Saturday, April 30, 2011

Father Altier's Fundamentals of Catholicism - 23 Hours of Audio  
Father Robert Altier


MP3 Files


Top 10 Chinese Food Scandals

The massive stockpile of melamine-tainted milk powder seized from Chinese warehouses is the latest in a long line of food scandals. Here are 10 others: 

Top 10 Chinese Food Scandals 
Police inspect illegal cooking oil, better known as "sewer oil" seized during a crackdown in Beijing

Melamine Milk scandal
In 2008 six babes were killed and 300,000 were left sickened after consuming infant formula contaminated with the industrial chemical melamine. The scandal, which was hushed up for several months to avoid embarrassment during the Olympic Games, caused outrage in China and smashed public confidence in the government and its ability to regulate the food industry.
Toxic Bean-sprouts 
Police in the northeastern city of Shenyang seized 40 tons of beans-prouts in April 2011. The tainted vegetables had been treated with sodium nitrite and urea, as well as antibiotics and a plant hormone called 6-benzyladenine. The chemicals were used to make them grow faster and look ‘shinier’ in the market stalls. 12 people were arrested.

Pesticide-drenched ‘yard-long’ beans 
More than 3.5 tons of “yard-long” green beans contaminated with banned pesticide isocarbophos, were destroyed after being discovered on sale in the central city of Wuhan in March 2010. The beans had come from the southern city of Sanya, and allegations of another attempted cover-up followed after the Sanya agricultural law enforcement bureau said it was “inconsiderate” of Wuhan authorities to publicise the case.

Leather milk 
In February 2011 reports emerged of another milk contamination scandal, this time using leather-hydrolyzed protein which, like melamine, appears to boost the protein-content of milk, thereby enhancing its value. The problem had been detected as early as March 2009 reported the official China Daily newspaper reported Friday. China announced this month it was closing almost half of its dairies in a bid to clean up the industry.

‘Aluminium’ dumplings 
After reports that much of China’s rice crop was contaminated with heavy metals, health authorities in Shenzhen, southern China tested 696 samples of food made with flour, including dumplings and steamed buns. Nearly one third (28pc) were found to have levels of aluminium above national standards, the Shenzhen Standard reported. The contamination was blamed on excessive use of baking powder containing the metal.

Glow-in-the-dark pork
Reports and photographs surfaced last month showing pork that glowed an eerie, iridescent blue when the kitchen lights were turned off. Online users dubbed it “Avatar” meat and remained sceptical despite reassurances from the Shanghai Health Supervision Department which said the pork that has been contaminated by a phosphorescent bacteria and was still safe eat if well-cooked.

‘Lean meat powder’ pork 
China has fought a long-running battle with the use of the steroid clenbuterol in pork production. Known as ‘lean meat powder’, it can cause dizziness, heart palpitations, diarrhoea and profuse sweating. The most recent case occurred last March in a stock market-listed pork producer, but China has acknowledged 18 outbreaks of food-related clenbuterol poisoning between 1998 and 2007, according to a report on the Shanghai Food Safety website.

Toxic take-away boxes 
In April 2010 more than 7m toxic disposable food containers were seized in eastern province of Jiangxi. Although banned in 1999, the foam-boxes are still in widespread use in China, releasing toxic elements when warmed by food. The chemicals have the potential to damage livers, kidneys and reproductive organs.

‘Sewer’ oil 
An undercover investigation by a professor from Wuhan Polytechnic University in March 2010 estimated that one in 10 of all meals in China were cooked using recycled oil, often scavenged from the drains beneath restaurants. The State Food and Drug Administration issued a nationwide emergency ordering an investigation into the scandal of the so-called ‘sewer’ oil, which further dented public confidence in the food industry.

‘Cadmium’ rice 
Research published in February claimed that up to 10 per cent of rice sold in China was contaminated with heavy metals, including cadmium. Data collected by Nanjing Agricultural University found that the problem was most acute in Southern provinces, where in some areas 60 per cent of samples were contaminated, some with up to five times the legal limit.

Feds sting Amish farmer selling raw milk locally

(The Washington Times) A yearlong sting operation, including aliases, a 5 a.m. surprise inspection and surreptitious purchases from an Amish farm in Pennsylvania, culminated in the federal government announcing this week that it has gone to court to stop Rainbow Acres Farm from selling its contraband to willing customers in the Washington area.

The product in question: unpasteurized milk.

It’s a battle that’s been going on behind the scenes for years, with natural foods advocates arguing that raw milk, as it’s also known, is healthier than the pasteurized product, while the Food and Drug Administration says raw milk can carry harmful bacteria such as salmonella, E. coli and listeria.

“It is the FDA’s position that raw milk should never be consumed,” said Tamara N. Ward, spokeswoman for the FDA...

Southern U.S.: Armadillos blamed for leprosy

A strain of leprosy found in armadillos has been identified in dozens of people in the southern United States, indicating the skin disease can be transmitted directly from animals to humans.

(The Telegraph) The report published in the New England Journal of Medicine suggests that the disease, most often found in India, can originate in the United States and infect humans who hunt armadillo and butcher the meat.
Leprosy, sometimes called Hansen's disease after the Norwegian doctor who discovered it in 1873, is a bacterial infection that causes lesions on a person's extremities.
About 249,000 new cases were reported globally in 2008, and about 150 cases arise in the United States each year.
Left untreated, it can lead to blindness and nerve damage that cripples the hands and feet, but it is usually curable with antibiotics.
The team of US and Swiss researchers looked at 50 leprosy patients in the United States and 33 wild armadillos with the disease.

They were able to identify a never-before-seen armadillo genotype of the bacterium in 28 animals and 22 people who had not gone abroad and could not have contracted the disease elsewhere.

"It became clear that leprosy patients who never traveled outside the US but lived in areas where infected armadillos are prevalent were infected with the same strain as the armadillos," said the study.

Contrary to popular theory, it is not a highly contagious disease, and about 95 percent of the human population is naturally immune.

Romney stands by Massachusetts health law

The Boston Globe - MANCHESTER, N.H. — Mitt Romney offered a tepid defense of the Massachusetts health care law, suggesting to an audience last night at the Granite State’s first forum of the 2012 presidential campaign that he would sign it again if given the chance.

