Name that Photo

Five American presidents posed for photos when they got together for the opening of the Bush Presidential Library. 

What caption would you use to describe the resulting picture?

Five presidents getty

Killing Them Softly: Bankrupting Your Constituents for Special Interests

MP900407008 Americans pay far too much for prescription drugs.  Health insurance does not cover enough to keep you out of bankruptcy if you become seriously ill.

A few years ago, one of the secretaries at the Oklahoma House got breast cancer. She went through the usual harrowing treatments, and by the grace of God and good medicine, she is still with us today. However, even though she had health insurance, she and her husband had to declare bankruptcy because of the medical bills. 

She was lucky in that she didn’t have to face bankruptcy under the revised bankruptcy laws that the Bush administration pushed through for the credit card companies. She didn’t have to worry about losing her house.

This is what government of the special interests, by the special interests and for the special interests gives us. Americans pay too much for prescription drugs because of the hammerlock the drug companies have on both our elected officials and the FDA. Other governments protect their citizens from drug overcharges. The drug companies make up their profits by charging Americans 200% or 300% more for the same drug as they do people in other parts of the world. Our government protects them in doing this.

I once authored a bill to allow drug reimportation in Oklahoma. What this means is that Oklahoma citizens would have been able to buy drugs in Canada legally. The bill included a web site which would verify that the Canadian pharmacy was legitimate. The name “drug reimportation” refers to the fact that what the bill did was allow citizens to buy American drugs outside our country and “reimport” them back — but at a fraction of the cost they would pay if they had bought them in Oklahoma.

The drug companies, with their hammerlock on the leadership, smashed the bill flat. The House leadership did this in such a way that everyone got to vote for the bill before they killed it in back rooms. The bill was backed by Oklahoma’s governor who was a Democrat. It was the Republican House leadership that killed it.

The Affordable Health Care Act, with all its faults, is the direct result of the control of our government by special interests. Many legislators who voted  for it saw this legislation as a moral imperative. Special interests and their toady legislators created that situation.

Three prominent physicians, Dr Hagap Kantarjian, chair of the leukemia department of MD Anderson, Dr Leonard Zwelling, professor of medicine in MD Anderson’s department of experimental therapeutics, and Tito Fojo, head of the experimental therapeutics section of the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda recently wrote an op-ed piece for the Washington Post discussing these issues.

“Medical bills have become a major cause of personal bankruptcy in the United States,” they say, “which is not surprising, giving the amounts that even well-insured patients have to pay for drugs … can command a quarter to a third of some household’s annual income.”

Every solution these physicians call for is a common-sense remedy that has been voted down repeatedly by politicians who are in the back pocket of drug companies.  Cancer patient

The irony, which is certainly not lost on me, is that many of the politicians who use the power of the people against the people in this way campaign for office based on their Christian faith. They make strong statements about how pro life they are.

What they really mean is that they are anti-abortion — and once they get elected, not so much even that. You can not be pro life and deliberately do things that cause people to die from cancer. You are not much of a Christian if you sell the power of your elected office to special interests.

There are all sorts of things you can call people who do this, but “follower of Christ” is not one of them.

From the Prophets to Revelations, “unjust judges” or public officials who use “unjust scales” and deny the human rights of the poor are condemned. When Jesus described Judgement Day, He made it clear that we will be judged on how we treat others, specifically, “the least of these.”

Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to me Lord, Lord shall enter the Kingdom of Heaven.” Some of the politicians who flaunt their Christianity to get elected and then work for special interests need to remember that.

The Washington Post op-ed article by Doctors Kantarjian, Zwelling and Fojo says in part:

… The average monthly price of cancer drugs has doubled over the past 10 years, from about $5,000 to more than $10,000. Of the 12 new cancer drugs approved by the Food and Drug Administration last year, 11 were priced above $100,000 annually. Yet only three were found to improve patient survival rates and, of these, two increased survival by less than two months.

All this shows little or no correlation between drug efficacy and “just price.” Medical bills have become the major cause of personal bankruptcy in the United States, which is not surprising, given the amounts that even well- insured patients have to pay for drugs. Those that cost more than $100,000 can command a quarter to a third of some households’ annual income.

… Is it fair that some U.S. drug prices are two to four times the price of the same product in other countries? U.S. drug manufacturers are also allowed to pay the makers of generic drugs to keep their cheaper versions off the market for some months. Known as “pay to delay,” this strategy greatly affects profits: Earlier introduction of generic drugs has reduced health-care spending by more than $1 trillion in the past 10 years, Ralph Neas, president of the Generic Pharmaceutical Association, estimated last fall.

… And how do we reduce the price of cancer drugs? We can start by eliminating self-inflicted wounds: Medicare should be allowed to negotiate prices as the VA system does — and as Medicare was able to do before 2003 — and pay-for-delay strategies should be outlawed. Regulations on cancer research that add to costs without increasing patient safety should be curtailed. Regulators and investigators alike should demand that new drugs offer true clinical improvement over current drugs, measured by such standards as cost-efficacy ratios, prolonging of life in years or quality-adjusted life in years, not just efficacy, safety and other “me-too” criteria. (Read the rest here.) 

Syrian Priest: Clinging to Christ and Serving the People of God

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Aleppo, Syria

“Do you know what I have done to you?” Jesus asked the Disciples after He washed their feet on the night before His crucifixion. With this action and these words He initiated the servant priesthood.

Nowhere is servant priesthood more evident than in places like war-torn Syria. Two Syrian bishops were kidnapped earlier this week while they were on a mission to try to save others. Their fate is still unknown.

I cannot imagine the feelings of a parish priest in a country where the bishops are kidnapped and the flock is either running for its life or facing unimaginable realities. The word “shepherd” takes on a whole new dimension in circumstances like these. When priests stay and do not run in times of peril, when they continue to bring the sacraments and simultaneously work alongside aid workers to provide for the everyday needs of their people, they bring current reality to shine on what happened in that upper room 2,000 years ago.

