Gay Marriage Bill Stalls in Illinois Legislature

Illinois legislature at work

Evidently, the Illinois legislation to change the legal definition of marriage to allow gay marriages has stalled in the Senate.

According to the story below, the session adjourns Wednesday, January 9. Assuming that the bill stays stalled, the measure will not be heard this year. The story implies that the bill would have passed if all members of the Senate had been present.

I’ve been through more of these legislative throw downs than I can remember. Based on what I’ve experienced I would guess that there was so much pressure on both sides of the question from constituents in the various legislators’ districts that they decided they would lose support, no matter how they voted. So, they worked together to keep the bill from coming to a vote. If that happened, the real action was behind closed doors and between the legislators, who will never tell anyone outside exactly what took place.

As I said, I’m just guessing. But it is an educated guess.

The EWTN story about this situation says in part:

An Illinois bill to redefine marriage came to a halt in the last days of the legislative session, leading marriage advocates to criticize the notion that “gay marriage” is inevitable.

“This is a tremendous victory for the grassroots in Illinois,” said National Organization for Marriage president Brian Brown on Jan. 4.

“Thousands of people of faith telephoned, emailed and wrote to Senators to oppose the redefinition of marriage,” he explained. “They overcome the machine that so often rules in Illinois politics, and they showed that nothing is inevitable about same-sex ‘marriage.’”

Brown praised the Illinois Senate for “resisting the push of political activists to redefine marriage and to impose a same-sex ‘marriage’ scheme on the people of Illinois.”

Illinois State Sen. Heather Steans and State Rep. Greg Harris, both Chicago Democrats, tried to pass the “gay marriage” bill before the Jan. 9 end of the legislative session. It passed a Senate committee but lacked support to pass the Senate and was not brought to the floor, the Associated Press reported.

The failure was in part due to the absence of three senators due to family commitments. Supporters of the bill said the votes of the missing lawmakers – Republican Suzi Schmidt and Democrats Jeffrey Schoenberg and James Clayborne – were critical.

Brown said the Republican Senate Caucus “stood firm against redefining marriage” while “several stalwart and principled Democrats” also opposed the bill.

Read more: http://www.ewtnnews.com/catholic-news/US.php?id=6807#ixzz2HRJccZPk

Organization Day at Oklahoma House of Representatives

Today was Organization Day at the Oklahoma House of Representatives. 

The Democrats and Republicans had lunch with their respective caucuses. Then we went to the House floor to elect a new speaker and speaker pro tempore. I left a bit early because Gimpy decided she’d had all the walking and standing she wanted.

Here are a couple of snapshots I took with my cell phone, just for you.

 

House Floor, from my desk. With my seniority, I can sit anywhere I want. I want to sit on the back row. The reason? The cameras aren’t on me constantly back there, which means I can blow my nose without ending up on tv while I’m doing it and I can leave without having to climb over the other reps to get to the door.

 

Swearing in new speaker, Speaker TW Shannon. He’s the first African American Speaker in state history. I should have brought my real camera instead of a cell phone. It’s a big room, and I sit waaayyyy back there where nobody bothers me unless I want to be bothered.

Name That Bird

Add a caption to this photo. 

Health Insurance Premiums Skyrocket

The Affordable Health Care Act, more commonly known as “Obamacare,”  was supposed to contain rising health care costs, in particular the cost of health insurance. At least so far, it is failing rather miserably in that effort.

Health insurance costs are skyrocketing at a time when health care costs themselves are increasing much more modestly.

It’s possible that the insurance companies are deliberately gouging because they know that the Affordable Health Care Act will take effect next year and it might curb their ability to raise premiums as much as they’d like. Or maybe the new law is failing in one of its stated goals.

All we know for sure is that these huge increases in the costs of health insurance are going to make it difficult or even impossible for some people to comply with the law’s requirement that every citizen buy health coverage. How exactly is a minimum wage worker supposed to do this? For that matter, how is anyone who works for a living supposed it afford it?

We’re talking about premium hikes that amount to hundreds of dollars a month. I have group insurance, but if I didn’t, I would be hard-pressed to come up with an extra few hundred dollars a month in my already tight budget. Wouldn’t you? How are people supposed to put a roof over their heads and food on their tables, provide for their daily needs, save for their retirement, pay for our hugely over-priced higher education and pay these premiums? Wages, in case you haven’t noticed, have actually been falling for a long time.

The Affordable Health Care Act contains some good things. But the major thing we’ve seen from it so far has been a direct government attack on religious liberty. These skyrocketing insurance rates are just the cherry on top all that goodness.

Hopefully, there is better news about the Affordable Health Care Act and what it does for people instead of to them in the future.

A Mail Online article describing the insurance rate hikes says in part:

Obamacare fails to stop health insurance rates

from skyrocketing by double digits…despite

claims it would make health care cheaper

By JAMES NYE The Mail Online

Health insurance companies across the country are attempting to increase their premiums for customers by over 25 percent – even though Obamacare was introduced to stem the rising cost of health care

At risk from the rising rates are small businesses and those who do not have their health care plan offered by their employer and are left to find their own insurance.

In California, Anthem Blue Cross wants to hike the cost of their premiums by 26 percent and in Florida and Ohio, some insurers want to raise their prices by at least 20 percent – leaving customers several hundred dollars a month worse off.

People participate in a protest on the second day of oral arguments for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in front of the U.S. Supreme Court in March 2012. The law was approved by the court but insurance costs are still rising for somePeople participate in a protest on the second day of oral arguments for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in front of the U.S. Supreme Court in March 2012. The law was approved by the court but insurance costs are still rising for some

The proposed increases in the health care costs compare with only four percent for families and individuals who have plans offered through their jobs.

