28 gennaio 2010

Matthews' remark exposes complexity of 'transcending race'

By JESSE WASHINGTON, AP National Writer – Thu Jan 28, 5:09 pm ET


Five little words — "I forgot he was black" — have exposed a contradiction in the idea of a post-racial nation.

The comment came from MSNBC host Chris Matthews after President Barack Obama's State of the Union speech Wednesday.

"He is post-racial, by all appearances," the liberal host said on the air. "I forgot he was black tonight for an hour. You know, he's gone a long way to become a leader of this country, and past so much history, in just a year or two. I mean, it's something we don't even think about."

The staunch Obama supporter meant it as praise, but it caused a rapid furor, with many calling the quote a troubling sign that blackness is viewed — perhaps unconsciously — as a handicap that still needs to be overcome.

Apparently, Matthews forgot to ask black people if they WANT to be de-raced.

"As a black American I want people to remember who I am and where I come from without attaching assumptions about deficiency to it," said Dr. Imani Perry, a professor at Princeton's Center for African American Studies.

Although she thought Matthews was well-intentioned, she found his statement troubling, because "it suggests that if he had remembered Obama's blackness, that awareness would be a barrier to seeing him as a competent or able leader."

"The ideal is to be able to see and acknowledge everything that person is, including the history that he or she comes from, as well as his or her competencies and qualities, and respect all of those things," Perry said.

That's a very different vision of "transcending race" — a consistent theme of Obama's political history — than one in which race has disappeared altogether.

"It's important for us to remember that everyone has a race," Blair L.M. Kelley, an associate professor of history at North Carolina State University. "When you say we're going to transcend race, are white people called on to transcend their whiteness?"

"When (black people) transcend it, what do we become? Do we become white?" she asked. "Why would we have to stop being our race in order to solve a problem?"

Matthews didn't get that far down the post-racial road on Wednesday night. But his comments instantly exploded online, especially on Twitter. Ninety minutes later, he clarified his comments on the air.

"I'm very proud I did it and I hope I said it the right way," Matthews said, noting that he grew up in the racially fraught 1960s.

"I walked into the room tonight, you could feel (racial tension) wasn't there tonight and that takes leadership on his part, to get us beyond those divisions, really national leadership," Matthews said.

"I felt it wonderfully tonight, almost like an epiphany. I think he's done something wonderful. I think he's taken us beyond black and white in our politics."

Plenty of people supported Matthews on Thursday, saying his sentiments, although poorly worded, reflected the view that all Americans are now equal.

But for many blacks, it was hard to forget the word "forgot."

Kevin Jackson, a black conservative and author of "The BIG Black Lie," hews to the same philosophy as the likes of Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck — that people should be judged on their merits, not their color.

Yet Jackson does not want his blackness to be forgotten.

"Absolutely not," he said. "Because we have an amazing history."

He pointed out that if Don Imus had made the same comment as Matthews, "everybody on God's green earth would be out to hang him by his you-know-what."

Sophia Nelson, a black attorney, former lobbyist and founder of PoliticalIntersection.com, which focuses on politics, race and gender, said she has been offended by people calling her articulate and intelligent: "That's saying that people who look like me normally aren't those things."

She said Matthews' comment showed the same unconscious bias as those by Vice President Joe Biden when he was still a senator that Obama was "clean" and "articulate," and Sen. Harry Reid's saying that Obama was more electable because he was light-skinned and lacking a "Negro dialect."

"Matthews was saying exactly what he meant," Nelson said. "He forgot he was black because he's so articulate and so compelling."

Another common interpretation of Matthews' comment was that if he forgot Obama was black during his speech, it must be part of his thinking the other 23 hours of the day.

Which is not necessarily a bad thing, said Kelley, the North Carolina State professor.

"Obama is forcing people to see blackness," she said, "in a way they haven't had to in the past."


Jesse Washington covers race and ethnicity for The Associated Press. He can be reached at jwashington(at)ap.org or http://www.twitter.com/jessewashington.

25 gennaio 2010

Pius XII and objectivity

Carl Olson | Ignatius Insight | Friday, January 22, 2010

I was reading a couple of articles this morning about responses to Pope Benedict's recent visit to the Great Synagogue in Rome, and was struck by this, from The Catholic Herald:

Although Rabbi Rosen was critical of the way in which certain crisis situations had been dealt with by the Curia (and believes the Pope must take responsibility for this) he says it is unfair to perceive Pope Benedict's pontificate as a step backwards. He says, however, that it was easy to see how even educated people come to that conclusion, citing the beatification of Pius XII, the Lefebvrists and the liberation of the older form of the Latin Mass among other instances, but these would ultimately not affect the substance of the dialogue. He says that not one of these was an initiative put forward by Pope Benedict.

