Convos with My 3-Year-Old: Ferngully and Gas Prices


Convos with My 3-Year-Old. My fav YouTube.


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Obamacare and Losing Your Insurance: President Says ‘This is on Me’


President Obama gave an explanation of how he turned out to be so wrong when he told Americans that under Obamacare, they could keep their health care plans if they liked them.

He says there was a “grandfather clause” in the bill that he thought would take care of this, but it didn’t work and that he is planning to “fix it.”

The video below is a clip from his explanation of this.

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China Changes One-Child Policy. It’s Two Children Now.


It’s a step in the right direction.

China has announced that it will “ease” its draconian one-child policy. Now, the good government will allow families to have two children.

I am glad they are doing this, but governments do not have any business telling families how many children they can have. Period.

If China — or India, for that matter — wanted to “ease” the pressures that lead to aborting, abandoning and murdering baby girls, they might consider measures to change the age-old practices that created this violent discrimination. I am not talking about coercion. Rather, by addressing issues of parity in inheritance, income and opportunity, much of the “reason” for murdering baby girls would go away.

The article below seems to say that ending the brutal murders of baby girls has nothing to do with this policy change, so don’t hold your breath for these kinds of changes. What the article implies is that China is “easing” their policy (but not relaxing their control over people’s private lives) for economic reasons. It seems the economy flourishes with a growing population to buy goods and services.

In the meantime, I am wondering if this new policy means that now the Chinese government will knock down people’s houses and grab pregnant women off the streets to force abort them after the second baby instead of the first.

From Reuters:

(Reuters) - China will ease family planning restrictions nationwide, the government said on Friday, allowing millions of families to have two children in the country’s most significant liberalization of its strict one-child policy in about three decades.

Couples in which one parent is an only child will now be able to have a second child, one of the highlights of a sweeping raft of reforms announced three days after the ruling Communist Party ended a meeting that mapped out policy for the next decade.

The plan to ease the policy was envisioned by the government about five years ago as officials worried that the strict controls were undermining economic growth and contributing to a rapidly ageing population the country had no hope of supporting financially.

A growing number of scholars had long urged the government to reform the policy, introduced in the late 1970s to prevent population growth spiraling out of control, but now regarded by many experts as outdated and harmful to the economy.

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Book Review: Doubt is Just Another Way to Say You’re Thinking it Through

To join in the conversation about Living by Faith, Dwelling in Doubt, or to order a copy, go here.

Christians often behave as if they’re afraid of their own questions.

Perhaps this comes from preachers to don’t want to face the same questions in themselves and who attempt to answer the anguished “Why?” of a suffering parishioner with platitudes or, occasionally, accusations of a lack of faith.

But the truth is, there is a reasonable basis for these questions.

“Life,” as President John Kennedy famously said, “isn’t fair.”

Sometimes the rich get rich, the good die young and bad things happen to good people.

That alone is enough to drive any sensitive person to take a good long look at claims that God is all-powerful, all-merciful, all-loving, all-knowing and all-just.

If that is true, why aren’t the baby rapers of this world piles of ash? Why didn’t Hitler die along with so many others in World War I? How is that the heads of big banks can bring down whole economies and get paid off with our treasure to refrain from finishing the destruction they created?

I could go on.

And on.

But the point is made.

This God of ours, with His long list of “alls” can seem a poor fit for the reality of what is often cruel and difficult human existence.

Sensitive, thoughtful, nerdy people, as Kyle Cupp, the author of Living by Faith, Dwelling in Doubt describes himself, are bound see the conundrum and ask themselves their own little whys. These questions are not the Why of a mother whose son was murdered in front of her house, or a girl who was raped and beaten and left for dead. They are the confused questions of a bystander who sees this and cannot balance the two columns, one a column listing God’s attributes, the other a column listing the many instances of “where was God?” that they see around them.

People who are caught in the snares of life’s anguish don’t ask these questions, or if they do, they don’t ask them in the same way. The irony of dwelling in doubt is that the doubts tend to vanish when you are confronted by the hardest realities. There is no choice then but to live by faith or to die psychologically. More to the point, these deepest pits of human suffering are when the Holy Spirit meets us most reliably and in ways that undeniable.

Backward as it seems, intense suffering, which sparks doubts in those who witness it, often increases faith in those who endure it.

Mr Cupp has had his own life’s hardships. He’s dealt with them by living in faith, all the while shadowed by nagging doubt. But difficult as the things he’s borne, they do not reach the level of all-eclipsing cataclysm such as sometimes happen to people.

There are things that are not survivable without God. It is possible for some people to survive them physically, but without God they will never be intact again.

Perhaps the one such encounter that everyone must face is their own death. Without God, death means annihilation. People can pretty that up or, more often, just dismiss it from their thoughts when death appears far off on a horizon they don’t expect to ever reach. Most people who talk blithely about dying without God do not, in their hearts, really believe in their own mortality.

But actually facing death your own death for real is quite another matter. The blithe burbling dries up and your tongue sticks to the roof of your mouth.