Under the Affordable Care Act, which will not be fully enacted until 2014, regulators are now required to review any request to raise a rate by more than 10 percent and to publish their findings on healthcare.gov

The review process also lays bare the disparity nationally in health care costs, with 37 states, such as New York able to deny or reduce rates, while others such as California do not have that power.

For example, in 2013, the state legislature of New York used its powers to hold rate increases to under 10 percent, but in California, rate reviews are only for technical errors.

Health Insurance companies have argued that the rising cost of premiums reflect the rising cost of healthcareHealth Insurance companies have argued that the rising cost of premiums reflect the rising cost of healthcare

However, despite the double-digit increases, the overall market shows that health care costs appear to have slowed in recent years.

Nationwide, PricewaterhouseCoopers estimated that health care costs will increase by 7.5 percent next year.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2258283/Obamacare-fails-stop-health-insurance-rates-skyrocketing-double-digits–despite-claims-make-health-care-cheaper.html#ixzz2HLzsn91F
Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook

Supreme Court Declines Stem Cell Case

WASHINGTON (BP) — The Supreme Court declined Monday (Jan. 7) to hear a case about the Obama administration’s funding of embryonic stem cell research, thereby allowing the continued use of taxpayer dollars for studies that require the destruction of human embryos.

The high court refused to hear an appeal from two scientists who have been challenging the funding.

“Americans should not be forced to pay for experiments that destroy human life, have produced no real-world treatments, and violate federal law — especially in burdened fiscal times like these,” said Steven H. Aden, senior counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom, which helped litigate the case against the Obama administration.

“Congress designed a law to ensure that Americans don’t pay any more precious taxpayer dollars for needless research made irrelevant by adult stem cell and other research,” Aden said in a news release. “That law is clear, and we had hoped the U.S. Supreme Court would uphold its clear intent.”

At issue is whether the Obama administration’s policy violates the 1996 Dickey-Wicker Amendment, an annual spending bill rider which bars federal funds for “research in which a human embryo or embryos are destroyed, discarded, or knowingly subjected to risk of injury or death.”

The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia in August upheld a federal judge’s dismissal of a legal challenge to Obama’s 2009 executive order that overturned a more restrictive funding policy under President George W. Bush. As a result, federal guidelines continued to allow funding for research on stem cells derived from embryos created by in vitro fertilization.

Many scientists and biotech firms have promoted embryonic stem cell research (ESCR) — and federal funds for the experimentation — even though the extraction of such cells from an embryo results in the destruction of the days-old human being. (Read more here.)

Actress Jennifer O’Neill Will Join West Coast Walk for Life

I wish I could go.

I want to be in San Francisco on January 26 for the West Coast Walk for Life. But Gimpy the Foot would never tolerate a romp through airports chasing connecting flights.

Not yet. In a few more months, I’ll be able to lumber along just the way I did before. So, maybe next year I’ll go to the West Coast Walk for Life.

In the meantime, I’m encouraging everyone who is able to show up either in San Francisco or Washington DC for one of the two bi-coastal walks for life to put on your walking shoes and go. I want you to do it for the Gimper.

If you do make it to San Francisco’s walk, be sure to get Jennifer O’Neill’s autograph!

The LifeSiteNews article about Jennifer O’Neill’s planned participation in the West Coast Walk for Life reads in part:

Jennifer O’Neill

SAN FRANCISCO, January 7, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Internationally acclaimed model, film and television star, producer, author and proud mother of three, Jennifer O’Neill is one of a kind. With thirty-five plus feature films, numerous television movies and series to her credit, Jennifer is the first to tell you she is truly blessed.

However, there is more to her story: for years, Jennifer O’Neill, who seemed to “have it all,” suffered from severe depression due to an abortion she had in her early twenties. After years of suffering, she found hope and healing through her faith in Jesus Christ.

Jennifer O’Neill is now the national spokeswoman for the Silent No More Awareness Campaign. The campaign seeks to expose and heal the secrecy and silence surrounding the emotional and physical pain of abortion.

Jennifer has announced that she will be joining others in the Silent No More rally prior to the Walk for Life West Coast on January 26, 2013.

“There has never been a more critical time to support the pro-life movement, protect the rights of the unborn, and make known the truth about the devastating aftermath of abortion not only for the babies, but for women and families affected by such unimaginable loss,” she said.

“If you’re not sure where you stand in regard to LIFE, please join us for the 9th Annual Walk for Life West Coast in San Francisco on January 26th, 2013!

“There you will hear testimonies from those who have suffered from abortion, and have received hope, healing and grace in Christ Jesus. I believe experience overrides theory … learn the truth about the sanctity of life. Please join us!” (Read more here.)

Thousands Support Hobby Lobby!

Thousands of Christians turned out to support Hobby Lobby Saturday!

I have one thing I want to say about this: KEEP IT UP !!!

We must not stop in our support for our brothers and sisters in Christ who are being attacked by our government. I plan to buy from Hobby Lobby on a regular basis. I will be there every time I need any thing that they sell. And I'll also be there when I get my paycheck each month, whether I need anything or not.

Remember: They'll know we are Christians by our love ... and by our support for our brothers and sisters who are being attacked for their faith.

Tens of Thousands Pledge Support for Hobby

Lobby

Americans who back the Christian-owned company’s refusal

to comply with the HHS mandate are urged to support the

company by shopping there online or at local Hobby Lobby

stores.

BY MICHELLE BAUMAN/CNA

Hobby Lobby, courtesy of the Becket Fund– Hobby Lobby, courtesy of the Becket Fund

WASHINGTON — More than 64,000 people throughout the U.S. signed up to support Hobby Lobby on Jan. 5 for risking millions of dollars in profit to follow its Christian principles.

Facebook page dedicated to supporting the arts-and-crafts retailer called on “all Americans who value freedom of religion and oppose the HHS mandate’s unfair impositions” to support the company on Jan. 5 by shopping at either their local Hobby Lobby store or online.

