If You’re In the Mood for Giving …

Simcha Fischer, who blogs at National Catholic Register published a list of worthy charities for those of us who are in the gift-giving mood. Each of the charities she selected sounds like a place to put your money and know that it will be used for good.

I’m going to put a few charities from her list below, but be sure to give them all a glance.

If you have a few extra Christmas $$ and are in the mood to use them for good, check out Simcha’s article here.

First, my family’s favorite charity:

Save a Family Plan

I am blown away by their efficiency:  100% of your donations go directly to the poor.  They don’t just give the poor food and shelter; the help them invest to become self-sufficient.  We first partnered with a destitute family in India several years ago, and this family no longer needed our support years ahead of the projected schedule.  A top notch international NGO run by Catholics, serving poor Indian families of every caste and religion, and fully in allegiance with the Church (so you don’t have to worry that you’re accidentally funding abortions or something).

*****

Christian Foundation for Children and Aging 

Popular with many, many of my friends, this is a lay Catholic sponsorship program encouraging the dignity and well-being of the poor and marginalized in 22 countries around the world.

*****

Reece’s Rainbow  

A Down Syndrome adoption ministry with many programs to help families fund the very expensive adoption of children with special needs.  Many of these children are barely surviving in horrendous institutions, and there are so many families who would like to rescue them, but can’t afford it.  Full of wonderful, hopeful stories and easy ways to help.

*****

The Laboure Society  

This organization “assists aspirants to priesthood or religious life who find themselves unable to answer their call due to personal debt.”

*****

Amazima  

Amazima sells handcrafted jewelry made by poor women in Uganda, who are guided and educated on how to manage money to support their families

*****

Read more: http://www.ncregister.com/blog/simcha-fisher/charities-you-ought-to-know/#ixzz2FoxVhrAq

Bar Owner Collects Toys for Catholic Charities

Milwaukee, Wis., Dec 15, 2012 / 01:02 pm (CNA).- An elderly couple walks into Kip’s Inn and hands bar owner Kim Engebregtsen a plastic bag with a Barbie doll in it.

“Oh, thank you!” Engebregtsen said. “I needed this. This was the last thing on the list.”

She hugged the couple and directed them to the bar to enjoy some drinks with other folks from the neighborhood.

The list to which Engebregtsen referred was given to her by Catholic Charities with the Christmas wishes of five families, 27 people total.

“Whatever their wish is, we honor it,” she said, adding that since the bar started collecting gifts for Catholic Charities six years ago, every wish — and more — has been fulfilled.

Engebregtsen said one year a child asked for a bike, and through her collection, got a bike and a helmet. Another asked for a basketball, and he was given a ball and a pump.

“Once the ball goes flat, it’s no good,” she said. “These are kids that don’t have anything, so whatever they ask for, we get.” …

…  Engebregtsen’s motivation for gathering the toys stems from having been one of five children in a poor household.

“When we were kids, we were pretty poor,” she said. “We benefited from people’s generosity and actually through the Catholic Church.”

Engebregtsen and her family attended St. Peter Parish, Oshkosh, Wis. and she went to St. Peter School.

“We were able to attend the school without paying tuition,” she said. “The parents of our classmates, they were very generous. They exposed us to things that we wouldn’t have been otherwise exposed to.”

She was grateful for gifts her family had received when she was a child and after growing up, she fell into this toy tradition by accident.

“The first year we collected for Toys for Tots and when I went to go drop (the gifts) off, they said the deadline had already passed so I took them to Catholic Charities and they were really happy to get the gifts,” Engebregtsen said.

Shortly after that, she received a call from then-Archbishop of Milwaukee Timothy M. Dolan, now cardinal, thanking her and asking if he could come to the bar to pick them up.

“It’s exciting that he’d go out of his way to stop at a small neighborhood bar to thank us for what we’ve done,” she said.

On that day she remembered Cardinal Dolan sitting at the bar and ordering a Budweiser.

“He told my bartender not to tell anybody and she said ‘Why? You can’t have a beer?’ And he said, ‘No, don’t tell anyone it’s Budweiser,’” Engebregtsen said, laughing at the memory.

The tradition of the archbishop coming to the bar to receive the toys continues with Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki. (Read more here.)

Should Catholic Universities Support Catholic Teaching?

Should Catholic universities support Catholic teaching?

