Egan, again, leads the anti-abortion charge

Speaking of the Great Abortion Debate (see below), Cardinal Egan says there is no debate.

fig19.jpgAll because of this picture — and others like it.

The Archbishop of NY, in the new Catholic New York, continues to raise his profile as one of the day’s most outspoken opponents of abortion.

I’ve noted several times that Egan’s harsh statements toward Rudy Giuliani and Nancy Pelosi have become rallying cries for pro-lifers.

Wait until they read Egan’s new column. Referring to this picture — “of a being that has been within its mother for 20 weeks” — he writes:

The picture on this page is an untouched photograph of a being that has been within its mother for 20 weeks. Please do me the favor of looking at it carefully.

Have you any doubt that it is a human being?

If you do not have any such doubt, have you any doubt that it is an innocent human being?

If you have no doubt about this either, have you any doubt that the authorities in a civilized society are duty-bound to protect this innocent human being if anyone were to wish to kill it?

If your answer to this last query is negative, that is, if you have no doubt that the authorities in a civilized society would be duty-bound to protect this innocent human being if someone were to wish to kill it, I would suggest—even insist—that there is not a lot more to be said about the issue of abortion in our society. It is wrong, and it cannot—must not—be tolerated.

Egan says that photographs like this one — and a 2-DVD set from the National Geographic Society — present visual evidence that stamps out other arguments.

Then he offers this: “If you can convince yourself that these beings are something other than living and innocent human beings, something, for example, such as “mere clusters of tissues,” you have a problem far more basic than merely not appreciating the wrongness of abortion. And that problem is—forgive me—self-deceit in a most extreme form.”

Father Frank Pavone of Priests for Life has competition here. So does James Dobson and others who lead the charge against abortion.

Egan even compares the “self-deceit” of abortion-rights defenders to the self-deceit of Hitler and Stalin:

Adolf Hitler convinced himself and his subjects that Jews and homosexuals were other than human beings. Joseph Stalin did the same as regards Cossacks and Russian aristocrats. And this despite the fact that Hitler and his subjects had seen both Jews and homosexuals with their own eyes, and Stalin and his subjects had seen both Cossacks and Russian aristocrats with theirs. Happily, there are few today who would hesitate to condemn in the roundest terms the self-deceit of Hitler, Stalin or even their subjects to the extent that the subjects could have done something to end the madness and protect living, innocent human beings.

He concludes with this:


Do me a favor. Look at the photograph again. Look and decide with honesty and decency what the Lord expects of you and me as the horror of “legalized” abortion continues to erode the honor of our nation. Look, and do not absolve yourself if you refuse to act.

As I’ve said before, I believe that in the past year, Egan has transformed his legacy for many people. He will be remembered by many for challenging supporters of abortion with a steely new rhetoric.

Catholic voting and abortion

As Election Day comes closer, we continue to hear Catholics debate whether abortion is the issue that overrides all others.

On Monday evening (Oct. 27) at 7:30, Immaculate Conception Church on Route 22 in Tuckahoe will host a presentation by Edward Mechmann, a lawyer with the Family Life/Respect Life Office of the Archdiocese of NY. His topic will be “Conscience and Catholic Voting.”

The presentation is being sponsored by the Rev. John A. Keogh Council of the Knights of Columbus in Tuckahoe.

You have to figure that a lawyer with the Respect Life Office will see abortion and other “life” issues as far more significant priorities for Catholics than, say, foreign policy.

In addition, the Archdiocese of New York is holding forums called “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship” at four churches over the next week or so. They’ll be held in the Bronx, Warwick, Manhattan and Fishkill. Go HERE for times and dates.

I got hold of a flier handed out at Catholic churches that was “Prepared by the Archdiocese of New York for the Information of Voters.” It lists 20 issues and says whether Obama and McCain “support” or “oppose” each.

The first three issues listed are: 1. “Overturning the Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade…” 2. “A ban on partial birth abortions” and 3. “Requiring parental notification before a minor has an abortion.”

In each case, the sheet says “oppose” under Obama and “support” under McCain.