“I went to work to try and solve a problem,’’ Romney said. “It may not be perfect — by the way, it is not perfect...’’

Friday, April 29, 2011

Central United Methodist Church Touts Homosexuality as a Gift, Not a Sin

By Eryn Sun | Christian Post Correspondent

Being gay is a gift from God, asserts one church in Ohio.

That’s the message that Central United Methodist Church is spreading throughout their community via a digital billboard, launched on Monday.

This “simple statement,” the church announced, is “intended to be a gift to those who have experienced hurt and discrimination because of their real or perceived sexual orientation.”

“The Church seeks nothing less than the healing of the world, and Central UMC wants to offer words and acts of healing to those hurt and marginalized,” the website states...

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Father Pfleger's St. Sabina: What's an "Associate Minister?"*368/pfleger-presser.jpg
"I want to say he was ambushed" - Kimberly Lymore, the Associate Minister at the Faith Community of St. Sabina

From the Associated Press:
The Rev. Michael Pfleger recently has said he would leave the church rather than be removed from St. Sabina Church, where he has been pastor for more than 30 years. Cardinal Francis George earlier this year offered Pfleger the presidency of a Catholic high school near the church.

"If that is truly your attitude, you have already left the Catholic Church and are therefore not able to pastor a Catholic parish," George wrote.

The cardinal said that while he has been suspended from his priestly duties, Pfleger retains the office of pastor while temporarily without permission to function.
From NBC Chicago: of the Faith Community of St. Sabina said Wednesday evening that Fr. Michael Pfleger was "ambushed" when he was given a letter of suspension by Francis Cardinal George...
Pfleger was on the church's premises Wednesday night but refused to speak publicly.

"He's shocked.  He didn't know.  He was blindsided.  I want to say he was ambushed," (Kimberly) Lymore said... 
From WSBT:
Associate minister Kimberly Lymore said that Pfleger had been called to a 4:30 p.m. meeting with the cardinal at the archdiocese's pastoral center. When he arrived, she said, Pfleger was given a letter stating that he was suspended and was told the cardinal would not discuss it further.

"That's a lack of respect," Lymore said. "He was ambushed. He's spent the last (three decades) in this archdiocese, given his life to this community, to the church. To be treated like this is unfair."
From the Chicago Sun-Times:
“He’s upset, angry, discouraged, disappointed, disrespected,” associate pastor Kimberly Lymore said Thursday, explaining how Pfleger had first learned of his latest suspension through the media. “He says he’s never felt this disrespected in his 36 years in the ministry.”
From the Chicago Tribune:
Denise Gomez said she felt the decision was a form of retaliation. "For the Cardinal to decide that this is the day I'm going to suspend him, that's outrageous," she said outside the church. "We're in shock and at the same time hopeful that someone higher than the Cardinal will not allow this abuse of power."
From the Southtown Star: the letter, George wrote he didn’t think the conflict was personal.

“This conflict is not between you and me; it’s between you and the church that ordained you a priest, between you and the faith that introduced you to Christ and gives you the right to preach and pastor in his name,” said George. “If you now formally leave the Catholic Church and her priesthood, it’s your choice and no one else’s. You are not a victim of anyone or anything other than your own statements.”

The letter was released to the media and St. Sabina parishioners “to avoid misrepresentation and manipulation on anyone’s part,” George wrote.
Background from two weeks ago:
“I want to try to stay in the Catholic Church,” (Father Pfleger) said. “If they say, ‘You either take this principalship of [Leo High School] or pastorship there or leave,’ then I’ll have to look outside the Church.”

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Vestment Inferno!

The Gospel According to Oprah Winfrey?

By James Hirsen

An academic study confirms what many observers have suggested to be the case: that Oprah Winfrey is the purveyor of a religion.
Having studied almost every episode of Oprah's television program for the last 12 years, a Yale professor concludes that Oprah's success is based on her ability to transform herself into a religious icon.

Religion professor Kathryn Lofton examined transcripts of more than 1,560 shows, 105 issues of O magazine, 17 issues of O at Home, 68 Book Club selections and 52 Spirit Newsletters. She sets forth her findings in a book, "Oprah: The Gospel of an Icon."

According to the study, the most important moment in Oprah's career occurred in 1994, when the TV host changed the direction of her program.

"The time has come for this genre of talk shows to move on from dysfunctional whining and complaining and blaming," Oprah said at the time. "I have had enough of people's dysfunction."

"Her spiritual revelation was converted into a corporate makeover," Lofton told The New York Post. "Her show became 'Change Your Life TV.' As a part of this new look and focus for the show, she began to develop her brand, including, eventually, the book club, the magazine, the website, and her Angel Network."
By using a Southern preacher's rhythmic speech pattern with a sermon-like structure, Oprah has been able to create a new "gospel" for each show. The message of her programs became what Lofton refers to as "The Gospel of You."

"Gospel is a word that means 'good news,'" Lofton said. "Oprah says that the good news is 'you.'"

Monday, April 25, 2011

Jesus is Risen Song (Beirut Flash Mob)

McGreevey's path to [Episcopal] priesthood blocked for now

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) -- Former New Jersey Gov. Jim McGreevey's pursuit of the Episcopal priesthood has been put on hold indefinitely.

The New York Post reports that the church has rejected his bid to join the clergy.

The church wants McGreevey to wait so he can put more distance between his possible ordination and his 2004 coming out as a self-described "gay American," his simultaneous resignation and a messy divorce finalized in 2008.

McGreevey shocked the nation by announcing he had a gay affair with a male staffer...

'You mean that piece of bread thing?'

Fr. Z:  "..Then one little soon-to-be-First-Communicant said, and I quote, 'You mean that piece of bread thing?'

Parents: Don’t assume that your children are learning anything in their sacramental preparation.

YOU are the first teachers of your children.  If you don’t instruct them properly to the best of your ability, then you will be help accountable by God for their lack of sufficient preparation.  Do your best.  The parish’s sacramental prep programs are not your surrogates.  That means that you have to know your stuff.."

World record sought for Trinidad Scorpion Butch T chili

(Reuters) A group of Australians is seeking world record status for a new variety of chili, a bright red pepper so potent that processing it for eating requires gas masks and protective chemical warfare-like clothing.