It is the time when people make the final choice as to whom they belong, the point at which that choice becomes eternal.

Everything — every grief and small annihilation we face in our lives up to that point — is a practice session in making the eternal choice. Doubt is not a sin. It is not a lack of faith. It is simply thinking it through.

What matters is not so much the question, for in essence all these questions are only one, what matters is our answer. Dwelling in Doubt is simply the question in whatever form your life experiences direct it to.

And that question, directed to Our God Who made us, is, “can I trust You to be Who they tell me You are?”

The answer is either living by faith or going the opposite direction and turning your back on the only hope you have.

Kyle Cupp writes an honest book with Living by Faith, Dwelling in Doubt. He lays bare many of his own sorrows and weaknesses. By his own confession, he is a nerdy, introverted man. But his prose reveals a strikingly honest person who is not afraid to admit that there are days in which the faith he lives by dwells in doubt.

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Christian Persecution and Conversion in Nigeria

Nigerian Christians have suffered a decade of murderous attacks from militant islamists, in particular the killer cult of Boko Haram.

At the same time, Christianity has been growing. The Pentecostal movement is flourishing in Nigeria with all night prayer services drawing thousands of worshipers.

The old saying is, “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.”

Present-day martyrs for Christ are no exception to that.

From PRI The World:

Under an open-air pavilion built to seat a million people, children sleep on mats spread out on the cobblestones while their parents enter their 6th consecutive hour of worship.

All-night prayer vigils are at the core of the country’s booming Pentecostal movement. Some churches draw worshippers in the hundreds of thousands.

At one church, the Redeemed Christian Church of God, Friday night vigils take place in what locals call an “auditorium.” It’s a covered pavilion the size of 87 football fields, and it’s not quite big enough. The church has already cleared ground for a bigger one.

In fact, it’s something of a pattern: the church’s old pavilion was demolished a few years back, and now vendors have set up shop on the old foundation.

Once the service starts, all these people selling, they’ll close their shops and go inside the auditorium to listen to the word of God,” says Wale Akande, a volunteer who stands by the auditorium, welcoming visitors to the Holy Ghost Service in a fluorescent green vest.

The pavilion here was built in 2000 to seat a million people. It’s basically a corrugated rooftop. The ground below is paved with cobblestones and lined with thousands of crude wooden benches and plastic chairs. Akande says attendance is down tonight because of rain; the pavilion is only a third full.


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Is It Possible to Have Individual Freedom of Conscience and Gay Marriage?


The debate is boiling down to a wall-punching, head-butting disaster.

On the one side, there are gay marriage advocates who decry religious freedom and personal conscience exemptions to participation in gay marriage except for the most isolated cases, and even that quickly comes into question as discussions proceed.

On the other side, are gay marriage opponents who decry the loss of personal freedom of expression and religious liberty. They quickly move to a position of banning gay marriage to preserve their freedoms.

Those who advocate each position have worked themselves into such a froth that they are incapable of civil discussion, much less actual compromise. I have been a victim of this myself. I lost a friend who I thought of as my brother, a friendship spanning decades of our lives and which had given both of us a great deal of love, loyalty, fun and support. He ended this friendship with the finality of an amputation because I could not support gay marriage.

That is the level of acrimony and nastiness this issue raises.

But in truth, the argument itself is based on considerations which have ample precedence in American life and jurisprudence to allow any and all of us to live together in harmony. America has a historic tradition of honoring freedom of conscience as it pertains to religious faith. The most poignant example of this is the exemptions we allow for those whose religious faith demands that they not participate in combat.

We even extend this to people who are not members of a faith which demands it.

I know because a friend of mine obtained conscientious objector status after he was in the military during the Viet Nam war. He made this request based on his personal conviction that killing anyone was murder. It was not based on his faith, since he was a member of a church that did not teach this.

The United States Army granted him conscientious objector status. I have also known Mennonite men who were granted conscientious objector status because of their faith.

So why can’t we work out something for gay marriage? I am not talking about exemptions for established churches, even though that is absolutely necessary if America is going to be America. I am talking about preserving the conscience rights and right to religious freedom of all American citizens.

Gay marriage zealots can be single-minded, intolerant and destructive in how they approach their cause. They resort far too often to labeling everyone who disagrees with them as bigots or some such and then excoriating and slandering these people and institutions in a concerted way that can only be described as character assassination.

My own friend, who I would have trusted with my life, has gone on the internet and written things about me to hurt me. None of these things he’s said advance the cause of gay marriage. They are simple expressions of hatred because we disagree over this issue.

I’m not sure what causes this level of ugliness. People who fought the great Civil Rights battles of the mid twentieth century did not engage in it, and the level of oppression and suffering they were battling makes any complaints that homosexuals have pale by comparison.

Perhaps the difference is that Martin Luther King Jr led from a Gospel standpoint. He based his cause in the inalienable human rights found in the Gospels of Jesus Christ. People sang hymns, prayed and talked about how they were saving the soul of America before they left to face the firehoses that were turned on them in Civil Rights marchers.

