Monday, August 25, 2014

Pope Francis Donates $1 Million to Iraqi Refugees

Cardinal Fernando Filoni, who traveled to Iraq as the Pope’s personal envoy, says the money was given to help Christians and other religious minorities.


VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis has given $1 million as a personal contribution to help Christians and other religious minorities in Iraq who have been forced from their homes, according to his personal envoy to the country.

Cardinal Fernando Filoni, prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, visited Erbil as Pope Francis’ envoy from Aug. 12-20.

Erbil, where more than 70,000 Christians have fled from the Islamic State, is the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan and is within 50 miles of territory held by the Islamic State.

Cardinal Filoni met in private with Pope Francis the day after he returned to Rome and spoke to CNA Aug. 22.

Cardinal Filoni said he carried with him one-tenth of the Pope’s contribution and that “75% of the money was delivered to Catholics and the remaining 25% to the Yazidi community.”

The Islamic State is a recently established caliphate that has persecuted all non-Sunnis in its territory, which extends across swaths of Iraq and Syria.

“Pope Francis gave me a humanitarian mission, not a diplomatic mission, and this is what I always emphasized to Iraqi authorities,” Cardinal Filoni said... (continued)


Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Wisconsin priest punished for celebrating Mass with woman (priest impersonator) dies

By Mary Wisniewski

(Reuters) - A Wisconsin Jesuit who was punished by Catholic Church authorities for celebrating Mass with a woman non-priest in violation of Church rules has died at the age of 94, his nephew said on Wednesday.

Rev. Bill Brennan, a Milwaukee-area peace activist who had done missionary work in Central America, died of natural causes earlier this month, according to his nephew Timothy Brennan. A funeral was held this week.

Bill Brennan celebrated Mass in late 2012 with Janice Sevre-Duszynska of the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests. Though Brennan remained Jesuit and could hear confessions with other Jesuits, he was no longer able to celebrate Mass or other sacraments publicly under his Church sanction.

Women are forbidden by the Church to become priests, but some have been ordained and celebrate Mass outside of the official Church. Catholic clergy who support the women can face punishment.

Timothy Brennan said his uncle didn't complain about the restrictions imposed on him.

"He wanted there to be equal rights for women, across the board ... ," Brennan said of his uncle. "He recognized them as the backbone of the Church."

When asked about the possibility of women priests, Pope Francis has said "that door is closed."

Brennan's body has been donated for scientific research.

(Reporting by Mary Wisniewski in Chicago; Editing by Eric Beech)


Student reportedly suspended after saying 'Bless you'

By Michael Clark @

DYER COUNTY, TN - (WMC) – A young girl, who claims she was standing up for her religious beliefs in the classroom, was suspended after breaking a class rule of saying "bless you" after a classmate sneezed. When Dyer County High School senior Kendra Turner said bless you to her classmate, she says her teacher told her that was for church.

"She said that we're not going to have godly speaking in her class and that's when I said we have a constitutional right," said Turner.

Turner says when she defended her actions, she was told to see an administrator. She says she finished the class period in in-school suspension.

Students sent WMC Action News 5's Michael Clark a photo of the teacher's white board that lists 'bless you' and other expressions that are banned as part of class rules.

It sparked discussion with Turner's youth pastor Becky Winegardner last week at church.

"There were several students that were talking about this particular faculty member there that was very demeaning to them in regard to their faith," Pastor Becky Winegardner said.

Turner's parents say the school leaders claim the outburst was a classroom distraction and that she shouted "bless you" across the room.

"This was something that had come up previously in the last few weeks just since the beginning of school and I shared with all of those students what their rights were," added Winegardner.

Turner's family met with school leaders Tuesday. They say the teacher claimed Turner was being disruptive and aggressive. Some classmates showed support Tuesday by wearing hand made bless you shirts.

Turner said she doesn't want trouble for her teacher but says she'll stand up for her faith.

"It's alright to defend God and it's our constitutional right because we have a freedom of religion and freedom of speech," said Turner.

WMC's contacted the Dyer County Schools superintendent to get the district's side of the story, but he has not yet heard back at this time.


Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Feast of St. John Eudes

From ChurchMilitant.TV:

Today is the feast of St. John Eudes, who once said:

"The most evident mark of God's anger, and the most terrible castigation He can inflict upon the world, is manifest when He permits His people to fall into the hands of a clergy who are more in name than in deed, priests who practice the cruelty of ravening wolves rather than the charity and affection of devoted shepherds. They abandon the things of God to devote themselves to the things of the world, and in their saintly calling of holiness, they spend their time in profane and worldly pursuits. When God permits such things, it is a very positive proof that He is thoroughly angry with His people and is visiting His most dreadful wrath upon them."


LCWR wrap up - Fr. Z

By Father John Zuhlsdorf

“But Father! But Father!”, people have been asking me by email, “Why haven’t you been covering the antics of the LCWR?  Did you not see that they are defying the bishops?  The Vatican?”

Look, they are still meeting to figure out what they are going to do about their canonical status with the Holy See.

I did see this, however.  They empowered the new co-mentor, or whatever they they call her.  Here’s the photo...  (continued)


Monday, August 18, 2014

God will give me two or three more years says Pope Francis

Aboard the papal plane (AFP) - Pope Francis on Monday publicly broached the prospect of his own death for the first time, giving himself "two or three years" but not ruling out retirement before then.

Talking to reporters on a flight back to the Vatican from South Korea, the 77-year-old pontiff, who seemed in good spirits, was asked about his global popularity, which was evident again during his five-day visit.

"I see it as the generosity of the people of God. I try to think of my sins, my mistakes, not to become proud. Because I know it will last only a short time. Two or three years and then I'll be off to the Father's House," he replied light-heartedly.

The Argentine pope said he could handle the popularity "more naturally" these days, though at first it had "scared me a little".

While the pope has not spoken publicly before about when he might meet his maker, a Vatican source said he had previously told those close to him that he thought he only had a few years left.

Pope Francis also mentioned the possibility of retiring from the Papacy, as his predecessor Benedict XVI did last year, if he felt he could no longer adequately perform his duties.

Resigning the papacy was a possibility "even if it does not appeal to some theologians", he told reporters.

He added that 60 years ago it was practically unheard of for Catholic bishops to retire, but nowadays it was common.

"Benedict XVI opened a door," he said.

Francis admitted that he had "some nerve problems", which required treatment.

"Must treat them well, these nerves, give them mate (an Argentine stimulant tea) every day," he joked.

"One of these neuroses, is that I'm too much of a homebody," he added, recalling that the last time he'd taken a holiday outside of his native Argentina was "with the Jesuit community in 1975".


Friday, August 15, 2014

Rand Paul: We Must Demilitarize the Police

Anyone who thinks race does not skew the application of criminal justice in this country is just not paying close enough attention, Sen. Rand Paul writes for TIME, amid violence in Ferguson, Mo. over the police shooting death of Michael Brown 


(Time) The shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown is an awful tragedy that continues to send shockwaves through the community of Ferguson, Missouri and across the nation.

If I had been told to get out of the street as a teenager, there would have been a distinct possibility that I might have smarted off. But, I wouldn’t have expected to be shot.

The outrage in Ferguson is understandable—though there is never an excuse for rioting or looting. There is a legitimate role for the police to keep the peace, but there should be a difference between a police response and a military response.

The images and scenes we continue to see in Ferguson resemble war more than traditional police action.

Glenn Reynolds, in Popular Mechanics, recognized the increasing militarization of the police five years ago. In 2009 he wrote:
Soldiers and police are supposed to be different. … Police look inward. They’re supposed to protect their fellow citizens from criminals, and to maintain order with a minimum of force.

It’s the difference between Audie Murphy and Andy Griffith. But nowadays, police are looking, and acting, more like soldiers than cops, with bad consequences. And those who suffer the consequences are usually innocent civilians.