The national retailer could face fines of $1.3 million per day for following its owners’ religious beliefs, which conflict with a federal mandate requiring employers to offer health-insurance plans covering contraception — including some drugs that can cause early abortions — and sterilization.

The Christian family that owns Hobby Lobby holds moral objections to facilitating any type of abortion, including those caused by “morning after” and “week after” pills.

Read more: http://www.ncregister.com/daily-news/tens-of-thousands-pledge-support-for-hobby-lobby?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+NCRegisterDailyBlog+National+Catholic+Register#When:2013-01-7%2010:32:01#ixzz2HKig6Sex

Forgiveness, Murder and the Law

This particular post will probably earn me a few brickbats. But I think it needs to be said.

Deacon Greg Kandra, who blogs at The Deacon’s Bench and Leah Libresco, who blogs at Unequally Yoked, each wrote posts about a New York Times Magazine article concerning forgiveness in the case of murder.

The article in question is a fascinating read about two Florida parents who were able to forgive their daughter’s murderer and then seek a reduced sentence for him. They used a process that is normally reserved for lesser crimes called restorative justice. Both Deacon Kendra and Leah Libresco seem to have positive feelings about this situation. In fact, the consensus opinion seems to be a sort of be-still-my-heart flutteriness. It. Is. So. Sweet.

My reaction, as someone who writes laws on one day and then deals with their consequences in her constituents’ lives on another day, is totally different. I know better than many people who will read this post why we need prisons. I also know better than many people who will read this post that criminals, even murderers, are people.

I grew up in a rough neighborhood that was full of violent people. I played with children when I was little who grew up to murder people later on. I knew them both before and after they committed these crimes. I also know people who have lost their mothers, fathers, sons and daughters to murder, including but not limited to, the mass murder of the Oklahoma City bombing.

I represent a district with the highest number of ex-offenders of any district in Oklahoma. I have constituents who commit violent crimes and I also have constituents who are the victims of violent crimes. Sometimes, these are the same people, or are from the same family. I know a dear couple who lost their mother to murder and whose son later was executed for the unrelated crime of committing a murder during a robbery.

I’ve seen forgiveness that passes understanding. I’ve seen vengeance that also passes understanding. I’ve seen, close up and personal, the hollowing out grief of losing a child to murder.

I have also seen our criminal justice system at work.

All of this has led me to two conclusions.

(1) I oppose the death penalty in this country. Long before I was a Christian, I did not believe that we should execute people in this country. People are too weak, too prone to take shortcuts, manipulate and lie to ever entrust our judicial system with the ability to put human beings to death.

(2) I also oppose a victim-driven criminal justice system. 

Based on what was said in the article I read, and assuming that the facts in it were accurate and that there aren’t other, ameliorating circumstances, I have no doubt that the young man in question should have received a sentence of life in prison without the option of parole. Let me be clear about what I’m saying here: He committed a deliberate act of cold-blooded murder against an unarmed young woman who was on her knees in front of him at the time. He shot her in the face with a shot gun.

He should live out the rest of his life and die in prison for that crime.

The article tells the story of two parents who were able to forgive their daughter’s murderer. It sounds as if they did this almost at her death bed. They then sent messages to her murderer while he was in jail awaiting trial that they “still loved him.” They followed through on this by working with the young man’s parents to help him avoid, not just the death penalty, but any serious prison time for what he had done.

They convinced the prosecutor to enter into a process which is normally reserved for non-violent crimes known as “restorative justice” to deal with this young man. They did this, and the prosecutor agreed to it, despite the fact that no one debated that the young man was a cold-blooded murderer.

The girl’s parents entered this process with the idea that the young man should receive 5 years in prison for his crime. After hearing the details of how he killed their daughter, they were moved by emotion to ask for sentences ranging from 5-15 years. The prosecutor, after what he says was much “thought,” decided to give the killer a sentence of 20 years with 10 years probation.

Evidently, most people who read this story go all touchy-feely and misty-eyed.

I don’t.

In fact, the story gives me the creeps.

I view this sentence as a violation of the public trust on the part of the prosecutor. I also view it as a fine example of the nonsensical things that happen when we move to a victim-driven justice system.

Victims of violent crimes, and in the case of murder, their surviving families, react with raw emotion to the terrible things that have been done to them. This can make them demand guilty verdicts, even if that means doing away with a fair trial. It can lead them to push with everything they’ve got for harsh sentences, even when the sentence is out of proportion to the crime. On the other hand, in other cases like the one in this story, their hunger to express the forgiveness they have been able to reach can lead them into working for sentences that are also out of proportion, but this time on the side of leniency.

I have respect for anyone who can forgive from the heart when something as terrible as having your daughter shot in cold blood happens to them. That is what the parents in this story went through. Their daughter was shot in the face with a shot gun by an abusive boyfriend who had slapped her in previous arguments.

Let me repeat that: Their daughter was shot in the face with a shot gun by an abusive boyfriend who had slapped her in previous arguments.

Due to their intervention, their daughter’s murderer received a sentence of 20 years with 10 years probation for murdering a young woman who was on the cusp of a productive adult life.

The reason that story gives me the creeps is the bland assumption on the part of everyone that this crime was somehow or other a private thing between the murderer and the murdered girl’s family. The assumption seems to be that murder is a private injury, and that if the family of the murdered person can be satisfied by whatever sentence is arrived at, then justice has been done.

I absolutely do not believe this. Murder is not a private offense between family members. Murder is a crime against all of society. When a murderer is brought to trial, the case reads The people of the state of Oklahoma, or Florida or wherever vs The Murderer. It does not say the family of the murder victim vs the murderer.

