Christian Persecution: From the Dali Lama to Great Britain, Six Quick Takes

This week’s six quick takes include examples of the increasing hostility toward Christians and Christianity worldwide.

They range from government punishment of Christian business owners for practicing their faith in Great Britain, to the rise of government harassments and arrests of Christian religious leaders in Eastern Europe. Also included are remarks by the Dali Lama that seem to blame the victims of violence for their own persecution. He specifically pointed to the martyrdom of a Christian missionary in India in which the missionary and his two children were burnt alive as his example.

Please pray for an end to Christian persecution.

1. Open Doors has released is annual World Watch List.  This list details the persecution of Christians around the globe. You can read it here.

2. Great Britain: Christian Bed and Breakfast Punished for ‘Discriminating’ Against Gays   In a victory for the gay agenda, the Christian owners of a Cornish bed and breakfast lost their appeal against last year’s ruling that their policy of restricting double rooms to married couples discriminated against a gay couple.

But, while upholding that ruling, the Court of Appeal warned that a new intolerance should not take root against Christians because of their beliefs about sexual ethics. (Read more here.)

3. Eastern Europe: Persecution on the Rise for Christians in Eastern Europe  Citizens of the former Soviet Union are facing growing restrictions on their religious freedom. On Wednesday a panel of experts in Washington reported that governments are closing more churches, fining and arresting their religious leaders, and destroying church literature.

“Twenty years ago when the Soviet Union fell apart, collapsed, when the Berlin Wall fell, everybody was sort of excited about all the future possibilities. Twenty years later we are again talking about freedom. What happened?” Victor Ham, vice president for the Billy Graham Evangelical Association Crusades, said.

The situation might not be a return to the Soviet era, but the signs spell trouble.

“Churches are being torched, crosses are being burned. There’s a lot of anti-Semitism, a lot of negative things appearing in the press about different organizations. So there’s some reason for concern,” Lauren Homer, with Homer International Law Group, said.

The atmosphere is thick with intolerance in these countries. Individual pastors are reluctant to speak out against abuses and restrictions. (Read more here.)

Note: Taiwan is a separate country from China.

4. China: Christian Persecution in China Rises Over 40 Percent in 2012  ChinaAid, a Texas-based Christian non-profit organization that monitors religious freedom in China, said in its 2012 annual report on Monday that the Chinese government continues its uptick of persecution against Christians in the country for the seventh consecutive year.

The report examines 132 persecution cases involving 4,919 people, finding that persecution incidences rose 41.9 percent from 2011. Additionally, the number of people sentenced in cases relating to religious persecution jumped 125 percent in 2012 compared to 2011, according to the group’s finding.

Read more at http://global.christianpost.com/news/christian-persecution-in-china-rises-over-40-percent-in-2012-chinaaid-reports-89542/#bq7CyE4Zal8lCCcf.99

5. North Korea: Most Difficult Place on Earth to be a Christian  For the eleventh year running, this is the most difficult place on earth to be a Christian. One of the remaining Communist states, it is vehemently opposed to religion of any kind. Christians are classified as hostile and face arrest, detention, torture, even public execution. There is a system of labor camps including the renowned prison No. 15, which reportedly houses 6,000 persecuted Christians alone. Despite the severe oppression, there is a growing underground church movement of an estimated 400,000 Christians. (Read more here.)

6. Dalai Lama’s Statements Against Conversion May Increase Christian Persecution  Mumbai (AsiaNews) – The Dalai Lama, spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism, said he was against conversions and changing from one religion to another. His position is likely to be seen as support for the policies of the radical Hindu groups and the anti-conversion laws that exist in some Indian states.

During recent speech, he touched on the issue of conversions. “I do not like conversions,” he said, because they have a negative impact [on society]. “The two parties, that of the converted and the community abandoned by him, begin to fight.”

As an example of the negative influence produced by conversions, he cited the violence against the Australian missionary Graham Staines, burnt alive in his car with his two sons, and the violence and destruction still ongoing in Orissa and Karnataka.

This is not the first time that the Dalai Lama has spoken against conversions. Last November, at Christ University in Bangalore, he repeated a similar concept: on the one hand, he spoke of religious freedom and on the other of the need to avoid conversions: “Any religion – he said – should be limited to service-oriented interventions, such as providing people education and health care, not indulging in conversions.”

Cardinal Oswald Gracias, who personally knows the Dalai Lama, comments to AsiaNews that the freedom to change religion is a fundamental human right and can not be obscured for any convenience. (Read more here.)

 

Is China Planning to Change the One-Child Policy?

An intriguing article in the Shanghaiist speculates that perhaps China is considering revising their one-child policy.

This article is based on recommendations that came from The China Development Foundation, which is a government think tank. The recommendations include going to a two-child policy in some provinces this year and moving toward a national two-child policy by 2015.

Whether or not these recommendations will be enacted, it sounds as if they will still leave the decision of how many children a couple may have in the government’s hands. Up until now, this had led to government mandated forced abortions and other atrocities against women.

The Shanghaiist article says in part:

The China Development Research Foundation, a government think tank, has called for the immediate phasing-out of the one-child policy and for all Chinese families to be allowed two children by 2015.

Xie Meng, a press affairs official with the foundation, said the final version of the report wil be released “in a week or two.” But Chinese state media have been given advance copies. The official Xinhua News Agency said the foundation recommends a two-child policy in some provinces from this year and a nationwide two-child policy by 2015. It proposes all birth limits be dropped by 2020, Xinhua reported.”China has paid a huge political and social cost for the policy, as it has resulted in social conflict, high administrative costs and led indirectly to a long-term gender imbalance at birth,” Xinhua said, citing the report. (Read more here.)

Gay Marriage Moves Forward in Two States

Gay marriage laws moved forward in legislative bodies in Illinois and Colorado this week.

Colorado’s civil partnership bill and Illinois’ bill that would legalize same sex marriage passed the senate in each state.

Both of these still still have to go before the respective state’s Houses of Representatives and be signed by the governors. In both states, the governors have said that they will sign the bills, if they get them.

The move to legalize gay marriage is moving rapidly on a state by state basis. I don’t agree with changing marriage, but I do agree with doing it in this manner. By going state by state rather than using a judicial fiat, the supporters of gay marriage are avoiding a fiasco similar to what happened with Roe v Wade.

However, I, for one, will not give up on traditional marriage.

I don’t expect to deal with the issue directly as a legislator. Oklahoma has a Constitutional provision, passed by a vote of the people, stating that marriage is a union between one man and one woman, so I won’t be voting on whether or not to change the law itself. There is also no groundswell for gay marriage in Oklahoma, so I doubt that I will vote on an attempt to amend the Constitution to remove this provision.

It would, for these reasons, be easy enough for me to have dodged the whole question. There is no requirement for me to write about marriage on this blog as I have. However, I think that the assaults on marriage are a special sort of challenge for today’s Christians.

That is why I have written and will continue to write about marriage. Marriage is the basic building block of society. It is how we provide a stable and nurturing environment for society’s children. The destruction of marriage is suicide on a societal scale.

I will be writing about marriage quite a bit in the future. I honestly feel I would be failing in my calling if I didn’t.

CNN has a good article summarizing where the push to legalize gay marriage stands. It says in part:

(CNN) —The Illinois Senate passed a measure Thursday to legalize same-sex marriage, voting 34-21.

The state House will consider it next. Gov. Pat Quinn, a Democrat, has indicated that he would sign the bill.

Illinois would be the 10th state, plus the District of Columbia, to legalize same-sex marriage, according to Lambda Legal, a gay rights organization.

Three other states are considering similar legalization, said Camilla Taylor, marriage project director for Lambda Legal. A bill has passed the Rhode Island House and been sent to the Senate. A proposal has been introduced in the Hawaii legislature, and another is expected in Delaware, Taylor said.

Five states, including Illinois, have civil union laws, according to Lambda Legal and the National Conference of State Legislatures. The others are Hawaii, Delaware, New Jersey and Rhode Island.