The "Trinidad Scorpion Butch T" chili, a mere 2.5 cm (1 inch) long, comes it at a fiery 1.46 million Scoville Heat Units (SHU) per chili, according to testing by Melbourne firm EML Chemical == taking it well past the Naga Viper British Chili, the current Guinness record-holder at 1.38 million SHU.

By comparison, a jalapeno pepper contains anywhere from 2,500 to 8,000 SHU.

"I had hallucinations, I had to lie down, I couldn't walk for 20 minutes, dizzy," said Marcel de Wit, one of a group of men who developed and grew the incendiary vegetable, about eating a raw Trinidad Scorpion Butch T.
"This chili was so severe. I will never, ever do it again, I can tell you that..."

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Pope Benedict XVI's Easter Sunday Urbi et Orbi Blessing
 Reuters Pictures 

"The resurrection of Christ is not the fruit of speculation or mystical experience: it is an event which, while it surpasses history, nevertheless happens at a precise moment in history and leaves an indelible mark upon it. The light which dazzled the guards keeping watch over Jesus' tomb has traversed time and space. It is a different kind of light, a divine light, that has rent asunder the darkness of death and has brought to the world the splendour of God, the splendour of Truth and Goodness.

Just as the sun's rays in springtime cause the buds on the branches of the trees to sprout and open up, so the radiance that streams forth from Christ's resurrection gives strength and meaning to every human hope, to every expectation, wish and plan. Hence the entire cosmos is rejoicing today, caught up in the springtime of humanity, which gives voice to creation's silent hymn of praise.."

Swiss bishop wants women as priests

Bischof Markus Büchel kann sich Frauen als Priesterinnen vorstellen. (Archiv)

Bishop of St. Gallen Markus Büchel speaks out publicly in favor of the ordination of women. CVP-president Christophe Darbellay supports the request to admit women to the ministry

Source: Keystone

(az Aargauer) Bishop of St. Gallen Markus Büchel speaks out publicly in favor of the ordination of women. CVP-president Christophe Darbellay supports the request to admit women to the ministry.

Markus Büchel is the first Swiss bishop who expresses himself in clear language for the admission of women to the spiritual office, as the newspaper "The Sunday" reported.  The newspaper cites statements in the St. Gall Parish Büchel Journal.

Sabine Rüthemann, media officer of the Diocese of St. Gallen, confirmed to the "Sunday" Büchel's statements: ". What he says here, he means it" It is easier to discuss the possible marriage of a priest than about the ordination of women in the Catholic Church has no tradition, says the Bishop of St. Gallen.  "I would imagine that the diaconate of women could be such a step." For a while we have not allowed to discuss the ordination of women.  "We can pray that the Holy Spirit allows us to recognize the signs of the times.": ". We can no longer afford" to priesthood for women, says Büchel
CVP think are good, not to SBK
CVP-president Christophe Darbellay supports the request to admit women to the ministry. "Personally I am for the ordination of women," Darby said in the "Sunday".  "I do not see why women can exercise an ecclesiastical office is not as good as men." There is no reason for exclusion.
The Swiss Bishops Conference (SBC) has little dialogue.  The question of the ordination of women is not currently under discussion, "Walter Muller says of the SBK.   "The Church sees to it is provided that has Jesus Christ at the institution of the priesthood in the Upper chosen exclusively men." He points to the Vatican, which had stated explicitly that "the Church has no authority to give women the priesthood, and that all the faithful of the Church have finally to abide by that decision. "
(via Google translation)


He is Risen!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Good Friday Pictures From Around the World
Getty Images - The Christ lies on an andas during the Good Friday's 'Santo Entierro' (Holy Burial) procession on April 22, 2011, in Guatemala City.
Getty Images - A Paraguayan plays the Christ during the tableau vivant 'The Descent from the Cross', in Misiones, 225 km south of Asuncion, during Good Friday on April 22, 2011.
Reuters Pictures - A figure of Jesus Christ on the cross is covered with plastic during a re-enactment of the Via Crucis (Way of the Cross) during Good Friday celebrations in Valparaiso city, about 121 km (75 miles) northwest of Santiago April 22, 2011. The figure was covered with plastic before it was carried out onto the streets to protect it from the rain.
Reuters Pictures - An actor playing the role of Judas hangs on a tree during an re-enactment of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ on Good Friday during Holy Week in Comas, on the outskirts of Lima, April 22, 2011
Getty Images - ROME, ITALY - APRIL 22: A nun attends the Way of the Cross at the Colosseum, held by Pope Benedict XVI, on April 22, 2011 in Rome, Italy. The Way of the Cross, or Stations of the Cross, is often commemorated on Good Friday and is a representation of the final hours of Jesus for Catholics worldwide.
Getty Images - ROME, ITALY - APRIL 22: Pope Benedict XVI waves to the faithful gathered at the Colosseum at the end of the Way of the Cross on April 22, 2011 in Rome, Italy. The Way of the Cross, or Stations of the Cross, is often commemorated on Good Friday and is a representation of the final hours of Jesus for Catholics worldwide.
Getty Images - Penitents stand close to a Christ as they take part at 'Signuri di li Fasci' Good Friday procession in Pietraperzia, a small town in central sicily near Caltanissetta on April 22, 2011.
Reuters Pictures - Members of the Italian Catholic community take part in a re-enactment of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ on Good Friday in Ulm near Stuttgart, in southwest Germany April 22, 2011. 
Getty Images - WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 22: A statue of Jesus Christ is carried through Dupont Circle during the Via Crusis, or 'Way of the Cross,' to mark Good Friday April 22, 2011 in Washington, DC. About 200 Catholics 'walked in the footsteps of Christ' and carried wooden crosses and statues from Our Lady, Queen of the Americas Catholic Church to the Cathedral of St. Matthew.