Secular universities are often seen as teaching anti-Christian, anti-Catholic propaganda along with the rest of the curriculum. One reason many people chose Catholic universities is to avoid this propaganda and attacks on their faith.

So, the question is two-fold. Do Catholic universities have a responsibility to support Catholic teaching? Are they engaging in false advertising when they call themselves “Catholic” and then subject students to the same kind of anti-Catholic propaganda found in secular universities?

Academic freedom is always an issue when dealing with schools at the university level. But how much academic freedom do secular schools, with their group-think mentality about so many issues, actually provide? The word “propaganda” could describe much of what they do. In truth, the word “indoctrination” would also be a good fit. “Academic freedom” in actual practice has often been misused. It can become an excuse for lack of responsibilty, violation of free thought and intolerance for genuine diversity of opinions and fair-play on university campuses.

This often acrimonious debate recently reared its head at the San Diego University. San Diego University is a Catholic university. When the school’s president cancelled the invitation to speak that had been extended to a “Catholic” scholar who opposed core Church teachings, including abortion and gay marriage, she ran into the resistance of many on her faculty, as well as members of the academic community outside her school.

The Catholic Register article describing this situation reads in part:

SAN DIEGO — A textbook case of division over campus Catholic identity is continuing at the University of San Diego, where a significant step undertaken to promote Catholic fidelity has generated fierce controversy.

Earlier this fall, USD’s president, Mary Lyons, denied a British theologian — who is openly at odds with some of the Catholic Church’s most fundamental moral teachings — her upcoming status as a “visiting fellow” at the university. The firestorm of debate over academic freedom that has ensued pits Lyons against many of her own faculty and has now involved the university’s board of trustees, too.

British Catholic theologian Tina Beattie, the director of the Digby Stuart Research Centre for Catholic Studies at Roehampton University in the United Kingdom, was invited by USD’s Frances Harpst Center for Catholic Thought and Culture (CCTC) to give lectures during the month of November at the university as a “visiting fellow.”

Beattie disagrees with the Church’s teachings on contraception, early-term abortion, same-sex “marriage” and women’s ordination, according to a report posted at the website of the Cardinal Newman Society, a watchdog group dedicated to promoting Catholic identity in higher education.

Beattie’s lectures had been scheduled a year in advance, but days before her scheduled arrival in San Diego, Lyons revoked Beattie’s visiting fellowship in an Oct. 27 letter. Lyons took this action because Beattie signed onto an Aug. 13 public letter, published by The Times of London, opposing the Catholic bishops of the United Kingdom on same-sex “marriage.”

In the letter, Beattie identified herself as a Catholic theologian.

President Lyons’ Position

“The issue, for me, is a Catholic theologian using her office as a theologian to advocate that lay Catholics essentially take a position in opposition to the legitimate teaching authority of the Church, namely the bishops,” Lyons told the Register.

The letter signed by Beattie and 26 others stated: “Not all Catholics share their hierarchy’s stated views against proposals to extend civil marriage to same-sex couples. We suggest that it is perfectly proper for Catholics, using fully formed consciences, to support the legal extension of civil marriage to same-sex couples.”

Read more: http://www.ncregister.com/daily-news/stand-for-catholic-identity-pits-university-of-san-diego-president-against/#ixzz2FYTBm7YJ

Pope Toughens Stand on Gay Marriage

Associated Press/Alessandra Tarantino – Pope Benedict XVI, right, acknowledges the crowd during his weekly general audience in Hall Paul VI, at the Vatican, Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2012. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

VATICAN CITY (AP) — The pope took his opposition to gay marriage to new heights Friday, denouncing what he described as people manipulating their God-given gender to suit their sexual choices — and destroying the very “essence of the human creature” in the process.

Benedict XVI made the comments in his annual Christmas speech to the Vatican bureaucracy — one of his most important speeches of the year. He dedicated it this year to promoting family values in the face of vocal campaigns in France, the United States, Britain and elsewhere to legalize same-sex marriage.

In his remarks, Benedict quoted the chief rabbi of France, Gilles Bernheim, in saying the campaign for granting gays the right to marry and adopt children was an “attack” on the traditional family made up of a father, mother and children.

“People dispute the idea that they have a nature, given to them by their bodily identity, that serves as a defining element of the human being,” he said. “They deny their nature and decide that it is not something previously given to them, but that they make it for themselves.”

