Thursday, January 31, 2008

Personal Transformation

The personal transformation of public leaders, shared in the most intimate of environments and with those who have also struggled with similar demons, is a powerful message of hope, as is this visit by President Bush.

The visit is also a powerful reminder of the viability of government funding of faith-based human service work.

Bush shares a message of hope during his visit

By David Nitkin and Nick Madigan | Sun reporters
January 30, 2008

President Bush spoke bluntly of his battles with substance abuse during a visit yesterday to a Baltimore job-placement program that has received the kind of federal faith-based funding he wants to boost.

"Addiction is hard to overcome," Bush said yesterday at the Jericho program in East Baltimore, which helps former prisoners lead productive lives. "As you might remember, I drank too much at one time in my life. ... I understand that sometimes you can find the inspiration from a higher power to solve an addiction problem."

Bush was in Baltimore to mark the seventh anniversary of an executive order creating the Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives. In his State of the Union address Monday, he called on Congress to enact into law provisions of the executive order that give faith-based institutions an increased chance at receiving funding.

"Our government should not fear the influence of faith in our society," Bush said at Jericho, which receives $660,000 a year from the Department of Labor's Prisoner Re-Entry Initiative.

Bush met for nearly an hour with several program participants, telling them about the "commonality" they shared by turning to church-based organizations to overcome problems. Bush, who as a young man was arrested for driving under the influence, gave up alcohol at age 40 and became increasingly involved in his church in Texas.

In a room with 11 ex-cons, Bush struck Robert Williams Jr., 35, as someone who had come to terms with his own failings - with divine assistance.

"He mentioned that he hadn't had any alcohol since 1986, and that if it wasn't for the man above it wouldn't have been possible," said Williams, who served 18 months of a five-year prison sentence for drug possession.

Williams, wearing a tie for what he said might be the first time, said it was an honor to have the president speak "to people like us, ex-offenders."

"He said his father was an inspiration to him," Williams, who has two teenage sons and an 8-year-old daughter, said in an interview after Bush had left. "If you believe, you can achieve - that's how I took it."

Williams, who joined Jericho's yearlong program Monday, said he thought it would give him a chance "to seek better opportunities rather than being on the streets and what we're accustomed to."

Jericho, founded in 2006, is administered by Episcopal Community Services of Maryland. It focuses on helping felons who have served time for nonviolent offenses. They come to the program voluntarily.

Another of the participants, Curtis Spears, 50, called Bush's visit "a historical event and a spiritual event."

"It was not a campaign thing or a political thing," said Spears, who most recently served six months for theft and said he has been in and out of jail since he was 11. "He shared some things with us that I would never have expected him to share. He didn't present himself like the president or like a big guy - he was just a guy."

Spears, wearing a lapel pin with the presidential seal, said Bush's visit had helped cement his determination to do things right.

"I was thinking very much straight," he said, "but I was thinking about 80 percent. His visit knocked it up to 150 percent. I'll probably remember this day more than I'll remember my own birthday."

Jericho has served about 365 men, with a recidivism rate about half that of the city average, program officials said. The program also receives money from the Abell Foundation for housing, and from other groups.

Despite the achievements of groups like Jericho, Bush's faith-based effort has its critics. The Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United, which educates on the value of church-state separation, said that Bush's initiative has been a "colossal failure."

Bush's visit caused major traffic tie-ups, leaving motorists frustrated as his motorcade traveled from Fort McHenry to East Baltimore. Police blocked off some streets more than an hour before his arrival.

"Count my business lunch today a victim of the massive traffic jams," said Peter Wayner, a computer programmer and author.

"I had to give up," Wayner said, "because there was no way to get down there."

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Faith, Science & Policy

Most of the important questions around public policy involve an understanding of the human being’s place in the world, and the answers to those questions cannot be found in science, as Pope Benedict XVI clarifies:

Pope says science can't help people discover their true identity
By Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- While the sciences may help people live better in many ways, there is no way they can ever help people discover who they really are, Pope Benedict XVI said.

"No science can say who man is, where he came from or where he is going," the pope said Jan. 28 in a speech to participants in a conference sponsored by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and the French Academy of Sciences.

The academies were discussing changing notions of human identity, a subject the pope said is inextricably tied to the question of human dignity "from the embryonic stage to natural death."

Human identity cannot be defined simply by looking at a person, studying his physical and intellectual abilities or by summarizing his experiences, the pope said.

The human person, he said, is a mystery "marked by otherness: a being created by God, a being in the image of God, a being that is loved and was made to love."

The ability to distinguish right from wrong and the freedom to act on those decisions makes the human person different from any other being, the pope said.

"In exercising his authentic freedom, the person realizes his vocation; he accomplishes it; he gives a form to his deepest identity," he said.

"In our age, when scientific developments attract and seduce because of the possibilities they offer, it is more important than ever to educate the consciences of our contemporaries so that science never becomes the criteria of goodness, and so that man is respected as the center of creation and does not become the object of ideological manipulation," the pope said.


Tuesday, January 29, 2008

America & Catholicism

America was founded by Catholics but settled by Protestants, specifically those Protestants (the Puritans) rebelling from the English Church which had rebelled from Rome several generations before; and the intellectual/spiritual struggle between the Catholics and Protestants for the animating spirit of America continues.

Where the evangelical comes from the conception of America as the “city on a hill’, the Catholic comes from the conception of the primacy of individual dignity, and this Personalism verus Exceptionalism as faith animating factors still drives the struggle.

One recent well-known evangelical to become Catholic (Francis Beckwith, president of the Evangelical Theological Society) provides some insight in an interview in "Christianity Today".

For some time we have been in a Catholic informed period in public leadership as more people are attracted to the real as opposed to the reflection of the real, noted by Wick Allison, another well-known convert in William Buckley’s book, "Nearer, My God: An Autobiography of Faith" :

Wick Allison:

“Five things attracted me in stages to the Catholic Church:

"1. Its understanding of human nature and of human society. I was a student in the sixties when theories about the perfectability of man and schemes for new utopias were the intellectual air one breathed. I thought they were all rubbish. But I didn’t have a clear sense of why I thought that, and as I looked for intellectual support I stumbled across the Church Fathers, or writings about the Church Fathers; their clarity, their appeal to the evidence of the senses and, most of all, to common sense, their insistence on the unchanging nature of creation, all these were to me like drinking from a freshwater spring. I became interested in the religion that seemed to foster such clear thinking.

"2. Its antiquity. I became impressed that such views were held and argued with a consistent vigor over the centuries by all sorts of different people who were Catholic. I became interested in such subjects as the apostolic succession and the Church’s claim that it is the original Church founded by Jesus. Just as any thinking person in the West sooner or later has to confront the claims of Jesus, sooner or later he has to confront this claim of the Catholic Church.

"3. Its universality. I found it interesting, when I read them, that St. Augustine and Cardinal Newman both came to the same conclusion that the Catholic faith was the true Christianity by this fact of its ubiquity. I was raised in a denomination (Methodist) where one felt uncomfortable attending a church service in another part of town, much less another part of the country (in another part of the world was inconceivable). When I started getting interested in the Catholic faith I began to attend Mass. I was only an observer, and I really didn’t understand the significance of what I was observing, but I liked to go, and it was with a start one Sunday that I realized I was going to Mass in a city I was visiting, that I had been to Masses in lots of different places and that nothing much seemed different about any of them. This probably never occurs to a born Catholic but it comes as a shock to the rest of us.

"Part of the universalism is the diversity. In Protestantism a particular church, like a particular magazine or particular retail store, is geared to a demographic segment. It’s where like-minded people gather together to worship, so there’s no surprise that everyone looks, acts, and thinks the same. The first time I attended a Mass a Mexican gardener in his work clothes knelt down beside me.

"At first I was put off; I was raised among people who associated bad smell with unwashed Mexican gardeners. Here was one sitting next to me in church. Then I was dazzled. Of course it had to be this way! In the original Christian church the strictures of St. Paul are still followed: “Here you are neither Greek nor Jew…” Of all the things about the Catholic Church I love, this is the one thing I love the best.

"4. Mary. How does one talk to God? How does one relate to Christ the Savior? For me it was difficult. And so I turned to Mary. To this day I am not at all sure about the theological underpinnings of Mariology, and I suspect I’ll never investigate them. I took the concept of Mary as my Mother to heart from the beginning and, as Dante chose Virgil, made her my own personal guide to the Catholic faith. She has been wonderful!

"5. The Eucharist. This took a little longer. When my brother lived outside London he took me to see the oldest standing church in England, a squat Saxon building made out of stone. We went inside. The building was still set up as a church, with old wooden pews and altar fixtures. But what struck me immediately was how empty the place felt. And then I realized what was missing: the Eucharist. A church is warm; this place was cold. A church is somehow made alive by the Life inside it; this place was dead. It was sad. The chain of worship that should have united me with the sturdy, sixth-century yeomen who built the church had been broken.

"It was that experience that made me understand how important the Real presence had become for me and what my forefathers had given up when they discarded it." (p. 247-249)

Monday, January 28, 2008

The Holy See & World Relations

The Holy See has diplomatic relations of one form or another with 177 countries, the European Union, the Russian Federation and the Palestine Liberation Organization, and as a 2,000 year old entity, operating from a ground of revealed eternal truth, its relations are marked by the concern and love only possible from the sole earthly organization founded by Jesus Christ.

This letter to Kenya reflects that universal truth.