By allowing this process to occur and then honoring it, the prosecutor set the people and their just demands for a working criminal justice system that is driven by law and not emotion aside. He focused his concerns on the victim’s family and the murderer himself. His question was not is he guilty? but Will he do it again? In short, he tried to use some sort of crystal ball to foresee the future and based his sentence on whatever he saw in his forecast. All in response to a victim-driven process.

There are reasons why the law takes the murder of an innocent person so seriously. There are reasons for harsh penalties for this crime. There are also reasons why the various laws allow for ameliorating circumstance. Not every murder is deliberate and cold-blooded. This one was.

I have sympathy and respect for the parents of this murdered girl. I am somewhat in awe of their Christian faith which allowed them to forgive this young man. However, when I read things about them visiting him in jail and working to lower his sentence; about them sending him messages saying that they “still love him,” I hear echoes of the many bereaved people I know.

I can’t talk about the things my constituents tell me. But I will say that there are people who form relationships with their children’s murderers and visit them in prison and actually claim they’ve come to love them. It’s not so unusual as you might think. It also isn’t so appealing in real life.

There is no one more lost and hollowed out than someone whose child has been murdered.  They want something, some contact with their lost child, and they are searching for it in the person who murdered them.

Some victims’ families want to “confront” their loved one’s murderer and ask the question that everyone who encounters the senseless violence of these devil-driven people asks. They want to know “Why?” Why did you do this to me? How could you do this to my child? Don’t you know, can’t you see how precious, how beautiful, how irreplaceable, she was?

They want something they can never have, which is satisfaction, and closure. The closure myth, the healing nonsense we spout after public tragedies feeds this mythology of “going on” as if nothing had happened. In truth, while they may appear to go on, and in fact may do that, they will never completely heal and they will never, this side of the grave, find closure. Some wounds bleed forever.

The pain is too much, and often families try to bury the pain by either working obsessively for the punishment of the murderer, or, conversely, working to help them. I don’t fully understand this. But I have seen a lot of it. It’s as if victims’ families and their murderers are hanging onto opposite ends of the same rope. And they never stop yanking on one another.

This is tragic. The ever-widening circles of grief and woundedness that these crimes of violence create damage everyone who comes near them. While forgiveness helps and may even allow a grieving family member to lay down their end of that rope, it does not and can not ever completely assuage the loss. Murder has no end in this life. Based on our mortal understanding of things, it is a forever crime.

The grief-driven relationships that form between families of murder victims and their loved one’s murderer, whether they be burning hate or saintly forgiveness, are always at least partly a response to pain that cannot be borne. I do not take this pain lightly. I certainly do not approach miracles of forgiveness disrespectfully.

But they are not a reason to give light sentences to cold-blooded murderers. The emotions of those family members who are moved to vengeance are also not reasons to give life sentences to people who killed someone by accident, even if the accident included serious negligence or even violence. Murder is an intentional act committed by someone who intends to kill.

A victim-driven justice system is a capricious and unworkable thing. People who lose family members to murder will never be the same again. They will not ever be able to respond to what has happened to their loved one with impartiality. No one, including themselves, should expect this of them. That is not to say that their feelings should be ignored in criminal proceedings. But their feelings should not be the only or even the most important factor in determining sentencing. The reason I say this is because murder is not a private event. It is always a crime against the whole of society.

Murder is not a private affair. It is a crime against both humanity and society. Families who are suffering the grief of losing someone to murder can not be the ones who determine the punishment. In the confusion and irrationality of their grief, some of them would have people burned alive for what were accidents, while others of them would, as in this case, ask to have cold-blooded murderers with a history of violent abusiveness turned loose after serving less time than a bank robber.

Some crimes, especially crimes of deliberate and un-doable violence, are too serious to ever be forgiven under the law. I am not talking about God’s ability to forgive someone and clean their souls. I’m also not talking about a victim or their family members hanging up their hate and forgiving what has been done to them. I’m talking about the law. The law is a wall around human life and safety. Every time that wall is breached, we are all a little bit less safe.

The law is not about forgiveness. Contrary to what they say on the crime shows on tv, it’s not about justice, either. The law is about public safety and social stability. Criminal law is there so that we can lie down in our beds without fear that we will be murdered in our sleep.

Some crimes should require that people go to prison, and that they stay there. It is not a question of rehabilitation. It is a question of setting the bar on these crimes high enough so that everyone knows that the crime itself is absolutely forbidden. There is no statute of limitation for murder. Time never runs out on the investigation. That is because murder is set apart from other crimes, even in its investigatory stages.

These laws, which treat murder differently from other crimes from the moment it is committed, reflect our commonly held belief that human life should be above all other considerations. I would say that this includes the wishes of the victim’s families.

People who deliberately and cold-bloodedly kill other people without ameliorating circumstances such as insanity or fear for their own safety or the safety of others, should go to prison and stay there for the rest of their lives. Forgiveness is not part of the equation.

Archbishop Coakley: Pray for Life, Marriage and Religious Liberty

This letter from Archbishop Paul Coakley of the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City was read in the churches in the archdiocese this weekend.

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

The year 2013 promises to be one of great consequence on many fronts for our Church and our Nation. With the looming threat to our religious liberty posed by the HHS mandate, the rapid erosion of respect for human life and the unprecedented assault on the institution of marriage taking hold in our nation we bishops of the United States are issuing a Call to Prayer.

St. Thomas Becket, whom the Church honors as I write this letter, was a martyr for the sake of justice. As Archbishop of Canterbury he steadfastly defended the rights of the Church against the unjust interference of his king. He wrote, “If we who are called bishops desire to understand the meaning of our calling and to be worthy of it, we must strive to keep our eyes on him whom God appointed high priest forever, and to follow in his footsteps.” In a similar spirit during our November Plenary Assembly we bishops of the United States determined that it is our duty as shepherds to mobilize the entire Church against the threats against people of faith in our day.