“The manipulation of nature, which we deplore today where our environment is concerned, now becomes man’s fundamental choice where he himself is concerned,” he said. (Read more here.)

Fiscal Cliff: Obama wants more than just taxes on rich folks …

Are we heading for a future where the only non-profits will be those with government blessing and government funding?

A move by the Obama administration to limit tax deductions for charitable donations could lead this country in exactly that direction. The administration has made this part of the package it is bargaining for in the so-called “fiscal cliff” imbroglio.

A December 13 Washington Post article discusses the lobbying efforts concerning the move to cut charitable deductions to non-profits. It says in part:

The White House and the nation’s most prominent charities are embroiled in a tense behind-the-scenes debate over President Obama’s push to scale back the nearly century-old tax deduction on donations that the charities say is crucial for their financial health.

In a series of recent meetings and calls, top White House aides have pressed nonprofit groups to line up behind the president’s plan for reducing the federal deficit and averting the year-end “fiscal cliff,” according to people familiar with the talks.

In part, the White House is seeking to win the support of nonprofit groups for Obama’s central demand that income tax rates rise for upper-end taxpayers. There are early signs that several charities, whose boards often include the wealthy, are willing to endorse this change.

But the White House is also looking to limit the charitable deduction for high-income earners, and that has prompted frustration and resistance, with leaders of major nonprofit organizations, such as the United Way, the American Red Cross and Lutheran Services in America, closing ranks in opposing any change to the deduction.

“It’s all castor oil,” said Diana Aviv, president of Independent Sector, an umbrella group representing many nonprofits. “And the members of the nonprofit sector I represent don’t want any part of it. It’s a medicine we’re not willing to drink.”
(Read more here.)

If the government cuts off deductions for charitable giving, where will that leave the many non-profits out there? Where, especially will it leave those non-profits who have the temerity to oppose the ruling powers in government?

I think it will leave them in a position where they either have to go to the government itself for additional funding, or curtail their activities. This, of course, would mean that those non-profits which please government leaders, particularly politicians, would become powerful and that their relationship with these politicians would tend toward a kind of political/social/financial incest.

Those non-profits with the temerity to oppose these powerful people would see their influence wither and weaken. NGOs have been the voice of conscience in far too many situations around the world for moves to constrict their funding to be a benign act.

That is where I think the administration’s ploy to reduce charitable tax-exemptions by the wealthy is heading. I’ve been hearing behind-the-scenes rumbling about plans to bring non-profits under the government heel for over a year now. This move makes me think that they are more than rumblings.

By linking the idea of reducing deductions for non-profit donations with the very popular idea of having the wealthy pay more of their fair share of the cost of government, the Obama administration has been able to slip this by the public with very little attention.

That’s great news for Planned Parenthood, since Planned Parenthood seems to have the President’s unwavering commitment. The Affordable Health Care Act is a plenteous bounty for Planned Parenthood. The administration has been willing to go to the wall in moves to attack organizations that Planned Parenthood regards as enemies. It’s even gone so far as to take on the First Amendment to attack the Catholic Church.

Based on all that, I’m not inclined to give the administration the benefit of the doubt about this move to limit deductions for charitable donations. I think, given recent history in these matters, that would be almost childishly foolish.

 

Lest we forget …

These irreplaceable people lost their lives in Newton Connecticut one week ago today.

Don’t let political squabbling make us forget them.

Dozens of Michigan Schools Close Due to Rumors of Violence

Dozens of Michigan schools cancelled classes today because of fall-out from the Sandy Hook tragedy, combined with the Mayan calendar nonsense.

This is just a symptom of how raw the people of this nation are this week.

It raises the question that I asked here. Why did our leader rush this country into a divisive debate on gun control before the victims of this latest atrocity were even buried?

Grieving our losses and trying to bring ourselves and our families together for a holy and healing Christmas are about all the people of this country can handle right now.

Aside from executive orders, which I think would be terribly unwise, there is nothing that can be done until after the New Year. Congress and the president are engaged in an insult-slinging fight over the “fiscal cliff.” Isn’t playing chicken with our economic security enough trauma from Washington for now?

A wise leader understands that there is a time for everything. I believe that opening a debate about solutions — especially when the proposed solutions are things that divide us — is poor leadership in this sensitive time. I think it is uncaring leadership. By that I mean that I think the president has focused on taking advantage of what he sees as a political opportunity and ignored  the well-being of the American people. There was no practical reason why he had to open this debate this week. None.