His Eminence Cardinal John Njue
Archbishop of Nairobi
President of the Kenya Episcopal Conference

Your Eminence,

His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI has followed with deep sorrow and concern the violence which has broken out in your country, and he has asked me to address this letter to you, in your capacity as the President of the Kenya Episcopal Conference, in order to express his unity and solidarity with your Brother Bishops and all your countrymen, and to assure you of his prayers that this great tragedy will soon come to an end.

The Pope is close in spirit to all the victims of this violence: the many persons who have lost their lives, often atrociously, the grieving members of their families, the wounded, those who are dispossessed or had to abandon their homes, and all those who are threatened and living in fear. Entrusting those who have died to the Lord’s mercy, he invites you to reach out generously to all those in distress and need.

It is His Holiness’s heartfelt hope that this beloved Nation, whose experience of social tranquility and development represents an element of stability in the entire troubled region, will banish as quickly as possible the threat of ethnic conflict which continues to result in so many crimes in certain parts of Africa.

His Holiness therefore associates himself with the Message My Peace I Give You, which the Bishops of the Catholic Church in Kenya addressed to Christians and to all the people of your country. He pleads for an immediate end to acts of violence and fratricidal conflict. Violence is futile as a means of resolving problems; it only exacerbates them and leads to unprecedented suffering!

The Pope also appeals to political leaders, who are responsible for the common good, and invites them to embark resolutely on the path of peace and justice, since the country needs peace that is based on justice and brotherhood. He encourages them to resolve the present difficulties through dialogue and democratic debate, heeding the practical suggestions which you offered in your Message.

Just a few days ago, at the beginning of the new year, the World Day of Peace was celebrated with the theme: "The Human Family, a Community of Peace". In this context the Holy Father expresses his hope that all Kenyans will work to make their country ever more like a family in which all see themselves as brothers and sisters whose relationships are marked by justice and love. He likewise asks believers to pray tirelessly to God for the great gift of peace. For these intentions he cordially imparts to you, Venerable Brothers, and to all the priests, men and women religious and the faithful a special Apostolic Blessing.

Joining His Holiness in expressing these sentiments, I take this occasion to offer you my warm and respectful greetings.

From the Vatican, 5 January 2008

Yours sincerely in Christ,

Card. Tarcisio Bertone
Secretary of State

Sunday, January 27, 2008

March for Life & the President

The messages that many presidents have given to participants in the January March for life in Washington DC are a wonderful reminder that, even in a nation struggling with its faith’s influence on public policy, respect for life remains a central issue, and this one from President Bush is among the best of them.

President Bush Speaks to March for Life Rally Participants
East Room, White House
9:01 A.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT: Nellie, good to be with you -- we're fellow West Texans who care deeply about the value of human life. Other members of the board of directors for the March for Life, leaders of the pro-life community, and all those who are here with us for the march, it's good to have you here and welcome to the White House. (Applause.)

As I look out at you, I'll see some folks who have been traveling all night to get here -- (laughter) -- you're slightly bleary-eyed. (Laughter.) I'll see others who are getting ready for a day out in the cold. But mostly I see faces that shine with a love for life. (Applause.)

I see people with a deep conviction that even the most vulnerable member of the human family is a child of God. You're here because you know that all life deserves to be protected. And as you begin your march, I'm proud to be standing with you. (Applause.)

Thirty-five years ago today the United States Supreme Court declared and decided that under the law an unborn child is not considered a person. But we know many things about the unborn. Biology confirms that from the start each unborn child is a separate individual with his or her own genetic code. Babies can now survive outside the mother's womb at younger and younger ages. And the fingers and toes and beating hearts that we can see on an unborn child's ultrasound come with something that we cannot see: a soul. (Applause.)

Today we're heartened -- we're heartened by the news that the number of abortions is declining. But the most recent data reports that more than one in five pregnancies end in an abortion. America is better than this, so we will continue to work for a culture of life where a woman with an unplanned pregnancy knows there are caring people who will support her; where a pregnant teen can carry her child and complete her education; where the dignity of both the mother and child is honored and cherished.

We aspire to build a society where each one of us is welcomed in life and protected in law. We haven't arrived, but we are making progress. Here in Washington we passed good laws that promote adoption and extend legal protection to children who are born despite abortion attempts. We came together to ban the cruel practice of partial birth abortion. (Applause.) And in the past year we have prevented that landmark law from being rolled back.

We've seen the dramatic breakthroughs in stem cell research that it is possible to advance medical science while respecting the sanctity of life. (Applause.) Building a culture of life requires more than law; it requires changing hearts. And as we reach out to others and find common ground, we can see the glimmerings of a new America on a far shore. This America is rooted in our belief that in a civilized society, the strong protect the weak. This America is nurtured by people like you, who speak up for the weak and the innocent. This America is the destiny of a people whose founding document speaks of the right to life that is a gift of our Creator, not a grant of the state. (Applause.)

My friends, the time is short and your march is soon. (Laughter.) As you give voice to the voiceless I ask you to take comfort from this: The hearts of the American people are good. (Applause.) Their minds are open to persuasion. And our history shows that a cause rooted in human dignity and appealing to the best instincts of the American people cannot fail. So take heart. (Applause.)

Take heart, be strong, and go forth. May God bless you. (Applause.)

END 9:10 A.M. EST

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Truth Transcends Civility

Christ’s overturning of the moneychangers tables in the Temple was certainly not civil and neither is the necessity to confront the horrors performed daily by the abortion providers and their supporters with civility.

The proper response here is moral outrage, decidedly short of any form of violence, but way beyond civility.

In the protection of absolute and eternal right, which the pro-life forces are doing, everything, short that which is clearly evil, is appropriate for that protection.

Group says civility call would silence pro-life, pro-family movements
By Nancy Frazier O'Brien
Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Responding to the call last November by a group of Catholics for greater civility in American political debate, another group said some messages must never be silenced for the sake of civility.

"Though not all of its signers intend it, we believe the effect of the 'Call for Civility' would be to silence the pro-life and pro-family movements," said a Jan. 21 statement signed by nearly 100 Catholic leaders. "We oppose this effort root and branch."

Calling civility "not the highest -- or the only -- civic virtue," the signers of what they called "A Catholic Response to the 'Call for Civility'" said justice is a greater virtue and that some are asking for civility only because of the abortion issue.

"The lack of public civility comes not from pro-lifers but from those Catholic politicians who support the right to kill innocent life in the womb and those who support defining man-woman marriage out of existence," the statement said. "But some want to treat these politicians differently because they agree with them on important but purely prudential questions like health care and the minimum wage."

The statement opened by questioning whether there would be a call for civility toward politicians who supported segregation, slavery, aggressive war tactics or ignoring the needs of the poor.

"We know the answer to these questions," it said. "There would be a justified public and not very civil call for their removal from public life. Moreover, there would be a public and very justified call for the Catholic hierarchy to do something about them."

The 96 signers of the Jan. 21 statement -- who said they were speaking "not as Democrats or Republicans but as faithful Catholics" -- included university professors, doctors and nurses, authors and journalists, think-tank scholars and others, including Father Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life; Steve Mosher, president of the Population Research Institute; Father Tom Euteneuer, president of Human Life International; and Austin Ruse, president of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Economic Principles

During trying economic times, it is easy to forget the timeless truths—first instituted by God and later ratified by wise economic thinkers—production produces, consumption consumes, and the connection between them is iron-clad, there must be production for there to be consumption, and God is the primary producer.

Hillary and Say's Law
January 23, 2008; Page A25

"But this stimulus shouldn't be paid for," Hillary Clinton said to Tim Russert in a recent interview, when he reminded her that she'd omitted a price tag somewhere.

Shouldn't be?

Say hello to that old ghost from the past we thought banished by Ronald Reagan in the 1980s. It's called "Keynesian Economics."

Ironically, even the brilliant John Maynard Keynes disowned it. After meeting with a group of Washington "Keynesians" in 1944, he said he was the only non-Keynesian in the room. His brainchild, government spending to stimulate demand, had been converted from its originally intended limited application to an all-purpose economic panacea by politicians, academics and journalists.

The fundamental principle of the Keynesians, one that Lord Keynes would have scoffed at, is that government can deliver something for nothing. To be sure, government does transfer income and wealth to favored constituencies, such as rice farmers or ethanol producers, from people who pay taxes. Washington calls that economic stimulus. The costless "stimulus" Sen. Clinton had in mind would be broader, although tilted toward low-income earners. The intent is to pump up consumer demand by showering "tax rebates" on people with a "greater propensity to spend."

But federal efforts to stimulate "demand" have had a dismal record. Herbert Hoover tried in the late 1920s to pump up farm prices and FDR in the 1930s with cartels. The Depression droned on and on. Pearl Harbor forced the U.S. to ramp up production of guns and planes and fight a war. But it was not "demand stimulation" that ended the Depression. It was the urgent need for production. Yet Jimmy Carter came back with the same old remedy in the 1970s when the economy was in the doldrums, mainly because of government spending and regulatory excesses. His $50 tax rebate was a pitiful failure, so he turned to -- what else? -- more government spending.

Some Democrats still think that government stimulation of demand is an antidote to a slowing economy. Yet economics has certain iron laws that the government violates at its peril. One of them has been called Say's Law, because it was first enunciated by the late 18th-century Frenchman Jean-Baptiste Say. He said "products are paid for with products." Or to rephrase the point, "a society can't consume if it doesn't produce." Hillary's assertion that her "stimulus" package shouldn't be paid for denies reality. Somebody has to pay for it. One man's consumption must be paid for by his own or someone else's production.