Consequently, we have issued a Call to Prayer for Life, Marriage and Religious Liberty. I want to join my voice to that of my fellow bishops in summoning the faithful, clergy and religious of the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City to embrace this coordinated spiritual effort to combat these looming challenges to the free and public exercise of our faith. We ought to understand this spiritual effort in conjunction with the Year of Faith, inasmuch as we are defending concerns that are integral to our faith as its public consequences. These threats call for a public witness and a concerted spiritual effort.

There are many ways to participate as individuals, families, parishes and schools. Here are five key components to this Call to Prayer.

Beginning now and continuing through Christ the King Sunday on November 24, 2013, cathedrals and parishes are urged to have a monthly Eucharistic Holy Hour for Life, Marriage and Religious Liberty.
Families and individuals are encouraged to pray the daily Rosary, especially for the preservation of Life, Marriage and Religious Liberty in our nation.
At Sunday and daily Masses, we encourage that the Prayers of the Faithful include special intentions for respect for all human life from conception to natural death, the strengthening of marriage and family life and the preservation of religious liberty both in our nation and abroad.
Recognizing the importance of spiritual and bodily sacrifice in the life of the Church, we encourage abstinence from meat and fasting on Fridays for the intention of the protection of life, marriage and religious liberty.
There will be another national Fortnight of Freedom at the end of June and beginning of July 2013. This Fortnight effort will emphasize marriage in a particular way in the face of the potential Supreme Court rulings expected during this time. It will also emphasize the need for conscience protection in view of the August 1, 2013 deadline for religious organizations to comply with the HHS mandate. It will emphasize religious freedom concerns in other areas, such as immigration, adoption and humanitarian services as well. The focus will be on the God-given nature of religious freedom and the right to publicly witness to our faith in the public square as well as the rights of individuals and institutions to conduct their professional lives in accord with their religious convictions.
A website with the plan for the Call to Prayer and many additional resources is available at www.usccb.org/life-marriage-liberty. I urge you to participate in this important Call to Prayer for our Nation and our Church. With prayerful best wishes for you and yours during this New Year, I am

Sincerely yours in Christ,
Most Reverend Paul S. Coakley
Archbishop of Oklahoma City

Is Christ Real to You?

Today is Epiphany. 

This feast celebrates the time when the wise men found the Christ child and offered him gifts in homage to his divinity. That is why we call it The Epiphany. Epiphany means the revelation of a divine being. In this case, it is the revelation of the divine being: God made human in the form of a baby.

The wise men, with their gifts and their homage, acknowledged this. Their action has become a symbol for more than just their own acknowledgment of Him. It also indicates what was to follow when all people, from all places, in all times, would do the same. In this sense, the wise men are you and me, the gentiles who no longer must stand outside the circle of the chosen people in their communion with God, but who, through the life and death of this baby, may enter in.

We also are chosen, along with the whole human race.

The Epiphany is the feast that memorializes the first understanding and acknowledgement of the divine being by people who were not Jews. It may also be the first time anyone besides probably Mary and Joseph, Simeon and Anna, looked at Him and knew Who He was.

The question for us in this fracturing world of ours is do we know Who He is? Do we acknowledge Him? Are we aware that He is the divine being Who is our salvation and our only hope?

Homage for us is not gifts of precious items. Our gift is, as the Psalmist says, “a broken and contrite heart.” Our homage is fidelity and devotion to Him in the face of a world that is increasingly hostile to those who refuse to deny him by the things they do and say.

Is Christ real to you on this Epiphany Sunday? Will you stand for Him in the months ahead?

It is The Epiphany, the twelfth and last day of Christmas in this liturgical year. Will you live for Him the rest of this Year of Faith?

Join the Discussions of the Year of Faith

Click here throughout the Year of Faith, as the Catholic Channel at Patheos.com invites Catholics of every age and stripe to share what they are gleaning and carrying away from this gift of timely focus.

Is This a Surprise? White House Considering Broad Gun Control Measures, Including Executive Orders

White House weighs broad gun-control

agenda

The Washington Post

By Philip Rucker

The White House is weighing a far broader and more comprehensive approach to curbing the nation’s gun violence than simply reinstating an expired ban on assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition, according to multiple people involved in the administration’s discussions.

A working group led by Vice President Biden is seriously considering measures backed by key law enforcement leaders that would require universal background checks for firearm buyers, track the movement and sale of weapons through a national database, strengthen mental health checks, and stiffen penalties for carrying guns near schools or giving them to minors, the sources said.

To sell such changes, the White House is developing strategies to work around the National Rifle Association that one source said could include rallying support from Wal-Mart and other gun retailers for measures that would benefit their businesses. White House aides have also been in regular contact with advisers to New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg (I), an outspoken gun-control advocate who could emerge as a powerful surrogate for the Obama administration’s agenda.

The Biden group, formed last month after the massacre at a Newtown, Conn., elementary school that killed 20 children and six adults, plans to submit a package of recommendations to President Obama this month. Once Obama’s proposals are set, he plans to lead a public-relations offensive to generate popular support.

“They are very clearly committed to looking at this issue comprehensively,” said Dan Gross, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, who has been involved in the discussions. The proposals under consideration, he added, are “a deeper exploration than just the assault-weapons ban.”

The gun-control push is just one part of an ambitious political agenda that Obama has pledged to pursue after his decisive reelection victory in November, including comprehensiveimmigration reform, climate-change legislation and long-term deficit reduction. Obama also faces a reshuffling of his Cabinet, and a looming debate over the nation’s debt ceiling that will compete for his time and attention in the coming months.

Seeking expansive mandate

In addition to potential legislative proposals, Biden’s group has expanded its focus to include measures that would not need congressional approval and could be quickly implemented by executive action, according to interest-group leaders who have discussed options with Biden and key Cabinet secretaries. Possibilities include changes to federal mental-health programs and modernization of gun-tracking efforts by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Read more here.)