The Associated Press article about school closings in Michigan reads in part:

DETROIT (AP) — Dozens of Michigan schools canceled classes for thousands of students to cool off rumored threats of violence and problems related to doomsday scenarios based on the Mayan calendar, officials said Thursday.

Public schools in Genesee and Lapeer counties, neighboring counties north of the Detroit area, started the Christmas break Wednesday night rather than hold classes the rest of the week. Meanwhile, police investigated whether students made false claims about guns at the high school in Grand Blanc, saidJohn Potbury, a spokesman for the Genesee County prosecutor.

Last week’s shooting at a Connecticut elementary school “changed all of us. … Canceling school is the right thing to do,” Genesee County schools said in a statement. (Read more here.)

 

Unseemly haste …

The funerals are not finished.

Why did the President rush this country into a divisive debate about gun control before the victims of this tragedy were buried?

Why the unseemly haste?

Couldn’t he have given this country time to grieve before pushing us into another political fight? Would it be so hard to wait a few days?

Christmas is in four days.

Why didn’t he at least give us time to bury our dead and be together with our families at Christmas before forcing another battle on us?

It’s December 21, 2012. Is Anybody Here????

I woke up this morning.

Let me repeat that. I woke up this morning.

From what I’ve heard, that wasn’t supposed to happen. Waking up, I mean. I wasn’t supposed to wake up because, I — along with all the rest of you — was supposed to be gone.

Our whole human saga was predicted to come to an end today. The Mayans said so, and as everybody knows, nothing unexpected ever happened to the Mayans. They knew their prophecy stuff.

Or maybe they didn’t.

After all, I did wake up this morning.

Of course, 12/21/12 will last all day and all evening, right up until the clock clicks over to 0000. We could go pouf! at any time all day long. Talk about sweating out the hours. In case we aren’t here tomorrow, let me be the first (or is it the last?) to say so long and adios. It’s been real.

If You Go to San Francisco …

Instead of going to the Walk for Life in Washington, DC, I may go to San Francisco for the Walk for Life West Coast, instead.

Better weather. Much more resistance. Coals to Newkirk. Flowers to Moloch. etc.

The annual Walk for Life West Coast has faced official resistance and counter protesters from the start, but it has grown exponentially, just the same. An estimated 5,000 walkers showed up the first year. The number ballooned to 40,000 last year. This year, who knows?

There are always the requisite counter protesters and catcalls, alongside various attempts at resistance by elected officials. But the march organizers have persisted, the number of walkers has grown and it now looks like even San Francisco has a few of us pro-life traditional Christians around.

I wonder … if I reserve my plane ticket now, can I get a good price???

Pro-life supporters participate in the West Coast Walk for Life 2012 in San Francisco, Jan. 21, 2012. Credit: West Coast Walk for Life.

San Francisco, Calif., Dec 14, 2012 / 02:02 am (CNA).- A move by San Francisco’s city officials to support a celebration of the 40th anniversary of legalized abortion in the U.S. has been interpreted by some as an attempt to discourage a local pro-life rally.

“San Francisco City government, as well as many local residents, cannot abide the fact that the Walk for Life can attract over 40,000 participants annually to oppose a cause that their worldview holds as gospel,” said Vicki Evans, Respect Life coordinator for the San Francisco archdiocese.

Despite low attendance of a similar abortion advocacy event last year, San Francisco Supervisors Malia Cohen and David Campos introduced a resolution to the city’s Board of Supervisors to support the “Celebration of Women, Life and Liberty” event on Jan. 26, 2013.

The event, which aims to commemorate the Supreme Court ruling of Roe v. Wade four decades ago, was approved in a resolution which passed 10-0 on Dec. 12.

In a Dec. 12 interview with CNA, Evans pointed out that the actual anniversary of the Supreme Court ruling that legalized abortion in the U.S. is Jan. 22.

However, she said, organizers of the pro-abortion rally chose Jan. 26 because it falls on the same day as the increasingly popular Walk for Life West Coast, a rally dedicated to changing “the perceptions of a society that thinks abortion is an answer.”

Since its beginning in 2005 the interdenominational pro-life event has grown substantially each year from its first crowd of roughly 5,000 participants, but it has also consistently been met with opposition from city officials.(Read more here.)

