Can taxes supporting abortion become an ‘intrinsic evil?’

Yet more on Catholics and abortion…

weigel.jpgGeorge Weigel, the conservative Catholic scholar, has a punchy take in Newsweek about the growing Catholic support for Obama, particularly on the part of a few high-profile academics.

Weigel has little patience for it, not surprisingly:


Many U.S. bishops, in other words, seem exasperated with Catholic politicians who present themselves as ardent Catholics and yet consistently oppose the Church on what the bishops consider the premier civil-rights issue of the day. It seems unlikely that the bishops, having found their voices after discovering the limits of their patience, will back off in an Obama administration—which could raise some interesting questions for, and about, a Vice President Joe Biden, whose fitness to receive holy communion may well be discussed in executive session at the bishops’ annual meeting in mid-November.

Biden is not the only Catholic who will be seriously challenged by an Obama administration bent on reversing what its pro-choice allies regard as eight years of defeat; pro-life Catholics will face different, if equally grave, dilemmas. The bishops already find themselves defending the Catholic integrity of Catholic hospitals under pressures from state governments; those pressures, as well as pressures on doctors and other Catholic health-care professionals, will increase in an Obama administration, especially if FOCA succeeds in knocking down state conscience-clause protections for Catholic health-care providers and institutions. And should an Obama administration reintroduce large-scale federal funding of abortion, the bishops will have to confront a grave moral question they have managed to avoid for decades, thanks to the Hyde amendment: does the payment of federal taxes that go to support abortion constitute a form of moral complicity in an “intrinsic evil”? And if so, what should the conscientious Catholic citizen do?

Cardinal Egan: Fordham award to Justice Breyer ‘a mistake’

Cardinal Egan is calling Fordham University’s decision to honor U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer “a mistake.”

A statement from the Archdiocese of New York says that Egan has spoken to the Fordham leadership on the matter.

breyer_stephen_g_justice.jpgI wrote a couple of weeks ago about growing Catholic criticism of Fordham Law School’s awarding of the 2008 Fordham-Stein Ethics Prize to Breyer, who wrote the majority decision in 2000 on a case striking down state laws that banned “partial-birth abortion.” Breyer will accept the prize in NYC on Oct. 29.

Here is the archdiocese’s statement in full:

“Cardinal Egan was surprised to learn that Justice Stephen Breyer would be the recipient of this year’s Fordham-Stein Ethics Prize from Fordham University’s Stein Center for Law and Ethics.  He has spoken to the leadership of Fordham University about this matter.  As a result of these discussions, the Cardinal is confident that a mistake of this sort will not happen again.”

The Cardinal Newman Society, which leads the charge in calling for Catholic colleges to be more Catholic, says that 1,100 Fordham alumni have signed a petition opposing the award for Breyer.

Christian groups promote ‘pornography awareness’

Several Christian groups are promoting Oct. 26-Nov. 2 as “Pornography Awareness Week.”

They want people to be aware of the easy availability of Internet porn and, needless to say, to keep children (and themselves) away from it.

The socially conservative National Coalition for the Protection of Children and Families says that according to recent surveys, “nearly 60 percent of Christian men and 37 percent of pastors admit to struggling with pornography. Thirty-five percent of women also admit to the addiction.”

More than a third of pastors?

The coalition is promoting a new film, “Somebody’s Daughter: A Journey to Freedom from Pornography,” which describes the reach of the porn industry and promotes “healing and deliverance” from the addiction. The film details the lives of three men and one couple active in Christian ministry who struggle to stop looking at porn.

Post-Al Smith Dinner criticisms arise

When I was writing something last week about the Al Smith Dinner, I noted that Bush and Kerry were not invited four years ago — in all likelihood, because Kerry is a pro-choice Catholic.

In the back of mind, I was wondering why it makes such a difference. Yes, Kerry is Catholic. But plenty of pro-choice pols who are not Catholic are invited to the big dinner, including (this year alone) Chuck Schumer (Jewish), Hillary Clinton (Methodist) and, of course,  Obama (UCC).

eganobama.jpegI thought about Cardinal Egan’s anti-abortion statement that was directed at Nancy Pelosi, which said: “Anyone who dares to defend that (the unborn) may be legitimately killed because another human being ‘chooses’ to do so or for any other equally ridiculous reason should not be providing leadership in a civilized democracy worthy of the name.”

That would seem to cover Obama, too. But there he was at the dinner, at Egan’s side.

But no one brought it up.

Until after the dinner. Conservative Catholic pundit Deal Hudson wrote a column for that made this point: “The sight of Obama and the cardinal palling around sends the message — whether intentional or not — that the pro-choice senator is fine in Egan’s eyes.”