The Cato Institute’s Walter Olson observed this week how the rising militarization of law enforcement is currently playing out in Ferguson:

Why armored vehicles in a Midwestern inner suburb? Why would cops wear camouflage gear against a terrain patterned by convenience stores and beauty parlors? Why are the authorities in Ferguson, Mo. so given to quasi-martial crowd control methods (such as bans on walking on the street) and, per the reporting of Riverfront Times, the firing of tear gas at people in their own yards? (“‘This my property!’ he shouted, prompting police to fire a tear gas canister directly at his face.”) Why would someone identifying himself as an 82nd Airborne Army veteran, observing the Ferguson police scene, comment that “We rolled lighter than that in an actual warzone”?
Olson added, “the dominant visual aspect of the story, however, has been the sight of overpowering police forces confronting unarmed protesters who are seen waving signs or just their hands.”

How did this happen?

Most police officers are good cops and good people. It is an unquestionably difficult job, especially in the current circumstances.

There is a systemic problem with today’s law enforcement.

Not surprisingly, big government has been at the heart of the problem. Washington has incentivized the militarization of local police precincts by using federal dollars to help municipal governments build what are essentially small armies—where police departments compete to acquire military gear that goes far beyond what most of Americans think of as law enforcement.

This is usually done in the name of fighting the war on drugs or terrorism. The Heritage Foundation’s Evan Bernick wrote in 2013 that, “the Department of Homeland Security has handed out anti-terrorism grants to cities and towns across the country, enabling them to buy armored vehicles, guns, armor, aircraft, and other equipment.”

Bernick continued, “federal agencies of all stripes, as well as local police departments in towns with populations less than 14,000, come equipped with SWAT teams and heavy artillery.”

Bernick noted the cartoonish imbalance between the equipment some police departments possess and the constituents they serve, “today, Bossier Parish, Louisiana, has a .50 caliber gun mounted on an armored vehicle. The Pentagon gives away millions of pieces of military equipment to police departments across the country—tanks included.”

When you couple this militarization of law enforcement with an erosion of civil liberties and due process that allows the police to become judge and jury—national security letters, no-knock searches, broad general warrants, pre-conviction forfeiture—we begin to have a very serious problem on our hands.

Given these developments, it is almost impossible for many Americans not to feel like their government is targeting them. Given the racial disparities in our criminal justice system, it is impossible for African-Americans not to feel like their government is particularly targeting them.

This is part of the anguish we are seeing in the tragic events outside of St. Louis, Missouri. It is what the citizens of Ferguson feel when there is an unfortunate and heartbreaking shooting like the incident with Michael Brown.

Anyone who thinks that race does not still, even if inadvertently, skew the application of criminal justice in this country is just not paying close enough attention. Our prisons are full of black and brown men and women who are serving inappropriately long and harsh sentences for non-violent mistakes in their youth.

The militarization of our law enforcement is due to an unprecedented expansion of government power in this realm. It is one thing for federal officials to work in conjunction with local authorities to reduce or solve crime. It is quite another for them to subsidize it.

Americans must never sacrifice their liberty for an illusive and dangerous, or false, security. This has been a cause I have championed for years, and one that is at a near-crisis point in our country.

Let us continue to pray for Michael Brown’s family, the people of Ferguson, police, and citizens alike.

Paul is the junior U.S. Senator for Kentucky.


Wednesday, August 13, 2014

When Lauren Bacall Taught Raymond Arroyo About Book Promotion

By Raymond Arroyo

"Put your lips together and weep… Legendary actress Lauren Bacall is dead at 89. Twenty years ago, at a bookstore in Pentagon City, Ms. Bacall taught me something about promoting books. She entered the store and asked where her new memoir ...was located. Sweeping past me, she gathering multiple copies of the book in her arms. She then proceeded to replace all the books in the window with her tome. "I have a new book, dear," Bacall told the stunned sales people. "Readers need to know about it. You too." And with that she shoved one in my hands. I made her sign it. She was a great dame and the last of a vanishing breed of Hollywood stars. May she rest in peace."


Photo - h/t to Ann Barnhardt

Religion Unimportant to Most LGBT Americans

By Kelly Dickerson, Staff Writer

(LiveScience) Americans who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) are much less likely to be religious than non-LGBT Americans, according to a new Gallup poll.