Read more: http://www.koat.com/news/national/Illinois-Senate-passes-gay-marriage-bill/-/9153826/18551552/-/wyru62z/-/index.html#ixzz2KyveGn9R

 

Staying Married: Listen to Your Wife; Talk to Your Husband

My husband forgot about the first Valentine’s Day after our marriage.

I didn’t get so much as a card.

That was what you might call a mistake on his part; one he has learned not to repeat.

The reason he’s learned this is because I told him. I didn’t go home from work that day (I was in the legislature at the time) and hit him with my purse. But I did tell him. And the next Valentine’s Day, I told him in advance.

Which leads me to half my point.

Women, if you want a happy marriage, do not assume that your husband understands what you want. Based on decades of happy marriage to the one and only love of my life, I can tell you that he does not.

He. Doesn’t. Have. A. Clue.

I grew up with an involved father-in-residence and then married another y chromosome type person and have lived out the rest of my life since then with him. This experience has led me to form a theory about the male brain.

It doesn’t think like ours.

From what I can tell, the male of the human species thinks that if he makes sure you go to sleep in a warm bed under a roof that doesn’t leak after eating three square meals and that every man around knows that insulting you will get him in a fight, well then, that’s love. And you should know it.

If he comes home at night and doesn’t dally with other women, if he would rather cut his arm off than raise a hand to you, if he provides for, protects and cossets you, he thinks he’s done everything any woman with half a brain could possibly want. He’s finished. Done. Through. In his mind, he’s got that good husband stuff handled and now it’s time to get a brewski and plop down in front of the television for some football.

You, on the other hand, need to be told that he loves you. You think that all this protecting, providing, cosseting stuff is just a sort of baseline that any decent person would do. You don’t want a bag of groceries … or … well … you do want a bag of groceries, but you want something that feeds your heart as well as your stomach. You want affection. And you want a few complimentary words thrown in with the affection.

The trouble is, he’ll never know this if you don’t tell him. In fact, if your way of telling him is to go off and throw a hissy fit and cry and slam doors and answer “Nothing!” when he asks you what’s wrong, he’ll never figure it out. Nothing comes of that kind of behavior except a husband who is convinced he’s married someone who has mental problems, and a wife who honestly thinks her husband does not love her and that she’s probably unattractive to him to boot.

So, the first half of the point I’m making is, wives, talk to your husbands. Tell him what you want. I don’t mean yell at him and demand what you want. Just … tell him. Be specific. If you want him to take you out to dinner, say so. If you want a box of chocolates, say that. Do not make him try to figure it out. He won’t. Because he can’t. His brain doesn’t think like yours.

After you’ve told him, let it go until the next Valentine’s Day or whatever it is you were telling him about rolls around again. Then, gently, gently remind him. As the big day comes into view (be it your birthday, your anniversary, Valentine’s Day or whatever) start reminding him a few weeks out. You don’t have to make an issue of it. In fact, you shouldn’t make an issue of it. Just use your knowledge of him and your relationship to go about the business of reminding him in the gentlest way possible. If you don’t remind him, he won’t remember. Not, mind you, because he doesn’t love you, but because he’s a man, and their brains don’t think the same way ours do.

Which leads to the second half of my point.

Men, if you want a happy marriage, listen to your wife. When your wife tells you and reminds you, that means she’s handed you the ball and you need to run with it.

Do not quibble about this. Listen to your wife. Go forth and buy chocolates, or make dinner reservations or whatever. It does not matter that you just rotated the tires on her car and filled it up with gas. If she wants dinner and a movie, give her dinner and a movie. And for pete’s sake, tell her she’s pretty. Stand in front of your bathroom mirror with the door locked and practice if you have to, but say it.

Wives, talk to your husbands. Husbands, listen to your wives.

And while you’re at it, forgive one another for the subtle differences between the sexes that make this post necessary. There’s a reason God made us like this. When husbands and wives cooperate with one another this way, love between them grows. Our differences, which can drive us apart if we are stupid about them, can also meld us together for life.

Now, husbands and wives, start talking and listening. Your lives and your family will be the better for it.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Pope Benedict’s Last Mass: “The Church Belongs to Christ”

What sustains and illuminates me is the certainty that the Church belongs to Christ, whose care and guidance will never be lacking.

He “appeared wan and spoke very softly.”

His homily was interrupted repeatedly by applause and he received a standing ovation.

A banner was strung at the back of the room reading “Grazie Santita” (Thank you Your Holiness.)

Today, Pope Benedict XVI celebrated his last public mass as pope. 

“As you know, I have decided to renounce the ministry that the Lord gave to me on April 19, 2005,” he said. “I did this in full liberty for the good of the Church, after having prayed at length and examined my conscience before God, well aware of the gravity of this act … I was also well aware that I was no longer able to fulfill the Petrine ministry with that strength that it demands …”

“… the path of power is not the road of God.” he added.

“ … I have felt, almost physically, your prayers in these days which are not easy for me, the strength which the love of the Church and your prayers brings to me …

“… What sustains and illuminates me is the certainty that the Church belongs to Christ, whose care and guidance will never be lacking …

“… Continue to pray for me and for the future Pope; the Lord will guide us!”

Read more: http://www.ncregister.com/daily-news/pope-i-can-almost-physically-feel-prayers-and-love#ixzz2Ko3f8rL8

Here are some photos of our papa’s last mass as pope, courtesy of Tom McDonald.

Remember: Thou Art Dust

And the Lord God formed man from the dust of the earth … 

Ashes to ashes, dust to dust …

I am going to die.

You are going to die.

Public Catholic has enough regular readers that it is a statistical certainty that at least one of us, perhaps more, will die this year.

Our souls, as the Scriptures say, will be required of us.

We have unbelievers who post on this board who tell us that nothing awaits us when we close our eyes on this world, that we will simply drift into the nothingness of non-existence, go back to the dust from which we came, and cease.

Our ending, according to them, will be our end.

But this, quite simply, is not true. I doubt very much that the nonbelievers who say it actually believe it. They use it as a ruse to hide behind when dealing with the existential miseries that their bankrupt philosophy imposes on them. It is an odd and sad outlook on life that finds its comfort in a studied hope for annihilation.

The truth is, there is no death for us. We are immortal beings who will live on past our bodies. Most of us sense this in a deep and incontrovertible way that can either comfort or torment us, depending on what we do with this innate knowledge of our own natures.

God is real. I have felt and known Him. I experienced His Presence in my life as an inpouring of love that I neither expected or sought.

But — and this is something that so frightens unbelievers that they invariably become angry when you say it — the devil and his evil are also real. It is not fashionable to say that. I’ve had members of the clergy chide me and tease me for believing it. But I do not doubt the reality of a malicious personality that hates the light and craves annihilation. I have felt his presence, too.

“If you eat of the fruit, you will not die” he told the woman, and like all really effective lies, this one was partial truth. You will not die … today. That was the truth of it. Turn your back on God. Defy Him. Do your own thing. And you will not die … today.

God lies, Satan told the woman, just as he tells us today. God lies to you when He says “Thou shalt not kill, lie, steal, commit adultery or covet.” He doesn’t mean it when He says “Put no other gods before Me.”

He lies. Because he doesn’t want you to have the pretty things of this world, to be able to enjoy the sexual pleasures He created for you, to live as you choose with your own free and preeminent will. He lies, and you are a fool for listening to Him.

Because you are not dust. You are the Lord of creation, the master of your fate, the god of your own life. There is nothing to fear because there is nothing that matters. At the end of our days, there is nothing but nothing. We stop. And we rot. We are carrion meat that walks for a time. So we should, again as the Scriptures say, eat, drink and be merry.

Like all effective lies, this one contains a bit of truth mixed in with the untruth. “Eat and you will not die … today.”

“Ignore God now and there will be no reckoning … today.”

Because you are dust, and you will die, regardless of how you live. You can run ten miles a day and your heart will still stop at some unknown time in your future. You can eat spinach and beans and forego fast food and steak, but your arteries will still cease to pump blood on some day you don’t know yet.