Zenit recently published an interview with a priest from Aleppo, Syria. Aleppo is the near the place where the two bishops were kidnapped. I think it’s worth reading because it shows us what a true priest does in times of death and terror to both himself and the people God has entrusted to his care.

From Zenit:

On Clinging to Christ and Serving the People of God

Aleppo, (Zenit.orgRobert Cheaib 

A new escalation in the already untenable tension of the Syrian tragedy was reached Monday evening with the kidnapping of two bishops: Mar Gregorios Yohanna Ibrahim, Metropolitan of Aleppo of the Syro-Orthodox, and Mar Boulos el-Yazji, Orthodox Metropolitan of Aleppo.

A new burden of fear and of the unknown was laid on the already afflicted hearts of Syrian Christians.

What will happen after this new crossroads? ZENIT interviewed a priest who perseveres in his land and in his parish in Aleppo. To protect his safety and that of his relatives and of his community, the priest’s interview is published anonymously. He himself said to us: “My name is not important. What is important is that the voice and witness, the suffering and the hope of Christians is proclaimed.”

We wished to hear from him about the echoes of daily life in the shadow of the unknown, in the shadow of what he described as “organized” and systematic “disorder.” What surprised us was to learn that despite the dark and black cloud that hovers over the Syrian situation, there is, nevertheless, a glimmer of hope that does not stem from naïve optimism, but from a look of faith rooted in the words – which have now become experience – of Saint Paul: “Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will affliction, or anguish, or persecution, or hunger, or nakedness, or danger, or the sword? In fact, as he wrote: Because of you we are put to death daily, we are treated as sheep for the slaughter. But in all these things we are more than victorious in virtue of Him who has loved us.”

This cry of hope is not aesthetic lyricism, but a daily reality that is translated into a conscious choice: to stay, not for the land but for the people of God who – as Saint Augustine says – are making their historic pilgrimage “amid the persecutions of the world and the consolations of God.”

ZENIT: The war has imposed an “emergency calendar.” As a priest, what is your daily program?

Father N: In the present situation, pastoral work as we always lived it is suspect. It has become an endeavor of humanitarian aid. The pastoral visits and the various activities have taken on a different style precisely to respond to the present emergency situation. For instance, with the collaboration of the Syrian Committee for Development, we have transformed two schools into a place of reception for Muslim refugees, precisely to show that the Church is at the service of man, of every man, regardless of his ethnic or religious membership.

As regards the works of charity and relief of suffering, we collaborate closely as a parish with the Red Cross and with Caritas.

In any case, we continue to celebrate Mass in areas that are still inhabited, and we notice an increase in the daily frequentation of the faithful. Christians have begun to seek hope more, which comes from Christ risen from the dead!

I must stress also that very many priests are committed in a stable way beside the laity in the service of material support in the parishes and dioceses. (Read the rest here.)

Pope Francis Calls for Release of Kidnapped Orthodox Bishops

Pope Francis called for the release of two Syrian bishops who were kidnapped earlier this week.

Greek Orthodox Bishop Boulos Yaziji and Syriac Orthodox Bishop Yohanna Ibrahim were on a humanitarian mission to negotiate the release of people who had been kidnapped earlier. They were attacked and kidnapped. Their driver was killed.

Reports circulated later that the bishops had been released, but they proved to be untrue. The fate of the archbishops appears to be unknown. 

From Daily News

 

Pope calls for release of Syria bishops

VATICAN CITY 

Bishop Yaziji of the Greek Orthodox Church (L) and Ibrahim of the Syrian Orthodox Church were kidnapped in the northern province of Aleppo. AP photo

 

Bishop Yaziji of the Greek Orthodox Church (L) and Ibrahim of the Syrian Orthodox Church were kidnapped in the northern province of Aleppo. AP photo

Pope Francis called yesterday for the release of two Syrian bishops kidnapped by gunmen near Aleppo after a Christian group appeared to retract its claim that the clerics had been freed.Aleppo’s Greek Orthodox Bishop Boulos Yaziji and Syriac OrthodoxBishop Yohanna Ibrahim were kidnapped on April 22 by armed men en route from the Turkish border. Speaking to an audience of around 100,000 at the Vatican, Francis said there were “contradictory reports” about the fate of the bishops and asked that “they be returned quickly to their communities.” On April 23, the “Oeuvre d’Orient” Christian association announced that the bishops had been released, but it backed away from the claim yesterday. “Yesterday evening we received information from the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate questioning the release of the two bishops,” said Catherine Baumont, a spokeswoman for the group, which works to help Middle Eastern Christians. (Read more here.) 

Pope Francis: The Church is a Love Story

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The Catholic Church is a human institution. Human frailty and sin affect the Church just as they do you and me. 

“Wars of religion” are an example Pope Francis gave of this human frailty in action, a “wrong path … that is not the story of love.”

Despite the human weaknesses of the people who make up the Church, he said the Church itself is “a love story that continues thanks to the power of the Holy Spirit. All of us together are a family in the Church, who is our Mother.”

From CNA:

.- The Church is not merely “a human enterprise,” but rather “a love story,” said Pope Francis, and the faithful must remember that it is only in the path of love that the Church can grow.

The Church began “in the heart of the Father,” said the Pope at an April 24 Mass for Vatican Bank employees in the Chapel of the Casa Santa Marta.

“So this love story began, a story that has gone on for so long, and is not yet ended,” he explained. “We, the women and men of the Church, we are in the middle of a love story: each of us is a link in this chain of love. And if we do not understand this, we have understood nothing of what the Church is.”

Pointing to the growth and persecution of the early Church, Pope Francis stressed that the faithful must not compromise to get “more partners in this enterprise,” Vatican Radio reported.