The next two issues are “The ‘Freedom of Choice Act,’ which would prohibit federal or state legislation restricting abortion” and “Public funding for abortions for low income women, without restriction.”

Two “supports” for Obama and two “opposes” for McCain.

The remaining issues listed, in order, address: increased federal funding for embryonic stem cell research, permitting the cloning of human embryos that will be destroyed for research, the death penalty, legal recognition for same-sex “civil unions,” including sexual orientation as a protected category in civil rights law, vouchers and tax credits for private schools, government funding for faith-based social services, expansion of health-insurance for low-income children, “increasing taxes on those with high income,” increasing the Earned Income Tax Credit for the poor, granting temporary “guest worker” status to employed illegal immigrants, prosecution of employers that hired illegal immigrants, market-based incentives to lower greenhouse gases, a fixed schedule for removing U.S. forces from Iraq, and banning torture of terrorist suspects.

It’s a wide range of issues that represent Catholic belief on the “liberal” and “conservative” ends of things.

It’s pretty clear, though, what the sheet is implying should be the priority for Catholic voters.

On Nov. 4, ‘reconcile and heal the world’

The bosses of the Episcopal Church and the ELCA have released “Election Day messages.”

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori of the Episcopal Church has this to say:


As Election Day approaches, I want to remind you that our democracy gives us the opportunity to speak urgently about the many issues and challenges confronting our nation and the world. I would encourage every eligible voter to prayerfully consider the choices before us and commit to using the political process to seek solutions to our society’s most intractable problems. As part of our baptismal vows we commit “to strive for justice and peace among all people” and “respect the dignity of every human being.” As you prepare to vote, I urge you to consider how the Reign of God – a just society – particularly as explicated by the Hebrew prophets and by Jesus, can be made real in our own day.

images2.jpegOur baptismal ministry calls us to transform our communities into something that looks more like that Reign of God. That is our part in God’s mission. We are sent and commissioned to build a society where all have adequate access to health care, where the weakest are protected and God’s creation safeguarded, and where each person has access to the blessings of life. That work requires committed engagement in the civic life of our nation if we seek to make God’s dream more effectively real and complete in this world.

As caretakers and stewards of all of God’s creation, each one of us is responsible for the flourishing of the rest of the human family. As in all elections, on 4 November we have the opportunity to continue working to reconcile and heal the world. I urge every citizen to use this opportunity to motivate our government to respond to, and participate in, building the Reign of God. We prepare the ground for the possibility of more abundant life through our part in the ministry of governance.

Voting and political participation are acts of Christian stewardship, in which citizens can engage in a common conversation about the future of our nation and the world. I urge you to exercise your right to vote, and to encourage and help others to do so as well.


And the ELCA’s Bishop Mark S. Hanson offers this:


In the Lutheran community of faith we value both public and private discourse, because we believe God works in vital and redemptive ways with human words. In the closing weeks of a presidential campaign, we share with our neighbors of all faiths high expectation for our public discourse. The words uttered by those seeking office and those voting have power, not only to provide the substance necessary for good decision making, but also to bring hope.

images3.jpegLet us maintain a level of discourse worthy of this important moment in our nation’s history and the pressing issues demanding our attention. Let us focus on the vital issues facing our nation and the world. The ELCA’s social statement, The Church in Society: A Lutheran Perspective,” calls this church to “promote sound, critical, and creative citizenship and public service” and encourages us to join in public deliberations. As we are called also “to contribute toward the upbuilding of the common good,” we can express the expectation that the candidates call for an end to personal attacks, and focus on the issues and things that matter to all of us.

With the current financial crisis sweeping the United States and the world, it is too easy to forget those who are most vulnerable, people who live in poverty here at home and abroad. They deserve our attention too, as we prepare to determine this nation’s direction for the next four years. Instead of personal attacks, I appeal to the McCain and Obama campaigns and related message groups to bear in mind and recall for all of us the situations of our sisters and brothers who will suffer the most from our current economic turmoil.

Finally, I call on all of us eligible to vote to exercise faithful civic engagement on November 4. Lutherans acknowledge the instrumental role of government in society, and participation in the electoral process is an example of our affirmation of baptism to “serve all people, following the example of our Lord Jesus” and “to strive for justice and peace in all the earth.”