You can break every moral precept in the Scriptures, and you will not die … today. You will live for a time and you may even appear to triumph over those who do not indulge their darker natures as you do. There will be no reckoning … today.

But God is real. He gives us every opportunity to turn to Him and live life His way. He lets us choose. He sets before us every day life and death, and He lets us freely choose which of these we want.

That is what Lent is about. It isn’t a matter of giving up candy or foregoing wine for forty days. It is not about wearing ashes on our foreheads like religious jewelry or meatless Fridays.

Lent is about conversion. It is about renewal by means of awareness that we need to be renewed. The penances of Lent are signposts to guide us to a knowledge that we are but dust and we have sinned, but that we are also immortal beings who will one day stand before the God Who made us.

Lent is a time of turning again to the roots of our being. It is going back to the garden and acknowledging that we too “are naked and ashamed” before God. We, too are, to paraphrase St Peter, “sinful men and women.” But instead of crying out as Peter did, “Depart from me Lord, for I am a sinful man.” We can say, “come close to me Lord, for I am your broken child.”

The difference is the cross. The difference between despair and trust is the certain knowledge that we are bought at a terrible price and we do not have to be masters of our own fate. We do not have to feel our way blindly through life with no idea of what is right and wrong. We do not have to die an eternal death. We can have life, and have it abundantly. Because of the cross.

Lent is a time of penance and reflection in which we take an honest look at ourselves and our tawdry righteousness. Lent is for turning back to the One who can save us from ourselves. We are preparing to go to the cross where we will stand in solidarity with the rest of humanity, united in our sinfulness and our great need of Him and His redemption.

Lent is not about giving up candy and meatless Fridays. It is rather our gentle foretaste of Gethsemane.

A Few Quick Takes on Obama’s State of the Union Address

President Barack Obama, official portrait

President Obama gave his annual State of the Union Address tonight.

There were no surprises in the speech. Most of what the President said has been in the news for a long time now. In fact, several of his major proposals, such as gun control, have been the subject of presidential speeches or press conferences in the past few weeks.

I agree with some of his ideas and disagree with others. Quite a bit of the speech was filler of one sort or the other, either introducing people who the president felt would exemplify the need for his proposals, or in just illustrating and explaining what he wanted.

I’ve attempted to boil it down to a few quick takes to make it easier to see where he wants to take the country. We’ve already discussed several of these proposals quite a bit here on Public Catholic. I expect that we will go over some of them in even greater depth in the future.

In the meantime, here are my quick takes on the President’s speech. If you think I left out something important, feel free to bring it up in the comments section.

Jobs, Taxes and Wages

1. … we can’t ask senior citizens and working families to shoulder the entire burden of deficit reduction while asking nothing more from the wealthiest and most powerful … we can’t just cut our way to prosperity.

2. I propose a “Fix-It-First” program to put people to work as soon as possible on our most urgent repairs, like the nearly 70,000 structurally deficient bridges across the country. I’m also proposing a Partnership to Rebuild America that attracts private capital to upgrade what our businesses need most: modern ports to move our goods; modern pipelines to withstand a storm; modern schools worthy of our children.

3. Tonight, let’s declare that in the wealthiest nation on Earth, no one who works full-time should have to live in poverty, and raise the federal minimum wage to $9.00 an hour. This single step would raise the incomes of millions of working families.

4. Now is the time to reach a level of research and development not seen since the height of the Space Race. And today, no area holds more promise than our investments in American energy.

The Deficit, Health Care & Energy

1. Reduce taxpayer subsidies to prescription drug companies and ask more from the wealthiest seniors. We’ll bring down costs by changing the way our government pays for Medicare, because our medical bills shouldn’t be based on the number of tests ordered or days spent in the hospital – they should be based on the quality of care that our seniors receive.

2. Save hundreds of billions of dollars by getting rid of tax loopholes and deductions for the well-off and well-connected. 

3. My Administration will keep cutting red tape and speeding up new oil and gas permits. But I also want to work with this Congress to encourage the research and technology that helps natural gas burn even cleaner and protects our air and water

Climate Change

1. We must do more to combat climate change. 

2. I urge this Congress to pursue a bipartisan, market-based solution to climate change, like the one John McCain and Joe Lieberman worked on together a few years ago.

Home Ownership

Right now, there’s a bill in this Congress that would give every responsible homeowner in America the chance to save $3,000 a year by refinancing at today’s rates. Take a vote, and send me that bill.

Education

1. Tonight, I propose working with states to make high-quality preschool available to every child in America. 

2. I ask Congress to change the Higher Education Act, so that affordability and value are included in determining which colleges receive certain types of federal aid. And tomorrow, my Administration will release a new “College Scorecard” that parents and students can use to compare schools based on a simple criteria: where you can get the most bang for your educational buck.

Immigration

Real reform means establishing a responsible pathway to earned citizenship – a path that includes passing a background check, paying taxes and a meaningful penalty, learning English, and going to the back of the line behind the folks trying to come here legally.

al Qaeda, Afghanistan, Cyber Terrorism

1. Tonight, I can announce that over the next year, another 34,000 American troops will come home from Afghanistan. This drawdown will continue. And by the end of next year, our war in Afghanistan will be over.

2. Today, the organization that attacked us on 9/11 is a shadow of its former self. Different al Qaeda affiliates and extremist groups have emerged – from the Arabian Peninsula to Africa. The threat these groups pose is evolving. But to meet this threat, we don’t need to send tens of thousands of our sons and daughters abroad, or occupy other nations. Instead, we will need to help countries like Yemen, Libya, and Somalia provide for their own security, and help allies who take the fight to terrorists, as we have in Mali. And, where necessary, through a range of capabilities, we will continue to take direct action against those terrorists who pose the gravest threat to Americans.

3. America must also face the rapidly growing threat from cyber-attacks. Now our enemies are also seeking the ability to sabotage our power grid, our financial institutions, and our air traffic control systems. We cannot look back years from now and wonder why we did nothing in the face of real threats to our security and our economy.

International Trade Agreements 

1. We intend to complete negotiations on a Trans-Pacific Partnership.

2. We will launch talks on a comprehensive Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership with the European Union.

The Military and Defense Spending

1. We will maintain the best military in the world.

2. We will ensure equal treatment for all service members, and equal benefits for their families – gay and straight.

3. We will draw upon the courage and skills of our sisters and daughters, because women have proven under fire that they are ready for combat.

Long Voting Lines

When any Americans – no matter where they live or what their party – are denied that right simply because they can’t wait for five, six, seven hours just to cast their ballot, we are betraying our ideals. That’s why, tonight, I’m announcing a non-partisan commission to improve the voting experience in America. 

Gun Control 

1. Background checks

2. New laws to prevent anyone from buying guns for resale to criminals.

3. Police chiefs are asking our help to get weapons of war and massive ammunition magazines off our streets.

Okie Snow: Be Careful What You Wish For Girl

I have always loved snow.

Snow in Oklahoma means an automatic unscheduled holiday. Employers close down their businesses, churches and schools cancel services. We stay home from work, go to the grocery store and stock up on food, put the movies on tv and kick back.

Like I said, it’s a holiday.

This happens mostly because we are so totally unprepared to deal with snow and ice. We don’t have the clothes for it, don’t know how to drive on it, and have no clue at all as to how to keep our balance while walking on it.

A glaze of ice means gridlock; I mean people get trapped in their cars in long lines of traffic that do not move for hours. An inch of snow can shut us down for days. Fortunately for us, it usually melts even faster than it came down. We’re lucky if a snow stays on the ground for more than two days. Or maybe, I should say we are unlucky when it stays down because we don’t have plows to take it off our streets and driveways. It basically has to melt off. If for some reason that takes time, the gridlock extends beyond holidaying and turns into major inconvenience.

I’m talking about relatives moving in together to share the one house in the family that still has electricity (which always goes off in ice storms) This one house in the family with electricity on which all the relatives descend invariably is the house with one bathroom and no spare beds. Other people crash and bang into one another on the way to jobs that have reopened, no matter the roadways.

