What does one say about an upside-down week in which Pope Francis is on the cover of Rolling Stone, California postpones enforcing mandatory co-ed restrooms, the Pentagon allows wearing of turbans and headscarves for religious purposes in the military, the NYS Governor goes on a childish rant heard ’round the world, and animal rights activists ask Pope Francis to stop releasing doves, which were being killed by swooping predators. Perhaps the less said, the better. (But scroll to the very bottom of this post if you have something to say about the Courier’s (CNS) front page lead article today fawning over Obama’s State of the Union Address. Because a number of contributors to Cleansing Fire seemingly have been blocked by DoR in commenting on Courier articles, I hope that these weekly news reports will be a place for their comments too.)
In an upside down world, it is sometimes easy to forget, or not notice, how many individuals and organizations are working and praying 24/7/365 for a holier world. It was obvious on January 22, as the pro-life forces flowed into and through the streets of the nation’s Capitol in protest of government-driven killing in the womb, and it continues to be obvious every day in print. Consider the good work being done by the Becket Fund, for example, as recounted in the January 28th correspondence from firstname.lastname@example.org
As you may know, … the Supreme Court ruled that our client, the Little Sisters of the Poor, would be protected from crushing IRS fines while we continue to fight for them in the Tenth Circuit. Not one member of the Court dissented from the order. At once, we felt relieved for the Sisters. No fines. For now. We were also overjoyed … that the Sisters would not have to sign a government “permission slip” that is in direct violation of the Sister’s religious beliefs.
But, there are a lot of hurdles ahead. And, for the sake of the Sisters’ work and every American’s religious freedom, we need to overcome them. The “permission slip” or certification, is something worth considering for a moment since you will hear a lot about it in the months to come. In broad strokes, the certification specifies that the Sisters oppose contraceptives and potentially life terminating drugs. This part is true. However—and this is the big however–it also authorizes, directs, and legally binds others to provide these drugs. The government says the Little Sisters should sign and distribute the authorization form because “at this time” the government has not yet figured out how to force Christian Brothers to distribute the drugs. But the government also emphasizes that it is still considering ways to force Christian Brothers and other third parties to act on the Sisters’ forms. And the Little Sisters simply can’t authorize, direct, and bind people to provide contraceptives–they can’t help with the government’s contraceptive delivery scheme at all–even if the government says the system doesn’t work just yet.
Instead of protecting the Little Sisters’ religious liberty, the government has mocked their stance by characterizing their courage, in court, as a fight against “invisible dragons.” … Just yesterday, Bill Mumma and I went to visit the Little Sisters of the Poor in their home in Baltimore. It was the most special day I have experienced in my almost 16 years at Becket. The Little Sisters aren’t kidding when they say they go begging in order to provide for their residents. They truly devote all of their skills and talents to find every unique and possible way to make their residents feel loved and at home. They showed us how to be joyful and grateful despite having limited resources. Their overwhelming gratitude towards us was humbling and a great reminder of why we do what we do.
And with this reminder, we will continue to fight for the Sisters in the Court of Law and in the court of public opinion. If the government is willing to do this to the Little Sisters, what will they do to the rest of the faithful? … It is important for the American people to know what is happening to the Sisters and to religious liberty in this country.”
The Becket letter also gave an update on their support of Hobby Lobby, and the 50 amici briefs already filed. Twenty individual states, religious leaders and legal scholars are supporting that challenge to the HHS Mandate, including 107 bipartisan members of Congress representing 34 states. Religious groups are diverse, including the USCCB, the Orthodox Union, a leading Orthodox Jewish association, Church of the Lukumi Babalu Aye, a Santeria church that won a 9-0 Supreme Court victory under the Free Exercise Clause, Hindus, The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Prison Fellowship Ministry, Anglican Church in North America, Coalition of Christian Colleges and Universities, and Democrats for Life. The oral argument is March 25.
This past week the House of Representatives passed the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act” by a vote which included 6 “pro-life” Democrat votes, and 221 yea votes from all Republicans, except one. Ordinarily, we might not notice one breakaway Congressman, except this one happens to be in our backyard. Representative Richard Hanna is from the 22nd Congressional District, east of Syracuse and stretching from Lake Ontario to Binghamton. This relevant local story was surprisingly picked up on January 29th by LifeSiteNews by Dustin Siggins, and with better coverage than many of our local newspapers.
