Christian Persecution: UK Commission Refuses Charity Status to Church Over Communion

The UK Charity Commission is refusing to grant charitable status to a church because it restricts communion services to members only.

Parliament is currently holding hearings on the matter.

In a letter to Plymouth Brethren church leaders, the Commission cited a recent court decision to suggest that religion does not serve the public good.

“This decision makes it clear that there was no presumption that religion…is for the public benefit, even in the case of Christianity or the Church of England,” the Commission said in the letter.

A conservative member of Parliament said the Commission is, “Committed to the suppression of religion.”

A LifeSiteNews article reads in part:

LONDON, November 7, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) – A Conservative Party MP has accused the government’s Charity Commission of attempting to suppress Christianity after the group denied charitable status to the Plymouth Brethren, a small denomination of conservative evangelicals. MP Charlie Elphicke has said that the Charity Commission has stepped outside its mandate telling the Brethren that their religion is “not necessarily for the public good”.

In a letter to the community, the Commission wrote of a tribunal decision that found “there is no presumption that religion generally, or at any more specific level, is for the public benefit, even in the case of Christianity or the Church of England”.

The Plymouth Brethren, of which there are about 16,000 adherents in Britain, have said they intend to pursue their dispute to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg if necessary. They have been embroiled in the dispute with the Commission for seven years since the Commission refused charitable status to one of the group’s churches in Devon. The group engages in street preaching, distributing bibles and visits hospital patients. These activities, said Garth Christie, an Elder in the group, more than qualifies them for charitable status under the “advancement of religion” clauses.

The matter became public when the Public Administration Select Committee discovered the letter as part of materials released as part of their investigation into the decision-making processes of the Commission.

The Charity Commission alleges that the group’s rule of only giving Holy Communion to full members means that their services are not open to all, a charge which the Brethren deny. The Brethren say that their public services are offered to everyone regardless of religious affiliation. If it is upheld, the rule could be extended to the Catholic Church which also officially restricts Communion reception to members.

The letter has promoted Elphicke, a member of the Select Committee, to call the Commission’s policies “anti-religion” and said that it is more evidence that it is a waste of public funds. Members of the Plymouth Brethren were giving evidence to the committee and Elphicke asked, if they thought the Commission was “actively trying to suppress religion in the UK, particularly the Christian religion”.

Christie responded, “I think we would share those concerns.” He agreed with Elphicke’s suggestion the Charity Commission’s decision could be seen as the “thin end of the wedge” with concern to other small religious groups.

Elphicke told the Brethren representatives, “I think they [the Commission] are committed to the suppression of religion and you are the little guys being picked on to start off a whole series of other churches who will follow you there.” (Read more here.)

Christian Persecution: Pakistani Court Returns Girl to Her Kidnapper

Rebecca Masih, a young Christian health worker, was on her way to work when she was kidnapped by armed men in Sukkur, a city in Sindh province of Pakistan, on October 2. The 23-year-old was later drugged and forcibly married to a Muslim man.

The Pakistan Christian Post reports that Younis Masih, Rebecca’s father, took the case to court, but has yet to get his daughter back. Rebecca remains with her abductors and is scheduled to reappear in court on November 2. Pakistan’s judiciary often favors Muslims while Christian girls are given few legal rights. More often than not, the girl’s family never sees her again.

The Pakistan Christian Post article says in part:

Pakistani Higher Court orders enforced converted Christian girl to go with Muslim man

Hyderabad: October 24, 2012. (Abbas Kassar) A Christian girl Rebbeca who was kidnapped from Sukkur in Sindh on October 2, 2012, was produced before the high court Sukkur circuit bench on 22 October on application of her father Younis Masih was handed over to her kidnapper husband by judge of Sindh High Court rejecting appeals by her lawyer to send her to Darul Aman.

In the court the girl did not speak a word because she appeared to have been so frightened and terrorized that she continued to mince her lips in helpless manner but did not utter a word. She was accompanied with Mian Aslam son of politically powerful Mian Mithoo the Member of National Assembly of ruling Pakistan Peoples Party PPP who has been accused of kidnapping non-Muslim girls, keeping them in her Haveli for few weeks and then managing their marriages with his servants or followers.

Manzar Dahar a man who kidnapped her and later married her on force on behest of Pir Mian Mithoo also accompanied her and later took her to his home. Despite repeated requests by father of girl Younis Masih and his advocate Mukesh Kumar to send her to Darul Aman as according to them she was under intense pressure and fright but the judge Justice Naamatullah Phulpoto rejected their requests and allowed her to go with her kidnapper husband and adjourned the hearing to 2 November. (Read more here.)

Christian Persection: Acid Attack Victim Describes Ordeal

Pakistani acid-attack victim finds new life in Houston

Julie Aftig
by Melissa Phillip, Houston ChronicleHouston Chronicle.

Houston Chronicle. She was 16 years old, working as an operator in a tiny, public call office in Pakistan, when a man walked in and saw the silver cross dangling around her neck.

He asked her three times: “Are you a Christian?”

Julie Aftab answered, “Yes, sir,” the first two times, and then got frustrated.

“Didn’t you hear me?” she asked.

They argued, and the man abruptly left the little office, returning 30 or 40 minutes later with a turquoise bottle. Aftab tried to block the arc of battery acid, but it melted much of the right side of her face and left her with swirling, bone-deep burns on her chest and arms. She ran for the door, but a second man grabbed her hair, and they poured the acid down her throat, searing her esophagus.

A decade and 31 surgeries later, Aftab is an accounting major at the University of Houston-Clear Lake with a melodic laugh. She spoke no English when she arrived in Houston in February 2004, but is poised to take her citizenship test later this month.

Doctors in Houston have donated their time to painstakingly reconstruct her cheek, nose, upper lip and replace her eyelids. Over time, her scars have faded from hues of deep wine to mocha.

And, with time, the 26-year-old said, she has learned to forgive.

“Those people, they think they did a bad thing to me, but they brought me closer to God,” Aftab said. “They helped me fulfill my dreams. I never imagined I could be the person I am today.”

Eldest of seven

Aftab was born in Faisalabad, Pakistan, the eldest of seven children in a Christian working-class family.