So when I say I love snow, you have to understand that I’m grouping myself with schoolchildren praying for a snow day and not much of anyone else. But it’s true. I do. Love snow, that is. Love the stuff.

Which is why I’ve been sad about our snowless winter so far. Oklahoma, in case you haven’t figured this out from what I’ve said so far, is not big snow country. But we do get an ice or snow storm once or twice each winter. That’s all it usually amounts to, but it does come around like clockwork every year.

However, we’d been snowless so far this winter. There were a few flakes before Christmas, but they weren’t enough to dust the ground. I think this is mostly due to our overall waterless state. We are in a drought cycle reminiscent of the one that gave us the Dust Bowl. We’ve dodged the Dust Bowl scenario this time around due to conservation efforts people put in place after the 1930s’ misery. But no conservation effort can change the fact that the rain has stayed away. It clouds up, but nothing comes down, and that has included snow.

I had resigned myself to a snowless winter. In fact, winter itself was beginning to look like a quickly passing phase instead of a full-blown season. We’ve had shirtsleeve weather a couple of days this past week. Garden supply stores are starting to gear up. And I keep finding seed catalogues in my mailbox.

Snow was the furthest thing from my mind when I got up this morning. I had two bills up in committee today, one of them an important pro life bill. I was excited and happy about the idea of defending them in committee. I am a legislator, and I live for this stuff. Passing a bill you really care about is one of the highest highs you can have on any job. Passing a bill like this pro life bill, that you know will save lives, is … well … it’s reason enough to put up with the guff and grump of public office the rest of the time.

When I walked out of my house and saw the snow coming down, my first reaction, despite my love of the white stuff, was dismay. I broke my foot last October. Yesterday was the first day I’ve been able to go all day with a regular shoe on that foot in all those months. I spent two months in a wheel chair and even more time basically confined to my house. I still don’t walk exactly the way I did and I’m not all that sure-footed.

It’s getting better every day. But the thought of slip-sliding on the ice with the Gimpster really scared me. I do not want to break anything else. I’ve enjoyed that deal just about as much as I can stand.

I took heart in the fact that the snow was not “sticking.” It was coming down, but melting in the puddles on the ground. I hoped that meant it would be an ice free passage when I needed to get out of the car and walk. But I only drove a short way before that changed. The snowfall thickened and I guess the temperature dropped because it started packing on the streets and piling up on the ground.

I got over halfway to work and decided the risk was too great. I called everyone and told them I was bailing. Then I turned the car around and headed home. No trip to the capitol, no committee meeting, no ice walking for me.

This is not something I did lightly. In eleven years, I had only missed two days of work, one because of a death in the family and the other one because of Gimpy. Now, thanks again to Gimpy, I’ve missed three days.

But the thing that really bothered me wasn’t missing a day of work. It was getting that bill out of committee. There’s a timing to these things and the time for this vote was now. I wanted so badly to go in there and present that bill in committee, but the Gimpster has her own rules and I’ve learned the hard, hard way that I’d better follow them.

Long story short, another legislator friend of mine, Representative Mike Ritze, graciously agreed to handle the pro life bill for me in committee and got it voted out. (Bless him.) I am so grateful to Representative Ritze for being willing to jump in there like that.

Representative Mike Ritze

At the same time, I am disappointed that I didn’t get to do it myself.

I mean, really disappointed.

I got the snow I was wishing for. And I did not re-injure my healing-but-still-gimpy leg. On top of that, the bill that matters so much to me was voted out of committee, thanks to an understanding chairman and a kind-hearted and willing colleague. Thanks to good people who pulled together to help me, a life-saving bill made it over the first legislative hurdle.

Kinda hard to feel sorry for myself when I put it like that, so I guess I won’t.

The bill is still a long way from making a new law. I’ll have plenty of opportunities to defend it, I’m sure.

In the meantime, I think I’m going to enjoy this little bit of Okie Snow.

It’s Shrove Tuesday. It’s also two days before Valentine’s Day. If it hadn’t snowed, my husband was going to take me out tonight. As it is, I may make pancakes. We have a bottle of champagne that’s not doing anything.

Champagne and pancakes on Shrove Tuesday.

Sounds like an Okie snowstorm to me.

Have a great evening, my friends. Happy Shrove Tuesday.

And be care what you wish for.

 

Should There be a Retirement Age for Popes?

Pope Benedict’s resignation, effective February 28, is not precedent setting. It has been done before.

However, the question remains: What does it mean for the Church as an institution?

Now that a pope has resigned, the possibility of a papal resignation is much more present than it was before. By doing it, the Holy Father has made it possible for all of us to consider that his heirs on the throne of Peter might do it also.

It is no longer unthinkable that a pope would resign his office.

I am from a political background, so I tend to look at things like this at least partly in terms of a transference of power. In my experience, power, wherever you find it, always attracts careerists who will shove, bully and manipulate to gain that power. The thought that came to my mind almost immediately after I heard of the pope’s resignation was, Will this lead to people hectoring and manipulating in an attempt to force popes to resign in the future?

Modern medicine gives more people the opportunity to live into a frail old age than ever before. This applies to popes as well as you and me. For any man to be elected pope, he must have lived long enough to have the experience and holiness the position requires. It takes years of walking with the Lord to become holy in the sense that a leader of His Church must be holy. Peter himself was a brash young man who had a lot of learn at the beginning.

Pope John Paul II was a surprising selection for pope for many reasons, his relative youth among them.

Yet, in time, everyone ages. So electing younger popes would only delay the questions I’m raising. It would not avoid them.

One possible way to avoid future popes being pressured to resign would be to do away with the possibility of resignation. Pope Benedict’s resignation was conducted by Canon Law, not dogmatic Church teaching. So, the ability of a pope to resign can be eliminated altogether, making the Papacy a lifelong sinecure with no off ramps.

Another way to do this would be to establish a retirement age for popes. I think it would have to be rather elderly, given that our previous popes have done some of their most marvelous work when they were well past 75.

These thoughts are just me, mentally noodling with the situation. They are thinking thinking, not suggestions, or even formed opinions. Still, I think it’s worthwhile to talk about it. Our pope has resigned. What does that mean to the Church in these perilous times?

There will be a new pope and he will lead us without departing from the Gospels of Christ. I do not doubt that.

But all human beings are frail and fallen. It is inevitable that this new pope — and all those who follow him — will be subject to the increasing viciousness of a world that is moving from moral nihilism to moral self-destruction. The pope, as the leader of the Catholic Church, must stand against the gates of hell.

I am praying for this unknown man as he goes about his days, almost certainly unaware of what awaits him in March. I am also grateful to the core for the steady and unyielding leadership Pope Benedict XVI has given us.

May his tribe increase.

 

Consider the Source. Then Consider the Rock.

Pope Benedict XVI gives the final blessing at the Nov. 14, 2012 general audience in Paul VI Hall. Credit: Matthew Rarey-CNA.

I haven’t had time to watch the news today, but I gather that some venues moved to negativity about the Church and the Holy Father almost as soon as the news of his resignation was delivered.

I also heard some crude things about both Pope Benedict and the Catholic Church at work today.

My feeling about all this is, Consider the source.

I mean that literally. Think about the source, the basis for this nastiness. It comes from anger because Pope Benedict XVI held the line on 2,000 years of Christian teaching. He did it in the face of enormous pressure and widespread Christian/Catholic/Pope bashing.

Consider the source. It comes from people who are so arrogant that they want the Pope to abrogate Church teaching and Christian morality and follow their lead in these things instead of Christ the Lord.

Consider the source. Then, be proud of our Papa for holding that line and refusing to budge when it comes to Jesus Christ, even in the face of criticism, calumny and apostasy.

Apostasy is the new trendy of our times. People are oh-so-fond of telling us how they “love” Jesus but hate His Church. What that usually means is that they love the cheap grace of a Jesus made in their image and reject a Church that refuses to bend on the moral teachings that tell them they are wrong in this.

Apostasy is nothing for us to fear. It is not new, and it is not surprising. It is prophesied.