Really? That is a remarkable statement, one I have a very hard time believing is accurate. (It bears resemblance to the claims that a beleaguered Paul VI issued Humanae Vitae because of nefarious conservatives in the Vatican.) And then this:

Rabbi Rosen says the issue of Pius XII goes back many years. "We should ask ourselves why it has taken so many years for the Vatican to approve his status of heroic virtues - surely out of caution and sensitivity to the Jewish community. Pius XII belongs to the most traumatic period in the history of the Jewish people and it is inappropriate to expect Jews not to be upset about the issue, that anybody who did not lay down his life in protest could be considered a saint is almost anathema to Jews."

He says that while it caused angst for some people, "it is not something which would torpedo the process for both parties. And on this period in history, we shall have to learn to agree to disagree. It's unfair to expect Jews to be objective about that period of their history just as its unfair to expect Catholics to be objective about popes."

First, this remark: "... it is inappropriate to expect Jews not to be upset about the issue, that anybody who did not lay down his life in protest could be considered a saint is almost anathema to Jews." One question that comes to mind immediately: "Is it better to die dramatically but foolishly, or to quietly go about saving lives and then be damned as an anti-Semitic 'do-nothing' in years to come?" The more I read about the criticisms of the "silence" of Pope Pius XII, the more I am convinced that they are quite often driven by the modern, obsessive belief that dramatic symbolic gestures are morally superior to mundane, concrete action. Put another, we live in age in which style and image tends to trump—often shamelessly—prudent action and moral rectitude. I get the impression that even if there is irrefutable proof Pius XII saved, say, 700,000 to 800,000 Jews, that would mean almost nothing because it did not include the appropriate level of eye-catching public demonstration and dramatic symbolic gestures. Sure, he might have saved a lot of lives, but he did too quietly! But, as Dimitri Cavalli summarizes in a short piece, "Much-maligned pontiff," published today in the Israeli newspaper, Haaretz:

During the war, the pope was far from silent: In numerous speeches and encyclicals, he championed human rights for all people and called on the belligerent nations to respect the rights of all civilians and prisoners of war. Unlike many of the pope's latter-day detractors, the Nazis understood him very well. After studying Pius XII's 1942 Christmas message, the Reich Central Security Office concluded: "In a manner never known before the pope has repudiated the National Socialist New European Order ... Here he is virtually accusing the German people of injustice toward the Jews and makes himself the mouthpiece of the Jewish war criminals." (Pick up any book that criticizes Pius XII, and you won't find any mention of this important report.)

In early 1940, the pope acted as an intermediary between a group of German generals who wanted to overthrow Hitler and the British government. Although the conspiracy never went forward, Pius XII kept in close contact with the German resistance and heard about two other plots against Hitler. In the fall of 1941, through diplomatic channels, the pope agreed with Franklin Delano Roosevelt that America's Catholics could support the president's plans to extend military aid to the Soviet Union after it was invaded by the Nazis. On behalf of the Vatican, John T. McNicholas, the archbishop of Cincinnati, Ohio, delivered a well-publicized address that explained that the extension of assistance to the Soviets could be morally justified because it helped the Russian people, who were the innocent victims of German aggression.

Throughout the war, the pope's deputies frequently ordered the Vatican's diplomatic representatives in many Nazi-occupied and Axis countries to intervene on behalf of endangered Jews. Up until Pius XII's death in 1958, many Jewish organizations, newspapers and leaders lauded his efforts. To cite one of many examples, in his April 7, 1944, letter to the papal nuncio in Romania, Alexander Shafran, chief rabbi of Bucharest, wrote: "It is not easy for us to find the right words to express the warmth and consolation we experienced because of the concern of the supreme pontiff, who offered a large sum to relieve the sufferings of deported Jews ... The Jews of Romania will never forget these facts of historic importance."

In a much longer article published in the October 2000 edition of Inside the Vatican, in which he detailed Pius XII's opposition to the Third Reich's pogroms against the Jews, Cavalli wrote:

Many Catholics have been puzzled by the fact that many of the same Jewish organizations that condemn Pius XII today once never passed up an opportunity to praise him. What could have caused the vast shift in Jewish attitudes toward the late Pope?

Some Catholic writers point to the influence of Rolf Hochhuth's 1963 play, The Deputy, which presented the Pope as a cold-blooded Nazi collaborator who did nothing as six million Jews went to their death. However, allegations that the Vatican collaborated with the Nazis did not begin with Hochhuth. While Pius XII was still alive, anti-Catholic authors like Avro Manhattan (The Vatican in World Politics, 1949) and Paul Blanshard (American Freedom and Catholic Power, 1949) condemned his actions during World War II. Although Manhattan and Blanshard found isolated audiences in some Protestant and fundamentalist Christian circles, many Jews continued to have a favorable impression of the wartime Pope.