She dreamed of becoming a doctor, but dropped out of school at age 12 to work in a sewing factory after her father, a bus driver and the family’s sole breadwinner, broke his back in an accident. After the sewing factory closed when Aftab was 16, she took a job as a telephone operator helping people place phone calls from the small office in the city’s center.

It was June 15, 2002, two weeks into her new job, when the customer spotted her silver cross, a gift from her grand­father. She wore it despite knowing it branded her as Christian, a tiny minority in the Muslim-majority country.

You are living life in the gutter, the Muslim man told her.

She tried to ignore him, remembering what her mother had taught her since she was a child: “You are no one to insult someone’s religion. If someone is insulting religion, they have to answer to God.”

You are going to hell, the man told her. You are living in darkness.

“I am living in the light,” Aftab replied.

So you think Islam is in darkness? the man demanded.

Aftab was frightened. She knew Christians had been accused of violating Pakistan’s strict blasphemy laws in the past when others had twisted their words, to make it sound as though they had attacked Islam.

“No, you said that,” she replied. “Not me.”

But the man was enraged and returned with the battery acid and his friend. When she finally broke away from them, the acid searing her skin and throat, she ran down the street. As she screamed, teeth fell from her mouth and hit the ground.

A woman heard her screams and threw her head cover on Aftab so she could touch her without getting burned. The woman took Aftab to her home and poured water on her. Others eventually came to help take her to the hospital.

People in the neighborhood detained the two men who assaulted her until police arrived.

Why did you do that? the men were asked.

They said Aftab insulted Islam, that she said Muslims are living in the darkness and are going to hell.

“They all turned against me,” she said. “Even the people who took me to the hospital. They told the doctor they were going to set the hospital on fire if they treated me.”

The police let the two men go, and did not even file an official report on the assault until Christian leaders complained, she said. (Read more here.)

Christian Persecution: International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church

 

Next Sunday is the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church. Click here to download and print a prayer calendar that will guide you through 60 Days of Prayer for Persecuted Believers. This special prayer guide is provided by Open Doors, an international non-profit ministry that supports and strengthens persecuted Christians.

Archdiocese of Oklahoma City Opposed Anti-Hispanic Law

Archbishop Eusebius Beltran

I was never more proud to be a Catholic than when my archbishop, Archbishop (now Archbishop Emeritus) Eusebius Beltran and the priest’s council signed this pledge. They were willing to face criminal prosecution for refusing to obey this unjust law which passed the Oklahoma Legislature in 2004. The debate and vote on this bill was one of those times when I hated my job, but was very glad that I was there to fight the losing battle against it.

Archbishop Beltrane also marched with Martin Luther King when he was a young priest in Georgia. He did this at a time when doing so was, as this was, highly controversial, even among Catholics, and downright dangerous.

The Catholic Church has stood with the poor, the downtrodden, the weak, hungry and helpless for 2,000 years.

Anyone who supported this law should be ashamed of themselves.

Here is a copy of the pledge they signed. The emphases are mine.

Archdiocese announces resistance to forthcoming anti-illegal immigration law

Ben Fenwick
October 26th, 2007
The Archdiocese of Oklahoma City announced a pledge to resist House Bill 1804, Oklahoma’s new anti-illegal immigration law due to take effect Nov. 1. Archbishop Eusebius Beltran and members o…

The Archdiocese of Oklahoma City announced a pledge to resist House Bill 1804, Oklahoma’s new anti-illegal immigration law due to take effect Nov. 1.

Archbishop Eusebius Beltran and members of the Council of Priests supporting this statement will present the following signed pledge of resistance to the law to Gov. Brad Henry on Friday, according to the Archdiocese:

PLEDGE OF RESISTANCE
“This letter has been authorized and signed in response to the recently approved law HB 1804. This law is fiercely anti-immigrant and does not reflect values that respect people or families.

With the advent of this new law, we unite ourselves in opposition and defiance of this unjust and immoral law. This law makes it a felony to aid, assist or transport any undocumented person in the state of Oklahoma and ‘on violating the provisions of subsections A or B of this section shall, upon conviction, be guilty of a felony punishable by imprisonment in the custody of the Department of Corrections for not less than one (1) year, or by a fine of not less than one thousand dollars ($1,000.00), or by both such fine and imprisonment.”

Our faith teaches us to do good to all people. There is no exemption clause for those persons who do not have documentation of their citizenship status. We will not show partiality against those who are in need of humanitarian assistance. Because this law is overly punitive and makes a felony out of the act of providing humanitarian assistance to an undocumented person in need, we the undersigned clergy, religious leaders and lay people of conscience will not and can not obey this law. We will continue to aid and assist all people regardless of their legal citizenship status, with charitable care and spiritual counsel.

We people of faith and conscience refuse to allow ourselves to be intimidated by Oklahoma’s law which makes those who serve others into felons. To the contrary, as persons of faith, hope and love, we call for the repeal of this anti-immigrant law and for immigration reform that provides justice for all God’s children. We are united in solidarity and in defiance of this law because of our allegiance to a higher law, the love of God and humanity.”

What Happened With the “Catholic Vote?”

I have read and heard lots of comments saying that President Obama “won” the Catholic vote. This is misleading.

President Obama won the Hispanic vote heavily. Far more than half of Hispanics are Catholics. Based on the Hispanic people I know, they are devout, church-going, family-oriented people.

I have also witnessed and fought against the repeated, racist attacks on hispanics by Republican politicians here in Oklahoma. The Republican Party used the issue of illegal immigration as a wedge issue in at least three of the elections in the past 10 years. They referred to “illegals” as if they were insects rather than people. They passed laws here in Oklahoma that tried to deny hispanic people access to basic services and their civil rights. 

They did all this despite the fact that there were plenty of laws on the books already to handle illegal immigration. These laws just weren’t being enforced. The main reason they weren’t being enforced was because the business interests that pay for Republican campaigns did not want them enforced.

Hispanic people are not stupid. They know all this. So when they voted heavily to re-elect President Obama, they were not voting against their church. They were voting against the discrimination and racism which the Republican Party had callously directed against them to win elections earlier in this century. 