I am thankful for Pope Benedict’s time as Pope. He has kept the barque of Peter on the steady Gospel course. The Church he will hand to his successor is one whose teachings have not faltered in the face of public opprobrium from certain quarters. It is a Church that has shown a willingness to stand alone, if necessary, rather than compromise on 2,000 years of Christian morality. His successor will inherit a Church that is a beacon in a time where the lights of basic morality are going out all over the world.

I have no doubt that our new Pope, whoever he may be, will disappoint these pundits, along with my Church-hating co-workers by keeping the same steady course of consistent Catholic Truth that Pope Benedict has done.

After all, our Church is built on a rock. And the gates of hell will not prevail against it. 

A Few Quick Takes on Holy Father’s Resignation

Quick takes from news reports on the Holy Father’s resignation:

  • Pope Benedict XVI will revert to his old title of Cardinal Josef Ratzinger after his resignation.
  • Cardinal Josef Ratzinger will be able to participate in the conclave to elect the new pope, but Vatican sources says he will not do so.
  • The resignation announcement was a surprise, even to Vatican officials:   “The pope took us by surprise,” said Father Lombardi, who explained that many cardinals were in Rome on Monday for a ceremony at the Vatican and heard the pope’s address.
  •  Pope Benedict XVI has been pope from 2005 to 2013, a total of 8 years.
  • The last pope to resign was Gregory XII in 1415
  • The Vatican says that after his resignation, Pope Benedict will move to a monastery in the Vatican.
  • Pope Benedict turns 86 in April.
  • The pope’s 89-year-old brother, Georg Ratzinger, told a German news agency that the pope has had difficulty walking recently and has considered stepping down for months. “His age is weighing on him,” Georg Ratzinger said. “At this age my brother wants more rest.”

Sources for these facts and news stories about the Holy Father’s resignation can be found here, here, here, and here.

Pope Benedict XVI Will Resign

The Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, announced that he will resign, effective February 28.

A conclave to elect a new pope will convene in March. According to the Associated Press, this is the first papal resignation in 600 years.

My prayers go with His Holiness as he moves into retirement. My mother is two years older than he is. I have often thought about the Holy Father as I have cared for her. To be honest, I did not see how he — or anyone his age — could handle the tumultuous affairs of state that must be necessary for a pope to administer.

I am grateful to him for the years of faithful service to Our Lord that he has given us. He has remained true to the Gospels and 2,000 years of Christian teaching in the face of criticism and what must have been painful attacks.

I hope that this retirement comes in time for him to have at least a few years of quiet and happiness on this earth before he goes to heaven.

Deacon Greg Kandra has written an excellent news roundup of this announcement. I encourage you to go here to read it. 

The announcement from Vatican radio is below. 

From the Vatican Radio website:

Pope Benedict XVI on Monday said he plans on resigning the papal office on February 28th. Below please find his announcement.

Full text of Pope’s declaration

Dear Brothers,
I have convoked you to this Consistory, not only for the three canonizations, but also to communicate to you a decision of great importance for the life of the Church. After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry. I am well aware that this ministry, due to its essential spiritual nature, must be carried out not only with words and deeds, but no less with prayer and suffering. However, in today’s world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith, in order to govern the bark of Saint Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few months, has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me. For this reason, and well aware of the seriousness of this act, with full freedom I declare that I renounce the ministry of Bishop of Rome, Successor of Saint Peter, entrusted to me by the Cardinals on 19 April 2005, in such a way, that as from 28 February 2013, at 20:00 hours, the See of Rome, the See of Saint Peter, will be vacant and a Conclave to elect the new Supreme Pontiff will have to be convoked by those whose competence it is.

Dear Brothers, I thank you most sincerely for all the love and work with which you have supported me in my ministry and I ask pardon for all my defects. And now, let us entrust the Holy Church to the care of Our Supreme Pastor, Our Lord Jesus Christ, and implore his holy Mother Mary, so that she may assist the Cardinal Fathers with her maternal solicitude, in electing a new Supreme Pontiff. With regard to myself, I wish to also devotedly serve the Holy Church of God in the future through a life dedicated to prayer.

From the Vatican, 10 February 2013

Should You Bring Your Guns to Church?

I voted against  a bill to allow clergy to carry firearms while conducting church services about 9 months ago.

My reason?

The bill gave me the creeps.

I know that sounds like a poor way to make a decision about legislation, and I have to admit it wasn’t one of the most deeply-considered votes I’ve cast, but the bill took me by surprise. I was unaware of it until the Floor Leader introduced the author so he could bring it up for a vote on the House floor.

You have to make decisions in that ready-set-vote fashion a lot of the time. Those are the times when it’s not good to try to over-think in a rush. Quickie analysis is often stupid analysis. I’ve found that my first impulse may not be always the one I would chose after I think it over, but it more often is than not. So, when I’m pushed, I go with what my gut and my considerable legislative experience tell me.

I voted against the bill for the simple reason that the idea of preachers packing heat during church services gave me the creeps.

It appears that this bill was the harbinger of things to come. A number of states have introduced and passed legislation that allows parishioners to bring their guns to church, and the number appears to be growing. Proponents of these measures say that 70 people were “violently killed on faith-based property” during church services last year.

I have no idea if they were killed by crazies bursting into churches and shooting people or by rapist/murderers breaking in and attacking church secretaries or what. That information would make  a difference in how I vote on these things in the future.

To be honest, I’m not sure what I think about all these ideas except to say that they are treating the symptom and not the disease. The reason for the senseless violence we are seeing lies, not in inanimate objects, but in ourselves.

I never thought about these things until the Oklahoma City Bombing, but I’ve thought about them quite a lot since then. I still don’t have any quick-fix, short-term solutions for what we are experiencing at the hands of these violent young men. However, I do think the long-term solution is much harder than we want to admit and that this is part of the reason why we reach out for quick fixes involving weapons instead of  more long-term solutions that deal with the people who weld them.

A Baptist Press article about the pistol-packin’ congregants say in part:

NASHVILLE (BP) — As gun control takes high priority on Capitol Hill, state legislatures increasingly are allowing concealed guns in our most sacred place, the church, either for personal protection or for worshippers designated as church security personnel.

Arkansas, on Feb. 4, became the eighth state to pass legislation allowing concealed guns specifically in churches. In a lopsided bipartisan vote, state legislators voted to allow each church to decide whether individuals with concealed carry permits could take guns in church for personal protection.

“A person should be allowed to carry a firearm in a church that permits the carrying of a firearm for personal security,” the Arkansas Church Protection Act reads, deeming such an option “immediately necessary for the preservation of the public peace, health, and safety” because “personal security is increasingly important.”

Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, South Carolina, Utah, Virginia and Wyoming also have laws allowing concealed guns specifically in churches, with varied stipulations, including the possession of a proper permit, training, church approval and congregational awareness, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Additionally, about 20 other states allow guns in churches because of “right to carry” laws, but have not specifically focused on churches in legislation. (Read more here.)

Lent: Repentance, Divorce and Your Children

Lent begins this Wednesday.

It’s difficult in our over-scheduled world to reflect. On anything. It is doubly difficult to reflect on something as unpleasant as our own sins.

However, unless the statistics and the evening news are entirely bogus, we have a lot to repent of this Lent, a lot to change.

Most of us, me included, tend to focus on the entirely personal nature of our sins that pertains only to us. We don’t often consider how our personal sins affect others. We almost never think about  how our personal behavior either contributes to the common good or diminishes it.

We’ve had quite a few discussions on Public Catholic about marriage and family. A lot of this discussing has focused on the question of whether or not our society should change the legal definition of marriage. The question is, should we redefine marriage  to something that does not focus on marriage’s institutional purpose of creating, nurturing and equipping future generations of people to become stable and productive adults?

I think the primary reason we have come to the point where we can seriously consider such a thing is that we have become a divorce culture. Divorce and our easy acceptance of it as a solution for almost any spousal grivance has destroyed marriage as a nest for many millions of our young people. So, destroying it absolutely through a redefinition of the law just seems like the next step for many people. We’ve abused marriage so much that we’ve forgotten what marriage is.

