Friday, February 29, 2008

Why Everyone Logs on to ‘Father Z’

By Anna Arco

Fr Z walks through the bitterly cold Oxford night with the firm, fast steps of a man who has relentless energy, determination and strong convictions. With his black trilby tilted at a raffish angle and his black scarf firmly tucked into his black coat, he looks like a character out of The Matrix. With three mobile devices on him he certainly carries enough electronic kit to warrant the simile. One can easily imagine him being as adept at programming complex computer codes as he is at celebrating a Mass in the extraordinary form.

For those unfamiliar with the internet, the name Fr Z (the "Z" is pronounced "zee") may mean little, but to thousands of wired-up Catholics across the globe, Fr John Zuhlsdorf's well-informed opinions, translations and analyses of matters liturgical are a daily reading requirement. Rumoured to have direct sources in very high places, he is read by members of the Roman Curia, bishops, priests, seminarians and lay people around the world. His articles have made their way into Curial meetings and he says that several bishops have consulted him on documents relating to Summorum Pontificum, the Apostolic Letter with which the Pope Benedict XVI liberated the traditional Mass. Fr Z is a true phenomenon of the information age: a power blogger and a priest.

He tells the story of one seminary rector who said some unfavourable things about Summorum Pontificum. Students at the seminary e-mailed Fr Zuhlsdorf shortly after the meeting. He posted it on his blog and within hours the news had made its way across the world.

"It created quite a stir in that particular community," says Fr Zuhlsdorf. "I know now that people are being a lot more careful about what they say. They [the bishops] are realising that the blogosphere and the internet, with the way the media is today, they know that they are going to be called to account for what they say or do."

A confessed tech-geek, Fr Zuhlsdorf started his adventures with the internet in its early days, back in the 1990s. He effectively hotwired a Vatican telephone in order to access cyberspace with an analogue connection back when analogue was the only option and Compuserve almost the only service provider. In the days before proper websites, when forums were the in thing, Fr Zuhlsdorf quickly became the moderator for the Catholic Online Forum, which he still does today. His "What Does The Prayer Really Say?" column in the American weekly newspaper The Wanderer dealt with the inadequacies of ICEL translations by providing new translations which he made. It became the inspiration for his blog.

In the last two years, his blog, at, has had over 2.1 million visitors. By the standards of today's blogosphere, which has well over 50 million blogs struggling to get noticed, this is not bad going at all. He receives over 500 e-mails a day and says he wishes that he could answer all of them. Traffic on his blog has been so heavy that it has caused the server to crash. More often than not, he has the first news on items concerning the Motu Proprio and whenever something new does develop relating to the extraordinary form, his blog is the rapidly becoming the first port of call.

"I feel that I have an obligation to comment now that I'm one of the bigger ones and people are starting to turn to me quickly," he says. "I'm one of the first blogs people go to when something happens and as long as I can have something useful to contribute I feel the responsibility to ante up." But he tries to limit himself from spending too much time at the computer so that he can live "a regular priestly life".

He feels his blog offers marginalised traditionalists a chance to vent their frustrations, discuss their needs and start the healing process that Pope Benedict XVI began with Summorum Pontificum.

As with many high-profile bloggers, Fr Zuhlsdorf's neatly formulated thoughts are only a mouse-click away, but finding the man behind the blog is a little more difficult.

It is apt that our interview in Oxford, where he has been taking part in a Newman Society colloquium on blogging, takes place in the Eagle and Child, the pub where the Inklings used to meet. He tells me that J R R Tolkien's books played a prominent part in his early life and he says that a childhood correspondence with "the Professor" shortly before Tolkien's death may have been one of things that made him more receptive to Catholicism later on in life. Born to Lutheran parents of German extraction in Minnesota, the man who coined the slogan "Save the Liturgy, Save the World" was turned off by the "ugliness" of the Lutheran mindset. Music and Shakespeare were the two passions of his childhood, nurtured by his grandmother, a former school teacher. While he was interested in religion, he had none himself.

Perhaps his love for the extraordinary form, his conviction that lex orandi is indeed lex credendi and his admiration for the beauties of the liturgy, have their roots in his conversion story. As a young drama major at the University of Minnesota, he was introduced to Latin and loved it. Long-haired and mustachioed, the now clean-shaven Fr Zuhlsdorf worked as a cook in a restaurant to support himself through his studies. "I was practically a pagan then," he says.

One Sunday, called in to work as the restaurant was short staffed, his car refused to start. So he borrowed his friend's battered jalopy and drove through the freezing Minnesotan morning, fiddling with the dial of the old AM radio desperately trying to find something decent to listen to. Chancing on some Gregorian chants, he was mesmerised. When he realised that the music was being broadcast live from a church in St Paul, Minnesota, he resolved to go. He was fascinated by what he saw at St Agnes, which is built in Austrian Baroque style and intrigued by the congregation. "I kept asking myself: 'Who are these people and what do they believe that they do this every Sunday?' " he says. "I wrote my name and phone number down on a piece of paper and handed it over to the guy on the other side of the Communion rail."

Mgr Richard Schuler, the parish priest, rang Zuhlsdorf up and invited him to come round and talk. After a year and a half of directly engaging with the liturgy in the church choir, which was complemented with a rigorous reading list, Zuhlsdorf found that he could answer his own objections to Catholicism and decided to convert. For a long time he resisted the vocation to the priesthood, but eventually came round to it and was ordained in May 1991 in Rome by Pope John Paul II. He was incardinated in the suburbicarian diocese of Velletri-Segni.

His work at the Ecclesia Dei commission, the Vatican body which deals with matters pertaining to the older form of the Mass, put him into the corridors of power and it was Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, then the Prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), who suggested the topic for Fr Zuhlsdorf's licence thesis.

"One day, not long after the document came out on the ecclesial vocation of theologians, I met Cardinal Ratzinger in the hall and I said: 'Your Eminence, I read the new letter.' He said very politely: 'What did you think?' It was an astonishing thing that the Prefect of the CDF was asking me what I thought of the letter and I said: 'Well, Your Eminence, I didn't really like it very well.' And he was a little surprised and said: 'Why?' And I said: 'Well, you spend so many pages on talking about theologians but you don't say who a theologian is.' He looked at me a little quizzically and said: 'Why don't you tell us?' And I said 'How do I do this?' And he said: 'You're working in Patristics at the Augustinianum; why don't you ask St Augustine who a theologian was?' " Fr Zuhlsdorf is now working on his doctorate in Patristics at the Augustinianum in Rome, but divides his time between the Eternal City and the United States, where he has a rural hideaway in the Midwest which he calls the Sabine Farm, after Horace. In the meantime, with things changing as much as they are, he is blogging up a storm.

Rome: Gender Neutral Baptismal Formulas Invalid

By Hugh McNichol

Vatican City - Feb 29, 2008 - The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued a correction today and, in simple terms, reaffirmed the Trinitarian formula that constitutes a valid baptism in the Catholic Church.

Responding to a formal inquiry about using modified forms of the Baptismal Rite that replace the Father, Son and Holy Spirit with other descriptions such as Creator, Liberator and Sanctifier the Holy See simply stated that Baptisms that were conducted without proper Trinitarian form were...simply invalid.

Additionally the Holy See through the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith also affirmed that the form to be used in the administration of Catholic Baptism is, "in forma absoluta."

Clearly this declaration by the Congregation with the approbation of the Holy Father shows the Church's desire to eliminate the rise of feminism within the celebration and completion of our sacramental mysteries. Hinting further this point was not based upon anti-feminist sentiments; the Holy See indicated that the proper form for the celebration of Baptism is scripturally reinforced in Matthew's Gospel, with the mandate to baptize in the name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit.