Just less than half of LGBT Americans said religion is important in their daily lives, compared with about two-thirds of non-LGBT Americans. Moreover, about 40 percent of non-LGBT adults identified themselves as highly religious, compared with just 24 percent of LGBT adults. About the same percentage of LGBT and non-LGBT Americans said they considered themselves moderately religious (29 percent). But LGBT Americans were much more likely to identify as not religious at all: 47 percent considered themselves not religious, compared with just 30 percent of non-LGBT Americans.

Participants were categorized as "highly religious" if they said religion played an important role in their day-to-day life and they attended a religious service every week, according to Gallup. A person was considered "not religious" if they said religion is not important in their daily life and they seldom or never attended any religious service, according to Gallup. "Moderately religious" people reported that religion is important to them but they do not regularly attend services. [10 Milestones in Gay Rights History]

Part of the reason for the disparity in religiousness may be that LGBT individuals do not feel welcomed into religious communities whose doctrine does not support any kind of nonheterosexual relationship, Gallup representatives noted.

However, religious doctrine is not the only explanation for the difference in religiousness between the two groups: Gallup representatives pointed out that LGBT people may be more likely to live in areas where religion is less common, and more likely to adopt the same mind-set and practices of others in the area.

Age may also play a significant role, according to a statement from Gallup. Overall, the U.S. LGBT population is much younger than the non-LGBT population, and young adults are less religious than any other age group in the United States. This could partially explain the lower rates of religious people among the LGBT group, according to Gallup.

However, even after breaking up the data by age, LGBT individuals are still less likely to identify themselves as religious. More than half of LGBT young adults (ages 18 to 34) reported they are not religious, while only 39 percent of non-LGBT young adults said they are not religious.

LGBT individuals were most likely to identify with Protestantism (35 percent), followed by Catholicism (20 percent). LGBT individuals were also much more likely to identify with a non-Christian religion (8 percent) than non-LGBT individuals (2 percent).

Earlier this summer, the U.S. Presbyterian Church voted to allow ministers to marry LGBT couples if their state has legalized same-sex marriage. If religious communities continue to become more accepting, the religious gap between LGBT and non-LGBT individuals may close, Gallup representatives said.

The results of the poll are based on 104,000 telephone interviews with U.S. adults ages 18 or older between Jan. 2 and July 31.


Monday, August 11, 2014

Chaldean Patriarch calls for ARMED RESPONSE to defend Christians from Genocide

Update from Catholic Online: "Earlier we posted a misquote from our sources. We originally attributed the statement "a professional well-equipped army" to Pope Francis. This quote is correctly attributed to the Chaldean Patriarch, Louis Sako.

Pope Francis has joined with Christians facing genocide in Iraq and Syria, calling upon the world to join him in "Prayer and Action' to bring peace to the troubled region. Calling for international action, he has asked the world to "stop these crimes."

By Catholic Online

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Pope Francis, widely appreciated as a practical and realistic man, is calling for an end to the violence in Iraq.

Referring to military action, Archbishop Giorgio Lingua, the Vatican's nuncio to Iraq, told Vatican Radio, "This is something that had to be done, otherwise [the Islamic State] could not be stopped."

Such a call is virtually unprecedented for a papal envoy in modern times, but our age is an extraordinary one and the Islamic State has no interest in a bargaining table. Instead, the Islamic State is bent on genocide and barbarism, ruthlessly exterminating anyone who opposes them.

On Sunday, Pope Francis said he held "dismay and disbelief" over what is happening in Iraq.

"The situation is going from bad to worse," he warned.

Meanwhile, Chaldean Patriarch Louis Sako of Baghdad said, "There is a need of international support and a professional, well-equipped army. The situation is going from bad to worse."

Pope Francis and Patriarch Sako are not the only clerics calling for swift and decisive action to end the genocide in Iraq. The Episcopal Vicar of Iraq, Canon Andrew White, managed to visit the town of Qaraqosh under cover and personally assess the situation in that community following Islamic State capture.

His words are chilling. "Today, Qaraqosh stands 90 per cent empty, desecrated by the gunmen of the fanatical Islamic State terror group now in control. The majority of the town's 50,000 people have fled, fearing that, like other Christians in this region, they will be massacred.

"The militants, in a further act of sacrilege, have established their administrative posts in the abandoned churches."