 

Less of Me: Feeding the Deeper Hungers

To join the discussion on Cravings, or for a link to buy the book, go here

Cravings, by Catholic author Mary De Turris Poust, provides ideas for combining Catholic spirituality with the fight to control overeating.

It’s a book written from the outside, so to speak. Ms Poust has never suffered from a weight problem, and, aside from a brief adolescent foray into extreme dieting and overexercise that lasted a short time and was cured by going on a family vacation, she has no personal experience with the demons that drive those of us who are truly addicted to food and use it for our drug of choice.

I’m not trying to pick at either Ms Poust or her very fine book when I say that. But it’s an important caveat to consider when reading the book. What can a woman who writes sentences like “I will actually crave broccoli when I eat too much heavy food … something that has grown out of being a vegetarian, doing yoga, jogging regularly …” have to say to me?

It turns out that if she’s a good writer who does a lot of research and has a well-developed sense of Christian spirituality, she has quite a lot to say to me.

As I said in other posts, I am one of the legions of people in this country who use food as a drug of sorts. I soothe myself with food when frustrations get to me. I also use food was a way out of boredom and as recreation. I have somehow developed the ability to mimic many of the emotions and behaviors that real drug addicts attach to their addiction to things like meth, only I use food as the drug.

It’s not a question of what I eat. The real question is, what’s eating me?

Cravings isn’t another one of those try-it-lose-it-and-regain diet programs overeaters know so well. In fact, it comes close to abjuring diet programs. This book focuses on how to replace food as the go-to drug for what ails you by turning to God. It’s full of very useful ideas and plans in this quest. One of the main foci of the book is on what the author calls “mindful eating.” Mindful eating is the fine art of paying attention to what you’re doing when you eat and not just stuffing things down without even being aware of it.

I know that for a lot of people the idea of eating a meal and not being aware of it sounds far-fetched. But I’ve done it. I do it. Part of the reason that food soothes me is that I’ve learned to turn off when I eat.

Food, or at least the act of eating, has become a sort of stress and thinking off-switch for me. That doesn’t mean that I go into a trance or become a blubbering food drunk. I engage in conversations and actually enjoy myself. Food as a drug is at least part metaphor for the simple reason that food is no drug. It is an essential and highly enjoyable part of our physical survival. It is also an integral part of our social life. We bond to people over food.

What Ms Poust suggests is that we try to resurrect this original purpose of food as a means of survival/bonding/pleasure and make the most of them. She wants us to do this by refocusing our emotional hungers that we try to satisfy with food on the One who can actually assuage them.

The practical side of this book gives what I think are sound and useful suggestions such as eat at the dining room table, enjoy regular family meals, pray before meals, and when you crave food as an answer to pain, turn to God in prayer, instead. She gives lots of specific ideas, most of them worth trying and then hanging onto.

Where the book becomes tedious, at least for me, is the over-emphasis on what I think of as arcane references. Part of this feeling is due to the fact that I read a lot of Catholic books and I’ve noticed that the women authors, in particular, seem to have a strong monastic bent. They quote the desert fathers and talk a lot about their retreats to monasteries and conversations with monks.

Now that’s all fine, but it doesn’t compute with me. In the first place, Ms Poust tries to hold the monastic way of eating, which she says is based on simple food eaten in community with prayer and mindfulness, as an example of what the rest of us should do. This might resonate with me more if I didn’t know so many overweight monks. These guys have the same problems with food that I do.

I’m not saying that simple food, eaten in community with prayer and mindfulness is not a wonderful thing. But I am saying that living life as the monks do is not attainable or attractive for most people and besides, so far as weight control goes, it doesn’t always work, not even for the monks.

So far as overeating is concerned, we’re all down here in the pits together, and the sooner we get over the idea that “our” overeating problem is some terrible curse that hits us alone, the sooner we’ll begin to grow up foodwise. I say that, not as someone who has conquered her food problems, but as someone who has been consistently conquered by them.

Cravings is a thoughtful book with a lot to offer. Its basic premise, that some of us try to feed our emotional and spiritual hungers with food, is spot on. I personally am still trying to figure out how to turn to God instead of food for these things. I’ll write more about that later.

In case you didn’t notice, I’m resurrecting the Less of Me series for this blog. In the meantime, if you are looking for a starting point on how to combine spirituality with your battle with food addiction, give Cravings a read. It has a lot of good advice in it. Despite my picky caveats, I recommend it.

Why I Support Hobby Lobby

A Hobby Lobby store. Photo courtesy of the Becket Fund.

“Our goal is to be a light to the world. Not to just talk the talk, but to walk the walk.”

How do you live a balanced life, honor God and keep your family while running a successful business? This inspiring discussion by the family that founded and owns Hobby Lobby answers that question. Their business practices and their courage in the face of the HHS Mandate are inspiring.

Watch it and then go buy something at Hobby Lobby. We can’t allow the government to destroy this fine business because of the Christian convictions of its owners.

YouTube Preview Image

 

Christian Persecution: The Not-So-Merry Christmas of Persecuted Christians

The angel of the Lord woke Joseph with a dream, instructing him to take Mary and the baby Jesus into hiding. This warning saved the infant Messiah from the slaughter of little boys that we remember as the Slaughter of the Innocents.

Many present-day Christians must re-live this terror with more than memorials. Violent Christian persecution ramped up in several places this Christmas. Then and now, the devil tries to stamp out our witness to Christ with murder. And now as then, wise men still seek Him.

Here is a brief summary of some of the acts of violent persecution Christians have suffered so far this Christmas season.