Their bravery and their powerful witness to their own humanity not only won the day, it did indeed, ennoble the soul of this nation.

No cause can do that if it stoops to the level that some of the gay rights advocates have chosen in their work for gay marriage. There is no nobility in slander, name-calling and bald-faced bullying. There is certainly nothing of a higher calling in attempts to advance your desires by attacking and limiting the basic human rights of other people.

That, at root, is what freedom religion and freedom of personal conscience are: Basic human rights. The freedom to believe in God and to follow your own faith is second only to the basic right to life and freedom from violence in the hierarchy of human rights. It is what separates us from the animals.

Alone of all the creatures on this planet, we know that we are going to die. Also alone of all the creatures on this planet, we know that there is right and wrong and dignity to every human soul.

Can there be human rights for gay people and freedom of religion for everyone?


Is gay marriage a human right for gay people? I don’t think so.

To be honest, I think that gay marriage, if it is regarded as the same as marriage between a man and a woman, is a delusion. Two men or two women are not the same as a man and a woman. There are basic legal rights that gay couples should have, simply because the laws of America have to be for everyone. But marriage between two men or two women is simply not possible. We can all pretend and call it marriage. But that won’t make it so.

The next question is, should gay people have the same civil rights as other Americans?

Of course.

Should every American, gay or straight, have the right to freedom of conscience and freedom of religion?

Absolutely. That’s not only imperative, it’s easily done if people of good will try to do it.

We can work it out. We can even work it out if we change the definition of marriage.

But will we?

I don’t know the answer to that.

We have the means and the power. The last question is simply, do we have the will?

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Blumenthal Announces Bill to Overturn State Abortion Laws


A small group of members of the United States Congress announced plans today to introduce a bill that sounds as if it would completely federalize abortion.

The proposed legislation, by Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn) is designed to override state regulations on abortion clinics. Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Representatives Judy Chu (D-CA, Marcia Fudge (D-OH) and Lois Frankel (D-FL) are backing the bill.

I know this is going to sound odd, but the thing that disgusts me about this the most is the title they’ve given the bill. They’re calling it the Women’s Health Protection Act. That really raises my feminist ire.

I am so sick of hearing abortion equated with “women’s health.” What, I ask you, about ovarian cancer? Or, rape? Or egg harvesting? How about sex-selected abortion?

Or … dare I say it? … unsafe, unclean abortion processing stations that call themselves clinics and that are run by doctors without hospital privileges who allow non-doctors to perform abortions and prescribe dangerous drugs without proper medical evaluation? How about outpatient surgical clinics — whose only surgery is abortion — that do not have the basic health and safety equipment that is required of every other outpatient surgical clinic?

It is so wonderful that members of the United States Congress want to spare women the egregious requirements of having doctors who are licensed and have hospital privileges and do the procedures themselves rather than farming them out to underlings. I think we need to start doing that for prostate surgery and gall-bladder surgery and appendectomies. Those are “routine” too. Let the nurse do the surgery and use doctors who can’t practice in a nearby hospital. Do it without proper medical equipment.

But wait. This is only women we want to spare the rigors of good medical care while they exercise their “right” to “women’s health” by having abortions.

If you ever wondered how someone like Kermit Gosnell was able to operate for so long, let me explain it you. This is how.

The Gosnells are protected by “abortion advocates” who oppose any and all regulations of abortion clinics.

Do they ever ask about the women who end up in clinics like Gosnells?

Or what about the women who have abortions performed by non-doctors, or who are prescribed RU-486 by a staffer with no ultrasound beforehand?

Bleeding to death from a ruptured ectopic pregnancy evidently doesn’t constitute a “women’s health” problem if the rupture was caused by an abortion drug. That’s what can happen when non-doctors prescribe these drugs without proper medical evaluation.

Why is it onerous to provide women with the same outpatient surgical care that the law requires for every other kind of surgery? Why is abortion so much more important that, ummmm, women’s health?

The emphasis on abortion at the cost of every other right, every other need and all safety precautions is not only demeaning to women, it endangers them. This proposed law is particularly egregious because it is a law against passing a law. When you read the language in the thing, it is not a statute that stands on its own. It is rather a proposal to codify limitations on what laws the states may consider.

That’s far-reaching and rather sinister. The idea has almost limitless applications that go far beyond abortion or any issue. It strikes to the heart of the notion of separation of powers in a federalist government. I expect more legislation by other members of Congress acting on behalf of special interest groups that attempts to shut down the states from enacting laws on all types of subjects, many of which will involve corporations and special interest money.

This particular piece of legislation will not become law for the simple reason that it will not get a hearing in the Republican dominated House of Representatives. However, it will be a campaign fundraiser for the Ds and a campaign issue for the Rs.

The abortion issue is necessary for both political parties. If you don’t know that, you don’t know American politics.