One of the questions I’d like all of us to ponder during this Lent is how we treat our own families. In this post, I’m going to focus on divorced parents.

Divorce does not end your obligation as a parent. It complicates it and makes it more difficult to live out, but it certainly does not end it. Your children are still your children.

I see a lot of finger-pointing between divorced spouses. He claims that she won’t let him see the kids. She tells stories of fathers who make dates to see the children who wait eagerly by the door for hours for their Daddy who never shows up. Some divorced spouses move hundreds of miles away from their children and then only see them once or twice a year.

This is going to make a lot of people angry, but I’m going to say it. If you are only seeing your kids once or twice a year, you are not functioning as a parent in their lives. You are functioning, at best, as a kindly uncle or aunt.

Parents are there. Parents put their children first, ahead of their anger and resentment toward their former spouses, and yes, their careers and their new spouses.

I know all the stories about jobs and second marriages and all the other “necessary” reasons people move far away from their children. But, to be honest, I don’t buy it. Your children should come first. I once knew a divorced dad from England who had followed his divorced wife to Oklahoma so he could be near his kids. That’s a father.

The mother who moved her children so far away from their father on the other hand … not so much. I don’t think divorced dads should move away from their kids. I also don’t think divorced moms should move the kids away from their father.

I can hear the anger now over that statement. After all, isn’t divorce about starting over?

In truth, I don’t know what divorce is. I do know what being a parent is. Among other things, being a parent means you put your kids’ needs ahead of your own. So, no, divorce is not about “starting over” and having a “new life.” You are a parent first, foremost and for life. There are no excuses for forgetting that.

If you have kids, you need to put them ahead of yourself. You need to do what it takes to be their mother or father. Your career, your desire to remarry, your “needs” are all second to that.

Too often, divorced parents use the children to punish their former spouses. Also too often, they remarry and put their new spouses and their new children ahead of their “old” kids. After all, babies are always cuter, cuddlier and simpler than your older children with their knobby knees, braces on their teeth and the emotional damage you’ve done to them with your custody fights, attacks on their mother or father and indifference to their needs.

It must seem to children of divorce like their parents stop loving them. Unfortunately, in far too many instances, this is not entirely an illusion.

Divorce is a wrecking ball we take to our lives. It is a ripping apart of that “one flesh” that marriage is. It violates the trust of family, destroys the peace and safety of home.

Divorce hurts people to the core. It inflicts wounds on them that will not heal.

Whatever harm divorce does to the adults who commit it can be raised by powers of ten for their children. Divorce wounds adults. It maims children.

I know there are many experts who will tell you that this is not true. But look at the generations of young people we are producing. They appear to be increasingly unable to form families and nurture their own young. That is a profound, civilization-destroying failure of child-rearng and family that rests on the heads of their parents.

It speaks directly to our excesses and abuses of our marriages and children. Unfortunately, we are not getting the message. Instead of repenting of our societal excesses that have led to this destruction of our homes and families, we are attempting to complete the process by redefining marriage as a social contract in which fidelity, children and stability play no part.

We want to base our understanding of marriage on things like job benefits and inheritance laws (all of which can be changed without touching marriage) rather than its essential function as a cradle for creating and raising our children. It is as if we have fallen in love with our own cultural/societal suicide.

Lent begins Wednesday. Lent is a time when we are supposed to examine our lives, repent of our sins and do penance for those sins. I’m going to suggest that you take a look at how you treat your family. For this post, I am going to focus specifically on divorced parents.

Are you doing your best to be a good parent to your children? How high are your children on your list of priorities? Do they rank somewhere below your job, your dating life, your grief/bitterness/rage over the divorce and your desire to “put it behind me” and get on with a new life?

Do you even care about what your behavior does to them? Are you concerned about the fact that you are shaping people? Have you forgotten that they are your own flesh and blood?

For today, I want to ask divorced parents to consider examining their own lives and how they can do a better job of overcoming the many deficits divorce inflicts on their ability to properly nurture, guide and shelter their children. Think of ways you can be an effective father or mother to the children you have brought into this world. Consider them, and not you.

They are, after all, your children. Nothing else you do in life matters if you don’t take care of them.

Hijacked

I try to allow people of good will to discuss their different ideas here so long as they do it in a civil fashion.

However, I’ve been getting an increasing number of complaints about a few people with atheist beliefs who are posting so often and so redundantly that they are dominating the conversation and hijacking the board.

Public Catholic is a Christian, Catholic blog. The purpose of Public Catholic is to help equip Christians to enter into public defense of our faith in an effective manner. That is one reason why I allow a good bit of discussion that comes from people who disagree with what the rest of us believe. I’m hoping that by practicing your thinking/reasoning/debating skills here in this relatively safe and civil place you will sharpen those skills so that you can do a better job when you engage the world.

However, it seems I have, once again, let it go too far.

I’m going to begin by asking those who are unbelievers to post a bit more judiciously. Start by trying to come up with something more original than just mindlessly repeating that you don’t believe in God, that the Catholic Church is the spawn of satan, and that every trendy form of license, killing or social dissolution is the wave of a glorious future.

If you don’t do this, I will start deleting comments when one person makes essentially the same comment repeatedly and I think that they are stifling other conversation by doing it.

If anyone has ideas about how Public Catholic can do a better job of equipping you to speak for Christ, please feel free to suggest them to me. At the same time, feel free to “practice” on the unbelievers who come here to discuss.

I don’t want to stifle viewpoints. But I can’t allow a few people to use this board for their online therapy sessions to the detriment of the purpose of the blog itself.

Christian Persecution: 6 Quick Takes from Around the World

Agape Girgis, 13, abducted by radical Islamists.

Violent persecutors of Christians appear to be cowards as well as bigots. How else to interpret their propensity for preying on Christian clergy, women and children?

They especially seem to like abducting little girls.

There is a method to this evil. After all, if you destroy the young girls, you in effect doom your opponent to die out and die off. Mothers everywhere are the heart of any home and family.  Homes and families are the primary means of transmitting values and culture from one generation to the next. Given those two facts, these cowardly, totally unmanly attacks on women and little girls take on the shape and form of what they really are: A means of slow and deliberate genocide.

Christians are being attacked with what appears to be genocidal intent in a good part of the world today. They are being oppressed and imprisoned by legal discrimination in other areas. In much of the rest of the world, Christians are increasingly subjected to a barrage of mockery, hate speech and unceasing attempts to limit their sphere of influence.

I write these articles in an attempt to increase Christian awareness of what’s happening. We’ve been like the frog in the pan of water on the burner, unaware that the water is heating up and will eventually boil us to death.

Christians need to wake up.

Here are 6 quick takes on Christian persecution from around the world.

1

Egypt, 15 years in prison for mother and seven children, converts to Christianity
The case concerns Nadia Mohamed Ali, a mother of eight children, born Christian, but converted to Islam to marry her husband. After his death, she decides to return to her original religion with her children. The authorities accuse her of having changed names on documents to skip procedure.

Cairo (AsiaNews / Agencies) – The criminal court of Beni Suef (115 km south of Cairo) has sentenced an entire family to prison for converting to Christianity. Nadia Mohamed Ali and her children Mohab, Maged, Sherif, Amira, Amir, and Nancy Ahmed Mohamed abdel-Wahab will spend 15 years in prison. Seven other people involved in the case were sentenced to five years in prison. (Read the Asia News article here.)

 

2

Lao Police Arrest Christian Pastors for Spreading Christian Religion

The Phin district police of Savannakhet province of Laos arrested and detained three Christian pastors for disseminating Christian religion. The incident took place approximately 5:00 p.m. on February 5, 2013, when three Christian pastors took a copy of a movie CD about the End Times to a local shop for making copies.