Now, we are faced with pundits and commenters who keep saying that “Catholics voted for Obama” as if this was a repudiation of the Church by its own people. In truth, for the Catholic vote to have been as close as it was, and for hispanics to have voted for President Obama in the percentages they did, most other Catholics must have voted heavily for Governor Romney.

Before you go off condemning your fellow Catholics for deserting the Church, remember that statistics can be used to lie. At the very least these statistics are not be used to represent the facts in a way that would lead anyone who reads them to draw accurate conclusions.

HHS Mandate: Obama’s Polarizing Bet and How It Played Out

President Barack Obama, official portrait

I’m going to write about the Democratic Party’s turn to polarizing wedge-issue campaigning quite a lot in the months to come. I think it’s one of the most important aspects of the 2012 election.

This tactic of using wedge issues to push segments of the electorate to vote the way you want has been used heavily by the Republicans for decades. They’ve built their constituency primarily around abortion, but they’ve also used attacks on homosexuals and hispanics that went so far as attempting to deny them basic government services and civil rights.

I know. I’ve had to vote against some of their egregious legislation in this area.

This wedge issue electioneering by the Republican Party made it easy for the Democrats to come along and use the other side of those wedge issues to drive their own votes to the polls.

The problems with this are many and extensive, but perhaps the worst of them is the damage it does to the country. Once you call out the dogs of inflamed hatred and blind rage in order to get people to vote the way you want, it’s a little difficult to shut it back down when it’s time to govern. That is especially true when the other side of the political war is still out there, firing things up in hopes of regaining the power you just took from them.

That’s the core reason we are already hearing that Congressional leaders are planning their votes on key issues dealing with major things this country needs to save it from going over the economic cliff as chips for the 2014 election. Two days after we vote, and these jerks are already talking about doing it again. They’ve completely skipped past any consideration of actually doing the job they were elected to do.

Governing the country, the common good, the welfare of the American people are all non sequiturs to wedge-issue politicians.

The article below describes the calculated considerations that were weighed with the creation and enactment of the HHS Mandate. Notice that the First Amendment, the good of the country, and right and wrong did not have a column on the balance sheet when this decision was made. The only consideration was: Will it work to drive votes to the President in the 2012 election?

That’s ruthless.

Unfortunately, it’s not confined to one man or even one political party. It’s the way business is done among the new politicians of both parties.

The Worldwide Religious News article reads in part:

Religion, marriage and the GOP’s demographic challenge brought to the fore by 2012 election
Eric Schulzke (“Deseret News,” November 6, 2012)

Salt Lake City, USA — America is sharply divided along multiple fault lines, but one of the sharpest, according to Tuesday’s exit polls, is religion. Polls showed that Mitt Romney won 59 percent of the votes of the 42 percent of people that attend church weekly. But Barack Obama won 56 percent of those who attend only rarely and 63 percent of those who never attend church.

Rather than seeking to smooth over this gap, the Obama camp decided during the early stages of this election cycle to magnify it to its advantage, according to Brookings Institution Fellow Bill Galston.

The Obama team strategically picked a fight with the Catholic Church last spring, Galston said, when it chose to draw a hardline on the contraceptive mandate in the Affordable Care Act.

“They made a decision way back in December 2011 that the only way to save the Obama presidency was to go all out to mobilize the core elements of the 2008 coalition,” Galston said.

When the Catholic hierarchy rose to the bait and fought aggressively against the requirement that Catholic institutions provide contraceptives with their health care, Galston said, the Obama camp did not “just stumble into that.”

The Catholic vote is one of two key voting blocks that were destined to play a central role in the 2012 election. The other was the white evangelical vote, a core Republican block that Romney had a delicate and doubtful relationship with due to his Mormon faith and his waffling on social issues over time.

“Catholics are swing voters that neither party can take for granted,” Galston said. “It is very rare for one party to get more than 55 percent of the Catholic vote.” Two keys heading into the election centered around which way Catholics would tilt and whether evangelicals would turn out in large enough numbers to vote for a man few of them wanted to nominate.

And, as Galston observes, all this was set against Obama’s gamble that he could mobilize his base to overcome Catholic pushback. By lighting a fiercely partisan fire, would the Democrats be able to turn out their base in sufficient numbers?

The answer turned out to be yes.

And in answering that question, America got a glimpse at the demographic challenges that now face the Republican party, which now finds itself squeezed on all sides — trying to lay claim to an ever-shrinking base of white, married, religious voters.

Risking backlash

A key policy adviser in the Clinton White House, Galston speaks wistfully of his former boss, who took a more centrist path to re-election and governance, winning huge swaths of red territory in two elections, and he sees difficulties in governing and healing a country that is now sharply divided. (Read more here.)

“I know for a fact that the Obama people were warned in advance. They were under no illusions about what the reaction of the Catholic Church and the Catholic community would be,” he said. “It wasn’t something they sought, but it was something they were willing to accept as part of a package, whose upside they judged to be greater than the downside.”

And so the Obama White House drove hard at the Catholic Church, refusing to budge, infuriating bishops and even drawing the ire of a number of liberal Catholics. “Even moderate and liberal Catholics thought the administration was pushing the church around,” Galston said.

But in the same motion, Obama pivoted to the “war-on-women” theme — casting a dispute over who pays for contraceptives as an effort by old, conservative men to control women’s bodies.

The upshot: the Obama camp was willing to cede the GOP a greater share of the Catholic vote in order to bolster its base, particularly its core constituency of unmarried women. (Read more here.)

The People Spoke. Case Closed. Done Deal.

The people spoke Tuesday, November 6, 2012. 

Barach Obama was re-elected President of the United States of America. Same-sex marriage won four important votes. Euthanasia got pushed back. Democrats strengthened their hold on the United States Senate. Republicans kept control of the United States House of Representatives.

These were fair elections.

Case closed. Done deal.

If you want a pity-party, we-wuz-robbed, how-DARE-they-vote-wrong post-election wail-athon, you probably should just walk right past Public Catholic, because you won’t find it here.

This is America. We decide things by election in this country. We had a big election Tuesday and decided a lot of things.