Getty Images - WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 22: Cardinal Donald Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington, blesses a man as he carries a heavy wood cross into the Cathedral of St. Matthew during the Via Crusis, or 'Way of the Cross,' to mark Good Friday April 22, 2011 in Washington, DC. About 200 Catholics 'walked in the footsteps of Christ' and carried wooden crosses and statues from Our Lady, Queen of the Americas Catholic Church to the cathedral.
Getty Images - WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 22: Covered in plastic to protect it from the rain, a statue of Jesus Christ is stands inside Our Lady, Queen of the Americas Catholic Church before being carried on the Via Crusis, or 'Way of the Cross,' to mark Good Friday April 22, 2011 in Washington, DC. About 200 Catholics 'walked in the footsteps of Christ' and carried wooden crosses and statues through the Dupont Circle neighborhood to the Cathedral of St. Matthew.
Reuters Pictures - Penitents carry a statue representing the dead Christ as they take part in a Good Friday procession in Civitavecchia, 70km (43 miles) north of Rome, April 22, 2011.
Getty Images - A member of the Brotherhood of El Santo Entierro participates in the Via Crucis procession as part of Good Friday ceremonies in the town of Nahuizalco, 72 km west of San Salvador, on April 22, 2011. The procession remembers how Jesus was beaten, mocked and crowned with thorns before being crucified by the Romans.
AP Photo - Faithful gather for the Via Crucis (Way of Cross) procession before the Colosseum on Good Friday in Rome, Friday, April 22, 2011. The evening Via Crucis procession at the ancient amphitheater is a Rome tradition that draws a large crowd of faithful, including many of the pilgrims who flock to the Italian capital for Holy Week ceremonies before Easter Sunday.
 AP Photo - A woman sits with her dogs as she watches a Holy Week procession on Good Friday in Havana, Friday, April 22, 2011. Holy Week commemorates the last week of the earthly life of Jesus Christ culminating in his crucifixion on Good Friday and his resurrection on Easter Sunday.
AP Photo -People attend a Holy Week procession on Good Friday in Havana, Friday, April 22, 2011. Holy Week commemorates the last week of the earthly life of Jesus Christ culminating in his crucifixion on Good Friday and his resurrection on Easter Sunday.
 AP Photo - A priest, right, gestures as seminarians carry an image of Jesus Christ during a Holy Week procession on Good Friday in Havana, Friday, April 22, 2011. Holy Week commemorates the last week of the earthly life of Jesus Christ culminating in his crucifixion on Good Friday and his resurrection on Easter Sunday.
AP Photo - Pope Benedict XVI, right, presides over the Via Crucis (Way of Cross) procession on Good Friday in Rome, Friday, April 22, 2011. The evening Via Crucis procession at the ancient amphitheater is a Rome tradition that draws a large crowd of faithful, including many of the pilgrims who flock to the Italian capital for Holy Week ceremonies before Easter Sunday.
AP Photo - Some hundreds of believers attend the Good Friday procession along the streets of Warsaw, Poland, on Good Friday, April 22, 2011. Good Friday processions at Easter time are along-standing tradition in predominantly Roman-Catholic Poland. Portrait of late Pope John Paul II seen above, who was born in Poland.
Reuters Pictures - Church helpers carry a statue of an angel in the Zebbug parish church before a Good Friday procession in the village of Zebbug, outside Valletta, April 22, 2011. Several Easter processions take place all over the Maltese islands during Holy Week, drawing large numbers of visitors.
Reuters Pictures - Participants walk out of the Zebbug parish church during a Good Friday procession in the village of Zebbug, outside Valletta, April 22, 2011. Several Easter processions take place all over the Maltese islands during Holy Week, drawing large numbers of visitors.
AP Photo - Pope Benedict XVI, center, greets the faithful during the Via Crucis (Way of Cross) torchlight procession celebrated in front of the Colosseum on Good Friday in Rome, Friday, April 22, 2011. The evening Via Crucis procession at the ancient amphitheater is a Rome tradition that draws a large crowd of faithful, including many of the pilgrims who flock to the Italian capital for Holy Week ceremonies before Easter Sunday.
Getty Images - Amateur actors re-enact the crucifixion of Jesus Christ during a Good Friday procession on April 22, 2011 in Wuppertal, western Germany. Thousands of visitors across the country came to watch processions depicting the Stations of the Cross of Jesus Christ.
AP Photo - An actor performs as Jesus Christ during a Via Crucis on Good Friday in Asuncion, Paraguay, Friday, April 22, 2011.
AP Photo - A man kisses a statue of Jesus during a mass before a Holy Week procession on Good Friday in Havana, Friday, April 22, 2011.
AP Photo - Children disguised as angels participates in the staging of the Passion of Jesus in Arraijan, outskirts of Panama City, Friday, April 22, 2012. Holy Week commemorates the last week of the earthly life of Jesus Christ culminating in his crucifixion on Good Friday and his resurrection on Easter Sunday.
Getty Images - NEW YORK - APRIL 22: Frank Simmonds carries the cross in the Way of the Cross procession out of St. James Cathedral before walking over the Brooklyn Bridge April 22, 2011 in New York City. The traditional Catholic procession on Good Friday recalls the crucifixion of Jesus Christ ahead of Sunday's Easter holiday.
Getty Images - NEW YORK - APRIL 22: Firefighter John Barlett carries the cross in front of Ground Zero during a Way of the Cross procession April 22, 2011 in New York City. The traditional Catholic procession on Good Friday recalls the crucifixion of Jesus Christ ahead of Sunday's Easter holiday.
Getty Images - NEW YORK - APRIL 22: A crucifix is held during a Way of the Cross procession April 22, 2011 in New York City. The traditional Catholic procession on Good Friday recalls the crucifixion of Jesus Christ ahead of Sunday's Easter holiday.
Getty Images - Pope Benedict XVI holds the Cross during the celebration of the Lord's Passion on Good Friday on April 22, 2011 at Saint Peter's Basilica at The Vatican. Pope Benedict XVI, celebrates the Passion of the Lord in the afternoon before presiding over the stations of the Cross, re-enacting Jesus Christ's final hours and crucifixion, later in the evening at Rome's Colosseum.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Germany to Hungary: New constitution breaches EU values

The Hungarian parliament passed the new constitution by 262 to 44

19.04.2011 @ 09:48 CET

EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS - Germany has warned the conservative Hungarian government that its new constitution, passed by parliament on Monday (18 April), is not compatible with European Union values.

"We are observing the developments in Hungary with great attention and some worry," German deputy foreign minister Werner Hoyer said in an emailed statement. "The media law adopted at the start of the year shows an attitude towards fundamental rights which - despite some amendments - is hardly compatible with European Union values."

"Our worries over the media law are made worse, not better, by today's adoption of the constitution and its future implementation," he added.

