and actively anti-religious freedom and anti-Catholic.

From the Washington Times:

The Obama administration, in what’s been called an egregious slap in the face to the Vatican, has moved to shut down the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See — a free-standing facility — and relocate offices onto the grounds of the larger American Embassy in Italy.

The new offices will be in a separate building on the property, Breitbart reported.

And while U.S. officials are touting the relocation as a security measure that’s a cautionary reaction to last year’s attacks on America’s facility in Benghazi, several former American envoys are raising the red flag.

It’s a “massive downgrade of U.S.-Vatican ties,” said former U.S. Ambassador James Nicholson in the National Catholic Reporter. “It’s turning this embassy into a stepchild of the embassy to Italy. The Holy See is a pivot point for international affairs and a major listening post for the United States, and … [it’s] an insult to American Catholics and to the Vatican.”

Mr. Nicholson — whose views were echoed by former envoys Francis RooneyMary Ann GlendonRaymond Flynn and Thomas Melady — also called the justification for closing the existing facility a “smokescreen,” Breitbart reported.

“That’s like saying people get killed on highways because they drive cars on them,” he said in the report. “We’re not a pauper nation … if we want to secure an embassy, we certainly can.”

Moreover, the existing facility has “state of the art” security, he said.

Mr. Flynn, meanwhile, said the administration’s announcement reflects a hostility toward the Catholic Church.

“It’s not just those who bomb churches and kill Catholics in the Middle East who are our antagonists, but it’s also those who restrict our religious freedoms and want to close down our embassy to the Holy See,” he said in the National Catholic Reporter. “[There’s no] diplomatic or political benefit to the United States” from the relocation at all, he added.

Read more: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2013/nov/26/obamas-call-close-holy-see-embassy-slap-face-catho/#ixzz2lrEVl1qP
Follow us: @washtimes on Twitter

Pope Francis Calls on You and Me to Evangelize the World

 

This is a video summary of Evangelii Gaudium, written by Pope Francis and issued by the Vatican yesterday.

It is, among other things, our — yours and mine — marching orders.

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Pope Francis Issues New Document. Calls for Missionary Church.

I dream of a “missionary option”, that is, a missionary impulse capable of transforming everything, so that the Church’s customs, ways of doing things, times and schedules, language and structures can be suitably channeled for the evangelization of today’s world rather than for her self-preservation. Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium

Pope Francis has issued a beautiful new document, called an Apostolic Exhortation, and a wonderful exhortation it is.

Needless to say, the popular press has already begun issuing their skewed interpretations of what he said.

I think the reasons for this constant re-writing of the Holy Father’s message is twofold. First, they are literally putting words in the pope’s mouth to advance their own social/political agendas. Second, the drive to pick out the most compelling headline and pull readers into their publication leads them to sensationalize Pope Francis’ statements.

I’m not going to write in detail about Evangelii Gaudium until after Thanksgiving. We’ve all got turkey on the brain right now. I’ve been steam cleaning and dusting and vacuuming. Then I’ve got to start preparing food for a small army of hungry family and friends.

That’s why I put the quote above. I can’t take the time to analyze the Holy Father’s statements until after Thanksgiving, but I can, and have, let him summarize himself.

The Holy Father did not, as one press report I’ve read claims, call for the dissolution of Vatican authority in the Church. What he did do was call each and every one of us to our universal Christian vocation of living for Christ and sharing the Gospel with the world. It’s a beautiful document that spoke to my heart as I read it.

He’s so right about what ails us and what we have to do to live out our vocation as Christian evangelists in this fallen world. Those of us who live in the post Christian West have our own unique challenges. Our first challenge — and it appears to be a tough one for most Christians — is to know and to believe that we live in a culture that is hostile to Christ and His message and to us as Christians. We have to choose this day whom we will serve. That choice has eternal consequences.

A lot of us don’t want to believe that uncomfortable fact. We don’t want to chose and make people mad at us by our choice. We want to slip by without incurring the wrath of the culture and still slide home to heaven after it’s all done.