He cautioned that “the Church does not grow by human strength” but through the path of love. (Read more here.) 

Pope Emeritus Benedict Relieved to Have Weight of the Church Off His Shoulders

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Pope Emeritus Benedict is “relieved” to be free of the “weight” of the Church, his brother says.

Father Georg Ratzinger told the Daily Telegraph that his younger brother is happy in his retirement. The former Pope Benedict spends his days in prayer, reading and playing the piano. 

He still “suffers the Church,” but enjoys not have the full weight of it “on his shoulders,” Fr Ratzinger said. 

Fr Ratzinger traveled from Germany to Italy for the Pope Emeritus’ 86th birthday. 

It is a miracle that these two brothers still have one another at this age and that they are both able to travel and enjoy their lives, including celebrating birthdays.

I wish them peace and happiness in this twilight of their lives. 

From National Post:

ROME — The former Pontiff, Pope Emeritus Benedict, is “relieved” to be free of the responsibility of running the Catholic Church, his elder brother has said, but he insisted that Benedict was not suffering from illness.

Father Georg Ratzinger, himself a priest, told The Daily Telegraph his younger brother was “very happy” to be living at Castel Gandolfo, the papal summer retreat south of Rome that he moved to after stepping down in February, becoming the first pope to resign in 600 years. Fr. Ratzinger, 88, who travelled from Germany to celebrate Benedict’s 86th birthday on April 16, said his brother “still suffers the problems of the Church, but is really relieved to no longer have the weight of the Church on his shoulders”.

… Speaking by telephone from his house in Bavaria, Mr Ratzinger denied the pope emeritus was suffering from major ailments. “He is now very old, he does not have any particular illness, but he is weakening due to his age,” he said.

 Since relinquishing the responsibility of overseeing the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics, Benedict has spent his time praying, reading and playing the piano at Castel Gandolfo, which is situated on the rim of a volcanic lake, surrounded by acres of private gardens and Roman ruins. (Read the rest here.) 

My Husband and I Sleep in a “Master Bedroom.” Does that Make Us Sexists or Racists or Some Kind of ist?

Realtor

This falls into what my grandmother would call the if-that-don’t-beat-hens-apeckin’-on-a-hot-griddle column. 

Evidently, homebuilders are moving away from labeling the main bedroom in a house the “master” bedroom.

Why?

They think it’s sexist. Or maybe it’s heterocentric. Or … maybe they’re nuts.

Personally, I’m leaning toward nuts.

If you want to see some sexism, take a gander at a post I put up this morning called Where are all the good people dead: In the Heart or in the Head? Now that’s sexism. Also misogyny, and hatred of women, and deadly deep sinful hatred of humanity, all rolled into one.

But … “master bedroom??????” I don’t think so.

However, after all that grimness in the earlier post, it is kind of fun to talk about, isn’t it?

From Yahoo Homes:

Has the “master bedroom” ruled the roost for long enough?

Evidently so, according to Washington Business Journal writer Michael Neibauer. His informal survey of 10 major D.C.-area home builders found that six of them are instead using phrases like “owner’s suite” or — and this one just slays me — “mastre bedroom” in their floor plans.

“Why? In large part for exactly the reason you would think: ‘Master’ has connotation problems, in gender (it skews toward male) and race (the slave master),” Neibauer writes.

He found evidence of a trend among listing agents too. The vice president and managing broker of Long & Foster Real Estate Inc., Lorraine Arora, told him that her office is split on the issue. Younger agents “want to be more politically correct,” she said, whereas older agents generally stick with “master.”

I asked the National Association of Realtors about this apparent shift. Spokesperson Sara Wiskerchen told me: “While this hasn’t become a widespread trend, we have heard that some real estate brokerages have shied away from using certain phrases that may carry negative connotations. Realtors are strong advocates for homeowners and strive to be respectful of and sensitive to the needs and concerns of their clients.” (Read more here.)

Cardinal Dolan Receives William Wilberforce Award

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My idea of ecumenicism isn’t that Christians should try to undo the Reformation. My idea is that we should all stand up for Jesus together. 

When someone cuts one of us because we are Christians, as in Syria, Nigeria and in many other places, we all should bleed. When the freedom to follow Christ of any Christian is attacked, we should all stand together with our beleaguered brother or sister. When Christian bashers bash Christ, they are defaming my Lord and Savior and yours. We need to stand against them together.

ArchbishopTimothyDolan

That’s why I find it is important that Cardinal Timothy Dolan will receive the 2013 William Wilberforce Award this weekend. 

The award, which is bestowed by the Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview, has a decidedly evangelical origin. This doesn’t stop the organization from recognizing that Cardinal Dolan’s work for religious liberty is a Christian, rather than a Catholic endeavor. 

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Dr Timothy George, chairman of the Center, said that Cardinal Dolan has “taken a very courageous and bold stand” for conscience and religious liberty in the face of the HHS mandate.

“We’re concerned about the dignity of marriage, the sanctity of every human life, including children waiting to be born, and religious freedom,” he added. “On these particular issues as well a concern for the poor and the marginalized, Cardinal Dolan is a hero to so many of us.” 

These are excellent words. Christians need to lay aside our petty differences and stand together for Jesus. If we do that, we will be unstoppable. 

From CNA:

.- Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York will receive the 2013 William Wilberforce Award this weekend from a group of Christians for his leadership in standing up for religious freedom.

“I resonate with Cardinal Dolan as much as any public religious leader in our country today,” Dr. Timothy George, chairman of the Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview which is bestowing the award, told CNA April 16.

“Cardinal Dolan has just been tremendous, he’s one of the major leaders not just of the Catholic Church in the United States today, but of all Christians, and really all people of goodwill.”

George, who is also a Baptist minister and dean of Beeson Divinity School at Samford University, noted that the prelate has “taken a very courageous and bold stand” for conscience protection and religious liberty in the face of the HHS contraception mandate.