Internet Trolls Torment Newton Priest

Elizabeth Scalia, who blogs at The Anchoress and is one of the most generous people it has been my privilege to know, wrote today about another egregious example of internet cruelty.

The internet gives the mentally unbalanced and the just plain mean people among us a way to hit out at others. Troubling events agitate these folks and get them moving.

The Sandy Hook tragedy has been a magnet for both the good and the bad among us. Almost everyone has responded to it with compassion, grief and love. But the nasty unhinged are still out there, doing their worthless thing. Elizabeth wrote about one of the sorrier aspects of this sorry behavior: The attacks on a newly-ordained priest who has faced his personal baptism by fire in ministering to the shattered people of his parish in Newton Connecticut.

We need our pastors most in times like this. It is to Fr Suarez’ everlasting credit that he is there for these people. It is to the everlasting discredit of those who are attacking him that they are behaving this way.

I’m going to lift a hefty chunk from Elizabeth’s post. I want you to be able to read it and get the gist of what’s happening and the opportunity she offers us to help. Be sure to read the rest of the post here.

Do you remember this picture, of these priests, Monsignor Robert Weiss and Father Luke Suarez, at the scene of carnage in Newtown?

Well, while I’m sure both priests are seeing some hate it seems the young Father Suarez, who is not two years a priest, is being targeted by creatures who enthralled to the ugly and the dark. Writes his sister, in an outreach. All emphasis mine:
My friends,
All of you, I am sure, have heard so much about the tragedy in Newtown, CT. Many of you have received emails from me about my younger brother, Father Luke Suarez, who is a priest at St. Rose of Lima parish, a Catholic church just down the road from Sandy Hook Elementary. He, and his pastor, Monsignor Weiss, arrived at the school within moments of the shooting, and have been caring for the community ever since. The picture I have included was taken at the school.
Father Luke has an impossible task before him. His diocese is without a bishop right now. . .Monsignor…is personally devastated by the losses. The parish is very large…The rectory has received serious threats, and as my brother gave the homily Sunday at the noon mass, the church had to be evacuated by SWAT teams. After experiencing identity theft and online hacking incidents, he had to erase all of his internet accounts. After a weekend of endless media requests, notifications and vigils with heartbroken families, and little sleep, he now has two wakes and two funerals every day, until the fourth Sunday of Advent. Father Luke has not even been ordained two years.
My large family has been trying to send Father Luke our love and support from afar, and one of my brothers was able to visit with him briefly a couple times. All he asks for is prayer.
I have been wracking my brain, trying to think of a way that our beautiful, loving community could tangibly reach out to Father Luke, Monsignor Weiss, and the St. Rose parish, to support them in this most awful of times. I have sent many prayer requests, and I am asking for more prayers again. But I also want to ask everyone to search their hearts, and if the Holy Spirit moves you, please consider sending one of your family’s Christmas cards to the rectory, with a few words of love and encouragement. Here is his address:
Father Luke Suarez
46 Church Hill Road
Newtown, CT 06470
My brother has said over and over again that without the prayer support he is receiving, he could not keep going. And this week is only the beginning. Everyone there is still in shock. Their peaceful home has been desecrated by violence. They will need to live with this sorrow forever.
But in our weakness is His strength. Grace abounds. Can you help me carry him through this time of trial?
On a hopeful note, Father Luke did say that no media coverage has even touched the deep, beautiful awakening of faith that has occurred there. Their tiny church, where my children have received sacraments and where Luke was ordained, has been full of people in prayer without ceasing since this tragedy happened. Love is stronger than death.

Please feel free to share the address with your family, friends, and community. An outpouring of love will sustain these good priests through their impossible ministry–impossible on their own, but possible with God.
I read stuff like this and I think of Samuel L. Jackson in Pulp Fiction telling Tim Roth, “I am the tyranny of evil men, but I’m trying, Ringo, I’m trying real hard to be a shepherd.”
I’m putting cards in the mail to both priests — what a good idea — and also remembering them in my prayers. Will you, too?

Biden Holds First Gun Control Meeting

Vice President Joe Biden began meetings on possible gun control legislation today.

The most interesting point, at least for me, is that the vice president indicated that he expects votes on whatever he proposes after the first of the year.