The column seems to be getting some traction in the Catholic blogosphere.

CatholicsForMcCain says: “So, the Cardinal says that pro-abortion politicians should not be providing leadership in our country, yet will sit at a black-tie dinner and share laughs with a man who has supported infanticide and partial-birth abortion?”

Another blogger points out: “One line in particular, though, struck me as odd. During his remarks, Senator Obama stated that he “shared the politics of Alfred E. Smith and the ears of Alfred E. Newman.” Now, obviously, the worst thing you can do with a joke is overanalyze it, but I had to wonder: exactly what were the politics that Barack Obama thought he had in common with Al Smith? Presumably he was not referring to his positions on social issues such as abortion or homosexual unions, which were not major issues in Al Smith’s time, but on which he no doubt would have differed from Senator Obama.”

And the writer of ClericalWhispers gives a nice overview on where abortion fits into overall Catholic politics. He writes:

In a year like 2008, when the economy trumps social issues, Catholics are most likely to return to their roots in the Democratic Party. And that’s particularly true when they hear fellow Catholics arguing that Democrats reflect their religious values. McCain may have gotten a longer standing ovation on his way to the podium at the Al Smith Dinner and dropped references to “defending the rights of the unborn” in among his jokes. But it was Obama who won over Al Smith IV, the event’s emcee and great-grandson of the historic candidate. “Awesome,” Smith told Obama after the Democrat had finished speaking. “That was just awesome!”

The early days of female ministry

A few days back, I got to spend some with the Rev. Margaret “Peggy” Howland, who this month is celebrating the 50th anniversary of her ordination as a Presbyterian minister.

She has great stories to tell.

tjndc5-5m6pcg1bqbo7q0nbky9_layout.jpgHowland was ordained in 1958, only two years after the main Presbyterian denomination in the northern U.S. started ordaining women. She was the 12th female Presbyterian minister and one of the first female pastors in the country.

Think about it: We’re talking the late ’50s and early ’60s. Women were not in ministry. Presbyterians and Methodists started ordaining women in ’56. The largest Lutheran denomination wouldn’t start until 1970 and Episcopalians until 1976.

When Howland started, she had no role models. She had to make it up as she went along.

She will be honored in White Plains on Sunday. My article about her should appear on Journal News that day.

In the meantime, though, here is Howland talking about the early days:


Leaders of Jewish movements to share a table, talk about the future

The different movements in Judaism — Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, Reconstructionist — often seem like worlds onto themselves.

Separate but not really equal (equality is the eye of the beholder, I suppose).

So it could be a special thing when the heads of the major Orthodox, Conservative and Reform educational institutions appear together on Thursday, Nov. 6 at Temple Beth El in Stamford, Conn.

Chancellor Arnold Eisen of the Jewish Theological Seminary (Conservative), Rabbi David Ellenson of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religon (Reform), and President Richard Joel of Yeshiva University (Orthodox), will take part in a 7:30 p.m. roundtable on the theme: “Three Movements — One Future: Challenges Facing American Jews.”

The event is free and open to the public.

The joke’s on everyone

Some thoughts on last night’s Al Smith Dinner at the Waldorf Astoria…

* The loudest applause of the evening, to my ears, went to 1. Mike Bloomberg and 2. Hillary Clinton.

* The introductions of the presidential candidates caused a lot of confusion. First, McCain was introduced. He entered and approached his seat on the dais. Then Obama was introduced. But no Obama. Then came Cardinal Egan, who moved between McCain and Obama’s empty seat. Then — a minute or so later — Obama popped out and was re-introduced. I heard more than few jokes that he insisted on coming out last.

* Alfred E. Smith IV is a genuinely funny guy. I don’t know who writes his material. But his gravelly delivery is really good. I bet he could MC the Oscars. One of his first lines: “I’m Al Smith and I approve this dinner.”

* What can you say about Renee Flemming singing Ave Maria? She was standing in the middle of the second row of a four-tier dais and every famous dignitary was turned directly toward her. She could have kept singing for another hour and no one would have moved. Even the media section was still.

974439d098ae4f8e8bf5ba6114030bdc1.jpg* I thought that McCain and Obama were terrific. Hysterical at points.

McCain opened up with some great material about our new folk hero Joe the Plumber: “… Joe the Plumber recently signed a very lucrative contract with a wealthy couple to handle all the work on all seven of their houses.”

Obama’s best lines were making fun of himself: “Contrary to the rumors you have heard, I was not born in a manger. I was actually born on Krypton and sent here by my father, Jor-el, to save the planet Earth.” That’s the Superman story, by the way.