What we have to do is look at these events through the lens of the Gospels and, as much as we are graced to do so, through the directings of the Holy Spirit. I am going to go back over certain aspects of this election in fine detail in the weeks and months ahead. But everything I say will be aimed at helping us find a way forward. I am not going to re-hash things from the perspective of re-fighting yesterday’s fight. That’s not my way.

My sole aim with Public Catholic is to use what little I’ve learned in my not-so-young life to help equip Christians for what I’ve known for quite some time is coming. I am an elected official and have been for a long time. That gives me certain insights which I hope will help you develop your skills in dealing with the political side of being a Christian.

However, Christianity is not and never has been a political movement. What we have witnessed these past decades is a sharp turn toward heresy and idolatry on the part of many of our religious leaders. They have been abysmally bad shepherds because they have mis-used their prophetic and moral voice to shape the Body of Christ into a political machine and vote delivery system for one or the other of the two political parties. This has gone on so long and been pushed so hard that there are a number of Christians who actually confuse political party affiliation with following Christ.

These people have edited, twisted and manipulated the Gospels to conform the teachings of Christ to political party platforms. From what I’ve seen, these fallen shepherds will always kiss Caesar’s ring when Caesar demands it. They back up, sit down and go along, even when the political leaders they have sold their birthrights as Christians to demand that they turn their backs on everything … including the one or two issues they claimed were why they backed the politicians in the first place.

Never forget: Our Lord was crucified at the hands of a cowardly politician, a group of corrupt religious leaders out to protect their own power and the crowd that followed them.

The election Tuesday was not the end of Christianity in America. But it may have been the end of what Dietrich Bonhoeffer called cheap grace, at least for true Christians. Over seventy percent of Americans call themselves Christian. But many of them are wide-gate, easy-way Christians who consistently choose the world over following Christ.

I created this blog and will be speaking in the future to narrow-gate, hard-way Christians who want to follow Jesus and stand up for Him, no matter what.

You have to decide for yourself which one you are. For now, it’s enough for us to realize, accept and get past one simple fact: The people spoke Tuesday. Case closed. Done deal.

We’ll take one more day for post-election emotional adjusting, then I’m through with it.

Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. Matthew 7: 13,14

Gay Marriage, Euthanasia, Abortion, Marijuana: How Did They Vote?

Gay marriage

Did Maryland voters legalize gay marriage?  YES
Did Maine voters legalize gay marriage?  YES
Did Minnesota voters ban gay marriage?  NO
Did Washington state voters legalize gay marriage?  YES

Marijuana

Did Arkansas voters legalize medical marijuana? NO
Did Colorado voters legalize the sale and use of marijuana?  YES
Did Massachusetts voters legalize medical marijuana?  YES
Did Oregon voters legalize the sale of marijuana?  NO
Did Washington voters legalize the sale and growth of marijuana? YES

Euthanasia

Did Massachusetts voters legalize euthanasia? NO

Human trafficking

Did California voters raise the punishment for human traffickers?  YES

Blaine Amendment


Did Florida voters allow state funds to go to religious organizations?  NO

Gambling

Did Maryland voters approve expanded casino gambling?  YES
Did Oregon voters approve casino gambling?  NO
Did Rhode Island voters approve state-operated casino gambling?  YES

Death penalty

Did California voters do away with the death penalty?  NO

Abortion

Did Florida voters stop the use of tax payer money for abortions?  NO
Did Montana voters require parental notification for a minor seeking an abortion?  YES 

Cardinal Dolan’s Letter to Obama

I thought you might want to read the full text of Cardinal Dolan’s letter of congratulations to President Obama on his re-election to the office of President of the United States of America.

The letter says:

Dear President Obama,
In my capacity as President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, I write to express my congratulations on your re-election as President of the United States.  The people of our country have again entrusted you with a great responsibility.  The Catholic Bishops of the United States offer our prayers that God will give you strength and wisdom to meet the difficult challenges that face America.
In particular, we pray that you will exercise your office to pursue the common good, especially in care of the most vulnerable among us, including the unborn, the poor, and the immigrant.  We will continue to stand in defense of life, marriage, and our first, most cherished liberty, religious freedom.  We pray, too, that you will help restore a sense of civility to the public order, so our public conversations may be imbued with respect and charity toward everyone.
May God bless you and Vice President Biden as you prepare for your second term in service to our country and its citizens.

Sincerely yours,

 

Timothy Cardinal Dolan
Archbishop of New York
President United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

If You’re Going to Win the Kentucky Derby, You Need a Horse

Republicans could easily have taken the White House this year. But they didn’t.

Why?

Their candidate sucked. Their campaign sucked worse than their candidate.

First, let’s talk about the candidate. If you’re going to win the Kentucky Derby, you need a horse. The Republicans didn’t have a horse to ride in this election. Governor Romney was one rotten candidate. Nobody, except possibly his family and his dog, wanted Governor Romney to win. They wanted President Obama to lose. The people who voted for Governor Romney didn’t vote for him. They were voting against President Obama.

From beginning to end, this election has been Obama vs Obama. And it was close.

In the final analysis, more people wanted the real Obama than they wanted the robot-man not-Obama for their president. The last time we saw this was 2004 when the Democrats ran not-Bush Senator John Kerry for president. They got pretty much the same result.

Both President Bush before him and President Obama now were strategically-elected presidents who used wedge issues and highly targeted campaigns which basically said “I don’t care about you” to about half the people. Both men got their half to the polls and won a second term. Unless President Obama shifts course (something he has shown no sign of being capable of doing) both men will go down in history as presidents of some of the people most of the time and all of the people none of the time.

Governor Romney, if he had won, would have been the president of none of the people all of the time. He would have been the not-Obama president with a mush-minded platform whose only fealty was to multi-national corporations. I’m sure some of his big money backers are chewing on bitterness with their oatmeal this morning. They are not the kind of people who put money in political campaigns and politicians because of ideals. They view their campaign donations as investments. Governor Romney has been a bad investment.