“But that’s only one of a variety of concerns,” he added. “We’re concerned about the dignity of marriage, the sanctity of every human life, including those children waiting to be born, and religious freedom.”

“On these particular issues as well as concern for the poor and the marginalized, Cardinal Dolan is a hero to so many of us.”

The William Wilberforce Award was established in 1988, and honors those who “have done something significant, noteworthy and consequential to show the importance of a positive witness related to the values and character of the Christian faith in our time today,” George said.

Cardinal Dolan is the third Catholic to be given the award, following Father John Neuhaus in 1998 and Bishop Macram Gassis of El Obeid, in Sudan. (Read the rest here.) 

Where are all the good people dead: In the Heart, or In the Head?

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Sheila Pott, mother of Audrie Pott, with photo of Audrie 

Here are the facts.

  • Fifteen year old girl attends a party in one of the elite zip codes in this country.
  • She drinks. Maybe she drinks too much. Maybe her drink was doctored.
  • What is certain is that she was raped by boys she thought were her friends.
  • The boys put graphic photos of the rape on the internet.
  • The girl hanged herself.

I have had to deal twice with situations like this in my job as a representative. One was a girl who killed herself after a gang rape by five men who took photos and showed them around, including to the police. When the police told the girl there were photos, she went home, got in the bathtub and killed herself with a shotgun blast to the face.

The other girl tried to kill herself. After four days in critical care, she survived. 

I’m going to post an excerpt of an article about the little girl who hung herself. I want to talk about the attitudes that show through this article. I have no grievance with the person who wrote it. They’ve just fallen into our societal trap of cleaning up what should be faced and excusing that for which there is no excuse.

The article begins by saying that 15-year-old Audrie got drunk at a party and when she woke up, concluded that she had been “sexually abused.” Let’s get our terminology straight. She concluded, probably due to some grisly physical evidence, that she’d been raped. 

Remember that word: Rape. It’s ugly and people don’t like it. But the word isn’t the real ugliness. The ugliness is living in a society where 15-year-old girls can be treated like this and then suffer the further indignity of having reporters try to clean the horror up for the perps with the use of “soft” expressions like “sexual abuse” to describe what happened. 

These upstanding young men posted “graphic” photos of their rape of their friend on Facebook. After Audrie saw the photos on the internet, and endured the mockery of emails and texts circulating about what had been done to her, eight days after she was raped, she hung herself.

According to our reporter, “the case underscored the seeming callousness with which some young people use technology.”

Is that what’s this “case” is about? “Sexual abuse” and “callous” use of technology? 

If we accept this kind of bland obfuscation of the brutal rape and murder by suicide of this young girl as a problem with technology and “cyber-bullying,” we need to burn our Member of the Human Race Card and go sit in the corner with the trolls and monsters of our deepest darkness.

To paraphrase a line from the movie Grosse Point Blank, where are all the good people dead:  In the heart, or in the head? 

Let’s get one thing clear: I don’t talk about misunderstood mass murderers and rapists who are otherwise such good people on this blog. You won’t see sweet-face lists of these young men’s accomplishments and wonderment about “how could such fine boys do this?” You’ll not read a word of sympathy and grief if they get sent to the prison where they belong, no matter how much they cry for themselves when they are sentenced. 

They were without pity for Audrie. I don’t care if they bawl their eyes out for themselves. I hope they spend the rest of their lives in jail. I don’t think they should ever breathe another free breath again. 

If you do something like this, then I put you in the monster column. The only way to get off that column is to manifest extreme remorse and humble grief for what you have done, coupled with a willingness to admit that you have in fact done it and that you are willing to do anything it takes to make up for it and to change. Even then, I want the proof of a changed life, and I mean a really changed life. 

Nice people do not rape their friends. They do not — ever — treat other people like things. They do not take photos of their raping and then post them on the internet, along with sending emails and texts to taunt, degrade and destroy their “friend” socially. What these men did to this girl, the rape, was physical torture. What they did later was emotional torture. What this young girl faced was social death.

People who treat other people like this are monsters. They will remain monsters so long as they continue to excuse, defend and deny the utter depravity and sub-human cruelty of what they have allowed themselves to become.  

From The Washington Post: 

SARATOGA, Calif. — Fifteen-year-old Audrie Pott passed out drunk at a friend’s house, woke up and concluded she had been sexually abused.

In the days that followed, she was shocked to see an explicit photo of herself circulating among her classmates along with emails and text messages about the episode. And she was horrified to discover that her attackers were three of her friends, her family’s lawyer says.

Eight days after the party, she hanged herself.

“She pieced together with emails and texts who had done this to her. They were her friends. Her friends!” said family attorney Robert Allard. “That was the worst”

On Thursday, sheriff’s officials arrested three 16-year-old boys on suspicion of sexual battery against Audrie, who committed suicide in September.

The arrests and the details that came spilling out shocked many in this prosperous Silicon Valley suburb of 30,000. And together with two other episodes recently in the news — a suicide in Canada and a rape in Steubenville, Ohio — the case underscored the seeming callousness with which some young people use technology.

“The problem with digital technologies is they can expand the harm that people suffer greatly,” said Nancy Willard, an Oregon-based cyberbullying expert and creator of a prevention program for schools.

Santa Clara County sheriff’s officials would not give any details on the circumstances around Audrie’s suicide. But Allard said Audrie had been drinking at a sleepover at a friend’s house, passed out and “woke up to the worst nightmare imaginable.” She knew she had been assaulted, he said.

She soon found an abundance of material online about that night, including a picture. (Read the rest here.) 

 

Update: French Protests Against Gay Marriage Vote Turn Violent

Protesters against the French government’s action legalizing gay marriage grew in numbers after the vote Tuesday, then turned more violent toward midnight.