From Senator Blumenthal’s website:

(Washington, DC) – Today, U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) – joined by U.S. Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and U.S. Representatives Judy Chu (D-CA-27), Marcia Fudge (D-OH-11), and Lois Frankel (D-FL-22) – announced the Women’s Health Protection Act of 2013.

The Women’s Health Protection Act would protect a woman’s right to safe and legal abortion by stopping restrictive regulations and laws – such as those in place in states including Texas and Wisconsin – intended to curtail reproductive health services for women.



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The Big Duh of Pope Francis’ “Bombshell Quotes”

Jesus Christ was a revolutionary.

Not, mind you, the gun-toting, building-blowing-up, people-killing kind of revolutionary. If we would just pull the shades off our eyes, we’d see that killer revolutionaries are old hat, trite and not really all that unusual. People have been killing people since Cain and Abel.

Jesus was the kind of revolutionary who lights the spark of ideas that wind through the centuries, slowly elevating all of humankind. He was the counter-cultural, upside-down uber revolutionary of all time who taught us that the God who made everything everywhere loves us and knows all about us down to and including every single hair on our heads.

This attention to life and love is universal, it seems, since the same Jesus told us that not even a bird falls from the sky but that the God of everything, everywhere knows and takes note of it. This is the God Who looked at creation and said, “It is good.”

Jesus is a revolutionary today, just as much as He was in first century Palestine.

His Vicar, Pope Francis, has been speaking and teaching this same revolutionary message that His Master taught 2,000 years ago. He hasn’t changed the message. Pope Benedict taught the same Good News, as has every other Vicar of Christ. Despite their failings and weaknesses, not one of these men has ever departed from the Gospel Good News of Jesus Christ to teach a false gospel of god made in our image.

For reasons that I think have a lot more to do with the Holy Spirit than those who are slavering over the Holy Father’s teachings would ever admit, this old wine of the Gospel has become new again in Pope Francis’ way of expressing and living it.

“Bombshell” is the word that pundits attach to comments he makes that are nothing more nor less than what the Church has taught from the beginning. I keep hearing about these “bombshell” comments from people who are offended or upset by them.

So, I’m going to go over them and try to explain why the only thing new about them is the simple fact that the revolutionary teachings of Jesus Christ are always new and always challenging. Following Him is not now and never has been for sissies.

Here are a few examples of statements the press has termed a ‘bombshell.’ Give them a look. You’ll see what I mean.

1. Who am I to judge?

What this statement is not:

Pope Francis’ said this in relation to a priest who is in a prominent Vatican position, and who had fallen into public sexual sin in his past. This particular priest also happens to be homosexual, so his sexual sin was with other men. The Pope simply said that if a man has repented and is trying to live his vows and the Church teachings, “Who am I to judge?’

This was not a statement that gay sex is ok. It was not a statement that it’s ok for priests to break their vows.

What this statement is:

It was an affirmation that we are all made new in Christ. I am the recipient of this same grace, as, if you will be honest, are you.

St Paul murdered Christians before he became the great apostle. St Peter denied he ever knew Christ and cursed His name before he became the first pope.

If a priest falls off the chastity wagon and then repents and lives his vows afterwards, how is that different from you and me? Who, as the pope said, are we to judge?

2. And I believe in God, not in a Catholic God, there is no Catholic God, there is God and I believe in Jesus Christ, his incarnation. Jesus is my teacher and my pastor, but God, the Father, Abba, is the light and the Creator. This is my Being.

What this is statement is not:

Pope Francis was not saying that all truth is equal and one “god” is as good as another. He was not saying that Jesus is just one among many Gods.

What this statement is:

The Pope was telling us that there is One God, that Jesus Christ is His son, and that this Jesus is Lord of all, including the Catholic Church and the Pope. The Church doesn’t own God. God owns the Church.

3. The church sometimes has locked itself up in small things, in small-minded rules. The most important thing is the first proclamation: Jesus Christ has saved you.

What this statement is not:

The Pope is not saying that Church teaching is picayune and that we can ignore it.

What this statement is:

The Pope is saying “by grace you are saved and that not of yourself.” You can not earn heaven. Jesus Christ has saved you. We belong to Him, or we don’t. It’s our choice.

4. We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods. This is not possible. I have not spoken much about these things, and I was reprimanded for that. But when we speak about these issues, we have to talk about them in a context. The teaching of the church, for that matter, is clear and I am a son of the church, but it is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time.

What this statement is not:

It is not a repudiation of 2,000 years of Christian teaching on the sanctity of human life and holy matrimony. The Holy Father is not undoing what Jesus did at the Wedding of Cana. He is not saying that the early Christians were wrong when they condemned child sacrifice and abandoning disabled children and baby girls.

What it is:

The Holy Father is telling us that abortion and gay marriage are not the only sins against life and against God. As I sometimes jokingly say, you can’t claim, “I am anti-abortion, so that means I can rob all the banks I want.” We need to live out the whole Gospels in our Christian walk, not just one or two commandments.