True, one man's consumption may exceed his production, for a wide variety of reasons that could include his use of credit, or his good luck inheriting a fortune created by a productive parent. Nation-states, too, can consume more than they produce through use of credit; but unless they attract compensating foreign investment, the difference will be adjusted by a decline in their national currency, as is currently the case with the U.S. dollar. The resulting price inflation will then cause a host of other problems, including erosion of the capital base. That is the real problem the U.S. economy faces, and it will not be addressed by throwing someone else's money out of airplanes to the waiting multitudes.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

President Bush’s Middle East Talk

A great talk stressing the importance of freedom and respect for human dignity, so vitally needed in that region, and the sending of troops there is a truly just war that continues to provide the people on the ancient ground of the tyrants, at long last, an opportunity to live free lives.

President Bush Discusses Importance of Freedom in the Middle East
Emirates Palace Hotel
Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

THE PRESIDENT: Doctor Aida, thank you very much for the kind introduction.

Ministers, members of the diplomatic corps, and distinguished guests: I am honored by the opportunity to stand on Arab soil and speak to the people of this nation and this region.

Throughout the sweep of history, the lands that the Arab people call home have played a pivotal role in world affairs. These lands sit at the juncture of three great continents -- Europe and Asia and Africa. These lands have given birth to three of the world's major religions. These lands have seen the rise and fall of great civilizations. And in the 21st century, these lands are once again playing a central role in the human story.

A great new era is unfolding before us. This new era is founded on the equality of all people before God. This new era is being built with the understanding that power is a trust that must be exercised with the consent of the governed -- and deliver equal justice under the law. And this new era offers hope for the millions across the Middle East who yearn for a future of peace and progress and opportunity.

Here in Abu Dhabi, we see clearly the outlines of this future. Beginning with the revered father of this country -- Sheikh Zayed -- you have succeeded in building a prosperous society out of the desert. You have opened your doors to the world economy. You have encouraged women to contribute to the development of your nation -- and they have occupied some of your highest ministerial posts. You have held historic elections for the Federal National Council. You have shown the world a model of a Muslim state that is tolerant toward people of other faiths. I'm proud to stand in a nation where the people have an opportunity to build a better future for themselves and their families. Thank you for your warm hospitality.

In my country, we speak of these developments as the advance of freedom. Others may call it the advance of justice. Yet whatever term we use, the ideal is the same. In a free and just society, every person is treated with dignity. In a free and just society, leaders are accountable to those they govern. And in a free and just society, individuals can rise as far as their talents and hard work will take them.

For decades, the people of this region saw their desire for liberty and justice denied at home and dismissed abroad in the name of stability. Today your aspirations are threatened by violent extremists who murder the innocent in pursuit of power. These extremists have hijacked the noble religion of Islam, and seek to impose their totalitarian ideology on millions. They hate freedom and they hate democracy -- because it fosters religious tolerance and allows people to chart their own future. They hate your government because it does not share their dark vision. They hate the United States because they know we stand with you in opposition to their brutal ambitions. And everywhere they go, they use murder and fear to foment instability to advance their aims.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Seeing God

Exodus 24:9-11 says:

“9 Then Moses and Aaron, Nadab and Abiu, and seventy of the ancients of Israel went up: 10 And they saw the God of Israel: and under his feet as it were a work of sapphire stone, and as the heaven, when clear.

“11 Neither did he lay his hand upon those of the children of Israel, that retired afar off, and they saw God, and they did eat and drink.”

And the Haydock Commentary

"Ver. 11. Saw God, under the appearance of a burning fire, ver. 17. They beheld some rays of his glory, but not distinct similitude, (Deuteronomy iv. 15,) though Cajetan thinks that God appeared in a human form. (Calmet) --- Drink. They made a feast of thanksgiving for so great a favour, and for the preservation of their lives, after beholding such a glorious apparation. (Vatable)"

And who is Cajetan?

New Advent
says a lot about him, here is an excerpt:

Tommaso de Vio Gaetani Cajetan

Dominican cardinal, philosopher, theologian, and exegete; born 20 February, 1469 at Gaeta, Italy; died 9 August, 1534 at Rome. He came of noble stock, and in early boyhood was devout and fond of study. Against the will of his parents he entered the Dominican Order before the age of sixteen. As a student of Naples, Bologna, and Padua he was the wonder of his fellow-students and preceptors. As bachelor of theology (19 March, 1492), and afterwards master of students, he began to attract attention by his lectures and writings. Promoted to the chair of metaphysics at the University of Padua, he made a close study of the prevailing Humanism and Philosophism. Besides engaging in controversy with the Scotist Trombetta, he took a stand against the Averroistic tendencies or teachings of such men as Vernias, Pompanazzi, and Niphus, directing against them his celebrated work, "De Ente et Essentiâ", counted the most subtle and abstruse of his productions. At a general chapter of the order (Ferrara, 1494) Cajetan was selected to conduct the customary defence of theses in presence of the assembled dignitaries. He had to face Pico della Mirandola among others, and such was his success that the students bore him in triumph on their shoulders to receive the felicitations of the master general. He was immediately made master of sacred theology, and for several years expounded the "Summa" of St. Thomas, principally at Brescia and Pavia, to which latter chair he had been called by the Duke of Milan, Ludovico Sforza. After two years he resigned and repaired to Milan, whence in 1500 Cardinal Oliviero Caraffa procured his transfer to Rome. In 1501 he was made procurator general of his order and appointed to the chairs of philosophy and exegesis at the Sapienza. On the death of the master general, John Clérée, 1507, Cajetan was named vicar-general of the order, and the next year he was elected to the generalship. With foresight and ability, he devoted his energies to the promotion of religious discipline, emphasizing the study of sacred science as the chief means of attaining the end of the order. His encyclical letters and the acts of chapters promulgated during his term of office bear witness to his lofty ideals and to his unceasing efforts to realize them. He was wont to say that he could hardly excuse from grevious sin a brother Dominican who failed to devote at least four hours a day to study. "Let others rejoice in their prerogatives", he once wrote, "but the work of our Order is at an end unless sacred doctrine be our commendation." He was himself a model of diligence, and it was said of him that he could quote almost the entire "Summa" from memory. About the fourth year of his generalship, Cajetan rendered important service to the Holy See by appearing before the Pseudo-Council of Pisa (1511), where he denounced the disobedience of the participating cardinals and bishops and overwhelmed them with his arguments. This was the occasion of his defence of the power and monarchical supremacy of the pope. It is chiefly to his endeavors that is ascribed the failure of this schismatical movement, abetted by Louis XII of France. He was one of the first to counsel Pope Julius II to convoke a real ecumenical council, i.e. the Fifth Lateran. In this council Cajetan was deputed by the principal religious orders to defend their common interests. Under the same pontiff he was instrumental in granting to Ferdinand of Spain the first Dominican missionaries who devoted organized effort to the conversion of the natives of America.

On 1 July, 1517, Cajetan was created cardinal by Pope Leo X. He was also appointed Archbishop of Palermo, but opposition on the part of the Sicilian senate prevented his taking possession and he resigned 8 February, 1518. On taking the demand of Charles V, however, he was later made Bishop of Gaeta, but this was after he had been sent in 1518 as Apostolic legate to Germany, bringing the insignia of the cardinalate to Albert of Brandenburg, and a sword blessed by the pope to Emperor Maximilian. On this occasion he was empowered to confer with the latter and with the King of Denmark on the terms of an alliance against the Turks. He also represented the pope at the Diet of Frankfort (1519), and took an active part in the election of Charles V (1519), thereby winning that emperor's friendship and gratitude. While executing these missions, the more serious duty of meeting Luther, then started on his career of rebellion, was assigned to him. Cajetan's theological learning and humane disposition seemed to fit him for the task of successfully treating with the proud and obstinate monk, and Protestants have admitted that in all his relations with the latter Cajetan exhibited a spirit of moderation, that did honour to his lofty character.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The Right to Life

One of the most significant events of the year advocates for the end of one of the most horrible violations of Catholic doctrine, and this cardinal’s homily states the truth we all work for and also see coming, the end of Roe vs Wade.

Here is a site to access local crisis pregnancy groups you can support: and here is one to access Project Rachel local groups

The General Instruction for the Roman Missal states the significance of this day, January 22

"In all the dioceses of the United States of America, January 22 (or January 23, when January 22 falls on a Sunday) shall be observed as a particular day of penance for violations to the dignity of the human person committed through acts of abortion, and of prayer for the full restoration of the legal guarantee of the right to life. The Mass “For Peace and Justice” (no. 22 of the “Masses for Various Needs”) should be celebrated with violet vestments as an appropriate liturgical observance for this day." #373

LIFE-VIGIL Jan-22-2008
Roe v. Wade 'will not stand,' cardinal says at pro-life vigil Mass
By Mark Pattison
Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Roe v. Wade, the 35-year-old Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion virtually on demand, "will not stand," Cardinal Justin Rigali of Philadelphia said in his homily at a Jan. 21 evening Mass that opened the annual National Prayer Vigil for Life.

"Roe v. Wade is incompatible with human dignity," said Cardinal Rigali, chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee on Pro-Life Activities. "It must not stand. It cannot stand. It will not stand."

His declaration drew applause from the packed Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington. It was one of five times that the cardinal's remarks during his homily were met with applause.

Cardinal Rigali, echoing the New Testament reading from First Corinthians for the St. Agnes feast day Mass of Jan. 21, told the packed church that, "instead of choosing 'great' or impressive people in the eyes of the world, God uses the humble, the foolish, the weak and 'those who count for nothing' to accomplish his purposes."

"It is when we least expect it that the tiniest among us can humble the powerful," he said.