Police Lieutenant Khamvee accompanied by his two deputies stormed the shop and arrested the three pastors. The shop owner was also taken to the police station for further questioning but he was later released. However, the three pastors are being detained arbitrarily in the Phin district prison. (Read the rest of the Human Rights Watch article here.)
OVER 500 CHRISTIAN GIRLS KIDNAPPED BY MUSLIMS IN EGYPT SINCE REVOLUTION

Over 500 Christian girls have been abducted in Egypt since the revolution of January 2011; they are taken by Salafists who forcibly convert them to Islam and marry them to Muslim men against their will.

forced-conversion-egypt-4x3.jpg

The number of cases has been documented by the non-governmental Christian organisation Association of Victims of Abduction and Enforced Disappearance (AVAED), which says that Salafist sheiks are behind nearly all of the abductions and the interior ministry colludes with them. (Read the rest of the Barnabas Fund article here.)

 

3

Christians are ‘Butchered Like Animals’ in Northern Nigeria

Christians are targeted and “butchered like animals” nearly every day in northern Nigerian cities, with little alarm sounded by the international community, according to a Voice Of the Martyrs worker. Christians are targeted in their homes, at their businesses, on farms, while traveling on highways and even in their churches.

“These Christians are imprisoned—though there may not be physical walls barricading them—but they are confined to one fate which is death by bombing, bullet, fire, cutlasses, machetes and economic hardship,” the VOM worker said. “Christians are not allowed to go to markets or farms, all for the sake of their faith in Christ Jesus.

“These Christians live as if every day were their last. Someone told me in one of the cities, ‘We are just but walking corpses on the street, waiting for our burial days.’ And although seen as second-class citizens, these Christians [in northern Nigeria] remain strong in their faith, and only wish to advance the gospel.” (Read the rest of the Charisma News article here. )

 

4

India: Kashmir Mob Tries to Lynch 12 Christian Tourists

Srinagar (AsiaNews) – On the basis of false allegations of forced conversions, more and more Christians in Kashmir are victims of persecution. This according to Sajan George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC), after the attempted assault on a group of 12 foreign tourists, accused via Facebook of practicing forced conversions in Tangmarg area north of Jammu and Kashmir. The incident occurred late in the evening of 2 February.

Around 10 pm a crowd of people gathered in front of a hotel in Srinagar, the capital, throwing stones against the walls and asking for the immediate trial of foreigners, eight Americans and four Koreans. Intervening on the spot, the police searched luggage and documents of the tourists. On finding nothing, the officers dispersed the protesters. When checking their passports, the police reported that the group has also visited other Muslim countries, including Afghanistan, Uzbekistan and Azerbaijan.

The violent reaction was triggered by a photo published on the Facebook page Gulmarg News. The image shows three oriental girls, while the caption warns, “Caution Kashmir! Islam in Kashmir is under attack, Christians trying to convert Muslims,” recounting the testimony of a boy, who in exchange for chocolate would have been forced to recant Islam and convert to Christianity. (Read the rest of the AsiaNews story here.)

 

5

19 Christian Children Rescued from Radical Islamist Trafficker

International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that 19 children, who were to be sold to fundamentalist Islamic boarding schools (madrassas), have been rescued.

Traffickers lied to the children’s parents, saying they would take the children to Christian boarding schools in Dhaka, Bangladesh, when in fact they were intending to sell the children to various madrassas. Students from Dhaka University discovered the children and rescued them. This is not the first instance of Christian children being trafficked to madrassas, as upwards of 150 children have been rescued from similar situations since July. (Read the rest of the Charisma News story here.)

 

6

Egypt: Christian Girl, 13, Abducted by Muslims

(AINA) — On December 23, 2012, 13-year-old Agape Essam Girgis from the village of Nahda, el-Ameriya, near Alexandria, went to school as usual. Failing to return home, the family knew that she went out of school accompanied by the Muslim social worker Heba and two teachers, one of the them a Salafist. She stayed missing for 9 days.

On December 31 state security contacted Bishop Pachomios and told him that they have the kidnapped girl. She was handed over to her family and the church priest where she stayed with his family for some time due to the terrible ordeal she experienced during her abduction.

Activist Ramy Attia Zakaria, of the April 6 Liberal Movement in Alexandria, interviewed Agape upon her return and said it is now confirmed that her Muslim social worker Heba was behind the abduction. “Agape left school with her and two teachers. The girl was drugged in the car to wake up in a secluded house with two sheikhs and an elderly woman,” Ramy said.

Agape said that during her stay with the Salafis sheikhs they tried to make her convert to Islam by saying the “Islamic Two Faith Confessions” but she refused. They forced her to wear the full veil and took photos of her in this dress. Agape said that she was beaten two or three times when she refused to convert to Islam.

After her release she was taken to el-Ameriya police station where she was told to say that “she has left home and went to el-Ameriya, where she found a sheikh and she told him that she wants to convert to Islam,” continued Ramy. When her family received her from the police station, her father, who works as a tailor, said they do not wish to accuse anyone in this case as he was pleased to get his daughter back. “Besides I have a younger daughter and I fear for her safety” said her father. Agape’s father and their church priest decided that she will not go back to school. Activist Ramy said that most of the Coptic inhabitants of Alexandria are refusing to send daughters older than 9 to school. He accused the Salafist Sheikh Sherif el-Hawary in el-Ameriya of being behind all abductions of Coptic girls in Alexandria and surrounding areas.

“From the beginning of the Egyptian Revolution on January 25, 2011 until January 26, 2013, over 500 girls have been abducted,” says Ebram Louis, founder of the Coptic non-governmental organization Association of Victims of Abduction and Enforced Disappearance (AVAED), which handles cases of abducted Coptic minors. Louis blamed the interior ministry for all the disappearances of Coptic minors, saying the ministry colludes with the Muslims. “There is hardly a day which passes by without a Coptic girl disappearing.” (Read the rest of this Assyrian International News Agency story here.)

 

HHS Mandate: Bishops Say Obama’s Proposed Compromise “Falls Short.”

I held back on extensive comments on President Obama’s recent “compromise” to the HHS Mandate.

My personal feeling when it was announced was that the compromise would, in the words of today’s announcement from Cardinal Dolan, “fall short.”

My reasons were political, based primarily on my understanding of how politicians behave when they are forced to give the appearance of doing something that they really don’t want to do. I expected smoke and mirrors, and in at least one very serious way, that is exactly what the President gave us.

He left private employers out of his “compromise,” and by doing so essentially stopped the First Amendment at the church door. There is, if you’ve been thinking about the militant secularism in our world, nothing new in this position.

Evangelical atheists and militant secularists (who often but not always overlap) have said repeatedly that their goal is for Christians in particular and religious people in general to “keep their faith at home.” They allow (for now) that we can worship inside the confines of our churches without government interference, and that we can believe within the privacy of our homes (again, for now) as we choose.

But they declaim loudly and vociferously that we should not, must not, may not carry our faith further than that. They do not want us to pray in public, speak about faith in debate or follow our faith when we go to work or interact with other people. They carry this so far in other countries that they have attempted to cost people their employment for wearing a cross around their neck. This happened in Britain and was recently overturned by a court order.

It is entirely consistent for President Obama to attempt to divide Christians and other religious objectors to his HHS Mandate by “giving in” to allow Church related institutions out of the trap, but to turn around and leave private enterprises such as Hobby Lobby in a position of either compromising on core beliefs or facing massive government penalties.

The question then is, does the First Amendment stop at the church door, or does it apply to all Americans as we go about our daily lives, including those of us who do not wear clerical collars?

This is a massively important debate, striking to the heart of what it means to be a free people. Does the Bill of Rights apply to people, or is it only for institutions?

I don’t know of course, but I believe that President Obama expected the Catholic Church to accept his compromise and abandon the Hobby Lobbies out there. I am happy to report that, if that’s what he expected, he was wrong.

Today, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops came down on the side of individual liberty and freedom of conscience. They reiterated their opposition to the HHS Mandate and proclaimed their support for all people of faith in their right to practice their faith without government bullying.

I am, once again, proud of the bishops. I am determined to stand with them and with my brothers and sisters in Christ of every denomination in this fight.

Cardinal Dolan addresses the Democratic National Convention, 2012

Cardinal Dolan’s entire statement is below. You can find more information at the USCCB website.