Other cultural shifts in society ensured that Hochhuth's demonic portrait would become accepted as conventional wisdom. Shortly after Hochhuth's play made its appearance, the movement known as the New Left marched across college campuses. The New Left was more than a political movement; it was also a cultural movement whose members seized influential positions in the universities, the media and the entertainment industry. The Catholic Church strongly opposed the New Left's social agenda of legal abortion, contraception and sexual promiscuity. Activists needed a weapon to undermine the Catholic Church's moral authority and influence. "The silence of Pius XII" provided such a powerful weapon, and it was used at every possible opportunity. What right would a Church that failed to oppose the mass murder of Jews have to teach morality to anyone? A few years ago, the US Conference of Catholic Bishops criticized US Surgeon General Dr. Jocelyn Elders for her pro-abortion views. Dr. Elders responded by noting the Catholic Church's indifference toward both slavery and the Holocaust.

Which brings me back to the other remark by Rabbi Rosen: "It's unfair to expect Jews to be objective about that period of their history just as its unfair to expect Catholics to be objective about popes." If by that he means this is an emotionally charged topic, I understand and agree. But if he is insinuating it is not really possible to honestly assess the facts available to us, he is shortchanging both Jews and Catholics who are interested in the truth. It is, in fact, quite possible for Catholic to be objective about the actions of popes, who are not sinless, perfect, or flawless when it comes to governing. It is, however, rather difficult to be objective about what might have resulted if Pius XII had jumped in front of trains deporting Jews (the advice of Ed Bradley on "60 Minutes") or issued endless public statements. (Am I the only one who finds it hard to believe that the Catholic-hating Nazi leadership would change course because of papal announcements? After all, consider how Paul VI was attacked and denounced—by many Catholic priests, theologians, and lay people!—when he issued Humanae Vitae.)

What frustrates Catholics such as myself is that Pius XII is repeatedly condemned for "failing" to do what this or that critic thinks he could have and should have done while the same critics ignore the evidence for what he did do: quietly saved hundreds of thousands of Jewish lives. As Robert Lockwood remarked in an essay, "Pope Pius XII and the Holocaust":

Pulitzer Prize winning historian John Toland, no friend of Pius XII, summed it up: "The Church, under the Pope’s guidance…saved the lives of more Jews than all other churches, religious institutions and rescue organizations combined…The British and the Americans, despite lofty pronouncements, had not only avoided taking any meaningful action but gave sanctuary to few persecuted Jews."

"Lofty pronouncements" saved no lives during the horror of the Holocaust. Action did so. Pinchas Lapide, Israeli consul in Italy, estimated that the actions of Pius II saved over 800,000 Jewish lives during World War II. If that were an exaggeration by half, it would record more Jewish lives saved than by any other entity at the time.

One can only hope Cavalli is correct: "The campaign against Pope Pius XII is doomed to failure because his detractors cannot sustain their main charges against him - that he was silent, pro-Nazi, and did little or nothing to help the Jews - with evidence. Perhaps only in a backward world such as ours would the one man who did more than any other wartime leader to help Jews and other Nazi victims, receive the greatest condemnation."

15 gennaio 2010

Nobel Nominee Killed in Haiti

Zilda Arns, an Expert in Reducing Infant Mortality

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, JAN. 14, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Zilda Arns, Nobel Peace Prize nominee and founder of the International Pastoral da Criança, was killed Tuesday in the 7.0-magnitude earthquake that struck Haiti.

The 75-year-old Brazilian pediatrician and aid worker was killed while walking the streets of Port-au-Prince alongside two soldiers. She was in Haiti studying the implementation of her program -- which is one of the world’s most successful at reducing infant mortality -- on the island.

Born to German immigrants, Arns was the 12th of 13 children. Her brother, Cardinal Paulo Evaristo Arns, retired archbishop of São Paulo, Brazil, was one of five siblings who had priestly or religious vocations.

In a note, Cardinal Arns stated, "I received with sorrow the news that my very dear sister has suffered with the good people of Haiti the tragic effects of the earthquake."

He continued: "May God in his mercy receive in heaven those who on earth fought for children and the defenseless. It is not the moment to lose hope."

A mother of five and a widow since 1978, Arns dedicated her life to Christian charity. In 1983, shortly after she lost her husband, she started the pastoral care of children program at the request of the Brazilian bishops' conference.

The program has one of the greatest success rates worldwide in reducing infant mortality rates. It currently has some 261,000 volunteers in Brazil (the majority women), who take care of more than 1.8 million children (from birth to 6 years of age), and 95,000 pregnant women, in more than 42,000 communities and 4,066 municipalities.

In a previous interview with ZENIT, Arns explained that the program teaches families "very simple things -- they are generally people with very little education -- but indispensable for the children's health: nutrition of pregnant mothers, breast feeding, oral hydration, vaccinations."

She continued: "We take care of the education of 1.6 million children from birth to 6 years of age. Moreover, every year we teach 32,000 adults, almost always mothers, to read and write."


Due to the program's success, representatives from other countries visited Brazil to learn about its methods in order to develop a similar model for their own homelands. The International Pastoral da Criança network now includes 20 countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America and the Caribbean that have implemented the program.

She had been visiting Haiti to discuss plans about implementing the program in the poor communities there.