This is certainly a setback to pro-feminist supporters in the Catholic Church that believe all of our sacramental and liturgical expressions should be gender neutral. Thank God that the Holy See is making true gender identification easily tangible with the restoration of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Now perhaps we can get past all of the politically correct, inclusive nonsense and acknowledge the true masculine gender identity of God as Father, Jesus as Man and Son and without any defamation acknowledge Mary as Mother.


*And from CNS:

"'I think if you are over the age of 45 to 50 you have nothing to fear' regarding the validity of baptisms, said Father Tom Weinandy, a Capuchin Franciscan who is executive director of the U.S. bishops' Secretariat of Doctrine. Those in the younger generation shouldn't 'have a huge amount of fear' either, he added."

If the baptism is invalid, so are the other sacraments the person may have received, such as matrimony. 'If you are not validly baptized,' and thus not validly married, 'a person needs to get rebaptized and remarried,' explained Father Weinandy."

Kidnappers Take Iraqi Archbishop, Kill His Three Companions

By Carol Glatz

Catholic News Service

ROME (CNS) -- Kidnappers abducted Chaldean Catholic Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho of Mosul, Iraq, and killed the three people who were traveling with him.

Chaldean Bishop Rabban al Qas of Arbil told the Rome-based missionary news service AsiaNews that Mosul's archbishop was kidnapped late Feb. 29 after he finished leading the Way of the Cross.

Archbishop Rahho had just left the Church of the Holy Spirit in Mosul and was in his car with three other men when the kidnappers attacked.

"The bishop is in the hands of terrorists," Bishop Qas told AsiaNews.

"But we don't know what physical condition (the archbishop is in); the three men who were with him in the car, including his driver, were killed," he explained.

"It's a terrible time for our church; pray for us," he said.

The kidnappers have reportedly communicated their demands, which were not made public.

The incident comes less than a year after a Chaldean Catholic priest and three subdeacons were gunned down outside the same Mosul church.

Father Ragheed Aziz Ganni and subdeacons Basman Yousef Daoud, Wadid Hanna and Ghasan Bida Wid were killed June 3 while leaving the Church of the Holy Spirit after having celebrated Sunday Mass.

Father Ganni, the three subdeacons, and the wife of one of the subdeacons were driving away from the church when their car was blocked by a group of armed militants, according to AsiaNews.

The armed men forced the woman out of the car. Once the woman was away from the vehicle the armed men opened fire on Father Ganni and the three subdeacons. Subdeacon is an ordination rank lower than deacon in most Eastern Catholic churches.

The militants then placed explosives around the car to prevent anyone from retrieving the four bodies. Later that night, authorities finally managed to defuse the explosives and retrieve the bodies.

Gunmen kidnap Iraqi Chaldean Catholic archbishop

MOSUL, Iraq, Feb 29 (Reuters) - Gunmen kidnapped the Chaldean Catholic archbishop of Mosul on Friday in the northern Iraqi city and killed his driver and two guards, police said.

"He was kidnapped in the al-Nour district in eastern Mosul when he left a church. Gunmen opened fire on the car, killed the other three and kidnapped the archbishop," said provincial police spokesman Brigadier-General Khaled Abdul Sattar.

An assistant to Cardinal Emmanuel III Delly, the Chaldean patriarch of Baghdad and spiritual leader of Iraq's Catholics, said they had heard three people were killed and they did not know the fate of the archbishop, Paulos Faraj Rahho.

Chaldeans belong to a branch of the Roman Catholic Church that practises an ancient Eastern rite. Most of its members are in Iraq and Syria, and they form the biggest Christian community in Iraq.

While violence across much of Iraq has dropped in recent months, U.S. and Iraqi officials say that Mosul remains the last urban stronghold of al Qaeda, which they identify as the biggest threat to the country's security.

A number of Christian clergy have been kidnapped or killed, and churches bombed in Iraq since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.

Last June, gunmen murdered Catholic priest Ragheed Aziz Kani and three assistants in Mosul, 390 km (240 miles) north of Baghdad, after stopping his car near a church in the eastern part of the ethnically and religiously mixed city.

The assailants dragged out the priest and his assistants and shot them dead in an attack that was condemned by Pope Benedict.

A former Archbishop of Mosul, Basile Georges Casmoussa, was kidnapped at gunpoint in 2005, but was released after one day of captivity and said no ransom was paid.

Marc Stenger, Bishop of Troyes in France and president of the Catholic peace group Pax Christi, said he had met Rahho with a multi-denominational delegation near Mosul this month.

"He didn't want the meeting to take place in the city but outside, because he knew it was dangerous," he told Reuters.

"He is a man who likes to make jokes and he joked about the danger, but this was really a sign of great tension."

Stenger said "prospects are not cheerful" for Iraq's Christian community.

Christians make up about 3 percent of Iraq's 27 million, mostly Muslim, population. According to a 1987 census, there were 1.4 million Christians in Iraq but the number now is thought to have fallen below 1 million.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Group Pays Annual Tribute to Miser Who Gave All to Help Needy People

By Beth Griffin
Catholic News Service

WATERBURY, Conn. (CNS) -- A small group of people traveled 140 miles on a recent Monday morning to pray briefly at the snow-covered grave of a man who died before any of them was born. He wasn't related to anyone in the group and he hadn't willed them an inheritance, but he had left them a legacy.

Representatives of the worship community at Graymoor, the headquarters of the Franciscan Friars of the Atonement in Garrison, N.Y., made their annual trek Feb. 25 to the grave of John Reid, also known as the miser of Waterbury for his frugal ways and as Brother Philip, a tertiary brother of the Atonement.

Reid, who died in 1922, was the first and arguably the most enthusiastic member of the Union That Nothing Be Lost, a fundraising effort begun in 1911 by Graymoor founder Father Paul Wattson.

The movement is dedicated to practicing self-sacrifice to provide for the needy. It takes its name from the story of the multiplication of the loaves and the fishes in the Gospel of John. After Jesus blessed the five loaves and two fish and distributed them to 5,000 men, he told the disciples to "gather the fragments leftover, so that nothing will be wasted."

Father Wattson envisioned that the union's members would "spend the minimum on self, so that we can have the maximum to give to God," specifically for missionary support in the United States and overseas.

Father Wattson's initial draft of a rule for the movement was so strict that Auxiliary Bishop Thomas F. Cusack of New York declined to bless the union, reasoning no one would be able to observe it.

Enter John Reid, a Waterbury farmer, who paid an unannounced visit to Father Wattson at Graymoor, 70 miles from his home. The priest reportedly mistook the man in threadbare clothing for one of the homeless supplicants who regularly found their way to Graymoor.

As they talked, Reid described how, by living on 50 cents a day, he was able to send all of the profits from his 40-acre dairy farm to missionaries in China, Africa and India.

Reid offered Father Wattson $5,000 to build a seminary. Father Wattson told Reid about his nascent plan for the Union That Nothing Be Lost and invited him to be the first member. Reid agreed and sent a bank draft for $5,200, which Father Wattson took as a sign from God, equating the amount to the five loaves and two fish.

Father Wattson recounted the meeting and the donation to Bishop Cusack, who replied, "After such a wonderful manifestation of divine providence in raising up a man to embody the rule of the union, which I thought to be so perfect that you would find no one to live by it, how could I hesitate any longer to bless and approve the rule of the Union That Nothing Be Lost."

From 1911 to his death in 1922, Reid made make regular donations to the union. He became a tertiary member of the friars, taking the name Brother Philip in honor of the disciple who helped Jesus distribute the loaves and fish.

According to Atonement Father Fred Alvarez, "People who passed Reid's dairy farm saw cows grazing alongside a ramshackle barn and house. Those who visited him at night knew that, after greeting them at the door with a candle, he would blow it out once they were seated. And those who received letters from him saw that he left no margins on the paper."