The Hungarian parliament approved the document 262 votes to 44, with the Socialist and green parties boycotting the vote and the far-right Jobbik voting against it.

Opposition groups protested the new constitution over the weekend, saying that the document is being rushed through without proper consultation and accusing the ruling Fidesz party of undermining democracy.

Although most political actors in the country agree that the old constitution, put in place in 1989, contained many deficiencies and required a thorough make-over, critics complain that they have only had a few weeks to analyse the document.

Last week, the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe, the body's advisory group established in 1990 to comment on new constitutions in eastern Europe, issued a scathing criticism of the document.

"The current process of preparing the draft new Constitution in view of its rapid adoption ... raises a number of concerns that would deserve careful consideration by the Hungarian authorities," the commission said in a statement.

"These include the lack of transparency of the process and the distribution of a public draft of the new Constitution only on 14 March 2011, a few weeks before its planned adoption, shortcomings in the dialogue between the majority and the opposition, the insufficient opportunities for an adequate public debate on such a fundamental process, and its very limited time-frame."

The European Commission for its part has washed its hands of the matter, telling EUobserver that the constitution is for Hungarians to decide and that the country remains a constitutional democracy.

Andrew Arato, a Hungarian expert in constitutions in new democracies, said of the process: "Under an opposition boycott, and involving an absurd process of popular consultation through sketchy and deficient mail in citizen questionnaires, it lacks all genuine aspects of participation and inclusion."

Winning a two-thirds majority last year together with its coalition partners, the Christian Democrats, Fidesz passed the threshold required to change the constitution.

The new text, heavy with references to Christianity, protects the life of a foetus "from conception" and preserves "the institution of marriage between man and woman".

Neighbouring governments are also nervous about wording that declares Hungary's "responsibility for the destiny of Hungarians living outside her borders," and that the government could use this new language to offer voting rights to ethnic Hungarians residing in neighbouring states. A quarter of all ethnic Hungarians live beyond the country's borders, mainly in Slovakia, Romania and Serbia.

Earlier wording giving parents extra votes has since been removed, although the government still hopes to move forward with the plan legislatively in the medium term.

Despite the German government's criticism, the new constitution does contain tight rules on public debts, a change Berlin wants all EU governments to make.

Critics say that it is not their opposition to such policies that has produced their criticism of the document, but that they will now also require a two-thirds majority to overturn these policies, a development that is highly unlikely.

The government for its part, terms the text the 'Easter Constitution' to symbolise the 'rebirth' of the Hungarian nation and rejects complaints that the government has pushed through the document, saying that they opened discussions on the paper a year ago and that opposition parties boycotted the process.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Mother Angelica Tea

Happy 88th Birthday Mother Angelica!

Brand new from Our Lady of the Angel's Monastery.

"This makes a perfect gift-whether it is for you or for someone else! Mother Angelica has been drinking tea all of her life-in fact she used to share a tea-bag with her own mother when she was growing up.

As a nun and nearly 88 years old, Mother Angelica still enjoys her hot cup of tea. Here in a tea tin are 25 tea bags of Mother Angelica's own specialty breakfast blend. Also available in a tea box."

"The sales of all the Catholic articles offered by help to provide for the needs of Reverend Mother Mary Angelica and the Poor Clare Nuns of Perpetual Adoration."

Kmiec’s Gospel Falls Flat in Foggy Bottom

By: Daniel Burke
Posted: Tuesday, April 19, 2011 6:54 am

(RNS) The State Department has a “rigidly narrow” view of diplomacy that neglects religion’s role in foreign affairs, a prominent Catholic ambassador charged on Sunday (April 17) as he announced his resignation.

Other foreign policy experts have another name for it: Religion Avoidance Syndrome.

And the departure of Douglas Kmiec as ambassador to Malta, they say, is symptomatic of a longstanding God gap in American foreign policy.

Kmiec, who helped shape an intellectual framework for President Obama’s outreach to Catholics during the 2008 campaign, was slammed in a recent State Department report for spending too much time writing about religion.

Kmiec’s focus on faith, “based on a belief that he was given a special mandate to promote President Obama’s interfaith initiatives ... detracted from his attention to core mission goals,” the State Department’s Inspector General wrote in a February report made public in early April.

Kmiec, a former lawyer in the Reagan administration and onetime dean of Catholic University’s law school, announced he would resign on Aug. 15, which he pointedly noted is the Feast of the Assumption.

The Catholic intellectual fiercely defended his work in separate letters to Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton...

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Legendary Saints Were Real, Buried Alive, Study Hints

From National Geographic Daily News:

Bones of a Roman couple—killed for being Christian—may have been identified.

The skull of Saint Crisanto.
Ancient bones found in an Italian cathedral may be those of Saints Chrysanthus (foreground) and Daria.
Photograph courtesy Max Salomon, National Geographic Television

Ker Than
Published April 15, 2011
ON TV: Explorer: Mystery of the Murdered Saints airs at 10 p.m. ET/PT on Tuesday, April 19, on the National Geographic Channel.

The skeletons of two married, early-Christian saints—said to have been buried alive nearly 2,000 years ago—may have been identified in Italy, scientists announced Thursday.

Analysis of the skeletons—sealed off for centuries in an Italian cathedral until recently—seems to support the legend of Chrysanthus and Daria, who are said to have been persecuted in the city of Rome for being Christians.

According to ancient stories, the Roman Empire killed the celibate Roman husband and wife in the third century A.D., after they had converted many Romans to the fledgling religion.

Though there's no way to identify the skeletons with 100 percent certainty, "all of the evidence we have gathered points toward the relics having belonged to Chrysanthus and Daria," investigation leader Ezio Fulcheri, a paleopathologist at Italy's University of Genoa, said in a statement.

Saintly Evidence

In 2008 workers renovating the cathedral, in the northern Italian town of Reggio Emilia (map), found more than 300 bones in a sealed crypt beneath the main alter.

The remains were found to form two nearly complete skeletons. The skulls of the bodies turned out to be in a pair of silver-and-gold busts deep in a cathedral vault, into which they'd been transferred nearly 500 years ago, University of Turin anthropologist Allesandra Cinti told National Geographic News via email.

Examining the bones, study leader Fulcheri and his team concluded that the remains belonged to a man and woman who were generally healthy at the time of their deaths.