Arns also helped the bishops' conference develop a pastoral program for AIDS victims, which currently cares for 100,000 patients, supported by 12,000 volunteers from 579 municipalities in 141 dioceses of 25 Brazilian states.

In response to Tuesday's tragedy, the conference sent its secretary-general, Bishop Dimas Lara Barbosa, to Port-au-Prince.

In 1997, Arns received the Humanitarian of the Year prize from the Lions Club International. She was honored by Rotary International with the "Paul Harris" medal in 2001. The following year she was chosen by the Pan American Health Organization for the "Public Health Hero of the Americas" prize.

Permalink: http://www.zenit.org/article-28053?l=english

Priest Gives Proof of Pius XII's Aid to Jews

Gives Testimony of Pope's Anti-Nazi Actions

By Jesús Colina

ROME, JAN. 14, 2010 (Zenit.org).- An Italian priest who helped Jews escape Nazi persecution during World War II is attesting that Pope Pius XII was a big player in this effort.

Father Giancarlo Centioni, 97, who served as a military chaplain for the National Security Volunteer Militia in Rome from 1940 to 1945, affirmed this in an interview with H2oNews today.

The militia, also called the Blackshirts, was organized by Benito Mussolini as a fascist paramilitary group in support of his movement.

Father Centioni affirmed, "Given that I was a chaplain for the fascists, it was easier for me to help the Jews."

While in Rome, he lived in the house of a group of German priests known as Pallottines.

These priests had instituted a group to aid the Jews called St. Raphael's Society.

The society, Father Centioni said, helped Jews to escape from Germany into Italy, and then later to Switzerland and Portugal.

In Germany the society was led by Pallottine Father Josef Kentenich, who is known for founding the Apostolic Movement of Schoenstatt. He was later sent to the Dachau concentration camp for his opposition to Adolf Hitler's regime.


Father Centioni said that in Rome, the society's activity was based on 57 Pettinari Street under the direction of another priest, Father Anton Weber. Father Weber coordinated the action with Pope Pius XII and his secretary.

Money and passports were given to Jewish families for their escape, explained Father Centioni. These resources were provided by Father Weber who "received them directly from His Holiness' Secretary of State, in the name of and paid by Pius XII," Father Centioni said.

He continued, "I often brought money to Jewish homes. At least 12 German priests in Rome were allowed to help me."

Father Centioni stated that this network "began prior to the War" and "kept going" until after 1945, "because Father Weber had an intense relationship with the Vatican, with the Jews, and with a lot of people it was very strong."

He noted that two Jews who they helped hide later aided the society in return: Melchiorre Gioia, an author, and Erwin Frimm Kozab, a composer from Vienna who wrote songs and operas.

The priest recalled: "One we hid on Giuseppe Street, near Bari, and the other on 57 Pettinari Street. Later they assisted us quite a lot, giving us very explicit information."

Father Centioni affirmed that he helped hundreds of people, and they all knew who was behind the operation. "Pius XII helped them," he said, "through us and other priests, by means of St. Raphael's Society as well as the German Verbiti Society in Rome."

He described one incident in which he helped a man named Ivan Basilius, who turned out to be a Russian spy. "No one knew he was Russian or a spy," the priest said, only "that he was a Jew."


Father Centioni recalled: "Unfortunately, the SS arrested him and he had my name written in his notebook.

"Therefore -- oh my -- the Holy See called me; His Excellency Bishop Hudal said to me, 'Tell me, why are the SS here to arrest you?

"'What did I do?'

"'You assisted a Russian spy.'

"'Me? How should I know? Who is he?' Then I fled.'"

The priest said that he had known Herbert Kappler, police chief of the Gestapo in Rome, who instigated the Fosse Ardeatine massacre, in which 335 Italians were murdered, including many civilians and Jews.

He said, "After the massacre was carried out in March [1944], I said to Kappler, whom I saw frequently, 'Why were the military chaplains not called to be present at the Fosse Ardeatine?'

"He replied, 'Because they would have been killed -- and they would have killed you as well.'"

Building evidence

Father Centioni and his testimony was discovered and analyzed, along with other testimonies, by the Pave the Way Foundation, which was founded by Gary Krupp, himself a Jew from New York.

An Italian lawyer, Daniele Costi, president of the foundation in her country, attested to the veracity of the interview.

The priest's narrative is further confirmed by the documentation accompanying an award given to him by the Polish government. As further corroboration of his testimony, Father Centioni cited expressions of gratitude he received from several Jews he aided, including some who were able to reach the United States with passports from the Vatican.

--- --- ---

On the Net:

Video Interview (in Italian): www.h2onews.org

Pave the Way Foundation: http://www.ptwf.org

Permalink: http://www.zenit.org/article-28048?l=english

14 gennaio 2010

Haitian Archbishop Killed in Earthquake

Pope Calls for Prayers, Emergency Aid

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, JAN. 13, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI is appealing for aid for victims of the earthquake that devastated Haiti and killed the archbishop of the Port-au-Prince Archdiocese.