On his last visit to Graymoor, Reid traveled overnight by trolley to avoid paying more fare on a train. He gave Father Wattson $2,100 in cash, the proceeds of the sale of eight acres of his farm, and said, "I haven't kept a dollar for myself. It is for the glory of God."

Before he died, Reid deeded his home and property to the union, so he was literally penniless when he died on his 82nd birthday, Jan. 30, 1922.

Brother Philip was buried as a Franciscan in his family plot at Old St. Joseph's Cemetery in Waterbury. The inscription at the base of the headstone describes him as "Perfect Observer UNBL."

Father Wattson referred to Reid as "God's holy miser" and said his generosity helped him "amass immense treasure in the reserve bank of paradise."

At the time of Father Wattson's death in 1940, the union had distributed $3 million to missions throughout the world. Since then, the friars have disbursed an additional $17.5 million.

According to Atonement Father James Gardiner, the union made small grants totaling $130,502 in 2007 to 29 organizations. Recipients ranged from small local social service groups to organizations with an international mission, such as the Catholic Near East Welfare Association and the World Council of Churches.

Father Gardiner said the Graymoor group's visit to Reid's grave is an annual Lenten event. This year, the service included several Scripture readings, prayers and a brief reflection by Father Alvarez.

Father Gardiner said the worship community at Graymoor was designating 10 percent of its Sunday Lenten offerings, as well as other freewill contributions, to the union.

"Things like the UNBL capture people's imaginations," he said. "It's an idea whose time has come again. Giving has become so antiseptic -- we write a check. Here, we can get personally involved by denying ourselves.

"One man stuffed a handful of bills into the collection jar at the door to Mass on Sunday and said, 'That's the coffee I didn't buy all week.' It's harder to not buy the cup of coffee than to make a donation," added the priest.


From The New Liturgical Movement:

"We have recently - Deo gratias! - seen a fair number of beautiful photographs of Solemn Masses in the extraordinary form on the NLM. Some time ago I found a series of pictures from a solemn Mass of 1951, which while not perhaps as spectacular aesthetically and of no very good quality, I am sure many of you will find interesting nevertheless. The most salient reason for this is the person of the Subdeacon of this Missa Sollemnis:"


Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Pope: Augustine Is Model of Humility

Says His Conversion Lasted Until He Died

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 26, 2008 ( In his final reflection on St. Augustine, Benedict XVI spoke of the saint's interior conversion, calling it "one of the greatest" in Christian history.

The Pope affirmed this today during the general audience given in Paul VI Hall. He recalled how his trip last year to pay homage to the mortal remains of Augustine was meant to "demonstrate the admiration and reverence of the entire Catholic Church toward St. Augustine, and my own personal devotion and recognition of a figure with whom I feel I have close ties to due to the part he has played in my theological life, in my life as a priest and a pastor."

Recalling Augustine's own retelling of his conversion in the "Confessions," the Holy Father said that the process is best "described as a journey that remains a true example for each one of us." It was a journey that "continued with humility until the end of his life."

"We can state that all the stages of his life -- and we can easily distinguish three phases -- together make up a single long conversion," the Pontiff explained.

Truth seeking

Benedict XVI characterized the first phase as a "gradual approach to Christianity," since Augustine was a "passionate seeker of the truth."

He explained: "Philosophy, and especially Platonic philosophy, led him closer to Christ by revealing to him the existence of the Logos, or creative reason. The books of the philosophers showed him the existence of 'reason' from which the whole world is derived, but did not tell him how to reach this Logos, which seemed so inaccessible.

"It was only through reading the letters of St. Paul, in the faith of the Catholic Church, that he came to a fuller understanding. […] His eyes fell on the passage of the Letter to the Romans, in which the apostle urges the abandonment of the pleasures of the flesh in favor of Christ. He understood that those words were specifically meant for him. They came from God, through the Apostle, and showed him what he had to do in that moment."

Augustine thus began to seek God, the Pope explained, "the great and inaccessible."

"His faith in Christ made him understand that God, seemingly so distant, was in truth not distant at all. In fact he has come near us, becoming one of us," the Holy Father said. "In this sense his faith in Christ allowed Augustine to accomplish his long search for truth. Only a God who made himself 'touchable,' one of us, was a God to whom one could pray, for whom and with whom one could live."


Benedict XVI said a last step, or "third conversion" in the journey, "led [Augustine] to ask God for forgiveness every day of his life."

The Pope explained: "At first he thought that once christened, in a life in communion with Christ, in the sacraments, and in the celebration of the Eucharist, he would attain a life as proposed in the Sermon on the Mount, which is one of perfection given through baptism and confirmed in the Eucharist.

"In the latter period of his life he understood that what he had said in his first homilies on the Sermon on the Mount -- that we as Christians permanently live this ideal life -- was a mistake. Only Christ himself realizes truly and completely the Sermon on the Mount. We always need to be cleansed by Christ, who washes our feet, and be renewed by him.

"We need a permanent conversion. Up to the end we need to demonstrate a humility that acknowledges that we are sinners on a journey, until the Lord gives us his hand and leads us to eternal life. It is with this attitude of humility that Augustine lived out his final days until his death."

A model

The Holy Father said that Augustine, once "converted to Christ, who is truth and love," became a model for every human being, "for all of us in search of God."

"Today, as then," the Pontiff said, "mankind needs to know and to live this fundamental reality: God is love and meeting him is the only answer to the fears of the human heart.

"In a beautiful text St. Augustine defines prayer as an expression of desire, and affirms that God answers by moving our hearts closer to him. For our part we should purify our desires and our hopes in order to receive God's gentleness."

"In fact," the Holy Father concluded, "this alone -- opening ourselves up to others -- can save us."

The Shining - as a Romantic Comedy

Caption Contest

Ark. Catholics Asked to Stop Donations to Komen Foundation

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — A breast cancer foundation known for its fundraising races across the globe faces increased scrutiny from Roman Catholic church dioceses for its support of Planned Parenthood.

The church's Little Rock diocese has urged its members not to donate to the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation, which has invested about $1 billion in cancer outreach and research. The reason, church leaders say, comes from the Dallas-based foundation giving money to Planned Parenthood to hold breast exams and offer education to women in its clinics.

"Donors cannot control how an organization designates its funds," the diocese statement reads. "Therefore, money donated for a specific service ... directly frees up funds to support other areas of an organization's agenda."

Marianne Linane, director of the diocese's "respect life" office, said those other agendas include abortions and contraceptive services. The Catholic church's policy is that abortion is wrong in every instance.

Linane said the Little Rock diocese, which oversees all churches in Arkansas, used the same statement sent out by the church's St. Louis diocese last year. However, the end of the Little Rock letter included addresses of Arkansas hospitals parishioners could donate to that would eliminate "the administrative funds for a middle broker..."

William F. Buckley, Jr., R.I.P.

"I Am Blessed to Have Known Him [Larry Kudlow]

When Rich Lowry called me a while ago to report the passing of Bill Buckley, I had to work hard to catch my breath and swallow this news. He was a great man. I am privileged and honored to have shared a part of his wonderful life over the past fifteen years.

I am very sad right now, and so is my wife Judy. She became a great friend of Bill’s and Pat’s, often sitting down with Bill at the piano at dinners in Stamford, or at our place in Redding. They talked a lot about art and classical music. When I phoned Judy this morning with the news she too was brokenhearted.

In the early to mid-1990s when I was on staff at NR — during the worst period in my personal life — Bill and Pat were like surrogate parents. Later on things got better for me and I grew even closer to them. It was wonderful.

At Pat’s memorial service in New York I cried with Bill as we embraced each other. So I am crying again right now at Bill’s passing.

He encouraged me to become a Catholic. He encouraged me to stay sober. He encouraged me to keep writing columns. He encouraged me stick with my new career in broadcasting. Sometimes he would call, out of the blue, and tell me I was making good progress and that he was proud.