Based in part on its slender and petite frame, wide pelvis, and pointed chin, one of the skeletons was presumed to have been a female in her mid-20s. The sex was later confirmed by DNA analysis, according to Fulcheri, whose work was partly funded by the National Geographic Society's Expeditions Council. (The Society owns National Geographic News.)

The team suspects this skeleton was Daria, who, according to legend, was a vestal virgin—a high priestess of Rome dedicated to the goddess Vesta—before converting to Christianity.

"The bones show that she probably lived a life with very little physical stress," the University of Turin's Cinti says in a new documentary about the project—Explorer: Mystery of the Murdered Saintswhich airs at 10 p.m. ET/PT on Tuesday, April 19, on the National Geographic Channel.

"She had the characteristics of a vestal virgin," Cinti added. "But of course, we can't be certain."

The second skeleton's bones appear nearly adult but aren't fully formed—parts of them were still fusing together at death. This suggests the remains belonged to a 17- or 18-year-old, the researchers say. DNA tests later reveal the individual to be a male.

If the legends—and the team's conclusions—are to be believed, this may be Chrysanthus.

Also, like the Chrysanthus and Daria of legend, the recently unearthed couple appears to have been upper-class. For example, the bones showed no signs of deformities or wear from physical labor.

By analyzing trace elements in the bones, the team also uncovered signs of lead poisoning—a uniquely aristocratic ailment in ancient Rome. The toxic metal was present in the city's plumbing system, which reached only the homes of the wealthy.

The team also carefully picked out a single rib from each skeleton, ground the ribs into a fine powder, and performed a carbon dating test on them.

The test revealed the skeletons date to between A.D. 80 and 340—the martyrs are thought to have been killed around A.D. 283.

Murdered Saints: Legend of Chrysanthus and Daria

In ancient tales Chrysanthus, the son of a rich Roman senator, converts to Christianity as a teenager.

Desperate to prevent Chrysanthus from making what he thinks is a huge mistake, his father arranges to have him married to the vestal virgin Daria.

At Rome's Temple of Vesta, virgins maintained a holy fire that symbolized procreation and which the Romans believed kept their city safe. (Related "Ancient Roman Temple Reconstructed.")

"In the ancient thinking, there was this belief that religion and politics were intertwined. So when something went wrong in the political sphere, there was a religious problem somewhere," explained Sarolta Takács, a historian at Sage College in Albany, New York, who wasn't involved in the study.

As their name suggests, the vestal virgins were supposed to remain celibate during their time of service.
(Also see "Lost Gospel Revealed; Says Jesus Asked Judas to Betray Him.")

Miracles and Martyrdom

According to legend, the plan to distract Chrysanthus from Christianity backfires. He converts Daria to his religion, and the two marry but take a vow of celibacy and devotion to God.

"That people should live together as if they're married but not actually have sex and produce children goes against everything that Roman society stood for," Candida Moss, an expert in early Christian martyrdom at the University of Notre Dame, said in the documentary.

What's worse—in the eyes of the Roman Empire—is that the pair successfully converted many to Christianity. (See computer reconstructions of ancient Rome.)

For their crimes, Chrysanthus and Daria are arrested and tortured.

The typical punishment for a vestal virgin who'd broken her vow of celibacy was death by starvation. The punishment for conversion to Christianity, though, would have been a life of prostitution—the worst possible fate for a priestess of Vesta, Sage College's Takács explained.

The Romans would have believed Daria's conversion to Christianity endangered their entire city, Takács explained. For one thing, there were only six vestal virgins at any one time, so the loss of even one priestess would have been a serious setback for Rome.

"What's important about the vestals is that they were intimately connected with Rome," Takács said.

"When they did everything correct and properly, Rome thrived. And if they made mistakes, then Romans suffered problems."

According to the story, Chrysanthus is sent to prison, while Daria is condemned to prostitution. Both are said to have been saved from their fates by miracles—his prison turns into a garden; she is protected from would-be johns by a lioness.

Despite supposedly divine intervention, Chrysanthus and Daria are eventually sentenced to death, the story goes. According to the most popular version of the legend, the pair is buried alive in Rome.

"No Evidence in Contrast"

It's said that a Christian shrine was erected at Chrysanthus and Daria's burial site. Later their venerated bones were transferred several times before eventually arriving, around the year 1000, in Reggio Emilia, hundreds of miles north of Rome—a story the new analysis appears to corroborate, scientists say.

"I think there is no evidence in contrast of this hypothesis," study leader Fulcheri told National Geographic News.

The University of Turin's Cinti added in the documentary, "These results confirmed two fundamental facts for us.

"They confirmed their antiquity and the fact that they were both from the same time period. We were able to relax, let out a sigh of relief and say okay, maybe it's actually them."

ON TV: Explorer: Mystery of the Murdered Saints airs at 10 p.m. ET/PT on Tuesday, April 19, on the National Geographic Channel.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Paul Simon, Still Playing After All These Years

Happy Birthday Pope Benedict XVI
Getty Images

The Voris Vortex

From Carol McKinley:

"A few days ago,our friend Jasper linked to post written by Elizabeth Scalia cutting Fr. Pfleger and Cardinal George slack while denouncing Michael Voris.

The conclusion she wanted you to draw was that there isn't a distinction between the evangelization of an apostate priest misleading souls and the wimp of a Bishop who would assign him to pastor innocent children at a school - and those warning people about those errors and faithfully proclaiming Magisterium.

"The Church isn't a Democracy", she says.

That is exactly the point.

When somebody has a hold of a parish and is turning it from the recitation of teachings from the Catechism to the drivel of Al Gore and Joan Chittister, righteous people do not let other souls get led into an abyss.

It isn't a battle of opinions, it's The Institution that guides salvation.

If Elizabeth Scalia wants Catholics to support the appointment of Fr. Pfleger to a school where he will poison the minds of thousand of children while directing her complaints against people who want the Bishops to reign in dissenting 'opinions', she is the one trying to make the Church a democracy..."

Friday, April 15, 2011

US Castigates Holy See over Family Planning

By Lauren Funk

NEW YORK, April 14 (C-FAM) The contrast between the priorities of the developed and developing world was as clear as night and day.