One example the cardinal cited was an embryo glimpsed by stem-cell researcher Dr. Shinya Yamanaka. The doctor was quoted in The New York Times as saying, "When I saw the embryo, I suddenly realized there was such a small difference between it and my daughters. ... I thought, we can't keep destroying embryos for our research. There must be another way."

Yamanaka announced in December a technique that successfully turned adult skin cells into the equivalent of human embryonic stem cells without using an actual embryo.

"If God can use a helpless embryo to change a human heart, he can certainly use us with all our limitations and weaknesses," Cardinal Rigali said.

"By seeking holiness and using the gifts God has given you to accomplish his will in your life," he continued, "you are contributing mightily to that kingdom we all long for, where there will be no more crying or pain or death. Certainly no abortion. No euthanasia. No assisted suicide. No deep-freezing of embryos as though they were merchandise. And no destruction of human life in the name of science."

Cardinal Rigali said, "Our value does not come from being so-called 'productive' members of society, but from Emmanuel, God always with us."

He added, "We possess, or will be given, enough time and resources to build a culture of life together."

During his homily, Cardinal Rigali drew a comparison between those attending the Mass and the new Knights of Columbus Incarnation Dome at the basilica, which required 2.4 million pieces of colored glass cut and assembled in Italy and shipped in 346 boxes for five months of installation.

"We too, dear friends, are called to a massive undertaking," Cardinal Rigali said. "This urgent project is well under way, but we know it is far from complete."

God "now sends you out, thousands upon thousands strong, to do your part in forming a vibrant mosaic on behalf of life," he added. "You must be the 'rich color' he created you to be. You must play your role in his overarching design, and be patient with others as they seek to do the same."

The earlier start of the vigil Mass -- one hour earlier than in past years -- appeared to make not one bit of difference in the numbers attending, as people squeezed into every pew, aisle, vestibule and side chapel in the basilica's main church.

The number of participants in the sanctuary was similarly large, as the entrance procession -- featuring seminarians, deacons, priests and more than 40 bishops who were concelebrants -- took 30 minutes to complete.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Jesuit Election

One of the Church’s great orders elected a new Superior General last week, and one thing that struck me about the Jesuit election was how few Jesuits were in priestly garb during the process—perhaps signifying the secular oriented trend afflicting this holy order—and hopefully something the new Superior general will address.

And here is an article about it suggesting he might:

Jesuit working in Asia elected new head of order
By Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service

ROME (CNS) -- Spanish-born Father Adolfo Nicolas, moderator of the Jesuit Conference of East Asia and Oceania, was elected superior general of the Society of Jesus Jan. 19.

The 217 voting delegates to the Jesuit General Congregation elected Father Nicolas, 71, on their second ballot. He succeeds Father Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, 79, who had asked to resign because of his age.

Pope Benedict XVI was informed of the election of Father Nicolas before the Jesuits announced it publicly.

The election came after four days of prayer, silence and quiet one-on-one conversations among the voting delegates, who were chosen to represent the more than 19,000 Jesuits around the world.

Father Nicolas was ordained to the priesthood in Tokyo and is the former Jesuit provincial of Japan. He also had served as director of the East Asian Pastoral Institute in Manila.

Interviewed in December about his hopes for the work of the General Congregation, Father Nicolas said, "I have a feeling, still imprecise and difficult to define, that there is something important in our religious life that needs attention and is not getting it.

"We have certainly been diligent in addressing our problems whenever we have seen them," he said, noting the focus of past General Congregations, "but the uneasiness in the society and in the church has not disappeared."

In the interview, with the Province Express, the newsletter of the Australian Jesuits, he said, "The question for us is: Is it enough that we are happy with our life and are improving our service and ministry? Isn't there also an important factor in the perception of people ('vox populi') that should drive us to some deeper reflection on religious life today?

"How come we elicit so much admiration and so little following?" he asked.

He concluded by telling the newsletter that he hoped the General Congregation would begin "a process of dynamic and open reflection on our religious life that might begin a process of re-creation of the society for our times, not only in the quality of our services, but also and mostly in the quality of our personal and community witness to the church and the world."

Sunday, January 20, 2008

The Pope’s University

The Father is scorned by the rebellious children.

Papal Inquisition
January 17, 2008; Page A16

American universities aren't the only places where politically incorrect speakers are silenced nowadays. This week in Rome, of all places, Pope Benedict XVI found himself censored by scholars, of all people, at one of Europe's most prestigious universities.

On Tuesday the pontiff canceled a speech scheduled for today at Sapienza University of Rome in the wake of a threat by students and 67 faculty members to disrupt his appearance. The scholars argued that it was inappropriate for a religious figure to speak at their university.

This pope's specific sin was a speech he gave nearly 20 years ago in which, they claimed, he indicated support for the 17th-century heresy trial against Galileo. The censoring scholars apparently failed to appreciate the irony that, in preventing the pope from speaking, they were doing to him what the Church once did to Galileo, stifling free speech and intellectual inquiry.

One of Benedict's favorite themes is that European civilization derives from the rapprochement between Greek philosophy and religious belief, between Athens and Jerusalem. In the speech he wasn't allowed to give, the pope planned to talk about the role of popes and universities.

It is a pope's task, he wrote, to "maintain high the sensibility for the truth, to always invite reason to put itself anew at the service of the search for the true, the good, for God." La Sapienza -- which means "wisdom" -- was founded by one of the pope's predecessors in 1303. Another unappreciated irony.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Helping People

George McDonald, a Catholic with a deep committment to public service is showing people that the way out of despair and poverty is one of personal responsibility, work, and sacrifice (traditional Catholic and American virtues) and that is also what works best for the chronic homeless who his Doe Fund in New York appears to be helping better than most.

Helping People
to Help Themselves
A Guide for Donors

“The callus between Napoleon Webb’s right thumb and forefinger was only a little smaller than the smile on his face.

“Tough and thick from mopping floors at the homeless shelter, Webb’s hands were a mark of pride.

“I’m left-handed, and I guess it has something to do with the way I sweep,” he explains, definitely glad to be asked.

“Because of the callus, the middle-aged Webb’s sweeping days were almost over. He was in his last month at the Doe Fund’s [founded by George McDonald] innovative work program, Ready, Willing & Able (RW&A).

“Having finished nine months of training, he would soon transfer to another Doe enterprise, Pest@Rest.

“In 1989, RW&A landed its first city contract under New York Mayor Ed Koch. Since then it has “graduated” 1,500 formerly homeless adults, mostly males with substance-abuse problems who have spent time in prison.

“Private employment is mandatory, and graduates must pay for their own apartment.

“According to Doe, approximately 67 percent are still privately employed a year after graduation. ….

“McDonald’s Doe Fund, created in 1985, now runs three shelters in New York and another in Jersey City. Its supporters include the Pew Charitable Trusts, the Clark Foundation, the Peter Jay Sharp Foundation, the Starr Foundation, the Marvin and Donna Schwartz Foundation, the Carson Family Charitable Trust Fund, and the Achelis and Bodman Foundations.

“The Fund was named after a homeless woman known only as Mama Doe who froze to death on Christmas Eve in 1985 after the police locked her out of Grand Central Station.

“In the early 1980s, McDonald had befriended Doe while spending 700 consecutive nights handing out food to the homeless in and around Grand Central. When he saw her picture in the New York Daily News, she was wearing a scarf he’d given her. “I suddenly realized giving away food and clothing wasn’t enough,” he says. “I had to do more.”

“Educated in Roman Catholic schools, McDonald helped run Senator Ted Kennedy’s 1980 campaign for President.

“Through the 1980s, McDonald repeatedly ran for Congress as a forceful advocate for the homeless. He never won. In 1989 he became a member of Mayor David Dinkins’ Commission on the Homeless, helping chairman Andrew Cuomo write the final report.

“The document—which became quite controversial— concluded that most single adults were in New York homeless shelters not because they lacked housing, but because of drug addiction, mental illness, and other dysfunctional behavior. The report recommended more shelters along the Doe model, balancing “rights and responsibilities.” When Cuomo became U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development under President Bill Clinton, he contracted with Doe to work with him on homelessness.

“What made this country?” asks McDonald rhetorically.

“Whatever your background, you can make it here if God blesses you with the ability. All we offer at Doe and RW&A is opportunity. We serve the hardest of the hard. And it works.

“When they’re finished, all they need is a program called ‘America.’” (pp. 32, 37 & 38)

Friday, January 18, 2008

Socialism & Catholicism

This editorial succinctly analyzes Pope Benedict XVI’s recent encyclical’s reference to Marxism.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008
Faith and policy
Benedict dissects problem with socialism
Fr. Robert Sirico

Pope Benedict XVI has delivered a wonderful -- and oh-so-needed -- reminder of what socialism was (and is), and why it went wrong.

Large swaths of American academia are in denial. So too are major parts of the American and European clerical class, which is still under the impression that socialism represents a gospel ideal that has yet to be tried.

Benedict explains this in his encyclical Spe Salvi("in hope we are saved").

The pope concentrates on Karl Marx in particular. Here was an intellectual who imagined that salvation could occur without God, and that something approximating the Kingdom of God on earth could be created by adjusting the material conditions of man.

History, in Marx's view, was nothing but the crashes and grinding of these material forces. There was no such thing as a fixed human nature.

Marx said the expropriated working classes must take back what is rightfully theirs from the exploiting capitalist classes.

Benedict sums the fundamental error with Marx neatly:

"He showed precisely how to overthrow the existing order, but he did not say how matters should proceed thereafter. He simply presumed that with the expropriation of the ruling class, with the fall of political power and the socialization of means of production, the new Jerusalem would be realized. Then, indeed, all contradictions would be resolved, man and the world would finally sort themselves out."