James Dobson and Sarah Palin talk faith

James Dobson, head of Focus on the Family and one of the leaders of the “religious right,” did an interview the other day with Sarah Palin that you can hear here.

They speak very directly about Palin’s faith and about her commitment as a (in her words) “hard-core pro-lifer.”

Dobson says that it is “risky” to politicize Palin’s prayer life. But he tells her that many Christians are praying for her and that “God’s perfect will will be done on Nov. 4.”

Palin says she feels the intercession.

2208d92f33114f81b653205cfe977375.jpg“I can feel it, too, Dr. Dobson,” she says. “I can feel the power of prayer.”

Asked if her faith is a big part of who she is, she answers: “It is my foundation, yes, my Christian faith is.”

They talk a bit about Palin’s infant, Trig, who has Down syndrome.

Palin: “To be honest with you, it scared me, though…I had to really be on my knees for the entire rest of the pregnancy asking that God would prepare my heart.”

Palin praises Dobson several times for the work that he does: “Your reward is going to be in heaven. I know that you take a lot of shots, also.”

Much of the interview focuses on the mainstream media and what Palin and Dobson agree has been unfair coverage of her campaign.

“I have never seen such hatred,” Dobson says.

“Even Joe the plumber is being carpet-bombed by the press,” he says.

Palin says: “This is when my faith becomes even more important to me. I have to have faith that my words will get out there to the American people despite the filter of the mainstream media.”

Dobson concludes that: “We’re on the same team. I’m just trying to serve the Lord, like you are…”

Spiritual meaning in ‘High School Musical’ (really)

My kids love the High School Musical movies. I’ve learned to live with them.

High School Musical 3 opens Friday (in theaters this time), which means I’ll learn to live with yet another soundtrack about Disney-style teen angst.

No biggie.

high-school-musical-3-zanessa000×0406x611.jpegBut, boy, it’s never occurred to me that there are religious or spiritual lessons to be learned from these very simple high school stories. I mean, the plots are excuses to get some teen heartthrobs singing and dancing, aren’t they?

I guess not. A fellow named Steven Russo and his 11-year-old daughter, Gabi, have written “Wildcats in the House: Spiritual Stuff You Can Get from High School Musical.”

On Beliefnet, Steven Russo offers 10 biblical lesson you can get from High School Musical.

For instance:

In the song “Start of Something New,” we learn what it takes to be a risk-taker and try different things- faith! Just like the list of people who accomplished some incredible things for God in Hebrews 11, we can also experience God using us if we are willing to step out of our comfort zone.


We live in a sensory-overloaded world. It seems like every direction you turn there’s someone or something begging for your attention. Remember Troy struggling to concentrate on basketball in the tune “Get’cha Head in the Game? Just like Troy, we need to stay focused on what’s really important in the “big game” of life.

One more?

Troy’s in trouble with his team over the upcoming championship game because he’s concentrating more on singing than basketball. Gabriella is getting the same kind of grief from the rest of the scholastic decathlon team over their upcoming competition. The Bible is filled with good advice on relationships that work. One great example is David and Jonathan in 1 Samuel 18:1-4.

Has anyone written a biblical guide to West Side Story?


Rocky Horror?

Maryknoll chooses Vatican liaison as new superior general

A Maryknoll priest who has served as the religious community’s liaison to the Vatican since 2000 has been elected Maryknoll’s next Superior General. The boss.

Father Edward M. Dougherty, who is from Philadelphia, will serve a 6-year term.

The Maryknoll Fathers & Brothers have been holding their 12th General Chapter meetings at the big HQ in Ossining.

Fathers Jose Aramburu, Ed Mc Govern and Paul Masson will serve on the Maryknoll council with Father Dougherty.

Dougherty has been living in Tome, Italy, while serving as Maryknoll’s procurator general. He’s also been active at the Church of Santa Susanna, an English-speaking parish for Americans in Rome.

frgreganniversary8.jpgDougherty is also well known for serving as postulator — or leader — of the cause of beatification of Maryknoll’s co-founders, Bishop James A. Walsh and Father Thomas F. Price.