Can you imagine? I’m the one who was proud — proud to be his friend and that he would take a moment of his time to call.

There are so many things I could say about our conversations and discussions and debates — about politics and the economy and so forth. But all of that will come later for me.

Right now my biggest thought — apart from the sadness — is how blessed I am to have been a small part of his remarkable life. His influence on me was enormous.

My deep condolence to Christopher and Priscilla and the rest of the family. I prayed earlier that the Lord Jesus Christ would take good care of Bill and Pat, who are now back together. "

When You Say Nothing At All

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Vatican Newspaper Rips Hollywood's "Hopeless" Vision

Rome, Feb. 26, 2008 ( - An essay in the official Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano argues that this year's Oscar awards went to films that portray America as a society "without hope."

The signed column by Gaetano Vallini was critical of Oscar-winning films such as No Country for Old Men and There Will Be Blood. These movies and others nominated for Academy Awards are "sinister, filled with violence, and above all, without hope," the writer said.

Vallini found fault especially with No Country for Old Men, saying that the film by Joel and Ethan Coen-- which garner 4 Oscars including the coveted "Best Picture" award-- was marred by "absurd and mindless acts of violence." While praising the craftsmanship of the Coen brothers, he said that their picture showed a "lack of moral conscience." The message of the movie, he said, seemed to "obliterate the American dream."

Worse, the L'Osservatore Romano critic continued, "this clearly pessimistic view that the United States offers of itself through movies" was confirmed by the Oscar awards, in which the film industry honored the pictures that offered this grim vision.

Vallini pointed that the independent filmmakers, working outside the orbit of Hollywood, chose to honor movies with a more positive message, such as Juno, the story of a young woman coping with an unexpected pregnancy. He also praised The Diving Bell and the Butterfly as a film that, "going against the prevailing trend, portrays the beauty of life."

Hillary & Barack Debate: Commercial Break

Parish Priest Seen as Premier Catechist

MADRID, Spain, FEB. 25, 2008 ( The priest is the premier catechist of a parish, and catechists need the presence of the parish priest to maintain their motivation, said the prefect of the Congregation for Clergy.

Cardinal Cláudio Hummes said this today while speaking at the Faculty of Theology San Dámaso in Madrid on "The Priest and the Ministry of Catechesis."

The priest is "the premier catechist of the parish," he said, adding that "catechists need the presence of the parish priest to be motivated."

"Many parish priests don't accompany their catechists," said the cardinal. He said that the work of the priest is "to watch the fundamental orientation of the catechesis."

The cardinal said that a "unity between faith and life" is necessary, underlining that the finality of catechesis is "to open the heart and prepare it for a total cohesion with Jesus Christ."

The prelate gave several characteristics for the work of a catechist, which should be "a process of initiation into the life of faith." He said catechists foster "a life of faith in community," that catechesis is a "permanent process in faith education," and "the connection that leads to Jesus Christ."

Bill Clinton: "If You Elect Me..."

"For a natural-born politician such as former President Bill Clinton, it may be tough to spend so much time talking about someone else.

For that reason, he has assumed an interesting way of speaking from the stump whilst campaigning for his wife...

'If you elect me, I'll repeal those subsidies. And put them into a strategic energy fund that will create American jobs for America's future with clean energy.'"

Monday, February 25, 2008

Above the Storm

"The afternoon sky darkened. Grey clouds billowed to the heavens. Thunder shook the ground and lightning danced overhead. The first droplets of heavy rain were just hitting the ground when the spaceship flew by....

This really happened on Feb. 5th when the International Space Station (ISS) flew over western Africa during an afternoon thunderstorm in Mali:

Orbiting Earth 200 miles high at a speed of 17,000 mph, astronauts took the picture using a Nikon D2Xs peering through one of the space station's many windows. It shows an enormous anvil cloud. Anvil clouds form in the tops of thunderstorms 5 to 10 miles high and consist mainly of ice. They get their anvil shape from the fact that the rising air in thunderstorms expands and spreads out as the air bumps up against the bottom of the stratosphere. There's no new science or meteorology in this photo--just a shot of rare beauty."

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Cardinal Urges Cuban Youth to Pray Rosary

Says Nation and Church Have a "Promising Future"

SANTIAGO DE CUBA, Cuba, FEB. 24, 2008 ( Pray the rosary with confidence and bring the love of Christ to people of Cuba, the Pope's secretary of state urged the youth of the island nation.

Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone said this Saturday during the recitation of the rosary with youth gathered at the shrine of Our Lady of Charity of Cobre in Santiago de Cuba.

The Vatican representative is in Cuba until Tuesday to mark the 10th anniversary of Pope John Paul II's visit to the island nation in 1988.

Speaking with the youth at the Marian shrine, the cardinal reflected on the rosary: "With the recitation of the rosary we learn from Mary how to contemplate the beauty of her Son's face and we experience the depth of his love. It is a recalling, a remembering, a salutary contemplation, a meditation and a supplication. It is a retracing of Jesus' life..."

"The rosary, the best tradition of the art of prayer, is deeply rooted in life itself, in which it illuminates the mystery of the heart of man," said Cardinal Bertone. "In the recitation of the rosary there is a profound contemplative attitude of the mysteries of the life of the Lord, a slow meditation, while one says the prayers to Mary according to the best tradition of the art of prayer.

"It is particularly beneficial in a world sometimes dominated by hustle and bustle and by the proliferation of voices that distract us."The cardinal then thanked the youth for their presence, "which speaks to us of a young country with a promising future. Show contemporary society that, as Pope John Paul II said, 'you can be modern and deeply faithful to Christ...'"

Cathy's Headache

Cathy wrote:
"I'm trying to pray the Rosary in competition with Purple Guitar Strap Joe on the folk guitar (may they one day be consigned to a pyre lit by Father Richtsteig). Not only a folk guitar but it was amped (!) up to, at least, 6. In addition, was the choir and the pianist/organist banging away. My inappropriate humor, which is never far from the surface (probably why I'm still sane-bwah-ha-ha!), bubbled up as I wondered if the guitarist takes requests? I pondered yelling out: "Freebird!" and whipping out my lighter. Why not? It seems like just about anything goes these days except actually praying at Mass. Silence has gone the way of the Dodo bird."

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen on Fatima

Campaign Photos

Castro's Rule Marked By Stormy Relations With Cuban Church

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- During nearly 50 years of rule, Fidel Castro had an often-stormy relationship with the Cuban Catholic Church.

The Jesuit-educated Castro was equally comfortable defusing the Cuban church as an institutional force during the early years of his revolution in the 1960s as he was bantering casually with Pope John Paul II during the papal visit to Cuba in 1998.

The 81-year-old Cuban leader announced Feb. 19 that he was retiring as head of the island nation. He had temporarily ceded power to his younger brother, Raul Castro, in July 2006, after undergoing surgery because of intestinal bleeding -- but he never returned to office, ending more than 49 years of continuous rule.

He came to power on the Caribbean island Jan. 1, 1959, at 32 years of age after leading a successful guerrilla rebellion against unpopular dictator Fulgencio Batista.

After Batista came to power in 1952, Castro, a young lawyer, started organizing a rebel force.

Initially, his successful rebellion had ample support among Catholics. He cultivated the support by saying his revolution was motivated by Christian principles. In a press interview with a Catholic priest shortly after taking power, Castro noted that six priests were chaplains to his rebel forces.

But things quickly changed. In 1961, he declared himself a Marxist-Leninist and made Cuba the first communist state in the Western Hemisphere, moving it into the Cold War camp of the Soviet Union.