According to an Associated Press story, protestors threw bottles, cans and metal bars at police who lobbed tear gas back. 

Much of the press I’ve read has treated the action of the French government as heroic. One headline talked about how the French government had “stared down the conservatives” to pass the law. An issue that sets off marches of as much as a million and a half citizens is deeply controversial, at best. What the French government “stared down” was its own citizens.

I have no idea how things will proceed now that the measure, which takes effect in June, has passed.

From the Associated Press:

 

French Protest Against Gay Marriage Turns Violent

April 23, 2013 6:47 PM

PARIS (AP) — France legalized gay marriage on Tuesday after a wrenching national debate that exposed deep conservatism in the nation’s heartland and triggered huge demonstrations that tapped into intense discontent with the Socialist government. Within hours, fiery clashes broke out between protesters and riot police.

Legions of officers stayed late into the night, and a protest against the measure turned violent near the Invalides complex of museums and monuments. Protesters threw glass bottles, cans and metal bars at police, who responded with tear gas. (Read more here.)

Or … Maybe Kidnapped Bishops HAVEN’T Been Released

I am not sure what the situation is concerning the two Orthodox Archbishops who were kidnapped yesterday. News reports from reputable sources said they had been released.

Now, a new report from Pravmir.com, Orthodox Chrisitianity and the World says they are still captive. Please pray for these brave men of God.

Here, without editing, is the Pravmir.com report:

Release Reports False

April 23, 2013

youhanna_yaziji.large_thumbnail-double_sidebarThere have appeared many reports in both the Eastern and Western press that the two hierarchs who were abducted yesterday by terrorists in Syria, Metropolitan Boulos Yazge, Antiochian Orthodox Archbishop of Aleppo, and Archbishop Youhanna Ibrahim, Syriac Archbishop of Aleppo, have been released. His Eminence Metropolitan Philip spoke by phone this morning to His Beatitude John X, Patriarch of Antioch and all the East (pictured), who said that these reports are false, and that the release of these two hierarchs has NOT taken place.

We ask you to continue to pray for their safety, and eventual release.

Confirmed updates will be published as soon as they are known.

Kidnapped Bishops Have Been Released

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Archbishops Yohanna Ibrahim and Paul Yagizi have been released and returned to the city of Aleppo, Syria. 

They were kidnapped while traveling between the Turkish border and Aleppo yesterday. They were on a humanitarian mission to ask for the release of previous kidnap victims. Their driver was killed.

Archbishop Ibrahim is head of the Syriac Orthodox Church in Aleppo. Archbishop Yaziji leads Aleppo’s Greek Orthodox Church. 

From BBC News:

Two bishops who were abducted by gunmen in a rebel-held area of northern Syria have been released, a church official has said.

The pair have returned to the city of Aleppo, Greek Orthodox Bishop Tony Yazigi told Reuters.

The senior clerics, Yohanna Ibrahim and Boulos Yaziji, were seized on Monday as they were travelling from the Turkish border back to the city of Aleppo.

It was not immediately clear who had kidnapped them.

Bishop Ibrahim is the head of the Syriac Orthodox Church in Aleppo, while Bishop Yaziji leads the city’s Greek Orthodox Church.

They are the most senior Christian clerics caught up directly in the war.

Abductions on the rise

Kidnappings have increased dramatically in Syria in the past year but the abduction of such high-ranking Christian figures is unusual, the BBC’s James Reynolds reports from the city of Istanbul, in neighbouring Turkey.

BBC map

Christians made up about 10% of the mainly Sunni Muslim country’s population before the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad began just over two years ago. (Read more here.)

A Government at War with its People: France Legalizes Gay Marriage

Ay 101377277 France legalized gay marriage today. According to a Reuters news report “legions of officers and water cannon stood ready ahead of the final vote,” bracing for pubic reaction. 

The vote came after the Claude Bartelone, President of the French National Assembly ordered the expulsion of a protester. In one of the most ridiculous statements I’ve read in a while, he said, “Only those who love democracy are welcome here.”

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This is not the way to pass legislation of this magnitude. It is also not the way to work for social change. Several states in America have passed gay marriage referendums by popular vote. This has been accepted by everyone, including those who opposed the referendums. States in which the courts or the legislature have tried to impose gay marriage have met resistance. Most of the time, these efforts have been overturned by popular votes.

Gay people certainly do have the right to petition their government for change. However, governments which impose draconian changes in social practice on an unwilling population are not representing their people.

When a government has to call in the police and set up high-pressure water hoses to protect itself from its own people before a vote, it maybe needs to consider that the vote itself is unwise.

Children hold french flags

The French politicians who have voted for this measure were elected to their positions, but they are not behaving like representatives of the people. They also, in my opinion, are creating unrest and discord in their country which can only harm it.

American government has made similar mistakes. The Brady Bill of the early 1990s was a mistake because the American people did not want it. I’m not talking about the merits of the bill. I am talking about the merits of government of, by and for the people.

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Roe v Wade was a judicial fiat which stopped the on-going public debate on abortion by imposing a “decision” on the people that they were not ready for. The resulting culture wars have fractured this country and done enormous harm to it. None of this would have happened if the Court had simply let the democratic process in the states work this issue through.

With very rare exceptions (I can think of only one in the history of this country) the people, if they are allowed to do so, can and will work these things out in a manner that allows everyone to live together in harmony. However, when governments begin to impose unwanted solutions to debates that reach into the intimate lives of their citizens in the manner that the French government did today, they harm the country they claim to love. They also step over the boundaries of their moral authority as representatives of the people.

From Reuters:

PARIS (AP) — France legalized gay marriage on Tuesday after a wrenching national debate and protests that flooded the streets of Paris. Legions of officers and water cannon stood ready near France’s National Assembly ahead of the final vote, bracing for possible violence on an issue that galvanized the country’s faltering conservative movement.