I interpret that to mean that the President has probably decided not to issue executive orders about this, at least for now.

Meanwhile, the Democratic Caucus of the House of Representatives has announced a push to ban the sale of high capacity magazines. This is not a new idea. Senate Democrats tried to attach such a ban to an unrelated piece of legislation last summer.

What all this means to us is that we have a window of time to think about this and decide what we want our Congress and president to do. From all indications, the Democrats are focusing their efforts on gun-control and ammunition control legislation. Although they mention a more comprehensive approach in their comments, the focus and the first thing they mention is always guns.

I’m going to try to write several posts that I hope will lead Public Catholic readers into a serious conversation of all these issues. It’s our country and we need to be part of the discussion about its future.

The article concerning Vice President Biden’s meeting today says in part:

Wasting no time, Vice President Joe Biden meets on Thursday with “law enforcement leaders” from across the country to launch work on a series of recommendations to battle gun violence in the wake of the school massacre in Newtown, Conn.
The 1 p.m. meeting is to include White House officials, as well as Attorney General Eric Holder, Education Secretary Arne Duncan, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, the White House said.
President Barack Obama on Wednesday tasked Biden with leading an administrationwide effort to craft concrete proposals for tackling what Obama called an “epidemic” of gun violence. The vice president will report back no later than January.
Obama pushed Congress to pass a series of traditional gun control measures quickly. “A majority of Americans support banning the sale of military-style assault weapons,” he said on Wednesday. “A majority of Americans support banning the sale of high-capacity ammunition clips. A majority of Americans support laws requiring background checks before all gun purchases, so that criminals can’t take advantage of legal loopholes to buy a gun from somebody who won’t take the responsibility of doing a background check at all.”
He added, “I urge the new Congress to hold votes on these measures next year in a timely manner.”
But he also embraced a broader approach, stressing that “there’s no law or set of laws that can prevent every senseless act of violence in our society.”(Read more here.)

HHS Mandate Loses Big in District Court

Things are looking up in a couple of areas.

One Michigan Christian who wouldn’t stop fighting won in local court against the Freedom From Religion Foundation.

Two Christian colleges won in Federal Appeals Court against the HHS Mandate.

I’m sure the HHS Mandate ruling will be appealed, but the cases are slowly turning our way on this terrible mandate. Say your prayers that this trend continues all the way to the Supreme Court.

The Becket Fund article describing the HHS Mandate victory reads in part:

Federal Appeals Court Hands Victory to Religious

Colleges, Commands HHS to Act Quickly to Fix

Mandate

Image: Federal Appeals Court Hands Victory to Religious Colleges, Commands HHS to Act Quickly to Fix Mandate

 

For Immediate Release: December 18, 2012
Media Contact: Emily Hardman, 202.349.7224

Washington, D.C. — Today, a federal appeals court in Washington, D.C. handed Wheaton College and Belmont Abbey College a major victory in their challenges to the HHS mandate.  Last summer, two lower courts had dismissed the Colleges’ cases as premature.  Today, the appellate court reinstated those cases, and ordered the Obama Administration to report back every 60 days—starting in mid-February—until the Administration makes good on its promise to issue a new rule that protects the Colleges’ religious freedom.  The new rule must be issued by March 31, 2013.

“The D.C. Circuit has now made it clear that government promises and press conferences are not enough to protect religious freedom,” said Kyle Duncan, General Counsel of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, who argued the case.  “The court is not going to let the government slide by on non-binding promises to fix the problem down the road.” (Read more here.)

State Dept Officials Resign Over Benghazi

Reuters/Reuters – The U.S. Consulate in Benghazi is seen in flames during a protest by an armed group said to have been protesting a film being produced in the United States in this September 11, 2012 file photo. REUTERS/Esam Al-Fetori/Files

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Three senior U.S. State Department officials were asked to resign after an official inquiry harshly criticized their offices for failing to provide adequate security at the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya, before it came under attack in September, a U.S. official said on Wednesday.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Eric Boswell, the assistant secretary for diplomatic security; one of his deputies, Charlene Lamb; and an unnamed official in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs were asked to step down because of the inquiry panel’s report, which did not faultSecretary of State Hillary Clinton in connection with the attack.

State Department officials declined to comment on the matter, saying it was a personnel issue. The Associated Press first reported that the three officials had resigned.