We’d rather compromise our faith than face the wonderful fact that we are a new First Century generation, called to evangelize a libertine and openly anti-Christ culture. We have been entrusted with the gift of being able to stand up for Jesus and take a couple of verbal brickbats for him from our child-sacrficing, marriage-and-family-destroying, women-and-children-selling culture.

Our grandparents didn’t have the opportunity to stand for Him that we’ve got. They lived in the days of ez-pz faith in a country where saying you were a Christian opened doors instead of shutting them.

But we can stand for Jesus in a way that makes a difference. That is the challenge of, and the gift to, our generation.

Pope Francis is all about issuing that call to stop hiding our light and make a stand for Jesus. He is leading us to give up passively sitting in the pews and watching self-absorbed priests wave around incense and preach feel-good homilies that don’t address the human meat market world in which we live. We are, all of us, from the bishops on down, being challenged by a pope who sees the problem and knows that the solution is us and our fidelity to Christ.

The time for lukewarm ministers, politically correct bishops and social club laity is past. It is no longer a get out of jail free card to be a Christian. In fact, proclaiming your faith in Christ and the teachings of His Church will get you reviled, mocked and attacked.

Pope Francis has written a wonderful, much-needed document calling you and me, our bishops, priests and all the religious to our true vocation, which is proclaiming the Gospel of Christ by how we live, what we say, and what price we are willing to pay.

You can find Evangelii Gaudium: On the Proclamation of the Gospel in Today’s World here.

Is Russia a Surprise Ally in the Defense of Persecuted Christians?

Vladimir Putin, the President of Russia, is paying a visit to the Pope.

According to Vatican Radio, this is the fourth time President Putin has visited the Vatican. He met twice with Pope John Paul II and once with Pope Benedict XVI.

President Putin, who is an Orthodox Christian, has said through his spokespeople that he and Pope Francis will focus on, among a couple of other things, “the protection of Christian minorities in the Maghreb and the Middle East.”

From QuestionMore.Live:

Hopes were high for warmer relations between the Russian Orthodox and Catholic churches as President Vladimir Putin flew Monday to Rome for his first audience with Pope Francis. Topping the agenda is likely help for Christians in the Middle East.

Putin, an Orthodox Christian, has repeatedly said that he is a man of faith and his administration has consistently sought closer ties with the Russian Orthodox Church.

His policies “have brought religion to the forefront and triggered positive change in ecumenical relations,” said Natalya Pecherskaya, rector of the St. Petersburg School of Religion and Philosophy.

But state interests will come first on the visit, officials said.

“Putin will be meeting Pope Francis as the president of Russia, and then only secondly as a Russian Orthodox [Christian],” said Father Kirill Gorbunov, a spokesman for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of the Mother of God in Moscow.

As well as his visit with the Holy Father in the Vatican, Putin will meet with Italian president Giorgio Napolitano and Romano Prodi, the country’s former premier and a special UN representative, in Rome. On Tuesday, Putin will travel to Trieste for talks with the Italian government.

The Kremlin announced ahead of the visit that Putin and Pope Francis would focus on the state of international institutions and their ability to respond to crises, as well as the protection of Christian minorities in the Maghreb and the Middle East.

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Religious Freedom and Gay Marriage: Are They Intrinsically Inimical?

Does the First Amendment apply to individual people or only to the institutional church, inside its church building?

This question would have been unthinkable even a decade ago. But that was before President Obama used Obamacare as a method to coerce churches and private citizens in areas where it had never gone before.

The HHS Mandate was the brainchild of a star chamber committee at the Department of Health and Human Services. It was signed by the president. It has the force of law, but it is not a law. It is a regulation, that was not written by elected officeholders who are answerable to the people. In fact, it is in direct violation of public promises that President Obama made to elected officials in order to get the votes to pass Obamacare.

As such, the HHS Mandate was, from its beginning, an end-run around Democracy.

It was and is an autocratic attack on religious freedom by a few people with a vested interest in the outcome.

It also ushered in an era of direct attacks on religious freedom by government such as has never been seen in America since its founding.