His government began institutionally dismantling the church, nationalizing 350 Catholic schools and expelling 136 priests. Church activity was restricted to religious services on church property. Social action projects were prohibited. Church programs were monitored, and Cubans were discouraged from attending worship services with churchgoers discriminated against when seeking state and university employment.

Castro's view of the church further soured in the mid-1960s during Operation Pedro Pan, in which U.S. church officials helped resettle 14,000 unaccompanied Cuban children sent to the U.S. by parents wanting them to escape Castro's rule.

Despite the crackdown on the church, Castro never broke diplomatic relations with the Vatican and continued for decades to get from Vatican, Cuban and U.S. church officials statements criticizing the crippling U.S. economic boycott of Cuba, which he constantly cited as the reason for Cuba's economic woes.

Because of this church support there also were some positive notes in church-state relations.

During a 2006 U.S. visit, Cuban Cardinal Jaime Ortega Alamino of Havana said that starting in the 1980s "there was an evolution on the part of the government," increasing church-state communication, and "the tension began to diminish."

The result was that limits on the church no longer involved the ability to worship but involved the continued inability to have Catholic schools or teach religion in public schools, said the cardinal.

But Castro also knew how to play foreign church factions against the Cuban hierarchy to make it look as if only local Catholics opposed his rule.

In the 1970s Castro tapped into Latin American theologians' interest in Marxism and their political interest in socialism as an alternative to the capitalism practiced in the region. He cultivated support among non-Cuban Catholic intellectuals and priests dissatisfied with the region's growing gap between the rich and the poor, inviting them to visit his island as a counterpoint to criticisms by Cuban and Vatican church officials.

In 2003 he sidestepped the Cuban bishops and directly negotiated with the Vatican to allow a group of Brigittine Sisters entry into Havana at a time when the Cuban bishops had a long list of foreign priests and nuns wanting entry visas.

In the early 1990s, serious talks began about the possibilities of a papal visit to Cuba in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet bloc.

After a 1996 Castro visit with Pope John Paul at the Vatican, plans finally developed for the Jan. 21-25, 1998, papal trip, interpreted as a sign of improved church-state relations based on a willingness by the government to give the church more breathing space in the post-Cold War era.

Castro met the pope several times during the Cuban visit, allowed church officials to mobilize Catholics to attend papal events and permitted papal activities to be televised and reported in the state-controlled media.

Pope Exhorts Religious Orders: Rediscover Original Mission

Vatican, Feb. 19, 2008 ( - Pope Benedict XVI (bio - news) has reported signs of a "providential reawakening" in religious life, in an address to leaders of the International Union of Superiors General.

Acknowledging a "difficult crisis" in many religious orders, the Holy Father said that the major features of that crisis include a drop in vocations and "a spiritual and charismatic weariness." The best response to this crisis, he said, has been shown by those orders that have "chosen o return to the origins and live in a way more in keeping with the spirit of the founder."

A fresh commitment to their original charisms has given many religious communities "a promising new ascetic, apostolic, and missionary impulse," the Pope said. He urged the same approach for all religious orders. "We are all aware how, in modern globalized society, it is becoming ever more difficult to announce and bear witness to the Gospel," the Pontiff told the religious leaders. "The process of secularization which is advancing in contemporary culture does not, unfortunately, spare even religious communities."

However, he said, "the Holy Spirit blows powerfully throughout the Church, creating a new commitment to faithfulness, both in the historical institutes and, at the same time, in new forms of religious consecration that reflect the needs of the times." Today, he said, the main mark of energetic religious orders, old and new, are "a radical form of evangelical poverty, faithful love of the Church, and generous dedication to the needy-- with particular attention to that spiritual poverty which so markedly characterizes the modern age."

Monday, February 18, 2008

George Washington's Farewell Address

Friends and Citizens:

The period for a new election of a citizen to administer the executive government of the United States being not far distant, and the time actually arrived when your thoughts must be employed in designating the person who is to be clothed with that important trust, it appears to me proper, especially as it may conduce to a more distinct expression of the public voice, that I should now apprise you of the resolution I have formed, to decline being considered among the number of those out of whom a choice is to be made.

I beg you, at the same time, to do me the justice to be assured that this resolution has not been taken without a strict regard to all the considerations appertaining to the relation which binds a dutiful citizen to his country; and that in withdrawing the tender of service, which silence in my situation might imply, I am influenced by no diminution of zeal for your future interest, no deficiency of grateful respect for your past kindness, but am supported by a full conviction that the step is compatible with both.

The acceptance of, and continuance hitherto in, the office to which your suffrages have twice called me have been a uniform sacrifice of inclination to the opinion of duty and to a deference for what appeared to be your desire. I constantly hoped that it would have been much earlier in my power, consistently with motives which I was not at liberty to disregard, to return to that retirement from which I had been reluctantly drawn. The strength of my inclination to do this, previous to the last election, had even led to the preparation of an address to declare it to you; but mature reflection on the then perplexed and critical posture of our affairs with foreign nations, and the unanimous advice of persons entitled to my confidence, impelled me to abandon the idea.

I rejoice that the state of your concerns, external as well as internal, no longer renders the pursuit of inclination incompatible with the sentiment of duty or propriety, and am persuaded, whatever partiality may be retained for my services, that, in the present circumstances of our country, you will not disapprove my determination to retire.

The impressions with which I first undertook the arduous trust were explained on the proper occasion. In the discharge of this trust, I will only say that I have, with good intentions, contributed towards the organization and administration of the government the best exertions of which a very fallible judgment was capable. Not unconscious in the outset of the inferiority of my qualifications, experience in my own eyes, perhaps still more in the eyes of others, has strengthened the motives to diffidence of myself; and every day the increasing weight of years admonishes me more and more that the shade of retirement is as necessary to me as it will be welcome. Satisfied that if any circumstances have given peculiar value to my services, they were temporary, I have the consolation to believe that, while choice and prudence invite me to quit the political scene, patriotism does not forbid it.

In looking forward to the moment which is intended to terminate the career of my public life, my feelings do not permit me to suspend the deep acknowledgment of that debt of gratitude which I owe to my beloved country for the many honors it has conferred upon me; still more for the steadfast confidence with which it has supported me; and for the opportunities I have thence enjoyed of manifesting my inviolable attachment, by services faithful and persevering, though in usefulness unequal to my zeal. If benefits have resulted to our country from these services, let it always be remembered to your praise, and as an instructive example in our annals, that under circumstances in which the passions, agitated in every direction, were liable to mislead, amidst appearances sometimes dubious, vicissitudes of fortune often discouraging, in situations in which not unfrequently want of success has countenanced the spirit of criticism, the constancy of your support was the essential prop of the efforts, and a guarantee of the plans by which they were effected. Profoundly penetrated with this idea, I shall carry it with me to my grave, as a strong incitement to unceasing vows that heaven may continue to you the choicest tokens of its beneficence; that your union and brotherly affection may be perpetual; that the free Constitution, which is the work of your hands, may be sacredly maintained; that its administration in every department may be stamped with wisdom and virtue; that, in fine, the happiness of the people of these States, under the auspices of liberty, may be made complete by so careful a preservation and so prudent a use of this blessing as will acquire to them the glory of recommending it to the applause, the affection, and adoption of every nation which is yet a stranger to it.

Here, perhaps, I ought to stop. But a solicitude for your welfare, which cannot end but with my life, and the apprehension of danger, natural to that solicitude, urge me, on an occasion like the present, to offer to your solemn contemplation, and to recommend to your frequent review, some sentiments which are the result of much reflection, of no inconsiderable observation, and which appear to me all-important to the permanency of your felicity as a people. These will be offered to you with the more freedom, as you can only see in them the disinterested warnings of a parting friend, who can possibly have no personal motive to bias his counsel. Nor can I forget, as an encouragement to it, your indulgent reception of my sentiments on a former and not dissimilar occasion.