An unclassified version of the report released Tuesday by the State Department concluded that the mission was completely unprepared to deal with a September 11 attack that killed U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans.

“We did conclude that certain State Department bureau-level senior officials in critical positions of authority and responsibility in Washington demonstrated a lack of leadership and management ability appropriate for senior ranks,” retired Admiral Michael Mullen, one of the leaders of the inquiry, told reporters on Wednesday.

The inquiry’s chair, retired Ambassador Thomas Pickering, said the panel had determined that responsibility for security shortcomings in Benghazi belonged at levels lower than Clinton’s office. (Read more here.)

Irish Government to Re-Write Abortion Laws

DUBLIN (AP) — Ireland’s government pledged Tuesday to pass a law soon that will allow women to receive abortions if continued pregnancy threatens their lives — including from their own threats to commit suicide if denied one.

The announcement comes after decades of inaction on abortion in Ireland, and just weeks after the predominantly Catholic country faced international criticism over the death of an Indian woman hospitalized in Ireland with an imminent miscarriage.

Health Minister James Reilly said parliamentary hearings on the issue would begin next month, lawmakers would receive a bill by Easter and they would be expected to vote on it by the summer. This would mark the first time that Irish lawmakers have ever voted on abortion, arguably the most divisive issue in a country whose constitution bans the practice. (Read the rest of the Yahoo News story here.)

Just a little something to cheer your souls …

The Nativity display in Warren, Mich. after it was installed by John Satawa on Dec. 15, 2012. Credit: Thomas More Law Center.

Warren, Mich., Dec 18, 2012 / 04:01 am (CNA).- A 67-year-old tradition of placing a nativity scene on a public median in Warren, Mich. has been re-established after a four-year legal battle involving the Freedom From Religion Foundation.

“John Satawa was persistent enough to follow through,” CNA was told Dec. 17 by Richard Thompson, president of Thomas More Law Center, which represented Satawa, the crèche’s caretaker.

Satawa is “an individual citizen who was not going to disappear silently into the night, but was going to fight the decision of the road commission to maintain this tradition that had been going on since 1945,” Thompson said.

The crèche was erected again Dec. 15 by Satawa, his family and friends, and local Boy Scouts, after the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals decided in his favor on Aug. 1.

While the nativity scene was being erected, Warren police controlled traffic as well-wishers gathered, carolers sang Christmas songs, a priest from nearby St. Anne’s Catholic Church blessed the display and passing motorists sounded their horns in approval.

In 2008 the Macomb County Road Commission received a letter from the Freedom from Religion Foundation objecting to a private citizen placing a nativity scene on a 60-foot-wide median.

They claimed the crèche violated the establishment clause of the First Amendment, and the county immediately ordered the display removed.

Satawa had gotten permission for the crèche several times, and in 1995 the local police department finally gave him a blanket permission to erect it in the future, so that he would not feel it necessary to ask again.

On March 9, 2009, after receiving the Freedom from Religion Foundation’s letter, a highway engineer for Macomb County, Robert Hoepfner, wrote to Satawa denying him a permit to resurrect the manger scene and only citing reasons related to the establishment clause for the denial.

Satawa then sued the Macomb County Road Commission for violating his rights under the establishment and free speech clauses of the First Amendment, and the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

The district court found in favor of the county, but its decision was reversed by an appeals court. (Read the rest of the story here.)

Obama Puts Biden in Control of Gun Control Initiative

President Barack Obama, official portrait

President Obama announced today that he has put Vice President Joe Biden in charge of his efforts for reform concerning shootings such as what happened last week at Sandy Hook. Vice President Biden is a long-time supporter of gun control.

Mayor Bloomberg of New York called a press conference in which he pushed the president to use his executive order powers to make a unilateral regulation which would be a de facto form of gun control. President Obama has refused this, at least so far.

Unless President Obama does decide to use his executive order power to make a sweeping change on his own, this process will take quite a while. For one thing, Congress is still embroiled in the “fiscal cliff” debate. If the president allows things to proceed normally, I would expect him to announce more specific changes at the State of Union Address. However, there is nothing written in stone about that assumption.

One question, at least for me, is whether or not anyone in this administration sincerely intends to discuss this problem and look for solutions. Are they just saying this with the intention to concentrate on a single-law answer? I am also concerned about civil liberties generally in this climate and with this president. He has already shown a willingness to trample religious liberties.