“It is detrimental to not have adequate family planning resources,” a visibly US delegate told the room. “Why is there a resistance to acknowledging access to family planning as a necessity?”

The soft-spoken delegate from the small island nation of St. Lucia replied, “How do we get our fertility rate to rise? We were told we needed to reduce our fertility rate –now we have an aging population.”

Both voices spoke out during a UN panel hosted last week by the Holy See, Honduras, and Malta called “Secure Human Development: Marriage, Family, Community.” Laurie Shestack-Phipps, a US representative to the UN, castigated the Holy See and other organizers for not being “comprehensive” in their approach to the panel, specifically mentioning family planning and abortion. She complained further about high fertility rates in the poor countries of Africa.

Shestack-Phipps said, “How can you say that you value family, community, and marriage, but not bring into the picture that both men and women have a right to a healthy life, to be able to avoid unsafe abortion, and have access to the highest attainable standard of reproductive health, and to decide how many children they should have?”

The exchange between Shestack and Sarah Flood-Beaubrun of St. Lucia points up an irony at the UN. On the one side are rich countries demanding poor countries reduce their fertility rates, and on the other, the poor countries saying they need higher fertility rates for not just development, but survival. Almost half the countries in the world are facing what has come to be known as demographic winter, where fertility rates have fallen so dramatically that populations are rapidly aging.

The US delegate’s castigation on family planning, which ignored the demographic realities and actual desires of developing countries, is a microcosm of the current UN debates on population and development. The documents that guide this year’s Commission on Population and Development admit that most nations have achieved low fertility, yet the UN continues to ask donor nations for more and more money for family planning services and for what the UN euphemistically calls commodities: condoms, pills, and injectibles that prevent pregnancy.

Wendy Wright, President of Concerned Women for America, further underscored the incongruity. She has visited many medical clinics in Africa and the doctors there told her of medicine cabinets that are empty of essentials like penicillin but overflowing with condoms – so many that children have taken to blowing them up like balloons and playing with them as toys. “So much attention is given to family planning that it drains resources away from what the desperate needs are,” she explained.

Archbishop Francis Chullikatt of the Holy See Mission also strongly warned against such warped priorities. “International programs of economic assistance aimed at financing campaigns of sterilization and contraception, as well as the subordination of economic assistance to such campaigns, are affronts to the dignity of the person, the family, and the human community,” he said.

The panel was organized and hosted by C-FAM (publisher of the Friday Fax, Focus on the Family, and Concerned Women for America). The UN Commission on Population and Development ends this Friday.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Philippine priest in ancient battle with 'demons'
(AFP/File/Ted Aljibe)

by Jason Gutierrez Jason Gutierrez Thu Apr 14, 4:03 am ET

MANILA (AFP) – A blood-curdling scream echoes through the Roman Catholic chapel in Manila as Father Jose Francisco Syquia says a prayer of exorcism over a Satanic cult member believed to be possessed by the devil.

"It's very painful," the woman cries in an unearthly voice, her body contorting in an attempt to break free from the tight grasp of Syquia's assistants. After a few minutes she falls silent, her limp body exhausted.

The case is among hundreds documented on video and kept by Syquia, who heads the Manila Archdiocese's Office of Exorcism -- the only one that exists in the Catholic nation of 94 million people.

"She would have levitated had she not been restrained," Syquia said of the woman in the video, portions of which were shown to AFP during a rare interview at his office in the basement of a seminary in Manila.

Syquia believes he is in the frontline of the battle between good and evil on earth.

"There is a great dramatic increase of possessions right now," said the 44-year-old priest. "More and more the demons are gaining a foothold into this society."

While non-believers often joke about the devil, and demonic possessions are trivialised by Hollywood, Syquia insisted the torment suffered by those he had healed was real.

"I have seen scratches suddenly appearing on their skin, of inverted crosses on the forehead. These persons would be conscious at the time, and they tell me its like razor cutting from the inside of the skin," he said.

Demons could manifest themselves in many ways and could enter the human soul through occult and New Age teachings that were becoming increasingly popular in the general community, Syquia said.

The Catholic Church's exorcism ministry has throughout history tended to operate under a cloud of controversy and secrecy.

Syquia said a conspiracy of silence had permeated the church in the past, with its leaders wary of being branded as mediaeval as modern science tended to classify possessions as medical conditions.

But Pope Benedict XVI had recently issued fresh guidelines encouraging more exorcisms and for the church to be more open about the issue, he said.

There are about 10 Filipino priests authorised to perform exorcisms in the Philippines, but only Syquia has a fully operational office that is backed by a staff of eight, including a lawyer and psychologists.

In his office, a bookshelf is stacked with tomes on the paranormal, while a glass-encased cabinet contains his tools for spiritual warfare -- his vestments, holy water, the crucifix, and a saint's holy relic.

The most potent among his weapons is a copy of the Roman Ritual for Exorcism, a compilation of prayers used by all the saints to expel and defeat demons through generations.

A figurine of St Michael the Archangel trampling Lucifer sits on a shelf, a graphic reminder of his extraordinary job.

Syquia was ordained only 11 years ago, after he had already obtained a degree in psychology at one of the Philippines' leading Catholic universities.

The second of four sons of a former diplomat, he said he left a comfortable life in one of Manila's exclusive, gated communities and employment in a family-owned business after he heard God's call to serve the church.

Growing up in a modern household, he and his four brothers did not believe in possessions -- which were made famous in the 1970s Hollywood film "The Exorcist".

But Syquia said he had always been fascinated by paranormal activities and devoured entire books on the subject.

After he was ordained in 2000, Syquia said he was posted at a Manila church where, outside its premises, occult practitioners -- including spirit mediums, oracles and faith healers -- also thrived.

His first case came when a man singled him out from a group of priests and asked for deliverance after confessing that he had been deep into occult practices.

How the man knew his name was a mystery to Syquia, although he said deep in his heart he knew -- just a week earlier he had begun studying a book on exorcism that he had bought long ago.

Syquia sought guidance from the the local bishop, who promptly granted him the authority to carry out an exorcism guided by his knowledge of psychology.

"I realised God was leading me to this path. I have treated hundreds and hundreds of cases since then," he said.

Syquia recalled an accomplished female doctor who said she was befriended by demons that had appeared to her as benign dwarves that showered her with good luck in the form of financial rewards.