The measure passed easily in the Socialist-majority Assembly, 331-225, just minutes after the president of the legislative body expelled a disruptive protester in pink, the color adopted by French opponents of gay marriage.

“Only those who love democracy are here,” Claude Bartelone, the Assembly president, said angrily.

 

Orthodox Bishops Kidnapped in Syria

Kidnapped Archbishop Gregorios Yohanna Ibrahim

Archbishop Yohanna Ibrahim of the Syrian Orthodox Church and Archbishop Paul Yagizi of the Greek Orthodox Church were kidnapped April 22 near Aleppo, Syria. Their driver was killed.

Kidnapped Archbishop Paul Yagizi

The archbishops were on a humanitarian mission to try to secure the release of hostages who had been kidnapped previously.

A Vatican spokesman said that Pope Francis is following this situation closely and with “intense prayer.” The Vatican Press Director, Fr Federico Lombardi, said:

The assault on the archbishops “and the killing of their driver, while carrying out a humanitarian mission, is a dramatic confirmation of the tragic situation faced by the people of Syria and its Christian communities.”

Pope Francis, he said, is praying that, “with the commitment of all, the Syrian people will finally discover effective answers to the humanitarian tragedy and see on the horizon real hopes for peace and reconciliation.”

On April 17, Greek Melkite Catholic Patriarch Gregory III Laham said that 2 million Syrians have been forced to leave their homes and over 1,000 Christians have been killed and 20 churches destroyed in Syria’s conflict. 

Christians make up between 5 and 10 percent of Syria’s population.

As often happens in these situations, there is confusion about who is responsible for the kidnapping. According to an article in the Gaurdian:

The Syrian opposition coalition has accused the Assad regime of being behind the abduction of Bishops Yazigi and Ibrahim.

In a statement it said all kidnappings, particularly those against the clergy, were a blow to its attempts to build a new Syrian society based on freedom from tyranny.

It said there were indications that government was to blame for abductions after Bishop Ibrahim’s interview with the BBC when he stated that the fate of Christians in Syria was not linked to the survival of the Assad regime.

“Initial investigations conducted by the Syrian Coalition regarding the kidnapping and killing of Father Ibrahim’s bodyguard implicate the Assad regime in this crime. The Assad regime was angered by Father Ibrahim’s latest statement, in which he stated that the survival of Christians in Syria is not linked to the survival of the regime. The Free Syrian Army categorically denies any responsibility for this kidnapping.”

The statement urged Syrians to work with the Free Syrian Army to try to secure their release.

Deacon Greg Kandra has more details here

Nearly 15,000 French Mayors Say They Will Refuse to Marry Gay Couples

What they are hiding from: 1.4 million French march in protest of gay marriage legislation.

It seems to me that there is a wee bit of resistance to French President Francois Hollande’s plans to legalize gay marriage.

First, the government re-scheduled the gay marriage vote to a different day. They were trying to avoid their own citizens’ protests against the vote. It seems that the previous marches with over a million participants got on their nerves.

I’ve seen videos and photos of the earlier marches. The marchers were moms and dads with their children, little old ladies and gray-haired priests. Their sheer numbers were impressive. But it’s even more impressive that they looked like the kind of people who form the backbone of a country. If the government is afraid of them, then it is afraid of its own middle class.

French Wedding Town Hall 02

Civil wedding. France. 

 

Ditto, or maybe double ditto, for the mayors. The Association of Mayors for Children has announced that, if this law passes, its 14,900 members will refuse to perform gay marriages.

I don’t want to rush to judgement here, but it’s beginning to look like the French government is running over its people with this vote. Let’s look at the situation. We have a national government that is moving votes around because it is so overwhelmed by citizen marchers against an issue. We also have a large number of local officials — people who are part of the government — flat-out saying that they will not abide by the law if it passes. Is the French government strong-arming its people with this law? It sounds that way.

I think that duly elected officials who have even half a brain would take note of this much resistance from the electorate. But then I’m assuming that these duly elected officials have half a brain. Maybe they don’t. Maybe they checked their brains to their party when they ran for office and don’t remember where they left them. I can’t think of any other reason for forcing a law this divisive on an aroused citizenry.

I am well aware that the com boxes on this blog are going to fill up with comments trying to equate gay marriage to human slavery and miscegenation, but those analogies don’t hold up. I realize why they do this. It’s because there really isn’t some innate right to gay marriage. They’re forced to link their cause to some other cause to give it legitimacy. It doesn’t stand on its own.

The reason there isn’t an innate right to gay marriage is because the concept itself is something of an oxymoron. Gay people have sex with one another and fall in love with one another. But theirs is a sterile union. For that simple reason, it serves no larger purpose to the overall society to call their pairing “marriage.”

Marriage between a man and a woman, by its very nature, produces other human beings. Marriage is the institution by which we nurture and raise our young to become stable and productive citizens who can nurture and raise the next generation after them. 

Divorce

The pitiful mess that heterosexuals have made of marriage these past few decades doesn’t negate that. It underscores it. Look at the messed up kids our messed up marriages are producing. We have degraded family and home life to the point that we have raised a generation of young people who appear to be unable to bond to form marriages and raise children of their own. They have never known a stable home and because of that, they can not create one for themselves.

This doesn’t mean that marriage is unimportant. It shows how drastically important it is. Nothing can replace it.

Degrading marriage further will only shove us further along in our cycle of social and cultural self-destruction.

The French people seem to understand this a lot better than the rest of the Western world. They understand that children matter. 

They are trying their best to tell this to their government. Meanwhile, the government appears to have put stoppers in its ears so that it won’t have to listen. I would not be surprised if the French find themselves subjected to another lecture like that the New Zealand statesman du jour delivered to his constituents, explaining to them what an ignorant and bigoted bunch of backward hayseeds they are for thinking for themselves instead of seeing things the way their government wants them to.