Besides being the only Republican to vote against this pro-life measure, Mr. Hanna was just casting one more in a string of his pro-abortion votes. “He opposed an amendment to defund Planned Parenthood in 2011, and was one of two Republicans who opposed a bill that would allow doctors and hospitals to turn away women seeking an abortion. In June 2013, he opposed a ban on most late-term abortions that passed the House,” LifeSiteNews reported, adding: ”First elected in 2010, Hanna lost the backing of the influential Conservative Party of New York in his re-election campaign in 2012. State Party Chairman Michael Long told LifeSiteNews.com that ‘the Conservative Party of New York is very supportive of the pro-life movement, and therefore does not believe citizens’ tax money should go to pay for abortions. His vote on H.R. 7 is a clear example of why he does not have our endorsement.’”
LifeSiteNews adds: “Hanna’s vote comes less than a week after the Republican National Committee (RNC) urged candidates and all other Republicans to stand for life. Between 40 and 60 members of the RNC attended last week’s March for Life, including Chairman Rience Priebus.” Unfortunately, but not unexpectedly, HR 7 is unlikely to pass in the Senate. If it does, President Obama has threatened to veto it.
Meanwhile, on our Western Front:
1) Buffalo bishop slams Cuomo’s ‘rant’, says NY’s governor is the ‘extremist’
by Thaddeus Baklinski, Jan. 27th (see also VIDEO in the link.)
“Buffalo’s Bishop Richard Malone has shot back after New York Governor Andrew Cuomo suggested “extreme conservatives“, including pro-lifers and pro-family advocates, have no place in … New York. In a video posted on his diocesan website …, Bp. Malone said Cuomo’s “rant” was itself extremist. ‘The governor of New York State actually said there is no place for us, if we are pro-life, in the State of New York,’ says the bishop. ‘I think that comment is the best example of extremism I’ve heard for a long time. At first it was so outrageous it made me laugh. Then it made me deeply concerned,’ he continued. ‘New York State already has the highest rate of abortions in the country,’ Bishop Malone stated. ‘The governor, and those who support him on this position, want to make us the abortion capital of the country.’”
“Cuomo’s statements, in which he also included pro-gun lobbyists as extremists, provoked a strong backlash from pro-life leaders and other conservatives, who took offense at Cuomo’s suggestion that, as quoted in the headline of the New York Post, conservatives should ‘Leave NY!’”
2) Saving St. Ann’s: Source: Buffalo News, reported in CathNewsUSA Jan. 27th.
The following is an opinion piece from the Buffalo News, reported in CathNews USA, which has ramifications not only for the Diocese of Buffalo, but also for a number of other dioceses as well, including Rochester. It is excerpted, but not reworded, leaving its tone intact.
(citing the Buffalo News) “There are times when it pays to take a step back, take a breath and consider the long view. For the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo, which has been on a misguided campaign to erase an important architectural and cultural landmark from Buffalo’s streetscape since 2012, that time is now. Earlier this month, a tenacious group of former parishioners from St. Ann’s Church and Shrine on Broadway won an important legal battle, when a Vatican court decreed that the church could not be deconsecrated – a demotion in religious status that would have allowed the diocese to demolish it.”
“The decree from the Vatican, which knows a little something about the importance of preserving churches as cultural and architectural treasures, should have given pause to the Diocese of Buffalo. At minimum, it should have caused local Catholic leaders to reconsider their plan to tear down the priceless 1886 structure, which grew out of a 2013 analysis that put the cost of repairing the building at as high as $12.4 million. But in a decision that boggles the mind, the diocese appealed the decree, charging ahead with its plan to reduce the church to rubble and leaving its immediate future in limbo….”