Her troubles began when she decided to return to the Catholic Church and offer all her blessings to God.

Soon after, the demons took over her body for hours at a time, while unexplained paranormal activity began terrorising members of her family, Syquia said.

"When the time came to bless her with holy water a voice that wasn't hers shouted for us to stop," he said.
"What really scared me was that this was the first time that I saw something very alien in her eyes. I was looking at something else. It was totally evil."

The voice taunted Syquia and told him to return to his mansion and rich family, personal details that were unknown to those in the room, he said.

"We will never leave her," the demon said, according to Syquia.

Syquia said a barrage of prayers eventually forced the demon out, with the woman now a good friend and church volunteer.

"With God by your side, you can do no wrong," he said.

Catholic Bishops Join Pro-Life Groups: De-Fund Planned Parenthood

( When members of Congress vote today on revoking taxpayer funding for the Planned Parenthood abortion business, the nation’s Catholic bishops are joining pro-life organizations in urging a yes vote.

In a letter the nation’s bishops sent to members of Congress yesterday, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston urged lawmakers to vote for a resolution to ban federal funding of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. In the midst of a budget debate involving shared sacrifice and hard choices, Cardinal DiNardo wrote, “Whether to fund the largest abortion network in the country is not one of those hard choices.”

DiNardo, chairman of the Committee on Pro-Life Activities of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), cited a March 4 letter to Congress from Bishop Stephen E. Blaire of Stockton, California, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, which expressed the hope that “funds now provided to organizations that perform abortions… will be redirected to meeting the basic needs of the poor.”

Cardinal DiNardo offered additional reasons for supporting de-funding:

“First, it is indisputable that Planned Parenthood Federation of America is by far the largest provider and promoter of abortions nationwide, performing about a third of all abortions (332,278 abortions in Fiscal Year 2008-9).  Abortions also account for over a third of Planned Parenthood’s income.  The organization has aborted over 5 million unborn children since 1970,” he said.

He added: “Second, the organization’s involvement in abortion (now including chemical abortions using RU-486) has substantially increased in recent years, and its provision of other services such as prenatal care and adoption referrals has declined markedly.  Now the national organization insists that all affiliates provide abortions by 2013, a mandatory policy that has led at least one affiliate to leave the organization.”

Cardinal DiNardo also said: “Third, the organization has led numerous legislative campaigns and litigation strategies to oppose any meaningful limits on abortion, including modest measures such as public funding bans, informed consent provisions, and parental notice requirements for abortions on unemancipated minors.  One of Planned Parenthood’s legislative priorities is to oppose conscience clauses (which it calls “refusal clauses”), so that hospitals, physicians and nurses will not be allowed to serve the health care needs of women without taking part in abortion.”

DiNardo wrote that some Planned Parenthood defenders , in an effort to divert the discussion away from abortion, have tried to make the debate about women’s access to basic health care. He noted that Catholic and other religiously affiliated health care providers generally do provide mammograms, prenatal and maternity care for women, while Planned Parenthood does not.

“To the extent that Planned Parenthood does provide any legitimate health services for women, however, those services can be provided by others, since H. Con. Res. 36 does not reduce funding for services by one cent,” Cardinal DiNardo wrote.  “Therefore the question at issue here is:  When low-income women need these legitimate health care services, should the federal government insist that they receive them from the local abortion provider?”

The full text of Cardinal DiNardo’s letter is available online:

Most Catholic women in U.S. use birth control

BOSTON (Reuters Life!) - Some 98 percent of sexually active Catholic women in the United States have used contraceptive methods banned by the church, research published on Wednesday showed.

A new report from the Guttmacher Institute, the nonprofit sexual health research organization, shows that only 2 percent of Catholic women, even those who regularly attend church, rely on natural family planning.

The latest data shows practices of Catholic women are in line with women of other religious affiliations and adult American women in general.

"In real-life America, contraceptive use and strong religious beliefs are highly compatible," said the report's lead author Rachel Jones.

She said most sexually active women who do not want to become pregnant practice contraception, and most use highly effective methods like sterilization, the pill, or the intrauterine device (IUD).

"This is true for Evangelicals and Mainline Protestants, and it is true for Catholics, despite the Catholic hierarchy's strenuous opposition to contraception," Jones said.

Nearly 70 percent of Catholic women use sterilization, the birth control pill or an IUD, according to the Guttmacher Institute research.

The numbers are slightly higher among women who identify as Evangelicals or Mainline Protestants, research showed.

The latest data is from the 2006-2008 National Survey of Family Growth (NSFG).

The findings nearly match previous NSFG data from 2002, which showed that 97 percent of Catholic women were using birth control, and are consistent with a trend tracked over the last decade by Catholics for Choice.

Astronomy Picture of the Day

See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download
the highest resolution version available.

Young Stars in the Rho Ophiuchi Cloud

Credit: NASA, JPL-Caltech, WISE Team 

Explanation: Dust clouds and embedded newborn stars glow at infrared wavelengths in this tantalizing false-color composition from WISE, the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer. The cosmic canvas features one of the closest star forming regions, part of the Rho Ophiuchi cloud complex some 400 light-years distant near the southern edge of the pronounceable constellation Ophiuchus. After forming along a large cloud of cold molecular hydrogen gas, young stars heat the surrounding dust to produce the infrared glow. Stars in the process of formation, called young stellar objects or YSOs, are embedded in the compact pinkish nebulae seen here, but are otherwise hidden from the prying eyes of optical telescopes. An exploration of the region in penetrating infrared light has detected emerging and newly formed stars whose average age is estimated to be a mere 300,000 years. That's extremely young compared to the Sun's age of 5 billion years. The prominent reddish nebula at the lower right surrounding the star Sigma Scorpii is a reflection nebula produced by dust scattering starlight. This view from WISE spans almost 2 degrees and covers about 14 light-years at the estimated distance of the Rho Ophiuchi cloud.

Father Pfleger to leave the Catholic Church?

(Catholic Culture)  Father Michael Pfleger, the controversial pastor of St. Sabina Parish in Chicago, has said that he would rather leave the Church than accept a position as a high school principal.

“I want to try to stay in the Catholic Church,” he said. “If they say, ‘You either take this principalship of [Leo High School] or pastorship there or leave,’ then I’ll have to look outside the Church.”