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Ten Points for the Voter

From one of the United States brightest lights among the nation’s Catholic Bishops, comes this reflection on what it means to participate in the country’s elections.

Better Citizens, More Faithful Catholics
By Charles J. Chaput
Wednesday, January 16, 2008, 6:50 AM

When we speak about a nation’s culture, we mean the entire fabric of its common life, from art and music to sports and schools. But since this is an election year, I want to apply the idea of Catholic witness specifically to our public life as citizens. Here are ten simple points to remember as we move toward November, and then we can take questions and talk about anything you like.

1. George Orwell said that one of the biggest dangers for modern democratic life is dishonest political language. Dishonest language leads to dishonest politics—which then leads to bad public policy and bad law. So we need to speak and act in a spirit of truth.

2. Catholic is a word that has real meaning. We don’t control or invent that meaning as individuals. We inherit it from the gospel and the experience of the Church over the centuries. We can choose to be something else, but if we choose to call ourselves Catholic, then that word has consequences for what we believe and how we act. We can’t truthfully claim to be Catholic and then act as though we’re not.

3. Being a Catholic is a bit like being married. We have a relationship with the Church and with Jesus Christ that’s similar to being a spouse. If a man says he loves his wife, his wife will want to see the evidence in his love and fidelity. The same applies to our relationship with God. If we say we’re Catholic, we need to show that by our love for the Church and our fidelity to what she teaches and believes. Otherwise we’re just fooling ourselves, because God certainly won’t be fooled.

4. The Church is not a political organism. She has no interest in partisanship because getting power or running governments is not what she’s about, and the more closely she identifies herself with any single party, the fewer people she can effectively reach.

5. Scripture and Catholic teaching, however, do have public consequences because they guide us in how we should act in relation to one another. Loving God requires that we also love the people He created, which means we need to treat them with justice, charity, and mercy. Being a Catholic involves solidarity with other people. The Catholic faith has implications for social justice—and that means it also has cultural, economic and political implications. The Catholic faith is never primarily about politics; but Catholic social action, including political action, is a natural byproduct of the Church’s moral message. We can’t call ourselves Catholic, and then simply stand by while immigrants get mistreated, or the poor get robbed, or unborn children get killed. The Catholic faith is always personal but never private. If our faith is real, then it will bear fruit in our public decisions and behaviors, including our political choices.

6. Each of us needs to follow our own conscience. But conscience doesn’t emerge from a vacuum. It’s not a matter or personal opinion or preference. If our conscience has the habit of telling us what we want to hear on difficult issues, then it’s probably badly formed. A healthy conscience is the voice of God’s truth in our hearts, and it should usually make us uncomfortable, because none of us is yet a saint. The way we get a healthy conscience is by submitting it and shaping it to God’s will; and the way we find God’s will is by conforming our lives to the counsel and guidance of the Church that Jesus left us. If we find ourselves disagreeing as Catholics with the teaching of the Church on a serious matter, it’s probably not the Church that’s wrong. The problem is much more likely with us.

7. But how do we make good political choices when so many different issues are so important and complex? The first principle of Christian social thought is: Don’t deliberately kill the innocent, and don’t collude in allowing somebody else to do it. The right to life is the foundation of every other human right. The reason the abortion issue is so foundational is not because Catholics love little babies—although we certainly do—but because revoking the personhood of unborn children makes every other definition of personhood and human rights politically contingent.

8. So can a Catholic in good conscience vote for a pro-choice candidate? The answer is: I can’t, and I won’t. But I do know some serious Catholics—people whom I admire—who may. I think their reasoning is mistaken, but at least they sincerely struggle with the abortion issue, and it causes them real pain. And most important: They don’t keep quiet about it; they don’t give up; they keep lobbying their party and their representatives to change their pro-abortion views and protect the unborn. Catholics can vote for pro-choice candidates if they vote for them despite—not because of—their pro-choice views. And they also need a proportionate reason to justify it.

9. What is a proportionate reason when it comes to abortion? It’s the kind of reason we will be able to explain, with a clean heart, to the victims of abortion when we meet them in the next life—which we certainly will. If we’re confident that these victims will accept our motives, then we can proceed.

10. The heart of truly faithful citizenship is this: We’re better citizens when we’re more faithful Catholics. The more authentically Catholic we are in our lives, choices, actions and convictions, the more truly we will contribute to the moral and political life of our nation.

Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap., is archbishop of Denver. This is from a January 11, 2008, presentation in New Orleans, “Catholic Identity in the American Public Arena.”

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Catholics & Capitalism

The Church has long felt that capitalism—though warning of its inherent capacity for abuse—is the freest economic system yet devised by man.

The Real Key to Development
January 15, 2008

Are the world's impoverished masses destined to live lives of permanent misery unless rich countries transfer wealth for spending on education and infrastructure?

You might think so if your gurus on development economics earn their bread and butter "lending" at the World Bank. Education and infrastructure "investment" are two of the Bank's favorite development themes.

Yet the evidence is piling up that neither government nor multilateral spending on education and infrastructure are key to development. To move out of poverty, countries instead need fast growth; and to get that they need to unleash the animal spirits of entrepreneurs.

The nearby table shows the 2008 rankings but doesn't tell the whole story. The Index also reports that the freest 20% of the world's economies have twice the per capita income of those in the second quintile and five times that of the least-free 20%. In other words, freedom and prosperity are highly correlated.

The 2008 Index finds that while global economic liberty did not expand this year, it also did not contract. The average freedom score for the 157 countries ranked is nearly the same as last year, which was the second highest since the Index's inception. This is somewhat of an achievement considering the rising protectionist and anti-immigration sentiment in the U.S., the uncertainty created by spiking global energy prices, Al Gore's highly effective fear mongering about global warming, and the continuing threat of the Islamic jihad.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

President Bush

The reason I have always admired President Bush, is because his philosophy revolves around Christ, as he so simply answered when asked in a debate who was his favorite philosopher.

That spiritual center places individual human beings as the core of all policy actions and the family as the initial organizing unit of social stability and strength, both eternal truths vital to any leader of a free people.

Would that more leaders followed the Prince of Peace than the prince of Machiavelli.

President Bush Discusses Importance of Freedom in the Middle East
Emirates Palace Hotel
Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

THE PRESIDENT: Doctor Aida, thank you very much for the kind introduction. Ministers, members of the diplomatic corps, and distinguished guests: I am honored by the opportunity to stand on Arab soil and speak to the people of this nation and this region.

Throughout the sweep of history, the lands that the Arab people call home have played a pivotal role in world affairs. These lands sit at the juncture of three great continents -- Europe and Asia and Africa. These lands have given birth to three of the world's major religions. These lands have seen the rise and fall of great civilizations. And in the 21st century, these lands are once again playing a central role in the human story.

A great new era is unfolding before us. This new era is founded on the equality of all people before God. This new era is being built with the understanding that power is a trust that must be exercised with the consent of the governed -- and deliver equal justice under the law. And this new era offers hope for the millions across the Middle East who yearn for a future of peace and progress and opportunity.

Here in Abu Dhabi, we see clearly the outlines of this future. Beginning with the revered father of this country -- Sheikh Zayed -- you have succeeded in building a prosperous society out of the desert. You have opened your doors to the world economy. You have encouraged women to contribute to the development of your nation --and they have occupied some of your highest ministerial posts. You have held historic elections for the Federal National Council. You have shown the world a model of a Muslim state that is tolerant toward people of other faiths. I'm proud to stand in a nation where the people have an opportunity to build a better future for themselves and their families. Thank you for your warm hospitality.

In my country, we speak of these developments as the advance of freedom. Others may call it the advance of justice. Yet whatever term we use, the ideal is the same. In a free and just society, every person is treated with dignity. In a free and just society, leaders are accountable to those they govern. And in a free and just society, individuals can rise as far as their talents and hard work will take them.

For decades, the people of this region saw their desire for liberty and justice denied at home and dismissed abroad in the name of stability. Today your aspirations are threatened by violent extremists who murder the innocent in pursuit of power. These extremists have hijacked the noble religion of Islam, and seek to impose their totalitarian ideology on millions. They hate freedom and they hate democracy -- because it fosters religious tolerance and allows people to chart their own future. They hate your government because it does not share their dark vision. They hate the United States because they know we stand with you in opposition to their brutal ambitions. And everywhere they go, they use murder and fear to foment instability to advance their aims.

Monday, January 14, 2008

People Over Profits

One of the enduring messages about business over the past several years has been the message that people, mission, vision—doing good for others—was more important in becoming great capitalistic companies than a concern for profits.

This message was formulated eloquently through two seminal books, Built to Last & Good to Great , and has grown recently to include the social sector through a monograph Good to Great & the Social Sector , as author Collins (2005) notes:

“That’s when it dawned on me: we need a new language. The critical distinction is not between business and social, but between great and good. We need to reject the naïve imposition of the “language of business” on the social sectors, and instead jointly embrace a language of greatness.

“That’s what our work is about: building a framework of greatness, articulating timeless principles that explain why some become great and others do not….

“Social sector leaders have embraced this distinction—the principles of greatness, as distinct from the practices of business—with remarkable ease.” (pp. 2-3)

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Death Penalty

Though many Catholic clergy (as this article from the Pew Forum notes) perhaps unaware of the history of Church teaching around the death penalty, continue to attempt to link it with the pro-life movement, the overwhelming majority of Catholics understand Catholic teaching supports the use of the death penalty, as stated in the Catechism:

Capital Punishment

2266 The State's effort to contain the spread of behaviors injurious to human rights and the fundamental rules of civil coexistence corresponds to the requirement of watching over the common good. Legitimate public authority has the right and duty to inflict penalties commensurate with the gravity of the crime. The primary scope of the penalty is to redress the disorder caused by the offense. When his punishment is voluntarily accepted by the offender, it takes on the value of expiation. Moreover, punishment, in addition to preserving public order and the safety of persons, has a medicinal scope: as far as possible it should contribute to the correction of the offender.