 

DOZENS OF CHRISTIANS SHOT AND SLAUGHTERED IN CHRISTMAS ATTACKS IN NIGERIA

NIGERIA
Dozens of Christians were killed during church services over the Christmas period in Northern Nigeria; others were murdered in their homes in raids by suspected Boko Haram militants.

Most of the attacks took place in Borno state; Islamist group Boko Haram had earlier declared that any Christians remaining in the territory by Christmas would be killed. Although it has not been confirmed who was behind the violence, it seems likely that the militants were carrying out this threat.

On Christmas Eve, six people were killed by gunmen at a church service in Maiduguri, the capital city of Borno state.

Another six were killed and two injured in a shooting at a church service in the early hours of Christmas Day in Siri village, near Potiskum, Yobe State. Gunmen entered the midnight service and attacked the congregation; the Rev. Yohanna Simi was among those killed.

Many residents fled Siri village to the bush during the attack. Around 20 homes and the church where the shooting had taken place were torched.

Then on Sunday (30 December), gunmen killed at least 15 worshippers at a church in Chibok, Borno state. Mohammed Kana, a regional official for the National Emergency Management Agency, said that some of the victims had had their throats slit.

It is the third consecutive year of fatal attacks on services during the Christmas season in Nigeria. (Read more here.)

TANZANIA: CHURCH LEADER INJURED IN CHRISTMAS DAY SHOOTING BY SUSPECTED ISLAMISTS

A church leader was critically wounded in a Christmas Day shooting by suspected Islamist separatists in Zanzibar.
The Rev. Ambrose Mkenda was shot in the face and shoulder by two attackers on a motorcycle. The shooting took place as the church leader returned to his home in Tomondo just before 8pm. He was rushed to hospital and later transferred to intensive care as his condition deteriorated.(Read more here.)

IRAN: 50 CHRISTIANS ARRESTED AT HOUSE CHURCH GATHERING

Around 50 Christians, mostly converts from Islam, were arrested at a house church Christmas gathering in Tehran.
The raid by 15 police and security agents happened on 27 December. The Christians had to hand over their mobile phones and personal information, including passwords to their email and social media accounts, and explain how they had come to accept Christianity. (Read more here.)

INDONESIA: ROTTEN EGGS, DUNG AND URINE THROWN AT CONGREGATION DURING CHRISTMAS EVE EVENT

Members of Filadelfia Batak Christian Protestant Church (HKBP) came under attack by Muslims as they gathered in the open for a Christmas Eve service.
The assailants threw rotten eggs, dung and plastic bags full of urine at the congregation of around 200 people. HKBP had been subjected to a similar assault in May.
On Christmas Eve, the congregation gathered for a service in front of its property in Bekasi, West Java, which has been sealed off by the authorities. It was forced to flee and hold the service in the compound of a police station.
HKBP has been denied a building permit despite a Supreme Court ruling that one be granted and the site reopened. (Read more here.)

Bishop Poprocki: Proposed Gay Marriage Law is a Lethal Attack on Religious Liberty

Cardinal George and the bishops of Illinois have come out swinging against the proposed gay marriage law that has been introduced in the Illinois state legislature.

Illinois already allows civil unions between gay people.

I have not read this proposed law, but it sounds as if it would change the legal definition of marriage entirely. It also would not alter corresponding Illinois laws, which were probably originally intended to deal with discrimination based on race.

According to what at least one bishop is saying, this would lead to a situation where religious institutions which do not support same-sex marriage would be forced to participate in it.

This growing trend throughout the Western world to force religious people in general and Christians in particular to participate in activities which are against their faith is a huge step into active religious persecution under the law. For years the push has been to silence Christians by demanding that they not speak about or use any symbols of their faith in public places. This in itself is both discrimination and an attack on the civil liberties of Christians.

The new push is to broaden this move into legal discrimination in what amounts to a form of legal persecution of people of faith. It uses things like gay marriage and birth control to force Christians to actively violate their faith or face government fines and penalties. This is done in the name of  whatever lie is most useful. “Women’s health” is used in the case of using the ruse of birth control to advance the HHS Mandate. “Tolerance” is used in the push to force religious institutions to participate in gay marriages.

However, the availability of contraception is not at stake with the HHS Mandate. It is about using the brute force of government to attack religious liberty. In the same way, the push all over the Western world to force Christians to participate in same-sex marriages is not about tolerance. In fact, it is the exact opposite of tolerance. It is intolerance and active government discrimination against people of faith.

Bishop Thomas Poprocki of the Diocese of Springfield Illinois has written a letter to the people of his Diocese outlining his concerns about the proposed legislation. All the bishops of Illinois are writing similar letters and asking that they be inserted in Sunday bulletins.

I try to let you read full documents instead of excerpting them whenever I can. I also try to give you original sources. Whenever someone excerpts a document or paraphrases it, they are interpreting it. No matter how objective they try to be — and modern news sources don’t appear to try very hard — they must, by the nature of selecting what to quote and rewording things in paraphrasing, put their own interpretations into it.

I want Public Catholic readers to be able to form intelligent opinions based on the real facts.

Here is Bishop Poprocki’s letter in its entirety.


Christian Persecution: White House Petition Labels Catholic Church a Hate Group

When my Grandmother was totally flabbergasted, she would say, “If that don’t beat hens apeckin’ on  a hot griddle.”

I never knew exactly what that meant, since I had never seen hens apeckin’ on a hot griddle, but I got the gist of it from the situation and her tone.

That’s somewhat how I felt when I learned that a hater or haters out there had decided to put a petition on the White House web site asking the President to label the Catholic Church a “hate group.” The reason? The Catholic Church supports traditional marriage and that, as some people want us to believe, means that it is a hate group.

The press has already done a fine job of promoting this viewpoint. Anti-Christian propaganda of one sort or another is on most commercial channels on a regular basis. They have also done an even more aggressive job of promoting same-sex marriage.