Interwoven as is the love of liberty with every ligament of your hearts, no recommendation of mine is necessary to fortify or confirm the attachment.

The unity of government which constitutes you one people is also now dear to you. It is justly so, for it is a main pillar in the edifice of your real independence, the support of your tranquility at home, your peace abroad; of your safety; of your prosperity; of that very liberty which you so highly prize. But as it is easy to foresee that, from different causes and from different quarters, much pains will be taken, many artifices employed to weaken in your minds the conviction of this truth; as this is the point in your political fortress against which the batteries of internal and external enemies will be most constantly and actively (though often covertly and insidiously) directed, it is of infinite moment that you should properly estimate the immense value of your national union to your collective and individual happiness; that you should cherish a cordial, habitual, and immovable attachment to it; accustoming yourselves to think and speak of it as of the palladium of your political safety and prosperity; watching for its preservation with jealous anxiety; discountenancing whatever may suggest even a suspicion that it can in any event be abandoned; and indignantly frowning upon the first dawning of every attempt to alienate any portion of our country from the rest, or to enfeeble the sacred ties which now link together the various parts.

For this you have every inducement of sympathy and interest. Citizens, by birth or choice, of a common country, that country has a right to concentrate your affections. The name of American, which belongs to you in your national capacity, must always exalt the just pride of patriotism more than any appellation derived from local discriminations. With slight shades of difference, you have the same religion, manners, habits, and political principles. You have in a common cause fought and triumphed together; the independence and liberty you possess are the work of joint counsels, and joint efforts of common dangers, sufferings, and successes.

But these considerations, however powerfully they address themselves to your sensibility, are greatly outweighed by those which apply more immediately to your interest. Here every portion of our country finds the most commanding motives for carefully guarding and preserving the union of the whole.

The North, in an unrestrained intercourse with the South, protected by the equal laws of a common government, finds in the productions of the latter great additional resources of maritime and commercial enterprise and precious materials of manufacturing industry. The South, in the same intercourse, benefiting by the agency of the North, sees its agriculture grow and its commerce expand. Turning partly into its own channels the seamen of the North, it finds its particular navigation invigorated; and, while it contributes, in different ways, to nourish and increase the general mass of the national navigation, it looks forward to the protection of a maritime strength, to which itself is unequally adapted. The East, in a like intercourse with the West, already finds, and in the progressive improvement of interior communications by land and water, will more and more find a valuable vent for the commodities which it brings from abroad, or manufactures at home. The West derives from the East supplies requisite to its growth and comfort, and, what is perhaps of still greater consequence, it must of necessity owe the secure enjoyment of indispensable outlets for its own productions to the weight, influence, and the future maritime strength of the Atlantic side of the Union, directed by an indissoluble community of interest as one nation. Any other tenure by which the West can hold this essential advantage, whether derived from its own separate strength, or from an apostate and unnatural connection with any foreign power, must be intrinsically precarious.

While, then, every part of our country thus feels an immediate and particular interest in union, all the parts combined cannot fail to find in the united mass of means and efforts greater strength, greater resource, proportionably greater security from external danger, a less frequent interruption of their peace by foreign nations; and, what is of inestimable value, they must derive from union an exemption from those broils and wars between themselves, which so frequently afflict neighboring countries not tied together by the same governments, which their own rival ships alone would be sufficient to produce, but which opposite foreign alliances, attachments, and intrigues would stimulate and embitter. Hence, likewise, they will avoid the necessity of those overgrown military establishments which, under any form of government, are inauspicious to liberty, and which are to be regarded as particularly hostile to republican liberty. In this sense it is that your union ought to be considered as a main prop of your liberty, and that the love of the one ought to endear to you the preservation of the other.

These considerations speak a persuasive language to every reflecting and virtuous mind, and exhibit the continuance of the Union as a primary object of patriotic desire. Is there a doubt whether a common government can embrace so large a sphere? Let experience solve it. To listen to mere speculation in such a case were criminal. We are authorized to hope that a proper organization of the whole with the auxiliary agency of governments for the respective subdivisions, will afford a happy issue to the experiment. It is well worth a fair and full experiment. With such powerful and obvious motives to union, affecting all parts of our country, while experience shall not have demonstrated its impracticability, there will always be reason to distrust the patriotism of those who in any quarter may endeavor to weaken its bands.

In contemplating the causes which may disturb our Union, it occurs as matter of serious concern that any ground should have been furnished for characterizing parties by geographical discriminations, Northern and Southern, Atlantic and Western; whence designing men may endeavor to excite a belief that there is a real difference of local interests and views. One of the expedients of party to acquire influence within particular districts is to misrepresent the opinions and aims of other districts. You cannot shield yourselves too much against the jealousies and heartburnings which spring from these misrepresentations; they tend to render alien to each other those who ought to be bound together by fraternal affection. The inhabitants of our Western country have lately had a useful lesson on this head; they have seen, in the negotiation by the Executive, and in the unanimous ratification by the Senate, of the treaty with Spain, and in the universal satisfaction at that event, throughout the United States, a decisive proof how unfounded were the suspicions propagated among them of a policy in the General Government and in the Atlantic States unfriendly to their interests in regard to the Mississippi; they have been witnesses to the formation of two treaties, that with Great Britain, and that with Spain, which secure to them everything they could desire, in respect to our foreign relations, towards confirming their prosperity. Will it not be their wisdom to rely for the preservation of these advantages on the Union by which they were procured ? Will they not henceforth be deaf to those advisers, if such there are, who would sever them from their brethren and connect them with aliens?

To the efficacy and permanency of your Union, a government for the whole is indispensable. No alliance, however strict, between the parts can be an adequate substitute; they must inevitably experience the infractions and interruptions which all alliances in all times have experienced. Sensible of this momentous truth, you have improved upon your first essay, by the adoption of a constitution of government better calculated than your former for an intimate union, and for the efficacious management of your common concerns. This government, the offspring of our own choice, uninfluenced and unawed, adopted upon full investigation and mature deliberation, completely free in its principles, in the distribution of its powers, uniting security with energy, and containing within itself a provision for its own amendment, has a just claim to your confidence and your support. Respect for its authority, compliance with its laws, acquiescence in its measures, are duties enjoined by the fundamental maxims of true liberty. The basis of our political systems is the right of the people to make and to alter their constitutions of government. But the Constitution which at any time exists, till changed by an explicit and authentic act of the whole people, is sacredly obligatory upon all. The very idea of the power and the right of the people to establish government presupposes the duty of every individual to obey the established government.

All obstructions to the execution of the laws, all combinations and associations, under whatever plausible character, with the real design to direct, control, counteract, or awe the regular deliberation and action of the constituted authorities, are destructive of this fundamental principle, and of fatal tendency. They serve to organize faction, to give it an artificial and extraordinary force; to put, in the place of the delegated will of the nation the will of a party, often a small but artful and enterprising minority of the community; and, according to the alternate triumphs of different parties, to make the public administration the mirror of the ill-concerted and incongruous projects of faction, rather than the organ of consistent and wholesome plans digested by common counsels and modified by mutual interests.

However combinations or associations of the above description may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely, in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion.

Towards the preservation of your government, and the permanency of your present happy state, it is requisite, not only that you steadily discountenance irregular oppositions to its acknowledged authority, but also that you resist with care the spirit of innovation upon its principles, however specious the pretexts. One method of assault may be to effect, in the forms of the Constitution, alterations which will impair the energy of the system, and thus to undermine what cannot be directly overthrown. In all the changes to which you may be invited, remember that time and habit are at least as necessary to fix the true character of governments as of other human institutions; that experience is the surest standard by which to test the real tendency of the existing constitution of a country; that facility in changes, upon the credit of mere hypothesis and opinion, exposes to perpetual change, from the endless variety of hypothesis and opinion; and remember, especially, that for the efficient management of your common interests, in a country so extensive as ours, a government of as much vigor as is consistent with the perfect security of liberty is indispensable. Liberty itself will find in such a government, with powers properly distributed and adjusted, its surest guardian. It is, indeed, little else than a name, where the government is too feeble to withstand the enterprises of faction, to confine each member of the society within the limits prescribed by the laws, and to maintain all in the secure and tranquil enjoyment of the rights of person and property.