5. It hurts me when I see a priest or nun with the latest-model car. You can’t do this. A car is necessary to do a lot of work, but, please, choose a more humble one. If you like the fancy one, just think about how many children are dying of hunger in the world.

I’m not even going to try to explain what this is not. It’s obvious what the Pope was saying to priests and nuns: Walk the walk.

It applies to the rest of us, too, which may be why some people get so upset about it.

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Dolan: Christian Persecution is “a Humanitarian Catastrophe’


God love Cardinal Timothy Dolan.

He took the podium at the annual fall assembly of Catholic Bishops to speak out for our persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ.

Public Catholic reader, Manny, sent a wonderful letter to Cardinal Dolan a few weeks ago, encouraging the Cardinal to do all that he could to help persecuted Christians. Perhaps we should all take to our word processors and send letters.

Christians need to stand in unity with persecuted Christians and not be intimidated by foul-mouthed attacks from those who seek to silence us. People who try to deny the persecution of Christians and who attack those who speak out for them are fellow travelers and enablers of those who carry the guns, wield the clubs and light the flames.

From Catholic News Agency:

.- Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, president of the U.S. bishops’ conference, urged his fellow bishops to be advocates of Christians persecuted for their faith around the world, encouraging prayers as well as action on their behalf.

In his address to the assembly, Cardinal Dolan said one million Christians have been killed for their faith in the first years of the 21st century, which he called “a new age of martyrs.” Citing the Pew Research Center, he said that over 70 percent of the world’s population lives in countries with restrictions on freedom of religion.

He declared a “humanitarian catastrophe” in Syria, where two Orthodox bishops have been kidnapped amid the ongoing civil war. He said the Iraq war and its consequences have “devastated” Iraq’s ancient Christian community. The 2012 attack on Our Lady of Salvation Church in Baghdad resulted in a massacre of 58 Christians.

The cardinal also noted a “serious escalation of violence” against Christians in Egypt, where dozens of Coptic churches have been burned. An August attack on a school run by Franciscan nuns resulted in the rape of two teachers. Three nuns were paraded “as prisoners of war.”

There have also been attacks on African Christians, such as shootings of priests and church burnings …

Cardinal Dolan said the situation in India is “grave” in the aftermath of the 2008 Orissa massacres that killed hundreds of Christians and displaced thousands more. Thousands of homes and about 400 churches were destroyed.

In addition, the cardinal noted the pressures on Christians in China, such as the state supervision and imprisonment that faces Catholic bishops and other religious leaders.

In light of these grave global challenges, Cardinal Dolan made several suggestions for action.

The bishops should encourage “a culture of prayer for persecuted Christians,” both in private prayer and in liturgical intercessions …

He encouraged the bishops to make others aware of the suffering of other Christians through their columns, blogs, speeches and pastoral letters … ask pastors to preach on the topic … encourage Catholic media to “tell the stories of today’s new martyrs.”

The bishops can insist that U.S. leaders listen to persecuted Christians and make their protection “a foreign policy priority,” he added, observing that this has not been a high priority for presidential administrations of either major political party.

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Oklahoma Supreme Court Does It Again

Oklahoma’s Supreme Court overturned a second pro life bill this week. This one concerned trans-vaginal ultrasounds.

I’ve been waiting for this decision before I commented on all this. Now, I’m going to wait and get my head organized.

Then, I imagine I will have a few things to say.

Here is the CNN Report:

Washington (CNN) – Oklahoma lost another round in its effort to restrict abortions when the U.S. Supreme Court Tuesday declined to hear an appeal in a case that would force women seeking an abortion to have an ultrasound first.

The justices, without comment, refused to accept the state’s appeal over HB 2780, which would require healthcare providers to perform an ultrasound scan before terminating a woman’s pregnancy.

Lower state courts found the law unconstitutional. Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt said those judges did not give proper legal weight to previous high court rulings allowing some regulation and restriction on abortions.

The new law mandated that pregnant women seeking an abortion be given the chance to view the ultrasound image and be given a medical description, including “the dimensions of the embryo or fetus, the presence of cardiac activity, if present and viewable, and the presence of external members and internal organs, if present and viewable.”

Neither the woman nor her doctor would be punished or penalized if she refused to look at those images, but the procedure, performed either vaginally or abdominally, and the explanation would be required.

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How to Help the Philippines


Typhoon Haiyan was one of the worst storms ever recorded.

America dispatched forces, at the request of the Philippine government, to help with the devastation caused by Hurricane Haiyan.

From NBC News:

American forces were dispatched to the Philippines as the Pacific island country struggled to cope Sunday after one of the most powerful storms in recorded history killed thousands — possibly as many as 10,000 — and wreaked damage far worse than expected.

“At the request of the government of Philippines, Secretary Hagel has directed U.S. Pacific Command to support U.S. government humanitarian relief operations in the Philippines in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan,” the Department of Defense said in a statement late on Saturday night.  