Right now, he has the backing of the public. I also expect most of the press to support whatever he does unthinkingly. A lot of people are signing on to vote for and support what he comes up with without having any idea whatsoever what it will be or what it will entail.

As for me, I will continue to urge Public Catholic readers to take a more thoughtful, comprehensive and long-term approach to thinking about this. Use your minds, and don’t let propaganda and emotion carry you away.

The Associated Press article describing President Obama’s new initiative says in part:

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama is launching an administration-wide effort to curbgun violence, underscoring the growing political consensus over tightening gun restrictions following the horrific massacre at a Connecticut elementary school.

Obama is tasking Vice President Joe Biden, a longtime gun control advocate, with spearheading the effort. In remarks from the White House on Wednesday, Obama will outline a process for pursuing policy changes following the school shooting, though he is not expected to call for specific measures.

The president has vowed to use “whatever power this office holds” to safeguard the nation’s children after Friday’s shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn. Twenty children and six adults were killed at the school by a gunman carrying an arsenal of ammunition and a high-powered, military-style rifle.

The White House sees some urgency in formulating a policy response to the shooting, even as Obama and his top aides are consumed with averting the “fiscal cliff” before tax hikes and spending cuts take effect in January. The incident has prompted several congressional gun rights supporters to consider new legislation to control firearms, and there is some fear that their willingness to engage could fade as the shock and sorrow over the Newtown shooting eases.

Many pro-gun lawmakers also have called for a greater focus on mental health issues and the impact of violent entertainment. White House aides say stricter gun laws alone are not the answer.

“It’s a complex problem that requires more than one solution,” White House spokesman Jay Carneysaid Tuesday. “It calls for not only re-examining our gun laws and how well we enforce them, but also for engaging mental health professionals, law enforcement officials, educators, parents and communities to find those solutions.” (Read the entire article here.)

Whither we are tending …

America has suffered a series of terrible tragedies in the past 20 years.

This is a recent feature of our American history.

We went for over two hundred years without facing the insanity of repetitive mass murders of innocent civilians in public places by socially inept angry young men. There have been incidents of mass violence throughout our history, including at least one school bombing in the 1920s.

But the present-day phenomena of one shooter killing people one after the other for no reason began with the clock tower at the University of Texas back in the 1960s. There was a decades-long lull between that atrocity and the next one. Now, they are occurring at shorter and shorter intervals.

What has changed in our national psychology that we have become a people who are living in fear of mass-murdering social misfits?

That is the first question we need to ask about this problem. It would be a huge mistake to come up with a solution without first working out exactly what the problem is that we are trying to solve.

I don’t want to contribute to the word-salad propagandizing that passes for commentary these days. I honestly think that this behavior on the part of people in the media has contributed to this problem. I believe emphatically that it has contributed to the fractured, unthinking way we respond to things. This needs to stop. We the people need to start thinking things through for ourselves.

I’m going to run through the various questions that have been raised by those who are proposing solutions. I’m also going to add some observations of my own. But what I am not going to do is try to whip you up into a froth of emotion. I also will not tolerate those who try to use the com boxes to do that. I want intelligent discussion, not ugly bizarreness.

This is a Christian blog. It’s purpose is to equip Christians to deal effectively with the challenges we face and to be fruitful witnesses for Jesus. That will be our focus.

This is all I’m going to say about whither we are tending today. We aren’t going to find a solution for this problem in a day. Or a week. Unless the President does something unilateral, it will be a slow and contentious process to get anything done at all. We not only need to spend some time thinking, praying and talking this through; we are required by circumstance to let it sit for a while.

All these pundits who push, push, push at controversial issues are doing it because controversy raises their ratings. This has become such an exaggerated, all-consuming focus with many of them that they focus on controversy at the expense of the facts or of fairness. This harms all of us.

I’m going to begin tomorrow with a discussion of changes in the past quarter century which I feel might have contributed to this problem. I’m really interested to what you think is creating this problem.

Then, I’ll list the various ideas people have for reform in government. However, I am convinced that the solution to this problem is not something we can achieve by just passing laws. We need to look at more than legislative changes.

We are going to take a break for Christmas. And then begin again in the New Year. I will also begin the series I was writing on how government works again after the New Year.

Before we do anything, I think we should all take this to the Lord in prayer. I know that I am going to.


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