In addition to their not-Obama candidate, the Republicans ran a not-Obama campaign. They never gave anybody, except the aforementioned multi-national corporatists, any reason to vote for their boy. Romney was the not-Obama candidate running on the not-Obama platform. Their only strategy was to keep on keeping on attacking the President in the same old ways over the same old issues just like they’d been doing for the past four years. The Romney campaign was an idea-free zone, and it showed.

My half-deaf 20-year-old cat could have come up with a better campaign strategy than going over and over the same old stuff that had been used against the president since 2008. I believe that President Obama’s positions on social issues were a net sum loss for him in terms of votes. But I know that he had already lost every single vote he was going to lose on those issues when he walked into this campaign. The Republicans had zero gain from attacking him on this over and over again. They already had all the votes they were going to get on those issues.

What they needed to do was offer reasons why somebody somewhere should actually vote for their candidate. It is compelling that roughly half the people of this country cast their votes against President Obama, even when they knew they were voting for a zero when they did it. That’s a big base.

But a base in any campaign is just that. It’s your base. If you want to win, you need to build something on top that base. Incumbents usually walk into an election with a big enough base to win. President Obama was the incumbent in this election and he began the campaign with that advantage. The Republicans never gave any reason, except things that people had already decided about, to switch.

The Rs ran a lousy, I’m-not-much-but-I’m-not-him campaign. The fact that it was close is a testament to how winnable it was. However, their narrow and absolute fealty to the big corporations has shut down so many options and ways of dealing with major issues concerning foreign policy and the economy that all they dared talk about were the same social issues that had gotten them to the half-way mark. They couldn’t build because they dared not. They had the money men breathing down their necks.

I’m already hearing the self-serving excuses from the R side of the political kitchen concerning this race. They are cooking up an analysis of things that will not require one single change in their absolute obeisance to the extreme nutso economic philosophy of Ayn Rand coupled with the economic policies of the greed-is-good corporatists who foot their bills. This determined self-deception precludes an honest appraisal of what went wrong.

The Democrats, after Kerry, jettisoned the dead weight. They picked their wedge issues and stopped trying to be the party of anything else. I expect the Republicans to go through a similar reappraisal. I think that there is going to be a considerable push within the party to de-couple from “social” issues and move toward a more “moderate” position on things like abortion, same-sex marriage, etc. This is the direction the money-men who own the party have been pushing for right along.

I imagine there will also be a big hate-Romney move within the party. In truth, Governor Romney only failed the party by winning the nomination. He was a no-magic man in a campaign that needed a star. But, given the field of candidates they had to choose from, what else were Republican voters supposed to do?

The field of appallingly bad candidates that Republican voters had to chose from in the primaries is a direct result of the lock-step thinking that is enforced within the party. Time was, Democrats allowed themselves the freedom to, as Wesley said, think and let think within their party. But those days are gone for them, too.

Both parties have narrowed their field of possible candidates with their internal censorship of ideas and constant self-purging, but the Republicans have paid the highest price for this so far. In the past two presidential elections, their major weakness showed in the primaries. They did not have a healthy field of intelligent, attractive candidates who inspire people. Instead, they offered us the slightly daffy, the bitter, the inane and the mean and nasty.

I know that Ron Paul inspired a lot of support, but in truth, there was no candidate in the Republican presidential primaries who had any business anywhere near the White House.

In spite of all this, the race was still close. The President eked out a win in the popular vote, and, as a result of his highly-targeted, wedge-issue race, won handily in the electoral college. It could easily have gone differently. All the Republicans needed was a candidate.

In some ways, politics is like a horse race. If you want to win any horse race, but especially a really big one like, say, the Kentucky Derby, you’ve got to have a horse to ride. The Republicans showed up for the race without a horse. The rest, as they say, is history.

After Election Prayer

I found this prayer on the USCCB web site. As usual, our bishops are leading us in the right direction. 

God of all nations,
Father of the human family,
we give you thanks for the freedom we exercise
and the many blessings of democracy we enjoy

in these United States of America.

We ask for your protection and guidance
for all who devote themselves to the common good,

working for justice and peace at home and around the world.

We lift up all our duly elected leaders and public servants,
those who will serve us as president, as legislators and judges,

those in the military and law enforcement.

Heal us from our differences and unite us, O Lord,
with a common purpose, dedication, and commitment to achieve liberty and justice
in the years ahead for all people,

and especially those who are most vulnerable in our midst.

Amen.

Cardinal Dolan, Holy Father Congratulate Obama, Stand Firm On Life, Liberty and Marriage

Cardinal Timothy Dolan and Pope Benedict XVI both sent letters of congratulations to President Obama today.

I found it personally heartening when I read that along with congratulations and assurances of the bishops’ continued prayers for the President,  Cardinal Dolan also made a statement for the United States Bishops:

“We will continue to stand in defense of life, marriage and our first, most cherished liberty, religious freedom.”

Thank you Cardinal Dolan. I needed to read that.

I am going to re-blog the entire CNA article below. For other great articles like it, check out CNA.

Pope, Cardinal Dolan urge Obama to respect life and religious freedom
By Michelle Bauman

Washington D.C., Nov 7, 2012 / 10:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Catholic leaders are calling on President Barack Obama to respect the fundamental American principles of life and religious liberty after he won a second term in office.

“We will continue to stand in defense of life, marriage, and our first, most cherished liberty, religious freedom,” said Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

In a letter congratulating Obama on his re-election, Cardinal Dolan noted the “great responsibility” with which the American people have entrusted the president and assured him of the prayers of the U.S. bishops.

“In particular, we pray that you will exercise your office to pursue the common good, especially in care of the most vulnerable among us, including the unborn, the poor, and the immigrant,” the cardinal said.

“We pray, too, that you will help restore a sense of civility to the public order, so our public conversations may be imbued with respect and charity toward everyone,” he added.

Cardinal Dolan’s commitment to defending life, marriage and religious liberty was echoed by other Catholic groups following Obama’s Nov. 6 win at the polls.

The U.S. bishops have clashed with the Obama administration over religious liberty issues in recent months.

At the center of the conflict is a new federal mandate that requires employers – including religious hospitals, schools, and charitable agencies – to offer health insurance plans covering contraception, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs.