This petition is a publicity stunt with the same motives: To create public hatred of Catholics and Catholicism and engender a culture in which discrimination against them is tolerated, and, as time goes by, codified into law. This petition has no official status … now. But the attitude it comes from is gaining power and beginning to move into legal changes, even as I type this. The HHS Mandate is perhaps the most egregious example.

Please be aware that this is NOT an official government action, and it has not been approved by the White House. These petitions come from the public. Any of us can start one. There is, for instance, a petition on this site asking the president to resign. (It only has a few signatures, and I am NOT suggesting that anyone who reads this should rush over there and sign it. That would be hateful and mean spirited. We need to focus on defending our rights in a positive manner.)

You can find the petition on the White House web site. If you want to, you can see the names of people who’ve signed it. I think I saw the names of a couple of people I know on there. Again, no one should be harassed for exercising their rights as free citizens to make public jerks of themselves by signing things like this petition.

This is the petition.

WE PETITION THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION TO:

Officially recognize the Roman Catholic Church as a hate group.

In his annual Christmas address to the College of Cardinals, Pope Benedict XVI, the global leader of the Roman Catholic Church, demeaned and belittled homosexual people around the world. Using hateful language and discriminatory remarks, the Pope painted a portrait in which gay people are second-class global citizens. Pope Benedict said that gay people starting families are threatening to society, and that gay parents objectify and take away the dignity of children. The Pope also implied that gay families are sub-human, as they are not dignified in the eyes of God.

Upon these remarks, the Roman Catholic Church fits the definition of a hate group as defined by both the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League.

Created: Dec 25, 2012

SIGNATURES NEEDED BY JANUARY 24, 2013 TO REACH GOAL OF 25,000

23,315

TOTAL SIGNATURES ON THIS PETITION

1,685

A whitehouse.gov account is required to sign Petitions.

WHY?

If you’re logged in, but having trouble signing this petition, click here for help.

The Seven Most Provocative Religious Videos of 2012

 

 

This is a little late, but it’s still worth a look. Daniel Burke of Religion News Service has put together a list of 2012 religious videos he thinks were the most provocative. They range from the young star of a major television show criticizing its content to a video that is alleged to have set off tragic violence. Read and enjoy.

The seven most provocative religious videos of

2012

(RNS) Imagine if Martin Luther and John Calvin had YouTube.

Armed with Gutenberg’s printing press, the two reformers wrested Europe from the grip of the Roman Catholic Church and changed Christianity forever.

What would they have done with a medium that can zip text, music, and, perhaps most importantly, videos across the globe in a matter of seconds?

“The importance of YouTube, the importance of the Internet is huge for the next coming generation of the church,” Jefferson Bethke told NPR earlier this year.

The 23-year-old Christian poet should know. His four-minute video, “Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus,” has been viewed more than 23.5 million times since he posted it on YouTube last January.

Bethke wasn’t the only religious figure to find an audience, or apostles, on the Internet. Indeed, among other epithets, 2012 might be dubbed the Year of YouTube – and that’s especially true on the religion beat.

Religious videos sparked international riots, stirred up the U.S. presidential campaign, sought to comfort LGBT youth and urged Christians to rethink their religious ideals.

In chronological order, here are seven religious videos that made headlines in 2012. (Read more here.)

 

 

Spend a little time and a little cash at Hobby Lobby this Saturday

Spend a little time and a little cash at Hobby Lobby this Saturday.

If you don’t live near a Hobby Lobby, you can still shop at their on-line site. Also, the family that owns Hobby Lobby also owns Mardels. Mardels is a Christian office supply/book-music-Bible/homeschooling supply store.

I shopped at Mardels for curricula and supplies back when I was homeschooling. I’ve also bought several Bibles, as well as Christian gifts, cards and Christmas ornaments there. It’s a great store. You can find it online, if there’s not a Mardel’s near you.

We need to stand with other Christians when they make a courageous stand for Christ. I’m going to buy something at either Mardel’s or Hobby Lobby this week, and every paycheck I get from now on until the government attack on them is over. They are my brothers and sisters in Christ and they are being attacked by our government for their faithfulness to Him.

Here is an interesting article from Christian News concerning the wellspring of support that is building for the Green family and their fine Christian businesses.

Christians ‘Stand With Hobby Lobby’ As Company

Faces Fine of 1.3 Million Daily for Defying Obamacare

Oklahoma City, Oklahoma –  Christians across the country state that they will be standing with Hobby Lobby this weekend as the popular craft chain continues to defy the abortion pill mandate in Obamacare.

Joe Grabowski of StandWithHobbyLobby.comhas named Saturday, January 5th as the official appreciation day for the company, when supporters will shop at their local Hobby Lobby outlet to show their support.

“On Saturday, January 5th, all Americans who value freedom of religion and oppose the HHS mandate’s unfair impositions upon religious individuals and corporate entities are called upon to show their support for Hobby Lobby by shopping either at their local retail Hobby Lobby store or online,” he writes. “[T]he justices of the Supreme Court will be watching on January 5th, be assured, and they’ll know the minds and hearts of the American people as to this matter — but only if we get the word out and stand up in large enough numbers to make an impact!”

As of press time, over 4,000 people stated that they would be participating in the event.

“I will be there spending my $$ to back this company,” writes supporter Eric Coval. “They are one of the few who are taking a stand against a federal government that seems hell bent to trample on our liberties, and when we cry foul they tell us to be good little subjects and that we are too extreme. Hobby Lobby, fight the righteous fight!”

“We love Hobby Lobby!” commented Beth Collins. “I won’t be able to make it in person, but I will shop online that day to show my support!”

Others stated that they have never shopped at their local Hobby Lobby outlet before, but will do so this Saturday in order to make their voice heard and support the cause. (Read more here.)

 

 


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