Archbishop Joseph Serge-Miot was reported dead after the Tuesday earthquake that measured 7.0 on the Richter scale.

Father Andre Siohan, a missionary of the French St. Jacques Society, e-mailed the Missionary International Service News Agency a few hours after the quake, which was centered less than 10 miles from Port-au-Prince, the country's capital.

"Nou atè nèt," the priest wrote, which means in Creole, "We are on our knees."

"I went to the city center this morning to visit the other religious communities," he said. "The area is completely devastated and there are thousands of victims."

"It is terrible," Father Siohan said.

The missionaries reported finding the lifeless body of the 61-year-old archbishop under the rubble. The Haitian-born prelate had been leading the archdiocese since 1997. The report noted that there was also no sign of the vicar general, Monsignor Seguiranno Benoit.


Father Pierre Le Beller, another missionary of the society, told the news agency, "Our confreres, some seminarians, friends and neighbors of the Pacot area are currently sheltered in tents in the gardens of our house, damaged by the quake."

"We fear an extremely elevated number of injured," he said.

The missionary, who served 30 years in Haiti but is currently in France, explained that due to poor hospital services in the country, "the real emergency is that of treating" the wounded.

He continued: "The accounts are tragic, screams and crying can be heard among the injured.

"We ask ourselves how many people are trapped under the rubble. They told us that the cathedral collapsed, as also the national palace and the five-story U.N. building."

The missionary news agency reported that Father Le Beller had "difficulty continuing," as he spoke about the destruction of the Caritas Center that he personally founded for working with street children.

Father Siohan affirmed: "We are all well, but some of our seminarians are missing.

"Some are injured, but some are maybe dead."

The St. Jacques Society, founded in 1966 by Archbishop François Poirier, head of the Port-au-Prince Archdiocese at the time, has some 20 missionaries working in Haiti as well as 20 seminarians.

"Pray for us," Father Siohan begged.


Today in his general audience, the Pope also called for prayers for victims of the "dramatic situation currently being experienced in Haiti."

"My thoughts go in particular to the population hit just a few hours ago by a devastating earthquake which has caused serious loss of human life, large numbers of homeless and missing people, and vast material damage," he said.

The Pontiff invited "everyone to join my prayers to the Lord for the victims of this catastrophe and for those who mourn their loss."

He continued: "I give assurances of my spiritual closeness to people who have lost their homes and to everyone who, in various ways, has been affected by this terrible calamity, imploring God to bring them consolation and relief in their suffering.

"I appeal to the generosity of all people so that these our brothers and sisters who are experiencing a moment of need and suffering may not lack our concrete solidarity and the effective support of the international community."

The Holy Father affirmed that the "Catholic Church will not fail to move immediately, through her charitable institutions, to meet the most immediate needs of the population."

This quake, which was followed by 12 aftershocks ranging between a magnitude of 5.0 and 5.9, was the strongest in that region since 1770.

Although the death toll is uncertain, it is estimated that some 3 million people were affected by the disaster. There is concern that the country's impoverished economy will leave the people without adequate emergency services.

Permalink: http://www.zenit.org/article-28039?l=english

12 gennaio 2010

Brit Hume's sin: he believed what he said

Thursday, January 7, 2010

There has been a torrent of news, blogging, raging, and opinion-shucking going on over Brit Hume's remarks about Tiger Woods, Buddhism, and Christianity, (the best I've read so far is by The Anchoress), so I thought I'd toss my thoughts into the great vacuum of blogdom (or is it "wheel of blogging dharma"?). My take on the aftermath is fairly simple: Hume offended three notable groups of people:

1) Those who claim that news is meant to be completely objective and free of any opinion whatsoever.
2) Those who cannot fathom someone making an unapologetic public remark about their belief that Christianity is objectively true.
3) Those who hate FOX News.

An example of #1 is Baptist pastor Welton Gaddy on the WaPo blog, "On Faith":

The picture on the television screen and the audio of reporter Brit Hume's words struck me as contradictory. Just below the image of the reporter's face, the insignia "Fox News" appeared in three different places. Yet, the content of Mr. Hume's comments was not that of a news reporter so much as that of a televangelist.

Strangely enough, I found it disconcerting to read a piece by a Christian pastor criticizing a Christian making a positive statement on an opinion panel on FOX News, especially when that critical opinion piece was under the insignia, The Washington Post. Did I miss something? Have we lost all sense of irony? Or just commonsense?

This would make a bit more sense if, in fact, news networks and programs of all ideological persuasions were obviously dedicated to objective reporting. But, sorry, that seriously ill bird fell out of the coop, oh, many years ago. Does anyone with half a brain really think that CBS News or CNN or MSNBC is really honed in on giving us "just the facts, ma'am"? In fact, on the rare occasions that I do watch network news these days, I find that within two minutes I am being lectured (sometimes obviously, sometimes with attempts at subtlety) by some perfectly coiffed, immaculately manicured talking head with the personality of an iceburg about what ordinary, middle-class Americans should be doing and thinking when it comes to, say, carbon footprints, universal healthcare reform, immigration, President Obama, Democrats, George W. Bush, Republicans, taxes, big business, /terrorism/ man-made disasters, education, taking care of pets, driving in the snow, nutrition, buying cars, movies, summer vacations, traveling to Europe, dieting, watching television, cell phones, and surfing the Net. What, exactly, is the difference between, say, Katie Couric and Oprah Winfrey? Well, yes, Oprah might just be a better reporter. Who can really tell?