The first wave of U.S. force  — a team of 90 Marines and sailors — flew to Philippines on Sunday to assist with search and rescue operations and provide air support, the Marines said in a statement.

The Pope offered prayers and urged Catholics everywhere to pitch in and help these people.

From Catholic

Pope Francis led prayers for people hit by a deadly typhoon in the Philippines and surrounding region, and asked that concrete aid be sent soon.

During the Angelus with pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square yesterday, the pope expressed his concern and prayers for the estimated tens of thousands of people dead and others affected by Super Typhoon Haiyan, which devastated parts of the central Philippines over the weekend.

“I wish to express my closeness to the people of the Philippines and that region that has been hit by a terrible typhoon. Unfortunately the victims are many and the damage is enormous,” he said.

He asked the tens of thousands of people gathered in the square to join him in a moment of silent prayer “for these brothers and sisters and let’s try also to make our concrete help reach them.”

In response to the tragedy, Pope Francis made an initial donation of $150,000 for the relief efforts through the Pontifical Council Cor Unum.

The money, sent through the local churches hardest hit by the storm, was earmarked to support “assistance for the displaced and those impacted by the flooding,” the Vatican said in a written statement.

The pope also sent a telegram to Philippine President Benigno Aquino saying he was “deeply pained by the destruction and loss of human lives”.

In the message, he also encouraged civil authorities and rescue workers in their efforts and prayed that God would offer “the nation strength and consolation.”

Caritas Internationalis, the Vatican-based confederation of humanitarian agencies of the Catholic Church, reported today that more than 9.5 million people are in need of aid and 600,000 people have been forced from their homes.

Here is a list of places you can contact to give aid to the people in the Phillipines:

Catholic Relief Services

Caritas Manila

Save the Children 

Salvation Army

American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee

Samaritan’s Purse

Anglican Overseas Aid 

Philippine Red Cross

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Pope Francis: Sinners Repent. The Corrupt Do Not.


Pope Francis gave a hard-hitting homily during his daily morning mass.

“We are all sinners,” he said. “But we are not corrupt. The corrupt remain in a state of self-sufficiency and don’t understand humility.”

This is a homily for the “Christian” West, if there ever was one.

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Helping Others … Helps You


What sort of people take part in Catholic Volunteer Services? How does volunteering affect their lives?

The short answer is good people, whose lives are enhanced by the experience.

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Is Latin Making a Comeback?


Latin is an excellent way to learn English.

Does that sound counter-intuitive?

It’s based on my own experience of studying Latin. I don’t know that I learned much Latin, but the study of it taught me the English language inside out. Studying Latin was a beneficial activity for me that I do not regret in the least.

Nothing gets arguments going like the subject of the Catholic Church and Latin. I’ve seen remarkably exaggerated comments from people on both sides of this discussion. To me, Latin is a language, and like every other language, it is a tool for communication. The Latin that we use today is easy stuff, mainly because it’s a dead language. That means it doesn’t have the burden of idioms from common usage to muddy it.

We basically use the Latin of the great Roman poets, not the every day Roman. It is simple and clear. For that reason, studying Latin is an effective prism for viewing a huge mess of a language like English. Latin allows the student to boil English down to its skeletal roots and see how it hangs together from the inside.

I’m not quite so enthusiastic about Latin as liturgy. I think it had a place once upon a time, and still has a place in a limited usage, even today. But the mass is more than the language in which it is prayed. The mass is communion and communication. It is prayer, worship, and mystery, all rolled into one.

Wrapping all this in a language that is inaccessible to most people can easily push the mystery over the edge into magic. The mass is many things, but it is not an incantation. The Eucharist, which is the sum total of the Church itself, is the point where heaven and earth meet. It is the simple and plain way in which ordinary people can reach out and touch the living Christ and, like the woman who touched the hem of His garment, be healed.

It is not a magic charm and it is not a superstition.

For many people the Latin mass deepened the mystery of the mass to the point that it became inaccessible. Rather than the reverence which proponents of the Latin mass feel and miss, it became something that verged on superstition for a lot of people.

Mass in the vernacular is an antidote for that. By making the mass accessible, it allows people who are willing to bring worshipful hearts to their mass attendance to enter into the upper room.

The mass is a re-creation of Calvary. It is where heaven and earth meet in the Eucharist which is given for all. As such, it should be both beautiful and accessible. That’s why  I dislike it when the liturgists load it down with ugly words like “consubstantial.” Not only is this language inaccessible to many people, it is flat-out ugly. I think that it challenges the reverence that the mass is due with this ugliness.

As for the question of whether or not Latin is making a comeback, I hope it is. Latin is a beautiful language. Studying Latin is a useful enterprise. The Latin mass should be an option for those who benefit from it and who grow spiritually by participating in it.

But the mass needs to be accessible. After all, the mass brings us into contact with a Savior Who spoke to us about rainfall and harvests, lost coins and wedding feasts. If He could be accessible, so should the celebration of His Body and Blood.