Canon White reported that one woman had her finger hacked off after she could not remove her wedding ring fast enough. A caretaker of one of White's parish churches in the community said his youngest son, aged five, was hacked in half as he watched.

A child, just five years old, hacked in half alive, before his father. The boy happened to be named Andrew, after the vicar himself.

The atrocities are real. The genocide is real. That the press barely reports on them is absolutely baffling. However, even the most religious, peace-loving figures are recognizing that this is not a usual evil. Normally, conflicts arise because of ancient grievances and they can be talked over and hashed out. Warring factions tire of burying their sons and eventually dialogue and other pressures forces peace.

However, the Islamic State has recruited fighters from most of the world's nations and more arrive every day. They are motivated by an aggressive, rabid interpretation of Islamic scriptures. Most notably, they are consumed with bloodlust and willing to commit and publicize every atrocity. This attracts sadistic men from across the Islamic world to their cause who commit even more atrocities.

These men don't have to be told what to do. They murder on their own accord, for pleasure.

Where is the rest of the world? Where are the UN resolutions? Where are the condemnations from the world's Islamic countries? Saudi Arabia? Where's the edict or the fatwa? Why isn't the world combining forces against these terrorists?

This is the purest form of evil the planet has seen in generations. They cannot be reasoned with. As all Christians do have a recognized right to self-defense in the face of an existential threat, the time has come for all Catholics to join with Pope Francis and the Christians of Iraq and Syria in 'Prayer and Action' with the intent of ridding the world of the evil of the Islamic State.


Right is right

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Brave Nun Rips Down Islamic State Flag in London

By Dominic Gover

(International Business Times) Isis sympathisers in east London met their match in the form of a nun who tore down a flag glorifying the Islamist fanatics accused of genocide agianst non-Muslim minorites in Iraq.

There was outrage in east London after the black flag of Isis (also known as the Islamic State) was hung over the entrance of the Will Crooks estate in Tower Hamlets.

Reports claimed a gang of youths patrolled the area and intimidated members of the public who stopped to photograph the flag. Anti-Semitic threats were issued by thugs, reported the Standard.

But overnight, a plucky nun shrugged off the potential danger and tore down the flag from the gates, where it had been flying alongside a Palestine flag.

That nun was Sister Christine Frost, a Roman Catholic 77-year-old who has lived in and served the deprived local community for 44 years, as a member of the order of Faithful Companions of Jesus.

Sister Frost is a well-known and popular figure in the East End community, where she runs a project which organises bingo nights and lunches for residents who might otherwise be isolated in their homes.

When not tearing down Isis-style flags which Tower Hamlets council said risked fuelling community tensions in an area already well used to controversy, Sister Christine fights to raise educational standards for more than 1,000 local youngsters.

But she is by no means an agent of the local council and appears to have been a thorn in the side of local government.

In 2010 she made national headlines by blasting the council over a health and safety panic during which tenants were ordered to remove all doormats and cut their washing lines.

Children's bicycles were even confiscated during the debacle, prompting Sister Christine to call it "Big Brother gone mad." She led a public protest which prompted a climb-down by Town Hall bureaucrats.

She has also spoken up for people who are living in the shadow of Canary Wharf and feel they have been left out of the financial boom which followed the arrival of the gleaming skyscrapers.

Public honours have come Sister Christine's way for her tenacious social work, with the award of an MBE in recognition of her voluntary work with young and old in Popular.

It seems that tearing down a divisive flag is only the latest action in service of the community by East London's dedicated community champion.


Thursday, August 7, 2014

Pope to fly over China, rare chance for greetings

By Nicole Winfield

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis' upcoming trip to South Korea will provide him with an unusual opportunity to speak directly to the Chinese leadership: His plane is due to fly through Chinese airspace, and Vatican protocol calls for the pope to send greetings to leaders of all the countries he flies over.

When St. John Paul II last visited South Korea in 1989, China refused to let his plane fly overhead. Instead, the Alitalia charter flew via Russian airspace, providing John Paul with a first-ever opportunity to send radio greetings to Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev. He said he hoped to soon visit Moscow.