One manifestation of this is the demand by gay marriage advocates that the government force one-person business owners to provide services such as cake-baking, flowers and wedding photography for their “wedding” services. They have managed to successfully use the government to coerce people, even in states where same-sex marriage is not legal.

I recently wrote a post asking the if it was possible to have personal freedom of conscience and gay marriage. In other words, is it possible to find a compromise between gay marriage advocates and traditional Christians that would allow both to exist without government coercion? If the response to that post is in any way indicative of the larger culture, the answer is no.

Gay marriage advocates swarmed the post. Most of them got deleted, but there weren’t any serious attempts to even address the issue of how to balance rights. Instead, the combox response to the post devolved down to the question of homosexuals’ “rights” in this matter trumping everything else.

Rather than give up, I’m going to ask the question again. Are religious freedom and gay marriage intrinsically inimical?

To put it another way, are we bound to decades of warfare over this issue in much the same way that we’ve suffered through the abortion debacle? The salient point is that this gay marriage debate comes after forty years of bad blood. This country is already divided in a dangerous manner. Can the government maintain its authority if those who seriously profess Christ come to believe that they have to chose between obeying their government and following their Lord?

The games that certain people in insulated thought communities are playing with these matters are far more dangerous than they allow themselves to understand.

The Supreme Court needs to turn back the HHS Mandate with a clear-cut decision that leaves no questions. Anything less will precipitate a Constitutional crises of generational proportions. Elected officials need to refuse to accede to demands from gay marriage advocates that they use the power of government to force people to participate in gay marriages against their will. We are talking about one-person or small family businesspeople who are being faced with losing their livelihoods if they do not violate their faith. There is no legitimate reason for this.

The questions at hand are not, as some like to claim, questions of civil rights such as that engendered by segregation. They do not pertain to basic matters of accommodation for a group of people who are forced to drink at separate drinking fountains, attend separate schools, sleep in separate hotels and watch movies in separate rooms. We are talking about isolated instances of one baker out of many or one photographer out of many saying they will not participate in a specific event based on their religious belief.

The businesses in question that I’ve read about have routinely served homosexual people. They just do not want to participate in this one specific event because it violates their religious teaching.

In this instance, the shoe of persecution and discrimination is on the other foot. Using the government to force people to violate their faith so that you feel validated is not only coercive, it is bigoted.

Gay marriage advocates have every right to advocate for their position by petitioning their government and working through the courts. But elected officials have a responsibility to honor the Constitutional freedom of religion of all citizens, including Christians.

No government can successfully enforce any law if a committed minority of people refuse to accede to it. That is a fact. The two political parties have manipulated and exacerbated the culture wars in order to get campaign donations and win elections until they have seriously damaged this country and all but destroyed themselves.

The political parties, for all their power and destructive force, are nothing. They do not care about this country or its people. Their silo mentality has contributed to this situation we now face in so many ways I cannot enumerate them all.

Given all this, it takes a person of stubborn hopefulness to ask the question: Can we reach a compromise?

I’ve never thought of myself that way, at least not the hopefulness part. But I’ve always had stubbornness aplenty. It would be easy to say that stubbornness is what drives me to put this question out there again.

However, that’s not true.

I am motivated by the stakes. I know which side I will come down on if I must choose.

I choose Christ.

But as an American, I do not believe that I should have to make that kind of choice. I believe that it is my right — my Constitutional right — to follow the dictates of my faith without government interference.

Which leads me back to the question with which I began: Are religious freedom and gay marriage intrinsically inimical?

Are gay marriage advocates and their allies in government seriously going to force me, and every other committed Christian, to chose between our country and following the Lord Jesus Christ?

 

 

I Confess

Pope Francis on confession. I included two videos because together they give a fuller understanding of what the Holy Father said.

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Tornado Prayer

There are two things you can do about a tornado.

1. Get out of the way.

2. Pray.

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Pope Francis Displays Peter’s Bones at Closing Mass of the Year of Faith

Pope Francis displayed St Peter’s bones at the closing mass of the Year of Faith.

These pitiful shards of bone are all that’s left of the earthly body of St Peter. But the Church which Christ built on his efforts is vast and growing.

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