He was ordained in 1979 and served in Tanzania for several years before doing mission education/promotion work in Detroit and New Orleans. He was Maryknoll’s director of admissions from 92-97.

In 1997, Dougherty was assigned to Kenya, where he worked with an ecumenical peace group, People for Peace, that sought to promote dialogue and end ethnic violence in East and Central Africa.

Dougherty returned to the U.S. briefly before heading to Rome.

One has to wonder: Will Dougherty’s connections at the Vatican help with the fall-out from the Roy Bourgeois affair?

You might remember that Father Bourgeois — one of Maryknoll’s best-known priests because of his work to close the School of the Americas — is in hot water for taking part in a “ordination” ceremony for a female priest this past August.

Maryknoll’s current leadership issued a “canonical warning” to Bourgeois, telling him that he has broken church law. Their findings were then sent to the Vatican.

But Bourgeois has no regrets, insisting that the Catholic Church’s unwillingness to ordain women is sexist and discriminatory.

He told me: “As a Catholic priest – and this is important – I cannot possibly speak out about the injustice of the war in Iraq, about the injustice of the School of the Americas and the suffering it causes, and at the same time be silent about this injustice in my church. I belong to a huge faith community where women are excluded, and I have a responsibility to address this.”

You have to figure that disciplinary action from Rome is a strong possibility. Can Daugherty help? Will he want to?

We’ll see.

Two productions honor rescuers of Jews

Two upcoming programs — coincidentally — will honor people who saved Jews from the Nazis.

First: Tomorrow (Thursday, Oct. 23) at 7 p.m., the Montfort Academy in Katonah will celebrate Italian Heritage Month by showing the film “50 Italians,” the story of “50 Italians that saved the lives of over 50,000 Jews.”

bastianini_salutes.jpgThe photo is of Giuseppe Bastianini, Italian Undersecretary of Foreign Affairs to Benito Mussolini, who is quoted as saying: “All of us know the fate of Jews deported by the Germans. They are gassed. All of them; women, old men, children. We must not take part in it, nor assist in such atrocities. Are you Duce, prepared to take on this kind of responsibility?”

The film’s producer and director, Flaminia Lubin, will speak. Also on hand will be Swiss Ambassador Giovanni Manfredi, son of one of the “50.”

An Italian survivor of the Holocaust, Eva Deutsch Costabel, will also be there.

Here is a description of the film from its website:

In the darkest and most tragic moment of the twentieth century, when men were methodically working to destroy humanity, and it seemed impossible to resist the Nazi death machine, 50 high-ranking Italian diplomats and generals saved almost 50,000 Jewish lives, helping them to escape persecution, deportation and death.

In Italy’s occupied territories – Croatia and Yugoslavia, the South of France and Greece – these men were chosen by Mussolini to represent his regime, and implement his policies. But in our story, they made a different choice. For reasons that are clear for some, mysterious for others, these 50 men were guided by a personal choice to do good, to do right … to save human lives.

Richard Greco, founder of the Montfort Academy (99 Valley Road) — a Roman Catholic high school that offers a “classical” education — will preside at the event. He will be joined by Francesco Maria Talò, Consul General of Italy.

A $10 donation is requested. For information, call 914-767-0325.

Second: Next Tuesday (Oct. 28) at 7:30 p.m., Iona College will present an opera about how the Danish people saved most Danish Jews from the Nazis.

The opera — called “The Yellow Star: a little light dispels great darkness” — premiered in February at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in Manhattan.

It will be performed at Iona’s Murphy Auditorium to commemorate the 70th Anniversary of Kristallnacht. The production will feature performers from the Metropolitan Opera and New York City Opera companies.

Composer/librettist Bradley Detrick — who has toured the world as the world as trumpet soloist and arranger with the Glenn Miller Orchestra — will be on hand and will attend a reception afterward.

The performance is free and open the public. For more info, go to or call 914-637-2744 or contact

Founder of ‘Centering Prayer’ movement to speak in Garrison on Friday

Father Thomas Keating, the Trappist monk who co-founded the increasingly popular “Centering Prayer” movement, will give a free talk at 7:30 p.m. Friday (Oct. 24) at the Garrison Institute.