The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said Thursday he didn't know what Francis' Chinese greetings might entail. But he confirmed the Aug. 13-14 flight plan to Seoul involved flying through Chinese airspace.

Relations between Beijing and Rome have been tense since 1951, when China severed ties with the Holy See after the officially atheistic Communist Party took power and set up its own church outside the pope's authority. China persecuted the church for years until restoring a degree of religious freedom and freeing imprisoned priests in the late 1970s.

Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI sought to improve relations with China and encourage the estimated 8 million to 12 million Catholics who live there, around half of whom worship in underground congregations.

Francis has continued the initiative, revealing in a recent newspaper interview that he had written a letter to Chinese President Xi Jinping after his election, which occurred within hours of his own, and that Xi had replied.

Recently, Francis' No. 2, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, told the Italian Catholic magazine Famiglia Cristiana that the Vatican was in favor of "a respectful and constructive dialogue" with Chinese authorities to try to resolve problems that limit religious freedom in China.

For the Vatican, the main stumbling block is the insistence of the state-sanctioned Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association to name bishops without papal consent.

Beyond the in-flight greetings, Francis' five-day visit to South Korea is expected to offer him other opportunities to reach out to China: The main reason for the visit is to participate in an Asian Catholic youth festival that some mainland Chinese Catholics are expected to attend.

In addition, he will celebrate a Mass of peace and reconciliation on Aug. 18, his final day, in which he will refer to North Korea and possibly China as well.

British police raid pub in search for 'Holy Grail'

By William James

LONDON (Reuters) - British police raided an English country pub this week in search of a stolen wooden relic believed by some to be the Holy Grail - a cup from which, according to the Bible, Jesus is said to have drunk at his final meal before crucifixion.

The Grail has captivated religious experts for centuries, spawning myriad theories about its location and inspiring numerous fictional accounts from the Middle Ages onwards.

The object of the police search, which was unsuccessful, was a frail wooden bowl known as the Nanteos Cup that has been attributed with healing powers since the 19th century, attracting pilgrims and others who believe it may be the Holy Grail itself.

After receiving a tip-off, a team of eight officers and a police dog arrived on Sunday morning at the Crown Inn, a village pub in the rural English county of Herefordshire.

"They turned the place upside down. They came with fibre optic cameras to look in all the corners and nooks and crannies, and under the floorboards ... they were clearly serious about it," the pub's landlady, Di Franklyn, said.

Police said the relic, a dark wooden cup kept inside a blue velvet bag, had been stolen from a house in the area about a month ago. Photographs available online show a bowl-shaped vessel with around half its side missing.

"We get a few rogues and scallywags in the pub, but no one who's quite on the level of stealing a priceless ancient artefact," Franklyn said.

The cup takes its name from Nanteos Mansion, a country house in Wales where the vessel is reported to have been stored until 1952 after 16th-century monks fleeing King Henry VIII's dissolution of England's monasteries sought refuge there.

The cup was said to have been brought to Britain after Jesus' death by Joseph of Arimathea, the biblical figure who provided Christ with a tomb and, according to legend, brought Christianity to Britain.

Scientists who have examined the cup have said it almost certainly dates from many centuries after the crucifixion, and is not made of the olive wood that might have been expected for a Middle Eastern drinking vessel.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

The reverse "Grapes of Wrath"

By The Digital Hairshirt
Suffering in its third year of drought, more than 58 percent of the state is currently in "exceptional drought" stage, according to the latest U.S. Drought Monitor map. That marks a huge jump from just seven days ago, when about 36 percent of the state was categorized that way. 
If the state continues on this path, there may have to be thoughts about moving people out, said Lynn Wilson, academic chair at Kaplan University and who serves on the climate change delegation in the United Nations. 
"Civilizations in the past have had to migrate out of areas of drought," Wilson said. "We may have to migrate people out of California."
There is a startling contrast to this notion, given that many Californians trace the arrival of their families to the "Okies," those people from Oklahoma and the Plains state who migrated to California to escape the great drought that reduced their homes to a virtual dust bowl in the 1930's.  Few people won't recognize an iconic photograph from that time, the image of a migrant mother caught by Dorothea Lange:

So will we now have "Calis" moving east?  And who would be selected to move?...