I have already intimated to you the danger of parties in the State, with particular reference to the founding of them on geographical discriminations. Let me now take a more comprehensive view, and warn you in the most solemn manner against the baneful effects of the spirit of party generally.

This spirit, unfortunately, is inseparable from our nature, having its root in the strongest passions of the human mind. It exists under different shapes in all governments, more or less stifled, controlled, or repressed; but, in those of the popular form, it is seen in its greatest rankness, and is truly their worst enemy.

The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism. The disorders and miseries which result gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of public liberty.

Without looking forward to an extremity of this kind (which nevertheless ought not to be entirely out of sight), the common and continual mischiefs of the spirit of party are sufficient to make it the interest and duty of a wise people to discourage and restrain it.

It serves always to distract the public councils and enfeeble the public administration. It agitates the community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms, kindles the animosity of one part against another, foments occasionally riot and insurrection. It opens the door to foreign influence and corruption, which finds a facilitated access to the government itself through the channels of party passions. Thus the policy and the will of one country are subjected to the policy and will of another.

There is an opinion that parties in free countries are useful checks upon the administration of the government and serve to keep alive the spirit of liberty. This within certain limits is probably true; and in governments of a monarchical cast, patriotism may look with indulgence, if not with favor, upon the spirit of party. But in those of the popular character, in governments purely elective, it is a spirit not to be encouraged. From their natural tendency, it is certain there will always be enough of that spirit for every salutary purpose. And there being constant danger of excess, the effort ought to be by force of public opinion, to mitigate and assuage it. A fire not to be quenched, it demands a uniform vigilance to prevent its bursting into a flame, lest, instead of warming, it should consume.

It is important, likewise, that the habits of thinking in a free country should inspire caution in those entrusted with its administration, to confine themselves within their respective constitutional spheres, avoiding in the exercise of the powers of one department to encroach upon another. The spirit of encroachment tends to consolidate the powers of all the departments in one, and thus to create, whatever the form of government, a real despotism. A just estimate of that love of power, and proneness to abuse it, which predominates in the human heart, is sufficient to satisfy us of the truth of this position. The necessity of reciprocal checks in the exercise of political power, by dividing and distributing it into different depositaries, and constituting each the guardian of the public weal against invasions by the others, has been evinced by experiments ancient and modern; some of them in our country and under our own eyes. To preserve them must be as necessary as to institute them. If, in the opinion of the people, the distribution or modification of the constitutional powers be in any particular wrong, let it be corrected by an amendment in the way which the Constitution designates. But let there be no change by usurpation; for though this, in one instance, may be the instrument of good, it is the customary weapon by which free governments are destroyed. The precedent must always greatly overbalance in permanent evil any partial or transient benefit, which the use can at any time yield.

Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens. The mere politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and to cherish them. A volume could not trace all their connections with private and public felicity. Let it simply be asked: Where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths which are the instruments of investigation in courts of justice ? And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.

It is substantially true that virtue or morality is a necessary spring of popular government. The rule, indeed, extends with more or less force to every species of free government. Who that is a sincere friend to it can look with indifference upon attempts to shake the foundation of the fabric?

Promote then, as an object of primary importance, institutions for the general diffusion of knowledge. In proportion as the structure of a government gives force to public opinion, it is essential that public opinion should be enlightened.

As a very important source of strength and security, cherish public credit. One method of preserving it is to use it as sparingly as possible, avoiding occasions of expense by cultivating peace, but remembering also that timely disbursements to prepare for danger frequently prevent much greater disbursements to repel it, avoiding likewise the accumulation of debt, not only by shunning occasions of expense, but by vigorous exertion in time of peace to discharge the debts which unavoidable wars may have occasioned, not ungenerously throwing upon posterity the burden which we ourselves ought to bear. The execution of these maxims belongs to your representatives, but it is necessary that public opinion should co-operate. To facilitate to them the performance of their duty, it is essential that you should practically bear in mind that towards the payment of debts there must be revenue; that to have revenue there must be taxes; that no taxes can be devised which are not more or less inconvenient and unpleasant; that the intrinsic embarrassment, inseparable from the selection of the proper objects (which is always a choice of difficulties), ought to be a decisive motive for a candid construction of the conduct of the government in making it, and for a spirit of acquiescence in the measures for obtaining revenue, which the public exigencies may at any time dictate.

Observe good faith and justice towards all nations; cultivate peace and harmony with all. Religion and morality enjoin this conduct; and can it be, that good policy does not equally enjoin it 7 It will be worthy of a free, enlightened, and at no distant period, a great nation, to give to mankind the magnanimous and too novel example of a people always guided by an exalted justice and benevolence. Who can doubt that, in the course of time and things, the fruits of such a plan would richly repay any temporary advantages which might be lost by a steady adherence to it ? Can it be that Providence has not connected the permanent felicity of a nation with its virtue ? The experiment, at least, is recommended by every sentiment which ennobles human nature. Alas! is it rendered impossible by its vices?

In the execution of such a plan, nothing is more essential than that permanent, inveterate antipathies against particular nations, and passionate attachments for others, should be excluded; and that, in place of them, just and amicable feelings towards all should be cultivated. The nation which indulges towards another a habitual hatred or a habitual fondness is in some degree a slave. It is a slave to its animosity or to its affection, either of which is sufficient to lead it astray from its duty and its interest. Antipathy in one nation against another disposes each more readily to offer insult and injury, to lay hold of slight causes of umbrage, and to be haughty and intractable, when accidental or trifling occasions of dispute occur. Hence, frequent collisions, obstinate, envenomed, and bloody contests. The nation, prompted by ill-will and resentment, sometimes impels to war the government, contrary to the best calculations of policy. The government sometimes participates in the national propensity, and adopts through passion what reason would reject; at other times it makes the animosity of the nation subservient to projects of hostility instigated by pride, ambition, and other sinister and pernicious motives. The peace often, sometimes perhaps the liberty, of nations, has been the victim.

So likewise, a passionate attachment of one nation for another produces a variety of evils. Sympathy for the favorite nation, facilitating the illusion of an imaginary common interest in cases where no real common interest exists, and infusing into one the enmities of the other, betrays the former into a participation in the quarrels and wars of the latter without adequate inducement or justification. It leads also to concessions to the favorite nation of privileges denied to others which is apt doubly to injure the nation making the concessions; by unnecessarily parting with what ought to have been retained, and by exciting jealousy, ill-will, and a disposition to retaliate, in the parties from whom equal privileges are withheld. And it gives to ambitious, corrupted, or deluded citizens (who devote themselves to the favorite nation), facility to betray or sacrifice the interests of their own country, without odium, sometimes even with popularity; gilding, with the appearances of a virtuous sense of obligation, a commendable deference for public opinion, or a laudable zeal for public good, the base or foolish compliances of ambition, corruption, or infatuation.

As avenues to foreign influence in innumerable ways, such attachments are particularly alarming to the truly enlightened and independent patriot. How many opportunities do they afford to tamper with domestic factions, to practice the arts of seduction, to mislead public opinion, to influence or awe the public councils 7 Such an attachment of a small or weak towards a great and powerful nation dooms the former to be the satellite of the latter.