* Maybe it’s me, but it was great to hear the candidates compliment one another as they finished their routines.

* Both candidates made touching remarks about the late Tim Russert, whose wife and son were in the audience.

* McCain made several jokes about the media’s infatuation with Obama. When Obama got the chance, he asked: “Is Fox News included in this media?” Rupert Murdoch, who was sitting in the middle of the first row of the dais, turned around to face Obama and laughed.

* At one point, McCain mentioned that he was pro-life. Cardinal Egan, it appeared to me, was the first person in the ballroom to applause — with everything he had. The crowd than joined in. Obama did not applause, no doubt hoping for the moment to pass quickly.

* Egan had a good line at the end of the evening, advising the winner of the race to come see him at the end of a possible second term — if he’s interested in a third: “I have a friend here in New York who is an expert at arranging that kind of thing.”

Yes, Bloomberg laughed.

* For $1,500 a plate, attendees got salmon.

* The Smith Foundation raised $4 million to serve the needy.

* When I got home, I watched McCain on Letterman. Boy, did Letterman grill him.  McCain must have been happy to get out of there and head for the Waldorf.

* There are few reds as red as a cardinal’s vestments in the middle of a black tuxedoed dais…

‘Without Jesuits, how can you call yourself Jesuit?’

The worsening shortage of Catholic priests will soon affect all corners of Catholic life.

That includes Catholic colleges.

The following AP story raises a real good question: How can Catholic colleges remain Catholic if the religious orders that provide their administrators and (some) faculty run out of priests?

Associated Press Writer
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — The shortage of Roman Catholic clergy isn’t just being felt in church.

Religious orders that have founded and run Catholic colleges and universities across the U.S. — in some cases for more than a century — are grappling with how to retain the institutions’ distinct religious identities in the face of declining numbers of priests and nuns.

d905df96dcc64c7581e89a240cc39884.jpgThe Rev. Timothy Lannon, president of Saint Joseph’s University, can envision a time when a lay person will lead the Jesuit school in Philadelphia because of the dwindling number of his brethren. So it’s important now to instill the order’s philosophy on campus through curriculum and staff initiatives, he said.

“Without Jesuits, how can you call yourself Jesuit?” Lannon said (that’s him).

Saint Joseph’s is not alone, said Richard Yanikoski, president of the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities.

As religious orders shrink, the critical challenge is for Catholic identity “to be built into the goals and operations and practices of the institution,” Yanikoski said.

Retaining that identity was somewhat easier in previous generations when priests and nuns who ran the schools wore religious garb as they carried out teaching and administrative duties, he said.

“Everyone could see the Catholic identity of the institution in those people,” said Yanikoski.

Yet diminishing numbers, and members of orders opting for secular dress, have combined to change that sensibility at places like Saint Xavier University in Chicago, which was founded by the Sisters of Mercy and where Yanikoski served as the third lay president.

Continue reading

Dear God…

Want to write a note to God (anonymously) that can be read by anyone?

Try the blog Dear God.

deargod_thelogo.jpgIt’s catch-phrase is: “Hear us, one prayer at a time.”

The site features some great photography, although it’s not clear to me where the pictures come from or who chooses them.

Here is the site’s own explanation of what it is:

Dear God is a global project for people around the world to share their innermost hopes – and fears – through prayer.

It doesn’t matter what your version of God is…Jesus, Allah, Buddha or simply a spiritual universal energy… praying to a higher power soothes and heals. It’s scientifically proven that people who pray are healthier, happier and more resilient.

Share your prayers here and help us create hope one prayer at a time. Simply send us your personal letter to your God and/or a picture that sums up your message visually. (Dear God will source a picture if you don’t have one).

Disclaimer: This website is totally independent and non-denominational. We are not a religious or spiritual/new-age organization. We have no affiliation or relationship to any church or religious or spiritual group or organization.

From presidential politics to new crypt space

Consider the wide-ranging responsibilities of the Archbishop of New York.

Tonight, with the nation watching, Cardinal Egan will host the Al Smith Dinner at the Waldorf Astoria, seated between John McCain and Barack Obama.

On Monday, he’ll visit St. Anthony’s Church in Nanuet to bless and dedicate a new mausoleum.

tjndc5-5m7tn8kdz0loo1omktf_layout.jpgAs my colleague Hema Easley writes today, St. Anthony’s is running out of burial space. The new $4 million mausoleum will have room for 1,850 crypts and 882 crypts for cremated remains.

I visited St. Anthony’s a few months ago and I can tell you that that mausoleum is an impressive structure. From a parking lot away, I could not for the life of me figure out what it was.

Cardinal Egan will like what he sees, I think.