Bishops from every diocese in the U.S. have spoken out against the mandate, warning that it poses a serious threat to religious freedom. More than 100 plaintiffs, including numerous Catholic dioceses, universities and charitable organizations, have filed lawsuits challenging the mandate.

The importance of religious freedom was also emphasized in Pope Benedict XVI’s message to Obama.

In the letter, which was sent through the apostolic nunciature in Washington, D.C., the Pope offered best wishes to Obama and promised prayers for the president in the coming years.

The pontiff also said he hopes that the American founding ideals of freedom and justice may hold a prominent place in the nation’s future.

Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Holy See press office, noted that “the U.S. president has an immense responsibility, not only in his own country but also towards the rest of the world, given the role the U.S.A. plays at an international level.”

“For this reason we hope that President Obama will respond to his fellow citizens’ expectations,” he said, “serving law and justice for the good and development of all people, and respecting essential human and spiritual values while promoting a culture of life and religious freedom.”

How Does It Feel to Vote for the President of the United States?

I voted. Did you? 

Were there long lines? Did you have any problems with the other votes on the ballot? Are you satisfied with the choices we had, or would you like something (as in someone) better next time around?

Let’s share our voting experiences in the comments section. Maybe we can inspire some someone somewhere who is thinking about not voting to go cast that ballot.

Today we are electing the next President of the United States of America.

That’s a pretty big deal.

The Meaning of Marriage and Sexual Difference

Same sex marriage is one of the lightning rod issues of our day. The Catholic Church has stood firm in its 2000 year commitment to marriage as a sacrament between one man and one woman. This costly fidelity has focused the rage and hatred of fair number of people on the Church and on all Catholics.

Since people in a number of states will be voting on same-sex marriage today, I’ve decided to post the discussion about it that I found on the USCCB website.

Please read it prayerfully.

The Meaning of Marriage & Sexual Difference

Marriage: What’s a good starting point?
To understand what marriage is, the best place to start is with the human person. After all, marriage is a unique relationship between two specific persons, one man and one woman. We must ask, “What does it mean to be a human person, as a man or as a woman?” First, men and women are created in the image of God (see Gen 1:27). This means that they have great dignity and worth. Also, since “God is love,” (1 Jn 4:8) each person – created in God’s image – finds his or her fulfillment by loving others. Second, men and women are body-persons. The body – male or female – is an essential part of being human. Gender is not an afterthought or a mere social construct. The body shapes what it means to love as a human person. To sum up, when we think about marriage, we must think about who the human person is – created with great dignity, and called to love as a body-person, male or female.

Where does marriage come from?
“God himself is the author of marriage” (GS, no. 48). When God created human persons in his own image, as male and female, he placed in their hearts the desire, and the task, to love – to give themselves totally to another person. Marriage is one of two ways someone can make a total self-gift (the other is virginity, devoting oneself entirely to God) (see FC, no. 11). Marriage is not something thought up by human society or by any religion – rather, it springs from who the human person is, as male and female, and society and religion affirm and reinforce it. The truth of marriage is therefore accessible to everyone, regardless of their religious beliefs or lack thereof. Both faith and reason speak to the true meaning of marriage.

What is marriage?
Marriage is the lifelong partnership of mutual and exclusive fidelity between a man and a woman ordered by its very nature to the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of children (see CCC, no. 1601; CIC, can. 1055.1; GS, no. 48). The bond of marriage is indissoluble – that is, it lasts “until death do us part.” At the heart of married love is the total gift of self that husband and wife freely offer to each other. Because of their sexual difference, husband and wife can truly become “one flesh” and can give to each other “the reality of children, who are a living reflection of their love” (FC, no. 14).

Marriage between a baptized man and a baptized woman is a sacrament. This means that the bond between husband and wife is a visible sign of the sacrificial love of Christ for his Church. As a sacrament, marriage gives spouses the grace they need to love each other generously, in imitation of Christ.

Why can’t marriage be “redefined” to include two men or two women?
The word “marriage” isn’t simply a label that can be attached to different types of relationships. Instead, “marriage” reflects a deep reality – the reality of the unique, fruitful, lifelong union that is only possible between a man and a woman. Just as oxygen and hydrogen are essential to water, sexual difference is essential to marriage. The attempt to “redefine” marriage to include two persons of the same sex denies the reality of what marriage is. It is as impossible as trying to “redefine” water to include oxygen and nitrogen.

What is sexual difference?
Sexual difference is the difference of man to woman and woman to man. It affects a person at every level of his or her existence: genetically, biologically, emotionally, psychologically, and socially. Sexual difference is an irreducible difference. It is unlike any other difference we experience, because it – and only it – allows for the total personal union between husband and wife that is at the heart of marriage. The difference between men and women is for the sake of their union with each other. It is what makes spousal union possible.

Isn’t marriage just about love and commitment between two people?
Of course love and commitment are important for marriage – as they are for many relationships. But marriage is unique because the commitment it calls for is better described as communion, where “the two become one flesh” (Gen 2:24). Only a man and a woman in marriage can become a “one flesh” communion. The unity of husband and wife is so intimate that from it can come a “third,” the child – a new life to be welcomed and raised in love. No other relationship, no matter how loving or committed, can have this unique form of commitment – communion – that exists in marriage, between a husband and a wife.

Why does a person’s gender matter for marriage?
Gender matters for marriage because the body matters for love. My body is not simply “the shape of my skin.” Instead, my identity as a person (my “I”) is inseparable from the reality of my body – I am a body-person. As John Paul II said, the body reveals the person. It is a deeply personal reality, not just a biological fact (see TOB, sec. 9.4). The body is “taken up” into every human action, including the most important task of all: loving. Loving as a human person means loving as a man or as a woman. Marriage, the “primary form” of human love (GS, no. 12), necessarily involves the reality of men and women as body-persons. Marriage is intrinsically opposite-sex. To “write off” the body, and gender, as unimportant to marriage means treating the body as inconsequential or, at best, as an object or tool to be used according to one’s pleasure, instead of as an essential – and beautiful – aspect of being human and loving as a human person. Such a write-off would ignore the very essence of what marriage is.