Against the insidious wiles of foreign influence (I conjure you to believe me, fellow-citizens) the jealousy of a free people ought to be constantly awake, since history and experience prove that foreign influence is one of the most baneful foes of republican government. But that jealousy to be useful must be impartial; else it becomes the instrument of the very influence to be avoided, instead of a defense against it. Excessive partiality for one foreign nation and excessive dislike of another cause those whom they actuate to see danger only on one side, and serve to veil and even second the arts of influence on the other. Real patriots who may resist the intrigues of the favorite are liable to become suspected and odious, while its tools and dupes usurp the applause and confidence of the people, to surrender their interests.

The great rule of conduct for us in regard to foreign nations is in extending our commercial relations, to have with them as little political connection as possible. So far as we have already formed engagements, let them be fulfilled with perfect good faith. Here let us stop. Europe has a set of primary interests which to us have none; or a very remote relation. Hence she must be engaged in frequent controversies, the causes of which are essentially foreign to our concerns. Hence, therefore, it must be unwise in us to implicate ourselves by artificial ties in the ordinary vicissitudes of her politics, or the ordinary combinations and collisions of her friendships or enmities.

Our detached and distant situation invites and enables us to pursue a different course. If we remain one people under an efficient government. the period is not far off when we may defy material injury from external annoyance; when we may take such an attitude as will cause the neutrality we may at any time resolve upon to be scrupulously respected; when belligerent nations, under the impossibility of making acquisitions upon us, will not lightly hazard the giving us provocation; when we may choose peace or war, as our interest, guided by justice, shall counsel.

Why forego the advantages of so peculiar a situation? Why quit our own to stand upon foreign ground? Why, by interweaving our destiny with that of any part of Europe, entangle our peace and prosperity in the toils of European ambition, rivalship, interest, humor or caprice?

It is our true policy to steer clear of permanent alliances with any portion of the foreign world; so far, I mean, as we are now at liberty to do it; for let me not be understood as capable of patronizing infidelity to existing engagements. I hold the maxim no less applicable to public than to private affairs, that honesty is always the best policy. I repeat it, therefore, let those engagements be observed in their genuine sense. But, in my opinion, it is unnecessary and would be unwise to extend them.

Taking care always to keep ourselves by suitable establishments on a respectable defensive posture, we may safely trust to temporary alliances for extraordinary emergencies.

Harmony, liberal intercourse with all nations, are recommended by policy, humanity, and interest. But even our commercial policy should hold an equal and impartial hand; neither seeking nor granting exclusive favors or preferences; consulting the natural course of things; diffusing and diversifying by gentle means the streams of commerce, but forcing nothing; establishing (with powers so disposed, in order to give trade a stable course, to define the rights of our merchants, and to enable the government to support them) conventional rules of intercourse, the best that present circumstances and mutual opinion will permit, but temporary, and liable to be from time to time abandoned or varied, as experience and circumstances shall dictate; constantly keeping in view that it is folly in one nation to look for disinterested favors from another; that it must pay with a portion of its independence for whatever it may accept under that character; that, by such acceptance, it may place itself in the condition of having given equivalents for nominal favors, and yet of being reproached with ingratitude for not giving more. There can be no greater error than to expect or calculate upon real favors from nation to nation. It is an illusion, which experience must cure, which a just pride ought to discard.

In offering to you, my countrymen, these counsels of an old and affectionate friend, I dare not hope they will make the strong and lasting impression I could wish; that they will control the usual current of the passions, or prevent our nation from running the course which has hitherto marked the destiny of nations. But, if I may even flatter myself that they may be productive of some partial benefit, some occasional good; that they may now and then recur to moderate the fury of party spirit, to warn against the mischiefs of foreign intrigue, to guard against the impostures of pretended patriotism; this hope will be a full recompense for the solicitude for your welfare, by which they have been dictated.

How far in the discharge of my official duties I have been guided by the principles which have been delineated, the public records and other evidences of my conduct must witness to you and to the world. To myself, the assurance of my own conscience is, that I have at least believed myself to be guided by them.

In relation to the still subsisting war in Europe, my proclamation of the twenty-second of April, I793, is the index of my plan. Sanctioned by your approving voice, and by that of your representatives in both houses of Congress, the spirit of that measure has continually governed me, uninfluenced by any attempts to deter or divert me from it.

After deliberate examination, with the aid of the best lights I could obtain, I was well satisfied that our country, under all the circumstances of the case, had a right to take, and was bound in duty and interest to take, a neutral position. Having taken it, I determined, as far as should depend upon me, to maintain it, with moderation, perseverance, and firmness.

The considerations which respect the right to hold this con duct, it is not necessary on this occasion to detail. I will only observe that, according to my understanding of the matter, that right, so far from being denied by any of the belligerent powers, has been virtually admitted by all.

The duty of holding a neutral conduct may be inferred, without anything more, from the obligation which justice and humanity impose on every nation, in cases in which it is free to act, to maintain inviolate the relations of peace and amity towards other nations.

The inducements of interest for observing that conduct will best be referred to your own reflections and experience. With me a predominant motive has been to endeavor to gain time to our country to settle and mature its yet recent institutions, and to progress without interruption to that degree of strength and consistency which is necessary to give it, humanly speaking, the command of its own fortunes.

Though, in reviewing the incidents of my administration, I am unconscious of intentional error, I am nevertheless too sensible of my defects not to think it probable that I may have committed many errors. Whatever they may be, I fervently beseech the Almighty to avert or mitigate the evils to which they may tend. I shall also carry with me the hope that my country will never cease to view them with indulgence; and that, after forty five years of my life dedicated to its service with an upright zeal, the faults of incompetent abilities will be consigned to oblivion, as myself must soon be to the mansions of rest.

Relying on its kindness in this as in other things, and actuated by that fervent love towards it, which is so natural to a man who views in it the native soil of himself and his progenitors for several generations, I anticipate with pleasing expectation that retreat in which I promise myself to realize, without alloy, the sweet enjoyment of partaking, in the midst of my fellow-citizens, the benign influence of good laws under a free government, the ever-favorite object of my heart, and the happy reward, as I trust, of our mutual cares, labors, and dangers.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Pontiff: Retreatants Learned Again What Priesthood Is

Pope Thanks Cardinal Vanhoye for Spiritual Exercises

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 17, 2008 ( It is necessary to rediscover the humility and the solidarity of the priesthood of Jesus so as to participate deeply in it, Benedict XVI says.

The Pope made these remarks at the end of the Lenten spiritual exercises in which he and the Roman Curia participated. The retreat was preached by Cardinal Albert Vanhoye, former secretary of the Pontifical Biblical Commission.

In his address Saturday, the Pope thanked the Jesuit cardinal, who had just offered the retreat's last meditation on the relationship between the ministerial priesthood and the priestly heart of Christ.

At the beginning of his remarks, the Bishop of Rome used the image of Christ's washing of the feet to condense in a visual way Cardinal Vanhoye's reflections on the new elements of Christ's priesthood.

"Through his meditations, this image spoke to me," the Pope said. "I saw that precisely here, in this conduct, in this act of extreme humility, the new priesthood of Jesus is realized.

"And it is realized precisely in the act of solidarity with us, with our weaknesses, our sufferings, our trials, even death.

"Thus I also saw with new eyes Jesus' red garments, which speak to us of his blood."

The Holy Father added: "You, Lord Cardinal, have taught us how the blood of Christ was, because of his prayer, 'oxygenated' by the Holy Spirit. And in this way it became the power of the resurrection and font of life for us."

Benedict XVI then praised the "theological competence" and the "spiritual profundity" that animated Cardinal Vanhoye's reflections, and which permitted "the voice of the Lord to be heard" and "in this way helped us to learn again what his and our priesthood is."

"You helped us to enter into participation in the priesthood of Christ," the Pope affirmed, "and thereby also to receive the new heart, the heart of Christ, as the center of the mystery of the New Covenant."