2267 The traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude, presupposing full ascertainment of the identity and responsibility of the offender, recourse to the death penalty, when this is the only practicable way to defend the lives of human beings effectively against the aggressor.

January 7, 2008
Religious Foes of Capital Punishment See New Momentum
by G. Jeffrey MacDonald
Religion News Service

Stephen Dear has spent the past 10 years waging an uphill battle to abolish the death penalty in the American South. He's had virtually no help from the region's powerful evangelical clergy.

But unlike in years past, Dear has new confidence that within six months, he can round up 100 conservative clergy in North Carolina alone to sign an open letter denouncing the current system of capital punishment.

"Even five years ago, I wouldn't have thought of doing this," said Dear, executive director of People of Faith Against the Death Penalty, based in Carrboro, N.C. "It's easier now to be an abolitionist church leader who opposes the death penalty on biblical grounds and to be accepted for that."

These are hopeful times for death penalty opponents. On Monday (Jan. 7), the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments on whether death by lethal injection violates the constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment. New Jersey recently became the 14th state to ban executions. And Gallup Poll data show public support for the death penalty in murder cases has slipped from a high of 80 percent to 69 percent over the past 13 years.

In this shifting environment, religious leaders who oppose the death penalty are seeking out high-profile venues where they can portray executions as inherently immoral.

But the fate of the death penalty in America, observers say, hinges largely on whether its rank-and-file evangelical and Catholic supporters can be persuaded en masse to reconsider.

"One of the pillars that the death penalty has rested on is religious support in certain areas of the country," says Richard Dieter, executive director of the Washington-based Death Penalty Information Center, which opposes the death penalty. "If that support goes -- and I think it is weakening because people don't support the death penalty as it's being practiced -- then the political leaders have less to turn to for why they support it."

Catholic clergy have been among the most visible -- and influential -- in making the moral case against capital punishment. Catholic bishops provided key testimony, Dieter said, before New Jersey lawmakers voted to abolish the death penalty. Maryland bishops, too, lobbied hard for an abolition bill that died in a state senate committee; lawmakers are expected to try again in the future.

As bishops work statehouse hallways, parish priests are spreading the message that "pro-life" also means anti-death penalty. For more than two years, they've used sermons, bulletin inserts and a DVD titled "A Culture of Life and the Penalty of Death" as part of a campaign to keep the issue in churchgoers' consciousness.

"A parishioner is more likely to oppose the death penalty if his or her pastor is strongly opposed to it," says political scientist Gregory Smith, author of the new book, "Politics in the Parish: The Political Influence of Catholic Priests." Plus, minds can change: A 2005 Zogby poll found that 29 percent of U.S. Catholics had once favored the death penalty but later came to oppose it.

Clergy from mainline Protestant denominations, which have opposed the death penalty for decades, have recently joined hands with pragmatists who fear the death penalty can claim innocent victims or doesn't effectively deter crime.

The National Association of Evangelicals, meanwhile, stands by its 1973 statement favoring the death penalty under certain circumstances, but "the NAE hasn't really been active on the death penalty in recent years," according to Heather Gonzalez, the NAE's association director.

For the moment, the death penalty has support from at least two-thirds of Catholics, evangelicals and mainline Protestants, according to a 2007 survey by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Vatican Diplomatic Work

The Vatican maintains diplomatic relations with most of the countries in the world and as seen from the Pope’s planned meetings with Muslim leaders, plays a large role on the world policy stage.

Pope John Paul II worked closely with President Reagan and Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher to hasten the downfall of communism and many credit the Polish Pope’s role as central to that successful effort.

The Church's Diplomacy Has a Fixed Star: That of the Magi
In the new year address to the diplomatic corps, Benedict XVI took stock of the Vatican's politics in the world. But to the faithful, at the Mass of the Epiphany, he said much more. He preached his theology of history – and here it is
by Sandro Magister

ROMA, January 8, 2008 – The Monday after the Epiphany, in the Sala Regia of the Apostolic Vatican Palace, pope Benedict XVI delivered to the diplomatic corps accredited to the Holy See the traditional inaugural address for the new year.

In addresses like this, observers find a synthesis of the Church's geopolitics. And in effect, the text that the pope read to the diplomats was the painstaking product of the Vatican offices that handle relations with states and with international bodies.

But at the end of the address, the personal touch of Benedict XVI was unmistakable. With these words:

"Diplomacy is, in a certain sense, the art of hope. It lives from hope and seeks to discern even its most tenuous signs. Diplomacy must give hope. The celebration of Christmas reminds us each year that, when God became a little child, Hope came to live in our world, in the heart of the human family."

It's a dizzying leap from the arts of diplomacy to that "little child" who is Jesus. And yet it is entirely here – according to Benedict XVI – that is found the original mission of the Church, its vision of the world, its theology of history.

The pope gave the diplomats just a fleeting glimpse of this grandiose vision.

But twenty-four hours earlier, preaching to the faithful in the homily for the Mass of the Epiphany that he celebrated in the basilica of Saint Peter, Benedict XVI unfolded this vision in its entirety, with a power of synthesis and imagination that is, perhaps, unequalled in his previous preaching.

The Magi who found Jesus by following the star – the pope said – did the opposite of what happened at Babel. The Epiphany is already Pentecost. It is the blessing of God, who saves and reconciles men and nations. In the child of Bethlehem, the "last times" have begun. The Church "fulfills its mission completely only when it reflects in itself the light of Christ the Lord, and so helps the peoples of the world along the way of peace and authentic progress."

The pope delivered the homily in Italian, and the Vatican offices have not provided any translations into other languages. And yet this is a text of capital importance for understanding this pontificate, a text without which the address to the diplomatic corps on Monday, January 7 remains halting and incomprehensible.

Here, from the first word to the last, is the homily of Benedict XVI at the Mass celebrated in Saint Peter's basilica on January 6, 2008, the feast of the Epiphany:

"We all need the courage of the Magi..."

by Benedict XVI

Dear brothers and sisters, today we celebrate Christ, the light of the world, and his revelation to the nations. On Christmas the message of the liturgy resounded in this way: "Hodie descendit lux magna super terram," today a great light descends upon the earth (Roman Missal). In Bethlehem, this "great light" appeared to a small nucleus of persons, a miniscule "remnant of Israel": the Virgin Mary, her husband Joseph, and some shepherds. A humble light, as is the style of the true God; a little flame kindled in the night: a fragile newborn baby, wailing away in the silence of the world... But that hidden, unobserved birth was accompanied by the hymn of praise of the celestial choirs, who sang of glory and peace (cf. Luke 2:13-14).

Thus that light, as modest as its appearance upon the earth was, blazed forth powerfully in the heavens: the birth of the King of the Jews had been announced by the appearance of a star that was visible from very far away. This was the testimony of "some Magi" who had come from the East to Jerusalem shortly after the birth of Jesus, at the time of King Herod (cf. Matthew 2:1-2).

Friday, January 11, 2008

President Bush & the Catholic Archbishop

During a planned visit to the Holy Land, President Bush will be guided by a Catholic Archbishop who might speak to him about the war in Iraq and I hope the archbishop reads up on the just war writings in the Catechism prior to that visit.

BUSH-HOLY Jan-9-2008 (540 words) xxxi
Archbishop says he will speak to Bush about Sermon on the Mount
By Judith Sudilovsky
Catholic News Service

JERUSALEM (CNS) -- A Catholic archbishop scheduled to accompany U.S. President George W. Bush on a tour of the Mount of Beatitudes said he would talk to him about Jesus' Sermon on the Mount.

Melkite Archbishop Elias Chacour of Akko, Israel, said since the holy sites do not speak the importance of the sites must be conveyed by the person introducing them to Bush.

Bush, who arrived in the Holy Land Jan. 9 to discuss peace with Palestinian and Israeli political leaders, was scheduled to visit the ruins at Capernaum, Israel, and the Mount of Beatitudes Jan. 11, the last day of his trip. Both sites were to be closed the entire day.

At the Mount of Beatitudes, one of the Franciscan sisters who run the site and Auxiliary Bishop Giacinto-Boulos Marcuzzo of Nazareth will accompany Bush. Archbishop Chacour was to address the president.

Archbishop Chacour, known for his outspokenness, said he felt Bush was trying "to find a way out" of the failures in his Mideast policy and that his visit was a little too late to accomplish anything given his past history and the short time left of his term.

"The sermon was calling for action in a certain direction," the archbishop said in a telephone interview with Catholic News Service. "This is where Christ was calling on all his followers to get up and do something to get their hands dirty, protect the poor, heal the sick, release the prisoners -- including those in Guantanamo Bay, and I will tell him that."

Depending on the conditions, Archbishop Chacour said he may also speak to Bush about the "blood on his hands."

"I think that if he knew how may people have been killed because of his policies (here, in Iraq and in Afghanistan) he would be very sad," the archbishop said, adding that he "would not hurt his feelings."

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Pope Benedict XVI & Islam, Part One

Update on the planning for perhaps the most important public policy meeting of this era, that between the Pope and Muslim scholars resulting from the Regensburg address.