It’s a mistake when elected officials start to assume that people stupid enough to elect them must be complete idiots. There is every possibility that they will discover that their election was just a momentary lapse in judgement.

From CNA:

.- A group of at least 14,900 French mayors has said it will not perform “gay marriages,” even if the government moves ahead with plans to legalize the practice.

The administration of French President Francois Hollande has put forth a measure that would legalize “gay marriage,” allow gay couples to receive medical treatment for artificial procreation and to adopt children.

“It is foolish to think that the mobilization of the elected mayors would stop if the law is passed,” said Franck Meyer, spokesman for the association Mayors for Children.

“As citizens, we elected officials will not give up,” he emphasized in statements to the media.

Meyer, who is mayor of Sotteville-sous-le-Val in northern France, observed that some of the mayors in the group have said they “would resign if the law is adopted,” while others “have said they will refuse” to perform marriage ceremonies for same-sex couples.

On April 12, the French Senate passed the measure sponsored by President Hollande, but it has yet to go before the French National Assembly. (Read the rest here.)

Will Pope Francis Put More Women in Key Vatican Roles?

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Pope John Paul II blesses Mother Tekla, head of the Brigittines. Image from the Vatican website

According to a NewsMax article, Pope Francis is being advised to move women into senior positions in the Vatican. This is part of his effort to reform the Roman Curia, and is seen by Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi as “a natural step.”

Will Pope Francis follow through with these ideas and put more women in key Vatican roles?

I hope so.

I say that as both a woman and a Catholic. The Church is Universal, which means that it exists to bring Christ to all the world. Every human being, of every race or language, belongs in the Universal Church which is the Body of Christ in the world. That includes the female half of the human race.

More to the point, an institution which only uses the male viewpoint to inform its deliberations is an example of humanity, thinking with half its brain. The Church teaches that men and women have unique gifts. God did not make us duplicates. He made us complimentary. Men and women are incomplete without one another.

We need both men and women to participate in His Church because that is the only way to access the fullness of human wisdom. Men cannot replace either the viewpoint or the wisdom of women.

Neither sex is complete in itself. We were not created to be complete in ourselves like, say, a bacterium. Men and women, working together for the common good, is what creates civilization. Either one of them working alone creates chaos.

Boston zps9e25ecf5

It is the same with Christian witness. Women, no less than men, are children of God. They are imbued by their Creator with unique talents and viewpoints. When I watched videos of the aftermath of the tragedy in Boston last week, I was struck, as I always am in these times, by the sheer physical courage of men. If you look at the earliest videos, you see mostly men lifting those barricades and barreling in to clear the way. In Aurora last summer, it was men who gave their lives by using their own bodies to shield their wives and girlfriends from the bullets.

Motherteresa

On the other hand, I am constantly reminded on my job of the moral courage of women. It is so much easier to use social bullying and go-along-to-get-along arguments on men than it is women. Physical courage comes naturally to men. They don’t have to think about it; they just react. In the same way, moral courage comes naturally to women.

We need each other to survive. The Vatican, no less than the rest of the world, needs women and women’s unique gifts. 

I am not writing this to take anything away from men. We are both exactly who God made us to be. Men and women each make necessary contributions to the whole that is humankind.

But I am very glad to know that there is a possibility that devout Catholic women will have the chance to bring their feminine viewpoint to the higher levels in our Church. We are facing interesting times. We need to think with both halves of our brains.

From Newsmax:

Pope Francis is being advised to appoint more women to senior positions as part of his efforts to reform the Roman Curia — a move the Vatican describes as a “natural step.”

Cardinal Oscar Andres Rodriguez Maradiaga of Honduras, who Pope Francis recently chose to coordinate a privy council of eight cardinals advising him on governance and reform, told Britain’s Sunday Times he was backing more posts for women.

Responding to the cardinal’s comments, Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said it was “a natural step – there is a move towards putting more women in key roles where they are qualified.”

Benedict XVI had already begun efforts to appoint more women to senior positions at the Vatican, most notably at the semi-official Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano.  Women also hold some key roles at the Vatican, although the number is small and they are not the most senior positions. Sister Nicla Spezzati is undersecretary of the Congregation dealing with nuns and religious, and laywoman Flaminia Giovanelli, is undersecretary at the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. St Peter’s basilica is administered by Maria Cristina Carlo-Stella.

Italian journalist and historian Lucetta Scaraffia is one of L’Osservatore Romano’s regular writers who also helped found the supplement. She suggested last year that if more women were in positions of authority in the Church, the cover-ups of the clerical pedophilia scandal would not have happened.

A proponent of more women leaders in the Vatican, she believes that one day a woman will head a Vatican department. Traditionally such roles have been held by bishops and cardinals, but as the work is administrative and not sacramental, there is nothing in canon law to prevent a woman from occupying such a position. (Read the rest here.) 

Read Latest Breaking News from Newsmax.com http://www.newsmax.com/Newsfront/pope-vatican-women-greater/2013/04/22/id/500749#ixzz2RDUlfMqS
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Gay Marriage and Politicians Going In Your Face With the People Who Elected Them

What they are hiding from: 1.4 million French march in protest of gay marriage legislation. Photo from LifeSiteNews

When a government starts changing the date for votes to avoid its own people, something is wrong.

This is evidently what is happening in France concerning the move to legalize gay marriage. According to a Reuters news report, the French government moved the date for a vote on legislation to legalize gay marriage to avoid a big rally set by opponents for later this month.

The French people responded with a hastily-put-together rally to which “only” 50,000 people were able to come.

When a government starts re-scheduling votes on major legislation for the purpose of avoiding its own people, it clearly is time for that government to take a good, long, look at itself. There is a tendency for governments to take an in-your-face attitude toward their own citizens whenever and wherever they legalize gay marriage.