A perfect example of #2 is John Aloysius Farrell, a contributing editor at U.S. News & World Report, who writes:

It takes a religious zealot to strap explosives around his or her waist and, murmuring prayers, blow up a CIA facility in Afghanistan, or take down an airplane over Detroit, or steer a jet into the World Trade Center. Or, for that matter, to treat the world to Crusades and Inquisitions and the kind of faith-based savagery we've seen in places like Belfast, Bosnia, Beirut, and Jerusalem. That is what made Brit's comments so creepy: the self-certainty that "my god is better than yours."

Because, you see, the man who is completely certain that "self-certainty" about a matter of religion is the doorway to violence and savagery is himself a noble and sophisticated creature. His certainty, be assured, is completely unlike the creepy and barely contained barbarism (nay, terrorism!) hidden within Brit Hume's dapper suit. How do we know this is true? Because he said so! Hey, Farrell is a thoughtful reporter with an opinion, unlike Hume, who is a thoughtful reporter with, uh, an, um, opin—never mind.

A number of folks have rightly noted that if Hume had suggested Woods take up yoga, practice TM, undergo counselling for sex addiction, or read an Eckhart Tolle book, no one would bat an eyelash. Again, it is the Christian claim to objective truth (and the inherent call to conversion) that upsets so many people. After all, they know for a fact that objective truth doesn't exist.

While making a little 2,600-mile drive a month ago, I listened to quite of a few sports radio programs (they keep me awake, for some reason), most of them fixated on the Woods story. Again and again various "experts" and pundits were asked to offer what they thought Woods should do to recover, to rebuild his image, to get his life in order, to address his problems, and so forth. The responses were all over the map, ranging from thoughtful to funny to stupid to incredibly stupid. Each of them reflected, even if not openly, a particular belief system (often very confused and amoral). So, why should one's beliefs about the basic nature of reality, morality, and truth be off limits when it comes to considering opinions about the news? Peter Wehner makes this very point in an NRO piece about Hume-inspired Sturm und Drang:

Rather than being mesmerized by the stupefying consensus that matters of faith — especially orthodox Christian faith — ought never to be raised in public, people like Buckley and Muggeridge (and Hume) should refuse to accept it. Not because they want to advance tired religious slogans and worn-out phrases; rather, because people are interested in dealing, in an authentic way, with the deepest questions of human existence, of which faith is often a key part. “The life of religion as a whole,” William James said, “is mankind’s most important function.” That, I think, is in part what Hume was getting at.

Most of us spend an inordinate amount of time on shallow discussions about largely inconsequential and evanescent issues; talking honestly about matters of faith and meaning shouldn’t be off-limits. In fact, we should welcome such conversations more often, in more forums, and in a more relaxed, comfortable, and confident way. It might actually interest people more than the latest daily tracking poll by Scott Rasmussen or the latest mutterings of Harry Reid.

Amen to that. Oh, as for group #3: turn the dial. But remember, using Mr. Farrell's logic, no news outlet is any better or worse than another.

Source: http://insightscoop.typepad.com/2004/2010/01/brit-humes-sin-he-believed-what-he-said.html

08 gennaio 2010

Iraqi Christians Attacked Over Christmas Holidays

Prelate Says it May Speed Up Exodus

KIRKUK, Iraq, JAN. 7, 2010 (Zenit.org).- An Iraqi prelate is decrying the situation of Christians in his country who have been experiencing a new wave of attacks over Christmas and the first days of 2010.

Archbishop Louis Sako of the Kirkuk Archdiocese in Northern Iraq told Aid to the Church in Need that these "miserable" conditions are forcing Christians to flee to the north.

He voiced his concern that this crisis will lead to another mass exodus of Christians determined to "leave the country for good."

On Christmas morning, a church was attacked in Bartilla, 30 miles north of Mosul, where the majority of the population is Christian.

A car bomb exploded in the marketplace of that same town on Monday, damaging many homes and shops and injuring a dozen people.

The report stated that three Christians have also been murdered in Mosul, and a Christian student was kidnapped from her university in that city.

The archbishop stated: "Who is behind the attacks? There is no proof."

Seeking peace

He guessed that the motive may be political, and that "some attacks are intended to postpone the elections or to cancel them or even determine what happens in them."

Aid to the Church in Need stated that this situation is motivating many Christians to move north to the "relative peace" in the region that is controlled by the Kurdish Regional Government.

However, Archbishop Sako pointed out that the Christians are encountering other problems when they arrive to the northern towns, including poor living conditions and a lack of opportunities.