How is the love between a husband and a wife irreducibly unique?
The love between a husband and a wife involves a free, total, and faithful mutual gift of self that not only expresses love, but also opens the spouses to receive the gift of a child. No other human interaction on earth is like this. This is why sexual intimacy is reserved for married love – marriage is the only context wherein sex between a man and a woman can speak the true language of self-gift. On the other hand, sexual behavior between two men or two women can never arrive at the oneness experienced between husband and wife, nor can these acts be life-giving. In fact, it is impossible for two persons of the same sex to make a total gift of self to each other as a husband and a wife do, bodily and personally. For this reason, such sexual behavior is harmful and always wrong, as it is incapable of authentically expressing conjugal love – love which by its nature includes the capacity to give oneself fully to the other and to receive the other precisely as gift in a total communion of mind, body and spirit. Therefore, no relationship between two persons of the same sex can ever be held up as equal or analogous to the relationship between husband and wife.
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What is complementarity?
“Complementarity” refers to the unique – and fruitful – relationship between men and women. Both men and women are created in the image of God. Both have great dignity and worth. But equality does not mean “sameness”: a man is not a woman, and a woman is not a man. Instead, “male and female are distinct bodily ways of being human, of being open to God and to one another” (LL, p. 10). Because men and women are “complementary,” they bring different gifts to a relationship. In marriage, the complementarity of husband and wife is expressed very clearly in the act of conjugal love, having children, and fathering and mothering –actions that call for the collaboration – and unique gifts – of husband and wife.
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Why does the Catholic Church care so much about marriage?
The Catholic Church cares about marriage because marriage is a fundamental good in itself and foundational to human existence and flourishing.
Following the example of Jesus, the Church cares about the whole person, and all people. Marriage (or the lack thereof) affects everyone. Today, people all over the world are suffering because of the breakdown of the family – divorce, out-of-wedlock childbearing, and so on. Marriage is never just a “private” issue; it has public significance and public consequences. One only has to think of the connection between fatherless families and young men in jail to know that this is true. In addition, the proposal to “redefine” marriage to include two men or two women is really a proposal to “redefine” the human person, causing a forgetfulness of what it means to be a man or a woman. This is a basic injustice to men and women, children, and fathers and mothers. Marriage is truly one of the most important social justice issues of our time.

Where can I learn more about marriage?
Please visit www.marriageuniqueforareason.org for videos and companion guides on the promotion and protection of marriage. For a list of relevant Church documents on marriage, click here. For more information on strengthening marriage, visit foryourmarriage.org.

The Catholic Vote and Following Christ.

One in four American voters is Catholic. That makes us an important block of votes.

The Church has consistently been nuanced and honest in its teaching about elections and civic responsibility. Despite pressure from more-Catholic-than-the-Popes on one side and holier-than-Christs on the other, the Church has refused to repudiate any part of the Gospels of Christ.

Social Justice Catholics and Pro Life Catholics are both right in advocating for their causes. They are both wrong, grievously so, in claiming that it is holy to ignore the plain call of Christ to support life AND social justice, not one or the other. These ridiculous assertions are nothing more than attempts at self-justification and dishonest claims of righteousness vis a vis their political opponents.

Those who claim that Jesus loves the poor and supports killing innocent people are liars. Those who claim that Jesus opposes killing the unborn but supports corporatism and the economic enslavement of whole populations are liars. They are both trying to re-create Jesus in their own image. They are demanding that the Lord follow them, rather than following Him.

One message of Public Catholic is that we should follow Jesus Christ, not the phony christs of public manipulation.

The easiest way to do that is to follow the teachings of the Church. Our great Church suffers the slings and arrows of both sides of this political divide and steadfastly continues to call us to the totality of the Gospels and the true holiness of following Christ. The Church asks us to choose Christ, and Him alone in the face of partisan pressures.

I am proud of my Church. I am proud of our bishops. I support them absolutely in their fight for religious freedom, to save the family, protect the sanctity of human life and work for a human-being-supporting economy. Unlike a lot of Catholics, I have already taken my turn at trying to decide for myself what is right and wrong. I laid waste my own conscience in the process.

I urge everyone to follow the Church, stand with Jesus and to lean not on your own understanding with these great moral issues. I know from experience that being your own god only leads to regret.

One downside of a Church that teaches the whole Gospel rather than a cherry-picked version of the gospels that has been trimmed to fit a partisan pattern is that the Church does not give us a cooking-recipe set of instructions on how to vote. Even though we follow Christ, believe His Church and try to adhere to her teachings, we still have to think for ourselves.

God gave us minds as well as souls and it our responsibility before God to use them for the elevation of humankind. That’s a tough bogie when we are confronted with candidates who each have such deep, deep flaws. I have felt all along that what we have is a choice between bad and worse.

I originally thought that I would not vote in the presidential election. I planned to confine my choices to further down the ballot and leave the boxes unchecked beside both these two men. But I had a dream the night before I voted, a dream so compelling that I wonder if it wasn’t more than just a dream. Then, when I had the ballot in one hand and the pen in the other, I knew that I would vote for one of the two men on the presidential ballot. The Holy Spirit touched me, and I knew.

It’s happened to me before, these unbidden moments of clarity that I knew were from the Holy Spirit. But the other times it was votes I cast as an elected representative. This is the first time it has ever happened with my private vote as an American citizen.

Based on my own experience, I am asking each of you to pray before you vote. Give your vote to God. Then, do your best to pick the bad instead of worse when you have that ballot in your hand. I believe that God will guide you.

Ted Kennedy’s Widow Comes Out Against Euthanasia in Massachusetts

This op-ed piece from Victoria Reggie Kennedy, the widow of Senator Edward Kennedy, is from the Cape Cod Times.

Question 2 Insults Ted Kennedy’s Memory

By ColumnCredit
VICTORIA REGGIE KENNEDY
October 27, 2012
There is nothing more personal or private than the end of a family member’s life, and I totally respect the view that everyone else should just get out of the way. I wish we could leave it that way. Unfortunatelyh, Question 2, the so-called “Death with Dignity” initiative, forces that issue into the public square and places the government squarely in the middle of a private family matter. I do not judge nor intend to preach to others about decisions they make at the end of life, but I believe we’re all entitled to know the facts about the law we’re being asked to enact.