“In a release announcing its decision to appeal the Vatican decree, the Diocese of Buffalo paints a picture of a building that is far beyond repair. But former parishioner Martin Ederer, a SUNY Buffalo State professor and expert on the history of Buffalo’s Catholic churches, argued for taking a longer view. ‘We’ve been very clear from our side that we don’t disagree that there’s some significant work that needs to be done there,’ Ederer said. He suggested a gradual, European-style approach to repairing the European-style church, which begins by addressing the most vital safety concerns and then unfolds in phases over a decade or more as the burgeoning downtown development inevitably stretches eastward. ‘I think the diocesan approach is more to lock the church and do all the repairs within the span of a year or two and then reopen it perfect and pristine. I don’t know if there’s a right or wrong answer, but there is a philosophical difference,’ Ederer said. ‘Sometimes projects worth doing are going to take a lot of time.’”
“In response to a request for more information on the philosophy of the diocese, communications manager Kristina M. Connell wrote in an email that ‘the church is still closed due to safety issues/concerns, the diocese is not able to sell the church and the church cannot be razed.’ She declined to provide a copy of the Vatican decree. It doesn’t take an expert to see whose approach makes more sense. It’s a false dichotomy to suggest, as the Diocese of Buffalo has done, that the only viable options are to immediately repair the building or knock it down. It would be much more logical to develop a long-term strategic plan, in tandem with former parishioners like Ederer, to repair the physical state of the church and develop it into a cultural as well as religious destination.”
“In an era of declining population and shrinking parishes, this is sure to be a great challenge. But it is not insurmountable. In fact, if the diocese, the City of Buffalo, the proud supporters of St. Ann’s and the city’s active preservationists teamed up, it could become a model preservation project. ‘At this point, well, the diocese owns it and we’re Catholics, and the bishop is our shepherd and we’re his people,’ Ederer said. ‘We always try to proceed in charity and we hope to continue to do so. That’s always our hope. It’s always our intention and it’s always easier to collaborate on things than to butt heads.’ It would be great to see the diocese come around to that way of thinking, to see things not only in terms of its current fiscal year but in the grand scope of the region’s history. No less powerful an institution than the Vatican, now in the midst of its own renaissance of historical consciousness, has encouraged it to do just that. The advice is worth heeding.”
Comments on this week’s digital Courier? Catholic News Service’s Lead Story?
There seems to be a need for some place to offer commentary on Diocesan Courier articles, since some people have found their comments apparently blocked, perhaps by IP address. We won’t comment on motives for blocking, only on the obvious – if one repeatedly offers comments which just don’t show up on-line, we assume they are being blocked. So to provide a forum for such discussion, this weekly NEWS section might be the place to do so. What do you think? I’ll go first — I found the Catholic News Service article, run on the front page on February 3rd, about Obama’s State of the Union address, to be unrealistic, fawning, politically coercive and naive. Perhaps the writers of the CNS article haven’t noticed, but this is the same administration which is forcing the HHS mandate on Catholics, ramping up abortion, giving away contraceptives, pushing gay marriage, forcing the Church out of adoption services, ignoring conscience rights and harassing home schoolers. Euthanasia is expected next on the agenda.
Obama and his programs can realistically be called the worst persecution of Catholics since the founding of our country. The Catholic praise heaped on his speech, and directly on his words and strategies, is scandalous in my opinion, confuses the faithful, and weakens resolve and encourages more persecution. No wonder this administration acts like it can step all over Catholics. It can and does. Often. Ignoring matters of intrinsic evil to concentrate on prudential judgment areas does a real disservice to those who are unreservedly fighting for the moral teachings of our Church.
At LEAST there should have been a substantive criticism of what Obama DIDN’T say, or meaningful alternative opinions to balance the article. Or how about some recognition that all those banal give-away strategies, advanced for half a century, just don’t work? If they did, the situation would be improving rather than going steadily down hill. But, no, once again the Democratic agenda is front and center as if it were Catholic tenet. Whatever happened to the basics: “Secure our borders. Stop the socialistic redistribution of wealth. Cease undermining our country. Hold people responsible. Put them to work. ” Whatever happened to 2 Thessalonians 3:10: “If any one will not work, let him not eat.” This criticism is about the CNS, which seems to have forgotten its roots, or been victim of a liberal hijacking. Unfortunately, when diocesan media use such materials it only encourages more such biased reporting, and impairs its own credibility.