"In Kurdistan," he said, "the security is quite good, but there are no jobs, no services and facilities in the new villages built by the Kurdish government."

"Therefore many families are leaving the country for good," the prelate added.

He underlined his concern over the rapid emigration of Christians from Iraq and the diminishing community there.

Power struggle

The archbishop stated: "In years gone by, Christians left their houses and property and reached a secure area in the hope of being back soon. But now six years have passed.

"They want to be settled. They have no jobs, no schools and they have big problems with the language.

"There are no services -- electricity, portable water, infrastructure are their problems."

He appealed to politicians in his region to attend to the humanitarian crisis rather than the political scene of the upcoming elections.

The archbishop affirmed: "The local and central government should protect the citizens. Now all the political groups are busy with the elections. There is a real struggle for power."

The aid agency noted that the Vatican directly requested prioritising help for the Middle East. It responded by sending some $72,000 in emergency assistance to the displaced Christians there.

In Benedict XVI's Christmas message, he stated: "How can we forget the troubled situation in Iraq and the 'little flock' of Christians which lives in the region?

"At times it is subject to violence and injustice, but it remains determined to make its own contribution to the building of a society opposed to the logic of conflict and the rejection of one's neighbor."

Permalink: http://www.zenit.org/article-27977?l=english

07 gennaio 2010

Americas Claim Most Missionary Deaths in 2009

37 Murders Reported Worldwide

VATICAN CITY, JAN. 6, 2010 (Zenit.org).- In 2009, both North and South America reported a total of 12 murders of Catholic missionaries, the Vatican's Fides agency stated.

The list of missionaries killed on active duty last year was compiled by the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples. It includes the names of missionaries as well as all pastoral workers who died violent deaths, sacrificing their lives as a result of hatred of the faith or other reasons. The list avoids using the term "martyrs," leaving this judgment of merit to the Church.

In 2009, 37 missionary murders were reported, compared to 20 in 2008. The most recent list includes 30 priests, three women religious, two seminarians and three lay evangelizers.

Of these missionaries, representing 16 nationalities, 12 were killed in Brazil and Colombia, which reported six victims each.

Among the priests killed in Brazil was Spanish Father Ramiro Ludena, 64, who ministered to the poor for 34 years before he shot March 19 by a 15-year-old youth.

Father Gisley Azevedo Gomes, 31, worked in the national youth ministry office of the bishops' conference, and was murdered June 15 by a group of young men near Brasilia.

On Sept. 19, an Italian fidei donum missionary, Father Ruggero Ruvoletto, 52, was killed in his parish by a blow to the head.

A week later, on Sept. 26, Father Evaldo Martiolo, 33, who belonged to the Diocese of Cacador, was murdered in a robbery by a 21-year-old youth and a 15-year-old adolescent.

A priest who served the Brazilian bishops' conference as advisor of the youth section, Father Hidalberto Henrique Guimarães, 48, was found stabbed and beaten to death in his home in Brazil. Two adolescents, aged 16 and 19, were arrested for the crime.

In Columbia, five priests and a lay person were killed while evangelizing. These included two Redemptorists, Father Gabriel Fernando Montoya Tamayo, 40, and Father Jesús Ariel Jiménez, 45, who were murdered March 16 at the boarding school where they were working with indigenous children.

The lifeless body of Father Oscar Cardozo was found last September in his parish house in Villavicencio after he had been strangled to death.

Also killed in his residence at night was Father Emiro Jaramillo Cárdenas. Father Juan Gonzalo Aristizabal Isaza was found dead in his car, abandoned on a highway.

The sixth missionary was Jorge Humberto Echeverri Garro, a catechist who worked for social peace but was killed by guerrillas during a meeting about Church projects.

North America

The 12 deaths in North America took place in Mexico, Cuba, El Salvador, the United States, Guatemala and Honduras.

In Mexico, a priest and two seminarians were forced from their car and shot dead while on their way to a meeting on vocations.

Two Spanish priests were killed in Cuba: Father Eduardo de la Fuente Serrano, 59, was killed Feb. 14 on a street outside Havana, and Father Mariano Arroyo Merino, 74, who was found dead July 13 in his parish tied, gagged, and burned.

Another two lives were claimed in El Salvador. Salvadoran Redemptorist Father Leopoldo Cruz was found dead in a canal in a rural area of San Salvador, several days after he had disappeared.

William Quijano of the Sant'Egidio Community, who had been working with poor children in the School of Peace, was killed by a gang near San Salvador.

The only female religious killed in North America was Sister Marguerite Bartz of the Sisters of the Most Blessed Sacrament, who was killed in her convent on a Navajo Indian reservation in New Mexico.

Also in the United States, Father Ed Hinds, 64, pastor of St. Patrick's Church in Chatham, New Jersey, was found lifeless in his parish residence with 32 stab wounds.

In Guatemala, American Father Lorenzo Rosebaugh of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate was shot and killed May 18.