Here’s the truth. The language of the proposed law is not about bringing family together to make end of life decisions; it’s intended to exclude family members from the actual decision-making process to guard against patients’ being pressured to end their lives prematurely. It’s not about doctors administering drugs such as morphine to ease patients’ suffering; it’s about the oral ingestion of up to 100 capsules without requirement or expectation that a doctor be present. It’s not about giving choice and self-determination to patients with degenerative diseases like ALS or Alzheimer’s; those patients are unlikely to qualify under the statute. It’s not, in my judgment, about death with dignity at all.

My late husband Sen. Edward Kennedy called quality, affordable health care for all the cause of his life. Question 2 turns his vision of health care for all on its head by asking us to endorse patient suicide — not patient care — as our public policy for dealing with pain and the financial burdens of care at the end of life. We’re better than that. We should expand palliative care, pain management, nursing care and hospice, not trade the dignity and life of a human being for the bottom line.

Most of us wish for a good and happy death, with as little pain as possible, surrounded by loved ones, perhaps with a doctor and/or clergyman at our bedside. But under Question 2, what you get instead is a prescription for up to 100 capsules, dispensed by a pharmacist, taken without medical supervision, followed by death, perhaps alone. That seems harsh and extreme to me.

Question 2 is supposed to apply to those with a life expectancy of six months or less. But even doctors admit that’s unknowable. When my husband was first diagnosed with cancer, he was told that he had only two to four months to live, that he’d never go back to the U.S. Senate, that he should get his affairs in order, kiss his wife, love his family and get ready to die.

But that prognosis was wrong. Teddy lived 15 more productive months. During that time, he cast a key vote in the Senate that protected payments to doctors under Medicare; made a speech at the Democratic Convention; saw the candidate he supported elected president of the United States and even attended his inauguration; received an honorary degree; chaired confirmation hearings in the Senate; worked on the reform of health care; threw out the first pitch on opening day for the Red Sox; introduced the president when he signed the bipartisan Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act; sailed his boat; and finished his memoir “True Compass,” while also getting his affairs in order, kissing his wife, loving his family and preparing for the end of life.

Because that first dire prediction of life expectancy was wrong, I have 15 months of cherished memories — memories of family dinners and songfests with our children and grandchildren; memories of laughter and, yes, tears; memories of life that neither I nor my husband would have traded for anything in the world.

When the end finally did come — natural death with dignity — my husband was home, attended by his doctor, surrounded by family and our priest.

I know we were blessed. I am fully aware that not everyone will have the same experience we did. But if Question 2 passes I can’t help but feel we’re sending the message that they’re not even entitled to a chance. A chance to have more time with their loved ones. A chance to have more dinners and sing more songs. A chance for more kisses and more love. A chance to be surrounded by family or clergy or a doctor when the end does come. That seems cruel to me. And lonely. And sad.

My husband used to paraphrase H.L. Mencken: for every complex problem, there’s a simple easy answer. And it’s wrong.

That’s how I feel in this case. And that’s why I’m going to vote no on Question 2.

Victoria Reggie Kennedy is an attorney, health care advocate and widow of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy.

Tomorrow is Election Day and We Have Already Won

Tomorrow is election day. 

Let me say that again. Tomorrow is election day.

We’ve said that our freedom to vote is bought with blood so many times that it’s become a cliche. What we haven’t said is that this simple act of voting is also power. There’s a reason why all these candidates have been driving us crazy with ads, polls and debates for the past year.

We have the power. We can pick who we want to lead this great country. We get to choose.

We don’t have to explain, justify, or even reveal our choices when we vote. It is our power and we can use it however we wish.

Tomorrow is election day.

We have before us a choice between two men for president, a number of people who want to serve in the United States Senate, several governors, many state legislators, sheriffs, county commissioners, judges, court clerks, and, of course, the entire United States House of Representatives. Pretty much the entirety of American electoral power is in our hands.

Our vote will determine the future of America for at least the next two years. It will also shape what happens in much of the rest of the world. We are voting for ourselves, for our children and for people who have not been born yet. We are also honoring the men and women who fought in the Revolution, gave their lives at Gettysburg, died on Omaha Beach and whose lives have been wasted by corrupt politicians in the unnecessary skirmish wars we the people should not have allowed. We are the culmination of those who crossed the prairies, climbed the mountains and who, all too often, ended in unmarked graves along the way.

America is my home and I love her with all my heart.

I am part of We the People. The American People. Tomorrow, the fate of our country is in our hands. This great experiment in republican democracy has churned through more than two tumultuous centuries. It has changed the world, revamped the universal understanding of government and the value of human beings in the process. Even America’s critics judge us by American standards.

These standards have their foundation in the words of a poor carpenter and miracle-worker who lived in a tiny corner of a great empire a long time ago. He taught us that we matter. He took the concept of what it means to be human and lifted it out of the pagan mire of the human-sacrificing, enslaving, individuals-don’t-matter muck that was the ancient world and set it on a hilltop of aspiration and hope. “Even the hairs of your head are numbered,” He said. You matter. You. You. Your own individual self, matters to the God who made everything there is, everywhere.

That is the philosophical foundation on which the concept of human rights that grew up in the Western world is based. It is why the concept itself is a Western concept. Because it came from Christ. Because it is part of the Kingdom that is both here and coming when His will shall be done on Earth as it is in heaven.

America is a grand experiment in self-government by millions of people who vote and then, no matter how they vote, accept the outcome of the election. Tomorrow, we will elect a lot of people to office. At least in the presidential election, it is certain that about half the people of this great land will be unhappy and dismayed by the outcome. But the power to decide is ours. The responsibility to accept the outcome and, if necessary, begin again in our work for what we believe, is also ours.

Go Vote tomorrow.

But remember: The Ultimate Victory will never go to the R or the D. The Ultimate Victory was achieved by that poor carpenter on Calvary. Christians, all 2 billion of us, are the living embodiment of that Victory. Our eternal lives, of which these times are the beginning, is the reality of it.

We are not the R or the D. We are Christians. No matter the election tomorrow. We have already won.


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