01/09/2008 11:44
Benedict XVI's improbable dialogue with 138 Muslim scholars
by Samir Khalil Samir, sj

Vatican representatives and Muslim thinkers will meet in Rome next March to hammer out a few guidelines for dialogue between Christians and Muslims. There is a risk of hollowness or falsity if the dialogue addresses theology alone, and not the concrete problems of the two communities.

The masterful lecture by the pope in Regensburg, so widely criticised by much of the Muslim (and also Western) world, is producing positive results in the very domain of dialogue with the Muslim world. Following the address in Regensburg (September 12, 2006), 38 Muslim scholars sent an initial letter in response (October 13, 2006), and a year later a second letter (signed by 138 scholars, whose number has since grown to 216) in an effort to find common ground of collaboration between Christians and Muslims.

In his turn, last November 19 Benedict XVI responded to the letter of the 138, opening the way to possible collaboration in various areas. A few weeks ago (December 12, 2007), in a letter to Cardinal Bertone, Jordanian prince Ghazi bin Muhammad bin Talal agreed to lay the groundwork for collaboration: between February and March, personalities of the Vatican curia and of the Islamic world will meet in Rome to establish the procedures and subject matter of this dialogue. But it's possible that all this work will go right down the drain. It seems to me, in fact, that the Muslim personalities who are in contact with the pope want to dodge fundamental and concrete questions, like human rights, reciprocity, violence, etc, to ensconce themselves in an improbable theological dialogue "on the soul and God". Let's take a closer look at the problems that have emerged.

1. The Letter of the 138: "A Common Word between Us and You"

The letter of the 138 is full of goodwill: the Islamic scholars say they want to look "at what unites" Islam, Christianity, and the other religions. They have even made an effort to express themselves in "Christian" terms, saying that the heart of religion is "loving God and neighbour". Islam does not express itself in this manner. This is an expression of the Old Testament, resumed by Jesus in a more realistic, concrete, and universal sense in the parable of the good Samaritan (Luke 10:23-37). Jesus says two important things: first of all, he ranks the first commandment as "equal" to the second (and this was not so clear even in the Old Testament); in the second place, he clarifies who the neighbour is - he is not the one "closest to me" (as expressed by the Muslim intellectuals in the Arabic version of their letter, using the word jâr, close), but the one to whom I make myself "neighbour". The Gospel, in fact, overturns the question of the scribe ("who is my neighbour?") and asks who behaved as a "neighbour" to the dying man. The neighbour is therefore every human person, including one's enemy, as the Samaritan was for the Jews.

In the Gospel one often finds parables in which Jesus overturns common values: the Pharisee and the tax collector, the pagans with respect to the Jews, the child with respect to the adult.

The greatest danger of the letter of the 138 is in its silences, in what it does not address: there is no reference, for example, to the problems of the international community in regard to the Muslim community, or to the real problems within the Muslim community. The Ummah finds itself at a very delicate point, in a phase of widespread extremism and radicalism among a significant segment of Muslims, which is a form of exclusivity: those who do not think as we do are our enemies. This is evident every day in the Muslim press, and we see violence and attacks in Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan, among Sunni and Shiite Muslims, or against Christians or Jews, or simply against tolerant Muslims . . . and they do exist!

The danger for Islam is not violence: this is present all over the world and in all religions and ideologies. The danger is that of justifying all this through religion. Even certain forms of violence against women and their rights are justified using the Qur'an. For example, I know a Muslim woman who cannot get a divorce, because divorce is the husband's right; she can only ask for the favour of being repudiated by him. He, on the basis of the Qur'an, can also remarry (up to four wives) and make a new life for himself, but the woman, who lives apart, does not have this right. She, a young wife, complained to me because "there is no justice". These situations, in which one uses the Qur'an or sharia law to exclude the other, are frequent.

II. The pope's response: four areas of collaboration

In the reply from the pontiff - sent through Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Vatican secretary of state - Benedict XVI expresses "deep appreciation" for the positive spirit that inspired the letter of the 138, and for the appeal for joint action to promote peace in the world.

Having said this, the pope suggests seeking what the two sides have in common. But the elements are not identical. First of all, he makes an annotation: they should seek what they have in common "Without ignoring or downplaying our differences". This means that for the pope, there are differences between the two communities that must be taken into account, not hidden: we can be brothers and different, brothers who disagree. This is a golden rule in the area of religion and dogma.

In the letter of the 138, it is suggested that what is held "in common" is faith in one God. The Islamic thinkers cite the Qur'an itself when they say "Come to a common word between us and you", which requires that nothing be placed alongside of God. But this is addressed to Christians, who place Jesus Christ next to God.

For the pope, the "things in common" exist, but differences exist as well, and these must be kept in mind. The pope lists three of these "common things":

- belief in the one God, the provident Creator;
- God, the universal Judge "who at the end of time will deal with each person according to his or her actions"[1];
- we are called "to commit ourselves totally to him and to obey his sacred will"[2].

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

The Death Penalty

I would agree with having this option, as noted in an earlier post

January 5, 2008
Justices to Decide if Rape of a Child Merits Death

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court agreed on Friday to decide whether the Constitution allows the death penalty for the rape of a child.

The justices acted only three days before a scheduled argument in another important death penalty case, on the standard for judging whether chemicals used to administer lethal injections make that method of execution unconstitutionally cruel.

The new case, from Louisiana, is likely to be argued in April, meaning that during the course of its current term, the Supreme Court will be examining both the most common method of execution and a categorical question about which crimes are appropriate for the death penalty.

No one has been executed in the United States for a crime other than murder since 1964. Of some 3,300 inmates of death row today, only two are facing execution for an offense that did not involve a killing. Both are on Louisiana’s death row. The Supreme Court agreed to hear an appeal from one of them, Patrick Kennedy, who was convicted and sentenced to death in 2004 for raping his 8-year-old stepdaughter.

In 1977, as part of its wide-ranging re-examination of capital punishment, the Supreme Court prohibited the death penalty for rape. While that ruling, Coker v. Georgia, did not specifically discuss the rape of a child — the victim, although only 16, was a married woman who was raped at knifepoint — the decision has been widely understood as limiting the death penalty to the crime of murder.

In the principal opinion in the Coker case, Justice Byron R. White wrote that “we have the abiding conviction that the death penalty, which is unique in its severity and irrevocability, is an excessive penalty for the rapist who, as such, does not take human life.”

But in recent years, a handful of states, responding to public outcries about sex crimes against children, have amended their death penalty statutes to make the rape of a child a capital offense. Louisiana was the first to do so, amending its death-penalty law in 1995 to apply to the rape of a child under the age of 12. The other states with similar provisions are Georgia, Montana, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Texas. Unlike Louisiana, most limit the death penalty to defendants who were previously convicted of sexual assault against a child.

Monday, January 7, 2008

France & The Church

France, the country that was perhaps the strongest in medieval Europe in its Catholic faith—“eldest daughter of the Church”—and then most strongly repudiated it since their revolution—even confiscating Church property and driving priests out— shows signs of returning to it’s historic faith in a major way, and perhaps leading Europe out of its long darkness within the Marxist embrace in the process.

Sarkozy and Secularism
By Robert Royal
Thursday, January 3, 2008, 7:34 AM

A few years ago, I was in the middle of giving a lecture in Paris about religious persecution and martyrdom during the twentieth century when a woman stood up and shouted, “The French state has been repressing and killing Christians ever since the Revolution—and it has to stop!” Her outburst had more to do with her own pent up frustration than anything in particular that I was saying, but it immediately struck me that she had given voice to a feeling of religious disenfranchisement in France that we almost never hear about. Nicolas Sarkozy did not exactly express the same frustration when he went to Rome on December 20, but when the president of the French Republic makes an extended plea for the public affirmation of the value of faith in a high-profile venue, some equally unexpected cri de coeur has just come over the European horizon.

A few French friends have tried to convince me that there was nothing new in Sarkozy’s speech at the Palace of St. John Lateran, where he was installed as an honorary canon, which he had not already said in his 2005 book, La République, les religions, et l’esperance . Others tell me that if he even succeeds in half of what he wants to do, it will be virtually a nouveau regime in France. My reaction falls somewhere in between. When I read Sarkozy’s book last year, I was struck by two things: his belief that the French have to learn to talk about religion in public again and his willingness even to raise questions about the socialist inspired antireligious laws of 1905 that abolished some religious orders and confiscated religious property. He backed off a bit from the second point in his speech at the Lateran Palace. (It’s very clear and winsomely delivered, so even if your French is modest, you may want to listen to it yourself. For an English translation, click here.) But his position is still strong beyond all expectation.

Earlier the same day, Sarkozy met for twenty-five minutes with Benedict XVI and the Holy See’s secretary of state. One of the first things he said to them was that the Church in France has “to be more courageous” in intervening publicly because the French Republic has need of people of faith. This was already quite daring, but he did not stop there. Remarkably, in both events, Sarkozy openly expressed his agreement with the pope’s view that a Europe without faith is a Europe without hope—and maybe without a future. And, perhaps even more notably, he made a powerful case that the present and future depend on a more inclusive embrace of the past.

He started out by reminding his listeners that almost every French leader since Henri IV has been made a honorary canon of St. John Lateran (as he was on December 20) and, in a series of brilliant moves, showed how this was just one indication of France’s concrete roots in Christianity, specifically in the Catholicism of the majority of the French going back to Clovis in the fourth century. Christianity helped create France, and France helped Christianize Europe. Sarkozy even invoked the old formula for France—“eldest daughter of the Church”—though an unprejudiced outside observer might be justified in thinking that France in recent decades has bid fair to become the eldest ex-daughter of the Church.