Statement of Cardinal Timothy Dolan Responding to Feb. 1 Proposal from HHS

For almost a century, the Catholic bishops of the United States have worked hard to support the right of every person to affordable, accessible, comprehensive, life-affirming healthcare.As we continue to do so, our changeless values remain the same.We promote the protection of the dignity of all human life and the innate rights that flow from it, including the right to life from conception to natural death; care for the poorest among us and the undocumented; the right of the Church to define itself, its ministries, and its ministers; and freedom of conscience.

Last Friday, the Administration issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) regarding the HHS mandate that requires coverage for sterilization and contraception, including drugs that may cause abortions.The Administration indicates that it has heard some previously expressed concerns and that it is open to dialogue.With release of the NPRM, the Administration seeks to offer a response to serious matters which have been raised throughout the past year.We look forward to engaging with the Administration, and all branches and levels of government, to continue to address serious issues that remain. Our efforts will require additional, careful study.Only in this way can we best assure that healthcare for every woman, man and child is achieved without harm to our first, most cherished freedom.

In evaluating Friday’s action regarding the HHS mandate, our reference remains the statement of our Administrative Committee made last March, United for Religious Freedom, and affirmed by the entire body of bishops in June 2012.

In that statement, we first expressed concern over the mandate’s “exceedingly narrow” four-part definition of “religious employer,” one that exempted our houses of worship, but left “our great ministries of service to our neighbors, namely, the poor, the homeless, the sick, the students in our schools and universities, and others in need” subject to the mandate.This created “a ‘second class’ of citizenship within our religious community,” “weakening [federal law's] healthy tradition of generous respect for religious freedom and diversity.”And the exemption effectuated this distinction by requiring “among other things, [that employers] must hire and serve primarily those of their own faith.”

On Friday, the Administration proposed to drop the first three parts of the four-part test.This might address the last of the concerns above, but it seems not to address the rest.The Administration’s proposal maintains its inaccurate distinction among religious ministries. It appears to offer second-class status to our first-class institutions in Catholic health care, Catholic education, and Catholic charities. HHS offers what it calls an “accommodation,” rather than accepting the fact that these ministries are integral to our Church and worthy of the same exemption as our Catholic churches. And finally, it seems to take away something that we had previously—the ability of an exempt employer (such as a diocese) to extend its coverage to the employees of a ministry outside the exemption.

Second, United for Religious Freedom explained that the religious ministries not deemed “religious employers” would suffer the severe consequence of “be[ing] forced by government to violate their own teachings within their very own institutions.”After Friday, it appears that the government would require all employees in our “accommodated” ministries to have the illicit coverage—they may not opt out, nor even opt out for their children—under a separate policy.In part because of gaps in the proposed regulations, it is still unclear how directly these separate policies would be funded by objecting ministries, and what precise role those ministries would have in arranging for these separate policies.Thus, there remains the possibility that ministries may yet be forced to fund and facilitate such morally illicit activities. Here, too, we will continue to analyze the proposal and to advocate for changes to the final rule that reflect these concerns.

Third, the bishops explained that the “HHS mandate creates still a third class, those with no conscience protection at all:individuals who, in their daily lives, strive constantly to act in accordance with their faith and moral values.”This includes employers sponsoring and subsidizing the coverage, insurers writing it, and beneficiaries paying individual premiums for it.Friday’s action confirms that HHS has no intention to provide any exemption or accommodation at all to this “third class.”In obedience to our Judeo-Christian heritage, we have consistently taught our people to live their lives during the week to reflect the same beliefs that they proclaim on the Sabbath.We cannot now abandon them to be forced to violate their morally well-informed consciences.

Because the stakes are so high, we will not cease from our effort to assure that healthcare for all does not mean freedom for few.Throughout the past year, we have been assured by the Administration that we will not have to refer, pay for, or negotiate for the mandated coverage.We remain eager for the Administration to fulfill that pledge and to find acceptable solutions—we will affirm any genuine progress that is made, and we will redouble our efforts to overcome obstacles or setbacks.Thus, we welcome and will take seriously the Administration’s invitation to submit our concerns through formal comments, and we will do so in the hope that an acceptable solution can be found that respects the consciences of all.At the same time, we will continue to stand united with brother bishops, religious institutions, and individual citizens who seek redress in the courts for as long as this is necessary.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York
February 7, 2013

What Causes Homosexuality?

A recent discussion in one of this blog’s comboxes veered off into the old nature-or-nurture/chicken-or-egg question about homosexuality.

The question: Is same-sex attraction the result of the individual’s genetic make-up, or it is the result of the environment in which they were raised?

Based entirely on a crude anthropology, I would guess that there must be a genetic component to homosexuality. Why else would same-sex attraction show up in most, if not all, societies and epochs of recorded history? The ways in which children are raised vary quite a bit from one time in history — and one culture or society — to the next.

So far as I know there is no way of ascertaining if certain cultures or methods of child-rearing have historically resulted in a higher proportion of homosexuals among their citizens. But it does seem — again, this is crude anthropology — to be pretty much ubiquitous.

That raises the question: Is there a “gay” gene somewhere on our chromosomes, like the brca genes that predispose people to breast cancer? The answer, at least for now, is that no one knows.

What we do know is — like my “anthropological” assessment — guesswork based on derivation. Perhaps the most interesting guesswork in this field comes from the so-called “twin studies.”

When I did a quick google, I found that there is more than one study attempting to correlate same-sex attraction with heredity by looking at identical/fraternal/non-twins . It turns out that these studies seem to indicate that there may be a genetic component in same-sex attraction, but it does not appear to be definitive.

Of course, there’s no way to know what this genetic component might be. Is it one gene, or two, or a combination of genes? It’s possible, say, that identical twins who are both homosexual might have inherited a combination of genes that made this outcome certain for them, while other pairs of identical twins where one is homosexual and the other is not might only have inherited one or two genes of this same combination, thus injecting the factor of environment into their sexual fates.

On the other hand, it made be that there is a set of inheritable factors that predispose a person toward homosexuality, but that same sex attraction develops only when this genetic make-up coincides with an environment that pushes the individual in this direction.

Another factor that some of the scientists who did these studies have raised is the environment in the womb. How did the hormonal input to the baby from the mother affect its development? Perhaps the “environment” in question is not so much psycho-social as it is biological.

All this is to say that we don’t know what conditions or factors lead people to experience same-sex attraction as a definitive sexual orientation.

I have seen, based entirely on being around gay men, that there are individuals who, though they experience same-sex attraction and define themselves (at least internally) as homosexual, are quite capable of functioning sexually as heterosexuals. They can and do marry women and hide their homosexuality. On the other hand, I have known gay men who simply could not do this. Their same-sex attraction was so profound that it precluded them even attempting to marry and “pass” as heterosexual.

I only mention this because it raises, at least to me, the thought that same-sex attraction may not be an all or nothing orientation for many people. It may, in fact, be more a matter of degree, at least for some.

None of the things I’ve mentioned here affect the arguments for preserving traditional marriage. I don’t see supporting traditional marriage as a denial of either the reality or the humanity of gay people.

It is just simply that men and women together are the people who create other people. No matter how much sympathy I have for gay people, no matter how completely I agree with many of their concerns, the fact is that homosexual unions are sterile. They do not make other people.

I am well aware that many homosexuals have resorted to manipulations of biology to have children. But these manipulations lead directly to the exploitation and commodification of both women and human life. They are, in themselves, misogynistic and evil.

Gay sex does not make people. Traditional marriage between a man and woman produces children and is the best cradle for nurturing those children to responsible and productive adults who can have children of their own and nurture them. Redefining marriage in strictly social terms that ignore this basic function of marriage is destructive to society as a whole. I am certain that gay marriage is the road to nowhere for our society.

On the other hand, I am equally certain that homosexuality is a fact of human existence. I do not think that we can set aside the reality of homosexuality, or the just claims for civil and human rights of gay people.

You can find one of the studies Gay is Not All in the Genes which was published in Science in 2008. I chose it because of the reputation of the publication and its relatively recent origin. There are many other studies out there, if you want to look.


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