In the debate over legalizing gay marriage in New Zealand, an MP made an extremely witty and intelligent speech which, despite the good fun of it, did essentially that. This MP has become an international sensation and the toast of the media. I’ve read that he’s even going to have a guest spot on Ellen.

 

While I enjoyed his speech, I also saw through it to the core reason behind it: He was going in-your-face with his constituents, and exhorting his colleagues to do the same. I’ve sat in on a number of witty and intelligent speeches urging legislators to ignore their constituents. I remember quite clearly watching and listening while Democratic House Speakers in the Oklahoma Legislature urged the passage of large tax increases which the public had made abundantly clear they did not want.

These tax increases were passed largely for one special interest.

The short-term result was that the tax increases went through, a number of Democratic legislators lost their house seats to Republicans, but the Democrats maintained their huge dominance in state government. The long-term result was that Oklahoma is now the reddest of red states in the Union.

Aside from the simple shift in party politics, this has meant replacing one set of special interests for another in our government. The process of going in-your-face with the electorate on behalf of these special interests has already begun again, just from a different direction.

When a government starts dipping and dodging, running and hiding to avoid contact with the people it governs, there is something seriously wrong with its governance. When legislators take to the floor to lecture the electorate on their ignorance for opposing what that legislator is doing, there is something out of whack with that action.

It is so easy for government by consent of the governed to turn into an elected dictatorship. There’s no great trick to standing up and giving a four-minute speech aligning yourself with an issue that is being hard-sold by the media against your constituents. It gives you the chance to be, as this mp has become, the statesman du jour. Often the celebrity will carry you over any anger your constituents might feel.

I don’t know about this particular MP, but it’s entirely possible that he isn’t going so much in-your-face with his constituents as he is those of his colleagues. He may represent an area that either supports what he is doing, or that is willing to re-elect him despite it. If that is true, what he is doing here is lecturing his colleagues’ constituents and convincing these same dim-witted colleagues to go against their own people.

I see a lot of that, too. Extreme liberals push more moderate Democrats into suicidal votes. Extreme conservatives push more moderate Republicans into the same sort of thing. The interesting thing is that the extremists get re-elected because of the districts they represent, while the ones they push into these votes get defeated.

I don’t know that this will happen in New Zealand. But I do know I’ve seen it happen over and over again here in America.

As for France, when you have a national government re-scheduling a vote to avoid contact with the people it governs, something is really wrong with that government. If you’re an elected official, and you are doing something that the people you govern find so egregious that you have to hide from them to do it, you’re not doing your job right.

I’m going to put an excerpt from the Reuters article below and a link to the New Zealand mp’s speech below that. Notice that, despite the sarcasm and humor of this mp’s speech, he really doesn’t say anything of substance.

From Reuters:

PARIS (Reuters) – Thousands of gay marriage opponents wavingpink and blue flags marched through Paris on Sunday in a last-ditch protest before a law allowing same-sex union and adoption is passed next week.

Chanting “We don’t want your law, Hollande!”, some 50,000 protesters massed behind a banner reading: “All born of a Mum and a Dad” and said it was undemocratic to bring about such a fundamental social change without holding a referendum.

Hastily organized after the law’s passage was sped up to circumvent a big rally set for late April, Sunday’s march capped months of protests by a dogged opposition movement that has sullied President Francois Hollande‘s flagship social reform.

“We warned the president back in November that we would not give up and that we would do everything to stop this law being passed, or to get it repealed if it is adopted,” one of the protest organizers,Alberic Dumon, told Reuters. (Read the rest here.)

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What Is God’s Purpose for My Life?

I know people who search for “God’s plan” for their lives all the time. They spend days in prayer, “seeking the Lord” over what they should do next.

I am not criticizing that or even commenting on it except to say that I know there are people who approach things this way. My way of walking with God is much more passive. My experience has been that if God wants me to do something, He’ll tell me. In fact, if God wants me to do something, He’ll pursue me. I won’t be able to get out of it.

I’m not someone who has ever hungered to do great missions for the Lord. I am so grateful that He forgave me and lets me be part of Him. That is enough for me. All I want is just to live my life in His grace, and when I die to get my toe onto the lowest rung of Purgatory. I trust Him completely with my life. I’ve been in the palm of His hand since the moment I was conceived, and I will be in those same hands through the passage of death and onwards through eternity.

However, as I said, there are those who “seek the Lord” asking for a ministry or cause. This video is for them. It’s also for all of us in that it gives some good common sense Christian guidelines for discerning how to live, whatever you do.

For instance, if you feel that the Holy Spirit is leading you in directions that oppose 2,000 years of Church teaching, then you need to do some more honest praying. It’s time for you to listen to God instead of telling Him.

The only vocation I ever prayed for was the vocation of motherhood. God gave that to me, but after a time of trial and sorrow. Then he has added other, complimentary vocations on top of it. He took me out of the world and let me spend wonderful years as a full-time wife and mother. Then, He put me back in the world where I “mothered” a broader swath of people … my constituents.

Now, he’s leading me beyond that.

God does not waste anything about us, including our deepest sins. He doesn’t obliterate our sinful acts or undo them. He transforms our weakness and our sinfulness into an instrument of His purpose.

But before He will do this, He first puts us through a deep-cleaning, a personal Gethsemane. I suffered deeply in this period when I faced the full horror of my sins. God gave me the gift of letting me see who I really was and what I had done. He removed the self-protective illusions of being a good person that I had sheltered behind and let me see the depth of my own depravity.

I think sometimes that the people who are praying for God to use them do not know that before He can use you, He has to first break you of your self-sufficiency. They think they’re good to go just as they are.

Active vocation is not a higher blessing that simply being still in the Lord. The most generous gift the Lord ever gave me was those years at home, removed from the spotlight, with my husband and babies.

Never forget that our first vocation is just to let Him love us.

Enjoy the video.

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