I know that those are fighting’ words. So now that I’ve said them I’ll back off and let the discussion begin.

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US Bishops Get Ready to Elect New President


Cardinal Dolan is stepping down as president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. I imagine that he has mixed feelings about this.

On the on the one hand, an enormous amount of responsibility, as well as the stress of being the public face of the Catholic Church in America, will be lifted off him. On the other hand, he’s so good at it, that he’s bound to enjoy it. I’m sure that after he steps down, he will both miss it and be glad it’s gone.

In the meantime, here is a run down on the list of candidates. Given the tumultuous times the Church is facing, I pray the bishops chose Cardinal Dolan’s successor wisely.

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Message to the Vatican: Traditional Families Need Your Help


After all the hullaballoo, it turns out that the Vatican is not seeking input from the laity about it teachings, procedures, or anything else.

The survey the Vatican announced a week ago is designed to collect raw data at the diocesan level. It is not, as the popular press implied, a poll of the laity on Church doctrine and discipline. The data will be used as a resource in the 2014 Synod.

I’ve seen the survey, and I hope that it is not fully reflective of the issues that will be considered in the Synod. I am concerned that it is too focused on the needs of “new” family structures and not enough on how the Church can better support the traditional family.

I realize that the problems and the noise from those in “new” family structures tends to focus Vatican attention. But while those in “new” family structures are making all the demands and creating all the fuss, traditional families are quietly foundering.

Men and women, husbands and wives, in traditional Catholic families need a lot — and I mean a lot — more teaching and support, both spiritual and practical, from their Church. I hope that the bishops do not have the idea that what the Church is doing now to support traditional families within their care is enough. It simply is not, and I point to the need for this survey on “new” family structures as an indication of how serious the problem is becoming.

The huge increase in these “new” family structures which predicates surveys and Synods on how to deal with them is, to a great extent, testimony to the fact that traditional families have been suffering and failing. Traditional family has been under unremitting, concerted attack for almost 5 decades now. The Church needs to change how it supports traditional families to reflect this reality.

We need new and more inclusive ways of nurturing healthy Catholic families for the simple reason that traditional Christian families are under such enormous destructive pressure in this post Christian society. This destructive pressure bears down on every area of family life, from the way jobs are constructed, to social pressures, to the propaganda our children are inundated with in the public schools.

As Yogi Beara said, “The future ain’t what it used to be.”

If the church truly is a community, building healthy Catholic families by providing practical support of many types has to be part of its ministry.

From the National Catholic Register:

Vatican Collecting Diocesan Data, Not Lay Opinions in Worldwide Survey (2030)

Multiple media reports have given rise to the misconception that Pope Francis is polling Catholics for their views on Church teaching and practices.

 11/08/2013 Comments (3)

Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi and Archbishop Bruno Forte, special secretary of the 2014 Synod of Bishops, speak Nov. 5 at the Vatican.

WASHINGTON — Pope Francis wants to know about the state of marriage and the family in the Church, before the bishops meet in Rome for an extraordinary synod next year. However, the lay faithful should not expect to be receiving a survey on their views from the Vatican anytime soon.

For one thing, the Vatican’s survey is being handled at the diocesan level, and the aim is to collect raw data, not opinions on Church doctrine or discipline, in advance of the 2014 synod. The data will help inform the bishops as they develop pastoral solutions for the challenges faced by modern families.

“Each bishop determines what is the most useful and reasonable manner of consultation to assist him in preparing his report for the Vatican,” said Don Clemmer, assistant director of media relations at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).

Clemmer said once a diocese completes its report, the data will be sent back to the USCCB and then forwarded on to the Vatican.


Read more:

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Will Illinois’ Proposed Gay Marriage Law Violate Religious Freedom?


Will Illinois create discrimination in the name of ending discrimination?

Illinois’ bill redefining marriage to include same-sex “marriages,” is on the governor’s desk, awaiting his signature.

Proponents of the bill say that ti will end discrimination against homosexuals. Others are concerned that a lack of exemptions for individuals and small business owners, including one-owner businesses, will allow coercion and a violation of these citizen’s basic right to religious freedom.

One thing that is commonly (and I think, deliberately) overlooked in discussions of this issue is that religious freedom and freedom of conscience are basic human rights.

From The Chicago Tribune:

Illinois’ gay marriage bill that awaits the governor’s signature doesn’t force religious clergy to officiate at same-sex weddings or compel churches to open their doors for ceremonies. But similar safeguards aren’t spelled out for pastry chefs, florists, photographers and other vendors who, based on religious convictions, might not want to share a gay couple’s wedding day.

The lack of broader exceptions worries some who fear an erosion of religious freedoms, even as supporters of the law say it will eliminate discrimination.

“We’re going to have to wait for lawsuits to arrive,” said Peter Breen, an attorney with the Thomas More Society, a socially conservative legal group.

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President Requires Insurance Coverage for Mental Illness and Addiction


President Obama has used his mighty law-making pen to require all insurance carriers to provide coverage for mental health treatment and addiction in the same manner as they do physical illnesses.