In that same country, Franciscan Father Miguel Ángel Hernández, 45, was found murdered in a hotel room Nov. 10 after having been kidnapped several days earlier.

Unknown soldiers

The report included 11 violent deaths of missionaries in Africa, two in Asia and one in Europe.

Fides pointed out that the Church also remembers those of whom there is no news, "many who perhaps will never be known of, who in every corner of the planet suffer and even give their lives for their faith in Christ."

"This is the 'cloud of unknown soldiers of the great cause of God' -- in the words of Pope John Paul II -- to whom we look with gratitude and reverence, even without knowing their faces, because without them, the Church and the world would be enormously impoverished," the agency stated.

Fides quoted Benedict XVI's words on the feast of the first martyr, St. Stephen, last Dec. 26: "The martyr is, in fact, the person who dies in the certainty of being loved by God and, placing nothing before love for Christ, knows he has chosen the better part.

"Fully identifying himself with the death of Christ, he realizes that he is a life-giving seed that opens the way for peace and hope in the world."

Source: http://www.zenit.org/article-27968?l=english

Malaysian Bishop Laments "Allah" Ban

Says Church Holds Firm on Minority Rights

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia, JAN. 6, 2010 (Zenit.org).- A Malaysian bishop is underlining the rights of minority religions faced to the controversy over a ban prohibiting non-Muslims from using the word "Allah."

Bishop Paul Tan Chee Ing of the Melaka-Johor Diocese in Malaysia told ZENIT that the controversy over the use of the word "Allah," as well as other Arabic words, is "not a linguistic battle."

Rather, he said, it is a political "battle for votes."

On Dec. 31, the Kuala Lumpur High Court overruled the ban, which was instated three years ago, affirming that it was unconstitutional and that the word "Allah" is not exclusive to Islam. It granted the Catholic Herald, which was using the word as a translation for God in the Malay language section of the periodical, permission to print "Allah."

However, today the decision was suspended after days of protests. Meanwhile, the Home Ministry is appealing the act in an attempt to uphold the ban.

Muslim groups are protesting that Christians and other minorities should not use "Allah" for "fear of confusing Muslims," the Herald reported today.

Muslims constitute some 60% of the country's 28 million people.


Bishop Paul Tan Chee Ing explained that the debate has a definite political tone, as the ruling party "is afraid of losing the Malay votes, which make up of about 60% of the population."

He added, "In Malaysia, unfortunately, Malay is identified with Muslims -- the only country in the world where religion is tied to a race in the constitution."

Yet in the Quran, the bishop pointed out, "it is said that Jews, Christians, Sabeans and Muslims worship Allah."

He continued: "How can a Muslim go against its Holy Quran? Not possible.

"It is due to sheer ignorance or due to some political expediency. Any objective scholar can tell you that the word 'Allah' is pre-Islamic. It has its root in the Semitic language."

Not all Malay-Muslims are against non-Muslims using the word, Bishop Tan Chee Ing clarified, as long as it is not being "abused."

Those who are sparking the controversy, he said, are acting "due to ignorance or motivated by political biases or for some personal gains."

The "public declaration that non-Muslims can use the word 'Allah' is a contradiction to what the National Fatwa Council issued," the bishop affirmed, and "contradiction is another game for playing politics."

Non-Muslim rights

In the midst of this, he said, "the Church's stand should be calm, firm in its stand for the rights of non-Muslims as enshrined in our federal constitution."

We must "cooperate with all reasonable persons, try to keep harmony by not provoking the other side with words or actions and not putting them down those who want to stop non-Muslims from using the word," the prelate said.

"It is a tightrope walk," he affirmed.

Bishop Tan Chee Ing told ZENIT that despite the current issues, the Church in his country is "very stable, united and strong."

"Our ecumenical movement and interreligious cooperation have been good in spite of a few hiccups here and there," he said.

Although statistics are showing that the Catholic population is stagnant in numbers, the bishop acknowledged, this is due to the fact that "Chinese and Indian Catholics tend to have fewer children than the Malays."

As well, he continued, "their children are sent abroad to study because of discrimination against them in the universities and many of them do not return to Malaysia because of the fear of being discriminated."

Stand for truth

"In spite of all this," the prelate affirmed, "the churches are generally full to their capacity with men, women and children."

He continued: "It is a vibrant Church. The local Church has been reaching out to help other poorer dioceses in other countries."

Bishop Tan Chee Ing reported that the people of his diocese, "in spite of the fact that we are not rich," has been sending money to the Church in Kenya, Myanmar and Laos.

"This is in imitation of the earliest Catholic Church during the apostolic times," he affirmed.

The prelate continued: "We have also cooperated with the Protestants and even the Buddhists, Sikhs and Hindus.

"The one contribution we can offer to the Universal Church is standing up for the truth and the rights of people against all odds because we know that God who is the Lord of history, sees and knows all and will in his time and in his way right what is wrong. Patience!"

Link: http://www.zenit.org/article-27972?l=english