Le Monde, France’s moral equivalent of the New York Times, was perceptibly nervous about the discourse at the Lateran, viewing it as Sarkozy’s ambitious political attempt to put an end to the “war between the two Frances” (clerical and revolutionary) and to reconcile the lay Republic and the Catholic Church. Sarkozy himself sees things a bit differently. If you believe him, France has already changed a great deal without his intervention. The French are a lot more diverse in their religious and philosophical beliefs than they were even a few decades ago, but they are also moving away from the negative laicités of the past, which “for long, long, too long, undervalued the importance of spiritual aspirations.” It even tried for a while to sever France completely from its Christian roots, but “it shouldn’t have.” In Sarkozy’s telling, the example of good and humble priests who have served the people quietly in the past century has already overcome the anticlericalism of the past. In particular, men like Cardinal Lustiger, the archbishop of Paris whose origins were Jewish and who died just last year, “by his life, writings, and, permit me to say, the mystery of his conversion,” have made a great difference in modern French society.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

The Call to the Apostolate

Coming out of Vatican II it is the call to each Catholic to embrace an apostolate, as defined in the Catechism:

Apostolate: “The activity of the Christian which fulfills the apostolic nature of the whole Church by working to extend the reign of Christ to the entire world. (CCC. Glossary, p. 867)

“The whole Church is apostolic, in that she remains, through the successors of St. Peter and the other apostles, in communion of faith and life with her origin: and in that she is “sent out” into the whole world. All members of the Church share in this mission, through in various ways. “The Christian vocation is, of its nature, a vocation to the apostolate as well.” Indeed, we call an apostolate “every activity of the Mystical Body” that aims “to spread the Kingdom of Christ over all the earth.”” (CCC, Section 863)

"Millions of people, who, spurred on by the social Magisterium, have sought to make that teaching the inspiration for their involvement in the world. Acting either as individuals or joined together in various groups, associations and organizations, these people represent a great movement for the defense of the human person and the safeguarding of human dignity. Amid changing historical circumstances, this movement has contributed to the building up of a more just society or at least to the curbing of injustice." (Pope John Paul II, Centesimus Annus, Introduction)

And here is a wonderful story of one man’s apostolate.

Volunteer, 80, keeps Delaware parish looking spiffy
By Mike Lang
Catholic News Service
January 3, 2008

WILMINGTON, Del. (CNS) -- Isidro "Pedro" Colon retired from the city of Wilmington five years ago after years of cleaning the streets of trash and snow. No one would have blamed him had he kicked back, put his battle-tested feet up and relaxed during retirement.

No one, perhaps, except Colon himself.

Colon wanted no part of lazy mornings and daytime television. He had time and talents to offer. So he approached officials at his longtime parish, St. Paul's in Wilmington. They were more than happy to welcome him aboard.

"One day he asked if he could work here as a volunteer. I said anyone is welcome here," said Deacon Angel Rivera, who does maintenance at St. Paul's. "He didn't want to stay home and watch TV. So he thought the best place to start was here at the church."

Colon, 80, can be found virtually every morning on the grounds of St. Paul's or a nearby street, doing his part to make his little corner of the world a bit more pleasant. He works year-round, picking up trash, weeding and shoveling snow. He comes in early, sometimes before 7 a.m., works three or four hours, walks to his home half a block from the church, and returns in the afternoon to continue his work.

"The church appreciates what he's doing. We wish more people would help. You have to pay people to do what he's doing. That takes a good chunk out of the collection," Deacon Rivera said.

Some people try to make Colon's work more difficult by throwing trash in his direction as they walk or drive by, the deacon said, but for the most part he is treated with respect.

He doesn't stop with the parish grounds, either. Colon often will walk from St. Paul's up Fourth Street to Franklin Street, over one block to Third and back down the hill to St. Paul's.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Pope Benedict XVI & Islam

This might possibly be one of the most important discussions in the coming year regarding global public policy, that between the Pope and Muslim leaders, which has grown out of the controversy surrounding the remarks Pope Benedict made during the Regensburg talk.

The Cardinal Writes, the Prince Responds. The Factors that Divide the Pope from the Muslims

The contrast is not only one of faith. It also concerns the achievements of the Enlightenment: from religious freedom to equality between men and women. The Catholic Church has made these its own, but Islam has not. Will they be able to discuss this, when Benedict XVI and the Muslims of the letter of the 138 meet together?

by Sandro Magister

ROMA, January 2, 2008 – For the Vatican, the new year brings a meeting that cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, president of the pontifical council for interreligious dialogue, has pre-announced as "historic," in an interview with "L'Osservatore Romano" on December 30.

The meeting is scheduled for the spring. And it will take place between Benedict XVI and a delegation of the 138 Muslim authors of the open letter "A Common Word between Us and You" addressed to the pope and to other Christian leaders last October.

In addition to the pope, the Muslim representatives will also meet with other Vatican authorities, and will hold working sessions at institutes like the PISAI, the Pontifical Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies.

What cleared the way for this event was the exchange of letters that took place in November and December, between Benedict XVI – through the cardinal secretary of state, Tarcisio Bertone – and an authoritative promoter of the letter of the 138, the prince of Jordan Ghazi bin Muhammad bin Talal.

As anticipated by the two letters, in February or March three representatives of the 138 will travel to Rome to arrange the meetings.

The three will include the only Italian among the 138, Yahya Sergio Yayhe Pallavicini, imam of the al-Wahid mosque in Milan, and the Libyan theologian Aref Ali Nayed, an author very familiar to the readers of www.chiesa, an instructor at Cambridge and in the past a teacher at the PISAI.

During that same month of February, cardinal Tauran will visit Al-Azhar University in Cairo, the most important university of Sunni Islam. And he will meet with the World Islamic Call Society of Libya, and with the Royal Institute for Inter-Faith Studies in Amman.

In the interview with "L'Osservatore Romano" mentioned above, Tauran said he is "very confident" and appreciated the "considerable openness" being demonstrated by important sectors of the Muslim world.

But there are still great difficulties to be overcome. The exchange of letters between cardinal Bertone and the prince of Jordan emphasizes that the two sides are not at all in agreement on one essential point in particular: on the topics to put at the center of the encounter.

The letter from cardinal Bertone, dated November 19 and made public about ten days later, proposes three main topics of discussion: "effective respect of the dignity of every human person"; "objective awareness of the other's religion"; "'a common commitment to promoting mutual respect and acceptance among the younger generation."

In commenting on Bertone's letter, the Egyptian Jesuit Samir Khalil Samir – who is one of the scholars of Islam most closely heeded by the pope, together with another Jesuit, Christian W. Troll, of Germany – emphasized that the letter of the 138 is not clear on the first of these topics, and that instead some of its signatories say that they are not at all interested in talking about freedom of conscience, about equality between men and women and between believers and nonbelievers, about the distinction between religious and political power – in short, about the achievements of the Enlightenment that the Catholic Church has made its own, but that Islam is still far from accepting.

For its part, the letter from the prince of Jordan to cardinal Bertone, dated December 12 and likewise made public about ten days later, insists that the Catholic-Muslim dialogue be primarily "theological" and "spiritual," and that it have as its object – more than aspects defined as "extrinsic," like the commandments of the natural law, religious liberty, and equality between men and women – the "Common Word between Us and You" which is at the center of the letter of the 138, or the unicity of God and the twofold commandment of love of God and neighbor.

There is no lack, in the letter from the prince of Jordan, of argumentative jabs against the Vatican's position. The first jab is where the letter cites the communiqué of some Muslim delegates at the interreligious meeting in Naples from October 21-23 2007, organized by the Community of Sant'Egidio: a communiqué written in protest against some declarations made in those days by cardinal Tauran, on the near impossibility of a theological discussion with Islam, and against Benedict XVI's silence, while visiting Naples, over the letter of the 138.

The second comes at the end of the letter, and is aimed against "some recent pronouncements emerging from the Vatican and from Vatican advisors." Here the target is again cardinal Tauran, together with the Islamologists Samir and Troll. A critical analysis of the letter of the 138, written by Troll, was published in "La Civiltà Cattolica," with the authorization of the secretary of state, during the same days when cardinal Bertone had written to the prince of Jordan, in the name of the pope.

Returning to Benedict XVI, the dialogue he wants with Islam is still as he explained it in a passage of his pre-Christmas address to the Roman curia on December 22, 200:

"In a dialogue to be intensified with Islam, we must bear in mind the fact that the Muslim world today is finding itself faced with an urgent task. This task is very similar to the one that has been imposed upon Christians since the Enlightenment, and to which the Second Vatican Council, as the fruit of long and difficult research, found real solutions for the Catholic Church.

"It is a question of the attitude that the community of the faithful must adopt in the face of the convictions and demands that were strengthened in the Enlightenment.

"On the one hand, one must counter a dictatorship of positivist reason that excludes God from the life of the community and from public organizations, thereby depriving man of his specific criteria of judgment.

"On the other, one must welcome the true conquests of the Enlightenment, human rights and especially the freedom of faith and its practice, and recognize these also as being essential elements for the authenticity of religion.

"As in the Christian community, where there has been a long search to find the correct position of faith in relation to such beliefs – a search that will certainly never be concluded once and for all –, so also the Islamic world with its own tradition faces the immense task of finding the appropriate solutions in this regard.

"The content of the dialogue between Christians and Muslims will be at this time especially one of meeting each other in this commitment to find the right solutions. We Christians feel in solidarity with all those who, precisely on the basis of their religious conviction as Muslims, work to oppose violence and for the synergy between faith and reason, between religion and freedom."