This is part of a package of regulations designed to stop the mass shootings this country has experienced. The proponents of this action say that it will not result in a large increase in the cost of health care coverage. I do not believe that. I think it will cost a huge amount.

I have unhappy family experience with addiction, and I don’t have much hope that this measure will curb the plague of drug addiction and alcoholism that is warping our society. I’ve seen what happens when people are sentenced to drug treatment by the courts. I’ve also seen what happens when their family persuades them to go to an expensive treatment program.

The drug treatment plan my family member attended because of court order was a scam. The family member was supposed to be in residence 24/7 as part of their treatment, but they came and went as they chose. There was no effort to enforce the rules or kick this person out. The treatment facility was raking in government money and not even enforcing its own rules with people that were sentenced to it by the courts.

I’ve also had unhappy experience with an expensive (very expensive) private treatment program. I went to meetings for family members and did the whole nine yards. The place was full of doctors, police, and others who had been sent there in order to keep their professional standing. They were not sorry. About anything.

The viewpoint expressed in meetings was that their families, friends and colleagues were … I can’t repeat the language … for being angry with them for the things they’d done in their addictions. These were privileged people, doing the doh-si-doh required for them to keep their license.

My family member went through the program and then got out and went right back to using.

On the other hand, I have seen people stop using and rebuild their lives and reclaim their souls just by going to the entirely free and voluntary Alcoholics Anonymous program.

No drug treatment program will help people who don’t want to be helped, and if someone really wants to stop, the expensive programs aren’t necessary. Also, the ones I’ve seen are overpriced — massively overpriced — and catering to their clientele more than they are treating them. Many of them are just raking in government money and processing people with no real concern about treating them.

I am concerned that the mental health care that will come about as a result of this ruling will be somewhat the same.

We have taken the idea of “treatment” as a panacea for ghastly behavior to the max. I have read that some of the young men who have killed large numbers of people in these mass murders were mentally ill. However, most of them were also from privileged well-to-do families with access to any care they needed. In fact, at least one of them that I’ve read about was under treatment at the time he committed the murders.

I am not opposed to mental health care for mentally ill people. In fact, I support it.

But I think that using this treatment as a catch-all cure for what are much deeper social ills will not and can not work. I think it is dodging the real issues, which are complex and require more of us as a society than just paying for some “expert” to fix people for us. I also think that simply handing over the money without stringent requirements about the quality of care is a mistake.

Drug addiction treatment, in particular, is, at least in my experience, over-priced and under-effective unless the person receiving the treatment truly wants to change and is motivated to endure what it takes to do that. In that case, free programs such as Narcotics Anonymous or Alcoholics Anonymous are effective. In fact, from what I’ve seen, Alcoholics Anonymous is actually far more effective and beneficial than expensive treatment programs.

I realize that desperate family members who drain their life savings to send their loved ones to treatment for their addictions are doing it because the person they love will not go to meetings, do the work and endure the suffering required to heal from their addiction. They are losing someone they love and they are willing to do anything — including destroy themselves financially — to save them.

I have felt the same desperation and grieved the same grief over someone I love who is caught in the living death of addiction.

However, I speak from experience with the tragedy of addiction when I say that it’s up to the addicted person to want to change. If they ever reach the point that they are motivated to get help because they want to change for themselves, then AA or AN will do a fine job of helping them heal. Otherwise, bankrupting yourself will not help them.

By the same token, forcing insurance companies to open their coffers to pay for these outrageously expensive drug treatment programs will not help people who do not want to change, either. Statements that this will not raise the cost of health care are nonsense. These programs are massively expensive.

Since health insurance is now on the government dole, it will almost certainly end up contributing to our burgeoning national debt.

I wish there was a magic cure for these problems, but there isn’t.

From the New York Times:

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration on Friday will complete a generation-long effort to require insurers to cover care for mental health and addiction just like physical illnesses when it issues long-awaited regulations defining parity in benefits and treatment.

The rules, which will apply to almost all forms of insurance, will have far-reaching consequences for many Americans. In the White House, the regulations are also seen as critical to President Obama’s program for curbing gun violence by addressing an issue on which there is bipartisan agreement: Making treatment more available to those with mental illness could reduce killings, including mass murders.

In issuing the regulations, senior officials said, the administration will have acted on all 23 executive actions that the president and Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. announced early this year to reduce gun crimes after the Newtown, Conn., school massacre. In planning those actions, the administration anticipated that gun control legislation would fail in Congress as pressure from the gun lobby proved longer-lasting than the national trauma over the killings of first graders and their caretakers last Dec. 14.

“We feel actually like we’ve made a lot of progress on mental health as a result in this year, and this is kind of the big one,” said a senior administration official, one of several who described the outlines of the regulations that Kathleen Sebelius, the secretary of health and human services, will announce at a mental health conference on Friday in Atlanta with the former first lady Rosalynn Carter.

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