Keating has studied many of the great contemplative traditions, focusing on Christian practices that have been lost to most modern-day Christians.

He and several colleagues founded the centering prayer movement as a way to make these traditions accessible to people today.

I’ll let Keating explain it further:

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Stephen Kent of the Garrison Institute recently interviewed Keating. Here’s their exchange:


TGI: What are some similarities and differences between Centering Prayer and mindfulness meditation?

Fr. Keating: Mindfulness is a wonderful practice and has been refined and honed over the ages. These practices are found in the Hindu tradition and other Eastern traditions, and also the Hebrew tradition. There are similar practices in the Christian contemplative tradition, but with a slightly different emphasis. Mindfulness meditation is the discipline of the mind. Christian contemplative practices emphasize the heart and heartfulness.

TGI: Can you define heartfulness?

Heartfulness is the cultivation of interior silence in relation to the Ultimate Reality, what in the Abrahamic traditions is called God. It is a cultivation of the spiritual will, the seat of the deepest levels of love in the organism. It has roots in the Hebrew Bible, going back 3000 years.

TGI: What is the relationship between mindfulness and heartfulness?

They are not exclusive of each other. According to my understanding of the Hebrew religion, they are meant to include both mind and heart. The Hebrew Bible in certain passages clearly deals with higher consciousness and contemplative states. Mindfulness also includes the cultivation of the heart, the need for the heart and mind to work together. Modern science now supports this view.

The heart is just a pump, but it has its own way of “thinking.” It produces some 60 hormones to deal with various situations in the human organism. That too is a form of relationship with the Ultimate Reality. In dialogues I have had with Buddhists, they have the notion of Ultimate Reality, but their relationship to it is impersonal. This is also true parts of the in the Hindu tradition, whereas in Abrahamic traditions, the capacity to relate personally through love is very strongly emphasized.

The human organism is such a unity, so you can’t have one without the other. You have to have a heart that is at least listening to the commentaries of human reason. Obviously the heart has its limitations. But neither should we get stuck in the limits of rationality. Contemplative traditions are moving towards the integration of both sides – mindfulness with heartfulness. Continue reading

Pix up of ELCA bishop installation

The Metro NY Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America has posted some photos of the recent installation of Bishop Robert Rimbo, who is beginning a six-year term.

The ceremony was held on Oct. 12 at Central Synagogue in NYC (it was available and had enough space).

That’s Rimbo in the middle. To his left is Bishop Mark S. Hanson, presiding national bishop of the ELCA. To the far left (behind the candles) is Bishop Mark Sisk, the Episcopal bishop of New York.


Here’s a nice shot of the whole affair:


Critic of Israel to speak in White Plains Thursday

It’s fair to say that most people have never heard of Norman Finkelstein.

But among those who have, he is an important and controversial figure.

Finkelstein is the son of Holocaust survivors, a political scientist and a leading critic — not to mention Jewish critic — of Israel.

finkelstein-739691.jpgHe got a lot of attention a few years back for writing a book about how Jews misuse the legacy of the Holocaust to support Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians. His latest book is: “A Farewell to Israel: The Coming Break-up of American Zionism.”

Finkelstein will speak Thursday (Oct. 23) at 7 p.m. at Memorial United Methodist Church, 250 Bryant Ave., in White Plains. His talk is being sponsored by the WESPAC Middle East Committee.

In recent years, Finkelstein has been involved in an ongoing, pretty hostile spat with Alan Dershowitz over the Middle East. Some say that Dershowitz’s interference was responsible for Finkelstein being denied tenure by DePaul University.

Finkelstein (like Dershowitz) is a pretty strident guy.

On Finkelstein’s website, for example, he’s posted a short article from Haaretz about Elie Wiesel’s statement that if Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is allowed to speak at the U.N., the world has learned nothing from the Holocaust.

Finkelstein’s own headline, though, is this: “Ahmadinejad: Wiesel-talk shows Jews haven’t learned to stop huckstering Holocaust.”

Many critics of Israel see Finkelstein as a hero. Most supporters of Israel see him as a buffoon. So there you go…